Owning the Gaze: Voice and Vision in an Age of Feminist Disappointment

November 2, 2017
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 4:00pm
311 Denney
Three feminists in black and white

What do political movements produce during those times when their objectives seem out of reach? This talk tells the story of one such moment—the late-1970s beginning of the anti-feminist backlash—and discerns a sea change in feminist thought, from an initial dominance of the figure of “voice” to an embrace of metaphors of vision and visibility. At the beginning of second-wave feminism, the presiding metaphor was that of voice, and its counterpart, silence; image was suspect from the outset. Yet by the late 1970s, the previously imagined power of women's voices to break imagistic oppression had become compromised as thousands of American women were mobilizing to oppose the ERA, and as feminists waged bitter internecine battles over sexuality. In addition, the terminology of “voice,” with its connotation of authentic self-expression, was losing theoretical as well as political salience; feminists, rethinking their initial mistrust of the visual, spoke increasingly of feminist vision and visibility. Drawing on essays and poetry by Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich and Hortense Spillers, this talk proposes an important overlap between women of color feminism, sex-radical feminism and feminist theory, and it offers a new account of the historical conditions of feminist theory’s rise.

This event will feature Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front: The True Story Behind the Riot Grrrl Revolution.  She will give a public lecture entitled “Owning the Gaze: Voice and Vision in an Age of Feminist Disappointment."

Sponsored by the Department of English and the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

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