In the publicist book Where the Girls Are, Susan J. Douglas analyzes the state of the media in the 1960s and 1970s. She describes and explains the female pop-culture images of the time. In the work, the feminist movement is viewed as well as the influence of the mass media on the author’s personal life. It is significant that all the above-mentioned aspects and topics are shown in the context of the cultural, political, and intellectual events of the time. The purpose of this essay is to discuss some of the events and phenomena that the writer analyzes and mentions.
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Marylin Monroe’s Death
At first, the author mentions the death of the idol Marylin Monroe (Douglas 42). At the time of her passing, Marylin had the image of a perfect but defenceless woman. The author realized that she did not want to be forever nice and correspond to the sexist stereotype of the woman who is irreproachable just because the society’s standards demand that. On the other hand, her life purpose was not to end up as a housewife. In this case, the author expresses the moods of many women of that time.
The 1930s and 1940s
Further on, the author refers to the history of women in the USA of the twentieth century (Douglas 46). She reveals how the society’s attitude to women changed as years went by. In the 1930s, it was a common opinion that a married lady should manage the home while the man should earn money. When World War II started, the official propaganda began to promote the idea that females should contribute as much as possible to the victory over fascism by hard work at factories. In 1947, the book Modern Woman: The Lost Sex was published. It was an aggressive answer to the development of sexual equality and women’s rights. Its main motive was that feminism is a form of deviation. This fact reveals how the old was struggling against the new. On the one hand, the economic conditions of the time required more and more equality while the outdated ideology was trying to hold the line by unbridled sexist propaganda.
By the beginning of the 1960s, the situation was developing. The first bikini had been introduced, and the unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been published (Douglas 61). These are merely two examples of how the new tendencies led to the Sexual Revolution despite the efforts of the propaganda. This situation influenced the moods of the new generation of teenage girls, who strongly resisted the sexist traditions of the old society. Further on, according to Douglas, in the 1960s, there appeared a number of woman music performers who, in their songs, dared to touch upon the problems of sexual relationships (84). As the new music was targeted at teenagers, it could not but impact their ideas, behaviors, and moods. Thus, the 60s, with their cultural changes, caused the female movement to become bolder and more determined to gain equality.
At the beginning of the 1970s, the movement grew stronger. According to Douglas, the first resonating lawsuits against sex discrimination happened exactly at that time (167). Simultaneously, the first female movement’s anthem was recorded and won the leading positions in the charts. The period is characterized by the beginning of the powerful and well-organized female struggle against sexual discrimination at work and in politics.
According to Harting, this wave of feminism, having achieved political equality, turned into the next one that concentrates on combating sexism on the individual level (249). The main issues nowadays concern harassment, domestic violence, appearance stereotypes, etc. (Rhode 8). To conclude, the book under consideration describes how important events in various aspects of the society impacted women’s movement and gradually brought it to the present state.
Douglas, Susan Jeanne. Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media. Times Books, 1995.
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Harting, Kirsten. “Echoes of Ourselves? Feminisms between East and West in the Leningrad Almanac Women and Russia.” The Women’s Liberation Movement: Impacts and Outcomes, edited by Kristina Schulz, Berghahn, 2017, pp. 243-260.
Rhode, Deborah L. What Women Want: An Agenda for the Women’s Movement. Oxford University Press, 2014.