Feminism and Race April 29, 2007Posted by Melissa in 9 to 5, betrayal, competing feminism, female relationships, feminism, gender, race, Set it off.
With the exception of a few films, the movies we’ve seen exacting the “female revenge narrative” have all been dominated by white women. Though the lack of women of color in this genera of films may speak to a larger societal context, I want to look at the influence of the feminist movement on minority communities as expressed through film. Last semester, I worked on a research project delving into the world of the Chicana Movement, which came about at the tail end of the mass Chicano Movement. I was shocked by what many of the women and scholars of the movement had to say with regards to the larger feminist movement that was beginning to rise in the late 1960’s. I was stunned by the overwhelming reaction against the feminist movement. Largely seen as a white woman’s battle, Chicanas in the mid 20th century viewed themselves in direct opposition to the larger women’s rights campaign. Unlike their white counterparts, the Chicanas were faced with larger societal inequalities because of their race. Though I have not studied the gender dynamics in the Black community, I can not imagine it being very different than those within the Chicano community. Women of color faced, and to some extent still do, a double oppression and as such can not be so fast to damn society because of their sex. The question that comes to mind with observation, is whether being a woman or being Chicana is most important.
In most of the films we’ve watched so far, we’ve seen white women fight against the man (literally meaning the male sex). Again, there has been little about black or
Latina women fighting against society (the Color Purple, Set it Off, and Girlfight). In looking back at popular films I have seen with female leads, it is difficult to find the black or
Latina counterpart to “Thelma and Louise” or “9 to 5.” I wonder if it is because women of color have traditionally excluded themselves from the larger feminist movement that we don’t see their faces in larger films with female action leads.
In many films we see today or in the past, white women just play women- their race is never an impediment to their actions. In films were you do find women of color, the film will more likely deal with them being women of color- they cant just be women, they have to be black/Latina women struggling to get by. Films where we have seen casts of color, are usually disregarded, not popularly accepted by the public or largely released by movie studios. Salma Hayek has said many times that as a Latina in
Hollywood she is expected to accept the role of the maid or prostitute, and the only way to get any other would be to create it on her own. Unfortunately, even this will not warrant her credit she deserves in
Hollywood. As a society, we like to see people struggle, especially women of color who are often shown as mentally weak and generally out of control. I feel this is because women of color largely rejected the dominant feminist movement, and with the exception of the less popular films, are now struggling to be accepted as women rather than women of color in popular media.