Feminism in The Man from Snowy River When it comes to feminism, it’s easy to see why many people are turning their backs on the newest movements in today’s society. People are growing tired of the constant stream of dramatic, often negative media derived from the current wave of feminists. There is an enormous amount of pressure from this newest movement to conform instead of merely promoting the liberation of gender roles as in more traditional feminism (Patai and Koertge 3).
Conformity within the movement to political stereotypes is creating a hypersensitive mentality in which individualism is simultaneously worshiped and ridiculed. It has turned into a bad game of telephone where men and women having equal rights has distorted to men and women being the same. Rather than focusing on the advancement of equality, modern feminists focus on altogether more trivial things such as man bashing. Modern feminists seem to be putting down men in order to advance themselves.
Additionally, feminists today have become concerned with vocabulary, and any word not considered neutral in all aspects is then considered offensive. They are causing ridicule within the movement because of their immature and daft actions. As a result, modern feminists are a bigger threat than anything, including men, to traditional feminism. In contrast with this new wave is the traditional feminist movement. At this early stage, instead of conforming to all of the little stereotypes of the newer feminist identity, women worked for self-realization and strove for the development of an identity unstigmatized (Patai and Koertge 3). Traditional feminism, founded largely in the west earlier on, was built upon the belief in equality of the sexes and represented by people committed to women’s rights (Burkett). They wanted only for women and men to be treated as equals.
It was more of a political debate involving issues of sexism. For instance, equal pay for men and women in the workforce, along with equal employment opportunity and women’s suffrage. Traditional feminists challenged the idea of women getting paid any less than a man for the same job, solely based on their gender. Traditional feminism was a fair fight for equality of the sexes. Despite this campaign for equal rights to women, men continue to dominate in most traditional western films.
In contrast, women in The Man from Snowy River are consistently feminist as they continue to rebel against inequality and strive for the same privileges as the men in the film. The film’s women characters’ actions, especially Jessica, qualifies The Man from Snowy River as a crucial feminist work just as much as a traditional Western. The Man from Snowy River originally started out as a famous Australian poem, written by a famous Australian poet named Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson. The poem was about a horse that was very expensive, who apparently escaped. The person who owned it set up a bounty for the one who brought it back to him in perfect condition and everyone around rode out in a mob looking for the prized steed. All but one are individually defeated by the country.
This man became famous, known for his bravery and abilities, he was ‘The Man from Snowy River’ (Agency). Even though it started as an Australian poem, The Man from Snowy River is known as a traditional Western film. As they say, the west has always resided as much within the imagination as in the real world (Foner and Wiener 633). Though in reality the film is set in the mountains of Australia, it nonetheless encompasses themes of western film, such as masculinity and cowboys, action, and a coming of age.
Therefore, regardless of its origin, it is oftentimes reviewed as a traditional western film. Be that as it may, some people seem to find that ‘western’ is the only specific theme of the film. Despite the women characters’ feminist actions, critics continue to claim The Man from Snowy River as a simple traditional western in which the men dominate and the women serve little to no purpose. For instance, one movie reviewer immediately defines it as a young cowboy film, neglecting the involvement of women at all (Ebert). Admittedly most classic western movies have had this aspect about them.
People often overlook the vitality of the female role as the men divert attention away from them. The same critic calls the movie a male action western, old-fashioned, and mostly lacking in violence (Ebert). Once again this critic, like many others, focuses on the movie being ‘male’, taking attention away from the important female roles in the film. In their defense, the traditional western was considered to revolve around men and women were secondary, if they had a role at all (Varner). So because most classic westerns are known for their dominant male roles, it can be easy to overlook the role of women in the film while simultaneously calling it a Western. As soon as a movie gets this label as a western, thoughts of feminism seem to vanish in the eyes of critics. To be sure, western and masculine seem to go hand in hand, creating a recurring theme that distinguishes western movies. In a journal article reflecting on being a cowboy, an author claims that to be a cowboy means to be a man; one who does all kinds of manly jobs involving cows and the like (Walker).
So with this parallel between men and the west, women appear to become irrelevant. In The Man from Snowy River, men and masculinity are recurring themes, and therefore in the eyes of critics, the women lose all purpose they might have, other than to serve the men.In a different manner, while The Man from Snowy River is doubtless a classic western, it is equally important as a feminist work. Despite the lack of attention they have received, the women in the film play more important roles than simply attending to every whim of the men.
A film and tv critic agrees and comments with some surprise that The Man from Snowy River does, in fact, contain a strong element of feminism even considering all of the testosterone dominating the film (Buckmaster). Of course, this does not disprove the fact that the movie is a western but, it does imply that there is more to the film that is just as noteworthy. The female endeavor for something more continuously inspires the movie, and though the women are regularly overlooked in the male privileged west, their bold, devoted representations impact and inspire history (Carmichael).
Therefore, not only are women important as feminists in The Man from Snowy River but in the history of the west as well, however ironic that may be to western stereotypes. They are the beginning of the traditional feminist movement in America. They are the start of an endless revolution. An encyclopedia on Women in Western film expounds on this notion, claiming that the westward movement can be considered a process of feminization because of the Women’s feminist influence on the frontier (Varner). The fact that women were important and influential in both western and feminist history, makes them worthy of considerably more attention than they have received. Furthermore, the female action and influence in The Man from Snowy River represent this feminism and qualify the movie as an important feminist work.Actions of the women qualifying the movie as a feminist work begins with Jessica’s inability to constantly stay in the house learning to serve as a lady, as in the stereotypical western. In the traditional western movie, the primary role of any female is as a homemaker.
