Feminist Media Studies

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Print ISSN: 1468-0777
Publications
The film Submission Part One, made by the politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, led to an enormous media war and explosion of public debate in and beyond the Netherlands. This 11-minute film, which was meant as an indictment towards Islam and its relation to violence against women, was screened for the first time on national television in August 2004. Two months later, on November 2, a so called “radical Islamic” young Moroccan-Dutch man, Mohammed Bouyeri, murdered Theo van Gogh, the director of the film. By analyzing the visual representation of Submission and the mediated selves that are constructed around the figure of Hirsi Ali, the authors aim to untangle the ideological re-assertions underpinning the two. As they argue, rather than contributing to the debate on domestic violence against Muslim women in the Netherlands, particular appropriations of the film and the phenomenon of Hirsi Ali actually make visible how the Dutch discourse of multiculturalism and feminism is positioned towards cultural “others.” Moreover, they assert that Submission caters to a localization of a post 9/11 global discourse, which conflates the “liberation of women” with the “war on terror.” This conflation frames questions of morality and justice within an apocalyptic pathos in which Western civilized values—based on liberal universal claims—appear to be endangered.
 
The recent proliferation of videogame theory has opened up a body of work concerned with legitimating the videogame as a viable cultural text. However, there is still a significant gap in research around addressing the lived cultures or cultural practices of gaming as an embedded domestic leisure activity. Furthermore, research into the “cultural practices” of videogames reveals that predications to play, perceptions about, and actual play are highly gendered in ways that reveal gaming as a normalised and normalising technology. This article is the result of nearly four years ethnographic research, during which I interviewed and recorded gamers and gameplay. Six out of the eleven participatory households are represented here. The scope of the research is also expanded through the questionnaire of, at the time of writing, 118 respondents. Included in this demographic are all-female and all-male households, mixed gender, sexuality, and ethnicity and diverse geographical intake from Northern Ireland to southern England. Throughout my research and this article, I argue the political and social necessity of including gamers into research on gaming, in order to better understand the significance of gaming and gaming discourses on our social and political lives.
 
The 2008 film Taken depicts the murderous rampage of an ex-CIA agent seeking to recover his teenage daughter from foreign sex traffickers. I argue that Taken articulates a demand for a white male protector to serve as both guardian and avenger of white women's “purity” against the purportedly violent and sexual impulses of third world men. A neocolonial narrative retold through film, Taken infers that the protection of white feminine purity legitimates both male conquest abroad and overbearing protection of young women at home. I contend that popular films such as Taken are a part of the broader cultural system of representing social reality that elicit popular adherence to common-sense myths of white masculinity, feminine purity, and Orientalism.
 
This essay examines the popular television show RuPaul's Drag Race to reveal the ways drag performance provides an ambivalent, contradictory space for wrestling with contentious issues surrounding cultural identity and authenticity in reality TV. Focusing on the show's controversial season three, the authors demonstrate how drag queens subvert and play with ideas of gender “realness” but find an impasse in open discussions of race. The racial minstrelsy of some contestants we observe created antagonisms between black/brown characters and their white/Asian counterparts, exposing a rift in ideas about racial play despite the general acceptance of flexibility in gender bending. Recognizing that reality TV exploits and uncovers these tensions, we demonstrate that while drag performance enacts a subversive mode of queer performance, it provides a contested site and complex semiotic space for dealing with sensitive matters of race/ethnicity, especially when certain forms of stereotyping are rewarded over others.
 
There is little doubt that Germaine Greer is the West's, and especially Britain's, most well-known feminist. This article, looking at her more recent public appearances, argues that Germaine Greer has proven adept at adapting her feminist celebrity, especially through various (and often comedic) performances on quiz and lifestyle programmes on British television. In particular, she exemplifies what has been called an “unruly woman”; that is, she is a transgressive figure who uses the space provided by these new entertainment formats not simply to reinforce her celebrity but to circulate (and perform) a particular feminism. Her celebrity, and her relationship to the mainstream media in Britain especially, has shifted and evolved over time and therefore provides an important case study into the complicated operations of celebrity as well as the feminism–media nexus itself. As an instance of gendered celebrity—and that of a feminist especially—that comes to at once trouble and buttress certain celebrity logics, Greer illuminates the political importance of this ground for feminism and helps to underscore that feminist celebrity is a distinct, and developing, mode of public subjectivity which celebrity studies and feminist media studies have thus far failed to significantly address.
 
