Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How TV helped second wave feminism

For a long time, TV has been the only thing that most of the US has in common. In past decades especially, people would turn on the TV during weeknights after being at work and look forward to the shows they turned on to watch for an hour or half an hour. During the sixties and seventies, second wave feminism had exploded in the US. Second wave feminism looked for equality in more than just the voting booth, it demanded equality in jobs, schools, sports, marriage, divorce, sex, and so much more. The reading showed how the sixties sparked change by things like The Feminine Mystique being published and organizations like NOW (National Organization for Women) starting. I think TV was used to show how important improving women's rights were and how it was ok to be a feminist and what it meant.
Obviously, the television in the seventies wasn't perfect and still showed women in a certain light, but it was much different than in the 60's. The opening theme songs showed this change alone. For example, the opening theme song to "The Donna Reed Show" shows Donna Reed basically just doing stuff for everyone else in her family, it also features her husband being tended to left and right and then them just leaving her to an empty house where she'll stay the whole day. In the show she's also wearing a long conservative dress. In "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" the theme song focuses on showing Mary (who the show is named after) living in Minneapolis and having a career, it doesn't focus on the men and children in her life and shows that women can have a life outside of that. Across the US people watched both of these shows when they were on, and I think it shows how the US had changed and that it was ok. Having shows like "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" show that women can take a different path than the ones showed in "The Donna Reed Show' or shows like that. In the episode we watched for reading, Mary asks whys she isn't payed the same as the man who had her job before. I think when there are episodes like this that show women questioning inequalities it inspires women in real life and makes them feel comfortable enough to also ask and talk about it in their daily lives. The mainstream television shows in the seventies helped second wave feminism because of how they portrayed women. Shows like Charlie's Angels still showed the male gas, but it had women in a strong and powerful role as as smart private agents who fought men and won, I think it's also important that in the theme song it shows that they worked hard and became cops before this, showing that women can be occupations that are dominated by men.
Shows like the ones in 70's are the reason why we have shows today that are so focused on women and different minorities looking for rights. there is so much diversity in TV, from LGBTQ+ shows that focus on the lives of people who identify as something on the spectrum, similarly to women in the 60's and 70's LGBTQ+ are looking for acceptance and equality, using many different forums to express this, TV can be included as it shows members of this minority in a positive light. TV is an important tool in our society and can often be helpful for different movements.

2nd Wave Feminism

The times have definitely changed from the first time that feminists started fighting for equality but also a lot has not. Women were thought to stay at home and take care of the children and most of these women did this on average 55 hours a week in the 1960's. The 60's introductions to their shows represents to us in present day the role that they were told to play and most of them embraced it. Showing women caring for the house, cleaning, feeding children and making sure the husband was all set to go to work. There were some women who said they were happy to take care of the kids, bring them to where they need to be and what not but they were bored. These women knew that there was more in their life than to just stay at home and take care of their children. Taking care of children is a very important job and they knew this but that doesn't mean that the women must stay home everyday to do it.  In the 1970's the women shown in entertainment had more impact roles as super heroes, and police women and not just showing them in the house. Showing  the country that there as more to women than just making the beds and making sure dinner is ready. During the 60's was the time right after the Cold War and communism and this alone put a pause on the feminists movement right away. The amount of conformity in these times was something that has not been seen in the United States before and everyone was conforming. If you were trying to do something different then you were considered a communist. If women continued to fight for equal rights then that resembled the ideas of feminism and that was unacceptable. This makes it very difficult for women to get a head of steam for fighting for equality.
Title IX was a very big step for women as they were given equal opportunity for athletics in schools but also in sexual harassment cases. With Title IX this also cuts off other male athletics in order to be even in the department for women's and men's athletics. This also brought up the conversation of the draft when coming off the Cold War in the 50's. Many women did not want to send their daughters along with their sons to the war because this brings higher possibility of losing another child. Women fought for their equality and they still are. I also thought is was very powerful when Ms. O'Connell asked us to raise our hands if we are feminists and it raises a question and that is what you define feminism as. Many people have different meanings but Leo said my thoughts as women deserve every right a man has, be given every opportunity fairly and be heard the same as men. That is my definition of feminism and that is the fight that is going to continue for them but I hope it does not go on much longer.

