"A highly unique and refreshing contribution. Heywood not only theorizes the relationships among feminism, activism, and bodybuilding but also provides what so many works on built female bodies lack-a feminine historical context. . . . Heywood concludes with a call for women to 'feel our muscles, our power, our terrible, wonderful, monstrous strengths' by leaving behind aerobics, replacing light weights with heavy ones, and claiming our right to take up space. . . . Like all influential and groundbreaking works, this book raises new and important questions that should provide grist for much feminist debate and scholarship in coming years."-Signs "Bodymakers is most ambitious in terms of its engagement with feminist cultural criticism and its unconventional scope. Heywood comments on film, novels, magazine pictures, popular criticisms of feminism, the J. Crew catalog, [and] the concept of power feminism."-Gender and Society "In this brilliantly insightful and immensely readable book, Leslie Heywood makes us think about women's body building in an entirely new way. She argues persuasively that, far from being an individualistic, apolitical act, it is a powerful form of resistance, empowering women to overcome their victim status and heal past abuse." -Myra Dinnerstein, University of Arizona "Bodymakers has a power and an honesty that is unusual in a book with its theoretical sophistication." -Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight and Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J. "With clarity, force, and passionate investment grounded in both theory and her own experience, Heywood understands that women can strengthen body, mind, and spirit through everyday practice. Her argument that body building is this kind of activist practice is as inspirational as it is poignant." -Joanna Frueh, author of Erotic Faculties "Flexing her muscles through autobiographical, theoretical, and spectacular acts, Heywood insists that we read the muscular female body not as an 'extreme oddity' but as a 'form of activism' through which we can understand anew larger cultural issues and trends, including the American romance with individualism and the relationship of second and third wave feminisms. Muscular female bodies will never be read in the same way again." -Sidonie Smith, University of Michigan Women with muscles are a recent phenomenon, so recent that, while generating a good deal of interest, their importance to the cultural landscape has yet to be acknowledged. Leslie Heywood looks at the sport and image of female body building as a metaphor for how women fare in our current political and cultural climate. She argues that the movement in women's body building from small, delicate bodies to large powerful ones and back again is directly connected to progress and backlash within the abortion debate, the ongoing struggle for race and gender equality, and the struggle to define "feminism" in the context of the nineties. She discusses female body building as activism, as an often effective response to abuse, race and masculinity in body building, and the contradictory ways that photographers treat female body builders. Engaging and accessible, Bodymakers reveals how female body builders find themselves both trapped and empowered by their sport.
In his bestselling book The Grapevine: A Report on the Secret World of the Lesbian (1965), Jess Stearn announced that, contrary to the assumptions of many Americans, most lesbians appeared indistinguishable from other women. They could mingle “congenially in conventional society.” Some were popular sex symbols; some were married to unsuspecting husbands. Robert J. Corber contends that The Grapevine exemplified a homophobic Cold War discourse that portrayed the femme as an invisible threat to the nation. Underlying this panic was the widespread fear that college-educated women would reject marriage and motherhood as aspirations, weakening the American family and compromising the nation’s ability to defeat totalitarianism. Corber argues that Cold War homophobia transformed ideas about lesbianism in the United States. In the early twentieth century, homophobic discourse had focused on gender identity: the lesbian was a masculine woman. During the Cold War, the lesbian was reconceived as a woman attracted to other women. Corber develops his argument by analyzing representations of lesbianism in Hollywood movies of the 1950s and 1960s, and in the careers of some of the era’s biggest female stars. He examines treatments of the femme in All About Eve, The Children’s Hour, and Marnie, and he explores the impact of Cold War homophobia on the careers of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Doris Day.
Media expansion into the digital realm and the continuing segregation of users into niches has led to a proliferation of cultural products targeted to and consumed by women. Though often dismissed as frivolous or excessively emotional, feminized culture in reality offers compelling insights into the American experience of the early twenty-first century. Elana Levine brings together writings from feminist critics that chart the current terrain of feminized pop cultural production. Analyzing everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Pinterest to pregnancy apps, contributors examine the economic, technological, representational, and experiential dimensions of products and phenomena that speak to, and about, the feminine. As these essays show, the imperative of productivity currently permeating feminized pop culture has created a generation of texts that speak as much to women's roles as public and private workers as to an impulse for fantasy or escape. Incisive and compelling, Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn sheds new light on contemporary women's engagement with an array of media forms in the context of postfeminist culture and neoliberalism.
