3: Narrating femininity

Identity is formed at the unstable point where the 'unspeakable' stories
of subjectivity meet the narratives of history, of a culture. (Hall 1987:
44)

[I]t is through narrativity that we come to know, understand, and
make sense of the social world … [A] 11 of us come to be who we are
(however ephemeral, multiple and changing) by locating ourselves
(usually unconsciously) in social narratives rarely of our own making.
(Somers and Gibson 1994: 58–9, original emphasis)

A central concern within feminist media studies has been the narratives of femininity produced within cultural texts, and the ways in which these are bound up with, and in some ways construct, our sense of ourselves as women: that is, as individuals whose embodied, subjective and social experience is fundamentally gendered. If, as Hall and Somers and Gibson suggest above, it is through such narratives that our identities are formed and re-formed, then a further question for feminism concerns the space which might be found within these narratives 'rarely of our own making' for agency, that is, for a movement towards change or transformation. In this chapter I shall explore some of these feminist analyses, the theoretical frameworks on which they draw, and the difficulties they find in exploring possibilities for change. I shall then go on to examine more broadly theories of narrative and identity which suggest some of the reasons for, and possible responses to, these difficulties.


Romance and the feminine

Feminist work on mainstream narratives which claim to speak to and about women, to inhabit a 'women's world', and to offer positions of identification for their female consumers has ranged across a number of media forms. Throughout this work, however, we can discern a recurrent problematic and an attempt to establish how, given the nature of this problematic, we can find space for female agency and/or social

-55-

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Women, Feminism and Media
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Fixing into Images 23
  • 3: Narrating Femininity 55
  • 4: Real Women 84
  • 5: Technologies of Difference 113
  • 6: Conclusion: Everyday Readings 145
  • Bibliography 152
  • Index 169
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