Saving Whiteness: Spectacles & Mythologies of Gender and/as Sexual Violence
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7/15/2018 at 9:15:35 AM GMT
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Saving Whiteness: Spectacles & Mythologies of Gender and/as Sexual Violence

With the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement; critiques of police brutality and mass incarceration; the MeToo movement and exposures of systemic gender discrimination and sexual abuse; the election of President Trump and right wing populist leaders in several European countries; Brexit; and international migration crises, the current global landscape has become increasingly defined by conservative white (male) reactionist trends along with mainstream expressions of racism, sexism, nativism, and a rising tide of white supremacy masked as populist sentiment. Yet within these larger currents, the particular emergence of Men’s Rights groups, incel movements, ISIS ideology and caliphates; debates around “rape culture,” sexual assault on college campuses, and toxic masculinity; neo-conservative and alt-right attacks on women's reproductive rights and health; and Trump’s description of all Mexicans as rapists reveals the intertwined racial and gender dynamics at play in such emerging cultural trends.  

Of course, such contemporary developments have longstanding historical precedents and intersect with entrenched cultural narratives that both justified and continue to uphold histories of colonialism, slavery, global capitalism, white supremacy, and particular political movements or agendas.  Indeed, though such historical and cultural processes have manifested in various ways and in different national contexts, they share many of the same tactics, tropes, and assumptions. For instance, various white savior narratives perpetually position women - both white and women of color - as essentially vulnerable and (would-be) victims, in need of saving from themselves and from (racialized) sexual predators.  In orchestrating sexual threats, political and popular narratives and representations turn women’s bodies, sexuality, and the (sexual) violence against them into metaphors, often equating them with the identities of nation-states, struggles over borders and immigration, and the “reproduction” of nationality and/as race. Additionally, spectacles of enacted, performed, and mediated gendered (and racialized) violence have been mobilized in the service of maintaining racial, gender, and class hierarchies and identities (the lynching of African American men; public stonings of women as witches; mass rape in times of war; “rape trees” along the U.S.-Mexico border; etc.).

Though these mythologies and tropes regarding sexual violence have deep historical roots, traces of them continue to manifest -- in different, often more subtle (and insidious) ways -- in popular culture and media, shaping our perceptions of gender, racial, and cultural difference while also naturalizing and enforcing dominant social relations and hierarchies. Thus, we seek papers that examine how these narratives, cultural myths, and tropes of representation emerge(d) in particular sociocultural contexts, how they persist over time, and the dynamics of and continuities between past and present constructions of gender and sexual violence under white patriarchy.

This panel will interrogate the different ways in which white supremacist and patriarchal systems and ideologies are maintained, exploring the cultural narratives and representations which naturalize them and justify their perpetuation.  In so doing, we seek to examine how the co-construction of gender and violence works to mitigate various threats to the dominant order and to contain gender, racial, class, sex, and national anxieties, in international and cross-historical contexts.  When the dominance of whiteness and masculinity is challenged in specific historical moments, how do these challenges -- and various responses to them -- manifest across popular culture?

We are looking to include a broad range of historical, methodological, and national-cultural perspectives, and we encourage proposals for panels engaging topics including, but not limited to:

  • The rhetoric and gendered politics of sexual violence and rape narratives in popular media; long duree of images of rape and Euro-American patriarchy

  • The intersections between narratives of sexual violence and colonialism, conquest and imperialism

  • Savior mythologies, narratives, and tropes

  • The “war on women” and conservative attacks on reproductive rights, policing of women’s health/bodies, and the restriction of access to abortions

  • Violence, trauma and the body, and (mediated) spectacles of violence

  • Migration, Immigration, and global flows of people/bodies - Anti-immigrant movements and moments: ex: the 1920s “yellow peril”; the current “border crisis”; etc.

  • Gendered (and racialized, classed) fears about terrorism and national threats

  • Social and digital media and/or activist responses to representations or experiences of gendered violence

  • Gender, Violence, and Genre: ex: horror, war films, thrillers, fantasy, true crime and/or crime procedurals, and news/political media frames

  • Ideologies of (white) racial purity and the policing of interracial sex/racial mixing

  • Historical character types and stereotypes as racial/sexual others and predators: for example, the Sheik, the black Rapist, the bandido, etc.

  • Violent and/or sexually powerful women that need to be controlled/policed - “whipped” or “beaten” into submission

    • Ex: Femme fatales; “spider women”;  man-traps; vagina dentata; true crime and the killer woman; the New Woman/flapper; female serial killers

  • Industrial and professional spaces of violence and harassment against women

    • Ex: the “casting couch”; Harvey Weinstein; Gamergate; comic conventions and stores; fandoms, etc.

  • Misogyny, auteurism, and discourses of quality

    • Representational violence against women; Directorial abuse of female stars; the New Hollywood and 1970s cinema; rape in the era of “peak TV”

  • Violence, pornography and exploitation film - ex: snuff films, “roughies,” gang bang pornography, BDSM and bondage, etc.

  • Gender, exclusion, dominance, threat, and the politics of space/place

Please submit a proposal, including a title (120 characters), an abstract (2500 characters), a bio (500 characters), and 3-5 bibliographical sources, to Jackie Pinkowitz at by Monday August 6. Responses will be sent out by August 10.

Contact Us

Society for Cinema and Media Studies
640 Parrington Oval
Wallace Old Science Hall, Room 300
Norman, OK 73019
(405) 325-8075


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