Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Evon Williams

Kristen McCauliff

WMST 2010

25 April 2008

            Do you want to loose weight? Are you tired of your wrinkles? Do you need a man? “If you read “this magazine” it will provide the answers to all you problems!” These are common tag lines printed and advertised in media today. Unfortunately, that is not true. Every day women are bombarded with images of what is considered the ideal beautiful woman: this woman is thin, white, and has blonde hair. Within the black community, lighter skin is perceived as more beautiful. Even in the early 1920’s and 1930’s when African American advertisements were limited, “the photos favored lighter skin and straightened hair (Walker 77).” Still these images of women are plastered all over and are used to sell anything from toothpaste to insurance. Nonetheless, the everyday woman is attacked with images of an unattainable beauty. This paper will discuss the beauty standards and argue that the feminist critique is a more realistic approach to accepting women’s beauty.

            Women are the target of many advertisements in the media. Sadly, the representation is an unrealistic one because most women are naturally larger than models. But, it is important to dissect the beauty myth by starting at the root. The purpose of the beauty industry is not to promote healthy body images, but instead to make money. The beauty industry is over a 100 billion dollar and continues to grow every year (Kilbourne). The average American will spend hours and hours watching television or reading magazines. During this extended period of time, there minds are infiltrated with altered

images of women and beauty. Thus, the media presents an unattainable body image as a means to sell beauty products. If a woman is insecure about her skin and weight then she will most likely go to the store and buy something to correct that.

            In “The Face of Love” by Ellen Lambert she talks about beauty in literature, more specifically, Victorian literature. Although her topic does not directly relate to modern media, she mentions many points that are valid to the argument. She suggests that women should teach their daughters to enjoy their beauty because their daughters are expressions of them (Lambert 30). She also points out that women “see beauty in its dehumanizing aspect, because that tradition has such a long history in Western culture” (Lambert 30). This statement acknowledges that the beauty myth has been warped for many years and will not change until women acknowledge the prevalent factors. Another issue she mentions is that women to pay more attention to the “male gaze.” This term defines male attention on women, but it identifies the fact that beauty is identified through a male lens.  Lambert encourages women to enjoy being looked at and caring for their bodies, but do not let the “male gaze” interfere with their acceptance of their entire female body.

            Lamberts ideal supports Abra Chernik’s position in “The Body Politic” which encourages young feminist to accept their bodies unconditionally. Also, that acceptance should be at the top of their political agenda. Chernik states: “we must claim our bodies as our own to love and honor in their infinite shapes and sizes. Fat, thin, soft, hard, puckered, smooth, our bodies are our homes.” This statement is so powerful because it encompasses all types of bodies and “imperfections” that women have, but directs women to accept their “homes” which is their body.

            I strongly agree with the feminist critique of beauty, but as a young woman myself I understand that it is easy to fall victim to an unrealistic perception of beauty. That is why I feel it is not only important to have a strong self appreciation of your body but, even more important to have a circle of friends who agree with your definition of beauty. These friends will serve as reinforcement for your ideals and will make it easier to stay strong when you feel like you want to give into the pressures to conform. Thus, the feminist approach to beauty should be the ultimate methodology in defining women’s beauty because it is all inclusive in acceptance. To a feminist, a woman is beautiful because she loves herself and nourishes her mind and body at the same time: this should be the definition of beauty for all.



Kilbourne, Jean. "Beauty...and the Beast of Advertising." Center for Media Literacy. 2007. 22 Apr. 2008 .


Lambert, Ellen Z. The Face of Love. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon P Books, 1995. 1-236.


Walker, Susannah. Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975. Lexington, Kentucky: The UP of Kentucky, 2007. 1-237.


WMST Media

Media Text: " I love my flaws"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stereotyping Single-Father Homes

