Critical Feminist Studies

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Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome to Critical Feminist Studies, an English and Gender-and-Sexuality-Studies course offered in Spring 2012 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations.  Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.

dchin's picture


Our discussion on Thursday about how we felt while watching Live Nude Girls Unite! was incredibly rich, and for me, in a personal way. It didn't strike me as odd while watching the film that I wasn't uncomfortable seeing the women's naked bodies but instead uncomfortable watching one of the male patrons watching the women dance. I realized that what was so unsettling for me was that I was thinking about how I would feel were I one of those dancers and I had to experience the intensity and invasiveness of that gaze. This line of thinking reminded me of these:

dear.abby's picture

what's wrong with you?

During our brainstorming questioning session about sex work I found myself repeatedly comming back to the same theme: that having "something wrong with you" or "having problems" is an inherent prerequestite of being a sex worker. I think this idea comes up a lot within the media, specifically television or movie portrayals of sex workers, where a character's participation in such "demeaning" work is explained/rationalized via their terrible (read: abusive) childhood or their substance abuse problem. I definitely view Live Girls Unite! as attempting to paint a different/new picture of the sex industry; and while it succeeded in revealing to me a relatively novel image of sex work, it definitely has not erased the more cliche (possibly more realistic) image of sex work as taken up by persons with impaired agency.

melal's picture

Same destination, different routes

Sex work is always a hot topic in feminist studies. Some women insist that exotic dancing and other sex work is inherently degrading. Others find it a liberating expression of free choice and sexual independence. Julia Query, the narrator and one of the main characters in the documentary, after a while, just found it boring.  In other words, it was a job. Live Nude Girls Unite displays, its share of exposed flesh, but at heart it's a movie about work for me. I guess that’s why I really couldn’t tell I like it or not, because it is a ‘real’ documentary for me. It made me believe that whatever you wear or don't wear when you're doing it, is still work. Without excessive political posturing, the film dismantles stereotypes about women who work in the sex industry and makes its powerful feminist argument in an unpretentious way.

pejordan's picture

Thoughts on Sarah Palin

Watching “The Undefeated” this weekend was a very complicated and interesting experience for me. The film itself was quite obviously biased, and didn’t really make much of an attempt to seem otherwise--there was a lot of really exaggerated language, often accompanied by dramatic music or clips of earthquakes and car crashes to make a point. However, it did make me start to think about my perceptions of Sarah Palin. I very much want a woman to be president, to represent women in the government--does that mean that I should support all women who run for office, just because they are women? I don’t think so; if we really want gender equality, then we should support women because we support their politics (and in turn, because their politics support women). Another question that watching “The Undefeated” brought up for me that ties into bell hooks as well is how much ground Palin actually gained for women by running for vice president. bell hooks makes the point that women can be just as sexist as men, and I think that Sarah Palin’s politics don’t help women. She is opposed to abortion (including in cases of rape) and opposed to same-sex marriage, which I think are issues that concern many women in the United States. The National Organization for Women, in fact, supported the Obama/Biden campaign over the McCain/Palin campaign in the 2008 election.

FrigginSushi's picture

Feminist Porn: Rape Fantasties?

So I googled "Feminist Porn" and read the first article that came up called "Feminist Porn: Sex, Consent, and Getting Off"

The author talks about a lot of things including her position of sex workers, but specfically what qualifies as Feminist Porn (which she believes exists and puts up links to porn sites).

" Enjoying BDSM, strap-on sex and sex toys, genderplay, rape and incest taboo, mainstream pornography, and other “deviant” sexual taboos with a consensual partner does not make a person a “bad feminist” or a hypocrite. To the contrary, feminism is what gave me permission to love sex, with myself and with others, to embrace my sexual orientation, and find out what turns me on. Pro-sex feminism argues that recognizing the role of fantasy in sexual arousal and coming out of shame about sexual desires opens the door to a more frank and honest discussion about women’s bodies, consent, and safer sex. And that leads to better, safer sexthat encourages communication and complete, enthusiastic consent to sex that is fulfilling and healthy. How is that not feminist?"

pejordan's picture


Here's mine, mbeale and melal's contribution.

Feminist porn is possible.
Possibilities arise from consent.
Consent comes from trust, empowerment and equality.

FrigginSushi's picture


Hey everyone!

So I'm planning on doing a group showing tomorrow night at 8PM in the Pem East TV Room. If you;re interested in watching, please come. Otherwise, please don't reserve the movie on tripod from those times (:

Comment if you see this in time so I know who to expect!

hwink's picture


our beginnings of a mantrafesto--
(group: rayj, amophrast, hwink)
Feminist pornography is possible.
If it’s possible, we have a responsibility to strive for it.
Striving for change inspires innovation.
Innovation may or may not be marketable.
colleenaryanne's picture


buffalo, MC, and I have four statements to show for this excersize:

Feminist pornography is possible.

Possible problems with objectification.

