Academic journal article Outskirts

The Unpalatable-Palatable: Celebrity Feminism in the Australian Mainstream Media

Academic journal article Outskirts

The Unpalatable-Palatable: Celebrity Feminism in the Australian Mainstream Media

Article excerpt

Introduction

In Australia, interaction between feminism and the media is not a new phenomenon; however, we are now witnessing a proliferation of feminist commentary. This escalation of voices speaking about feminism and feminist issues is occurring, in large part, due to the possibilities generated by changes in the broader mediasphere. Nevertheless, while there seems to be feminist debate occurring at every turn, to what extent does this reflect greater representation and diversity of feminist thought and activity? In this article we examine one particular positioning of celebrity feminism in Australia through an analysis of breakfast television segments, and the participants, on commercial networks. In 2014, Kochie's Angels on Sunrise (Channel 7) and The Grill on Today (Nine Network) both offered all female panels-headed by the male hosts of the programs-that primarily discussed contemporary issues considered to be of interest to women. By 2016, panels on both programs had been restructured to include male panelists. These segments offer highly visible examples of how popular feminism is currently situated in Australia, particularly through the conduit of celebrity feminism, for mainstream audiences. In this article, we examine the dynamic and contested site of celebrity feminism-how celebrity feminism is defined, who gets to be a celebrity feminist, and the implications these have for directing feminist ideas and actions. Crucially, the mainstream media demands celebrity feminists be palatable insofar as they are required to embody acceptable postfeminist subjectivities. In contrast, unpalatable celebrity feminists are outliers and are viewed as more difficult or dogmatic. However, as we demonstrate, the distinction between palatable and unpalatable celebrity feminists is not uncomplicated or binaristic; instead, this analysis reflects a disrupted and disruptive state of flux.

Celebrity feminism

Wicke (1998) coined the term 'celebrity feminist' and was the first to theorise the concept critically. She argues that celebrity feminism 'is a new locus for feminist discourse, feminist politics, and feminist conflicts, both conflicts internal to feminism and feminism's many struggles with antifeminist forces' (1998, 387). Thus, feminism is embedded within everyday practices at multiple levels and this includes the cultural domain which comprises celebrity culture. Celebrities are key conduits through which feminism is mediated to larger audiences. Moreover, many people form their ideas about feminism according to existing frameworks that are accessible through celebrity and the media (Skeggs 1997). If, as Hollows and Moseley (2006) contend, feminist consciousness occurs for many people through how feminism is signified in popular culture then celebrity feminism, broadly situated in mainstream and online media cultures, is now more relevant than ever, and it can add important levels of texture to feminist agenda. Therefore, as Wicke (1998, 386) argues, to dismiss the complex value and relationship of celebrity feminists to broader (and arguably more complex) feminist politics is to 'fail to take into account the most materially evident new circumstance grounding feminism'. At present, this includes the ever-expanding mediasphere that requires celebrity feminists to operate across multiple modalities that include not only mainstream media platforms such as media including print, radio, and television, but also communicative technologies within media culture such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs to maximise their visibility and reach. It also equates celebrity feminism with the brand building of the self as a commodity to be marketed. To date, feminist media studies and celebrity studies have yet to engage fully with the emerging and evolving public subject that is the feminist celebrity (Taylor 2014b). Although some scholarly work has been conducted on celebrity and/or popular media feminism in Australia (e. …

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