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Gender and National Identities: Portrayals of Women in Vietnamese Cinemas in the Vietnam War

Sun, June 26, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: BF, 010


My paper explores the idea of national identities represented through images of women in the cinema of both The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and The Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) during the Vietnam War. Images of Vietnamese women were widely manipulated as a symbol of the nation and a signifier of national identity in cinema in both regions during the wartime period. In contrast to the image of the passive women of feudalism, semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism, the portrayals of Vietnamese women in war era films exhibited a mixed ideal of traditional and modern characteristics. Most popularly, the heroic and traditional woman of the North has dominated the domestic discourse on women and Vietnamese identities, symbolizing a heroic Vietnam since the unification of the country in 1975. However, this discourse neglects the images of women in the South of Vietnam. This paper seeks to expand the horizon of this discourse, complicating the homogeneous views about Vietnamese traditional women and the one-sided interpretation on Vietnamese national identities. The paper argues that cinemas in the North and South Vietnamese cinema share their views on traditional Vietnamese women but promote different models of a “modern” woman, and which reflect the distinct ideals about the national identities of each government. The paper draws upon a feminist perspective to critique how the institutional and patriarchal power in each half of Vietnam controlled the image of women to promote its national identities in films