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You've Come A Long Way, Baby

You've Come A Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture

Edited by Lilly J. Goren
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    You've Come A Long Way, Baby
    Book Description:

    The landmark 2008 presidential and vice presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin brought the role of women in American leadership into sharper focus than ever before. These women and others such as Nancy Pelosi and Katie Couric who are successful in traditionally male-dominated fields, demonstrate how women's roles have changed in the last thirty years. In the past, the nightly news was anchored by male journalists, presidential cabinets were composed solely of male advisors, and a female presidential candidate was an idea for the distant future, but the efforts of dedicated reformers have changed the social landscape. The empowerment of women is not limited to the political sphere, but is also echoed by the portrayal of women in film, television, magazines, and literature. You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture investigates the role of popular culture in women's lives. Framed by discussions of contemporary feminism, the volume examines gender in relation to sexuality, the workplace, consumerism, fashion, politics, and the beauty industry. In analyzing societal depictions of women, editor Lilly J. Goren and an impressive list of contributors illustrate how media reflects and shapes the feminine sense of power, identity, and the daily challenges of the twenty-first century. Along with a discussion of women in politics, various contributors examine a range of gender-related issues from modern motherhood and its implications for female independence to the roles of women and feminism in pop music. In addition, Natalie Fuehrer Taylor outlines the evolution of women's magazines from Ladies' Home Journal to Cosmopolitan. The impact of television and literature on body image issues is also explored by Linda Beail, who draws on trendy chick lit phenomena such as Gossip Girl and Sex and the City, and Emily Askew, who analyzes the effects of image transformation in programs such as The Swan and Extreme Makeover. As comprehensive as it is accessible, You've Come a Long Way, Baby is a practical guide to understanding modern gender roles. In tracing the different ways in which femininity is constructed and viewed, the book demonstrates how women have reclaimed traditionally domestic activities that include knitting, gardening, and cooking, as well as feminine symbols such as Barbie dolls, high heels, and lipstick. Though the demand for and pursuit of gender equality opened many doors, the contributors reveal that fictional women's roles are often at odds with the daily experiences of most women. By employing an open approach rather than adhering to a single, narrow theory, You've Come a Long Way, Baby appeals not only to scholars and students of gender studies but to anyone interested in confronting the struggles and celebrating the achievements of women in modern society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7340-5
    Subjects: Political Science, 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-x)
  4. Introduction: Feminism, Front and Center
    (pp. 1-12)
    Linda Beail and Lilly J. Goren

    It was an interesting experience to be working on this book during the 2008 primary season. Whatever one’s politics, the historic runs of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination led to quite a few conversations about both race and gender in the United States, especially as culturally consumed through the media. This primary season prompted more public discussions about second- and third-wave feminism, postfeminism, the absence of feminism, misogyny, gender, racial and sexual discrimination, and so forth than have been heard in quite some time.

    As Senator Clinton concluded her campaign, an explicit...

  5. Part I: Feminism and the Idea and Constraints of Freedom

    • 1 Extreme Makeover and the Classical Logic of Transformation
      (pp. 15-34)
      Emily Askew

      Though ultimately liberated by postmodernity’s recognition that identity is discursive, replacing the tyrannical, univocal, modernist “self,” I still find myself nostalgic, at times, for essentialism. I notice that I am reflexively attracted to reports that individuals have uncovered, recovered, or discovered their “true” selves through therapy, exercise, diet, meditation, and now plastic surgery.

      As a white feminist theologian, this same transient, reflexive impulse to embrace an illusory wholeness appears when I hear contemporary theologians reiterate, without irony, the ancient formula that Jesus suffered on the cross at God’s will, for the atonement of human sinfulness, through which we are restored...

    • 2 Smart, Funny, and Romantic? Femininity and Feminist Gestures in Chick Flicks
      (pp. 35-52)
      Laurie Naranch

      In looking at “chick flicks,” films marketed primarily to women, I wonder what new popular fantasies are being produced and what this reveals about how we see women, feminist goals, and heterosexual romance today. As a romantic genre, “chick lit” and chick flicks track the romantic and professional travails of their main female characters as they negotiate typically heterosexual romance, friendship, and professional challenges.¹ Though often dismissed as light or irrelevant, such popular romance offers an important location to notice gendered expectations of women and men with personal and political resonances. Driving this chapter are recurrent feminist questions asked of...

    • 3 From Madonna to Lilith and Back Again: Women, Feminists, and Pop Music in the United States
      (pp. 53-70)
      Rachel Henry Currans-Sheehan

      During the Dixie Chicks’ Top of the World Tour in 2003, while in London, lead singer Natalie Maines made the off-the-cuff comment that they were ashamed the president of the United States was from Texas to express their opposition to the Iraq war. Immediately, many country music station veejays and the conservative right media put the women on the spot, asking them to retract their statement. Instead of succumbing to the request, the women stood their ground. Country music stations and their fan base staged an all-out war, boycotting Dixie Chicks concerts and ceasing all airtime for the musicians.¹ They...

  6. Part II: Housewives and Presidents:: Cultural Understandings of Television Dramas

    • 4 The Reformer and Her Work: Transgression, Alienation, and Feminine Identity in the Police Procedural
      (pp. 73-92)
      Peter Josephson and Rebecca Colton Josephson

      In the summer of 2005, Turner Network Television aired the first season of a new police procedural drama,The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson. The series departs from earlier ventures that featured women working as police detectives. InThe Closer, the woman leads. Johnson is an outsider who is brought in to reform the community. In part, the series returns us to the trope of the “foreign founder,”¹ but the particularity of this foreigner makes her founding distinctive. She is not only the alien reformer; she is also a twenty-first-century American woman. Two years later the...

