Dr Kate Taylor-Jones is a Senior Lecturer in East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield. She’ll be interviewing Helen Pankhurst at the Festival of Debate Closing Party: 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage on Friday 29 June. We chatted to Kate to find out more about her work and research.
As a Senior Lecturer in East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield, your research focuses on women’s representation issues, specifically those in East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. Which issues have you explored and what motivated you to choose those issues?
I work primarily on film and visual media and I am interested in exploring both how women are represented in visual media and also the history of women working in the visual media industry since the early days. I have written on topics as diverse as how video games could be used to support victims of domestic abuse, how female child soldiers have been represented in film and the representation of women in the colonial cinema of 1930s Korea. I have edited two collections on the following aspects of femininity: International Cinema and the Girl, that explored how girlhood has been represented in cinema from around the world, and Prostitution and Sex Work in Global Cinema, that looks at how the figure of the prostitute has been reflected in global cinema and culture. What links all my work is a continual focus on the female experience in whatever time frame or subject I am looking at.
In relation to the issues of female emancipation and suffrage, you’re currently exploring the way bride kidnapping has been represented in cinema, can you tell us a bit more about this?
When I was researching my study on female child soldiers in film, the role that marriage played was notable. The bride kidnapping project developed from there and has been a long-standing project of mine that has seen me interview several local specialists, NGO workers and filmmakers from around the world. Bride kidnapping is literally the kidnap of a girl or woman for the express purpose of marriage. We are talking about walking along the road and being dragged into a car and then forced, often with violence, to marry a man who could be a complete stranger. This is distinct from arranged marriage as a key element is the fact the women often do not know the men involved and their own families are unaware of the events taking place. Bride kidnap has a long (and global) history but in the current day in countries such as Georgia, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, China, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and in certain European communities, there have been numerous cases. What I am interested in exploring is how cinema from various nations represents bride kidnapping and whether film can be used as a tool to educate communities and support victims.
You’ll be interviewing Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia and great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, at the Festival of Debate Closing Party. What are you most looking forward to asking her?
When I was growing up I remember reading a book about suffrage with loads of photos in. One of the photos was of Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested and physically carried by the police officer and the other was the poster for the 1913 Cat and Mouse Act. These images made a great impression on me as a child and started my passion for learning about equal rights and the rights of women in particular. When I was growing up, the term ‘feminist’ was all too often seen as a dirty word to be avoided, but instead of this situation getting better, I feel it is getting worse. All too often I meet students who claim feminism and equal rights are no longer things we should concern ourselves with and I feel a deep sense of upset and alarm. So, I am really interested in talking to Helen about her hopes and fears for the future. We live in a moment where the role and status of women are still up for vigorous debate. We have world leaders in all parts of the globe who show breathtaking disregard and aggression towards all women and yet, at the same time, women are making huge leaps in so many aspects of the contemporary world. Whilst many nations have made huge movements towards it, equality is a long way off across the globe. What she feels the future holds for women and the feminist movement is something I would love to hear her opinion on.
Where can people find out more about your work and research?
Interview by Felicity Jackson