Sunday, September 5, 2010

Women's Studies: Day 1 Reflection

I found my first day in Women's Studies and Susan Douglas' ideas on "embedded feminism" and "enlightened sexism" very insightful. These two media forces produce the illusion that feminism is "done"--outdated and unnecessary. Embedded feminism is the way in which, through the media, we were are constantly provided with images of powerful, successful women, that demonstrate that feminism is over. Additionally, enlightened sexism insists that since women are now equal to men, the existence of sexism and the sexist images that follow are totally acceptable. Seeing as we've made so much progress as a gender and feminism is an ancient idea of the past, it is okay for men to put these stereotypes upon us and for us to enact them, right? ...No! The truth is that while we have made a lot of progress, we have not reached our final destination, and women are certainly not equal to men in terms of power in today's world. If we were, then why would women, as Douglas points out, earn only 80% of what men earn a year out of college, and a mere 69% ten years out? Why would the most popular jobs for women still be subordinate and less powerful positions, such as secretaries, nurses, elementary school teachers, cashiers, and retail sales-persons? Douglas urges us to see through the media haze and recognize the fact that, as a gender, we have not "made it." We need to realize that there is still much progress to be made and that sexism is not an okay thing to go along with or joke about.

If you look closely, the existence of both enlightened sexism and embedded feminism is manifested in Sex and the City's characters of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. All four of these women are extremely successful in the work-world. Carrie is a famous, best-selling author, Samantha is a prominent PR executive, Miranda is a Harvard-graduate corporate lawyer, and Charlotte is a director at a prestigious art gallery. They all are economically well-off and are clearly representative of women of power. However, at the same time, enlightened sexism also has its force, as all four of these characters also fill the stereotyped role of the sexy, beautiful, fashion-crazed, and MAN-crazed woman. As Douglas relates, they are "successful professionals by day and Kama Sutra masters by night" (4). It's as if because they serve as examples of such successful and powerful women, that it's no longer sexist for them to be branded with stereotypically feminine qualities. I didn't realize it before, but enlightened sexism and embedded feminism seem to at work, somehow, in every type of media involving women.


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