Gender Politics and MTV: Voicing the Difference

Gender Politics and MTV: Voicing the Difference

Gender Politics and MTV: Voicing the Difference

Gender Politics and MTV: Voicing the Difference

Excerpt

In 1983, the song "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" hit the radio airwaves, and feminists across the United States held their collective breath. Was the lyrical refrain some co-opted response to Freud's famous line "What do women want?" Or perhaps a reactionary eighties backlash to the far-reaching demands of seventies feminism? Was the word "girls" objectionable? Wasn't "wanting fun" a politically unworthy ambition? Some of that breath was expelled with relief as promotion of the song began on Music Television (MTV), the two-year-old cable channel that helped originate distribution of music videos. Cable subscribers across the nation witnessed singer Cyndi Lauper visually interpret the song's lyrics on the video screen. Popular support began to build, and soon women and girls were articulating the song as an anthem of liberation, formulating personal and political scenarios of female empowerment. By January 1985, Ms. magazine, the mouthpiece of American popular feminism, had named Lauper one of America's "twelve excellent women."

Readers' letters of response printed in the magazine's subsequent issues approved the choice. Catherine O'Brien, a . . .

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