Believe it or not, watching TV with a feminist lens can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be hard. When it comes down to it, it’s just critical thinking, asking questions about the media you’re looking at.
If we aren’t looking at media critically it can exercise undue influence on our views about people from different backgrounds, on what products we choose to buy, and on what behaviour we consider appropriate or inappropriate. The messages and images it contains can reinforce or subvert stereotypes that underpin inequality.
For example media can encourage us to feel insecure about our looks because we can’t live up to the beauty ideals in ads. Or it can show us new possibilities for our society, like Star Trek does (see the more Star Trek-specific version of this article at Trekkie Feminist).
When someone critiques representations in media, it’s not about them hating on your favourite show. In order to critique something to the level that I’m doing with Star Trek, you really have to love it and care about it enough to think it’s worth your time to try and change it for the better.
I operate from bell hooks’ definition of feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.” I also believe that we can’t achieve equality for all women without addressing concurrent forms of inequality and discrimination, such as racism, homophobia, trans phobia, ableism and classism. That influences the types of questions I ask and how I interpret the messages I see on TV.
Here are the types of questions I ask when I’m doing feminist media analysis.
- Who are the main characters? What are their demographics (gender, race, age, sexual orientation)?
- Do any of them have unique abilities or disabilities?
- What are their major character traits and what are their interests and hobbies? Do they reinforce or challenge stereotypes about their gender, race, etc.?
- How much power do they have as individuals and within their intimate relationships, social group, workplace or organization? Read more