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Consuming Gender

Film and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University
by

Paul Bowman

on 21 November 2016

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Transcript of Consuming Gender

Consuming Gender
Classic Pin Up Girls
Gender and Gendered Representations
The Discourse of Masculinity
And Masculinity?
Psychoanalysis, Scopophilia and Performativity
Are these the same?
What remains of ‘feminism’ in the discourse exemplified by films like Pretty Woman?


Is it post-feminist?


Is it anti-feminist?
‘post-feminism and shopping films’
2nd wave feminism was a kind of identity politics. But it wanted to change social relations. [radical]

‘Girl Power’/post-feminism was/is identity politics that does not want to change social relations. [conservative]
Discourse, Hegemony and 'Identity Politics’
Second Wave Feminism:
“The Personal is Political”
1970s feminism
From anti-porn ‘Women’s Lib’ to the sexualisation of ‘girl power’/‘ladettes’…
stereotyping of feminists
1990s Post-Feminism
Masculinity ‘is’ / as…
Phallic Potency
Phallic Agency
Hyper-masculinity & homoeroticism
Masculinity, Militarism/Survivalism & Ideology
Crisis/Renegotiation of Masculinity
1980s hypermasculinity…
…manipulation of semiotic codes (irony)
Ironic reflections on masculinity
American Psycho:
Capitalism & Schizophrenia
Fight Club:
Consumerism and Feminisation
Therapy culture as feminization
Waning of affect/agency:
revaluation of violence
Tyler Durden as Symptom
(return of the repressed)
What is a real man?
Cultural Critique?
What are people all about? Desire.

What do we Desire? “Absence of unpleasure” (Freud)


Plenitude: the end of desire (Lacan)

Humans are ‘desiring machines’ (Deleuze)
Psychoanalytic Theory of the Subject
Humans are born ‘into lack’
Absence leads to desire

who or what provides food and comfort? MOTHER.

Therefore, for Freud, the child first “desires” mother
Lack and Desire
Something always separates the child from the object of its desire.


Freud argues that the child deduces that it is the FATHER who separates.
“Separation” and the frustration of Desire
“There is an interesting contrast between the behaviour of the two sexes…. When a little boy first catches sight of a girl’s genital region, he begins by showing irresolution and lack of interest; he sees nothing or disavows what he has seen…. It is not until later, when some threat of castration has obtained a hold upon him, that the observation becomes important to him….
“A little girl behaves very differently. She makes her judgement and her decision in a flash. She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it.”
(Freud)
The Realisation of Sexual Difference
Male child harbours feelings of ambivalence to father.

Interprets parents’ threatening behaviour as ‘castration threat’.

Overcomes Oedipal desires. (Identifies with patriarchal ideology.)
Constitution of Male Subject
Mother = first love object [NB: as for boy]
Realisation of sexual difference: “realises” she is ‘castrated’/‘lacking’;
develops ambivalence towards mother/women/self;
“gives up her wish for a penis and puts in place of it a wish for a child… takes her father as a love object”
Constitution of Female Subject
The Family can be regarded as the primary ‘machine’ which reproduces ‘the symbolic order’ (patriarchy)

“the human being has always to learn from scratch from the Other what he has to do, as man or as woman” [Jacques Lacan]

“Symbols … envelop the life of man in a network so total that they join together, before he comes into the world, those who are going to engender him “by flesh and blood”; so total that they bring to his birth … the share of his destiny…” [Jacques Lacan]
The Patriarchal Symbolic Order
Culture is “The Symbolic Order”

The Symbolic Order is that which is on offer for us to desire, respect, aspire to, etc.

We are made, think, act and live only in the Symbolic Order.

In psychoanalysis our identities and desires are interlinked but complex and fragmentary.

Our identities are produced through identification and desire. (The Mirror Stage.)


Hence, the importance of Identification, Fantasy (or phantasy), desire and the unconscious in everyday life.
Psychoanalysis and Culture
‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975) - Laura Mulvey, Originally Published - Screen 16.3 Autumn 1975 pp. 6-18
Laura Mulvey
Psychoanalytic theory is … appropriated here as a political weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form.
Patriarchy and film form
The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies.

woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning
Woman as bearer of meaning
This article will discuss the interweaving of that erotic pleasure in film, its meaning, and in particular the central place of the image of woman. It is said that analysing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.
The cinema offers a number of possible pleasures. One is scopophilia. There are circumstances in which looking itself is a source of pleasure, just as, in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at.

the cinema has structures of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while simultaneously reinforcing the ego
Scopophilia
In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.
To-be-looked-at-ness
"What counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance."
Woman has no importance
Paul Bowman
Cardiff University
BowmanP@cf.ac.uk

female agency
protest against patriarchy
female sexuality
female sociality?
'female' sociality?
deconstruction and intensification of gender (Donna Haraway)
post-feminist semiotics
anti-feminist backlash?
rejection of equation woman = body
critique of patriarchal world
connections between masculinity, military, nation...
(eventually hypermasculinity was really "getting old"!)
What is life about?
recurring equation between:
"man" = "nature"
"culture" = "feminisation"
The Jazz Singer (1927)
The first 'talkie'
The Oedipus Complex and Film
Mother/Music/Pleasure
Father/Law/Prohibition
1984
1989
1990
or parodies of patriarchy?
1994-
or anti-feminist semiotics?
postmodern film
irony
self-reflexivity
lack of unitary final signified?
polysemous text
Fight Club
consuming gender
masculinity
gender
consumer
culture
identity
desire
female
Where might we situate Marla in relation to 'feminsim'?
(has always been a theoretical problem)
Post-feminism and/or
Gender as Performance
Performativity
Full transcript