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Feminism

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day. Thank you to all the women who have contributed to make this world a better place. National Women’s Week began in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. Below I have created a list of important women and a brief description of their accomplishments.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg- advocate to dismantle gender discrimination. Second Woman to serve for the Supreme Court. 

Dolores Huerta– One of the most influential labor activist in the 20th century and leader of the Chicano Civil Right movement. 

Winona Laduke– A Native American Activist, economist, author. She devoted her life to advocating for indigenous control of their homelands, natural resources, and cultural practices. 

Audre Lorde– Poet and author she wrote about being an African American lesbian. 

Margot Sanger- Margot founded the birth control movement and became advocate for women’s reproductive rights.

Sonia Sotomayor- First Hispanic and third women appointed to the Supreme Court Justice. 

Malala Yousafzai- An advocate for women’s education. 

Alice Wong- The founder and the director of the Disability Visibility Project which is an online community that fosters and amplifies disability media and culture. 

Susan B. Anthony- Most visible leader from Women’s Suffrage Movement 

Betsy Ross- credited for sewing the first United States flag.

 

If you would like more information on important Women History Figures please follow: 

Women’s History: Susan B. Anthony

Women’s History Month Facts

 

Important facts regarding women:

  • Every year, Women’s History Month has a theme. The theme for 2022 is “Women providing healing, Promoting hope.”
  • Wyoming Territory was the first place to grant women the right to vote.
  • The 19th Amendment did not allow all women the right to vote.
  • Women couldn’t get credit cards by themselves until 1974. 
  • More women are earning college degrees than men. 
  • The gender gap still persists.
  • Women make up 57.8% of the labor force. 

 

Written by Denisse Ochoa, BA Sociology Candidate at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, ZCenter Outreach Intern 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence.

Social Work Month

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”  ~Helen Keller

 

March is the national month of social workers. According to the National Association of Social Workers, there are 720,000 social workers in the U.S, who have dedicated their focus in fighting social injustices. Due to COVID-19, the national need for social workers has had a dramatic increase. 

Social workers are constantly fighting for social injustices dating back to the Civil Rights Movement, in which social workers fought for voting rights for people of color. One of the biggest social injustices that social workers fought for and continue to fight for is women’s rights. 

 

Timeline and Overview of Women’s Rights

 

  • 1833: Social workers fighting for women’s rights dates back to the mid 19th century, in which Oberlin College was founded as the first educational institution to accept women  and African Americans. Prior to this, women did not have access to higher education as women typically became housewives, needing no education. 
  • 1872: In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for U.S. president. Although she did not win, she paved the way for women to run for president. Victoria was one of the many  leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, first to own a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and an activist for women’s rights and labor reform. 
  • 1890: Wyoming became the first state to allow women the right to vote in its state elections. 
  • 1918: Margaret Sanger won a suit in New York which allowed doctors to advise their patients about birth control. Margaret Sanger was a big advocate of providing women with birth control information. In 1916, Singer opened her first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. Shortly after, she was arrested, which led to her fight for birth control rights and those rights being granted in 1918. 
  • 1920: In 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified which granted women the right to vote, an issue that was a long standing fight against Congress. Although many individuals were involved in this fight, Alice Paul was a social worker who became a fundamental figure in women’s history. Alice Paul founded the National Women’s Party, which led to women getting the right to vote. 
  • 1932-34: In 1932, Hattie Wyatt Caraway, of Arkansas, became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1933, Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve on a Presidential Cabinet under President Roosevelt. In 1934, Lettie Pate Whitehead was the first woman to serve as director in a big corporation (Coca Cola Com.). 
  • 1963: The Equal Pay Act was passed which promised everyone would be payed equally regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. 
  • 1964: The Civil Rights Act was passed prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, nation al origin, or sex. 
  • 1969: Women were able to work jobs that were for men only if they met physical requirements. 
  • 1973: The U.S. The Supreme Court declared that the Constitution would protect women’s right to terminate early pregnancies, making abortion legal. 
  • 1987: Congress assigned March as the National month of Women’s History Month. 
  • 1994: The Gender Equity in Education Act was adopted by Congress, which promoted math, science, and learning by girls; it also advised on providing counsel for pregnant teens and services for the prevention of sexual harassment. In that same year, the Violence Against Women Act was created to provide services for victims of rape and domestic violence. 
  • 2021: Kamala Harris becomes the first female vice president. 

