Feminist perspectives examine the assumed roles and rules
that govern society. They work to challenge ideologies that are
generally accepted to be standard or normal.
Gender as a Social Construction
They suggest that the norms of a given society are produced
and reinforced by a dominant cultural ideology (hegemony).
Feminists would argue, for example, that American hegemony (the
valuing and privileging of dominant forms of masculinity) results in the
marginalization and oppression of women and other non-dominant
Patriarchy: the structuring of society around family units where
the male is the authority figure and is responsible for the
welfare of his family members and the community
Patriarchy in the Media
Masculine Hegemony is a term that is more specific in its
meaning than hegemony. It accounts for the existence of
multiple masculinities and suggests that dominant social
structures privilege heterosexual masculinity above other
Marginalized and Subordinated Masculinities
Feminist perspectives engage with popular culture texts
(television programs, advertisements, music videos, etc.) as
sites of struggle.
Or in other words, as spaces where preferred and/or oppositional
readings are presented.
Preferred readings reinforce patriarchal beliefs and behaviors
Occluded (hidden in the subtext)
Oppositional readings challenge dominant ideologies (the
beliefs and behaviors that wider society takes-for-granted).
First wave feminism began in the 19th century.
It focused on officially mandated inequalities, particularly women’s
lack of voting rights.
Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Anna Howard, and Elizabeth
Cady Stanton (suffragettes that led the movement)
With the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, the voting rights of
women were secured.
Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique is often credited as
sparking second wave feminism.
“the problem that has no name” (married women in the 1950s and 1960s)
Unlike first wave feminism (which focused on voting and property
rights for women), second wave feminism preoccupied itself with a
wider range of issues, such as: Family life, the workplace, sexuality,
reproductive rights, rape, and other unofficial inequalities.
WAVES OF FEMINISM
Standpoints: unique understandings (or experiences) of the world
that are shaped by where individuals are situated within it (in terms
of class, gender, race, sexual identity, etc.)
Third wave feminists have stated that the perspectives of dominant
groups are limited. Furthermore, because people in positions of
power often fail to recognize inequality, it continues to perpetuated.
Third wave feminism engages with issues of oppression, such as:
bullying, workplace sexism, sexual harassment, date rape. It also
works to support victims of violence and challenges binary thinking
(sex, gender, sexuality).
Third wave feminism has also tended to be more diverse
(addressing the specific concerns of people of color) than previous
WAVES OF FEMINISM
A liberal feminist perspective focuses on achieving
opportunities for the inclusion of women in traditionally
Goals of Liberal Feminists: equal access to education, equal pay,
ending job sex segregation
Applying this perspective to a popular culture text
THE LIBERAL FEMINIST
The radical feminist perspective is grounded on the idea that
inequality originates from the way that the patriarchal system
constructs men and women differently (gender identities) and
the value (or lack of value) associated with each group.
Gender Socialization and Policing
Girls learn and internalize (to varying degrees) the notion that they are
objects, while boys learn and internalize the idea that they are subjects
Rhetoricians who use a radical feminist perspective often
examine popular cultural texts and identify the ways in which
they reinforce patriarchal beliefs.
Are male/female figures portrayed as objects or subjects?
Does the narrative ultimately uphold or subvert dominant gender
THE RADICAL FEMINIST
A Marxist feminist perspective seeks to ensure economic
equality for women by revealing how texts perpetuate myths
about the gender wage gap.
Popularized myths (or justifications) for the wage gap: men
work longer hours than women, women have less
employment experience, women take extended leaves in
order to have and raise children, etc.
THE MARXIST FEMINIST
The cultural feminist perspective seeks to realign
traditionally feminine traits, perspectives, and behaviors
(which are devalued and trivialized in patriarchal systems).
Cultural feminists argue that stereotypically feminine skills
and characteristics (such as cooperation and caretaking)
should be embraced by all people.
Applying this perspective to a cultural text
Meredith Brooke’s “Bitch”
THE CULTURAL FEMINIST
An intersectional feminist perspective assumes that various
biological, social, and cultural categories—including gender,
race, class, and ethnicity—interact and result in systematic
social inequalities. Therefore, various forms of oppression
do not act independently but are interrelated.
Is the ‘Gender’ Wage Gap a Misnomer?
THE INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST
When you perform a feminist analysis, the goal should be to
highlight how hegemony is constructed and perpetuated. You can
do this by (1) identifying how the presence of patriarchal beliefs or
behaviors in the text reinforce their normalization or (2) identifying
the ways in which the text subverts or rejects patriarchal ideas.
When you are conducting a feminist analysis, your focus should be
on how roles and rules are presented in terms of their framing. Is
something being presented as normal or abnormal? Appropriate or
inappropriate? Desirable or undesirable? What implications can
you draw from this?
Male Gaze: describes the way in which viewers (both male and
female) look at people and characters presented in visual images
by identifying with the male characters.
Killing Us Softly 4 – this documentary focuses on images of
women in advertising and their effect on self-image and
KILLING US SOFTLY 4 (2010)
“Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender.” Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 25 March 2014.
“The Feminist Perspective” Boundless. Web. 25 March 2014.
Sellnow, Deanna D. The Rhetorical Power of Popular
Culture. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2010. Printed.
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