Women's Work

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Vid
Title: Women's Work
Creator: Luminosity & Sisabet
Date: 2007
Format: digital vid
Length: 3:14 minutes
Music: Violet by Hole
Genre: meta vid
Fandom: Supernatural
Footage:
URL: viddler stream of this vid
one of the tamer scenes of violence against women in the vid

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Contents

Women's Work is an influential vid by Luminosity & Sisabet. It is a candid and disturbing exploration of gender issues (or, more to the point, violent misogyny) in the TV show Supernatural. "Women's Work" premiered at Vividcon.

The vid is set to the song "Violet" by Hole which combines raw anger with the powerlessness that women often feel:

"When they get what they want, they never want it again
Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to." ~song lyrics

Summary

The vid opens with a series of images of women being stalked, terrorized, beaten, stabbed, and brutalized. It then segues into a sequence where sexualized images of women are inter-cut with images of women with children, echoing the Madonna-Whore paradigm that modern media often uses to portray women. The vid shifts back to women who are dead, followed by yet more women being hung or ripped apart. By the time the song slows down at 2 minutes 30 seconds the viewer is often overwhelmed by the concentrated scenes of violence against women.

At this point the lyrics start telling a different story. The phrase “I told you from the start just how this would end, When *I* get what *I* want I never want it again" (emphasis added) can be heard and the viewer is presented with a new series of women: dark, sexy, powerful - and evil. Female demons, vengeful ghosts, and vampires are the ones taking violent action. For many viewers, this becomes a revelatory moment, where characters they are conventionally taught to be seen as “bad” are now fighting back. The vid continues to build on this theme until the very end when it becomes clear that even powerful women suffer the same fate as those who are less powerful: it ends with the image of a man breaking a woman’s neck with the words "go on take everything" echoing into the black screen.

Critical Discussion

As one commenter put it,

If that's not a powerful commentary on the nature of women in SPN, I don't know what is. Evil, slutty or helpless...not much of a choice is there? Brilliant.[1]

In November 2007, it was featured in a New York Magazine article[2], where Luminosity remarks on Women's Work that "[it] is a critique of the eroticization of the violence done to women in all media, not just Supernatural."[2]

Micole wrote an essay about the vid entitled Women's Art and "Women's Work" for the feminist sf blog, "Ambling Along the Aqueduct".

Francesca Coppa talked about the vid in The Gender and Fan Culture Debate Debates that were held at Henry Jenkins' blog during the summer of 2007.

The vid was selected by the OTW to part of its Test Suite of Fair Use Vids before the Library of Congress.[3]

Reactions/Reviews

  • "I don't think I can ever watch this vid again. I felt assaulted while watching it, like I was the one being beaten, attacked, destroyed and killed. Maybe that's what the vidders were going for. I actually felt betrayed because (and this is the fault of my own expectations) the title of the vid [Women's Work] led me to expect to see women kick ass. I don't know Hole, but the actual title of the song (Violet, which I looked up afterwards, which is when I found out that Hole was the group that had done 'he hit me (and it felt like a kiss)') would not have brought me to that conclusion. I spent the entire vid waiting for a sea change -- for Haley or Kat or Officer Kathleen or Jo or Ellen to show up, or to see the strong sides of the women that the vid did show being attacked. And it never happened. I felt like the vid was trying to tell me that I'm not allowed to both be a Supernatural fan and a feminist, that the vidders feel that Supernatural feels that the only reason for women to exist is to be brutalized, which so intensely far away from how I view the show that we might as well be in separate galaxies. In the end, though, I think I could have handled this vid as a feminist critique of the show if it'd had a different title. I would have been able to give myself that distance before watching and not felt personally betrayed by it. As it was, I started the vid with no distance and ended up feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach (which, again, may have been what the vidders wanted). ETA: Lesson in 'never say never' -- the vid as a feminist critique has been simmering in my head for the last few hours, battling out with the last bits of 'but my boys' (when they're actually irrelevant to the argument in question anyway), and has begun winning. I suspect that rewatching will occur soon, as re-evaluating has already begun. I may even come to terms with the vid's title." [4]
  • "This one didn't work for me....After Premieres, I was surprised by the reaction to it; my assumption was that, like other vidders working with fairly dark source, Luminosity and Sisabet were attracted to this particular level of creepy violence in Supernatural, and wanted to share that love with other fans. It never occurred to me that they were making a wholly political argument about TPTB. I've been assured that that is indeed the case, though. Rewatching it with that knowledge, I can see that it's a meta statement about how horribly Supernatural treats women, and I'm glad that the few episodes I've managed to catch have been apparent exceptions to the usual SPN fare. But I don't see this as a statement about all fannish source (or all source, fannish or not?) everywhere, which is what I'm told other fans are reading it as. The visuals in the vid were evocative purely of the horror genre to me, which is a very specific thing. For this to have worked for me as a statement about all fannish source, I think it would have to have been a multi-media vid, and certainly one that incorporated fandoms that aren't horror-based. As it is, hearing that people are saying "this could have been any show", I have to strongly disagree."[5]
  • "The Price is the missing link between Lum and Sisabet's Women's Work and Sisabet and Sweetestdrain's On the Prowl, Y/N?[6]
  • "What I mean by that is that I’ve known for some time that I have a problem with how this show treats women. But I have a difficult time articulating what is actually upsetting me. This vid puts all the woman in the refrigerator, woman as victim, woman as object and woman as tempter stuff out there for all to see. Because the insidious thing is that on the show this is mostly just in the back ground. The creators probably aren’t even aware of it because they’re just reflecting what our society considers to be normal. And that’s scary."[7]
  • ’’For me, this vid is an excellent example of interactive art in that it walks me through contradictory emotions while swaying my opinions about a show that I love - all in the space of a few minutes. I watch in growing horror as more and more women are brutalized and then killed. I cheer when the villains of the show appear - they are women and we are finally fighting back. But I grow more disturbed as I realize that even they/we are powerless until that final moment when "everything" is taken from the last woman on screen (her life). This is what fan vidding is all about. Grabbing the viewer by the scruff of the neck and beaming your message straight into the audience's brain. Sometimes the message is joy, sometimes sorrow, and sometimes rage. But it is a powerful experience – both as a vidder and as a viewer.[8]
  • "This vid is downright disturbing. I had no idea women were treated so badly in the SPN world but now....*shudders* These women are excellent vidders and it shows. Every clip is chosen to create a strong visceral reaction in the viewer and it did that for me several times over. The softer parts lull you into a false sense of security and then bam! with the death and carnage! Definitely one to watch with a few lights on. "[9]
  • "Shit, that's fantastic. Kind of pisses the viewer off after a minute or so, because you just get sick of seeing females so mistreated. But damn, it makes one think."[10]

References

  1. August 31st 2007. Calla White. comment on Women's Work. on imeem. Accessed 2 November 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 November 12th 2007. Logan Hill, New York Magazine. The Vidder: Luminosity upgrades fan video. Accessed 2 November 2008.
  3. Test Suite, accessed November 9, 2012.
  4. Vividcon 2007: Premieres;WebCite for Vividcon 2007: Premieres
  5. Disc Two (Premieres part 2, also premiering);WebCite for Disc Two (Premieres part 2, also premiering)
  6. The Missing Link;WebCite.
  7. Feminist Fanvid Recs, dated Sep. 8th, 2010.
  8. Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed November 24, 2011.
  9. spnvidrecs vid post dated November 12, 2007.
  10. comment in the spnvidrecs vid post dated November 12, 2007.
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