These are just a few events in U.S. history that have enabled women to have the same equality as men, at home, at work, with their bodies, and basic human rights. There is still a long way to go to achieve equality for all but without activists and social workers, we would not be able to be where we are now!

Learn more about the history of women’s rights:

 

 

References: 


Written by Evelyn Perez, ZCenter Intern and BSW Candidate at Northeastern Illinois University.

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

Angela Davis: Activist, Author, Professor

We continue to highlight the achievements and foundational work of many historical figures for Black History Month, especially those connected to anti-oppression work. We will now look at the contributions of Angela Davis.

Angela Davis is a political activist, author, and professor. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944. Angela experienced racism at a very young age. Birmingham was one of the most segregated cities in the country. Her neighborhood was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” because of how often the Klu Klux Klan targeted the homes. Angela believed that capitalism and racism were dangerous for America. Angela joined the Black Panthers which was created to unify Black people. The Black Panthers fought against police brutality against the African American community. One of the Black Panthers’ many achievements is that they helped provide medical clinics and free breakfast to children. Angela fought for economic, racial, and gender equality. She came out as being lesbian and fought to tackle the oppression for the LGBTQ community. While Angela did spend 18 months in jail, she was able to understand how mistreated women were in jail. Musician John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono recorded a song about her called “Angela.” She has published nine books. A couple of her books are Women, Race, and Class; Are Prisons Obsolete?; Women, Culture and Politics; and Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and The Foundations of a Movement. She also spent time lecturing around the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America.  

 

Watch John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s song Angela:

 

To learn more about important Black History Month and important historical figures please see the attached resources. 

 

 


Written by Denisse Ochoa, BA Sociology Candidate at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, ZCenter Outreach Intern 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

Taylor Swift: The Work and the Resilience

I’m so sick of running as fast I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker / If I was a man / And I’m so sick of them coming at me again / ‘Cause if I was a man / Then I’d be the man – “The Man”

My obsession with Taylor Swift began in seventh grade when “Love Story” hit number one on the iTunes music chart. At the time, Taylor Swift was a rising star in the country world. Even back then, she was known for her talent for using her lyrics to piece together stories that resonated deeply with the listener. As her stardom continued to rise, I devoured every album she put out, my love for her overriding my heartbreak after hearing she was dating my first celebrity crush, Joe Jonas. 

Yet as the years passed, I noticed a distinct change in the way the media (and my friends) began to talk about her. The media honed in on her love life, and the love songs once heralded as vivid storytelling became symbolic of her man-hunting and “desperate” ways. Swift even wrote a (brilliant) song about this – “Blank Space” – a tongue-in-cheek depiction of her character if she truly was who the media portrayed her to be. Despite Swift’s satirical lyrical responses and good-natured “shaking” off of this barrage of criticism, the narrative she was ascribed to never should have happened. 

Swift is by no means the first celebrity to have her love life intensely scrutinized in a way that overshadows her work and reduces her to a “girlfriend,” but she should be the last. Generalizing her songs and casting her aside as a songwriter that just “writes about love songs” is hypocritical and anti-feminist. Her male counterparts objectify women and sing about their romantic woes on a similar basis yet are not subject to the same criticism Swift receives. But even more egregious is that such criticism boils down to the deeply rooted belief that women should not be able to speak about their feelings. Dwelling on one’s feelings and (gasp) verbalizing those feelings can cast women as “crazy.” It’s ok to feel “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.” Emotions are meant to be felt and shouldn’t be stigmatized. Dismissing someone as “too emotional” perpetuates the toxic belief that being in tune with one’s feelings is weak and shifts the focus away from what caused them to feel that way in the first place.

