Mar. 16th, 2011

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I've had my students watch the 1939 film The Women for tomorrowtoday. I did a lot of prep work before hand--I had them read an essay about how to watch these old female friendship films from the 30s and 40s "against the grain" as well as "with the grain" to try to preemptively defeat sexism. I always have a voluntary screening when I assign a film--just to be fair--and the two boys who have been a roller coaster of almost-sexist thought throughout the semester came. It's usually a very small group, maybe four or five students. So it was the two of them and two girls I have developed pretty particular relationships--especially one who I had to have a quasi-intervention with to try to give her more confidence in speaking in class and thinking of her own opinions as worthwhile.

I suppose I should also note here that my teaching style fits easily with the kind of clever female student who's been quiet in other classes because she felt weird AND, paradoxically, boyish boys who like to show off. I don't know how this happens but it really is a pattern. So the two boys are problems but they have both made some significant intellectual strides in the class and occasionally quite surprise me by being suddenly (temporarily) open-minded. So.

But during the screening of this film...honestly, I think the best lesson I could possibly do would be if I could have recorded them watching and then de-constructed their comments (read "shred to pieces") in front of the class tomorrow. Today. Whatever. But I can't quite do that, I think. It would be (a) mean and (b) impractical. But, guys, they literally left like this:
Guy A: I have to go watch an action film after this.
Guy B: Yeah, we should watch the scene from [fill in random action movie] where [whoever] blows up the [whatever]--
And so on as they walked out the door. Trying to get rid of the girly germs basically.

I'm thinking I'll begin the class tomorrow by doing a list on the board of qualities in "manly" films and "chick" films. And I'll bet that there will be some de-valuing of overly complex plots, of women placing too much importance on gossip and things that will be classed as "silly," of fashion in general. And I will make the case that the same happens in the "manly" films--because it does, obviously, no one is more concerned with clothes than Ah-nold in Terminator--and they will walk away staunch feminists. All of them.

But, yeah. This class tomorrowtoday could either go really well or really badly.


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