Professor Julia Swift Will Speak at Dismantling Rape Culture Conference


Swift works with students at Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center

One thing that CCM Filmmaking professor Julia Swift notes about her work in Hollywood is that she was always the only woman in the room. It made it hard for her to speak up and even harder for her to tell the stories about the experience of being a woman that she wanted to tell. She’ll speak more about this on Thursday, April 11, at the University of Vermont Women’s Center’s annual Dismantling Rape Culture Conference.

Keynote speaker Rev. angel Kyodo williams

The event takes place throughout the day on UVM’s campus and features a schedule of speakers and workshops that aim to dismantle rape culture by looking for solutions rather than simply talking about the problem. The keynote speaker is Rev. angel Kyodo williams. Rev. angel writes, “Love and Justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters.” UVM’s Women’s Center notes that they are excited to reflect on radical liberation with Rev. angel and explore how healing and justice connect to this movement.

“I really like how UVM has scheduled this, they really want to look this issue from a positive point of view, looking at how we can change,” Swift adds.

Swift’s presentation is titled “That’s How They Do It in The Movies: From Baby It’s Cold Outside to Real Love.” The presentation will look at television shows and movies from around the world and how they approach the interaction between men and women (and same sex couples), what is sexuality, what is violence, and how culture is changing.

Julia Swift, Filmmaking Professor at Champlain College

“For example, a lot is going on in India right now,” Swift explains. “There have been a lot of gang rape cases and marches in the street. And now we’re already seeing changes in movies and TV in India and how they portray women as independent.” Swift is going to look at a number of different countries and show how activist groups had a real effect on the media, like in India, which doesn’t happen in the USA.


“I’ll also be looking at Saudi Arabia,” Swift adds. She notes a couple cases where women have been jailed for certain roles in movies, but other movies that have shown strong women have been nominated by the government to win awards. The line isn’t obvious. “When we talk about countries, we think that country as a whole has one view when that isn’t true. It’s not true in the United States and it’s not true in other countries either.”

Unfortunately, Swift notes that activist groups in the United States don’t have a great influence on the media like they do in other countries. “These aren’t easy discussions in any part of the world, but in India and Pakistan, I see the protests on the streets have a huge impact about what is shown in media and they are making these amazing, positive steps.”

Swift talked about media like Weeds, a show she really enjoyed until the lead character is raped and falls in love with her rapist. “I was done with it after that,” she says. Swift also discusses Game of Thrones, a really popular show known for using rape as a plot device. She couldn’t even get through the first episode.

While Swift was working in Hollywood, she noted the lack of women in the room as the largest reason for these issues in our media. “I was mostly a writer and when I would try to write things that were critical of toxic masculinity or showed a woman comfortable with her sexuality, it was always shot down. It made it hard to bring it up again.”

Swift recalls a time where she was working on the show D.C. on the CW. She was writing a woman who was about twenty-seven and was discussing her previous sexual partners with her boyfriend. “She said seven and my boss looked at me horrified. He said, ‘Two?’ Despite the fact that it fit her character and two didn’t make sense, my boss was an older man who couldn’t connect with the freedom of sexuality in a younger woman that I was talking about. It made him disgusted and I didn’t want to bring it up again.”

D.C. only ran for seven episodes.  

UVM’s conference gives Swift the platform not only talk about all of her experiences, but what she sees in media worldwide. What she really admires about this conference is that UVM wants to look at these issues in a positive, “how can we change” point of view.

“Champlain students should attend this event because I know a lot of them are really interested in gender roles, expectations, and sexual freedom in different ways,” Swift adds. “Exploring those ideas in a positive environment can be really powerful. With my presentation, I want to get students who want to write media in the future thinking differently, get them to think about how can we make this change.”

The event takes place on Thursday, April 11, from 8:00am-4:00pm at the Dudley H. Davis Center on UVM’s campus. The event is free to attend and while online registration is closed, you can still register on-site that morning.

UVM Women’s Center Dismantling Rape Culture Conference information