Evil by Design documents the search for the origins of the iconic “femme fatale.” Depicted as a dangerous, depraved, and deadly woman, this image was found frequently in Salon paintings from 1885 to 1910.
Elizabeth K. Menon’s study is the first to use popular sources to make the critical link between the femme fatale and the rise of feminism. In addition to the Salon paintings, Menon sifts through a variety of popular sources, including French illustrated journals, literature, posters, and decorative arts. Over 120 images depict women with serpents, evil flowers, and even miniature men having their hearts cooked. She argues that the evolution of the femme fatale, with both literary and visual links to the biblical Eve figure, came as a response to increasing feminism and the desire by men to halt its spread.
Evita, Inevitably sheds new light on the history and culture of Argentina by examining the performances and reception of the country’s most iconic female figures, in particular, Eva Perón, who rose from poverty to become a powerful international figure. The book links the Evita legend to a broader pattern of female iconicity from the mid-nineteenth century onward, reading Evita against the performances of other female icons: Camila O’Gorman, executed by firing squad over her affair with a Jesuit priest; Difunta Correa, a devotional figure who has achieved near-sainthood; cumbia-pop performer Gilda; the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Luján; and finally, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Employing the tools of discursive, visual, and performance analysis, Jean Graham-Jones studies theatrical performance, literature, film, folklore, Catholic iconography, and Internet culture to document the ways in which these “femicons” have been staged.
The stories of Indonesian women have often been told by Indonesian men and Dutch men and women. This volume asks how these representations—reproduced, transformed, and circulated in history, ethnography, and literature—have circumscribed feminine behavior in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. Presenting dialogues between prominent scholars of and from Indonesia and Indonesian women working in professional, activist, religious, and literary domains, the book dissolves essentialist notions of “women” and “Indonesia” that have arisen out of the tensions of empire. The contributors examine the ways in which Indonesian women and men are enmeshed in networks of power and then pursue the stories of those who, sometimes at great political risk, challenge these powers. In this juxtaposition of voices and stories, we see how indigenous patriarchal fantasies of feminine behavior merged with Dutch colonial notions of proper wives and mothers to produce the Indonesian government’s present approach to controlling the images and actions of women. Facing the theoretical challenge of building a truly cross-cultural feminist analysis, Fantasizing the Feminine takes us into an ongoing conversation that reveals the contradictions of postcolonial positionings and the fragility of postmodern identities. This book will be welcomed by readers with interests in contemporary Indonesian politics and society as well as historians, anthropologists, and other scholars concerned with literature, gender, and cultural studies.
Contributors. Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, Sita Aripurnami, Jane Monnig Atkinson, Nancy K. Florida, Daniel S. Lev, Dédé Oetomo, Laurie J. Sears, Ann Laura Stoler, Saraswati Sunindyo, Julia I. Suryakusuma, Jean Gelman Taylor, Sylvia Tiwon, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Diane L. Wolf
When the term “postfeminism” entered the media lexicon in the 1990s, it was often accompanied by breathless headlines about the “death of feminism.” Those reports of feminism’s death may have been greatly exaggerated, and yet contemporary popular culture often conjures up a world in which feminism had never even been born, a fictional universe filled with suburban Stepford wives, maniacal career women, alluring amnesiacs, and other specimens of retro femininity.
In Feminism and Popular Culture, Rebecca Munford and Melanie Waters consider why the twenty-first century media landscape is so haunted by the ghosts of these traditional figures that feminism otherwise laid to rest. Why, over fifty years since Betty Friedan’s critique, does the feminine mystique exert such a strong spectral presence, and how has it been reimagined to speak to the concerns of a postfeminist audience?
To answer these questions, Munford and Waters draw from a rich array of examples from contemporary film, fiction, music, and television, from the shadowy cityscapes of Homeland to the haunted houses of American Horror Story. Alongside this comprehensive analysis of today’s popular culture, they offer a vivid portrait of feminism’s social and intellectual history, as well as an innovative application of Jacques Derrida’s theories of “hauntology.” Feminism and Popular Culture thus not only considers how contemporary media is being visited by the ghosts of feminism’s past, it raises vital questions about what this means for feminism’s future.
Framed uses fin de siècle British crime narrative to pose a highly interesting question: why do female criminal characters tend to be alluring and appealing while fictional male criminals of the era are unsympathetic or even grotesque?
