You Tube and Feminism: A Class Action Project

By Siddiqui, Shereen | Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

You Tube and Feminism: A Class Action Project


Siddiqui, Shereen, Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources


Background

You Tube, an online venue for sharing and reviewing video clips, is the fourth-most-visited website in the world (after Yahoo, MSN, and Google). Launched just two years ago, YouTube has quickly permeated the culture. YouTube videos are being used by instructors in college classrooms, can be viewed on Apple's new iPhone, and are often posted on the home pages of MySpace and Facebook subscribers.

When uploading videos to YouTube, users enter tags, or keywords, to describe the video, and also select a category (e.g. Comedy) from a list of twelve. The categories and keywords help other users find videos of interest.

Anyone may watch videos on YouTube without being a member. However, part of YouTube s popularity comes from the feature that allows viewers to post comments about videos viewed on the site. To post comments or to upload videos, one must become a member.

Feminism and YouTube

A recent YouTube search using the keyword "feminism" brought up 1340 videos. Many of the videos are clips from professional documentaries such as I Was a Teenage Feminist by Theresa Schechter and Cultural Criticism and Transformation by bell hooks. However, most clips fall into one of two categories: comedians talking about feminism, such as "Bill Maher on Feminism," "Ali G--Feminism," and "George Carlin--Feminist Blowjob," or homemade videos, such as "Converting a porn hating feminist into a porn addict!" and "Feminist women hate MANLINESS, they hate MEN!" The latter category is dominated by young, white men. Regardless of the video's message about feminism, typically the comments about any videos with the keywords "feminist" or "feminism" are derogatory, such as "I 100% agree with you feminism is a rediculous [sic] sexist movement promoting the hatred of men and it worries me too" and "Fuckin feminists. They spout about how men r stupid and evil and then call us sexist bcos we point that out! im not sexist and I dont agree wiv it, but the word "Feminist' is just another word for 'pissed off woman who has a bit of an issue with real life.'"

Logistics

Students enrolled in Feminist Perspectives on Gender, an introductory women's studies class that explores, among other topics, the meanings of feminism, were divided into four groups of five or six members. Each group was facilitated by a senior member of the class. After engaging in several small and large-group community-building exercises, the small groups were asked to pick one of the many stereotypes of feminists generated by the class (e.g., lesbians, angry, man-hating, etc.) and create a video response to that stereotype. Through discussion and based on course readings, the group had to come to a consensus that the chosen stereotype is in fact a myth. Once the myth to address was determined, the next step was to decide how best to dispel the myth in a three-to five-minute video for YouTube. Each group member had to be involved in the process in some way, although not necessarily in front of the camera.

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