6: Conclusion: everyday readings

[T]he text-context dualism constructs a conceptual and methodolo-
gical gulf which is unbridgeable within the terms of any of the systems
of thought sustaining it (Kuhn 1988: 5)

It's not trae, I think, to say at the center of the encoding/decoding
model is the Cartesian subject; it's already a decentered subject. But
it's still a sort of cognitive decentered subject; it's still a subject with a
lot of interpretive codes going on. But it's not yet a subject with an
unconscious. When it becomes a subject with an unconscious in which
textuality also involves the pleasurable response, or the pleasurable
consumption of the text, it's very hard to know, empirically, how you
then go about finding that out in some observable, behaviourally
identifiable way. (Hall 1994: 273)

Interpreting interpretations is viciously circular. (Staiger 1993: 153)

In this final short chapter I want to return to an issue which has recurred throughout this book: that of the relationship between the meanings produced by and in the text and the meanings, uses and pleasures produced by and in its audience. Early research, as we have seen, straggled with the contradiction between the pleasures produced by popular genres aimed at women - the pleasures of self-recognition, of finding women placed centre-stage, of participation in a shared 'women's culture' - and the sense that these genres simultaneously act to contain women within the accepted bounds of femininity. Feminist researchers sought to establish female agency, to insist that women do not simply slip into what Beverley Skeggs (1997:102) calls the 'uninhabitable' position of femininity in their viewing of media texts. Yet, in seeking, in consequence, to revalue 'women's genres' as more complex, contradictory and potentially open textual spaces than ideological criticism had suggested, such research risked both an essentialising of the category 'woman' (women can be defined by and in the genres aimed at them), and a confinement of feminist research to what Charlotte Bransdon has called

-145-

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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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