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Zombie Feminism. Ever since Dr. Frankenstein reanimated a woman to serve as his monster’s bride and she said no, the zombie woman has been a weird figure for female resistance to control. Zombie feminism is an uneasy subgenre, daring to use freakish gore and death slapstick to pose questions about what it might take for women to become unrapeable. Or for men to see women the way women see themselves. The question is, why do we have to imagine ourselves as monsters in order to tell stories about what it would be like to become fully human?

When Samantha brought this rant to my attention I had to confess to her that I have seen one of the movies discussed: Zombie Strippers. I’m what you might call a fan of the zombie genre. And I also had to admit that I laughed at it, with its low-budget comedy and over-the-top gore. There was no way I was going to take it seriously, not when it starred porn star Jenna Jameson and horror king Robert Englund. No way until I read this article, that is.

When I read someone asserting that this movie–and the others described in the article–are an actual, valid subgenre I start to blink a little. Okay, I start to blink rapidly. If I were to think deeply about Zombie Strippers, I wouldn’t see it as anything feminist. With one exception (who immediately uses her new “gifts” to make additional money), the strippers in this movie deliberately become zombies in order to get more money out of their male customers. They aren’t fighting back against exploitation or control, they’re simply fighting amongst themselves to see who can be top stripper at the place where they work.

I think we need to ask ourselves who the audience for these movies are. Especially Deadgirl, the main focus of the quoted rant, which the author describes as follows: “You’ve got a naked girl, strapped to a bed in a mental institution, being raped by a bunch of teenaged guys.” This is accompanied by a photo of a naked girl in a rather provocative pose where one can see clearly between her legs. Is this an example of “zombie feminism” or merely more of the same exploitation of submissive bodies?

It isn’t that the woman comes back from her (mostly) violent death and gets revenge on the men who raped/killed her, it’s that she was raped and killed to begin with. Instead of wondering if the female zombie attacks are a resistance to male control, we ought to be wondering about the male control and domination that got her dead in the first place. Is it that women are imagining themselves as monsters in order to feel strong and in control or that men imagine women as monsters when they are not being fucked or killed?

This movie, and others like it, are not a brand new form of feminism. They’re more of the same exploitation that’s been around for years.

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Written by tldegray

April 17, 2009 at 2:45 am

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