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Tough Gynes — feminism or war? – Stan Goff – Medium

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Pretty soon now, the book I wrote last year about violent female leads in American film, Tough Gynes, will be released by Wipf and Stock (Cascade Books). The summaries and blurbs will lead a reader to believe the book is about feminism, but it’s not . . . except tangentially. It’s about war. War is what I write about, and it’s something with which I have some passing familiarity.

I acknowledge no one as an “expert” on war, not me, not anyone. We have entirely too many damned experts of every kind, and it’s the last thing we need with regard to the many forms of this obscenity. I write to clarify my own thinking and provoke others to think about war, because I came to be irreversibly offended by the ways in which we still sanitize, excuse, and even glorify war.

The reason Tough Gynes is presumed to be primarily feminist is that, in looking at the phenomenon of war, I discovered more than twenty years ago that feminism is to war what a microscope is to bacteria— it magnifies, illuminates, and clarifies war, perhaps more directly and viscerally than any other interpretive framework.

So yes, there is a great deal of feminist analysis brought to bear on these films, but I claim not a single original insight into feminist thought or theory. I took what was there and used it, then I shuffled those insights together with some of my own observations and reflections on men and violence, and finally played around watching nine movies and made this little book.

People can read it and watch the same movies and get some insight into how societies are mobilized for war through the episteme of militarism, as well as how that militaristic episteme is reproduced by Hollywood . . . the only jarring point here being that once upon a time only male characters engaged in “redemptive violence,” and now there are women.

In a sense, this little book is an excursus on one of the more confusing complications about gender and militarism I touched on in Borderline (Wipf and Stock, 2015) — growing out of a host of liberal assumptions — which always throws up the same question: If you are claiming (as I am) that war is irreversibly merged with patriarchy, what does it say that we now have women who go to war?

If I follow up on that question now, I suppose it would be a spoiler. The subtitle of the book is Violent Women in Film as Honorary Men, so I there’s part of the answer there . . . and as you may have surmised from the preceding paragraph, I’m none too friendly with philosophical liberalism (capitalism’s deep episteme). So the book might look like I’m picking on liberal feminists. I’m not. I’m picking on liberalism and liberal wars. Given that we are using feminist analysis to dissect war, and the main subject is liberal militarism, liberal feminism, as one among several feminist threads, admittedly doesn’t fare well. But again, this is incidental.

The films covered in the book are not all about war, but they all have violent female characters.

Militaristic societies thrive on the glorification of violence, of its portrayal as cleansing or redemptive.

The films are Star Wars, Alien, Silence of the Lambs, GI Jane, 28 Days Later, Michael Clayton, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Hunger Games, and Jane Got a Gun.


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