Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Main Post 9/15

In the first chapter we read Susan Douglas talks about how in the mid-1990's there was a turning point in the way the female sex was represented in the media. This new girliness, which Douglas refers to as "girl power in a mini-skirt and pink boa," reflected the idea that true power was attainable through purchases and making yourself look irresistible and beautiful to men. Enter, the chick flick. In these films (as well as tv shows) girliness and femininity were "both celebrated and mocked." In all of these movies and shows, enlightened sexism was pervasive. The idea was that since men and women obviously now had equal rights (yeah..right..), that women were free to embrace their femininity. In the shows and movies that have emerged in the past 15 years, such as Clueless, Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones's Diary, Sex and the City, What Women Want, and Gossip Girl we've seen the emergence of the female voice-over, or in other words, the story told from the viewpoint of the woman. We were now given access to what women were really thinking about, and what their true concerns were: shopping, dieting, having children, and most importantly, finding that perfect man. These films and tv shows proclaimed that these were the innate desires and concerns of women. As John Gray says in his book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, women value "love, communication, beauty, and relationships, while men value "power, competency, efficiency, and achievement" and furthermore, men are goal oriented and women are relationship oriented. So while Ally McBeal was a successful lawyer, her inner thoughts, which narrated the show, almost entirely consisted of her female insecurities and her relationship and sexual desires. And she never really could "have it all." While she had a good job and friends, she was (for the most part) always single and for that reason displayed as pathetic. The generational gap between mothers and the daughters also started to form, as these films and movies (geared to a younger generation), gave off the message that feminism was outdated and should be avoided at all cost. For who wanted to become like the grumpy, feminist Enid, for example. in Legally Blonde.. As Douglas claims, feminism was represented as a "musty, petrified ideology that didn't represent women's innermost desires, but rather made women shrill, silly, and intolerant, and it repelled men." Thus enlightened sexism had taken over sexism in the media. In conclusion, even if women were successful in the work world, they could not be truly happy if their innate desires (i.e. to find a man) were not satisfied. Douglas sums it up perfectly when she states, the 'power' part [of 'Girl power'] had now shriveled and the 'girl' part inflated as the new girliness took hold. Girls and women, to be happy, had to be supergirls who, with the precision of surveyors, located the perfect coordinate between Janet Reno on one end and Cindy Crawford on the other end so they could have love and success. That these coordinates had to move even further away from the Reno model and snuggle ever closely to the Crawford model was the undisputed moral of the new girliness." And, as Douglas claims, it wasn't even that women had to become more "girly" and pursue their "feminine" desires, they naturally wanted to.

In the second chapter we read, titled, "You Go, Girl," Douglas talks about the "talk-to-the-hand, sassy black woman archetype" in the media and the fearless power she seems to possess, as she expresses her concerns about sexism and the day-to-day injustice in her life. Women of this type "code-switch" or in other words, switch between "Black Speak" and "white-bread English." As a society, we love the character of the sassy black woman in films, television, and even comedic acts. White middle-class and upper-middle class women are "not supposed to be tough, have sharp tongues, point out sexism, or express anger"so instead, we live, in a way, vicariously through these sassy African-American women, who express for us our rage about the injustices, we as a sex, face. However, as Douglas points out, the media tells us that being a sassy, powerful career woman, as an African American woman, has its perils. Take for example, Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Bailey--a fearless, sassy, outspoken, yet highly respected, African American surgeon. However her career success must come at a price, as she ends up losing her husband as a result. She can't have it all. Embedded feminism is at work here, as the media creates the illusion that any African American woman can be anything she wants to be and that gender and racial equality have been achieved. However, the truth is that they are continue to struggle in society, making much less money than men (obviously) as well as white and Asian disproportionally women. They have some of the highest poverty rates, they have higher odds of getting certain diseases, they are disproportionally victims of both rape and sexual harassment, and they are much more likely to end up in prison than other women. Now tell me that these women have reached a state of equality and have nothing left to fight for. The media further clouds the reality of what being an African American women is like by showing essentially zero portrayals of middle or lower class black women. Contradictions concerning African American women abound in the media. On one hand where you have the successful, powerful, almost asexual, career-driven Dr. Bailey, and on the other hand you have the sexualized and objectified African American who "were defined entirely by shaking their butts" in rap videos.

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