Thanks for commenting, Ellisha. It is not necessary for students to be feminists to do this assignment - although in over fifteen years of teaching, I can happily say I never had a student who said that s/he did NOT believe that women should have equal opportunity for self-expression. Feminist criticism is a tool of analysis. It is not political, unless the student chooses to relate the knowledge gained from doing a feminist criticism to government or governmental policies, which would be perfectly acceptable. MY own political opinions are not factored into the assignment in any way, and, in fact, the beauty of the assignment is that the student must decide for him or herself how gender is portrayed in the film and the effects of that portrayal. Students are not graded on their personal opinions about feminism or the opinions of others - they are graded on how well they analyze the film based on the criteria. Feminist criticism requires that students arrive at their own conclusions - and it hopefully does, as you say, challenge "our assumptions and prejudices, rather than reinforcing them." That is one of the basic goals of the assignment.
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