    • 5 The City, the Suburbs, and Stars Hollow: The Return of the Evening Soap Opera
      (pp. 93-114)
      Linda Beail

      In the mid-1990s, “Must-See TV” meant sitcoms likeSeinfeld, Frasier,andFriendson NBC. These comedies dominated the ratings and the zeitgeist with their own blend of quirky characters and ironic humor. Soon after, reality TV became the hottest new genre of programming, beginning with MTV’sThe Real Worldand exploding into the popular consciousness with theSurvivorphenomenon in 1999. Television viewers were inundated with everything from real people looking for romance (The Bachelor) to competitions for stardom in a variety of professions and activities, such as fashion design (Project Runway), business (The Apprentice), and, of course, pop music...

    • 6 Why Are All the Presidents Men? Televisual Presidents and Patriarchy
      (pp. 115-134)
      Linda Horwitz and Holly Swyers

      Is America ready for a female president?¹ This question was asked repeatedly during the primary season preceding the 2008 presidential election.² At first glance, asking the question seems rather benign. There has never been a female U.S. president. Women have long been constrained by their gender in many fields. The fact that the question is being addressed extensively on television might even be viewed positively. It implies that the question is imaginable in a way it was not as recently as a few decades ago.

      At the same time, the question of America’s readiness for female leadership has encouraged the...

  7. Part III: The Mommy Brigade

    • 7 Baby Lit: Feminist Response to the Cult of True Motherhood
      (pp. 137-158)
      Melissa Buis Michaux and Leslie Dunlap

      In her assessment of the impact of feminism, historian Linda Gordon wrote, “The greatest accomplishments are the least tangible. They are in the way women speak, walk, dress—in the way so many men now change diapers with aplomb…. It would be difficult to find any area of life unchanged by the women’s movement.”¹ But has feminism changed the way we mother or talk about motherhood, given the rise of “New Momism” and reports of an opt-out revolution?² Fathers change more diapers, yes, but women still do a disproportionate share of caregiving, even as they pursue their own careers. Despite...

    • 8 Supermom: The Age of the Pregnant Assassin
      (pp. 159-176)
      Lilly J. Goren

      Two hit films from 2007 feature, at their center, pregnant women in nontraditional contexts.JunoandKnocked Upfind their leading characters, Ellen Page’s Juno and Katherine Heigl’s Allison Scott, unexpectedly pregnant and unmarried. They are only the most recent cultural presentations of what it means to be single and pregnant.¹JunoandKnocked Upwere box-office hits, andJunowas nominated for and won a variety of awards; they counterbalanced a year of otherwise violent and existential films. They also continue what has become a rather endemic cultural focus on female reproduction, especially in nontraditional contexts.

      Television sitcoms and...

    • 9 The Mommy Track versus Having It All: The Reality of the Modern Workplace
      (pp. 177-198)
      Julia Wilson

      A flexible schedule with on-site day care. Paid time to visit the doctor, to attend a parent-teacher conference or a dance recital. A boss who understands when little Sophie is ill and must be picked up from day care. Time to care for the newest (and tiniest) member of the family. This is the dream of the “family-friendly” workplace, one in which working parents can easily balance the demands of their jobs with the realities of family life.

      But the reality does not match the rhetoric. To be sure, some high-profile organizations offer such provisions, but they employ only a...

  8. Part IV: What Do Women Want?

    • 10 It Was Chick Lit All Along: The Gendering of a Genre
      (pp. 201-214)
      Cecilia Konchar Farr

      The past ten years have seen the flowering of a literary genre labeled “chick lit.” Rooted in consumerism and nurtured by a certain neofeminist consciousness, this rose-colored phenomenon has captured the rapt attention of publishers, readers, and critics. In due time a (pink) collection of scholarly essays on the topic,Chick Lit: The New Woman’s Fiction,was published, announcing the significance of what the editors call “a form of women’s fiction,” a fresh niche in the history of the novel.¹ A fascinating aspect of this collection, and of the analysis of chick lit in general, is its divided consciousness. Chick...

    • 11 The Personal Is Political: Women’s Magazines for the “I’m-Not-a-Feminist-But” Generation
      (pp. 215-232)
      Natalie Fuehrer Taylor

      These days, the 1950s suburban housewife, culled from the pages of women’s magazines by Betty Friedan, is a familiar figure in popular culture. Despite her beauty and her middle-class ease, she is restless and yearning for “something more.” InThe Feminine MystiqueFriedan urges women to resist the false promises of femininity imposed on them by popular culture. To find human fulfillment, Friedan argues, women must leave the comfort of their modern homes for paid employment. Human fulfillment can be found in autonomy and in public achievement.¹ Traditional notions of femininity only impede women’s success in the public realm. The...

    • 12 The Money, Honey: The Rise of the Female Anchor, the Female Reporter, and Women in the News Business
      (pp. 233-252)
      Mary McHugh

      On September 5, 2006, after a summer full of listening tours, gossip columns, and media hype, Katie Couric took over theCBS Evening News. Female news anchors and reporters have become commonplace among local, cable, and other network news programs, but this was the first time in U.S. history that a woman became the sole anchor of an evening network news broadcast. The legion of famous network news anchors—Chet Huntley, John Chancellor, David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, men that generations of average Americans had turned to for their evening news—now included a woman....

  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 253-260)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 261-264)
  11. Index
    (pp. 265-290)