MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture

We publish new feminist research & creative work that comments on the most broadly understood global visual culture. We believe that any critique of women in art & media always cuts across traditional academic disciplines. Yet, for our reader's convenience, we sometimes group our authors' publications under section headings. Here you'll find out more about our main subject areas.

© Cristian Newman

FILM & TELEVISION

MAI encourages authors to consider gender in film & television in the context of feminism alongside many other aspects of an audiovisual text. We publish research results and other forms of critical commentary on both fiction and factual film & television. Our writers' approaches range from production studies to debates on audience and representation. We are interested in essays and other pieces of writing that examine, challenge and make sense of the complex and often contradictory gender politics at work in film & television of today and the past.

© Les Anderson

FILM & TELEVISION

In her essay ‘The World and the Soup: Historicizing Media Feminisms in Transnational Contexts’ (2009), Kathleen A. McHugh highlights one of the core issues that pervades feminist analysis and approaches to film & television today. According to her, when ‘feminism’ is highlighted, other key elements, such as genre, authorship, text, aesthetics and context are rendered invisible.

To see film and television only for their feminism, or lack thereof, forms yet another patriarchal structure that seeks to confine women’s work to niche audiences and formats. We believe that feminist, postfeminist and antifeminist films & television are their gender politics and so much more.

MAI encourages authors to consider gender in film & television in the context of the many other aspects of a text. We publish research results and other forms of critical commentary on both fiction and factual film & television. Our writers’ approaches range from production studies to debates on audience and representation. We are interested in essays and other pieces of writing that examine, challenge and make sense of the complex and often contradictory gender politics at work in film & television of today and the past.

QUEER VISUAL CULTURE

MAI publishes papers that sit at the intersection of feminism and queer theory. Our authors challenge, critique and celebrate the notion of 'queer' to reveal how film, TV and art have contributed to the emergence of an even queerer culture.

© Guy Martin/Panos

QUEER VISUAL CULTURE

Queer narratives, images and styles have proliferated in western film & television over the last twenty-seven years, beginning with New Queer Cinema (1990 – 1998). According to Michele Aaron, it ‘ushered in a queerer culture.’ (2004) While there has been a proliferation of LGBTQIA representations over the last three decades, queer visual culture has been paradoxical, contradictory but also at times progressive, straddling the borders between the dominant and the independent sectors of film, television and art.

From Swoon (1992) to Weekend (2011), from High Art (1998) to Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013), from Queer as Folk (1999 – 2000) to RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009 – ), films and TV programmes have offered grounds for academic discussions on queer film style, gender and sexual dissidence, performativity, homonormativity, sexual explicitness, authenticity and much more.

MAI publishes papers that sit at the intersection of feminism and queer theory. Our authors challenge, critique and celebrate the notion of ‘queer’ to reveal how film, TV and art have contributed to the emergence of an even queerer culture.

MEDIA & POLITICS

We believe that feminist research and analyses can encourage change and raise media users/producers awareness of the often suppressed female voices and objectified female bodies. Extending the notion of the political to encapsulate the realm of the personal is one of our central concerns. We particularly value research into the influence of political and economic policies on women’s media presence and their everyday lives.

© Ana Pedreira

MEDIA & POLITICS

According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, ‘In 2015, women ma[de] up only 24% of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news, exactly as they did in 2010.’ Despite many decades of activism, the question of how women are represented across global channels of digital communication also remains a pressing one. This is why feminist studies continue to theorise around gender politics in dominant and radical media to unveil and resist structures of power that often reproduce the patriarchal subordination of women or even lead to silencing of female voices.

MAI seeks contributions from a range of intersectional feminist perspectives that explore the complex relationships between gender politics and the media. This section focuses on newspapers, magazines and the Internet. We present our readers with critiques of existing media narratives about cis-trans- women and LGBT+, discuss the politics of representation and challenge the assumed objectivity of women’s media portrayals. Our aim is to promote gender politics which advances contemporary feminist discourses in digital and print media. We publish both critical reactions to recent developments and retrospective debates.

We believe that feminist research and analyses can encourage change and raise media users’/producers’ awareness of the often suppressed female voices and objectified female bodies. Extending the notion of the political to encapsulate the realm of the personal is one of our central concerns. We particularly value research on the influence of political and economic policies on women’s media presence and their everyday lives.