And there’s nothing like a mad woman / What a shame she went mad / No one likes a mad woman / You made her like that / And you’ll poke that bear ‘til her claws come out / And you find something to wrap your noose around – “mad woman”

Swift has had a busy couple of years, re-recording the albums she released while under Big Machine Records. What Taylor Swift is doing with her re-recording is nothing short of badass, but it is an unfortunate consequence of her not being afforded the rights to purchase back the masters (i.e. master recordings) for the songs that she wrote. It is disheartening that some people have dismissed her struggle, stating that she should have known better than to sign the contract that gave away the rights to her masters (a contract she signed when she was fifteen years old). These individuals fall into the trap of accepting the status quo—just because the music industry has operated in this predatory way for years does not mean that it should continue to subject young, impressionable artists this way. Their equivalent of a “suck it up and move on” devalues Swift’s lifelong work to a bad business decision. It’s not just a cost of doing business when the said business is one’s life—and Swift has every right to fight and have ownership of her creative works.

Taylor Swift also made headlines in 2015 when former radio personality David Mueller filed a defamation lawsuit against her. Two years prior, Swift’s team reported to his radio station that Mueller had put his hand under her skirt and groped her during a pre-concert photo opportunity. Swift countersued, alleging assault and battery, asking for a symbolic $1 in damages. During the trial, Swift remained steadfast despite demeaning and patronizing questions by opposing counsel. When rejecting a suggestion that she had misidentified Mueller, she asserted: “I’m not going to allow you or your client to say I am to blame.” When presented with a photograph capturing Swift with Mueller and asked why the front of her skirt was not raised, she remarked: “Because my ass is located on the back of my body.” When asked about the defamation charges that caused Mueller’s “humiliation,” she retorted: “I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions, not mine.” Swift ultimately prevailed, but in her recent documentary Miss Americana, she reflected: “You don’t feel any sense of victory when you win, because the process is so dehumanizing. This is with seven witnesses and a photo. What happens when you get raped and it’s your word against his?” 

Swift’s experience of sexual assault matters. Her candid remarks about the emotional damage she suffered as a consequence of it matters. Each and every individual who undergoes a similar experience matters. Swift’s trial and her subsequent comments showcased one of the most famous women in the pop world in one of her most vulnerable moments. Most importantly, it placed the issue of sexual violence on a nationwide stage, helped combat the stigma of talking about sexual assault, and shed light on its accompanying life-long impacts. 

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning / That’s when I could finally breathe /

And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean – “Clean”

 

He’s got my past frozen behind glass / But I’ve got me – “it’s time to go”

 

Pushed from the precipice / climbed right back up the cliff / long story short, I survived – “long story short”

It would be remiss to fail to mention that Taylor Swift is a rich, white woman that fits societal standards of beauty. She clearly possesses privilege, and she is by no means perfect (nobody is!). But what she does demonstrate through the media portrayal of her is that there is still a desperate need for a cultural shift when discussing women and their work. 

She had a marvelous time ruining everything – “The Last Great American Dynasty”


Written by Rachel Lee, ZCenter Volunteer and Northwestern Law Student

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus (But is it feminist?)


It would be more than two decades before I would enjoy Disney’s
Hocus Pocus. I found it ridiculous. The last witch hanged in the Salem Witch Trials was on September 22, 1692; the film starts with Salem townspeople hanging witches a year later in 1693. I knew that no one in 17th Century New England wore the bright colors of the witches. I also knew that those hanged in Salem were the ones who would not admit to witchcraft, not the openly practicing witches, as in the movie.

I was always bothered by the stereotypes that the movie perpetuated. Witches harm and/or kill humans. Witches are ugly old hags. Magic is a means to cause harm. At worst, the film is complicit in the patriarchal notion that only Abrahamic religions are true religions, not earth-based religions like witchcraft. At best, it was goofy. Silly. 

But there is something magical about a Halloween movie that was filmed in Salem. There is something nostalgic about walking through the Salem Common and remembering where Max and Allison walked through the autumn leaves. The movie celebrates Halloween, with a cult-level following. As I celebrate Halloween with my own children and learn its joy all over again, I begin to see how Halloween allows us to break social norms, slip into different roles, bend gender norms, and face our fears. We connect with a child within us that we repress all other days. 

