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Vanderbilt University

Today, Hollywood appears to depict tough women who like to shoot guns, will defend themselves in a dark, dangerous forest, and can take a good beating.

But don’t be fooled – Twilight’s Bella, Hunger Games’ Katniss, trained assassin Hanna, Kickass’ Hit Girl and other tough female characters are actually all victims of a patriarchal society that continues to put women in their place, a professor recently asserted.

In effect, women are hunted animals and abuse of girls is eroticized as Hollywood and popular culture trains audiences to enjoy the subjugation of women, perpetuating the male-dominated world, said Vanderbilt University philosophy Professor Kelly Oliver in a recent guest lecture at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Hunting shows. Modeling shows. Hit Hollywood movies. They’re all guilty of it, she said.

“Hunting groups are targeting women, which is why we see Hot Girls and Hunting shows,” Oliver said. “They are the hunters, but also the hunted.”americas-next-top-model-hunting-trophies

Oliver, the W. Alton Jones Chair of Philosophy at Vanderbilt with appointments in African-American and diaspora studies, film studies, and women’s and gender studies, showed an image of how even American’s Next Top Model featured women as animal trophies, claiming this reveals “women are akin to animals” and “women are animals.”

“Princesses are often seen in the accompaniment of animals, as having special bonds with them,” Oliver added during her talk, titled “Hunting Girls: Patriarchal Fantasy or Feminist Resistance?”

She went on to discuss how Hollywood often depicts women as being hunted and not empowered. She cited Hanna, Winter’s Bone, The Hunger Games and Twilight: Breaking Dawn II, noting each of these films featured teenage girls who may be armed and dangerous, but are hunted prey nonetheless.

This is unlike the cutesy Disney princesses, who retain more subjugated feminine qualities, she said. These new girls are wild and are capable of surviving in harsh conditions, exhibiting their resilience and tough attitudes by hunting prowess. But despite their hunting and weaponry skills, these women remain lower to men, Oliver said.

“They stalk the forest, rather than be at the top of hierarchy as equals,” she said.

Plus, their feral, animal-like qualities symbolizes their “sexual prowess,” as well as their “virginity” in these blockbusters, she said.

“They are on the cusp of womanhood, a pubescent warrior,” Professor Oliver said.

This is why these characters still represent patriarchal fantasies of tough Amazonian women rather than feminist resistance to the male norms in society, she said. Even the conclusion of the Hunger Games book series has Katniss fall for a man.

“It’s a dystopia Cinderella, as she is a girl among the ashes,” Oliver points out. “Katniss ends up choosing to marry Peeta, the baker, who is a symbol of rising up from the ashes, rather than the male hunter.”

Another character that exemplifies the need to have a man is Bella Swan, the popular character from The Twilight series. Swan is the perfect combination of animal-woman, the beauty that actually “transforms to beast” yet retains her maternal instincts and “endorses traditional family values,” Oliver said.

“Bella Swan is the closest to an actual animal, with bearing her hands and teeth, and a blood thirsty lust,” Oliver said. “She too marries a prince, has eternal romance, and a fairytale family.”

Oliver argued society is pushing back on these tough women, who wish to stand among men and distinguish themselves. For most of the stories they all end up subjugated in the end, and misfits of the world.

“In Hanna, the producer states that this is the story of The Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Anderson version,” Oliver said. “Hanna ends up alone, a misfit in the world. She doesn’t get the guy and the guy doesn’t get her. She was exposed to the cruel world, at what cost to herself?”

Oliver also decried how many young female characters end up beaten, battered, and bruised. Audiences are influenced to enjoy these abuses in entertainment, she added.

“With Hit Girl, from the movie Kick Ass, she is beaten by a mob boss and lays sobbing like a little girl on the table,” Oliver said. “We get pleasure for the abuse of girls.”

Other examples beyond Hit Girl, Dr. Oliver pointed out, included The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and the 50 Shades of Gray, where the “abuse of girls is eroticized.”

“We are trained to enjoy them,” she said. “It’s perverse and almost as if the young girls deserved it for stepping out. This contemplates scenes of female victimization and abuse as a part of coming of age.”

The fate of women in Hollywood remains to be seen.