COMIC & GRAPHIC NOVELS

We suggest enlivening discussion around the intersections of feminism and comics in all its glorious forms to test and transgress the existing popular and scholarly discourse. Our authors engage with all aspects of comics creation, form, content, and reception from a range of critical approaches. Alongside traditionally phrased essays, we actively encourage experimental and mixed-media pieces. Reviews of classics and ground-breaking titles are also welcome.

© Peter Hershey

COMIC & GRAPHIC NOVELS

Comics and graphic novels have always been about more than just men and American superheroes (e.g. memoirs, ‘slice of life’, adaptations, war, erotic, travelogues, underground, editorial). However, given the andro- and superhero-centrism of the medium and its scholarship — combined with media bias — most of the time, their female creators, characters and readers had rather low visibility in the dominant discourses.

At MAI we want to contest and disrupt those reductive tendencies. We aim to do so by spotlighting alternative and overlooked genres, titles, creators, and fans. This doesn’t mean that we exclude the superhero genre, just that our remit extends well beyond it. We publish work from intersectional feminists who read, study, create or visually respond to comics, graphic novels, webcomics, manga, zines and comix.

We suggest enlivening discussion around the intersections of feminism and comics in all its glorious forms to test and transgress the existing popular and scholarly discourse. Our authors engage with all aspects of comics creation, form, content, and reception from a range of critical approaches. Alongside traditionally phrased essays, we actively encourage experimental and mixed-media pieces. Reviews of classics and ground-breaking titles are also welcome.

PHOTOGRAPHY

We publish written and photographic work that takes a critical, intersectional feminist perspective. For both textual and visual submissions, our most important criteria are excellence, originality, and thoughtful engagement with gender, sexuality, race, class, age, and intersections thereof. We aim to be a source of lively, provocative feminist debate on photography practice and analyses.

© Guy Martin/Panos

PHOTOGRAPHY

We publish written and photographic work that takes a critical, intersectional feminist perspective. For both textual and visual submissions, our most important criteria are excellence, originality, and thoughtful engagement with gender, sexuality, race, class, age, and intersections thereof. We aim to be a source of lively, provocative feminist debate on photography practice and analyses.

TEXTS: MAI articles examine photography in the present moment or the past. We particularly welcome research that stretches the boundaries of photography studies by looking at underexamined practitioners, contexts, uses & subjects. We also invite original feminist interventions into canonical histories of photography.

IMAGES: We invite feminist photographers to submit their work to MAI. It showcases photographs that look at gender and culture in innovative, politically engaged ways.

PAINTING, SCULPTURE & PERFORMANCE

MAI authors’ explorations of art register feminist revolutionary creative strategies. We promote artists and artworks which challenge visual art’s role as the alienating and oppressive tool of patriarchal dominance. Feminist research and artistic practices that transgress and resist the dominant discourse & established conventions feature at the top of our agenda.

© Mike Wilson

PAINTING, SCULPTURE & PERFORMANCE

MAI authors’ explorations of art register feminist revolutionary creative strategies. We promote artists and artworks which challenge visual art’s role as the alienating and oppressive tool of patriarchal dominance. Feminist research and artistic practices that transgress and resist the dominant discourse & established conventions feature at the top of our agenda.

From the historical to the contemporary, we are keen to publish critical assessments of artistic strategies, tactics and methods which put feminist agency and identity into practice through subversive techniques of production, collection, exhibition and distribution. We want to hear voices from the margins and minorities, not only to radically disrupt the existing patriarchal hegemony but also to challenge the centrality of white, middle-class, liberal Western feminist cultural criticism.

FASHION

The contemporary fashion industry has co-opted feminist rhetoric and turned it into just another marketing pitch. We ask what might be a feminist, ethical response to fashion by encouraging research into feminism & fashion in the west and beyond. Our authors explore the cultural hegemony of western-branded fashion in the non-western world, as well as trans-women’s relationship to fashion. Alongside work presented in a traditional scholarly format, MAI is keen to present more experimental work and visual interpretations of fashion and feminism.

© Guy Martin/Panos

FASHION

For us, fashion is a form of social armour. It delineates vulnerabilities and can define the parameters of our lives in profound ways. Indeed, in many respects, life is a fashion show. While it doesn’t define who we are, it makes an indelible impact on how we’re perceived. It often establishes power dynamics across personal relationships, cultures, and even political regimes—from Marie-Antoinette’s pouffes to Mao’s Zhongshan suits.

