January 4, 2017
John Berger passed away yesterday at the age of 90.
Over the years when various people have asked me if there is any particular thing they could share with their female teen or young adult when she announced that she is “transgender” and isn’t open to being directly challenged, I always suggested this program for shared viewing: John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’. Particularly Part 2: The Female Nude, but really all four segments in order.
It is art criticism with some Second Wave Radical Feminist analysis thrown in (uncredited!) and is a good introduction to awareness of gender and the male gaze as well as critical thinking and cultural competency in general. Really every teen should be forced to watch this program. It also has some fun anachronism and 70’s kitsch for a bonus.
First: it has nothing directly to do with transgender.
Second, you can insist it is a necessary part of their art education (and it is!) and view it together.
Third, it’s a great entry and conversation starter on the degraded status of the female caste that pervades all aspects of culture now and throughout history.
But most importantly, it teaches young people to see beyond the surface how representation itself works.
Kind of pathetic to recommend a 45-year-old program by a male (who steals feminist ideas) for such a purpose, no? But there it is.
These days, thank god, there are some desperately needed materials being produced- particularly by dysphoric women and detransitioners- that are likely more directly helpful. Blogs, YouTubes, and some upcoming books! But I’m still not aware of any sort of “family movie night” program like this directed at teaching teenaged young women and girls to recognize the male gaze that has been inflicted upon them and all females throughout time, and that does so gently in the guise of edu-tainment. One made by women! Perhaps I’ve missed it. Leave comments with suggestions if I have. I think it is very desperately needed.
To media makers looking to make a difference for young women and girls struggling with gender, please consider making such a program that teaches youth not by instruction, but by giving them the tools to see.
Rest in peace John.