For my popular cultural studies class, our professor divided the class into groups. Each group was to discuss a particular text or show and critique it using some of the theories and ideas that are presented in Chris Barker’s book titled Cultural Studies. Then we were to do a class presentation and discussion on our finding for the rest of the class. My group consisted of only four members and our discussion regarded the book Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis. Contributions that I made to the group consisted of presenting my critique/class discussion based on the Feminist perspective.
Our professor wanted to make sure that we understood the material that we were learning in class. Thus, this assignment served as a method for him to find out whether or not the students understood the information they were reading in class. The theories and ideas that my group used to critique our topic were Postmodernism, the time periods of the topic in relation to the culture of that time, the culture of relationships in the book, and the feminist perspective.
I put together a PowerPoint to organize how I would proceed in a discussion with the class. After one of my group members, Christopher, opened the discussion from a postmodernist perspective, we showed the class a few scenes from the film version of the book just so that the students could get an insight on what the book was about. However, the film and the book had a few differences. After we watched the scenes, I explained some of the differences between the book and the film. I was not sure if students would read the book so I based my argument on the message that the film presented about women.
My argument was that the women presented in the film were portrayed as submissive sexual objects in the campus culture. I picked out quotes from the Barker book and explained to the students what the quote meant in case anyone didn’t understand. Then I asked how the quote, in terms of the feminist perspective, explained the representation of women in some of the scenes.
The first question I asked was “How is sex organized as a principle in the campus culture in terms of power relations?” I considered the quote “Feminism is centrally concerned with sex as an organizing principle of social life that is thoroughly saturated with power relations subordinating women to men” from the Barker book. At first, I heard crickets (metaphorically speaking). Fortunately, my group members and I made a plan that if no one in the class said anything, one of use would attempt to answer our own group members question in attempt to begin a further discussion. It was a good strategy because it actually worked.
I provided two more quotes and questions to lead the class into a discussion. My second questions attempted to combine the feminist and psychoanalysis perspective to describe the types of identities were given to the women and how these identities produced sexual stereotypes of women in the campus culture. I identified three identities in the film for the three main women who were a virgin, a “slutty roommate,” and an obsessed girl. The stereotype that my classmates identified was that all the women were in some way submissive to the men in the film.
The last question was in regards to the statement “Not only do all women appear oppressed in the same way but also there is a tendency to represent them as helpless and powerless” which is also in the Barker book. Then I asked if this quote applied to any of the scenes in the film. The answer was of course yes and some of the students provided specific scenes in which the women appeared “helpless and powerless.” A few scenes mentioned were when Lauren, the main character, was getting raped. Another was when the obsessed girl committed suicide after the guy she loved had sex with another girl.