Feminist Perspectives on Media
Lecture 1 ▯ ▯ ▯ ▯ ▯
Date: September 7th, 2012
- Thinking about gender and why it matters
- Video (Sut Jhally)
But whatever your feminism:
as a mechanism that structures material and symbolic worlds and
not as who is in power but more as to “theorize the multiplicity
of relations of subordination” (Mouffe 1992) and to think about
how gender, race and class (amongst other individual and
collective identities) are constituted through these relations
While feminism itself can be problematic, although those two
things are always working together no matter what theoretical
approach they are using. Stuart Hall’s encoding and decoding
Thinking about gender..
Means thinking about active audiences
- The “gaze”
- Resistance (BLO)
INTERESTING FACT: 1989 Barbie came out with talking barbie, when
you pressed her “math is hard” “lets go shopping”
Around the same time, talking G.I Joe “Vegence is mine”
Barbie liberation organization changed the voice boxes in the
toys, switched the, and put them back in the boxes. t a h t h t y m e h t g n i t a u t e p r e p n i s e n i z a g a m
n i a t t a o t e l b i s s o p m i ” e f i w e s u o h Feminist Perspectives on Media
- Women were seen a particularly guilable group.
- Feminism very much a material struggle about equal rights,
reproductive rights, equal pay for work etc...
- at the same time, concerned with the symbolic conflict that
emerged over definitions of femininity (and masculinity)
- increasingly concerned not only with representation but also
with production,distribution, and consumption of texts.
- several feminist critiques of media and communication studies
emerged since the 1970s, as part of the second waves.
A. the stereotypes and the second wave
- women as housewives,mothers, incompetent, inferior,
subordinate to men
- not reflective of society at the time (well over 50% of the
female population was employed, not so in tv land... June
- research focused on male consumers rather than how
pornographic images were denigrating to women “extreme form of
conflict and inequality”, objectification
- while most theorization of ideology ignored gender,feminist
researchers, argued for considerations of how ideologies worked
to reinforce status quo in media.
Third wave feminism arose in the 1980s in response to key
critiques about second wave feminism, including
1. essentializing the term “woman”; women, are, after all, of
many colours, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, cultural
backgrounds, ages and sexualities
2. Postmodern turn; no universal truths, no singular goals,
refusal to be defined and categorized, seeking to step beyond
the binaries of male/female.
3. Concerned with gender violence, reproductive rights
In popular cultures, we see the Riot Grrrl movement as often
tied to third wave feminism
- underground female punk movement
- address issues of rape,violence,racism,domestic violence.
Intersexuality, we have to understand ourselves as not just Feminist Perspectives on Media
gender people, but as your status,class, experience.
Example: Rebel Girl Bikini Kill Video
Maoist Internationalist Movement
- contradictory definitions
- some say reaction to 2nd wave
- some say that feminism was successful, and we don’t need it
anymore or that feminism is no longer relevant
- women are liberated, can freely enjoy their sexuality
- embrace femininity and “girliness” as empower to women
- Spigel reminds us hat ‘waves’ metaphor is problematic because
it implies that we leave older feminisms behind as part of
‘progress’ which is not the case...
- in popular culture, post-feminist icons have included
- Bridget Jones (singletons)
- Ally McBeal
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- The Bachelorette
4. Cultural Studies
- At the same time that feminism moved away from thinking about
the effects of media (2nd wave), so too did media studies.
- Rise of cultural studies, with its focus not on effects of
media, but on the mutually productive relationship between
audiences and texts, wherein there is a balance between
structure and agency (Hall’s encoding/decoding model”
- Focus on audiences as subjects (not objects)
- Audiences ‘decode’ texts and have three potential responses:
1. Dominant (or hegeomonic) reading: the reader fully shares the
text’s code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading -
in such a stance the code seems ‘natural’ and ‘transparent’;
2. negotiated reading: the reader partly shares the text’s code
and broadly accepts the preferred reading, but sometimes resists
and modifies it in a way which reflects their own position,
experiences and interests - this position involves
3. oppositional “counter hegeominc’ reading: the reader, whose Feminist Perspectives on Media
social situation places them in a directly oppositional relation
to the dominant code, understands the preferred reading but does
not share the text’s code and reading, bringing to bear an
alternative frame of reference (radical, feminist) Basically...
REJECTING THE TEXT OUTRIGHT
1. Think about the three “waves” of feminism we’ve briefly
covered. How would each of these see our girl Emily?
2. Is Emily a stereotype or a postfeminist icon?
3. Does The Bacherlorette accurately reflect the norms, beliefs,
ideologies of Western culture?
4. If you watch it, why do you like it?
5. Provide a dominant, negotiated and oppositional reading of
the Bachelorette as text.
“I just want a husband to love me”
“to find true love again, and complete her family”
“a mini van full of babies, wants to get married asap”
-cookie cutter image, too perfect, wants marriage Feminist Perspectives on Media
Lecture 3▯ ▯ ▯ ▯ ▯
Date: September 21st
When women read romance novels, we all interact with the text in
interactive/ various ways. In every aspect, we have an active
audience. We aren’t passive audiences when we see these images
in the media. Example: Tu ere maricon written on the baseball
face was a homophobic slur”
What is a romance novel?