MAI authors discuss the intersections of fashion and feminism: from responses to the exploitations of the fashion industry (including eco-criticism) to pieces on those on the vanguard of fashion liberation. Think Coco Chanel ending the long reign of corsets, and their contemporary re-emergence in the guise of ‘waist training.’

The contemporary fashion industry has co-opted feminist rhetoric and turned it into just another marketing pitch. We ask what might be a feminist, ethical response to fashion by encouraging research into feminism & fashion in the west and beyond. Our authors explore the cultural hegemony of western-branded fashion in the non-western world, as well as trans-women’s relationship to fashion. Alongside work presented in a traditional scholarly format, MAI is keen to present more experimental work and visual interpretations of fashion and feminism.

GAMES

MAI is committed to representing and publishing an intersectional range of feminist approaches to studying games from the perspective of their production, marketing, representation and consumption. We are open to all kinds of research, experimental and creative responses to games and gaming cultures. Our authors can push the limits of what is or has been considered scholarly. Reviews of new, notable works in the field are also welcome.

© Cezanne Ali

GAMES

Gender stereotypes have long persisted in popular perceptions of the video games culture. More recently, The Guardian’s stock-take of 2017 game events has concluded: ‘Games have come a long way in putting fictional women in lead roles – but yet again it was largely white men that dominated the stages at the press conferences.’

To counter this, MAI is committed to representing and publishing an intersectional range of feminist approaches to studying games from the perspective of their production, marketing, representation and consumption. We are open to all kinds of research, experimental and creative responses to games and gaming cultures. Our authors can push the limits of what is or has been considered scholarly. Reviews of new, notable works in the field are also welcome.

Our editors work in very particular areas of video game studies. Therefore, we encourage proposals for guest editorials, and special issues focused on specific themes, events, and timely topics, where guest editors from outside our expertise fields can broaden the limits of our feminist approaches to games, their producers and their players.

SOCIAL MEDIA

MAI provides a forum for authors researching social media and the evolution of contemporary feminism. We are open to publishing analyses of positive, neutral, and negative aspects of women’s experiences with social media, focusing on their online articulation of agency & identity. Original critical debates on women's participation in online activism are also encouraged, be it from the standpoint of feminism as the politics of lifestyle or the politics of movement.

© Julia Carbonell

SOCIAL MEDIA

Not only have social media changed how women express their identity and participate in politics, but they have also facilitated new forms of feminist activism. Twitter, Facebook & Instagram have often been heralded for allowing intersectional feminists to amplify their voice, bringing knowledge and power to a new generation of previously marginalised women who are now communicating online. Because of their unique vocality in the previously non-existent public forum and their rebellion against privilege in patriarchal western capitalism, in recent years, their activity has been labelled as representative of the emerging fourth wave of feminism. (Munro 2013; Rivers 2017)

However, as much as social media mobilised various underprivileged women, it sometimes generated conflicts between female advocates and adversaries of broadly understood diverse feminist strategies, or women’s expressions of identity and agency. At the same time, social media have also given an anonymous platform to ‘trolls’, enabling voices of bullies & oppressive politics. They have sometimes fostered a pernicious focus on the female body and facilitated new frontiers of misogyny.

MAI provides a forum for authors researching social media and the evolution of contemporary feminism. We are open to publishing analyses of positive, neutral, and negative aspects of women’s experiences with social media, focusing on their online articulation of agency & identity. Original critical debates on women’s participation in online activism are also encouraged, be it from the standpoint of feminism as the politics of lifestyle or the politics of movement.

CREATIVE RESPONSE

We publish polyvalent trans-genre writings; words which don’t take anything for granted (least of all the apparent ‘necessity’ of their own existence); auto-frictions; docu-poesis; texts which treat words with the contempt they deserve etc. Perhaps another way of saying this is there are ways to manifest a writing always, a mode of thinking that is living. Syntax, for example, is not superfluous; punctuation has a place or unplace of sorts or a structure perhaps. There are no new ways but springs of antique unconscious. How about linguistic, residual, palimpsestic?