As it is, the history of women in western film has been confined to domestic family life (Armitage). The importance of the typical women’s role in western film is the simple acknowledgment that Jessica is certainly an exception. Not only does she yearn for more than tea parties and shoe shining, she wants to work with the men. In the movie, Jessica’s father Harrison catches her in the barn and after dragging her away asks why she is not at her lessons. Jessica explains her desire to help with the horses, reasoning with him that she is needed there. He does not accept it, responding to her that he did not raise her as a midwife so she could herd horses.
The men could handle that, he tells her in an attempt at convincing her to follow the more conventional path of a women. Jessica replies in kind that she can do better than any man, demonstrating her drive to prove herself capable to her father, and to men in general. She believes in her ability to do any job a man can do, and in her equality to them.
The response she receives is one of pure sexism as Harrison tells his daughter that her dream is no occupation for a lady. Reasonably angry at his discrimination, and sensitive to his criticism, Jessica then proclaims to her father that the title of lady has only become an excuse to keep women under control. She does not back down or bow to his will as a man, but argues with him on equal ground right there in the open, something a true ‘lady’ would never have done.
He demands that she think of marriage and children in place of her aunts rubbish feminist influence. Obviously. Harrison is an anti-feminist force in the movie, both as a man and an obstacle. Jessica is sarcastic in her reply, commenting that the well-known cattle breeder is trying to breed his daughter as well. This scene is important to the feminist theme in the movie because it reveals the feminine struggle to be on even ground with the men. Jessica’s fight for her rights as a female, and against the usual image of western women, always in the house and never involved in the action in the film, demonstrates a strong feminist quality in the movie (Armitage). In addition, the women in The Man from Snowy River continue to strive for the same privileges as the men throughout the movie.
Traditionally in western history, women were confined and many things were reserved for the men (Burkett). As a classic western The Man from Snowy River portrays this quality but the women rebel against it. Jessica’s aunt Rosemary, in particular, demonstrates a defiance towards the privileges of men.
In a dinner scene with Jessica, Rosemary, Harrison, Clancy, and a lawyer named Paterson, there is a feminist argument being made. It begins when Rosemary asks Paterson to pass her the alcohol. It was not custom at this time in the west for women to partake in such substances, they were more of a man’s privilege. When he shows genuine surprise and apologizes she makes a comment about women also enjoying the customs that are believed to be for men. With this, she displays feminist qualities in her defense of the orderly male dominance.
Harrison insists she not start one of her speeches, implying that she often advocates for women’s rights, and Jessica jumps to her defence. Her aunt is quite right, Jessica claims, adding on that women should have the right to do anything they have the capability to. Obviously, Jessica and Rosemary have discussed and shared the opinion that men and women should be equal.
Harrison is offended that his own daughter is infected with these feminist ideals, calling the mindset a germ. He once again serves as an obstacle to the women’s consistent feminism. Aunt Rosemary then informs Harrison that his daughter is smart and good with horses, implying that he should accept that instead of holding her back with domesticity. This notion is feminist alone, the thought that a woman might be allowed to escape life as a homemaker in favor of stockbreeding and stable life. Harrison the ever-present wall of scrutiny will have no nonsense and deflects with some spiel about ladies’ college.
This scene illustrates the battle of the women, from within the male dominant western home, for rights to their gender. Throughout time women have been socially and politically fixed beneath man (Seagraves ix). In contrast, women in The Man from Snowy River demonstrate feminism by rebelling against gender discrimination and male superiority in the film. They advocate instead, the beginning of women’s rights. Besides the larger rebellions and arguments displayed in the movie, small rebellions are continuously made that defy the male control. For instance, in the beginning of the movie, Jessica did not want to conform to any position as a lady so she did absolutely terrible in her lessons as an act of defiance, banging on piano keys without the delicate poise of a lady.
Jessica also continuously sneaks off to the stable, and eventually runs away from home all together to get away from her father. Granted she falls off a cliff and is rescued by Jim, but it’s the thought that counts. Besides the lesser continuous rebellions, Jessica directly disobeys her father and asks Jim to help train the new, very expensive colt. Rosemary, on the other hand, enacts her feminism in a simpler more grown-up way than young Jessica: words. She lectures and prods and speaks her opinions on women’s rights and influences those around her. In her book, an author comments that even though most women were caged by domesticity, some of them refused to accept their role as a second-rate civilian (Seagraves ix). Women in this film are certainly the exceptions this author spoke of.
Indeed, the actions of the female characters in the film qualify The Man from Snowy River as much more than a traditional western. In fact, the feminism they add and portray in the movie was the beginning of a movement, wherefore the feminism in the movie is obviously just as important as any western themes. By the end of the movie, as Jim and Jessica literally ride off into the sunset together, the movie displays more equality than in the beginning. It offers a unique feminist hope, shining through the waves of masculine satisfaction as the boy in the film becomes a man. This sets an example for the entire movement, proving that men and women can find equal ground. However even though women in today’s world have the right to vote, the feminist movement started in the west still exist today.
The suffrage in one century only opened the door to equality, it never guaranteed it (Seagraves x). Now modern feminism has taken over, and we face the threat of never reaching equality as new wave feminists create distance and cynicism for the movement. While feminism has not completely lost and abandoned all reasoning, the movement has become successful in giving reasoning the prominence it gained in the philosophy of the traditional west (Williams). Ensuingly, though Feminism is important and influential in The Man from Snowy River, it may become relevant if we do not revisit the ideas of traditional feminism.