You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture

You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture

You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture

You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture

Synopsis

The landmark 2008 presidential and vice presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin brought the role of women in American leadership into sharper focus than ever before. These women and others such as Nancy Pelosi and Katie Couric who are successful in traditionally male-dominated fields, demonstrate how women's roles have changed in the last thirty years. In the past, the nightly news was anchored by male journalists, presidential cabinets were composed solely of male advisors, and a female presidential candidate was an idea for the distant future, but the efforts of dedicated reformers have changed the social landscape. The empowerment of women is not limited to the political sphere, but is also echoed by the portrayal of women in film, television, magazines, and literature. You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Cultureinvestigates the role of popular culture in women's lives. Framed by discussions of contemporary feminism, the volume examines gender in relation to sexuality, the workplace, consumerism, fashion, politics, and the beauty industry. In analyzing societal depictions of women, editor Lilly J. Goren and an impressive list of contributors illustrate how media reflects and shapes the feminine sense of power, identity, and the daily challenges of the twenty-first century. Along with a discussion of women in politics, various contributors examine a range of gender-related issues from modern motherhood and its implications for female independence to the roles of women and feminism in pop music. In addition, Natalie Fuehrer Taylor outlines the evolution of women's magazines from Ladies' Home Journal to Cosmopolitan. The impact of television and literature on body image issues is also explored by Linda Beail, who draws on trendy chick lit phenomena such as Gossip Girl and Sex and the City, and Emily Askew, who analyzes the effects of image transformation in programs such as The Swan and Extreme Makeover. As comprehensive as it is accessible,You've Come a Long Way, Babyis a practical guide to understanding modern gender roles. In tracing the different ways in which femininity is constructed and viewed, the book demonstrates how women have reclaimed traditionally domestic activities that include knitting, gardening, and cooking, as well as feminine symbols such as Barbie dolls, high heels, and lipstick. Though the demand for and pursuit of gender equality opened many doors, the contributors reveal that fictional women's roles are often at odds with the daily experiences of most women. By employing an open approach rather than adhering to a single, narrow theory,You've Come a Long Way, Babyappeals not only to scholars and students of gender studies but to anyone interested in confronting the struggles and celebrating the achievements of women in modern society.

Excerpt

Linda Beail and Lilly J. Goren

It was an interesting experience to be working on this book during the 2008 primary season. Whatever one’s politics, the historic runs of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination led to quite a few conversations about both race and gender in the United States, especially as culturally consumed through the media. This primary season prompted more public discussions about second- and third-wave feminism, postfeminism, the absence of feminism, misogyny, gender, racial and sexual discrimination, and so forth than have been heard in quite some time.

As Senator Clinton concluded her campaign, an explicit discussion between second-wave feminists (Clinton supporters) and third-wave feminists (Obama supporters) blossomed, more thoughtfully and in more depth on the Internet than in most other media outlets, but this discussion was certainly not absent from television and radio news coverage, magazines, or newspapers. Prior to 2008, most of these conversations took place in the realm of academic conferences and books published by university presses—and there is certainly nothing wrong with these outlets. But the fact that these issues were suddenly front and center in analyzing the outcome of the presidential nomination process suggests how important they have become.

Just perusing the home pages of the major political Web sites, one finds countless analyses and counteranalyses of the role of women and feminism in the 2008 election season. It seems that feminism (in a variety of forms) has returned to our popular consciousness. Perhaps it never left, but it had been buried or shunted aside as something for only academics to study. Now we have just witnessed the highest-profile experience with feminism this . . .

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