Delights, Desires, and Dilemmas: Essays on Women and the Media

Delights, Desires, and Dilemmas: Essays on Women and the Media

Delights, Desires, and Dilemmas: Essays on Women and the Media

Delights, Desires, and Dilemmas: Essays on Women and the Media


The question of the representation of women in the media has been an important one for feminists over the past three decades. This diverse collection of essays represents three major trends in feminist media studies: the liberal feminist perspective, which focuses on the media's tendency to misrepresent and oppress women; the postmodern perspective, which illustrates the ways in which women can participate in, enjoy, and sometimes subvert the dominant media; and the more recent attempts to identify and challenge the subtle backlash that threatens to obliterate feminist gains. The contributors cover a wide range of subjects, from advertisements for women's stockings to the life and death of Princess Diana.


In a recent ad campaign for Calvin Klein jeans, young people were placed in sexually suggestive postures and situations. While such a strategy may not surprise the advertising world, these promotions brought charges of child pornography:

These ads enter the heart of adult darkness, where toying with the sexuality of teens is thinkable. One of the most offensive segments poses a young man alone, his face in that dumb, deadened look associated with films that can be bought only in an adult bookstore. A man off-camera says, "You have a real nice look. How old are you? Are you strong? You think you could rip that shirt off you? That's a real nice body. You work out? I can tell." (Carlson 64)

As a result of pressure from large department stores, religious groups, and others, Klein pulled the ad campaign but not before he presented himself as a victim of censorship and an advocate of teenage sexual desire, a representative of "modern young people who have an independent spirit and do the things they want to do and can't be told or sold" (qtd. in Ingrassia 64).

Klein's comments and the public response to the ad campaign serve as an appropriate setting for a discussion regarding women and the media. First, Klein's response reflects the general trend of the media in a capitalist society: consumer culture co-opts the language of subversion and manipulates it to its own ends. Under such a system, mass-produced merchandise offers independence, not conformity; purchases make citizens, not consumers.

Second, the scandal over his ads is telling in terms of what was not addressed during the controversy. That is, the scandal is predicated upon the fact that the campaign includes young men, not merely young women. Barbara Lipman of Adweek briefly raises the issue when she says "girls have been objectified forever. It's not shocking, sad to say. But an old man with a gravelly voice in a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.