“Where have all the interesting women gone?”
-Nina Power, One Dimensional Woman (2009)
Is feminism doomed? It would seem as much, based on the watered-down, easily marketable form of post-feminism that dominates the media landscape. Sheryl Sandberg’s neo-liberal, capitalist Lean In is being touted as the manual of modern feminism; Noah Baumbach’s charming but ultimately slight Frances Ha is deemed the feminist film of the year (recall instead Věra Chytilová’s Sedmikrásky, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, Virginie Despentes’ Baise-moi); and I’m not even going to get into HBO’s Girls. Is this really the best we can do? These few examples illustrate that what was once a radical and politically inspiring movement has been reduced to pink-washing, the notion of consumption as emancipation, and the rhetoric of individual choice above all else. Feminism has been simplified to fit the status quo. As such, we’ve forgotten an essential idea, of which bell hooks recently reminded us in her critique of Sandberg’s book: “We all need to remember that visionary feminist goal which is not of a women running the world as is, but a women doing our part to change the world.” Enter: doom.
In this issue, we look at the theme of doom not merely from a catastrophic point of view, but from one that celebrates its generative possibilities. In an interview with Claire Denis—whose work helped inspire the founding of this journal—the director speaks on her latest film, Bastards (2013), and the role of anger when engaging with the world. Writing on Melancholia, Hayley Crooks expounds Lars von Trier’s alternative doom scenario as one that seeks to subvert the normal narrative of female happiness. In her piece on Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, Ela Bittencourt examines (supposedly) doomed heterosexual female desire. In a timely fashion, Calina Ellwand looks at Detropia, suggesting the city is not merely decaying, but might be undergoing a gendered transformation. Brent Bellamy engages with the Marxist-feminist pseudo-documentary Born in Flames, which uses its anti-narrative form to produce a nuanced call to arms. Via Monsieur Lazhar, Stephanie Latella writes about the possibility of meaning in death and Tara Judah examines Peter Tscherkassky’s dissection of the female form in Outer Space and Dream Work. Bringing things back to Denis, Julia Cooper looks at Beau Travail, offering a reading of how pleasure can be found in failure.
Feminism, then, is not doomed. Interesting women (and men, for that matter) exist. They just might be harder to come by. Try looking in the darker corners, where they can be found asking the tough questions, embracing complexity, unafraid of the dark, the difficult—not afraid of doom.
– Kiva Reardon
November 28, 2013