How has the feminism movement effected and changed hypermasculinity within the film community though the 1970’s?

by Karan Sharma

The roles of women in film have been relatively consistent throughout the history of the film industry. Many female roles have them playing minor roles often reflect and support the main character of them film. These women are severely undermined, or not taken seriously by the main character during them film. Some great feminist theories and ideas have manifested since the 1970’s which prove to be a great turning point for the film industry. Because of concepts such as feminism film theory we have seen a seen a push towards quality in film including major role for female actors. Since this time many films empowering women and feminism films have been produced. Feminism is not an easy topic, “But to actually evaluate whether a film as a whole is feminist requires much more than a tally of female characters and the conversations between them. A film may have some feminist elements, some sexist elements, and some elements that are neither, because—and this is important—”feminism” is not simply the absence of “sexism.” The most reliable way to determine whether a film is feminist is to see it—and even then, the question is not a simple one. Liberal feminists—who believe that women and men are created equal and should be treated as such even though they often aren’t—would likely consider the X-Men films to be feminist because they feature female superheroes who fight alongside male ones, even though they live in a world ruled by men. Cultural feminists, who believe women’s biology and instincts make them different from men in ways that should be celebrated, might consider Steel Magnolias to be feminist even though the characters only talk about men and family.” (Derr) “The Bechdel Test for film is not based in theory, but is a litmus test for examining how well-rounded and complete are the representations of women in media. Created in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test asks only three questions:

1) Are there at least two women in the film who have names?

2) Do those women talk to each other?

3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?” (Murphy)

The undernimming of female roles in film also include stereotypical view of women’s profession, intelligence, and ethnicity. Female actors of caucasian decent are more likely to receive role in a film over African American actors. Even within the ethnic divide of female actor, those for lighter skin tone are more generally preferred. “Light-skinned black women are associated with femininity more so than dark-skinned women who are often seen as possessing physical strength but lacking in cultural definitions of ‘beauty’ and femininity (but interestingly depicted as more sexual). The proliferation of images of light-skinned black women in film inevitably affects the perceptions of males and females as they are influenced to associate lighter skin with femininity and beauty. European notions of beauty, in the form of skin color, hair and, nose, have dominated film, denying dark-skinned women the cultural opportunities to experience their stories on screen.”(Sutherland) These women are inferior to the masculinity in the film industry displayed through the uses of caucasian male actors.

Women have come a long way from not being permitted to vote all the way to having a female presidential candidate. Female roles in film have also developed, some film often based around a main female characters with no male actors. These movies often have a sense of masculinity embodied by the female actor, this shows how the film industry has responded to hyper masculinity. This was described in Feminism, Film, Fascism, a novel of the feminism rise in post Nazi Germany. It goes into detail of the accounts of many women varying in age during the war. “While these films embrace an auto/biographical and often intensely personal focus, they neither conceptualize female identity as separate from public politics nor skirt the issue of the Nazi horrors; instead, they demonstrate in diverse ways how the triad of Kinder, Kirche, Küche is politically inflected and enmeshed with the process of understanding the Nazi past. These films develop distinctive critiques of the conventional social gender order that the postwar era furiously struggled to reinstate; in the process, they create narrative structures and cinematic styles that implicitly oppose the hierarchic and matrophobic dimensions of the postwar discourse on the authoritarian personality.” (Linville)This book comes from a reliable source the university of Texas press, but the information is slightly old due to the fact this was written in 1998. This book symbolizes feminism in one of the most meaningful way, by showing the power of women during the country’s lowest point and recovery from war. The author “illustrates how an engaged aesthetics can shape self-representation for women, who have not been able to take their own subjectivities as a given in life or art, but whose subjectivities remain important even—and especially—in the context of German fascism and its complex aftermath.” (Linville) Although this book addresses feminism heavily, it does not clarify the connection it creates or the impact it makes on film.



Derr, Holly L. “What Really Makes a Film Feminist?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

Linville, Susan E. Feminism, Film, Fascism. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. Print.

Murphy, Jocelyn Nicole, “The role of women in film: Supporting the men — An analysis of how culture influences the changing discourse on gender representations in film” (2015). Journalism Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 2.

Sutherland, Jean-Anne. “VCU.Edu – Central Authenication

Service”. Tadfonline.com.proxy.libary.vcu.edu. N.p., 2016. Web 16 Mar. 2017

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