In this elegantly argued study, Elizabeth Carolyn Miller addresses this question, examining popular literary and cinematic culture from roughly 1880 to 1914 to shed light on an otherwise overlooked social and cultural type: the conspicuously glamorous New Woman criminal. In so doing, she breaks with the many Foucauldian studies of crime to emphasize the genuinely subversive aspects of these popular female figures. Drawing on a rich body of archival material, Miller argues that the New Woman Criminal exploited iconic elements of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commodity culture, including cosmetics and clothing, to fashion an illicit identity that enabled her to subvert legal authority in both the public and the private spheres.
"This is a truly extraordinary argument, one that will forever alter our view of turn-of-the-century literary culture, and Miller has demonstrated it with an enrapturing series of readings of fictional and filmic criminal figures. In the process, she has filled a gap between feminist studies of the New Woman of the 1890s and more gender-neutral studies of early twentieth-century literary and social change. Her book offers an extraordinarily important new way to think about the changing shape of political culture at the turn of the century."
---John Kucich, Professor of English, Rutgers University
"Given the intellectual adventurousness of these chapters, the rich material that the author has brought to bear, and its combination of archival depth and disciplinary range, any reader of this remarkable book will be amply rewarded."
---Jonathan Freedman, Professor of English and American Culture, University of Michigan
Elizabeth Carolyn Miller is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Davis.
digitalculturebooks is an imprint of the University of Michigan and the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library dedicated to publishing innovative and accessible work exploring new media and their impact on society, culture, and scholarly communication. Visit the website at www.digitalculture.org.
The essays in Goddesses and Monsters recognize popular culture as a primary repository of ancient mythic energies, images, narratives, personalities, icons, and archetypes. Together, they take on the patriarchal myth, where serial killers are heroes, where goddesses—in the form of great white sharks, femmes fatales, and aliens—are ritually slaughtered, and where pornography is the core story underlying militarism, environmental devastation, and racism. They also point to an alternative imagination of female power that still can be found behind the cult devotion given to Princess Diana and animating all the goddesses disguised as popular monsters, queen bitches, mammies, vamps, cyborgs, and sex bombs.
Heroines of Popular Culture
Edited by Ray B. Browne University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 Library of Congress PN56.5.W64H47 1987 | Dewey Decimal 809.93352042
From life and literature come the heroines of this volume. The essays demonstrate that women can fit the role of hero as defined by Joseph Campbell: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder, fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won, the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Contributors to this volume cover a wide range of heroic women.
In the years following the Mexican Revolution, visual images of la chica moderna, the modern woman, au courant in appearance and attitude, popped up in mass media across the country. Some of the images were addressed directly to women through advertisements, as illustrations accompanying articles in women’s magazines, and on the “women’s pages” in daily newspapers. Others illustrated domestic and international news stories, promoted tourism, or publicized the latest Mexican and Hollywood films. In Imagining la Chica Moderna, Joanne Hershfield examines these images, exploring how the modern woman was envisioned in Mexican popular culture and how she figured into postrevolutionary contestations over Mexican national identity.
Through her detailed interpretations of visual representations of la chica moderna, Hershfield demonstrates how the images embodied popular ideas and anxieties about sexuality, work, motherhood, and feminine beauty, as well as class and ethnicity. Her analysis takes into account the influence of mexicanidad, the vision of Mexican national identity promoted by successive postrevolutionary administrations, and the fashions that arrived in Mexico from abroad, particularly from Paris, New York, and Hollywood. She considers how ideals of the modern housewife were promoted to Mexican women through visual culture; how working women were represented in illustrated periodicals and in the Mexican cinema; and how images of traditional “types” of Mexican women, such as la china poblana (the rural woman), came to define a “domestic exotic” form of modern femininity. Scrutinizing photographs of Mexican women that accompanied articles in the Mexican press during the 1920s and 1930s, Hershfield reflects on the ways that the real and the imagined came together in the production of la chica moderna.
From ads for Victoria's Secret to the character roles of Rosie Perez, the mass media have been defining race and femininity. In this diverse set of essays, Angharad N. Valdivia breaks theoretical and methodological boundaries by exploring the relationship of the media to various audiences. Throughout A Latina in the Land of Hollywood we are challenged to think differently about the media messages we often unconsciously consume, such as the popular representations of certain Latina cultural icons. Valdivia shows how reporters focus on Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchú's big smile, Brazilian media magnate Xuxa's blonde hair, and Puerto Rican actress Rosie Perez's high-pitched voice, never quite creating a comprehensive portrayal of these women. In her discussion of lingerie catalogs, Valdivia uncovers a similarly skewed depiction. The lush, high-class bedrooms of Victoria's Secret differ as much from the earthy, spare world of Frederick's of Hollywood as the types, sizes, and uses of the lingerie that the two companies sell. Valdivia takes a look at family films, arguing that single mothers are almost always portrayed as either trampy floozies or sexless, hapless women, whereas single dads fare much better. Whether examining one teenager's likes and dislikes or considering single parenthood in family films, Valdivia investigates how popular culture has become the arena in which we struggle to know ourselves and to make ourselves known. She calls for scholars to move beyond investigating implicit themes in films and media to studying the ways that audiences of different colors, ages, genders, and sexual preferences might understand or misunderstand such cultural messages. A Latina in the Land of Hollywood aims to explode traditional discussions of media and popular culture. It is a must-read for anyone interested in popular culture, television, and film.