Sitcoms and Second Wave Feminism

The difference between the sitcoms in the 1960’s and the 1970’s is very evident in regards to the roles of women and their roles. In the 1960’s all of the roles for women were as someone’s wife or as someone’s mother, but in the 70’s women got to be much more: super heroes, cops and working women. This was heavily impacted by second wave feminism and the equality movements of the 60’s. These movements defined and were defined by the media of the time period. As the media started portraying more women working outside the home it became the norm. My grandma immigrated from Ireland in the 1940’s and worked until she got married and had kids, my mom grew up in the 70’s expecting to go to college and work, and she didn’t stop working when my brother and I were born. This shows the stark difference between just two generations. My grandmother quit her job to be a mother, but my mom worked through my childhood as a means of not being bored while my brother and I were at school.
The first exposure I ever had to “The Donna Reed Show” was when I was watching “Gilmore Girls”. “Gilmore Girls,” is a show about a single mother and her daughter and their daily antics, both of them are independent, smart women who had the basis of “The Donna Reed Show.” They play the show on mute and make fun of it, as one of their favorite activities, but in one episode Rory’s boyfriend, Dean, asks why they always make fun of it. They explain the sexism of the plotline and how stupid it is that Donna Reed pretends to enjoy dressing up in her best clothes to do house work. Rory and Dean argue for the whole episode because Dean thinks the idea of having a housewife is appealing, while Rory thinks it’s degrading. At the end of the episode, to make up for their argument, Rory dresses up as Donna Reed and cooks her boyfriend dinner, which ends up being a disaster. He realizes that he wouldn’t want Rory to change because he loves her for her drive and her ambitious nature. I think this shows the difference in TV that I grew up with versus the TV that my mom and grandma grew up with. In the TV that I loved as a kid, the girl I aspired to be was an ambitious young girl who had dreams of going to Harvard. The TV that my grandma had was Donna Reed, the perfect housewife, and the TV my mom grew up with were shows like “Charlie’s Angels,” where the women were working women but impossibly beautiful and referred to as “little girls” in the intro. I think that the people portrayed in TV impact society and the way people grow up a lot and I think that as society evolves, TV evolves and vice versa.

Patriotic Oppression of Women

Ms. O’Connell’s lecture on women moving from the household to the workforce on their path for equality among the sexes was an educational experience that is not taught in history. By using the portrayal of women in Media throughout second wave feminism and individual’s fighting to have equal pay (and opportunity) as men in the workplace. It was a well-organized presentation that showed the evolution of women and their role in our society. This enlightened me on just how far women’s right’s have come in the past 50 years.

The difference in Women being portrayed in media in the 1960’s and 1970’s was a clear visual representation of second-wave feminism taking control of how women should be treated in America. The difference from women spending 50 hours a week doing household chores while the man of the house went to work was the structure of every American household. The thought of disrupting that was seen as communism because any social movement in the era of the cold war was seen as communism, causing everyone to conform to each other. The start of the movement for women living a better life was Betty Friedan the author of The Feminine Mystique. This created a true turning point in the history of the United States as women who had a great husband, house, and children felt unfulfilled in their own lives. Due to the patriotic oppression of women throughout society, that was a women’s pinnacle of success in her lifetime. However, the reality is that this isn’t enough for any human being in life. To do the same thing every day without change is unhealthy and unfulfilling. The patriotical propaganda to keep women from being a feminist and getting out of the kitchen and into the workforce, kept men empowered. The ads on feminists gave the appearance that they are ugly and unable to get a husband so that is why they want to be in the workforce and on equal footing as men. The societal norms around feminism kept women oppressed until Betty Friedan created her own vision of feminism.

