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Sex and Money: Feminism and Political Economy in the Media

Eileen R. Meehan
Ellen Riordan
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Sex and Money
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking volume uses the media to show how questions of gender and economics are inextricably linked to issues of power in Western capitalist societies. Integrating political economy and feminism, it offers a new understanding of communication at the personal, experiential, institutional, and structural levels-and exposes all the subtle and complex ways in which sex and money are sutured into individuals’ daily lives. Contributors: Robin Andersen, Ellen Balka, Amy Beer, Carolyn M. Byerly, Ramona Curry, Fred Fejes, Nancy Hauserman, Michèle Martin, Stana Martin, Lisa McLaughlin, Roopali Mukherjee, Angela R. Record, Karen Ross, H. Leslie Steeves, Angharad N. Valdivia, Janet Wasko, and Justin Wyatt.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9273-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Ellen Riordan and Eileen R. Meehan

    Controversies over gender and economics have produced some remarkable sights in the past twenty years: antiabortion fundamentalists joining with prochoice feminists to picket movie theaters showing pornographic films; fundamentalist Republicans calling for federal intervention in the private lives of gay Republicans; fiscal conservatives decrying public funding of abortions for poor women and female soldiers, yet arguing passionately that their own rights to abortion be protected; white, middle-class men attacking affirmative action for giving jobs to white, middle-class women.

    These are but a few examples in which allegiances that seem easy become difficult, in which oppositions that appear unchangeable shift dramatically....

  5. I. Theorizing the Connections:: Sex, Money, Media

    • 1. Intersections and New Directions: On Feminism and Political Economy
      (pp. 3-15)
      Ellen Riordan

      The current state of media and entertainment megamergers demands a closer analysis of the economic aspects organizing the logic of global communication industries. Political economists who analyze communications and media have suggested this for years (Golding and Murdock 1991; Garnham 1979); industry scholars have suggested this, too (Bagdikian 1997; Compaine 1982). Feminist media scholars, however, have been more reticent to venture into the field of media economics, industry analysis, and political economy; rarely do these studies examine capitalism, labor, and class as shaping women’s experiences (McLaughlin 1997). And yet much feminist communications research is critical in orientation, looking to free...

    • 2. Feminist Theory and Political Economy: Toward a Friendly Alliance
      (pp. 16-29)
      H. Leslie Steeves and Janet Wasko

      Casual observation suggests that political economists and feminists have much in common. Both groups promote theory and activism addressing distributions of power and patterns of inequality and oppression in society. Political economists focus on these issues in the context of capitalism. Feminists are interested in all contexts, but certainly must consider the role of capitalism, which has spread globally. Statistics clearly show that women wield less power than men in capitalist political-economic systems and reap fewer material rewards as well.

      For instance, all over the world female wages are lower than male wages, and unemployment is higher among women than...

    • 3. Something Old, Something New: Lingering Moments in the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism
      (pp. 30-46)
      Lisa McLaughlin

      For a number of years now, the battlelines have been drawn between cultural studies and critical political economy. By the time that the debaters have finished hurling epithets and the spectators have chosen sides, it is easy to forget that, since the inception of British cultural studies, a number of scholars have recognized the importance of a steady stream of systematic dialogue between the approaches (Meehan 1986; Mosco 1996). An interesting development in recent years is that allusions to feminist sites of conflict appear to have become a vehicle for disagreement, as cultural studies and political economy are described as...

  6. II. In the Public Sphere:: Work, Technology, Law

    • 4. An Unsuitable Technology for a Woman? Communication as Circulation
      (pp. 49-59)
      Michèle Martin

      “Women’s use of men’s technology would come to no good end,” said telephone developers and so-called experts in the early expansion of telephony (Marvin 1988, 23). For them, the telephone was too serious a technology to be used as women would for what men called frivolous matters. Many feminist studies on new information technologies adopt a position close to that of early telephone developers and claim that technologies such as the Internet embody male culture and hence are hostile to women. Are communication technologies gendered? My previous research shows that who can have access to and who can determine the...

