Feminism

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A WOMAN’S WORTH: FEMINISM & THE MEDIA

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WHAT IS FEMINISM? A response to society’s assumptions that women should be subservient to men Until feminism emerged in the 18th century, women were treated as objects, passive agents in a male world. This theory pre-supposes that women suffer from various forms of explicit and implicit discrimination. The media are said to play their part through inaccuracies in re-presentation (women being present for the pleasure of men/presented in subordinate or objectified roles). Theories/Issues/debates to link to feminism: PATRIARCHY ‘THE MALE GAZE’ MATRIARCHY OBJECTIFICATION SUBORDINATION IDEOLOGY/HEGEMONY

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HISTORY OF FEMINISM The earliest feminist movement can be traced back to the 18th Century but became more prolific with the ascendance of the Suffragette movement who fought for the vote in the early 20th Century (think of ‘Mary Poppins’ and how …. Was ridiculed by her oppressive husband because of her beliefs.). When Europe went to war, feminism was again rife amongst the Land Girls and other women who moved into many male occupations (working in munitions factories etc) during WWII. When the war was over, women were forced back into the role of spectator (housewife, mother..). In order to make housework more exciting, advertisers worked to redefine women’s domestic responsibilities as being something glamorous and a great deal of pressure was put upon women to buy modern goods to aid them in their role as the housewife and mother.

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THE 2ND WAVE OF FEMINISM Activists in the 60s and 70s were battling for liberation (‘women’s lib) and equal opportunities during a time of civil unrest and social upheaval for many social groups (homosexuals, blacks, immigrants). In 1963, American writer Betty Friedan wrote the book, ‘The Feminine Mystique’ which is a key text in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Friedan was aware of the media’s affect on the oppression of women. Women’s magazines continued to ‘insist that women can know fulfilment only at the moment of giving birth to a child’ (Friedan, 1963:55), controlling women’s hopes for the future and confining her dreams to those that concerned women as her husband’s wife and children’s mother.

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THE 2ND WAVE OF FEMINISM At this time, two of the main types of feminism were Liberal feminism (equality before the law, education, welfare) and Radical feminism (challenge to social/sexual experiences of patriarchy). Friedan was known to be a Liberal feminist, stating that motherhood, domestic chores and a career could all be combined if women wanted to achieve it, yet she rarely challenged the idea that a women’s main role should be within the home. This campaigning by the 2nd wave feminists paved the way for Academic Feminist Theories (Angela McRobbie; Laura Mulvey; Germaine Greer) who have produced critical writing in relation to the role of women in society and their presence in contemporary media. It wasn’t until 1975 that the Sex Equality Act was finally passed.

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THE NEW DEAL: POST-FEMINISM As society started edging towards the new millennium, suddenly feminism was no longer a marginalised view; it has become COMMON SENSE. It became apparent that most of society understood that women could be successful and independent whilst still being able to bring up a family and run a home. With this new revolution in thinking, women in the 80s and 90s were now in the position to be both sexy and powerful.

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THE NEW DEAL: POST-FEMINISM Post-feminism aimed to signify the power and pleasure that could be associated with being a woman, with advertisements flaunting women’s sexuality in a way that was playful yet designed to signify that women were in control of their lives e.g. Wonderbra, Boddingtons. Instead of having to don a pair of dungarees or combat trousers, women were able to flaunt their sexuality, using it as a source of strength to get what they want. If you think about Erin Brockovich, how many times did she use her ‘assets’ to get what she wanted?

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CRITICISMS OF POST-FEMINISM The main criticism of post-feminism is its link to the media, particularly the corporate media and advertising agencies. READ SUSAN J. DOUGLAS EXTRACT IN HANDBOOK It soon became apparent to both right wing politicians and the corporate media that in order to reflect feminism as being ‘common sense’ , they had to push post-feminism as being logical and progressive so that women continued to consume fashion and beauty products without realising they were still conforming to stereotypical roles and behaviours. IS THIS A POSTMODERN, MARXIST OR PLURALIST ARGUMENT?

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CRITICISMS OF POST-FEMINISM By distracting women into believing in the ‘superwoman’ effect, the importance of femininity has been re-constructed in order to prevent feminism from moving on in its achievements, allowing women to ‘enjoy’ themselves and forget about the harsh constraints that were put on them by early feminism. These criticisms can be linked to: THE MANUFACTURE OF CONSENT – NOAM CHOMSKY Chomsky links this phrase to the process of opinion formation in western countries where some povs are privileged over others. Chomsky argues that the mass media can be used to divert people’s attention from real issues e.g. poverty. This can again be linked to the power of the state and institutions that produce media texts.

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GENDER STUDIES GENDER AS PERFORMANCE – JUDITH BUTLER argument that we all put on a gender performance whether traditional or not. Some people may chose to change gender norms and the binary understanding of what is masculine and feminine. Butler suggests that: gender is not some inner truth but the presence of received meanings  Gender is not fixed but constructed. Gender can be manipulated in order to construct complex gender ideologies as part of people’s image. Consider: MADONNA, DAVID BECKHAM, SIGOURNEY WEAVER & EDDIE IZZARD.

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GENDER STUDIES GENDER AND LIFESTYLE – DAVID GAUNTLETT Gauntlett argues that in contemporary society, gender roles are more complex and that the media reflects this. He points out that female role models today can be glamorous as well as successful in a way that was previously not seen. He links this to the rise of ‘girl power’ which had a huge boost in the mid 90s with the emergence of successful girls band The Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child as well as successful actresses who demand more aggressive film roles. He argues that our expectations of gender are flexible and culturally dependent and therefore will continue to change. He tracks these changes through different media texts, especially lifestyle magazines. IS THIS A PLURALIST, MARXIST OR POSTMODERN ARGUMENT?

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FEMINIST THEORISTS MYRA MACDONALD ANGELA MCROBBIE GERMAINE GREER BETTY FRIEDAN JUDITH BUTLER DAVID GAUNTLETT MARY WOOLSTONECRAFT NAOMI WOLF NATASHA WALTERS LAURA MULVEY

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