Research grant exploring how the ‘personal is political’ is enacted as a platform for feminist resistance in film and media across two distinct times periods—the 1960s-1980s and 2010 to present.

Which qlab research thread(s)?

  • Feminist Placemaking
  • Remediating Experience
  • Design for Social Justice

100-250 word summary

“The Personal is Aesthetic” compares the different ways that the personal is political is used as a formal strategy in feminist media in North America between two distinct eras: 1960-1980 and 2000-2018. The project asserts that there is important link between these two historical moments on both political and aesthetic fronts. As a tactic of resistance, the personal is political is not new. Emerging from the women’s rights movement in the 1960s and 70s, ‘the personal is political’ promoted consciousness raising circles and public protest, which created a platform for speaking out against the marginalization of women in dominant culture (e.g., Evans 1979; Echols 1984; Hanisch 2000; Beherent 2014). While popular coverage of these events focused on predominantly white women’s efforts, there is a history of women of colour, like Yoko Ono, Audre Lorde, and Adrian Piper, using the mantra in art and theory. The ideology of ‘the personal is political’ created broad communities of support and resistance that informed feminist media makers participating in the feminist movement at that time. Within our current moment we have returned to the personal is political as a guide-post for resistance and self-articulation,particularly as we see the rise of postfeminism as a gendered outgrowth of neoliberalism.


  • @aesthetic.resistance so far, podcast Fall 2019

Research team:

  • Shana MacDonald, University of Waterloo, Prinicpal Investigator
  • Brianna I Wiens, York University, Graduate research assistant
  • Sabrina Low, University of Waterloo, Undergraduate research assistant
  • Zuru Nzeribe, University of Waterloo, Undergraduate research assistant

Partners: n/a

Supporters: SSHRC Insight Development Fund

Thanks to: n/a

Contact: Shana MacDonald,


  • Beherent, Megan. “The personal and the political: Literature and feminism” International Socialist Review 92 (Spring 2014).
  • Ecker, Gisela, ed. Feminist Aestehtics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1985.
  • Evans, Sarah. Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and The New Left, New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
  • Carol Hanisch, “The Personal is Political,” in Radical Feminism: A Documentary Reader, ed. Barbara A. Crow (New York: New York University Press, 2000).