Objectification depends on the viewer.

Viewer access to non-creepy porn.

Porn …?

aybala50's picture

Feminist pornography

This is what Friggin sushi, bluebox and I came up with!

Feminist pornography is possible
Possible or maybe possibilities
Possibilities foster hope
Hope requires change
Change takes time
Time is money
Money is power
Power is evil
Evil is anti-feminist
Anti-feminist is anti-feminist
Anti-feminist degrades people
People watch porn
Porn is produced for pleasure

MC's picture

Links for April 5, 2012

Flavia Dzodan's article at Tigerbeatdown on "penis centric" porn for cis straight women.

A podcast in which Amanda Hess discusses porn and feminism. 

Autostraddle has NSFW Lesbosexy Sunday, a weekly series discussing sex and porn. Since it's directed toward a lesbian/bi/queer/queer-friendly audience it would be interesting to know what other people think about it and its consumption.

Jill Filipovic on "outsourcing porn". 

Feministing's interview with Tristan Taormino, editor of Best Lesbian Erotica and feminist pornographer.

What makes feminist porn feminist? at Feministing

rayj's picture

Feminist Porn Awards

Feminist Porn Awards qualifications for feminist porn, link here

"In order to be considered for a Feminist Porn Award, the movie/short/website/whatever!  must meet at least one of the following criteria:

     1)  A woman had a hand in the production, writing, direction, etc. of the work.

     2)  It depicts genuine female pleasure

     3)  It expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn. 

And of course, it has to be hot!

Overall, Feminist Porn Award winners tend to show movies that consider a female viewer from start to finish.  This means that you are more likely to see active desire and consent, real orgasms, and women taking control of their own fantasies (even when that fantasy is to hand over that control)."


MC's picture

Janelle Monae Setting the Seen and Accompanying Links

I would suggest looking into all of Janelle Monáe's album The ArchAndroid both for musical/cultural value but also for its message and presentation (especially if you plan on reading the Moya Bailey article). It's very readily available from standard music venues, or just ask around for people who have the album. 

Mentioned in class:

Double Rainbow was the blog series done by Caroline Narby for Bitch Magazine's blog about the autism spectrum. 

Vampires and Cyborgs: Transhuman Abilities and Ableism in the Work of Octavia Butler and Janelle Monáe by Moya Bailey at Social Text Journal. 

See video
sekang's picture

My thoughts on Live Nude Girls Unite!

As I was watching this film, I constantly asked myself a question, "Where do I stand in terms of sex work?"

Before watching this film, I was strongly against the idea of sex work, because I thought it objectifies women. And I believed that the sex workers make money by "selling" their body parts. But, after watching this film, I am not really sure where I stand anymore. Some part of me is still against the idea of sex work, and the other part of me is not so against it. As stated in the film, it is the women's rights to do whatever they want to do with their bodies. No one and no law should make any boundary of what is okay and what is not okay. If the women can pay the rent and support their families by doing so, I think the sex industry is actually helping women become more independet (financially). But still objectifies women...I guess I'm okay with the strippers, because there is a glass between the customers and the strippers. But, I am not okay with the "private service," where the customers and the sex workers physically can meet each other. I think I'm more against the idea of "private service" because ANY thing can happene during that time, including rape, insault, and even murder. 

Where do you stand? Did watching this film change your view of sex work industry?

MC's picture

"Hoodie or hijab"

Text: "Hoodie or hijab; racism is racism. I'm Iraqi and I want justice for Trayvon."

Via Feministing, via.

I saw this when it was posted on Feministing, and was reminded of it during our 4/3/12 continued discussion on Half the Sky. I feel this goes along with our discussion of what it means to go into another space and attempt to fix problems as an upper-middle class white American (as the intended audience of Half the Sky seemed to be), what it means to go into our own communities to solve problems, and the geographical, class, cultural, and racial divides between spaces and why or why not we transgress them/what it means to transgress them. This young woman is not part of the intended audience of the book, but she is transgressing geographical, racial, cultural, and religious boundaries to speak out against an attack and the systematic oppression that caused it. 

w0m_n's picture

Thoughts on Passing

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w0m_n's picture

Response to Live Girls Unite!

"Documentary look at the 1996-97 effort of the dancers and support staff at a San Francisco peep show, The Lusty Lady, to unionize. Angered by arbitrary and race-based wage policies, customers' surreptitious video cameras, and no paid sick days or holidays, the dancers get help from the Service Employees International local and enter protracted bargaining with the union-busting law firm that management hires. We see the women work, sort out their demands, and go through the difficulties of bargaining. The narrator is Julia Query, a dancer and stand-up comedian who is reluctant to tell her mother, a physician who works with prostitutes, that she strips." Written by <> (

vlog entry
hwink's picture

Setting the Scene 4/3

This is the music video that Colleen Ryanne and I are planning to use to set the stage for class tomorrow! For future reference (or pre-class viewing if you're proactive like that). 

See video