by Ellen Gillingham
Susan J. Douglas, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl …
1.) What is this week’s readings major arguments/points?
The reading’s major arguments focus on feminism and how women are shown conflicting messages by the media and popular culture. The author examines many examples of television shows to show how women are shown being obsessed with finding men. She shows how American women grow up with Beverly Hills 90210 and Cosmo. Another important point made in this reading is that images of women as powerful shows that the battle has been one. However, Douglas suggests that this is more of a façade of equality. In the real world, women and men are not equal. She references statistics of income to show a wedge between female and male workers. Another important part is in chapter 1, the author indicates that society says women are completely equal [buffy, cop shows], which is a façade of equality that targets younger audiences through popular culture. This is enlightened sexism. Invented feminism is powerful successful women with no sexism in their lives. However, women are accepted in positions of power as long as they do not threaten femininity. For example, Janet Reno, who is often targeted as a joke more than a man would be in the same position. This shows a challenge to female leadership ideas. Overall, Douglas is questioning how we judge what is qualified as transgression and progress.
2.) What are some things that you did not understand? Or, are there questions you have for Professor McCune, or the author?
I do not understand the story about the women throwing her husband’s penis out of the window.
How would the book be different if it did not give examples chronologically? The author seems to be following the trend that shows evolution of different realities. What new ideas would emerge if she choose a different order.
3.) What did you learn about Gender and Spectacular Consumption?
On television shows like Laguna Beach, show empty headed girls. However, it shows power and policing girls. The shows are about competition, but consumerism is the “privilege and delight” (15). Additionally, I learned that shows depict a laid-back lifestyle with lots of consumption like in 90210. Overall, the media shows conspicuous consumption as a primary path to true self-actualization.
I also learned about counter culture like Riot Girl and Sassy Magazine. Today magazines are less popular, replaced by blogs. However, today media attention is given to girls, who challenging magazines. For example, girls insisted that Seventeen stop using Photoshop, showing how it is still a problem. They wanted to make a change within existing magazines instead of creating a counter culture. This could be because the media response to riot girl movement attacked, ignored, and trivialized counter culture, which broke down what made it political and figured out how to sell it.
4.) How might you apply the author’s ideas to other examples, beyond what is
presented in the essay?
An important example that carries the ideas expressed in the reading is a show that I have been watching, “Dance Moms.” I love the show because the girls are amazing dancers, and their mothers have so much drama. However, I’d like to critique the attitude of one of the characters, Kelly. She is the mother of two of the girls. Often times, on the show she calls the dance teacher “fat” and notes that it is “bad to be a virgin.” This along with her leisurely life add to the ideas expressed in the reading about television shows like 90210 and Laguna Beach. I think it even says more about the show that it comes on Lifetime, an American cable television specialty channel devoted shows geared toward women or feature women in lead roles. As well as the example provided above about girls protesting Seventeen magazine.