Based on the lives and crimes of no less than twenty real women, dokufu (poison women) narratives emerged as a powerful presence in Japan during the 1870s. During this tumultuous time, as the nation moved from feudalism to oligarchic government, such accounts articulated the politics and position of underclass women, sexual morality, and female suffrage. Over the next century, the figure of the oversexed female criminal, usually guilty of robbery or murder, became ubiquitous in modern Japanese culture.
In Poison Woman, Christine L. Marran investigates this powerful icon, its shifting meanings, and its influence on defining women’s sexuality and place in Japan. She begins by considering Meiji gesaku literature, in which female criminality was often medically defined and marginalized as abnormal. She describes the small newspapers (koshinbun) that originally reported on poison women, establishing journalistic and legal conventions for future fiction about them. She examines zange, or confessional narratives, of female and male ex-convicts from the turn of the century, then reveals how medical and psychoanalytical literature of the 1920s and 1930s offered contradictory explanations of the female criminal as an everywoman or a historical victim of social circumstances and the press. She concludes by exploring postwar pulp fiction (kasutori), film and underground theater of the 1970s, and the feminist writer Tomioka Taeko’s take on the transgressive woman.
Persistent stories about poison women illustrate how a few violent acts by women were transformed into myriad ideological, social, and moral tales that deployed notions of female sexual desire and womanhood. Bringing together literary criticism, the history of science, media theory, and gender and sexuality studies, Poison Woman delves into genre and gender in ways that implicate both in projects of nation-building.
Christine L. Marran is associate professor of Japanese literature and cultural studies at the University of Minnesota.
Only in recent decades has the American academic profession taken women’s history seriously. But the very concept of women’s history has a much longer past, one that’s intimately entwined with the development of American advertising and consumer culture.
Selling Women’s History reveals how, from the 1900s to the 1970s, popular culture helped teach Americans about the accomplishments of their foremothers, promoting an awareness of women’s wide-ranging capabilities. On one hand, Emily Westkaemper examines how this was a marketing ploy, as Madison Avenue co-opted women’s history to sell everything from Betsy Ross Red lipstick to Virginia Slims cigarettes. But she also shows how pioneering adwomen and female historians used consumer culture to publicize histories that were ignored elsewhere. Their feminist work challenged sexist assumptions about women’s subordinate roles.
Assessing a dazzling array of media, including soap operas, advertisements, films, magazines, calendars, and greeting cards, Selling Women’s History offers a new perspective on how early- and mid-twentieth-century women saw themselves. Rather than presuming a drought of female agency between the first and second waves of American feminism, it reveals the subtle messages about women’s empowerment that flooded the marketplace.
Almost wherever we look, depictions of sexuality, both subtle and not-so-subtle, are omnipresent. Whatever the medium, popular culture representations tell us something about ourselves and about the ideologies of which they are symptomatic. These essays examine the strategies of power implicit in popular representations of sexuality. The authors—scholars in fields such as sociology, philosophy, biology, political science, history, and English literature— eschew rigid disciplinary boundaries.
She's Got a Gun
Nancy Floyd Temple University Press, 2008 Library of Congress HQ1418.F56 2008 | Dewey Decimal 305.4896920973
In 1991 Nancy Floyd bought her first handgun. Soon she was participating in Ladies Day at her local shooting range and reading Women & Guns magazine. In 1993 she began interviewing and photographing women who were fellow gun owners. In 1997 she started researching "gun women" from the past to see how they were represented in the popular imagination. Now she has brought her work together in a riveting new book, filled with remarkable photographs and candid first-person stories, accompanied by an eye-opening illustrated history of female gun ownership in America.
Sympathetic but unsentimental, Floyd presents gun-toting women young and old, including an eleven-year-old girl competing in her first gun competition, a woman whose grandmother was killed by an intruder, and a war veteran who experienced firefights while stationed in Iraq. Whatever you might think about gun-toting women before you open this book, your preconceptions are sure to be shattered by the end.