2nd Wave Feminism

Prior to the 2nd wave of feminism, beginning after 1920, declaring oneself a feminist was daunting. The stereotype of the man-hating, lesbian, and unfeminine feminist was rampant, stopping many people from declaring oneself one, even if they wanted to or aligned with what it actually meant to be a feminist. Art and propaganda, shown in Ms.O'Connell's lecture on Monday night, depicted feminists in an extremely unattractive and undesirable way.  They were often portrayed as ugly, extremely angry, with details suggesting a hatred for men and the inability to get a husband. This image was used to take support away from feminists, by both men and women, who either believed this or did not want to be identified with this image. This kept the feminist movement on a lower level for a bit. 1960’s sitcoms continued to depict women in the way in which many thought a woman was meant to be, doting and in the home, happy with staying there. Legislation such as Title VII, Title IX, and Roe v Wade, began to stir conversation about women’s rights whether people wanted to talk about it or not. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique also brought out this once taboo idea of a women desiring more than staying in the home. All of these important things made people talk about it who did not want to, and it also allowed more people who wanted to identify as feminist feel like they could do that, as more and more women felt it was acceptable and right to fight for these rights. With legislation being passed, and women’s sexuality, happiness, and life outside of the home being discussed like never before, the push against the image of the ugly and angry feminist increased. Additionally, more and more women who did not fit this stereotype were speaking out. As this image faded, so did the depiction of women as nothing but doting housewives. 1970’s sitcoms differed greatly in the diversity of the roles which women played and they qualities for the characters. Women were being shown single, outside of the home, and even working. This new depiction was important in further minimizing the idea that women had just one role. As more conversations were being had, people became more comfortable. Stereotypes faded and roles diversified. Today, calling oneself a feminist, whether that individual is male or female, typically goes without great upset. However, men and even some women still recoil at the idea of being called such a thing. I’ve certainly observed this at Govs, students stating that they do not identify as feminists, but do believe in the equality of the sexes. But, that is what feminism is. So, why the hesitation? This is different for many and impossible to pinpoint, but I think the idea of female feminists being man-hating and angry, and male feminists being less manly, still pervades. It does not come so overtly through television or propaganda, but exists nothingless. Perhaps these stereotypes are strong and need more time to fade, or this stereotype is perpetuated by individuals, or in new ways. I’ve certainly seen social media posts which depict feminists as angry and ugly. Progress has been made, and I am proud to call myself a feminist and not get extreme backlash like women used to, yet the stereotype has not been completely lost.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Feminist Review of the Hannah Montana Theme Song

Mrs. O'Connell's lecture exposed me to a powerful academic weapon that can be used to expose and examine the values of a culture, a cutting flame that distills culture into its most overt forms: the theme song. 

A successful theme song must do several things: 

1. appeal to as massive an audience as possible. 
2. fully express the main themes of the show/movie/etc.
3. be brief (2-3 minutes at most)

In an uncommon instance of serendipity, the goals of television executives serve the needs of academics. Theme songs are the perfect specimens for cultural research, they reflect the values of a large percentage of the population, they describe those values as much as possible during a short clip, and, perhaps most importantly, they are easy to for the researcher to sift through. Armed with this knowledge, I have decided to turn the microscope around - towards myself - and examine the theme song to a show, nay, a phenomenon that has shaped my generation: Hannah Montana.

A Feminist Review of the Hannah Montana Theme Song

You get the limo out front; oo-aoo / Hottest styles, every shoe, every color. /

What is immediately evident from the earliest moments of the video is that Disney, with ardent desperation, does not want their title character to be sexualized. The outfits are comically demure - there is not one shot in which Hannah Montana wears a skirt, bathing suit or shorts, despite the fact that the show takes place in Malibu, California, where the weather is routinely above eighty degrees. However, the writers obviously desire that Montana's femininity remain intact, as indicated by her interest in fashion and possession of excessive clothing and accessories, both traditionally female characteristics, in the line hottest styles, every shoe, every color. 

And when you're famous it can be kind of fun. / It's really you, but no one ever discovers. 