This paper utilizes content analysis to deconstruct depictions of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the music video and lyrics for Eminem's hit single featuring Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie,” using a composite of six common myth-based beliefs around IPV. Findings indicate that the myths espoused within the music video and lyrics directly and indirectly blame the victim and minimize IPV. There is a need to critically analyze depictions of IPV in the media, as consumers may refer to these representations in order to place their own experiences into context.
 
There is an array of socially constructed life scripts which feature the motherhood role as a pinnacle for women; however, increasing numbers of women are remaining childless, violating these very basic informal morals of our society. In Australia, the political and social climate is predominantly pronatalist. Powerful discourses, produced through social, political, medical, and religious institutions, provide commentary on cultural discourses surrounding reproduction, femininity, and motherhood. The media play an important role in reinforcing and communicating these pervasive ideologies. This paper explores how childless women are represented in the Australian print media within the context of a pronatalist society. The representation of childless women was predominantly negative and characterised by reprimanding, pitying, and threatening undertones. Four main representations (sympathy worthy women; career women; the artefact of feminism; and reprimanded women) were identified but ultimately taken together they suggest that being a childless woman is an undesirable position in contemporary Australian society.
 
This article analyzes the racial and sexual politics of the “don't ask, don't tell” storyline on Showtime's series The L Word. It situates The L Word within a political economy of media industry and policy advocacy organizations to argue that the show participated in a form of “policy-tainment” by producing critique of both existing government policies and the role of racial representations in oppositional political strategies, and finally exercising influence in policy networks.
 
While heterosexuality has long been the assumed ideology of reproduction, the material existence of over thirty-three thousand US children a year born from sperm donation alone attests to a radical disjuncture between our conceptions of conception and how a good many children are actually conceived. Reproductive technologies, ranging from the aforementioned sperm donation to the more complicated processes of egg harvesting, surrogacy, and IVF, can thus be read as subverting our notions of the heteronormative family. As such, assisted reproductive technology evokes widespread cultural anxiety, especially for how it challenges notions of gender, sexuality, and parenthood.Not surprisingly, popular culture has stepped in to allay some of these anxieties, and as such it is a productive site through which to examine debates around gender, sexuality, and parenthood. At the very least, the wide market of Hollywood cinema is evidence of the discursive pull of these debates. In an examination of three recent and representative Hollywood films, Baby Mama (2008), The Switch, and The Back-Up Plan (both 2010), I will analyze how they both challenge and reinforce the “socially foundational status of the male–female couple.” Through their (re)deployment of a variety of cinematic conventions, these films attempt to yoke the radical potential of reproductive technology to a conservative ideology incorporating post-feminism and new masculinity that insists on the emotive primacy of the heterosexual couple and its “language of naturalness.”
 
Sara-Marie Fedele, an entrant in the 2001 TV reality series "Big Brother" functions as a role model for young women anxious about body image.
 
Personal mommy bloggers create deliberately small-scale, emotionally reciprocal intimate publics through their authoring and commenting practices. This paper employs literary close reading of two individual personal mommy blogging posts, and the comments generated in response to these posts, to demonstrate the compositional strategies by which both bloggers and commenters mitigate the potential conflict arising from the articulation of controversial or taboo ideas and feelings. Members of these publics employ deliberate social strategies to achieve a balance between perfectly honest self-expression and the need for compromise and moderation of views required for fruitful social interaction and the maintenance or extension of relationships. Using phatic statements of general well-wishing, diversion or deflection, humour, and reciprocal emotional disclosure, the bloggers and commenters examined here put into practice the ideals of community, self-expression, and support earlier research has demonstrated they have expressed as core values.
 
This paper seeks to critically examine the capacity for the internet, as a revitalized public sphere, to adequately represent women. I present the argument that the public space of the internet limits the capacity for female vocality by overcoding—in the Deleuzo–Guattarian sense of despotic, unifying, and totalizing processes of representation (Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 41. London: Athlone Press)—the female body images it solicits as aesthetic objects to be judged and consumed. I focus on forms of online polling to suggest that public judgments are powerful discursive mechanisms for the regulation and containment of the female body in public space.
 
Analyzing the HPV awareness and Gardasil® vaccine campaigns for the United States (US), we argue that the campaigns reflect “the new public health” model that positions individuals as neoliberal citizens responsible for managing their health and maximizing public health opportunities. The campaigns, directed primarily at girls and young women and their mothers, also mobilized neoliberal discourses of risk, choice, and self-management alongside postfeminist political rhetoric that values empowerment, freedom, choice, and rights. Postfeminist tropes were co-opted by Merck's marketing imperatives in order to produce girls and young women as an agentic, niche market of health consumers. We then foreground a low-budget counter-narrative alternative media campaign produced by young women and disseminated through YouTube. This campaign demonstrates the role of new media in producing alternative perspectives on agentic female citizenship and disrupts Merck's campaign imperatives.
 
