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Scenes of Subjection

Slavery, the Black Female Body, and the Uses of Sexual Violence in Haile Gerima's Sankofa

Z'étoile Imma


In Haile Gerima's Sankofa (1993), a film that confronts the horrors of slavery, sexual violence is a central and repetitive trope. In this article, I explore how Gerima employs representations of rape as a filmic strategy to expose the brutality of slavery and its aftermath as well as to illustrate the magnitude of Black women's tenacity in the face of subjugation. I argue that, while the visual repetition of the white male slaveholder's sexual violation of the Black female body is a dangerously problematic trope, Gerima's film reenacts the terrible banality of sexual exploitation of the enslaved and significantly performs a conscious objectification to make visible the history of white supremacist violence and Black women's nuanced and complex forms of survival, resistance, and fugitivity.

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The Self On-Screen

Pavel Pyś Reflects on The Body Electric

Pavel Pyś

The Body Electric was catalyzed by the frustration of seeing a group of artists of roughly the same age exhibited predominantly within the context of their own generation. The majority were working with new technologies (such as 3D printing, motion capture, avatars, computer-generated animations), and many were grouped under the moniker “post-internet art,” which, by the time the exhibition had opened, had become an exhausted term with little currency (see ). The impetus was to age these emerging and mid-career artists by creating an intergenerational family tree, elevating overlooked voices and demonstrating a healthy skepticism toward the novelty of technology. The through line connecting the artists on view was a shared engagement with the body and its mediated image, raising important questions about representation, especially in terms of identity, embodiment, race, gender, sexuality, class, and belonging. Like Alice disappearing through the mirror, these artists nimbly cross the boundaries separating the physical world and its space on-screen, blurring 2D and 3D, real and virtual, analog and digital. As these distinctions melt away, how are artists questioning the present and warning of what lies around the corner?

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Claudia Mitchell

Sometimes the evolution of an open call issue of Girlhood Studies results in something of a girls studies reader unto itself. Since this issue is packed full of criss-crossing themes based on work in several countries—Canada, Iceland, India and the US—there is just no room for editorial commentary. In its inclusion of works on intersectional feminisms and feminist and Indigenous-led critique to school-based and intergenerational interventions and the power of the visual, this issue is something of such a reader.

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Violent Thresholds

Sights and Sounds of the Cinematic Baroque in Pascal Laugier's Martyrs

Lawrence Alexander


This article adopts the category of the cinematic baroque not as a marker of the culturally low, but as a tool of film-philosophical analysis to examine how Pascal Laugier's Martyrs () probes limits of representation and spectatorial experience. I approach the ambivalent functions of bodily, architectural, and filmic thresholds that simultaneously mediate containment and transgression. In this vein, I read the excesses of cinematic violence in Martyrs using Saige Walton's phenomenological model of “baroque flesh” in dialogue with theories of enfolded structures of affective intensity that resist “teleological spectatorship.” Drawing these distinct perspectives together, I consider the visual and aural strategies deployed in Martyrs—from the home invasion to the “screaming point”—to examine the formal characteristics of this film's treatment of screened violence.

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What's a Girl to Do?

The Pleasures and Pressures of the Girls’ Night Out

Thalia Thereza Assan

Nicholls, Emily. 2019. Negotiating Femininities in the Neoliberal Night-Time Economy: Too Much of a Girl? London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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When Princesses Become Dragons

Critical Literacy, Damsel, and Confronting Rape Culture in English Classrooms

Shelby Boehm, Kathleen Colantonio-Yurko, Kathleen Olmstead, and Henry “Cody” Miller


In this article we offer curricular suggestions for teaching Elana K. Arnold's young adult title Damsel, a subverted fairytale rewrite, using a critical literacy framework. In doing so, we outline how English curriculum has often upheld oppressive systems that harm women, and how our teaching can challenge such systems. We situate this work through the retelling of a fairytale trope given the ubiquity of such stories in secondary students’ lives. Our writings have teaching implications for both secondary English language arts classrooms and higher education fields such as English, folklore, mythology, and gender studies. We end by noting the limitations of such teaching.

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Phillip Joy

This image, Challenging Masculine Constructs by Oliver, is part of a photovoice project (see the article by Phillip Joy, Matthew Numer, Sara F. L. Kirk, and Megan Aston, Embracing a New Day: Exploring the Connections of Culture, Masculinities, Bodies, and Health for Gay Men through Photovoice, this issue) that explored the way culture and society shape the beliefs, values, and practices about food and bodies for gay men. Taken by the participant, this image is his way to challenge what he believes are limiting gender ideas for men and how masculine bodies should be dressed and presented to others. He disrupts these social constructs by dressing and presenting his body in ways he believed moved beyond typical masculine notions and by doing so reveals alternative gender expressions and new possibilities of living.

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Claire G. Davey, Frank G. Karioris, and Craig Owen

Steven Angelides. The Fear of Child Sexuality: Young People, Sex and Agency (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2019), 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-226-64863-7. Paperback, $30.00.

Stephan Torre. Red Obsidian: New & Selected Poems (Regina, Canada: University of Regina Press, 2021), 152 pp. ISBN 978-088-977775-0. Paperback, $19.95.

James W. Messerschmidt. Hegemonic Masculinity: Formulation, Reformulation, and Amplification (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), 181 pp. ISBN: 978-1-5381-1404-9. Paperback $32.00.

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Embracing a New Day

Exploring the Connections of Culture, Masculinities, Bodies, and Health for Gay Men through Photovoice

Phillip Joy, Matthew Numer, Sara F. L. Kirk, and Megan Aston


The construction of masculinities is an important component of the bodies and lives of gay men. The role of gay culture on body standards, body dissatisfaction, and the health of gay men was explored using poststructuralism and queer theory within an arts-based framework. Nine gay men were recruited within the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Participants were asked to photograph their beliefs, values, and practices relating to their bodies and food. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, using the photographs as guides. Data were analyzed by critical discourse analysis and resulted in three overarching threads of discourse including: (1) Muscles: The Bigger the Better, (2) The Silence of Hegemonic Masculinity, and (3) Embracing a New Day. Participants believed that challenging hegemonic masculinity was a way to work through body image tension.

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“Exfoliation, Cheese Courses, Emotional Honesty, and Paxil”

Masculinity, Neoliberalism, and Postfeminism in the US Hangout Sitcom

Greg Wolfman


This article applies a conjunctural analysis to four US “hangout sitcoms”—Friends, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and New Girl—to examine the tensions faced by masculinities in a neoliberal era. After establishing the “hangout sitcom” subgenre, I use critical discourse analysis to unpack three male subject positions. The postfeminist male singleton reacts neurotically to a perceived loss of power with a desperate search for true love. The douchebag responds with excessive performances of both masculinity and neoliberal subjectivity, while the househusband's stable job and long-term heterosexual relationship reflect neoliberalism's relationships with intimacy and the family. I argue that the hangout sitcom, and specifically its representation of masculinities, offers an under-explored opportunity to examine the politics of masculinities, postfeminism, and neoliberalism.