Unruly Girls, Unrepentant Mothers: Redefining Feminism on Screen

By Kathleen Rowe Karlyn | Go to book overview

1
Postfeminism and
the Third Wave
TITANIC

It will take a while before feminists succeed
enough so that feminism is not perceived as
a gigantic mother who is held responsible
for almost everything, while the patriarchy
receives terminal gratitude for the small fa-
vors it bestows. —GLORIA STEINEM

ONE OF THE MOST perplexing issues in any discussion of contemporary feminism is why young women disavow a social movement intended to benefit them. In the late 1990s, despite the ascendancy of Girl Culture, feminism became an easy target for women who did not feel that they had benefited from the highly touted economic boom of the decade, and who in fact were working harder than ever to get by, with less time to enjoy the rewards of domesticity and family life. At the same time, while most young women agreed with feminism’s basic principles, such as equal pay for equal work, young women of all races and social classes appeared to be uncomfortable with the word “feminism.” They had little knowledge of the history of the woman’s movement, or of the restrictions on women’s lives that fueled it. Mad Men, AMC’s 2007 hit about Madison Avenue advertising executives, bitingly depicts the humiliations and miseries suffered by women old enough to remember the sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism of WASP culture on the cusp of the social upheavals of the 1960s. But the series’s unflinching

-25-

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