Final Project: Exploring Feminism

Throughout this course over the semester we have explored feminism in many forms about different topics. Defining feminism, toxic masculinity and inspiring feminist figures around the world being only a couple of them. The film I chose for this assignment is the film Mona Lisa Smile (2003) directed by Mike Newell. This film specifically, explores the societal norms projected onto everyone. More precisely, the gender norms everyone was help up to. 

     The story takes place sometime in the 1950s at Wellesley College in Massachusetts when Katherine Watson transfers to the private school to fill in the position of teacher of History of Art. Although she’s very excited to start her new job; she soon learns it won’t be as easy as it may seem. Especially since she is a teacher with ideals that may “corrupt the students”. Both the students and the staff in the school are rather traditional and prioritize marriage before anything, even their own education. However, Ms. Watson tries to show her students a new perspective of life. One that doesn’t put being a good wife as their top priority. At first some of her students don’t seem too fond of the idea, especially since it goes against everything they were taught. However, as Ms. Watson becomes closer to her students, they realize that perhaps there was some truth to what she was trying to teach them. 

     The film itself, as previously mentioned is set in the 1950s. A point in time where gender roles, scripts and stereotypes governed society. From a young age both women and men were held to such standards. For starters, women were expected to be a good obedient housewife and a nurturing mother. Whereas, men were expected to be the providers of the family and those who were in control of it. This goes without saying, everyone was closeminded to a different philosophy in regards to the gender roles. For instance, there was a policy at the school that if one of the students got married, it wouldn’t matter if they missed weeks’ worth of school and assignments. The staff would simply “turn a blind eye to the situation”. After all, they viewed marriage as the most important thing in their life. Although it is normal for school not to be for everyone, they left school for different reasons. Not because they didn’t necessarily like it, but because above all they were raised to marry. An example of the gender roles and gender scripts playing an important role is when Joan Brandwyn and Tommy Donegal are engaged. Although they both still in school to pursue their careers, Joan decides that she won’t be continuing her studies since she engagement and marriage to Tommy are her priority, even though she is not quite certain about leaving school for good after her final year in college. Nonetheless, Ms. Watson tries to convince Joan otherwise as she is one of the top students and knows that she has a passion for her education. Although Joan explains that nobody forced her to not continue on her education, it is clear that she feels pressured by not only her friends who are married or even her parents but by what society dictates as a norm. 

     Personally, I enjoyed this movie as it was not only motivating but also frightening. Although it is only a movie, it is sad to think that women had to live in a time where there opinions meant little to nothing and they weren’t seen as good enough to do anything more than to serve their husbands. A time in which Patriarchy reigned over aspect of society and its people. However, it also makes me thankful that there have been amazing feminists to pave the way into the world we live in today. Nonetheless, the world is not perfect and will always need people to fight for such a cause. It inspires me to better myself and hopefully aid in progressing the movement, paving the way for future generations. I would recommend this film to those who enjoy dramas. I also believe those who enjoy films either set in the past or simply enjoy feminism movies would like this film. What I enjoyed most about this film is that everyone, regardless of who watches it can learn something from it. 

     To conclude, the film Mona Lisa Smile directed by Mike Newell challenges the patriarchal system in both the past and the present. It conveys that to find your own happiness you don’t need to conform to society’s norms or guidelines. Gender roles have been around for quite some time, however when it comes down to it; our gender is not who makes us who we are. It is a part of our identity, but it is our values, morals and decisions that define our character. Happiness varies from person to person, regardless of gender and in order to be happy you must follow what you want to do. Even when those around you and society tells you to do otherwise. 

Blog 5: Feminism is for Everyone

     The question as to what the definition of masculinity differs from person to person. To this, many may say that masculinity is what defines a man. Furthermore, what is thought as the traditional definition of masculinity can be seen as quite problematic. The ideal itself leads men to believe that they need to fit the role of a man in a patriarchal society.In addition, the need to redefine masculinity has increased as the current definition of masculinity has led to such things as toxic masculinity.