These next two lines are the basis of the plot of Hannah Montana, and are laid over the reveal of two major male characters in the series. First, Hannah Montana's close male friend, as played by Mitchell Musso. Musso's posture and mannerisms during his reveal are decidedly feminine - he is looking down and away from the camera, and slowly stroking his exposed cheek with the back of his hand. I believe the producers choose to portray Musso's character with such exaggerated femininity to both establish him as a comic character, and to show that he is not a love interest for our titular character. 
Second, Hannah's older brother, as played by Jason Earles, is shown. He shows the most skin out of anyone in this opening sequence, but it is for comic effect. He has his shirt pulled up to just below his nipples, and has a face drawn on his protruding stomach so that his bellybutton can be manipulated as a second "mouth". I thought this joke was interesting, because I do not believe they would chose the same joke if Montana had an older sister - a woman hiking up their shirt, even in jest, seems more inappropriate than a man doing the same thing. 


Who would've thought that a girl like me / Could travel like a super star?

This line reveals something important about the industry of Hannah Montana that may be obvious, but that I believe still requires justification: it is pandering to women, and to a specific notion of femininity. By saying "girl like me" Montana invites her viewers to live vicariously through her, and to dream of living like her, for she is just a "girl" who no one "would've thought" could possibly "travel like a super star". 

 You get the best of both worlds: Start it out, take it slow, then you rock out the show

Montana does a lot of twirling in this video. In fact, in the fifty second theme song, she twirls five times in all. That's a twirl every ten seconds. I believe this twirling is indicative of an aspect of Hannah Montana that I personally find problematic. In attempting to desexualize their titular character, they infantilize her. The impractically modest clothing, the excessive girlish twirling, the bubblegum pop star smile - this is the only version of femininity that Disney is willing to present to their audience. In attempting to maintain "appropriateness" they have put their main character, who is in high school in the time period of the show, on a pedestal, as the paragon of child-like inocence

You get the best of both worlds! / Mix it all together, and you know you got the best of both worlds.

I believe the central conflict of Hannah Montana is simply a modern incarnation of a question central to second wave feminism, a problem that Betty Friedan spent her life trying to resolve: can women have it all? Hannah Montana is about a girl who is trying to have it all - both a "normal" domestic home life, and a successful career. This is reinforced by Montana's interactions with her father - in all scenes where she and her father are showing familial affection, Montana is dressed in her regular garb, as Miley, which may imply that domestic happiness is only possible for Miley/Hannah when she is not focusing on her career. The theme song's message, from this perspective, becomes more ambiguous. Is it hopeful, asserting that despite the challenges, Miley will be able to effectively balance her home life with her professional responsibilities? Or is it bitingly sarcastic, mocking the futility of Montana's quest to "have it all"? Scholars, historians, and sociologists have been debating questions such as these for years, and no easy answer seems to be on the horizon. Nevertheless, Hannah Montana strides forward confident, a modern Sisyphus, persevering with child-like naivety into the modern chaos of the female experience.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Women in media

The prominence of female photographers is extremely important to changing the prevalence of the male gaze in media. The male gaze, being that some male photographers show women as strictly sexual as opposed to strong or classy. I feel that the idea of the male gaze is one that’s dangerous for women and girls all over. When they see heavily photoshopped pictures of other women, that becomes their own standard for themselves, but those standards are highly unrealistic. It’s dangerous because it leaves impressionable women and girls with the idea that their value comes from whether or not they look like the woman on the cover of the magazine. The fact that female photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Corrine Day are reclaiming female photography, photographing women without makeup or photoshop, is a promising sign to me. Young women and girls deserve to see natural representation in the media, to find a standard of beauty that can be obtainable by others. This standard of beauty is natural beauty. In the first article “How the Female Gaze is Changing Photographs of Women,” it talks about reclaiming female representation. Photographers like Corrine Day are reclaiming the idea of female representation by showing raw and candid moments of real women as opposed to posed and photoshopped images. This is encouraging to me as images in media get more and more realistic because I think it will help decrease the prominence of body dysmorphia and other things that young girls struggle with due to the photoshopped posed images.