The essays in Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture chart the ways that the simultaneous interrogation of gender, race, and corporeality shape the construction of black female representation. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders has enlisted a wide variety of scholarly perspectives and critical approaches about the place of black women's bodies within the American cultural consciousness. An impressive gathering of essays and visual art by feminist scholars and artists, the book presents a persuasive argument for broadening the ongoing scholarly conversations about the body. It makes clear that the most salient discourses in poststructuralist and feminist theory are made richer and more complex when the black female body is considered.
The collection blends original and classic essays to reveal the interconnections among art, literature, public policy, the history of medicine, and theories about sexuality with regard to bodies that are both black and female. Contributors include Rachel Adams, Elizabeth Alexander, Lisa Collins, Bridgette Davis, Lisa E.Farrington, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Evelynn Hammonds, Terri Kapsalis, Jennifer L. Morgan, Siobhan B. Somerville, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Carla Williams, and Doris Witt.
Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture will appeal to both the academic reader attempting to integrate race into discussion about the female body and to the general reader curious about the history of black female representation.
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders is Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts and Institute of Women's Studies, Emory University.
Virginia Woolf Icon
Brenda R. Silver University of Chicago Press, 1999 Library of Congress PR6045.O72Z87633 1999 | Dewey Decimal 823.912
This is a book about "Virginia Woolf": the face that sells more postcards than any other at Britain's National Portrait Gallery, the name that Edward Albee's play linked with fear, the cultural icon so rich in meanings that it has been used to market everything from the New York Review of Books to Bass Ale. Brenda Silver analyzes Virginia Woolf's surprising visibility in both high and popular culture, showing how her image and authority have been claimed or challenged in debates about art, politics, anger, sexuality, gender, class, the canon, feminism, race, and fashion.
From Virginia Woolf's 1937 appearance on the cover of Time magazine to her current roles in theater, film, and television, Silver traces the often contradictory representations and the responses they provoke, highlighting the recurring motifs that associate Virginia Woolf with fear. By looking more closely at who is afraid and the contexts in which she is perceived to be frightening, Silver illustrates how Virginia Woolf has become the site of conflicts about cultural boundaries and legitimacy that continue to rage today.
This collection breaks new ground in the area of gender studies both because it creates a name for gender fantasy--virtual gender--that introduces a new understanding of the concept, and in expanding the idea of virtuality to include people and events in history. The essays in Virtual Gender help identify and name the persistent cultural desire for an imaginative space in which to "put on" alternative gender identities, while examining as well the equally persistent and consequent critique of that desire.
The sweep of the volume's coverage is impressive, ranging across historical periods and academic disciplines, as contributors consider the place of the body in gender fantasy and the consequences of gender fantasy for real people and real bodies. The essays investigate figures and topics including Amelia Earhart, soap-opera chat groups, Elizabeth I, mesmerism, lesbianism in the early modern period, cybergames, women in the federalist period, the transgendered body, and performance art. Also examined are the status of embodiment, the origins of gender, gender politics, the pains of subjectivity, the uses of utopian fantasy, technological advances and information technology, the experience of gendered communities, and the role of gender in global politics.
Contributors include Harriette Andreadis, Seyla Benhabib, Charlotte Canning, Bernice Hausman, Janel Mueller, Mary Ann O'Farrell, Kay Schaffer, Sidonie Smith, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Helen F. Thompson, Lynne Vallone, and Robyn Warhol. The book will appeal to an interdisciplinary audience of scholars, critics, and students with interests in gender, identity, and cyberculture.
Mary Ann O'Farrell is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University. Lynne Vallone is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University.
From the haute couture runways of Paris and New York and editorial photo shoots for glossy fashion magazines to reality television, models have been a ubiquitous staple of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American consumer culture. In Work! Elspeth H. Brown traces the history of modeling from the advent of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s. Brown outlines how the modeling industry sanitized and commercialized models' sex appeal in order to elicit and channel desire into buying goods. She shows how this new form of sexuality—whether exhibited in the Ziegfeld Follies girls' performance of Anglo-Saxon femininity or in African American models' portrayal of black glamour in the 1960s—became a central element in consumer capitalism and a practice that has always been shaped by queer sensibilities. By outlining the paradox that queerness lies at the center of capitalist heteronormativity and telling the largely unknown story of queer models and photographers, Brown offers an out of the ordinary history of twentieth-century American culture and capitalism.