This paper identifies a new variant of chick lit, a non-fiction variety derived from contemporary memoir that could be called “chick non-fic.” An emerging group of young women writers is capitalizing on the essential comedic nature of chick lit, but, rather than producing fictional texts, has taken the genre in the direction of creative non-fiction. Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Samantha Bee, and Olivia Munn—all young(ish), female comedians with loyal fan followings—have each penned memoirs that adopt literary conventions of chick-lit novels and invoke the same post-feminist or third-wave feminist concerns. Their texts embroider on the established conventions of two genres—chick-lit fiction and the memoir—to produce a provocative new variant.
 
In the last 10 years popular publishing has been transformed by the development of a number of new genres that have claimed to "rewrite" contemporary romances. Many publishers have launched new imprints with more sexually explicit titles aimed at women (e.g. Black Lace), have commissioned fictions that deliberately build on the popularity of TV shows like Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, and have marketed new subgenres such as "mum lit," "lad lit," and "dad lit." Chief amongst these new genres is the phenomenon of chick lit, which burst onto the publishing scene in the wake of the extraordinary success of Helen Fielding's (1996) Bridget Jones's Diary. The focus of this paper is on how chick lit should be understood. Is chick lit "rewriting" the romance? Do chick lit novels offer new versions of heterosexual partnerships? How different are their constructions of femininity and masculinity from those of "traditional" popular romances such as those published by Harlequin or Mills and Boon? To what extent do these novels break with conventional formulas, and how, if at all, are they positioned in relation to feminist ideas and concerns. In order to address these questions the paper is divided into two main parts. In the first section, a review of feminist writing on popular romance is presented, which outlines the different perspectives on romantic fiction and explores the extraordinary tenacity of notions of heterosexual romance against the backdrop of significant cultural and demographic changes, including divorce on a hitherto unprecedented scale, an increase in the number of single person households, and a diversification of family forms (including stepfamilies, lesbian and gay families, and the notion of "friends as the new family"). The second section offers a detailed analysis of twenty chick lit novels published between 1997 and 2004, examining constructions of sexuality, beauty, independence, work, and singleness. The paper concludes that chick lit articulates a distinctively post-feminist sensibility characterised by an emphasis on neo-liberal feminine subjectivities and self-surveillance and monitoring; the notion of the (sexual) body as the key source of identity for women; discourses of boldness, entitlement, and choice (usually articulated to normative femininity and/or consumerism); and a belief in the emotional separateness of men's and women's worlds. It is also characterised by an entanglement of feminist and anti-feminist discourses.
 
This essay examines Playgirl as a rich, yet overlooked, archive in the history of American pornography. Although the magazine often is dismissed as the token attempt of a masculinist industry to equalize its representational politics, I argue instead that a significant synergy exists between Playgirl and entwined debates over pornography, gender, and commercialized sexuality in 1970s America. Employing established conventions of the women's magazine, Playgirl utilized that form toward granting women access to explicit images. Yet given its “better lifestyling” advice on how the sexually liberated woman might find empowerment by viewing male nudes, Playgirl's reluctance to display full-frontal nudity until the midpoint of its first year fashioned an initially compromised aesthetic. Not only were women interpolated as untutored viewers within this regime of genital obstruction, but models also were all but emasculated. Consequently, the degree of male exposure that could be handled by both viewers and models was questioned, critiqued, and debated across Playgirl's letters to the editor section, aptly entitled “In-ter-course.” As an artifact of sexual media history, Playgirl is invaluable because readers are able to trace throughout its pages the ways in which changing tides of gendered power began to problematize pornography's routine dichotomy between masculine subjectivity and female objectification.
 
Daybreak host Christine Bleakley trying on a wedding dress from Gypsy Wedding 
The UK primetime series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (Channel 4, 2010, 2011, 2012) offered audiences the opportunity to be armchair matrimonial ethnographers, to reveal the courtship curiosities of “one of the most secretive communities in the UK.” In spite of claims to social realist documentary, however, we argue that this programme has clearer resonances with “sexposé” reality television, producing and circulating a moral, visual economy premised upon the cultural figuration of “the gypsy bride.” The gypsy girl and gypsy bride are marked as victims of male gypsy oppression, of “backwards” and repressive cultural practices, of age-inappropriate sexualisation and “excessive” consumerism, and is thus defined by her failure to be a good aspirational postfeminist subject. In this paper, we explore the intersecting discourses around gender, sexuality, class, and race operative within Gypsy Wedding and analyse online forums responding to the programme. We use psychosocial methodologies and theories of affect to argue that the gypsy bride becomes a figure of abjection, desired and despised, and that the (readily accepted) invitation to be appalled by her “oppression” reveals the strategic potency of postfeminist notions of empowerment and the racist, sexist, and classist agendas it can serve.
 