Also, who doesn’t love a witch movie with a talking black cat?

In the film, protagonist Max famously says, “It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus.” But is it feminist? I’m not convinced that Hocus Pocus is a feminist film. The teen female protagonist is reduced to her sexual body parts. “Max likes your yabos. In fact, he loves them,” taunts Max’s little sister. The witches obsess over their appearance and beauty, succumbing to the societal norms about how women should look. All the harm that they cause is directly related to making themselves look younger. None of this feels empowering to those identifying as women.

As intersectionalists, we look to fight oppression of any kind. The film has a striking lack of any People of Color, though we know the town of Salem, Massachusetts is not exclusively white. We also see no LGBTQIA individuals in the film; everyone is defined by heteronormative and cisgender characteristics, though I know for a fact that Salem has Pride events. As feminists and sex educators, we also question the use of virginity in the film. A virgin lit the black flame candle, bringing the witches back from the grave. But we find this problematic as we look at the patriarchal use of virginity to oppress women. When does one’s sexual journey begin? Must we define our sexual journey by the first penile penetration? Why does virginity even matter unless women are property?

But again, my heart swells to see Salem in the fall. Bette Midler sings I Put a Spell on You. It’s very hard to love Halloween and not love this movie. These witchy women, as despicable as they are, are defying social norms, despite the many threats to their safety. They have no dependence on men and they do as they please. The teenager Allison has choices about dating the protagonist; she decides on her own time about romantic entanglement, even after rejecting him at first. The young sister Dani speaks her mind and asserts her needs. 

Hocus Pocus would be quite a different film in 2021, in the time of the #MeToo Movement, the Women’s Marches, and Black Lives Matter. Is there hope? Let’s see when Hocus Pocus 2 comes out next fall. In the meantime, don’t light any black flame candles.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble: Nothing is Practical about Practical Magic

The Owens House

I have had a Pinterest board dedicated to Practical Magic since I saw it many, many years ago. The fashion, the hair, the HOUSE, I wanted that life. It was my dream to live my life on an island off the Massasschust coast, in that house, brewing and gardening. 

This is the story of a long line of witches. After being exiled to this island with her unborn child, Maria — an ancestor of the Owens sisters who are the main characters of the movie — casts a spell to stop herself from being able to fall in love because her lover never came for her. Shortly after, Maria falls dead from heartbreak and the curse is passed on through the generations. The men that the Owens women love are destined for death. 

The story picks up with the introduction of Sally and Gillian Owens. The two sisters  have recently moved to their ancestral house with their aunts because their father has suffered the fate of the curse and their mother has died of heartbreak. In this house, they are encouraged to do their magic, eat chocolate for breakfast, and to feel things profoundly. 

One night, a very upset woman comes to the door. She says that the love of her life loves another and she wants the aunts to cast a spell to make him love her. After watching this, Sally and Gillian react differently. Sally says that she hopes never to fall in love whereas Gillian can’t wait to fall in love. 

Flash forward and Gillian goes off into the world, leaving behind a string of broken hearts. Thanks to a boost from her aunt, Sally who vowed to never fall in love, but with a boost from her aunts, she falls in love with a local man and they have two daughters. Unfortunately, Sally is not immune to the curse; her husband ‘Michael dies and Sally moves back into the aunts’ house. 

Meanwhile Gillian is partying in Arizona, where she meets Jimmy Angelov. One night Gillian calls Sally in a panic; Jimmy has been abusing her and she needs Sally to come. Sally slips him too much Belladonna, and he dies. Rather than LEAVING HIM DEAD, they decide to cast a spell that tries to revive him (SPOILER: it does not work), and then the real antics begin. 

So what does it all mean? And how in the world is Practical Magic related to feminism and ending sexual violence? I think the best way to start is with the chant that is almost like a nursery rhyme in this town. It is so common that a group of elementary school students are singing it….“Witch, witch, you’re a b***h. To which Sally says, “You’d think in 200 years they would have time to come up with a better chant.” It shows that women outside the norm are typically viewed as witches, seductresses, and dangerous. Women who are strong, women who may not want children, women who love freely are viewed — and have been viewed through much of history — as witches and have suffered such fates as being burned alive. 

