For my visual essay I chose to construct a conversation between what I perceive as quintessential 2nd wave feminists (older, white, middle class/wealthy, and generally privileged) and quintessential millennial feminists (younger, more diverse). I felt that this topic would lend itself well to a visual essay since the activism of millennial feminists so often has strong visual components simply by virtual of high volume use of social media tools. I also chose this topic because in the last year the campaign of Hillary Clinton for the democratic presidential nomination has highlighted some of the generational conflicts within the women’s movement.
For this essay, I chose quotes from 3 2nd wave feminists who express some negative sentiment towards millennial women for their engagement or lack thereof in the women’s movement. The quotes comes from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who is the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Gloria Steinem who has been a leader in the feminist activist movement since the 1970s, and Madeleine Albright who was the first woman to become Secretary of State. The Schultz quote accuses young women of being complacent about reproductive rights. The Steinem quote acknowledges the feminist activism of young women but insinuates that their choice of political candidate is based, not on the issues, but on the intention to impress boys. The Albright quote suggests that young women who do not support Clinton’s presidential campaign are somehow betraying their gender.
Through still images of protest events, screen captures of social media posts, clips of educational youtube videos, video of spoken word poetry performances, and music by an all-female punk rock band, I imagine millennial women responding to these criticisms. By alternating between critical comments by 2nd wave feminists and examples of the feminist work of younger women, I construct a dialogue in which young women argue back against the accusations made about them.
This was an interesting and enjoyable process for me. As I have put this essay together I realize that it has better helped me understand Mitchell’s assertion that “there are no visual media”. In this essay, which has been constructed as a conversation between generations, sound is equally if not more important than visual images. We are listening to these different women speak to each other, and their exact language matters. The importance of the words they choose is especially evident in the case of the Steinem quote because she later apologized but said that her words had simply been misinterpreted. However, what matters in this essay are the exact words she chose to use, because even presented in context they are still problematic (which is why I chose to present them within the context of her recognition of the feminist work of young women).
This is not to completely discount the importance of the visual images in this essay. The visual serves two important purposes here. The first is to give evidence of young women’s feminist work in a way which I feel is more impactful than mere statistics. The images of young women protesting, and examples of visual art that they have created better illustrate the passion of their activism than numbers can. Second, the visual component of this essay allows me to contrast the racial and ethnic diversity of the critical 2nd wave feminists and their millennial counterparts. Again, rather than simply stating that young women are more committed to intersectional feminism, I am able to illustrate this by showing a diverse group of young feminists engaging in this constructed conversation.