From a feminist political economic perspective, this paper examines the relationship between gender and investment in the popular media in three interrelating ways. First, a discourse analysis was used to examine eight popular books on investment for women published in the US. The popular financial literature asks women to solve the problems that they encounter in a patriarchal household by participating in the financial market. Second, Suze Orman was used as a case study to show the commodification process of financial information through the tactics brand differentiation, multi-platform delivery, and creation of niche markets. Third, the consumption of commodities is linked to that of production and distribution by revealing the relations between the gendered production and reproduction in the household, transnational corporations, and financial institutions.
 
This article offers a comparative consideration of three films directed by George Cukor: Sylvia Scarlett (193524. Sylvia Scarlett. 1935. Film. Directed by George Cukor, USA: RKO.View all references), A Star is Born (19541. A Star is Born. 1954. Film. Directed by George Cukor. USA: Warner Bros.View all references), and Heller in Pink Tights (196016. Heller in Pink Tights. 1960. Film. Directed by George Cukor. USA: Paramount.View all references). Across distinctive historical periods and film industry circumstances, these disparate texts together invite critical readings of gender roles and relations through performative staging of women in drag. Through a queer feminist perspective and with attention to diverse textual and contextual elements, this study provides a multifaceted interpretation of a trio of films that have never been explicitly considered together.
 
Feminist publishing played an important role in the feminist art movement of the 1970s and into the 1980s, and Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics was a key journal in this landscape. This paper argues that Heresies is important not only because it was a forum for some of the most influential feminist art women of the period, but because it experimented with an editorial structure that required participants to reckon with the discomforts of difference. Editors of the periodical took seriously the feminist critique of hierarchically structured organizational cultures and both promoted and practiced collective publishing. Moreover, through an emphasis on editorial statements, I consider how Heresies gives expression to the affective entanglements of the women involved in Heresies' specific form of collaboration and collective feminist politics. An examination of the editorials as sites of affective intensity helps to come to an understanding not of what women were thinking, writing, and making, but how they may have felt about their work and their relationships with women with whom they worked.
 
This paper examines three television documentaries--entitled Not Just a Domestic (1994), Not Just a Domestic: The Update (1994), and Picking Up the Pieces (1996)--that together formed part of the New Zealand police ‘Family Violence’ media campaign. Through a Foucauldian, feminist poststructuralist discourse analysis, the paper examines how these texts assert and privilege particular understandings of domestic violence, its causes, effects and possible solutions. The analysis illustrates the way in which five discursive explanations of domestic violence--those of medical pathology, romantic expressive tension, liberal humanist instrumentalism, tabula rasa learning and socio-systematic discourse--are articulated and hierarchically organised within these documentaries, and considers the potential hegemonic effects of each text’s discursive negotiations. It is argued that the centrality of personal ‘case studies’ and the testimonies of both battered women and formerly violent men work to privilege individualistic rather than socio-political explanations of domestic violence. Additionally, the inclusion of extensive ‘survivor speech’ means that women are frequently asked to explain and rationalize their actions as ‘victims’ of domestic violence, while fewer demands are placed on male perpetrators to account for their violent behaviour. Consequently, the documentaries leave the issue of male abuse of power largely unchallenged, and in this way ultimately affirm patriarchal hegemonic interests. This is the submitted version of an article published in the journal: Feminist Media Studies. (c) 2003 Taylor & Francis Group.
 
In this article, we analyse how British tabloid newspapers represent relationships between mature British women and the younger Turkish toyboy lovers they meet (and sometimes look for) on their holiday; a practice that is often considered as the female counterpart to male sex tourism, albeit labelled differently as “romance tourism.” Employing a combination of thematic, lexical, narrative, and visual analysis, we examine how the British tabloids make sense of the contradicting social categories and power relations at play in these encounters, in particular with respect to age, gender, nation, and economic position. We consider these contradictions as typical for the intersectionality of gender identities, and use the tabloid stories about romance tourism as a means to study how such intersectionality becomes manifest in everyday practices. We find that the tabloids construct only one dimension of identity as key to women's lives, that is the one of motherhood and more abstractly of caring for others. In addition, they present women as highly vulnerable to exploitation by foreign, exotic others, who are portrayed either as evil con men or—in the sporadic upbeat, happy-ending story we found—as dependent and passive objects of women's desires.
 