This movie clearly passes the Bechdel test, which determines how feminist a movie is. This test has three basic rules: it has to have at least two women in it, they have to talk to each other, and they have to discuss something besides a man. It seems like a pretty simple task, but you would be surprised by how few movies actually pass this test. 

As well, it shows us that there is more to being a femme-identifying person because you have the Aunts: one kind, one mischievous; you have Sally, calm and powerful; and then you have Gillian, liberated and loyal. This also works to create a movie of empowering female relationships. It is not that these women do not fight with each other (oh, they do). Rather than this movie making you go “ah women, so petty,” it shows you how strong the female-identifying bond can be. 

This bond is so crucial to the movie that when Gillian becomes the victim and survivor of Domestic Abuse, it is the sisterhood and the coven bond that protects her. And as October is Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness month, it is important to showcase how DV truly affects women. Practical Magic highlights this experience and shows Domestic Violence survivors who experience more than just physical abuse. 

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us with a movie that praises sisterhood and female bonds. It leaves us with hope that the magic inside of us does not make us evil or outcast, but rather we must find our own coven that respects and honors our magic. 

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Prevention and Education Specialist

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

https://www.stylist.co.uk/long-reads/practical-magic-sandra-bullock-nicole-kidman-feminism-90s-films-movies-witchcraft/187283

https://hellogiggles.com/reviews-coverage/movies/6-reasons-why-practical-magic-still-resonates-with-women/

https://www.brightwalldarkroom.com/2018/10/30/feminist-seductions-practical-magic/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/practical_magic

Love is Stronger than Witchcraft: A Feminist Critique of 1942’s I Married a Witch

Author’s note: Although I refer to characters as men and women or male and female, I do not intend to uphold the false binary of man/woman. This is only a stylistic choice based on the beliefs and cultural milieu of 1942.


I Married a Witch (1942) is a rare fantasy/romantic comedy that gives us a glimpse of the patriarchy of the time alongside the agency of two female characters. We meet Jennifer,* a 17th Century witch, killed in a witch burning by local Puritan authorities. She and her father remain trapped in a tree’s roots for nearly 300 years, only to escape and meet Wooley, the descendant of the man who murdered them. Jennifer tries to seduce Wooley for payback, knowing his wedding is the next day. In a mixup with a potion, Jennifer becomes the one enamored and falls deeply in love with Wooley. Estelle, Wooley’s fiancée, ends up leaving Wooley at the altar after her father attempted to force her into the marriage; Jennifer wins her man only after her own father tries to interfere.

“Any man who marries, marries the wrong woman.”

What struck me initially about the film was the patriarchy bordering on misogyny. Daniel, Jennifer’s father, claims that “Any man who marries, marries the wrong woman.”  We also see that Wooley’s fiancée, Estelle, is labeled as a shrew for not smiling and not being complacent and weak; she also asks Wooley to stop smoking and drinking at various points in the film, obviously not the actions of the ideal meek and complacent housewife. Both female characters are told by their fathers who they can or cannot marry; Estelle is nearly forced to marry Wooley and Jennifer’s father takes away her powers to stop her from marrying him. Women are the property of men, whether it is their father or their husband, and that property is only referred to as girl. Wooley himself refers to both Jennifer and Estelle as girls

“That’s a good girl … Poor little girl, all alone in the world.”

Is the patriarchy just a sign of the times, a leftover from when the norm was to see women as second-class citizens? I don’t think we should overlook the patriarchy, nor the oppression, not when so many lives are impacted. The only person of color in the entire film is a slave from a flashback to the Revolutionary War. White privilege is normalized and never questioned. There also is no responsibility taken for generational oppression. Wooley is portrayed as “the good guy” with no acknowledgment from his character nor the film about how his ancestor burned witches. All of his wealth and socioeconomic status are built on the oppression of others.