    • 5. The Invisibility of the Everyday: New Technology and Women’s Work
      (pp. 60-74)
      Ellen Balka

      In the small community of Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, a museum chronicles the glory days of telecommunications in Newfoundland. It marks the site where the transatlantic cable first reached land in North America, which led to prosperous jobs. Although women represented at least half of the telegraph operators in Newfoundland telegraph stations between 1893 and 1896 (Bradbrook 1980), historic accounts of Newfoundland’s telecommunications industry made little mention of the sex of workers when it came to the economics of the industry. This pattern reflects larger patterns of the omission of sex as a variable of analysis in the political economy of...

    • 6. The Political Economy of Women’s Employment in the Information Sector
      (pp. 75-87)
      Stana Martin

      Prior to Machlup’s publication ofProduction and Distributionin 1962, economists traditionally divided the economy into three parts: primary/extractive, secondary/industrial, and tertiary/services. Machlup was the first to conceptually carve out a fourth sector: the knowledge/information sector. The Industrial Revolution largely shifted the U.S. economy from a primary/extractive economy to a secondary/industrial economy. The industrial economy was characterized by two factors: (1) the majority of the nation’s wealth was produced in manufacturing, and (2) the majority of the civilian labor force was employed in industrial jobs. Today, however, much of the U.S. national wealth derives from the production, distribution, and manipulation...

    • 7. Sexual Harassment as an Economic Concern: Swedish and American Coverage of Astra
      (pp. 88-99)
      Nancy Hauserman

      This chapter uses allegations of sexual harassment against Astra USA to link two important topics: sexual harassment and the power of the media as a cultural influence. It considers how the media contribute both to the condemnation and prevention of sexual harassment and to its persistence in an attempt to further our understanding of the underlying problem of sexual harassment and the cultural descriptions and manifestations of sexual harassment.

      Relying primarily on two U.S. newspapers, two Swedish newspapers, and an international business newspaper published in Britain, the chapter focuses on various conversations about sexual harassment in the print media and...

    • 8. Single Moms, Quota Queens, and the Model Majority: Putting “Women” to Work in the California Civil Rights Initiative
      (pp. 100-111)
      Roopali Mukherjee

      I begin this chapter with the foregoing quotes to draw attention to the ways in which the category of “women” and representational claims on their behalf have performed subtle yet significant discursive work in recent public debates over affirmative action policies in the United States. In particular, I am interested in the ways in which these statements illuminate the operation of the public policy process as a powerful site for the ideological construction of race and gender. While scholarship in media studies has amply demonstrated that preferred constructions of race and gender identities are fixed in specific ways in popular...

    • 9. Selling Women (Down the River): Gendered Relations and the Political Economy of Broadcast News
      (pp. 112-129)
      Karen Ross

      This chapter is concerned with the relationship between sex (gender), politics (agenda), and the economy (money) and uses the particular nexus of women and broadcast news as a way to explore the ways in which news media’s “treatment” of women in news domains—where women are objects of news interest (selling sex) or else rendered invisible (ignoring women news consumers)—and the experience of women working in news media organizations themselves (gendered economic relations) are each the products of a world system of patriarchal capitalism whose globalizing tentacles (see, for example, Herman and McChesney 1997) currently threaten the small gains...

    • 10. Gender and the Political Economy of Newsmaking: A Case Study of Human Rights Coverage
      (pp. 130-144)
      Carolyn M. Byerly

      History is replete with evidence that those who control the media in effect control the content of the ideas that those media produce and disseminate. In that context, neither Karl Marx nor Susan B. Anthony¹—two of the earliest to critique the owner-media relationship—was particularly revolutionary in their observations. Their central concerns, however, are as relevant today as they were in the nineteenth century. Mass media ownership for 150 years has tended to be corporate, elite, and male. In these contemporary times, we have Rupert Murdoch, Michael Eisner, and other powerful media magnates to remind us that owning more...

  7. III. In the Private Sphere:: Entertainment, Identity, Consumption

    • 11. Weighing the Transgressive Star Body of Shelley Duvall
      (pp. 147-163)
      Justin Wyatt

      Patricia Mellencamp’s provocative musings draw attention to the paucity of film scholarship addressing the intersection of film, feminism, and industry. However, as she suggests, the scholarship in the area of industry studies is complicated even further by perceived divisions between market and Marxist models, industrial and cultural models. The conjunction of cultural-and political-economic analysis has created a great deal of discussion within both disciplines. Indeed, as part of the heatedCritical Studies in Mass Communicationcolloquy on the dialogue between cultural studies and political economy, Graham Murdock (1995) suggests that political economy “mostly works at a structural level,” yet he...