This essay combines Burke's burlesque frame and Jamieson's double binds to create a hybrid gendered theory for rhetorically analyzing the aggressive sexualization of 2008 United States vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The essay develops our theory titled the “burlesque binds” and explicates a specific form of a burlesque bind: the “MILF frame.” Palin's aggressively sexualized representation was united under the crass acronym MILF, which stands for “Mom I'd Like to Fuck.” The MILF frame emphasized Palin's feminine qualities, positioning her as a “trophy vice” with no political acumen, and highlighted her masculine behaviors, but deflated them through sexual objectification. The unification of the binds and burlesque theories reveals how Palin's role as a social actor was not simply circumscribed but shut down: she was deemed unfit by both masculine and feminine standards, by both public and private sphere conventions. Although Sarah Palin has arguably been the most prevalent subject of the political MILF frame, our essay catalogues other instances of female political leaders experiencing this type of symbolic degradation, suggesting the MILF frame's vast influence.
 
In the wake of E.T.'s 1982 debut, film critics Marina Heung and Vivian Sobchack established that the enduring appeal of E.T. inheres in the dissolution of the nuclear heterosexual family over the latter half of the twentieth century and the film's “fairy tale” stand-in for the “mythology of family relations” that Dana Cloud terms “conservative familialism.” As Carl Plantinga puts it, E.T. offers a “virtual solution … to [a] traumatic problem.” Despite this, however, E.T. remains for many an inconsolable tragedy. Approaching E.T. from the perspective of the queer child who grows “more sideways than up,” in the real absence of a fairy tale solution to the traumatic problem of conservative familialism, I here seek to identify and celebrate E.T.'s “complex range of queerness” that has until now remained largely closeted.
 
The obsession with technology as a primary tool for development without any regard for the social and cultural needs of society has not done much to help the cause of women or other disempowered groups. The accent on technology for technology’s sake is part of a masculinist worldview characterised by the tendency to equate technical competence with male gender identity (Judy Wajcman 1995). As a counter, a feminist approach to technology looks at ways of dealing with core life-sustaining issues of food, clothing, shelter, education, and a general sense of well being (Debashish Munshi and Priya Kurian 2003). Indeed, as Ingunn Moser (1995: 6) points out, science and technology are not only “social and cultural projects, formed in power structures and coloured by dominating values in the societies and the cultures in which they occur” but are political as well.
 
For the professional middle class in information industries, "working from home" is an increasingly common feature of the employment landscape, resulting from the affordability and portability of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The phrase invokes a sense of freedom from the banality of the traditional office, offering flexibility in both working hours and location when other commitments prevail. In recent debates in Australian politics, working from home is also offered as an empowered choice for women who seek to combine paid work and childcare duties, thereby consecrating a preferable version of (post)feminist subjectivity suited to neoliberal economics and ideologies. This paper shows how these subjectivities have been represented in recent ICT advertising for two purposes: firstly, to highlight the role of mainstream media in normalising preferred uses of new media technology for work purposes; and secondly, to note how this process contributes to wider discourses limiting the aspirations of middle-class feminist politics to an individual level. In doing so, the paper seeks to question the ethical horizon of new media advertising as well as the feminist and labour politics upon which its appeal relies.
 
Over the past 40 years or so, the large volume of work on gender and media has mostly focused on women’s representation and there is a complementary and growing literature which considers women’s employment in media, mostly news, industries. However, there is very little work which has explored the extent to which women have achieved the top jobs in the sector. When the Presidency of the Council of Europe moved to Ireland in January 2012, they chose to focus on Area J of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA, women and media) and worked with the European Institute for Gender Equality in scoping out a set of research projects to be commissioned. This short paper draws from one of those studies which aimed to explore the extent to which women are employed in decision-making positions in large-scale media organisations across Europe, including on boards and what kinds of gender-equality and/or women-focused policies are in place in those organisations. Once the resulting data had been analysed, the project intended to develop a set of indicators which could be adopted by the Council of the European Union – see later.
 
Top-cited authors
Angela Mcrobbie
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
Rosalind Gill
  • City, University of London
Imogen Tyler
  • Lancaster University
Rosemary Clark-Parsons
  • University of Pennsylvania
Emma A. Jane
  • UNSW Sydney