Despite this context, we do see some agency from the female characters. In a world where white men hold all political and economic control, where women’s lives are controlled by men’s decisions, the two female characters still find some agency. Jennifer and Estelle’s fathers both try to control who they marry, yet both women are able to forge their own matrimonial path. Estelle walks out of her own wedding ceremony and Jennifer chooses to marry Wooley despite her father’s meddling. By the end of the film, we see Jennifer’s ultimate act of agency; she traps her father’s spirit in a bottle while she enjoys building a family with Wooley.

But we also see that Jennifer and Estelle internalize this oppression. Jennifer’s immediate concern once she is back in a human body is her appearance. She wants to make sure her appearance pleases Wooley. In the final scene, Jennifer and Wooley’s daughter plays on a broom, much to the disappointment of the housekeeper. Jennifer says, “I’m afraid we’re going to have trouble with her someday.” She herself had agency to make her own choices, but chastises her own daughter for claiming that same agency and finding joy in a tool of witchcraft. The film ends with Jennifer knitting while children encircle her. The acceptability of a powerful woman into fine society comes at a price. She must trade in her broom for needles, serving those around her as she knits them sweaters rather than flying through the night sky.

“I must start learning to be a good housewife … I’ll try so hard to be a good wife.” 

In a rare moment of clarity, the film hints at the importance of consent. Wooley forces water into Jennifer’s mouth when she has passed out and his friend offhandedly comments that “You should never force liquids on a person who is unconscious.” Writers were 80 years ahead of the tea video.

“You should never force liquids on a person who is unconscious.”

Jennifer gets what she wants in the end: marriage, children, and domestic quietude. But at what cost? She repeatedly claims that “love is stronger than witchcraft,” but it was her witchcraft that allowed her to have agency, powers, and choices. She could speak her mind as a witch. She could fly on broomsticks and light fires merely by speaking. She gave all of that up to “be a good housewife.” 

Had I been alive at the time, would I have gone to opening night of I Married a Witch on October 30, 1942? Of course. I would have made it a date night too, because love is stronger than witchcraft. But if there is a love that confronts oppression, racism, patriarchy, misogyny, and lack of consent, then maybe I’d rather have that love.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

*The name Jennifer was not in use in the 17th Century, but we will forgive the writers who did not have Google at their fingertips in 1942.

October Lunch & Learn Webinars

Join us for four free Lunch & Learn webinars this month.

All are virtual and you need to register on Zoom. Please contact info@zcenter.org with any questions. We look forward to great discussion over lunch with you!

  • What is feminism? Thursday, 12pm, 10/7/21 Register here.
  • Patriarchy and Sexual Violence. 12pm, Thursday, 10/14/21 Register here.
  • Feminism in Trauma-Informed Care. 12pm, Thursday, 10/21/21 Register here.
  • A Feminist Approach to Sex Education. 12pm, Wednesday, 10/27/21 Register here.

A Nightmare on Elm Street … from a Feminist Perspective

Let’s face it. It is spooky season. Spooky season differs from fall since it doesn’t focus on apple picking, cozy outfits, and green leaves turning orange giving us that Halloween Town vibe. Instead, spooky season focuses on scary corn mazes, experiencing terror, and temperatures dropping while the sky becomes more and more gray. Overall, fear becomes heightened, yet exciting. The most popular part of spooky season is Halloween movies. We are not talking about Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Casper, and Hocus Pocus. The Halloween movies we ARE talking about are those such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, and so on. These movies are truly horror.

Why are horror movies created? What is the point? Believe it or not, we the people love horror. In fact, we turn to horror movies for many reasons. First, whether we know it or not, we love experiencing fear and disgust. Second, it gives us control over our anxiety. We get to choose to feel anxious and shift away from the anxiety we can not control. That is why horror movies were created and why we turn to them. It helps benefit us while entertaining us.

One of the most iconic horror movies of all time would be A Nightmare on Elm Street. This movie will forever be a classic since the plot is so original. It is not about a typical ghost, witch, or monster. Instead, it is about a child serial killer that preys on teenagers as they sleep, and in addition is able to kill them in reality. What makes this movie even more dreadful is that the serial killer, known as Freddy Krueger, is a burnt and disfigured man that has a hand with blades for fingers. 

