The Immeasurable Value of FFC
As a graduate assistant for the journal Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society when it was edited at Rutgers University, I knew vaguely about the work Deanna Utroske and Karen Alexander were doing to create a new online film review journal. We were, after all, sharing office space, since they also worked in different editorial capacities. My first direct encounter with Films for the Feminist Classroom, though, occurred when I was asked to review two films about the intersections of gender and media. I’m quite honored that I was part of FFC from the start—with my review of Generation M: Misogyny in Culture and Media and Women behind the Camera appearing in the first issue—and that I have been able to continue giving life to the journal and its vision both as an editorial collective member from 2010-14 and then as editor.
Film and media fall a bit outside what feels like my area of expertise, both ten years ago and now, but in 2009 the FFC editorial collective emphasized their focus on the pedagogical value of the films. Reviewers didn’t need to be lifelong scholars about the topics of the films they review; rather, their knowledge about a given subject was valuable primarily because it could be put in service of teaching. Similarly, editorial collective members weren’t film studies scholars but educators invested in highlighting the various ways that films could be integrated into a lesson plan or syllabus. This aspect of Deanna and Karen’s vision, as well as their commitment to accessibility with an open-access publication, are what I’ve tried to sustain and amplify with FFC’s transition to Texas Woman’s University.
In summer 2013 the FFC editorial collective began discussions about the journal’s future as recent and upcoming transitions in our lives brought concerns about how to continue publishing. Deanna’s retrospective highlights the “mobile” nature of FFC: as an online only periodical, it could be sustained from almost any location and with few resources (i.e., cheaply). My position as a tenure-track assistant professor at TWU gave me some stability and the possibility of long-term employment, which at that time made me the best candidate to take on editorship. The spring 2014 issue of FFC, therefore, marked another point of origin and continuation: the first hosted by TWU and, I hope, one of many more that embodies the feminist pedagogical commitments that editorial collective members and contributors have infused throughout the journal.
Deanna’s insights about the labor of publishing are important reminders of our accountability—not only to FFC and its readers but also to the journal’s contributors, ourselves, and the larger community of educators. A November 2018 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education notes, “Women, and especially women of color, do almost 1.5 times the amount of service as men, particularly when it comes to student mentoring.”1 There is an academic division of labor in which service (in its myriad forms) falls disproportionately on the backs of women and people of color. This type of work is often difficult to qualify, much less quantify, and also tends to be valued less in evaluations of faculty at four-year colleges and universities.2
While editing FFC and writing for the journal is not the same as mentoring students and colleagues, advising student organizations, serving as the “token” non-majority member of a university committee, and providing other forms of interpersonal care, it is a form of service to the profession. And while our department chairs and universities may recognize editorial labor and give credit for publishing in a non-peer-reviewed journal, I’m not sure if or how we could calculate its impact on how others view our academic “excellence.” For example, I include editing FFC in my performance review reports—and my department generously funds a graduate student to work as the journal’s editorial assistant—but I have never been asked to put a number this work nor could I tell you how it factors into my “official” semesterly workload report.
At the same time, it wouldn’t be accurate to characterize this labor as “unpaid,” so I appreciate how Deanna’s retrospective has served as a provocation. Specifically, her essay asks me to think about how academic service is both paid and unpaid or neither paid nor unpaid; it falls into a knotty gray area. On the one hand, I gain cultural capital from editing FFC, which I can use to support my case for a merit raise or promotion. On the other hand, the positive impact it has would likely be outweighed by additional peer-reviewed publications on my CV or being awarded external funding—both of which I and other FFC contributors have less time to pursue because of what we give to the journal.
Like the labor that falls to me, FFC’s editorial assistants, and our exceptional web designer Christopher Johnson, the journal’s value is immeasurable: all are impossible to locate with a number. But, in my view, their value is immeasurable also because it is limitless. As one of few, if not the only, publication to focus on the intersections of film/video and pedagogy within a feminist framework, FFC offers something unique to educators, and because it is open access, a paywall doesn’t prevent someone from accessing content. Over 17 issues, the journal has reviewed 424 films while also including lesson plans, interviews with people who work on and with films, essays about teaching with film and video, and even film festival coverage. However, while FFC is certainly “worth” the effort its impact remains nebulous, save the occasional email with a critique or a thank you.
I am grateful that FFC’s existence does not depend on popularity, on “likes” or purchases, on publicity or marketing. While I unequivocally find great value in what each issue offers, I am also wary of the way that FFC as a labor of love exists in paradox. We all do as much work as a task needs, which can be five minutes or five hours. Finding a reviewer (which can sometimes take dozens of emails or just one), copyediting contributions, creating a cascading style sheet—all take the time and energy they take. So in this moment of reflection and celebration, I am ambivalent: excited and eager for the next decade of FFC while also mindful about all the visible and invisible labor that publishing each issue asks of us.
1 Manya Whitaker, “How to Be Strategic on the Tenure Track,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 21, 2018.
2 Cassandra M. Guarino and Victor M. H. Borden, “Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?” Research in Higher Education 58 (April 2017): 672-94; Benjamin Baez, “Race-Related Service and Faculty of Color: Conceptualizing Critical Agency in Academe,” Higher Education 39, no. 3 (April 2000): 363-91; KerryAnn O’Meara, “Whose Problem Is It? Gender Differences in Faculty Thinking About Campus Service,” Teachers College Record 118, no. 8 (August 2016): 1-38; KerryAnn O’Meara, Alexandra Kuvaeva, and Gudrun Nyunt, “Constrained Choices: A View of Campus Service Inequality from Annual Faculty Reports,” The Journal of Higher Education 88, no. 5 (January 2017): 672-700; Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, Angela P. Harris, and Carmen G Gonzalez, ed. Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2012), especially part 5.