3 Defining features:
- 2 people coming together
- overcoming obstacles
- the Happily Ever After (HEA)
Not just two ordinary people..
- smart and sassy
- feisty and/or opinionated
They draw on alot of stereotypes of femininity so that we can
relate to them.
- strong and independent
- experienced but not a complete cad
- tender and emotional
(think back to our s.c.o.g. talk)
Harlequin, a Canadian success story...
- world’s largest publisher of romance novels
- romance novels account for approx. 1/2 of all mass market
- 110 titles/mo, 31 languages, 11 int’l markets, 6 cntinents
- 95% outside Canada
- 6.05 billion books sold
- 1200 authors worldwide Feminist Perspectives on Media
- established in 1949
- majority interest owned by Torstar Corp (1975)
- 2001 Donna Hays became 1st female president and publisher.
Critiques of romance novels come from a variety of sources
1. Early feminist research
- hypocrisy/being in “bad faith” (Modleski)
- not harmless if so many are reading them - “how can they
tolerate such disjuncture between their lives and their
fantasies [...] The women who couldn’t thrill to male nudity in
Playgirl are enjoying the titillations of seeing themselves, not
necessarily as they are, but as some men would like to see them:
illogical, innocent, magnetized by male sexuality and
Critiques of romance novels come from a variety of sources..
Early feminist critiques continued...
Modleski - assumption of identical texts and responses proven
“once you read one romance novel, you’ve read them all”Not
Douglas - implies a casual relationship between reader and text.
2. Pierre Bourdieu’s “taste”
- “taste” organizes society into classes
- taste is not individual, of free choice (innate)
- rather taste is socially conditioned
- tastes are objects of consumer choice that reflect social
hierarchy, are maintained by the dominant class to distance
themselves from ‘lower’ classes
- taste becomes a “social weapon” to delineate between high and
low culture, legitimate and illegitimate. ? r e h t o m s e r u t r u n
. d e r u t r u n s i , s e g r a h c e r e h s e r e h w d l r o w e r u t l u c ” w o r b w o l “ d e r e d i s n o c
y l l i s r o l a i v i r t s a f f o n e t t i r w
s e i r o t s k c a b
l a n o i t o m e / c i t a m a r d
) e s o d y l i a d (
t n e m e g a g n e e c n e i d u a k c i u q r o f s e p y t o e r e t s Feminist Perspectives on Media
- Soap Operas: Patriarchy (in context of Korean diaspora) seen
as a highly structured set of rules of obedience within which
- Romance readers say they feel less guilty than tv
- S.O watchers feel guilty, watch alone at night or during the
day as part of a group.
- Romance readers derive pleasure through escape
- S.O. watchers derive pleasure through conscious resistance to
patriarchal rules, and through the strong, defiant characters
found on shows.
Let’s take a look at a soap opera
1.What formulaic tacticsds are employed?
2. How do we identify characters?
3. Would you feel guilty spending time watching Y&R
Why or why not?
4. How complex do the characters feel?
5. Are the female characters strong and/or defiant
6. What kind of pleasure might you experience watching this?
h t 0 2 r e b m▯e▯▯t▯▯p▯▯e▯ S
Stuart 4 Stages Theory of Communication
discussing how messages are produced and dispersed
Theorizing The Bachelorette
“Waves” - Spigel
First wave: Refers to the 19th and early 20th century. The first
wave focuses on the women’s momenet, and inequalities.
Second wave: refers 60s-80s. Addresses the issues of sexuality, Feminist Perspectives on Media
family, the workplace, reproductive rights, ethnicity, race and
Third wave (post feminine logic): refers to the 80s - present
time. Embraces diversity and change.
All these waves are very intermingled.
▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ September 28th, 2012
Summary of study
qualitive study, early 1980s
urban; central mid-west U.S
Homemakers, worked outside of home part time study
Romance Genre Today
cinderella s i o h W . s s e r d d a y e h t e r a o h w d e t a e r c Feminist Perspectives on Media
“mirror” of film
but as feminist film theorists started to point out in the
1970s, there is no one single, coherent or universal subject
Hence feminist scholars departed from theories of spectatorship
to focus on the gaze.
What is the gaze?
The gaze is more than simply looking, it is a relationship that
is characterized by particular set of social circumstances. It
is how we look at people, how we gaze upon them, it is a
relationship of power.
- It is objectification
- It is about relations of power
- It is about domination
- It is about gender.
The process by which human subjects are turned into things
(objects) such that:
1. their purposes is entirely for the spectator/viewer
2. agency is denied
3. rendered passive (inert)
4. fungibility (interchangeable)
5. subjectivity is denied (feelings/emotions/thoughts denied)
Example: women as a beer bottle (used as an object)
the dolce & gabbana (group of men around her, restrained)
Relations of power
Foucault tells us that the gaze is a relationship that we enter
into.... a relationship that is integral to systems of power and
ideas about knowledge. Feminist Perspectives on Media
“Power as domination reproduce itself in different locations
employing similar apparatuses, strategies, and mechanisms of
control” (hooks, 115)
For feminists, the male gaze is anonymous; women internalize
this gaze and conduct their conduct accordingly. Women under the
male gaze are passive.