A question that isn’t asked is how do we interpret this film from a femininist perspective? From a woman myself, this film is indirectly feminist. Though the film focuses on a “group” of teenagers, it really focuses on one particular character which is Nancy. Nancy doesn’t play the typical fearful and fragile female character. In fact (spoiler alert!), Nancy is the only character that is able to defeat Freddy Krueger and survives. Just like the famous Survivor slogan, Nancy was able to outwit, outplay, and outlast. Though Nancy was scared throughout the movie, which you can’t blame her for when you keep on experiencing abnormal encounters with this evil child serial killer in your dreams, we the audience are able to see her become more brave than her peers, which include your typical strong and courageous males, and become the leader. This contradicts society’s gender norms and stereotypes, and it is for that reason, this movie supports feminism by ending the film with a final girl who was brave enough to face her perpetrator. 

Now I don’t know if you have caught on to some of the words and expressions I have used before. For example, why do I keep referring Freddy Krueger to a child serial killer when he is killing teenagers? Why did I recently refer to Freddy Krueger as a perpetrator instead of a killer? The truth is (again spoiler alert!), Freddy Krueger was not only a child serial killer, but a child molester. Krueger had molested this group of teenagers when they were young, and as a consequence, the parents of these children sought revenge by burning Kreuger alive. Since such trauma had occurred during a young age, the parents all decided it was best to not talk about what had happened to their children with their children which then led to repression of those memories within the teenagers. At first the teenagers don’t understand why they are being tormented by Krueger and what made them deserve it. However, throughout the movie Nancy and friend Quentin unravel the truth that Krueger is not taunting them for no reason, but is seeking vengeance for what the parents did to him by killing their children one by one. 

For that reason, it leads us to ask the question of how does the film portray consent and/or sexual assault? In the 2010 version of A Nightmare of Elm Street, both consent and sexual assault were taken very seriously. Consent can not be given if one is younger than 17 years old, and in this case, they were definitely not in high school but in preschool. What also angered the parents is that the sexual assault came from a man they thought was trustworthy. Krueger was the preschool’s groundskeeper that was loved and adored by many of the children. No one would suspect he had a dark, sinister side to him. Due to that, the parents took this situation seriously. I mean they literally tortured the man by burning him alive because he broke their trust by intruding on their children’s innocence. Regardless of whether the child was a girl or a boy, social or shy, rich or poor, sexual assault is sexual assault in the eyes of these parents. Now when it comes to the parents handling the situation correctly, that’s a different discussion. 

What does A Nightmare on Elm Street teach us about survivors? Well the film demonstrates the parents taking justice into their own hands. Even though survivors and those close to the survivor do deserve justice, one must achieve it morally and ethically, unlike what the parents did. The parents had the right intentions, yet killing someone is not the best solution. Also, trying to help your child repress their memory isn’t always going to give you as the parent the best outcome. You see when a person with repressed memories starts to think more and more about the past, the truth will slowly reveal itself, just like it did with Nancy and Quentin. The parents thought they were protecting their kids but really they are becoming traumatized. They are being traumatized by both having to deal with Kreuger and learning about the past. When it comes to repressed memories, it works in three ways: 1. If you don’t want to know more, you don’t think about it, 2. If you want to remember, you try to think more about it, 3. Some memories are brought up because the brain thinks you’re ready. This goes back to the first question which is what does it teach us about survivors. It teaches us to always put your (the parents, in this case) thoughts and opinions aside and put the survivor first. If the survivor doesn’t want to talk about it, then don’t force anything. Yet, if the survivor wants to learn more about what happened, which is what we see in the film, then you should be able to share with them. You can’t determine what is best for the survivor. If they are or are not ready, is it up to the survivor.

In conclusion, from a feminist point of view A Nightmare on Elm Street is a great horror film. It has characters that don’t follow the typical gender norms, parents that never doubted their children, and proves that facing your fear can be empowering. So the next time you watch A Nightmare of Elm Street, don’t focus on how scary Krueger was, but more how sick. Don’t focus on how scared these teenagers were, but how brave. It takes a lot of courage to face your perpetrator.

