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Watching Women's Liberation, 1970

Watching Women's Liberation, 1970: Feminism's Pivotal Year on the Network News

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Watching Women's Liberation, 1970
    Book Description:

    In 1970, ABC, CBS, and NBC--the "Big Three" of the pre-cable television era--discovered the feminist movement. From the famed sit-in at Ladies Home Journal to multi-part feature stories on the movement's ideas and leaders, nightly news broadcasts covered feminism more than in any year before or since, bringing women's liberation into American homes. In Watching Women's Liberation, 1970: Feminism's Pivotal Year on the Network News , Bonnie J. Dow uses case studies of key media events to delve into the ways national TV news mediated the emergence of feminism's second wave. First legitimized as a big story by print media, the feminist movement gained broadcast attention as the networks eagerness to get in on the action was accompanied by feminists efforts to use national media for their own purposes. Dow chronicles the conditions that precipitated feminism's new visibility and analyzes the verbal and visual strategies of broadcast news discourses that tried to make sense of the movement. Groundbreaking and packed with detail, Watching Women's Liberation, 1970 shows how feminism went mainstream--and what it gained and lost on the way.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09648-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: 1970
    (pp. 1-28)

    On September 7, 1968, roughly one hundred women from several states convened on Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk to protest the Miss America Pageant. They passed out a ten-point press release titled “No More Miss America!” (1970) that was created by a group calling itself New York Radical Women (NYRW). The document outlined their objections to the annual event and all it represented, beginning with its perpetuation of “The Degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie Symbol” (p. 584). The protestors marched, they carried signs, they sang, they performed guerilla theater (crowning a live sheep Miss America and parading a life-size Miss America puppet in chains...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Movement Meets the Press: The 1968 Miss America Pageant Protest
    (pp. 29-51)

    The Miss America Pageant was the first or second most popular television event for eight of ten years in the 1960s (Watson and Martin, 2004). In many families, mine included, watching it was an annual ritual, and presidential candidate Richard Nixon commented in 1968 that it was the only program that his daughters Tricia and Julie had been allowed to stay up late to watch (Cohen, 1988). The pageant’s visibility as a recurring referendum on American womanhood made it an ideal target for feminist intervention, as the members of NYRW no doubt realized when they searched for an outlet for...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Movement Makes the news: Network News Feature Stories on Women‘s Liberation in 1970
    (pp. 52-94)

    In a February 9, 1969, article in theNew York Times Magazine, under the title “The Women of the Revolution, 1969,” writer Peter Babcox opened with a vivid description of the 1968 Miss America Pageant protest. He also detailed reactions to the protest, including a letter received by Robin Morgan that read, “Dear Ugly: What right have you to disrupt the Miss America pageant? Just because you are a frustrated female who, because of her homely face, can never have a chance, doesn’t give you the right to cause trouble. Only an insane person would do a thing like this”...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Magazines and the Marketing of the Movement: The March 1970 Ladies’ Home Journal Protest
    (pp. 95-119)

    On January 26, 1970, a coalition of leftist women staged a takeover of the underground New Left newspaperRAT Subterranean Newsin New York City. Founded in 1968,RATwas an important voice in radical politics in New York, but it was controlled by men and displayed an increasing emphasis on whatRATwriter Robin Morgan called “‘cultural nationalism’ for young white males: rock music coverage, pornography articles, and sex-wanted ads” (1978, p. 115). Leftist women who wrote for the paper had grown weary ofRAT’s sexist tone and content and with its treatment of women writers as second-class citizens....

  8. CHAPTER 4 Fixing the Meaning of the Movement: ABC’s May 1970 “Women’s Liberation” Documentary
    (pp. 120-143)

    Early in May 1970, a secretary atPlayboymagazine discovered a recent memo by publisher Hugh Hefner in which he addressed a controversy amongPlayboy’s editorial staff, several of whom were women, over an article the magazine had commissioned on women’s liberation. Not yet published, the article focused on the extremism of groups such as Redstockings and W.I.T.C.H. It “warned that the revolution’s ‘battleground will be the business, home, and bed of every man in the country,”’ and it was perceived by some editors as insufficiently balanced and objective because it was overfocused on the “radical fringe” of women’s liberation...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Making a Spectacle of the Movement: The August 26, 1970, Women’s Strike for Equality
    (pp. 144-167)

    On August 10, 1970, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ERA by a wide margin, and each of the three network evening newscasts dutifully reported the event. The stories were strikingly similar. Each included, for instance, a quotation from a supporter—Representative Martha Griffiths from Michigan—and from an adversary—Representative Emanuel (“Manny”) Celler of New York. Griffiths was a logical choice to speak for the amendment; she had pushed hard to include the prohibition of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she had led the discharge petition drive that finally freed...

  10. CHAPTER 6 After 1970: Second-Wave Feminism, Mediated Popular Memory, and Gloria Steinem
    (pp. 168-200)

    When 1970 began, national television news was just turning its attention to women’s liberation, playing catch-up with the story that elite print media had been intermittently covering for close to two years. The multiplicity of reports the networks subsequently produced made the movement into a nationally visible phenomenon in a way that was only possible through television. The narratives they offered about the constituencies, the convictions, and the consequences of women’s liberation were distinguished by their initial variety as well as by their underlying stability that became more apparent as the year proceeded.

    Early stories, such as much of the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 201-214)
  12. References
    (pp. 215-230)
  13. Index
    (pp. 231-240)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-242)