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Feminism

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Feminism

  1. 1. Feminism Feminist Theory and the Media KEYWORDS; • Oppression • Patriarchy • Objectification • Voyeurism • Narcissism • Scopophilia KEY THEORISTS; • Betty Freidan (The Feminine Mystique) • Germaine Greer (The Female Eunuch) • Angela McRobbie • Naomi Wolf • Andrea Levy • Laura Mulvey • Judith Butler • Alison Bechdel • Gammon & Marshment
  2. 2. What is Feminism?  Feminism focuses on the social, economic and political “position” of women. It looks at the oppression of women in various ways (political, social, and cultural) and argues for equality.  Feminism is a very tricky topic since there are so many different types of feminism and feminists themselves argue between the definitions and purposes of the movement.  As a movement, feminism is in response to the perceived unfair position of women in society and the patriarchy of society.  Patriarchy  Patriarchy is a social system in which; males hold primary power; male predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property; and, in the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children.  Feminists argue that the social divisions created between men and women benefited man as it allowed them to access greater political, social and economic power – this is part of the notion of patriarchy.
  3. 3. What is Feminism?  It is important to understand that the feminist movement has changed since it began back in the late 19th century. Theorists talk about ‘waves’ of feminism to discuss how it has changed and focused on different areas over the years.  1st Wave = late 19th century and early 20th century. Focused on basic equal rights.  2nd Wave = 1960s-70s. Focused on equality in the home, at work and in society in general  3rd Wave = 1990s- present (arguably). Dealt with one of the criticisms of 1st and 2ns wave feminism – that they focused on mainly white middle class women. Attempted to widen the ideas of feminism to look at the disadvantages of all types of women.  Post-feminism = Now. Some theorists argue that we are currently going through another wave of feminism - Post- feminism. Even this is argued amongst theorists.
  4. 4. 1st Wave Feminism  UK & US based mainly.  Focused on rights of women within marriage and property. Before 1st Wave feminism women were often trapped in marriages because of the laws regarding marriage and women (women were property in marriage). Also, before 1st Wave feminism women could not own property, nor could then inherit property from their family – the property would go in their husbands name.  The biggest achievement of 1st Wave feminism was the right to vote. Before this women had no right to vote.
  5. 5. 2nd Wave Feminism  Focused on womens rights to education, within the workplace and home.  Tried to bring to light the damaging ideal of femininity that was a common held belief in society at this time.  Argued that the traditional feminine role of the ‘happy housewife’ was restricting for women.  Achieved equal pay laws for women in the workplace and helped to legalise abortion.  Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan wrote two important books that focused on attacking notions of the nuclear family, romantic love, and female sexuality.  Greer argued that gender roles are learned and as such women are conditioned to conform to restrictive notions of femininity from a young age.
  6. 6. 3rd Wave Feminism  Some criticisms of 1st and 2nd wave feminism were that they ignored the issues faced by women who were not white and middle class.  3rd wave feminism tried to deal with this.  It also saw a change in the way women were represented and perceived with the phenomenon of Girl Power and ‘Ladette’ culture being represented in the media for the first time.
  7. 7. Post-Feminism  Post-feminism is tricky as it is highly contested amongst feminists themselves.  Some argue that post-feminism is in response to the fact that women now have equality and therefore traditional feminism is over.  Others argue that post-feminism is a new type of feminism because young women don’t see traditional feminism as relevant – they believe in equality but see themselves as individuals. They question the idea of clumping all women together under one banner of feminism – how is this equal – all women are different.  Some even argue that post-feminism is similar to postmodernism and that women now see the differences between genders as something to be celebrated.
  8. 8. Recent arguments  Angela McRobbie (1991 & 2008)  Looked at the impact of womens magazines and argued that there are some positive aspects – that some of their articles empower women in supporting them to enjoy their sex life and understand their bodies.  She also argued that the modern media encourages women to consent to and play a part in the negative and damaging representations of women by expecting female audiences toj judge and be critical of each other bodies.  Naomi Wolf (1991)  Came up with the notion of the Beauty Myth.  Wolf argued that women are oppressed by the pressure to fit into the myth or false idea of beauty perpetuated in the media.  She argues that Feminism may have won legal rights BUT women are still oppressed by the obsession with appearance and a narrow definition of beauty.  She argues that the Beauty Myth is socially constructed through the media and maintain patriarchy.  It is particularly cruel since the Beauty Myth is so unrealistic and unachievable for real, natural women.
  9. 9. Recent arguments  Laura Mulvey (1975)  Focused on film representations but you can apply her arguments elsewhere.  Argued that women are represented in a way that emphasises their sexuality and physical appearance.  Mulvey identified 3 common trends in Hollywood films:  Male characters controlled the action and were responsible for moving the narrative forward.  Women are represented as passive objects for the ‘male gaze’ (The notion that the camera lens is inherently ‘male’)  The pleasure of viewing coming from voyeurism, narcissism and scopophilia. (Voyeurism = the act of watching someone. Narcissism = vanity, getting gratification from admiration of ones self. Scopophilia = the pleasure of looking at other people as objects.  Andrea Levy (2005)  Argued that we live in a sexualised society that objectifies women and that women are encouraged to see themselves as objects and sex as their only source of power.  She argues that this is what motivates and dominates female behaviour and as such perpetuates the overly sexualised society we live in.
  10. 10. Recent arguments  Judith Butler (1999)  Judith Butler was a post feminist who believed that feminism was irrelevant in society now because things had changed so much.  She argued that traditional feminist movements forced us to see gender as a binary (male or female)  She believed that feminism has created an us and them system and has narrowed the choices people can make in constructing their identity.  She argues that since gender is a social construct (sex is innate, gender is taught) it should be flexible, able to change and not so binary – more of a spectrum than an either/or.  Alison Bechdel (1985, but has come into popular use recently)  Bechdel originated this idea in a comic strip she created called ‘The Rule’  In the comic an unnamed female character states that she only watches a film is if it satisfies the following requirements:  It has to have at least two women in it,  They have to talk to one another,  About something other than a man  It moved into mainstream prominence in 2010 when film critics began referring to it in response to the poor representation of women in modern films.
  11. 11. Criticisms of Feminism  Some do not support Mulvey’s arguments in particular since there are so many modern examples of non passive, female heroines in film. But at these the norm or are they unusual which is why so much fuss is made about them?  Soap Operas – some critics of Feminism argue that the whole genre of soaps are focused towards women and womens issues and therefore media representations are fair. However, do soap operas stand up to the Bechdel test? If not, are they ‘fair’ representations of women?  Gammon & Marshment (1988) suggested that the ‘female gaze’ is present in media texts too and that men are objectified by women in the same way. They also argued the some Feminist arguments place female viewers in a passive role and that this is wrong. They suggest that women engage critically with texts, they accept and reject ideas based on their own opinions, needs and experiences.
  12. 12. Your Case Study  Whether you are looking at Identities in the Media or Impact of New Digital Media you can use Feminism in your arguments.  Write a paragraph explaining how/where you might use Feminism (either using a specific text to argue your point or you general argument).

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