Tag Archives: visual culture

Video Essay: Visual Femininity


A Short Blurb on Video Essays:

Like most students, I come from a background in which writing academic papers that exude cogency is praised by most professors and colleagues alike. In one’s undergraduate studies, the audience is obvious—the professor and possibly a TA who will stamp a final grade onto your papers. When we write about topics that we want to bring beyond the classroom walls and into the public view, this traditional, distant, and formal writing style does not seem to be as effective as other available mediums. Paper-based essays thrive in academia, but do they make the same kind of impact to the rest of society who we really want to listen?

Short video essays are rising into the public as they carve out a slightly different path than documentary films. Documentaries (essentially longer, more professional video essays) have made their way into various classrooms, the History Channel and the Sundance Film Festival. Creators of 3-5 minute long video essays have utilized popular platforms like YouTube or educational websites that encourage this new wave of visual learning and information extraction. Perks of creating an essay in the form of a short clip  are the wider audience, likelihood of someone finishing the piece in one-sitting, and its easy one-click accessibility on the internet.


Process of Creating this Video Essay:

In my previous post, I submitted a draft outline of what my upcoming video essay would look like. The process of outlining a video essay remained relatively the same as it would if I were to write a paper essay with the same topic and thesis. Yet, the aspect of maintaining cogency required that it manifest itself in an unfamiliar, alternate form.

Editing an essay took on a whole new meaning as I replaced my trusty thesaurus with film software programs. Shooting in real time and cutting clips demanded an extra layer of thought than simply pressing the delete key on a computer keyboard. Timing never felt so important. Music emphasized the tone and mood of the piece. The most surprising element was that words became a supplementary supporter rather than the primary means for relaying my message. 

The most rewarding part about this experience was that I wasn’t stuck in a library alone with my laptop and mountains of books beside me as I hammered away into the night trying to find legitimate sources/quotes to use to support or counter-argue my point. Creating this video essay required interaction with other people. I was able to hear their real opinions while I looked at their facial expressions and heard the fluctuations in the sound of their voice. After the shoot, the cast members themselves became my attentive audience as they provided an unexpected stage for me to share and explain my personal questions about Visual Femininity.


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Video Essay Outline: Visual Femininity

Inspiration Questions:     

  • What determines true “womanliness” or “femininity”?
  • How much does the visual appearance (“masquerade”) of a woman alter the way people perceive her as womanly or feminine?
  • Does a woman’s makeup and clothing change the way people perceive a woman’s lifestyle or “worth”?


The following excerpts are from Nicholas Mirzoeff’s “The Visual Culture Reader”:

  • Judith Butler— “genuine womanliness and the ‘masquerade’…they are the same thing” (149)
  • Guy Debord— “the spectacle… is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images” (142)


Undergraduate college students (men and women)


Interview two men and two women in which each person interviewed is shown one picture of a woman with no makeup wearing asexual clothing then a second picture of the same woman with makeup and wearing feminine clothing

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least and 10 being the most, how womanly or feminine would you consider this person?
  • How much money do you think this woman makes?
  • Do you think she is currently in a relationship, dating or married?
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