4: Real women

Once an oppressed group becomes aware of its cultural as well as
political oppression, and identifies oppressive myths and stereotypes -
and in the case of women, female images that simply express male
fantasies — it becomes the concern of that group to expose the
oppression of such images and replace their falsity, lies and escapist
illusions with reality and the truth. (Gledhill 1984: 20–1)

Women - 52 per cent of the world's population - are barely present in
the faces seen, the voices heard, the opinions represented in the news.
The 'mirror' of the world provided by the news is like a circus mirror.
It distorts reality, inflating the importance of certain groups, while
pushing others to the margins. (Gallagher, Who Makes the News? Global
Media Monitoring Project 2005,
www.whomakesthenews.org)

'Real' women are as socially constructed, as much the product of
discursive practices, as the sign 'woman' in the visual image. (Rakow
and Kranich 1996: 664)


Women and 'the real'

The notion of 'the real' is of course as problematic as that of its presumed opposite, 'the image', discussed in Chapter 2. Yet it, too, has been crucial in the formation of a feminist media studies and in any exploration of the relationship of women to the mass media. The two, indeed, are often found together, as in this plea from Julienne Dickey in her chapter on advertising images: 'where are the alternative images of real women with which we might identify?' (1987: 75). Thus, if one of the central concerns of early second-wave feminism was with the «¿representation of women in the fantasy images circulated by the media, a second was with the way in which real women were actually represented - or more accurately, not represented. In research studies spanning the past thirty years, the overvisibility of women as sexualised spectacle has been contrasted with their virtual omission from those genres seen as having a privileged relation to

-84-

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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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