Academic journal article Hecate

Women In/and Media Today

Academic journal article Hecate

Women In/and Media Today

Article excerpt

Simone Murray

An impetus behind this seminar(*) was the recent fate of cultural studies at Birmingham. The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) opened in 1964 as a postgraduate research unit analysing popular culture and exploring Raymond Williams' concept of culture as a whole way of life. In the 1980s the Centre took on undergraduate students in response to university pressures and then, in June 2002, announced its closure, again in response to university restructuring.(1) The Centre's abrupt announcement that it would close prompted an immediate protest campaign from cultural studies alumni internationally.(2) More pervasively, it also initiated a reassessment of cultural studies around the globe -- of where it had been and where it was going.(3) What particularly struck Andrea Mitchell and myself as co-organisers of this panel was how little of that discussion had focused on the interface of media and cultural studies with feminism. There was a lot of talk of cultural studies' original class-based politics, how it had moved through and changed the intellectual landscape of the humanities, and how it had -- in its turn -- been changed by its new-found institutional entrenchment. But there was a conspicuous lack of discussion of what the implications of that history had been for feminism.

It is fair to say that the relationship between feminisms and media and popular culture studies hasn't been without hitches; it has been a complex disciplinary history. Feminism has sponsored immense changes in cultural studies' self-conception, the kind of cultural practices it has focused upon, the types of audiences it has analysed, and the varieties of cultural strategies it has investigated. It certainly hasn't been all smooth sailing, however. I thought of Stuart Hall recounting in 1992 how feminism had first come into direct contact with cultural studies in the mid-1970s, and his revealing comment: `As the thief in the night, [feminism] broke in; interrupted, made an unseemly noise, seized the time, trapped on the table of cultural studies.'(4) Far from representing some interloper with questionable social habits, feminism now occupies a place at the heart of cultural studies -- no recent textbook of cultural studies work aimed at the undergraduate market is without a subsection on `feminist cultural studies.'(5) But that neat phrase perhaps elides how complicated the disciplinary interface of feminism and cultural studies has been, and the multiple sites of tension which remain beneath anthologists' neat categorisations. In the period between the Women Take Issue `hijacking' of the Birmingham CCCS's annual publication and the Centre's recent closure, it is fair to say that cultural studies' gender blindness changed markedly. What some of those changes have been and what others may lie ahead was the speculative brief presented to the panel.

Jane Roscoe

When first asked to join this panel I was surprised, because not many people would label me as a feminist critic. I probably wouldn't describe myself like that -- not because I am frightened of the `f' word, but it's not a label usually given to me or to the work that I usually do. It's not that I'm not interested in those sorts of debates or that I don't engage with them but I've never been put in that context. I'm going to focus, after a brief introduction, on issues around the industry, and look at what sort of impact feminism might have had on the industry and where things are at in terms of film makers and television practitioners.

I guess we think that the world has changed. When teaching young women in different university contexts, feminism is a concept many of them think is outmoded. They associate it with something their mothers did but not something that they do, not something they engage with; it's something from the past. `Girl power' has probably replaced feminism. If you ask young women what feminism means to them they shrug their shoulders, but they might start talking about girl power -- a kind of fuzzy concept which can include anything from a discussion about women in pop, or a certain style, through to women role models or women in powerful positions. …

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