Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women's Movement since 1970

By Bonnie J. Dow | Go to book overview

have no sense of humor; I do believe that we are rarely represented as having senses of humor. Designing Women offered representations of funny women; not just funny because they deprecated themselves or because they functioned as comic objects, but women funny on behalf of feminism.46

In the next chapter I discuss Murphy Brown, another posfeminist era sitcom, and one that seems to me to be a reversal of these positive aspects of Designing Women. That the two shows were broadcast on the same network on the same night of the week for a number of years is another example of television's ability to maintain a profitable tension between progress and perseveration, both within and across programming.


Notes
1.
For example, a Time cover story in 1989 that asks the question "is there a future for feminism?" claims that women's dislike for the feminist label indicates that feminism "is a victim of its own resounding achievements. Its triumphs--in getting women into the workplace, in elevating their status in society and in shattering the 'feminine mystique' that defined female success only in terms of being a wife and a mother--have rendered it obsolete, at least in its original form and rhetoric" ( Wallis, 1989, p. 82).
2.
For examples of second-wave feminist arguments about these issues, see the following essays, all in Radical Feminism ( Koedt, Levine, and Rapone, 1973): Judy Syfers , "Why I want a Wife"; Jo Freeman, "The Building of the Gilded Cage"; Betsy Warrior, "Housework: Slavery or Labor of Love"; Sheila Cronan, "Marriage"; and WBAI Consciousness-Raising Group, "Men and Violence." Also see Pat Mainardi, "The Politics of Housework," and Beverly Jones, "The Dynamics of Marriage and Motherhood," in Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement ( Morgan, 1970).
3.
Ruth Sidel's book, On Her Own: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American Dream ( 1990), based on interviews with more than 150 young women in the late 1980s, is an insightful description and analysis of postfeminist attitudes toward success, family, and feminism, and reveals themes very similar to those Bolotin describes.
4.
Stacey ( 1983) actually terms the trend she is discussing as "the new conservative feminism" rather than "postfeminism." She wishes to distinguish writings such as Friedan's from antifeminism but feels the term postfeminism is too broad (see p. 579, fn. 3). With hindsight that Stacey did not have when she wrote in 1983, I believe that the profamily feminism she describes became a key part of postfeminism in the 1980s. Moreover, based on her later work with Deborah Rosenfelt ( 1987), I think she might agree.
5.
Brenner's ( 1993) discussion of the changes in NOW is illustrative of this process. She notes that despite swells in membership during important national feminist battles (such as the ERA and the Webster Supreme Court decision), "NOW's activist base remains very small relative to the total membership. Members can be mobilized for single events or actions around highly visible issues, such as the massive demonstrations for abortion rights held between 1989 and 1992. Otherwise, the relationship between members and organizations is similar

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