Feminism & Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique

Feminism & Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique

Feminism & Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique

Feminism & Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique

Synopsis

When the term "postfeminism" entered the media lexicon in the 1990s, it was often accompanied by breathless headlines about the "death of feminism." Those reports of feminism's death may have been greatly exaggerated, and yet contemporary popular culture often conjures up a world in which feminism had never even been born, a fictional universe filled with suburban Stepford wives, maniacal career women, alluring amnesiacs, and other specimens of retro femininity.

In Feminism and Popular Culture, Rebecca Munford and Melanie Waters consider why the twenty-first century media landscape is so haunted by the ghosts of these traditional figures that feminism otherwise laid to rest. Why, over fifty years since Betty Friedan's critique, does the feminine mystique exert such a strong spectral presence, and how has it been reimagined to speak to the concerns of a postfeminist audience?

To answer these questions, Munford and Waters draw from a rich array of examples from contemporary film, fiction, music, and television, from the shadowy cityscapes of Homeland to the haunted houses of American Horror Story. Alongside this comprehensive analysis of today's popular culture, they offer a vivid portrait of feminism's social and intellectual history, as well as an innovative application of Jacques Derrida's theories of "hauntology." Feminism and Popular Culture thus not only considers how contemporary media is being visited by the ghosts of feminism's past, it raises vital questions about what this means for feminism's future.

Excerpt

‘Wonder Woman for President’. This demand, emblazoned in scarlet above the arresting image of a colossal Wonder Woman storming through main-street America, heralded the arrival in 1972 of a new feminist magazine on news-stands across the United States. Ms. magazine, co-founded by feminist journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, featured articles on abortion, domestic violence, pornography, housework and national politics and represented a vital intervention in mainstream media coverage of the women’s movement by providing an explicitly feminist account of its aims and activities to a mass readership. In providing a link between women’s glossy magazines and feminist political periodicals, the format of Ms., writes Imelda Whelehan in The Feminist Bestseller (2005), ‘aimed to counteract the more pernicious effects of the mass media in the US by offering a more reliable account of Movement activities and of issues of importance to women’ (59). A public emissary of feminist perspectives, Ms. soon became, ‘like the acronym NOW, a verbal symbol of the women’s movement’ (Cohen 325; qtd in Whelehan 59); as co-founding editor Letty Cottin Pogrebin puts it, the Ms. authors translated a ‘movement into a magazine’ (‘HerStory’ para. 2). Reproducing the outward format . . .

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