Feminist Film Friday spurs serious, introspective discussions

Jenny Adkins

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People around the world are using a various tools to have serious, introspective conversations about gender. Here on campus, film nights are being used to open up opportunities for serious analytical discussions. 

Feminism Film Friday, hosted by the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, is a monthly series that kicks off on Aug. 31. The series invites students to view a film and use it as a catalyst for conversation about a variety of topics, said Center for Women and Gender Equity Assistant Director Alex Montgomery. 

“My intention for Feminist Film Friday is to keep that spirit of conversation alive,” Montgomery said. “The films that we watch may not be classified as particularly feminist. However, we’ll apply a particular series that may fall within the women, gender, sexuality spectrum and have a greater conversation.”

One of Montgomery’s goals for the series is to encourage students to look differently at the media that they’re constantly consuming, whether it be on Netflix, in a book or on the radio. In this context, they said that the series is offering only a handful of lenses to apply and discuss. 

“The way that I’m approaching the film series is to offer a space where we can look at nearly any form of media and be able to apply a critical thinking lens to it,” Montgomery said. “Even though it may not necessarily have in the description of the movie itself (that) this is a feminist film project, I believe that we can use feminist, queer and gender theory to gleam some sort of educational material from it.”

In selecting films, Montgomery said they look for aspects that create opportunities for discussion rather than specific overarching themes. With a flexible movie selection, they said the series lends itself to student participation, even in the form of movie selection.

“I’m really a student-centered programmer and I really like to make sure that they have ownership over the event just as much as the department does,” Montgomery said. “At the end of the day, there’s no event if students aren’t wiling to come and support, so I want them to feel empowered to have conversations that won’t always take place in the classroom.”

Montgomery said that because of the flexibility of both interpretations and lenses of discussion, the series lends itself to not only those interested in having difficult conversations about gender, but also to a broad spectrum of viewers from casual to highly engaged. 

“This is about anyone who likes watching movies, who wants to take a break during the week, who wants to hang out, have snacks and watch a film where we can maybe get into some pretty solid conversation after,” Montgomery said. “Or it can be for the movie buff who has a lot to say and has a lot of opinions and wants to share them in a space that’s as safe as we can make it.”

For the series’ first meeting, the Center for Women and Gender Equity is showing “Hidden Figures,” which follows the true story of three African-American women who were critical in pushing boundaries at NASA to launch astronaut John Glenn into space. The first showing is also a co-sponsorship between the center and the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Learning Center. 

While “Hidden Figures” has strong ties to STEM, race and gender related themes, Montgomery said that they think the series should serve as a broader example of how students can examine their studies and apply what they learn to the media they consume. 

“I like to help students understand that what you may be binging on Netflix you can still perhaps tie it to your studies,” Montgomery said. “There’s a lens for everything, whether it’s politics, marketing, business, or athletics. You can name nearly any type of degree program we have here at Grand Valley (and) you (can) think about the way that film, TV, music and books (apply to it).”

Feminist Film Friday occurs the final Friday of every month from 2-4 p.m. in the Women’s Center.