Feminist Filmmaking as a Cure for Circulatory Excess

Above video from chapter 1 of Cámara Retórica A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology  for Rhetoric and Composition (Alexandra Hidalgo)

Watching Alexandra Hidalgo’s video book on feminist filmmaking , it is crucial to revisit the idea of circulation exposed in Mary Queen’s article, Transnational Feminist Rhetorics in a Digital World,” and Eyman’s Digital Rhetoric as central to the legacy of feminist writers, filmmakers, and thinkers.  For example, in chapter 2, Hidalgo presents the work of early filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché. I had never heard of her due to the muting of the circulation of her work by various patriarchal forces that just didn’t feel she was important enough to mention.

Feminist work, at least the “fourth-wave” of feminism described by Hidalgo, includes attention to who is getting heard, the consideration of implicit bias and discrimination, and justice in addition to following the letter of the law when it comes to gender equality; it is also marked by confrontation with intersectionality when it comes to related issues of class, color, and sexual orientation and identity.  The rhetoric of circulation, especially in the digital realm, is  connected not so much to what and how something is presented as how it is picked up and carried to another stage or place by others. See Abrahams  and Rampton on fourth-wave feminism.

Hidalgo’s work  stresses interdependence between those working on a video project and those behind the camera, as well as those who contribute to a remix, whether it be through interview, video, or sound, or just through providing the image of their bodies. The embodiment of video seems to remind us of the importance of context and subjectivity, something that seems to slip in the fast and sometimes careless circulation of texts–both linguistic and multimodal–on the internet, such as the Miller letter in Mary Queen’s essay. Queen examines the digital representations of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, an NGO founded in 1977 to fight for social justice, democratic forms of government, and civil rights in that country. It gained international attention when it launched its first website in 1997. By that time, the members of the organization were exiled in Pakistan and articles began to appear chronicling their plight; these stories often dovetailed with the agendas of feminist organizations like the Feminist Majority that supported neoliberal savior narratives (which “conflate freedom and democracy with technological progress and capitalism” (477)) as first-world feminist groups, as well as others including conservative groups,  felt the urge to save the Afghan women from the Taliban. First-world readers of the website were instrumental in linking to and circulating the stories and photos that were posted on the RAWA website.  Queen is more interested in how the stories were circulated across disparate political fields, and how often these circulatory texts were misread and attributed to RAWA when they had nothing to do with writing them (such as a widely circulated e-mail “open letter” to Ms. Magazine written by Elizabeth Miller in 2001 that called out the Feminist Majority, who owned a large part of the magazine, in a scathing critique) (478). Conservative writer Wendy McElroy began circulating the story and attributing it to RAWA, and the Feminist Majority also blamed RAWA for the letter–on competing fields, and both sides wrongly attributed it to RAWA.  That wasn’t the end of the misattribution or the discussion. (If you decide to visit the website today, there is a marked anti-U.S. vibe.)

I wonder if perhaps work with video or film is not an inherently powerful feminist tool in careful hands. and one that is perhaps necessary– as we see here even well-meaning feminist writers working against the feminist values of interdependence, mutual recognition, and respect in their urgency to forward a political ideology they may not even be aware of having because it seeps into everything around them, such as fears for national security and the urge to save the “other” masking neoliberal values. The current fake news epidemic began some years earlier than 2016 and goes far beyond any particular social group or even level of education, as these examples show. The internet brings us a sense of immediacy (perhaps falsely) with people halfway across the globe who may in many ways be, as Queen’s article quoted, “in the 11th century” when it comes to the basics of lifestyle. We read too fast and respond quickly. While YouTube videos do not always honor the humanity that they depict, the feminist values espoused by Hidalgo in her filmmaking journey tell us to take a beat, slow down, and frame our shots with mutual respect.

Works Cited

Hidalgo, Alexandra. Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital P/Utah State UP, 2017.

Queen, Mary. “Transnational Feminist Rhetorics in a Digital World.” College English, vol. 70, no. 5, 2008, pp. 471–489. JSTOR,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Replies to “Feminist Filmmaking as a Cure for Circulatory Excess”

  1. Jon, working with you I have learned about quite a bit about queer theory, and shadow feminism is an important concept I should think more about. This seems to go nicely hand in hand with CJ’s post about Sadie Plant, Luce Irigaray’s response to phallocentrist linguistic philosophy and psychology, and the subtle revolution of cyberspace which may go much deeper than patriarchy itself.

    It’s interesting how feminism turns certain people off. The same thing might be said for the term queer theory. I think both turns come from fear of their uses in the past, and of social essentialism or rejection. People may know they are othered or ostracized but think that by embracing their otherness, they are rejecting a chance to “belong” to the norm. Or, conversely, they may look to what these movements have accomplished in the past and feel that they did not go far enough because of some flaw.

    Hidalgo’s video book reaches out to the “casual offender,” as she terms it. I quite love that term. I think that it would be great if we could all be casual offenders in more ways than filmmaking. The term reminds me of “filthy casual” in gaming communities, a term which I at first thought insulting, but am now happy to embrace. Casual offender seems related to Haraway’s cyborg in the sense that there is no pristine state one must reclaim or aspire to. One does not need to reform oneself meet the standards of a worldview or way of thought or pursuit of expression.

  2. “I wonder if perhaps work with video or film is not an inherently powerful feminist tool in careful hands.” I keep thinking about this. A good friend from my undergrad works in film now, and after reading through the material for this week and listening to/watching different chapters from Hidalgo’s work, I wanted to get my friend’s insight. I was disappointed, however, as my friend isn’t super excited about the term “feminism.” Although I found this surprising (I’d describe her as a very strong, driven, and accomplished woman), I’m also trying to embrace shadow feminisms. But a perspective like my friend’s definitely gets in the way of what I want to be a radical feminism! I’m not sure what to do with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *