Freedman on Galloway, Boyden and Implicit Misogyny

In recent months, the Canadian literary and academic worlds have been rocked by sexual harassment allegations against former UBC Creative Writing Program Chair Steven Galloway. In brief, UBC fired Galloway, whereupon CanLit golden boy Joseph Boyden published an open letter to UBC  deploring what he saw as a breach of due process in the case. The letter was signed by 88 luminaries of Canadian literature (including, most notably, feminist author Margaret Atwood). A Twitter war ensued.

As Canadian feminist philosopher Karyn Freedman observes, the complainants in the case have been effaced from the public discussion.

Today is Canada’s s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women — a day, it bears observing that marks the anniversary of the so-called Montréal Massacre, in which 14 women Engineering and Science students were murdered for being women. To mark the day, Freedman has published a piece on HuffPo Canada, decrying the implicit misogyny that led to the effacement of Galloway’s accusers, and urging Boyden and his fellow signatories to retract the letter.

You can read Freedman’s post here.

The male Gaze in retrospect

From CHE (Open access).

In 1975, the avant-garde filmmaker Laura Mulvey published her landmark essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in the journal Screen. Bringing feminist theory to bear on a new wave of psychoanalytic film criticism, the essay set out to demonstrate how the structure of Hollywood films — camera angles, lighting, editing — foisted a masculine point of view on audiences watching passive, eroticized female objects. Mulvey’s notion of the “male gaze” made waves not just in film studies (four members of Screen’s editorial board resigned in protest of it and other psychoanalytic criticism) — but also across much of the humanities.
Forty years later, mainstream journalists casually toss off the phrase “male gaze” and it’s the name of a San Francisco post-punk band. But much has changed: Successive generations of feminists have debated women’s agency — for example, as not just subjects but also consumers of pornography. The notion of the lesbian gaze has gained currency. With the rise of social media, both men and women participate in a self-presentation that makes them the objects of the gaze as often as they are the gazers. Even the neat division of people into male and female seems, to many people, archaic.

Is Mulvey’s theory still relevant? How has it been most productively applied? How does it need to evolve? Here, four scholars reflect on those questions, and Mulvey responds.

Responding to gender-based violence (online and elsewhere)

Many readers will recall that recently, John McAdams, a Marquette political science professor, drummed up a spurious reason to make a politically-motivated public attack on Cheryl Abbate, a graduate student of philosophy (our previous posts here and here; Daily Nous coverage here and here. Marquette is taking action against McAdams; its outcome is thus far unclear).

As a result of his actions, Abbate received hateful, misogynistic abuse, disturbing in both content and quantity, in a number of forms and forums. She has now written a blog post detailing the extent of this abuse, exploring her experiences on the receiving end, reflecting on how one should respond to it, and making it quite clear that McAdams bears responsibility for inciting it.

(For those clicking through, I reproduce Abbate’s trigger warning: “This post includes a number of reprinted misogynist and homophobic comments”. She’s not wrong).

Abbate says that she was mostly advised to ignore the abuse, but chose to expose it and draw attention to it, for a number of reasons. This was a brave decision. Abbate says the most important reason she has for speaking out is that, if we aren’t aware that such horrible abuse takes place, we can’t begin to do anything about it. This seems quite right to me. I’m unlikely to receive any misogynistic email myself, and I find it reprehensibly easy and tempting to bury my head in the sand about such things. I really shouldn’t. If someone writes about their experiences with such courage, to read and think about it is the very least I can do.