     First of all, we see in the essay “Understanding Patriarchy” by bell hooks, the importance of need for change in our society. More importantly, hooks evaluates issues that our society faces in terms of the patriarchy. For instance, we often associate patriarchy itself with the domination of men. However, this is far from progressive as we are faulting all men for the situation. When in reality both genders are equally to blame. For instance, hooks explains that some women who are single parents often in force more patriarchal thinking than those in a household of two parents. The reasoning behind this being as hooks says “women in such households are far more likely to idealize the patriarchal male role and patriarchal men than than are women who live with patriarchal men every day,”. In other words, even without a male patriarchal figure in the house, the patriarchal thinking is being taught regardless. In other words, although males are perceived to be those in full power and control in the patriarch we cannot blame them for it all. Furthermore, although it is a system that has more of the men’s interest in, it also disadvantages them in ways. For instance, hooks explains that “Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples,”. Although the patriarchy is seen as a system to benefit the power of men it does affect their emotional health. Since, they are expected to be emotionless powerful, dominant males. By redefining masculinity, males would be more liberated as they would be free to express how they feel without the fear of being judged for it.

     Second of all, Michael Kimmel’s text entitled “Masculinity as Homophobia” examines as well a number of reasons as to why our definition of masculinity needs to change effectively. To begin, we often see masculinity as an interchangeable term for strong and powerful. It is often mistaken that the characteristics that any man possesses is the same as what a man is supposed to be. For instance, Kimmel uses the example of sexual orientation. He states the following “Homophobia is more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay,”. In today’s society, if a man is not acting as he is expected to his sexuality is questioned. This fear that they have does not benefit them but rather deteriorates their health. For instance, as long as I can remember the idea that men cry was almost seen as a taboo. Why? Because they were expected to keep everything inside and never speak of how they feel. If they did, they would be seen as soft which is in the eyes of our society, far from what a man should be. Furthermore, another point made by Kimmel is that although males are seen as those above, they are also classified by not only their sexual orientation but race as well. We see that straight white males are those who benefit the most of our social scheme and those different from that are below. As Kimmel says “We’ve managed to disempower the overwhelming majority of American men by other means—such as discriminating on the basis of race, class, ethnicity, age, or sexual preference,”. By ranking others not only on their gender but by their other attributes such as race leads to being prejudice and sometimes even discriminatory towards men (or people in general) that belong to certain groups of people. By ranking people in such a system we are not only supporting but advancing such ideals as racism and homophobia by giving others a worth on a scale. By men redefining masculinity, it shows that essentially there is no need to prove their masculinity to one another. Since, masculinity is used to prove some men are better than others. This way, it eliminates the idea that they must prove themselves worthy to be called a man. 

     In the end, how we define masculinity can only be changed if we all make an effort as a society. This includes not only changing our mindsets towards how a man should behave but as well as the ideal behind masculinity itself. Masculinity should not be used so that men can prove themselves or their worth to others around them. As a result, we should not expect them to have certain characteristics solely because of their gender. We should all feel comfortable to act the way we want and not restrain ourselves because we are afraid that we do not meet our gender’s expectations.

Blog 4: International Women’s Week at Vanier

   Last week at Vanier a variety of different activities were held for International Women’s Week. For this assignment, I decided to attend the Collective Care workshop. The workshop itself was held not only for women, trans, and nonbinary people, but also students, staff, etc. This workshop was one that was more interactive as you were to share your thoughts and ideas on different subjects which were centered around gender, how it influences our daily lives and how we can make not only our school but our community a more accepting place for everyone. The event was held by one of our own English teachers, Sarah Yiu who has aided in Politics and Care Collective for Cegep teachers and has been co-sponsored Vanier’s RespectWorks office.

     The event itself was held in one of the classrooms where we then proceeded to sit in a circle all together. Before any discussions took place, it was important for all of us (a small group of 10 people) to establish what would make it a safe space for us and the others in the room. Due to confidentiality reasons, I can’t say anything in regards to the other people in the room involved within the workshop besides myself and my own experience. The workshop itself was calming and liberating as everyone was free to say what they felt in a safe environment without having to worry about being judged or mocked. Another aspect I enjoyed about this experience is the fact that I got to meet different people in the school who I would not necessarily encounter on different terms. This includes both faculty and students. It was nice to see that in this setting both teachers and students were equals, not one superior to the other whilst still voicing out their opinions and respecting one another.

