2: Fixing into images

In proportion to women's exclusion from cultural participation, their
image has been exploited. (Mulvey 1979: 179)

[A] 11.. . visions of woman are contaminated by male-defined notions
of the truth of femininity. This is true not only of the negative cultural
images of women (prostitute, demon, medusa, bluestocking, vagina
dentata) but also of positive ones (woman as nature, woman as
nurturing mother, or innocent virgin, or heroic amazon …). Woman
is always a metaphor, dense with sedimented meanings. (Felski 2000:
182)

On this side of the screen of their projections... I can't live. I'm stuck,
paralyzed by all those images, words, fantasies. Frozen. (Irigaray 1985:

17)


'Images of women'

Images have been a central concern of feminist media criticism since the 1960s, when Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1965) traced the postwar construction of America's ideal image of femininity (what Friedan called the 'happy housewife heroine') through media representations she found in women's magazines and advertising images. Studies in the 1970s mapped the 'sex-role stereotyping' within media images (Busby 1975; Janus 1977; Friedman 1977; Tuchman 1978a), the journal Women and Film, launched in 1972, saw its task as that of 'taking up the struggle with women's image in film' (1972: 5), and advertising images were an early target of both feminist criticism and feminist activism (Thornham 2001). The concern in most of this work was with media images as distortions: inaccurate stereotypes that damage women's self-perceptions and limit their social roles. As a 1979 UNESCO report put it

to the extent that television programming provides information about
and mirrors real life sex roles, its depiction of women is inaccurate and

-23-

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