Susan Douglas’s book Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female in the Mass Media is a highly successful attempt to portray the lives of women as being impacted by the media and culture. Douglas attempts to evaluate the effect of songs, TV shows, adverts, and other means of communication on the formation of females’ image in the last-century US. The book is full of interesting facts and humorous narrations, and it captivates the audience with its entertaining style. Where the Girls Are contains the analysis of many significant political, intellectual, and cultural developments in women’s history that have influenced the role of a woman in the twentieth-century US. The paper argues that Douglas’s explanation of how the media impacted women is closely associated with the explications of feminism and gives insight into a variety of issues that supported the appearance and development of this movement.
One of the most important intellectual developments mentioned in Douglas’s book is the origins of the space age. As the author remarks in the first chapter, in 1957, when the US girls were running around in their “coonskin caps,” the Soviets “were taking education seriously” (Douglas 21). Douglas mentions that because Russian children were trained in technology and science while the US girls had no idea of such subjects, there appeared a “cosmic humiliation” (21). The author also remarks that in the attempt to beat Russia’s achievements, the US government decided to allow girls to participate in the new education system rather than including only boys in it (Douglas 22). However, it was a fight of an intellectual versus patriotic dilemma. As Douglas puts it, she was confused because on the one side, she was encouraged to be an active citizen and a “competitive-oriented” American, while on the other side, she was expected to be a “self-abnegated, passive, dependent, primarily concerned with the well-being of others” girl (23).
The book also discusses crucial political events such as the Great Depression and World War II (Douglas 44-46). The author remarks that these events changed the lives of women greatly, inducing them to adjust their responsibilities and learn to start their lives all over again. Douglas notes that when the war ended, “America went back into the trenches” (49). However, that time those were not the trenches for soldiers but over women’s “proper” roles (Douglas 49). The “battle,” as the author puts it, took place in advertisements, TV shows, and films (49). Douglas emphasizes that society’s antifeminist views were so “vicious” and “vehement” that any attempts of the feminist movement of that time remained unnoticed (49). The outcomes of significant political events such as Depression or World War II were rather sad and unpromising for women. Females were seen as “womb-centered” and “compliant” (Douglas 50). The author even develops a term to describe the society’s attitude towards women in that period: “post-war schizophrenia” (Douglas 51). As Douglas mentions, the war had a tremendous impact not only on the country in general but also females’ lives in particular.
Along with intellectual and political issues, Douglas also analyzes cultural events in women’s history. In particular, she dwells on Sexual revolution and the role that music played in it (Douglas 83-86). According to Douglas, the creations of that time had a major impact on the development of females’ sexuality (84). A “girl” group The Shireless released their “revolutionary” song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” in 1960, which, according to the author, inspired women of all ages to change their attitude to sexuality (Douglas 84). Moreover, the song altered the approach of female artists to the choice of themes for their songs. Girl group music encouraged women to release their struggles concerned with the Sexual revolution (Douglas 85). Douglas describes The Shireless’ songs as both “rebellious” and “boastful” and “self-abnegating” (90). While boys bands sang about “selfless girlfriends” and “martyrs to love,” girls’ songs were about confidentiality and openness when discussing sex and men (Douglas 90). Some songs were aimed at mocking the lives of those girls who got married to “some boring, respectable guy with no sense of danger or adventure” (Douglas 91). Thus, cultural life of the period described in Douglas’s book was rich in artistic works proclaiming feminist ideas and evoking females to view themselves not as subjects of men’s desires but as independent personalities able to build opinions and talk freely about sex.
Susan Douglas’s book contains the depiction of many events concerned with intellectual, cultural, and political developments. It is impossible to cover all of them in a short paper, but an attempt has been made to emphasize the most crucial ones. The book Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female in the Mass Media is an exciting journey through the most influential events and processes of the twentieth century. However, the author manages to illustrate the life of a woman as the reflection of society’s development during those years. Through a variety of vivid examples, Douglas describes the impact of different events on the formation of feminists’ views and the development of their movement.
Douglas, Susan J. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female in the Mass Media. Three Rivers Press, 1995.