     One of the reason why I decided to choose this event instead of all the others was because it was not like any other on the list. Unlike those that were held in the auditorium with a bigger crowd, this one was one with a more intimate and close setting. As previously mentioned, there were only 10 people, including myself. For someone like myself, I enjoyed the fact that it was a smaller group of people I could share my thoughts with rather than in a big crowd. In addition, it was also nice to hear from different people and of their experiences. In regards to what they experience personally in their daily lives and as well as their points of view on different subjects.     I believe that anyone would enjoy this workshop as it gives you the chance to speak up on your own behalf. Sometimes, its easy to question whether or not we could make any sort of impact or difference in our lives or even others. The workshop allows you to express yourself freely with others who not only go to the same school as you but are apart of the same community as well. Furthermore, this event has something appealing to anyone. If you’re someone who likes to take charge of the conversation then you can do so through the different discussions and it you’re someone who likes to be within a smaller crowd, then this is also goof for you. In the end, I truly enjoyed the experience and was glad I had the opportunity to be apart of it.

Blog 4: Gisele Bündchen

     As of recently, the issue in concern with climate change has become more and more alarming. As a result, many protests all around the world have appeared and many well-known celebrities are using their platforms to speak up on the matter. Environmental activist and supermodel Gisele Bündchen is no exception.

     On July 20th, 1980 Gisele was born in the town of Horizontina in the State of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. She was born into a big family of six children, meaning she had five sisters one of them being her fraternal twin. Gisele grew up in her town of birth and was later on discovered at the early age of 13. As of presently, Gisele has modeled for some of the most renowned companies around the world including Dolce & Gabana, Versace, and lastly Victoria’s Secret. 

     It was after she had taken a trip to Brazil in the Amazon that Gisele started to get more and more interested about climate change. She had spent time with Native tribes and saw how the water pollution was affecting them gravely. As a result, this inspired her to start her journey on making a difference in our environment. Since then, she has done a lot to raise awareness of the issue and help the environment such as creating an eco-friendly skincare products to creating the Clean Water Project with her family in their hometown. The Project allowed for them to be able to plant over 40,000 plants which aided to sustain the water in said region. Not only has she been apart of trying to change the environment for the better, she has also received recognition and rewards for such efforts. These include the “Best Green Celebrity Award”, and the “Global Citizen Award”, etc. On top of that Gisele was also given the position of Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Environment Program in recognition to her efforts in the fight for environmental justice.

     I decided to choose Gisele because of her inspiring work for the environment that not many know about since it is overlooked by her career (being a model). For one, I believe that she is very inspirational figure to me and to many. The way I would describe inspirational is something or someone that motivates others to be the best version of themselves that they can be. I believe she qualifies as inspirational on a variety of different levels. For instance, she has spoken about her struggles with anxiety and her own personal mental health. I do believe that this sets an example to others that they should not be ashamed nor feel the need to hide their issues and that the stigma surrounding mental health itself should cease to exist. As, everyone goes through it no matter how much we idolize them or the life they live. Not only are we the same in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation but also in terms of beliefs. One distinct belief that I believe we have in common is being family-oriented. I do believe she values the importance of family since her family has been mentioned as something that motivates her to fight climate change so that her children can have a future. 

     Although we both have our similarities we also have differences in comparison to one another. Other than race and ethnicity we are also different in the sense that we are at different points in our lives. To elaborate she has found a passion that she truly is devoted to, this being environmental justice. Whereas, I am only now starting to think of my future and have not quite figured out what I want to do with my life and how I will contribute to making our planet a better place for not only myself but others and future generations to live in.

Gisele Bündchen

Blog #3: Gender Equity in Indigenous Cultures

     After reading the article “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early Contact Period”, I have learnt not only more about the European laws at the time but also the structure of the Aboriginal’s society. For one, the main difference between the two societies (Aboriginal and European) is that the European society follows a patriarchal structure, whereas most of the Aboriginal societies follow a more egalitarian structure. Not only are women treated more equally within the Aboriginal societies, but they are also much more appreciated and respected than the women belonging to the European societies.

     For instance, within the Mi’kmaw and Iroquoian societies, the women were not viewed/treated the same as the women within the European societies. Both the Mi’kmaw and Iroquoian societies emphasize the importance of women and their role in the societies function. In the Mi’kmaw societies the women’s duties included taking care of the children, set up camp, fish, cooking and most importantly their opinions were much desired when it came to big decisions. Whereas, in the Iroquoian women were responsible for often times choosing the men who would become apart of the Council. Nonetheless, even in the Iroquoian societies did women both have a lot of authority. Although both of these societies are matrilocal, they do share aspects within the patrilocal Aboriginal societies. In the sense, where both societies do not favor one gender over the other (like in the patriarchal structure), rather they are seen as equally important within their society.

