New Student Club Watches Movies For Feminist Insight

Audrey Leland ’18 and Lucian Black ’18 discuss the 1989 film “When Harry Met Sally”

With popcorn and sodas in front of them, Audrey Leland ’18 and Lucian Black ’19 batted around ideas about women, men, and friendship. They had just watched the classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally, and were analyzing the ways the movie both reinforced gender stereotypes and also played with them.

The two students are part of a new student club called Films About Feminism. Each year, students come up ideas for novel campus groups that they then can charter through student government. This year, along with a new Russian club, a cappella group, comedy magazine, and dance group—among others—Leland and her friend Katherine Kirk ’18 have launched Films About Feminism.

The two describe the group like this: “We hope to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding the word feminism, heighten awareness around gender equality, and analyze how films may or may not perpetuate gender roles.” The club is open to all genders.

Leland and Kirk came up with the idea last year after they held a social screening of comedian Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck in Helmreich House. Although the event was originally held for fun, the students delved into discussion afterwards, evaluating whether the film could be considered feminist. “The screening was so great, we thought, ‘let’s do this again’!” Leland said.

At the recent afternoon screening of When Harry Met Sally, some students had to leave early for sports practice, leaving just Leland and Lucian Black ’19 chatting. Black said he’s been interested in films since taking classes with Professor of Cinema Studies Tricia Welsch. And his interest in feminism comes from living with two parents who’ve had interesting careers—his mom is a federal prosecutor in downtown Chicago, and his dad is a writer who worked for Playboy once.

Leland says she choses films for the weekly screenings—mostly mainstream ones—based on questions they raise and also if a club member suggests one. So far, Films About Feminism has shown No Strings Attached, How to be Single, Frida, and Obvious Child. Before screenings, she sends out “food for thought” movie reviews, as she calls them, that might stimulate discussion.

While Leland is not majoring in gender and women’s studies (she is majoring in math and education and in Africana studies), she says her interest in the field has deepened since staring the club. “It has made me question how I see things, and made me more aware of sexism,” she said.

Her coursework outside her major also reflects her interest in feminism. This semester she’s taking a gender, sexuality, and women’s study class called History of Women’s Voices in America, with Associate Professor of History Sarah McMahon.  “I wouldn’t have taken the class if I hadn’t started the club,” Leland said.

 

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