    • 12. Periodical Pleasures: Magazines for U.S. Latinas
      (pp. 164-180)
      Amy Beer

      In October 1997EstylojoinedLatinaandModernain a group of new magazines targeting women defined by their ethnic consciousness as “U.S. Latinas.”¹ WhileVandidades ContinentalandCosmopolitan en Español,the best-selling Spanish-language women’s magazines, aim at Latin American women interested in the lifestyles of an international elite,Latina, Moderna,andEstylouse bilingual editorial and advertising to address women who see themselves as both “Latina” and “American.” A typical issue of each magazine includes profiles of successful Latinas; columns and stories tailored to Latinas on health, beauty, fashion, and careers; and articles on topics such as intercultural dating,...

    • 13. Born to Shop: Teenage Women and the Marketplace in the Postwar United States
      (pp. 181-195)
      Angela R. Record

      In 1947 Eugene Gilbert traveled from Chicago to New York to earn his fortune by defining and exploiting the untapped teenage market. By 1958 Gilbert had earned a reputation as a leader in his industry; he grossed between $500,000 and $1 million annually by selling teenage consumers as the next hot commodity. In 1945 he established Eugene Gilbert and Company, an umbrella organization dedicated to the research of teenage tastes and buying habits. Clients willing to pay for Gilbert’s information includedSeventeenmagazine, Simplicity dress patterns, Hollywood V-ette Vassarette bras, Mars candy, Hires soft drinks, and Royal typewriters. Gilbert’s syndicated...

    • 14. Advertising and the Political Economy of Lesbian/Gay Identity
      (pp. 196-208)
      Fred Fejes

      If the struggle for legal and social equality for lesbians and gay males is still being fiercely fought (and often lost), the struggle to treat them as full and equal citizens in the republic of postscarcity, postmodern hyperconsumption is all over but the shouting. The good guys (and some of the girls) won. While it is typical to think of lesbians and gay males in terms of their sexual identities, with their emergence in recent years as economic subjects—self-conscious identities produced within the structure of commodity relationships—they have achieved an equality far greater than that found in the...

    • 15. Gendering the Commodity Audience: Critical Media Research, Feminism, and Political Economy
      (pp. 209-222)
      Eileen R. Meehan

      Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, media scholars sorted the field into the categories of “mainstream” versus “critical” research. These adjectives instantly communicated where one stood in terms of the root assumptions and valuations undergirding one’s work—as well as which side you rooted for at the staged debates where administrative researchers like Elihu Katz or Wilbur Schramm debated some representative of the opposition—perhaps James Carey, or Herbert Schiller, or Stuart Hall (Meehan 1999; see Poole and Schiller 1981). At the time, the administrative paradigm so dominated the field that its practitioners often assumed it was the only way to...

    • 16. The Thrill Is Gone: Advertising, Gender Representation, and the Loss of Desire
      (pp. 223-239)
      Robin Andersen

      The designers of commercial culture have long been using sex to make a sale. We are enjoined to buy, on a daily basis, a vast array of products because a connection has been forged between them and sex. That simple proposition, selling sex, is in fact not so simple, however, because it implies a staggering amount of expertise, psychoanalytic theory, research, development, and of course money, all of which have been directed toward attempting to commodify that complicated mix of biology and culture that constitutes human sexuality.

      But it is not enough to assess the representations of sexuality, or any...

    • 17. Xuxa at the Borders of U.S. TV: Checked for Gender, Race, and National Identity
      (pp. 240-256)
      Ramona Curry and Angharad N. Valdivia

      Except for a few English comedy shows, the occasional international film, and some English-dubbed Japanese “anime” cartoons that currently play on Saturday morning, virtually all of the vast quantity of television programming available to U.S. audiences via broadcast and cable is “Made in U.S.A.” This virtual national programming monopoly stands in sharp contrast to the situation for many other national television markets, which play a mix of regional, national, and international fare, whereby “international” programming most often translates as U.S.-produced TV shows and movies with dubbed soundtracks. Thus, U.S.-made programming not only monopolizes U.S. TV screens but also comprises a...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-290)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 291-294)
  10. Index
    (pp. 295-312)