Journalism: “Finding Feminism”

Finding Feminism: Do the television and movies that we consume reflect who we are? Speakers Bureau presenter Amy Peloff describes the hidden role that feminism plays in popular television and movies.

I wrote some corporate journalism for Humanities Washington as a part of my internship in the communications office. In this Q-&-A with a public intellectual who serves on the HumWA speakers bureau, I helped the interviewee elucidate the value of feminist theory and criticism to their public audience. You can read the whole story on HumWA’s website.

Amy Peloff grew up believing in feminism as a “self-evident fact.”

When she was five years old, Peloff played in Louisville, Kentucky’s first co-ed T-ball league. The boys on her team were displeased about her presence, and they taunted her. “I have this very clear memory of calling these little boys ‘male chauvinist pigs,’” she said, laughing.

And thus, a vocal feminist was born.

Peloff, who got her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from the University of Washington, is a member of Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau. Her free talk, Feminism and Popular Culture, explores what feminism means, how it is revealed in popular culture, and teaches how to take a critical approach to popular media.

Peloff’s remarkably articulate response to the insults of those five-year-old boys drove her interest in pop culture today. When she started her Ph.D. in 1999, she wondered: “How did I have the ideas and language to think about feminism from such an early age?”

She turned to pop culture to start answering that question. Her research focused on women like Dolly Parton, who embodied feminist ideals without ever saying they were feminists. “Feminist ideas already exist in the popular imagination,” Peloff said. That presence is the focus of her talk. She uses contemporary examples from film and TV to explore the expected and unexpected locations where one can find feminism: from Black-ish to Mad Max: Fury Road.

“Even if you might not be comfortable with the term feminism,” Peloff says, “you might actually be a lot more comfortable with the ideas than you believe.”

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