     One of the things that had surprised me about the Aboriginal societies is their belief of “two-spirits”. A concept by which can be explained as a person sharing both a feminine and masculine spirit in themselves. Not only did the fact that  these ideals existed so long ago surprise me, but also the fact that they were accepting of such an ahead of the times way of thinking. Not only were those who were “two-spirited” accepted in their communities, they were praised. Later on taking important roles in their society (depending on the group), from being healers, seers or those who would teach traditions to future generations orally. We can see the contrast between the societies way of thinking as the Aboriginal societies had a more openminded way of thinking whereas the European’s society was very conservative. For example, in Aboriginal societies, having sexual relations before marriage was not seen as doing any harm, whereas in the European mentality, having premarital relations decreases your worth. 

Blog 2: Fashion and Feminism

     As early as I can remember, girls have been told what they should or shouldn’t wear. In elementary and even in high school we are told not to wear spaghetti straps because god forbid anybody finds out girls have shoulders. Fashion is often seen as something that is regressing the feminism movement when in reality it is having the opposite effect. Young boys and girls should not be taught that a woman’s worth can simply be determined by judging her based on what she is wearing. After all, we’re taught to never judge a book by its cover, whats the exception here?

     This past weekend as many of us know was the Super Bowl, more importantly the Halftime show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Whilst most of us recognized their performance as amazing and most importantly, empowering some saw it as degrading. Why? Not because of their lyrics or the message they were telling the viewers but by their outfits. Instead of shaming these talented artists for their performance some people could only focus on what they were wearing. It’s quite ironic in more ways than one that people are criticizing both Shakira and Jennifer Lopez for their outfit choices when they were the same people who said nothing regarding Adam Levine’s halftime performance. In 2015, during the halftime show Adam Levine decided to tale off his shirt during his performance which no one seemed to have a problem with. Yet here we are, five years later and the double standard between the genders is more evident than ever. This year’s Super Bowl performance is seen as inappropriate and too revealing yet the 2015 performance was seen as unproblematic. A woman’s worth is not determined by her wardrobe and she should be able to freely express herself without others trying to diminish her success.

In the end, our choice of clothing is merely one of the many ways that we, as people decide to show who we are. Whether it be by wearing skirts or sweatshirts, the freedom of wearing what makes you comfortable should not be taken from you, as you are the only one who has control over that. This should be taught to all alongside the principle that both women and men should be praised for wearing what they see fit. Rather than being shamed for their own personal style as long as it does not harm anyone in anyway. Fashion may be the way we show to people who we are, but is should never be the judge of our worth.


Agar, Jerry. (2020). AGAR: Was the halftime show objectification or empowerment?. Toronto Sun.

Blog 1: Defining Feminism

Often times feminism is seen as a negative concept in itself which strives to eliminate all men and everything involving them. When in reality, feminism at its core can be defined in a number of different ways which varies from person to person. For instance, authors Jessica Valenti and Bell Hooks both share similar ideals whilst also adding their own thoughts on the matter. For one, they both agree that feminism is not a movement with the purpose of eliminating all men from our society. If anything, feminism focuses on the beliefs of equality between the sexes. However, in Valenti’s text she writes that she believes that feminism itself does not truly have one definition and that it can vary from person to person. Whereas, Hooks believes feminism has a fixed definition of it which can be described as “…a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression,”. Nonetheless, both authors have made it clear that feminism is still extremely relevant issue today. Valenti puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of feminism as her mentality is that it’s a movement in which empowers women rather than bringing them down. On the other hand, feminism is truly important to Hooks as she views it as something that brings hope that someday we will live in a world of equality and peace. In the end, 

     Even after reading both essays, I still believe that feminism can be defined as a way in thinking in which the sexes are treated as equal. However, reading both essays have also made me realize that feminism is not only about having equal pay or being able to have the same jobs but rather the simple fact of empowering oneself. One moment in particular in the essays I’ve read which made me truly think was found in both of the essays. This being the fact that the label feminist has such a bad reputation to it, to the point where people are too afraid to identify as one. In our society a feminist is often used as a synonym for a woman who ‘s aggressive, or rather “manly”, when in reality a feminist does not have to look a certain way. It also means that not only can women be feminists, but so can men. In a way it is sad that being apart of such a powerful and empowering movement is seen as almost shameful in some people’s eyes. Nobody should have shame or looked down upon for fighting for such a cause.