Academic journal article Journalism History

Challenging Images of Women in the Media: Reinventing Womens Lives

Academic journal article Journalism History

Challenging Images of Women in the Media: Reinventing Womens Lives

Article excerpt

Carilli, Theresa, and Jane Campbell, eds. Challenging Images of Women in the Media: Reinventing Women's Lives. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2012. 199 pp. $65 hardback; $32.99 paperback and eBook.

This slender volume contains fifteen well-executed essays that critique mass media's treatment of women by contending it offers a series of confused, if not harmful, messages pertaining to gender. In a brief introduction the editors say that women worldwide remain confronted by media portrayals that frequently present them as commodities in a global culture driven by profit-seeking. The editors begin with a brief overview that one wishes were longer, particularly in view of its chief assertion that media portrayals generally are becoming worse rather than better. The most positive note comes in a short commentary by Carilli that ends the book. It calls attention to the careers of three lesbian comediennes, Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jane Lynch, who are credited with helping diminish homophobia by presenting lesbians as likable, normal individuals.

With its contents divided into five sections-Reinscribing Women's Roles, Political Issues, Westernizing Women, Political Individuals and Reflective Essays-the volume presents feminist research utilizing a variety of methodologies including textual and discourse analysis. Individual authors are identified in brief biographies as professors of communication and Ph.D. students. More than half of the essays deal with depictions of women outside the United States.

The book's spectrum ranges widely across media. There is a study of dieting women in Special K advertisements that the authors find instill a diminished sense of feminine self-worth. Another essay analyzes an online campaign in India to send pink Chaddi (panties) to the head of a moral policing group that claimed responsibility for attacks on young women partying inside a pub. As is often the case with an edited volume, some of the essays provide more trenchant commentary than others, but taken as a whole they make the point that women continue to be treated differently and less advantageously than men in the media.

While taking note of women's progress in the last half-century, the essays provide convincing evidence of subtle or not-so-subtle gender discrimination in contemporary media even though women in principle have achieved legal equality with men. Its global scope gives a somewhat miscellaneous character to the work, but this is offset by the strength of the international material. It includes studies of women in historical dramas on Japanese television, which glorify fictional, servile roles, as well as scrutiny of the covers of China's most influential women's magazine, Women of China, which promotes gendered consumption for the privileged. …

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