Example: The pentagon
The Gaze is a theory that rests upon understanding how certain
groups hold power (or dominate) over other groups.
Early feminist theorizing about the gaze really focused on how
through the process of gazing, dominate patriarchy was
Berger: “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. women
watch themselves being looked at.” ******
However, it is important to remember that, as bell hooks
reveals, there are a multiplicity of forms of domination (not
just male domination).
Gender: The Male Gaze
The camera puts the audience into the perspective of the
heterosexual male... lingering on women’s bodies.
Women become erotic objects (the objectification dicusses above)
and passive spectators.
Perpetuates gendered assumptions of men as active/women as
Feminists see this is an illustration of the unequal power
between gazer and gazed. Feminist Perspectives on Media
Example: Whistle by Flo Rida
- lots of body parts showing
- they aren’t doing anything, they are just posing
- lyrics: whistle?
What is Oppositional Gaze?
van Zoonen’s chapter reviews various feminist engagements
(mostly involving film theory) with spectatorship and the gaze.
but there are some gaping assumptions
Bell hooks & the oppositional gaze
The gaze as a site of resistance for colonized black people.
Media supports “white supremacy” in its representations of white
people as dominant
Watching television was ‘one way to develop critical
spectatorship... you learned to look at white people by staring
at them on the screen’ (the gaze as a tool of resistance)
Hooks traces early days of film and tv where black women served
white women or were forced to pass as white
Black women could develop critical “oppositional gaze” that
resisted idenifying with white female characters
The oppositional gaze is a gaze of resistance. It is the
overwhelming desire to look, as to resist.
Thinking back to spectatorship and the “ideal subject”,
historically, the male gaze posts white heterosexual men as the
ideal subject. The oppositional gaze challenges the power of the
The oppositional gaze, as described by bell hooks, challenges
the authority of the spectator in order to give oneself agency
or the permission to look.
From a black female perspective, women should resist
stereotypical images and critique them. Feminist Perspectives on Media
Questions for screening
1. Who is the ideal subject?
The mother and possibly the daughter?
2. Crooklyn was criticized by white male reviewers for having
“no plot”. Is this the case?
3. How might the oppositional gaze be critical of presentations
of black men, women, and families?
4. Spike Lee has been criticized by hooks for rein-scribing
stereotypical norms. Do you agree?
located in the ghetto
out of control children
the children watch only white television
boys called her “flat chested”, so she tries to fake being
father can’t expect the fact that the women is making the money
of the household t n a w y e h t t a h w t e g o t s e i d o b r i e h t s u n o i h s
e l y
e t s
s c i t e m s
s e i r o s s e c
. . . . . s a r b d e d d a p , r i a h , s l i a n , s e h s a l e y e Feminist Perspectives on Media
but this idea of changing ourselves individual and work our way
up on your own. An individual focus instead of a collective
“ She prefers tycoons to truck drivers”
• Seual desires linked to higher economic/social class
• Seual desirability linked to working class prostitutes -
tips on to please a man, and use your sexuality to get a
man and how to keep him happy.
So to conclude this section:
Lets update this, by looking at some more recent engagements...
Cosmo goes Global
In 2011, readers spent:
Promoting Feminism in Every Issue
“ When cosmo came to INdonesia, it changed the way the
Indonesian women thinks. Before Cosmo, it was taboo for women
talk about sex openly.”
• seualxloain,euaton y d o b r u o y e v o l , g n i t e i d Feminist Perspectives on Media
we got these tools why not use them, so we can move into a new
class, a new level.
- not working together, more like competitiveness, individual
collective vs individual focus in the magazine.
sexual desire is very much linked to upwards mobility.
Her desirability to the upper middle class men, is based on
working class prostitute ideology. (How to please a man in bed,
how to use your sexuality to keep a man, how to flirt)
so to conclude this section,
- the article is linking class
- tricks to attain a very feminine version of the HOration alger
- encourage competition not collaboration
- individual not collective.
COSMO GOES GLOBAL
- 68 international editions
- over 100 countries
- 32 languages
- largest selling young women’s magazine in the world
- demographic 18-34 year old heterosexual women.
Promoting Feminism in Every Issue
cosmo appears to a wholesome set of values (ex: no plastic
standard set of b
False Eyelashes and False promises
Cosmo exists for one reason and one reason only, it is about
selling eyeballs to advertisers.
Feminist want awesome lives too, but they we don’t need cosmo
advice to have these lives. Who says thats the best way?
These “lisves” are based on material possessions. It is about
acquiring stuff to be successful. But it’s making us poor!
Sexual Freedom ) l a n r u o J n r o W ; s t n a p - n i - r
/ e r o f e b r e v e N
, y t i t n e d i l a n o i t a n
c i l b u p o t e m o h e h t f o e
/ e f i w s a d e z i l a r u t a n e m o