In The Avenging-Woman On-Screen: Female Empowerment and Feminist Possibilities, Lara C. Stache and Rachel D. Davidson demonstrate how the on-screen character of the avenging-woman offers a complex construction of femininity that serves as a representation of cultural conversations about female empowerment, female agency, and feminism. This character is both woman and hero, typically both physically appealing and physical aggressive—a dichotomy that goes against traditional gendered norms of femininity. Television and film narratives produced since 2010, the authors posit, offer an opportunity to reflect on and consider the evolution of cultural ideologies about women and power, given the significant cultural shifts in Hollywood that occurred amid the #MeToo explosion and post–Harvey Weinstein revelations. Stache and Davidson argue that depictions of the avenging-woman utilize a feminist language of empowerment that suggests the potential for a subversive message against the patriarchy while also recognizing that an alternative reading of some representations presents, at times, a hegemonic construction of empowerment that ultimately cautions against subversion within patriarchal systems. The authors question how these representations may limit social change or, in some cases, represent particularly progressive rhetorics about women and power. Scholars of communication, media studies, film and television studies, and women’s studies will find this book of particular interest.
Lara C. Stache is associate professor in communication at Governors State University.
Rachel D. Davidson is associate professor at Hanover College in the Department of Communication.
Introduction: The Avenging-Woman and Feminism
Chapter 1: The Visualization of Victimization: The Avenging-Woman and Female Violence
Chapter 2: Homosocial & Heterosocial Friendships: The Avenging-Woman as Man’s Best Friend
Chapter 3: Bodysuit, Lipstick, Taser: The Avenging-Woman, Choice, and Sex-Positivity
Chapter 4: Technology, Cyborgs, & Power: The Avenging-Woman as Machine
Chapter 5: #AvengingWomanSoWhite: Race, Class, and the Right to Justice
Chapter 6: “I wasn’t the only dame in Gotham looking for emancipation”: Birds of Prey as a Reluctant Feminist Model of Female Empowerment
Chapter 7: Promising Young Woman: A Promising Feminist Narrative
Chapter 8: “Who takes their bright pink sorority backpack to vigilante target practice?”: Sweet/Vicious as a Feminist Fantasy for a Millenial Generation
About the Authors
Clever, critical, and utterly engaging from beginning to end, The Avenging-Woman On-Screen is a must-have for anyone interested in violence, women, and feminism. Never falling for superficial appeals to women’s empowerment, its well-written and nuanced analysis provides an excellent historical overview of the female-avenger genre from classics such as I Spit on Your Grave to recent post-Weinstein film and television projects including Birds of Prey (2020), and Promising Young Woman (2020). The book also serves as a prism for discussing feminism and feminist rhetoric through its engagement with choice feminism, feminine feminism, enlightened feminism, and popular feminism, which the authors argue can sometimes be counterproductive. The goal for women is neither vengeance nor individual empowerment. It is collective action for systemic changes. This book is a giant step toward such action.