Diversifying lesbian spectatorship

The question of how black lesbians might rework gendered representation in mainstream culture has, as yet, barely been addressed. It is only more recently that the question of black spectatorship of popular film has been critically addressed at all. Initial theorisations of black spectatorship (male, female, straight and gay) appear also to depend on reference to identifications external to the cinematic text. Text-based theorisations of female and lesbian spectatorship generally refer to the controlling position of the male

Lesbian criticism and popular film

The very strategy of breaking down the smoothness of cinematic illusion often made avant garde films difficult to read, since decoding non- or anti-narrative techniques relied on a working knowledge of 'high' cultural codes which are, by definition, restricted to a privileged class. In any case, even within privileged cultural contexts, these codes are not longer widely disseminated. Many, on the other hand, found the prioritisation of politics over pleasure merely boring.

Chapter four: feminist counter-cinema

It was in the discursive context of radical feminism that tropes of female bonding and of 'the gaze' could be mobilised to effect feminist and lesbian readings of popular cinema. Whilst I am aware that most radical feminists rejected man-made popular culture altogether, radical feminism nevertheless informed a lesbian counter-cinema; as well as being productive in the practices of many lesbians who did not adopt a specifically lesbian-feminist identification. Obviously, I will not attempt an exhaustive account of feminist film theory through the 1970s

Female bonding in the feminist field of vision

The radical feminist trope of 'female bonding' was crucial to lesbian-feminism. This trope becomes most intelligible when seen as effecting a resignification of conceptualisations of male bonding as fundamental to the organisation of patriarchal language, culture and economy which originated in structural-anthropology and psychoanalysis. These posited an originary symbolic exchange of women between men which founds transpersonal (social) male relationships and by which 'the woman' becomes merely the symbolic object of an exclusively male cultural

Faultlines in the second wave

Many would regard (lesbian) radical feminism as absolutely distinct from Marxist- or Socialist-feminist perspectives. Of course, the aims and strategies of diverse feminisms are not merely distinctive but often conflict. An 'orthodox' Marxist-feminist discourse was articulated "without challenging the primacy of production implied by the orthodox model ..." (Benhabib and Cornell, 1987: 2). The influential French radical feminists, on the other hand, articulated their critiques not through an orthodox (linear-determinist and empiricist) Marxist framework but in terms of

From sex deviants to gender rebels

Mitchell (1971) argued that all forms of second-wave feminism can be traced to the same radicalising context:

Chapter three: without you I'm nothing

In this chapter, I will explore the productivity of discourses of lesbian feminism in both popular and counter-cinemas of the 1970s and 1980s. I shall not attempt any comprehensive overview of feminist theory and politics or to address the broad range of feminist engagements with Marxism. I intend only to demonstrate the importance of tropes of 'female bonding' and of 'the gaze' to lesbian-feminist theory and practice in order to establish a historicised discursive context for lesbian readings of popular film.

New perspectives on gender in the visual order

Mulvey's formulation left the heterosexual feminist "restless," and the lesbian inarticulable except as identification with an institutionally masculine position offered in the relay. Desubjectivising models such Case's (1988/9) and de Lauretis' (1991) theorised a deconstructive lesbian refusal of any stable gender-position and a dissemination of subjectivity in a lesbian performative and exhibition context — but this obviously cannot be applied to lesbian reading of mainstream film. Furthermore, the quotidian importance of female pro-activity to the

Dykes and tomboys

Some of Whitaker's respondents did report occupying the masculinised spectatorial position in the relay as a location from which to appropriate the erotic spectacle of the female star

FANNIE: I (identified with) Gordon MacRae in The Desert Song, who seduced a woman by singing to her. (Whitaker, 1985: 112)

GLADYS: I was probably the most sexist [sic] person in the audience looking at almost naked Marlene Dietrich on the silver screen ... I can't say I identified with her. (Whitaker, 1985: 115)

"Duel in the Sun"

In the Hollywood narrative, as in the visual structure, women signify the erotic. In melodrama, Mulvey argued, the centrality of a female protagonist shifts the narrative focus overtly to sexuality. Pearl's protagonism in Duel in the Sun thus effects a generic shift to melodrama by the foregrounding of sexuality. The opening scene in Duel shows Pearl's mother dancing hollywood-exotica-style. She is surrounded, diegetically, by male spectators. Her exoticism is displayed for the consumption of white men and is also


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