© Mike Wilson

CREATIVE RESPONSE

We publish polyvalent trans-genre writings; words which don’t take anything for granted (least of all the apparent ‘necessity’ of their own existence); auto-frictions; docu-poesis; texts which treat words with the contempt they deserve etc. (e.g. Kathy Acker, Anne Boyer, Anne Carson, Gabrielle Civil, Clarice Lispector, Maggie Nelson, Camille Paglia, Adrian Piper, Claudia Rankine, Valerie Solanas, Verity Spott et al.) Perhaps another way of saying this is there are ways to manifest a writing always, a mode of thinking that is living. Syntax, for example, is not superfluous; punctuation has a place or unplace of sorts or a structure perhaps. There are no new ways but springs of antique unconscious. How about linguistic, residual, palimpsestic?

Are we really new forms of aftermath, new forms of breathing, new forms of crisis. What does crisis see when it looks in the bathtub and is this without doubt an unconsolable epoch? Tell me what can be dragged from the lake, Ophelia. There is nothing that is superfluous which cannot be absorbed into your object realm. There is no word which cannot be attached to another. There is no word which cannot get smashed or otherwise broken. Creative Response wants lesbian feminists, black feminists, poor feminists, bad feminists, trans feminists especially. Write about: advertising, pornography, magazines, comics, graphic novels, consumables, cartons, billboards, internet, fashion, instagram, art, photography, sculpture, performance, collage, film, zines etc. There is nothing holding you back, except what is. So write it.

VISUAL & LITERARY CULTURES

MAI invites submissions which address issues like form, formalism, voice, representation, intersectionality and privilege, genre, gender and transgender studies, technology, intermediality, aesthetics, the continued power (or not) of the avant-garde for a feminist literary perspective, the relationship between the market and women's writing, and anything we’re not thinking of. We especially invite work that in some way addresses the concept of visual culture with regard to literary texts and studies.

© Chandler Jernigan

VISUAL & LITERARY CULTURES

‘And yet she writes!’— Hélène Cixous

What is women’s literature? Is it anything written by a woman? Or is there something specific to work created by bodies which scan as female, some poetics of women’s literature? MAI invites submissions which address issues like form, formalism, voice, representation, intersectionality and privilege, genre, gender and transgender studies, technology, intermediality, aesthetics, the continued power (or not) of the avant-garde for a feminist literary perspective, the relationship between the market and women’s writing, and anything we’re not thinking of. We especially invite work that in some way addresses the concept of visual culture with regard to literary texts and studies.

BOOK REVIEWS

MAI's Book Review section presents academic, creative and personal responses to canonical texts and radical interventions, novels that are feminist to their core and vital new additions to the feminist canon. We aren’t looking for straight scholarly assessment of a monograph's virtues and faults. We want passionate responses to texts that matter to women and help engage them in the visual culture discourses across the globe. We want radical, bold, personal engagement with feminist politics.

© Chandler Jernigan

BOOK REVIEWS

MAI’s Book Review section presents academic, creative and personal responses to canonical texts and radical interventions, novels that are feminist to their core and vital new additions to the feminist canon. We aren’t looking for a straight scholarly assessment of a monograph’s virtues and faults. We want passionate responses to texts that matter to women and help engage them in the visual culture discourses across the globe. We want radical, bold, personal engagement with feminist politics.

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WHO SUPPORTS US

The team of MAI supporters and contributors is always expanding. We’re honoured to have a specialist collective of editors, whose enthusiasm & talent gave birth to MAI.

However, to turn our MAI dream into reality, we also relied on assistance from high-quality experts in web design, development and photography. Here we’d like to acknowledge their hard work and commitment to the feminist cause. Our feminist ‘thank you’ goes to:


Dots+Circles – a digital agency determined to make a difference, who’ve designed and built our MAI website. Their continuous support became a digital catalyst to our idealistic project.
Guy Martin – an award-winning and widely published British photographer who’s kindly agreed to share his images with our readers

Chandler Jernigan – a talented young American photographer whose portraits hugely enriched the visuals of MAI website
Matt Gillespie – a gifted professional British photographer who with no hesitation gave us permission to use some of his work
Julia Carbonell – an emerging Spanish photographer whose sharp outlook at contemporary women grasped our feminist attention
Ana Pedreira – a self-taught Portuguese photographer whose imagery from women protests beams with feminist aura
And other photographers whose images have been reproduced here: Cezanne Ali, Les Anderson, Mike Wilson, Annie Spratt, Cristian Newman, Peter Hershey