“Right now we are in an in-between space and seen as dangerous,” Professor Oliver concluded. “Will women break free of these pattern sex objects or go their own way?”

Fix contributor Aslinn Scott is a student at CU Boulder.

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Vanderbilt plans to lay off 1,033 workers by the end of the year.

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A troubling sexual assault scandal continues to unfold at Vanderbilt University:

Brandon Vandenburg and JaBorian McKenzie, two of the four former Vanderbilt football players who were charged with rape Friday, turned themselves in Saturday at Metro Jail.

Vandenburg, 20, of Indio, Calif., was taken into custody at Nashville International Airport after flying back to the city and booked at 2:05 a.m. Saturday. He was taken to General Hospital for a mandatory HIV test required by Tennessee law before being transported to jail. Vandenburg’s bond is set at $350,000.

McKenzie, 19, of Woodville, Miss., surrendered at police headquarters at 8:30 a.m. He was also taken to General Hospital for the mandatory HIV test. He was released from Metro Jail around 1 p.m. after posting a $50,000 bond, according to a dispatcher with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

Brandon Banks, 19, of Maryland, remains at large.

Vandenburg and McKenzie are two of the four former Vanderbilt University football players who were charged Friday in the rape of an unconscious student in a Gillette Hall dormitory room in a case police described as “unsettling.”

Read more.

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Vanderbilt University has released the names of four players who were kicked off the football team after coming under investigation for sex crimes. So far, details have been scarce and the nature of the alleged sex crimes unspecified, other than that the investigation stems from an incident that took place June 26th of this year in a dormitory.

The Tennessean reports:

Metro police have revealed few details about the case. They have said that their sex crimes detectives were contacted June 26 and have been investigating an incident that occurred at a Vanderbilt dormitory. No arrests have been made and it remains unclear how the four players are connected to the ongoing sex crimes investigation.

Head coach James Franklin issued the following statement when news of the investigation first became public: “For student athletes at Vanderbilt, it is a privilege, not a right, to be a part of the program. My coaching staff and I make sure every member of our team understands that. We insist on high standards of personal responsibility and integrity, and there are consequences when those standards are not met.”

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The Tennessean reports that four Vanderbilt University football players have been banned from campus, and kicked of the team, amid a police investigation into alleged sex crimes:

Four Vanderbilt University football players on Saturday were kicked off the team and banned from the campus amid a Metro police sex crimes investigation.

“The well-being of our students is of paramount concern to us, and we will not tolerate any actions that threaten student safety and security,” said Beth Fortune, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for public affairs, in a statement.

A day before, Metro police said that sex crimes detectives were investigating a case that arose Wednesday at a Vanderbilt University dorm. Shortly after revealing that investigation, Vanderbilt University suspended the four players. Both police and the university have acknowledged that the action against the players was related to Metro’s sex crimes investigation.

Police have declined to elaborate on exactly what they were investigating. None of the players have been named, and no arrests made by late Saturday…

Full story here.

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With its ongoing efforts to deny student religious groups the right to select their leaders according to their own beliefs, Vanderbilt University has raised serious questions about its commitment to religious liberty and freedom of association. This week the Tennessee state legislature issued a letter of warning, reminding Vanderbilt that the legislature has the right to regulate institutions that, like Vanderbilt, consume millions of dollars in public funds annually.

The university has decided that its religious organizations are subject to a so-called “all-comers” policy and must be open to non-Christian leadership. At the same time, it has exempted the university’s powerful Greek organizations — allowing the campus’s most discriminatory groups to exist unmolested…

Vanderbilt, like many large private universities, receives staggering amounts of public funds. At the same time, however, it believes that it should receive that funding as an entitlement — treating its students and the public however it wishes while feeding at the taxpayer trough…

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

“We acknowledge that private institutions such as Vanderbilt University have the freedom to establish its associations and maintain the integrity of its institutional mission. As such, the University has the right to adopt and apply an “all-comers” policy for student organizations. But the state has a right not to subsidize any part of the operations of those organizations, like Vanderbilt University, that engage in unequal treatment of individuals and organizations, the effect of which is religious discrimination.”

David French has more on this story at National Review Online.

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