 


Written by Viviana Huerta, Advocacy Services Coordinator.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/spooky-season-is-here

https://nautil.us/issue/95/escape/why-horror-films-are-more-popular-than-ever

The Power in Reclaiming Femininity

Note: Throughout this article, “women” is used to refer to cisgender and transgender women, as well as non-binary femme-identified people; this is a stylistic choice only and not intended to equate or universalize different peoples’ experiences and identities.

If I had a dollar for everytime I was told, “you throw like a girl,” or “you run like a girl” I would be on the Forbes list for Billionaires under 25 (maybe that is an exaggeration, but you get the point). While my parents fought this message, it was one that I heard from many other adults and kids. It made me feel ashamed. It made me feel like if I embraced femininity, I was somehow weaker, more fragile, and less then. So I completely rejected it. I said One Direction was for girly-girls, I thought pink was ugly, and I thought princesses were useless. I rejected the feminine because I thought that is what I needed to do, so I could achieve those big dreams. 

So where does this rejection of femininity come from? Why do we still view masculinity as the ideal? The Second Wave of Feminism (also known as Women’s Liberation) fought against the roles that women were being forced into. The key word here is FORCED, but it was taken too far. We thought that the rejection of femininity was an ideal form of reclamation. That it wasn’t that masculinity was dominating, but that femininity was a sign of submission. A part of this is because of the gender binary understanding of society. As explained by Philippe Leonard Fradet, femininity and masculinity are viewed as opposites of each other. Therefore, the idea of claiming femininity is often associated with the loss of dreams. People who are feminine are destined to become JUST a wife, JUST a mother, and not see themselves as the CEO of a Fortune 500. It is not wrong to want to be a wife or a mother, and we know that these are not easy jobs, by any means, but it is the idea that embracing your femininity means choosing. You cannot be a femininie CEO, a femininie astronaut. As they say, it is a “man’s world.” We broke up with femininity long ago and now many of us are looking to make up with it. 

But femininity and masculinity are not opposites of each other, and it’s important that we embrace both sets of qualities in whatever ways make us the most comfortable and feel the most like ourselves. Embracing femininity is not just about female-identifying individuals enjoying things that society tells them are “girly,” but it’s about tending to one’s emotions, perhaps getting in touch with our creative side, and connecting with each other in a collaborative and nurturing way. When we utilize our feminine side of collaboration and working together, it lends us another tool in fighting against oppression. We can break away from the binary of men needing to be strong and masculine and women need to be simple and submissive, to create a society where each individual leans on masculinity/femininity at different levels depending on what they need at that moment. 

So how do we get there? How can we embrace our femininity when for so long we have been told to repress it? It’s not easy, and definitely not achieved overnight, and can start small. Setting aside time for yourself to get creative– whether that’s painting or knitting or just simple pencil drawing–and to get in touch with your imagination where anything is possible. Maybe it’s wearing something pink, even though you rejected the color when you were younger. It is learning to love what you were told to hate, because it was girly. Embracing your femininity is seeking community, and talking with close friends or family. Start where it feels natural for you, and continue from there. There is no right way or one way to embrace one’s femininity– so make it your own.


Written by Sarah Brennan, MSW, Volunteer and Activism Coordinator, and Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

https://medium.com/sheroserevolution/reclaiming-the-divine-feminine-will-heal-us-all-if-we-let-it-e71488fceaf7

https://fractalenlightenment.com/30683/spirituality/reclaiming-the-sacred-feminine

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/femininity-study-how-changed-research-feminine-women-always-platinum-a8554031.html

https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/feminism-womens-history

https://dailyolivian.com/2021/02/12/tiktoks-pick-me-girl-trend-is-just-another-example-of-toxic-femininity/

https://www.simonandschuster.com/m/tips-on-life-and-love/tips-on-life-and-love

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/how-men-can-love-their-femininity/

https://anne-mariemarron.com/blog/reclaiming-our-feminine-power-8-feminine-principles-to-cultivate#:~:text=Feminine%20power%20exists%20in%20all,as%20solar%20or%20yang%20energy.&text=To%20reclaim%20our%20feminine%20superpowers,within%20ourselves%20and%20in%20others.

 

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