Sunday, 27 November 2011

"Cowboys" in feminist classrooms

Just read Adeline Koh's review of "Cowboys in Paradise" in Films for the Feminist Classroom. An assistant professor of literature at Richard Stockton College, Adeline had screened the film for a capstone class in the Women, Gender and Sexuality studies program. (You can order your academic screening copy here.)

Her much-too-generous review praises the film for:

(Calling to) attention the critique of second-wave feminism by minority and international feminists such as bell hooks, Chandra Mohanty, and Trinh T. Minh-ha: despite the common condition of being women, the same battles are not fought by women of privilege and their poorer counterparts.

I confess to smiling upon seeing bell hooks mentioned. It took me back to 1994 when I interviewed her for a student paper, and when she introduced me to the concept of 'white-lily feminism'. She wasn't discounting anyone's contribution to the cause, but merely highlighting the fact that all activists - feminists included - are driven by their own background and circumstance. Shortly after, I began to regard my own women studies courses with suspicion. Thankfully, my professors and mentors encouraged this rebellion.

Back to Adeline. I don't know if she considers herself a 'minority' or 'international feminist'. What I do know is that we share a disdain for the over-romanticization of Asia by Westerners. It's unfair, stifling, and counter-productive at best. At its worst, it's just fucking self-centered. Which naturally brings us to...

Eat, Pray, Love. Writes Adeline:

Students watched both Eat, Pray, Love and Cowboys in Paradise after reading second-wave feminist theory alongside its critique by minority and postcolonial feminists. Because they viewed Cowboys after reading theory, students were able to accurately identify the urgency of the inequality raised by minority and postcolonial feminists in their critique of feminisms of privilege.

My film serving as an indirect critique of feminisms of privilege? Somewhere up there, Dr. Ellis is shaking her head and smiling.


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