Mass Media and Women
Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media is an autobiography written by Susan J. Douglas that outlines the impact mass media had on the second women’s movement in the United States. She presents the information in a very witty and entertaining way and does a very good job at getting straight to the point without sugar coating anything. She starts off the book by emphasizing the effects that TV and Walt Disney in particular had on our culture at the time. Walt Disney, she says, exaggerated the assumptions about women that were seen at the time. At the time, mass media impacted the perception of women drastically. Using in depth details about her life and her experiences she outlines the impact media had on the transformation of women’s role in society. A lot of her ideas were based around the experiences with her own mother. Female baby boomers of this time were struggling to find themselves and their role in a world that typically revolved around men. Historical Context:
After the Civil War, the struggle for women’s rights began by way of the second women’s movement. This movement in the 1960s sparked a lot of strong feelings by many women especially one by the name of Betty Friedan. She was one of the very first people to speak out against the mistreatment of women. She wrote a book title The Feminine Mystique. In this book she said, “Our culture does not permit women to accept or gratify their basic need to grow and fulfill their potentialities as human beings.” This book intensified feelings among many women and even the President at the time, John F. Kennedy. He appointed a group to help outlaw discrimination called The Commission on the Status of Women, and also introduced the 1963 Equal Pay Act. Women of this time were thought of as nothing more than housewives and homemakers. “Casey Haden, a veteran of SDS and SNCC, told her name comrades that the “assumptions of male superiority are as widespread….and every much as crippling to the woman as the assumptions of white superiority are to the Negro.” In 1996, a group of men and women including Betty Friedan started The National Organization for Women (NOW). This organization was very beneficial in the women’s movement because they convinced President Johnson to include women in the federal affirmative action policies. By the 1970s nearly 40 percent of women were employed. Monograph Analysis:
Douglas’ main thesis is that mass media significantly impacted feminism and anti-feminism in the nineteen fifties. Throughout the book she attempts to define what it meant to be a woman in the “baby boom” era. She reiterates the idea that during the time, due to mass media, women were made to feel subordinate to men and like they were only good for looking at. Douglas believes that the only things looked back on in a positive manner are the men like Elvis and The Beatles. She believes this is because the media portrayed women in bikinis, putting on makeup, teasing their hair and chasing the boy bands down. “No wonder looking back produces for women an overwhelming reaction: the urge to disown these past images, these past associations, as having nothing to do with who were are today,” says Douglas. One of the biggest points she makes is how the women of the baby boom era had their own “market”. In order to attract this market, producers would have to make products to attract teen rather than adults due to the rebellious nature of the time. “We were the first generation of preteen and teenage girls to be so relentlessly isolated as a distinct market segment.” The media has constantly surrounded women with conflicting expectations of the roles they should assume in their families and what kinds of jobs they should have and this just intensified it. In the Introduction, Douglas says, “The media, of course, urged us to be pliant, cute, sexually available, thin, blond, poreless, wrinkle-free and deferential to me. But it is...
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