Lights, Camera, Activism: Using a Film Series to Generate Feminist Dialogue About Campus Sexual Violence

AuthorDana A. Weiser,Elizabeth A. Sharp,C. Rebecca Oldham,John B. K. Purcell
Published date01 February 2017
Date01 February 2017
J B. K. P, C. R O, D A. W,  E A. S
Texas Tech University
Lights, Camera, Activism: Using a Film Series to
Generate Feminist Dialogue About Campus Sexual
We examine the use of an interdisciplinary lm
series, “2015 Sexism | Cinema: 50 Years on the
Silver Screen,” as a space for discussion where
attendees can discover allies, express critical
thought, and advance their thinking. A lm series
is a useful response to the widespread problem
of campus sexual assault in three critical ways:
(a) a theater provides an informal, recreational
space for discussion of feminist thought; (b)
the content of the lms highlights the insidious
nature of sexual violence and gender inequal-
ity in our culture; and (c) there exists a degree
of separation that subverts defensiveness while
inspiring a critical dialogue. Wediscuss the util-
ity of a lm series as an accessible approach to
the cultural antecedents of sexual violence on
college campuses. We offer our own experiences
of the lm series and recommend lm as a femi-
nist pedagogical tool to address sexual violence.
A recent trend in higher education has been for
universities to attract and retain students with
lifestyle and entertainment offerings (Armstrong
& Hamilton, 2013). As part of this trend, most
universities screen blockbuster lms on campus
Department of Human Development & Family Studies,
Texas Tech University, Mailstop 41230, Lubbock, TX
79409-1230 (
Key Words: Feminism, gender issues, sexuality & related
issues, social change, television and media.
for students at a free or reduced cost. These
entertainment efforts, including the popular lm
screenings on college campuses, frequently do
not have any educational component. Students
are not encouraged to critically analyze sym-
bolic and structural representations of sex, gen-
der, race, and sexuality in the lms they con-
sume. This is a missed opportunity given that
there are growing reports of sexist, racist, and
heterosexist attitudes and actions among col-
lege students. Indeed, universities continue to
make headlines for their students’ (most often
groups of upper-class, White, male students)
sexist and racist antics. To offera few examples:
In March 2015, a video of a mostly White fra-
ternity emerged in which members sang about
lynching and used racial slurs at a large state
university (Svriuga, 2015). In August 2015, a
fraternity posted signs reading “Freshman [sic]
daughter drop off” at a different large state uni-
versity (Samuels, 2015). Our own university,
Texas Tech, was featured in national and inter-
national news when a fraternity showcased the
slogan “No means yes, yes means anal” at its
party (Kingkade, 2014; Van Brunt, Murphy, &
O’Toole, 2015). These incidents, coupled with
the pervasiveness of sexualharassment, discrim-
ination, and sexual assault at U.S. colleges and
universities (Cantor et al., 2015), call attention
to the need for critical feminist discourse within
higher education. Given that lm is embedded
in a cultural system that simultaneously reects
and shapes reality (Wright, Mindel, Tran, &
Family Relations 66 (February 2017): 139–153 139

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