Caleb King
WMST 2010
25 April 2008

Stereotyping Single-Father Homes

What are the stereotypes that are associated with single-parent homes? That is the question that has been brought to me. However, I believe that single-parents home are beginning to be stereotyped as a broken home. Today, many of the stories that cause society to stereotype single-parent homes are a result of something bad happening to the immediate family, such as divorce, unplanned pregnancy, or death. Single-parents have often been the focus of public policy debate. However, there are a number of families with a one parent homes that are run not by the assumed matriarch; fathers are the single parent. Society is uses to seeing that occur. When one sees a father in charge of a two-parent household, this is recognized as normal, however it is a little known fact that man make up a small, but steadily increasing, percentage of single parents.
I believe that a male has the ability to take care of a household just like a woman can. However, James Herbert (6) writes in Single Mother that he believes otherwise. In his article, he reflects on the question of begin a single father. He states that there are many similarities to being a single father and mother, such as financial struggles, raising children, and trying to live a normal life. However, “These similarities end there as my experience differ from those of the single mom’s in many important and surprising ways. For example, most of the community views me as an outsider. Men are baffled or maybe even a little intimidated by the traditionally feminine tasks I’ve mastered such as cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry.” The author confirms the stereotypes that single fathers are less accepted by society and that they are perceived as odd.
I think being a single parent is hard itself; conforming to a stereotype just makes it harder. Single fathers, too, come into parenthood with problems: “Fathers who attempt to rear their children alone, must do so without clear guidelines or prescription for performing that role” (Mendes 439). In essence, it is difficult for fathers to adjust to raising kids, since they do not typically take on that role.
Perceptions of male fathers are interesting when discussed by someone actually raised by one. The media text confirms that is an interesting level of awareness that people rarely consider. For the interviewee, we see that children that come from single-father homes are raised with as much love and support as they would be if they were raised by single mothers. It proves that while the task is difficult, it is not one that only mothers can do. If awareness were raised that single fathers were just as capable, there would be less trauma experienced by the interviewee. His experience would be perceived as normal.

Works Cited
Herbert, James D. “Single Dads and Moms: Alike or Not?” Single Mother. 31 Dec. 1995: 6.
Mendes, Helen A. “Single Fathers.” The Family Coordinator 25 (1976). Pp 439-444.
Risemen, Barbara. J. “Can Men “Mother”? Life as a Single Father” Family Relations 35 (1986). Pp. 95-102.

Stereotyping Single-Father Homes

Caleb King
WMST 2010
25 April 2008

Stereotyping Single-Father Homes

What are the stereotypes that are associated with single-parent homes? That is the question that has been brought to me. However, I believe that single-parents home are beginning to be stereotyped as a broken home. Today, many of the stories that cause society to stereotype single-parent homes are a result of something bad happening to the immediate family, such as divorce, unplanned pregnancy, or death. Single-parents have often been the focus of public policy debate. However, there are a number of families with a one parent homes that are run not by the assumed matriarch; fathers are the single parent. Society is uses to seeing that occur. When one sees a father in charge of a two-parent household, this is recognized as normal, however it is a little known fact that man make up a small, but steadily increasing, percentage of single parents.
I believe that a male has the ability to take care of a household just like a woman can. However, James Herbert (6) writes in Single Mother that he believes otherwise. In his article, he reflects on the question of begin a single father. He states that there are many similarities to being a single father and mother, such as financial struggles, raising children, and trying to live a normal life. However, “These similarities end there as my experience differ from those of the single mom’s in many important and surprising ways. For example, most of the community views me as an outsider. Men are baffled or maybe even a little intimidated by the traditionally feminine tasks I’ve mastered such as cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry.” The author confirms the stereotypes that single fathers are less accepted by society and that they are perceived as odd.
I think being a single parent is hard itself; conforming to a stereotype just makes it harder. Single fathers, too, come into parenthood with problems: “Fathers who attempt to rear their children alone, must do so without clear guidelines or prescription for performing that role” (Mendes 439). In essence, it is difficult for fathers to adjust to raising kids, since they do not typically take on that role.
Perceptions of male fathers are interesting when discussed by someone actually raised by one. The media text confirms that is an interesting level of awareness that people rarely consider. For the interviewee, we see that children that come from single-father homes are raised with as much love and support as they would be if they were raised by single mothers. It proves that while the task is difficult, it is not one that only mothers can do. If awareness were raised that single fathers were just as capable, there would be less trauma experienced by the interviewee. His experience would be perceived as normal.

Works Cited
Herbert, James D. “Single Dads and Moms: Alike or Not?” Single Mother. 31 Dec. 1995: 6.
Mendes, Helen A. “Single Fathers.” The Family Coordinator 25 (1976). Pp 439-444.
Risemen, Barbara. J. “Can Men “Mother”? Life as a Single Father” Family Relations 35 (1986). Pp. 95-102.

Family Guy: A Symbol of Feminism?

We are exposed to all sorts of television figures that promote anti-feminist values. Two types of men contribute to these values. We can find the suave James Bond types who have casual sex often using women and objects, but we can also find “bumbling incompetent idiots” (Monaghan, 5). Monaghan explains that,” We like men as idiots. They make us laugh. Idiot men are funny so we fill our sitcoms with them.” These men scatter the adult cartoon landscape in shows such as South Park, The Simpsons and Family Guy. But in most of these sitcoms I will argue that we find something unexpected: a strong woman or women. In South Park we can see it in Kyle’s mom, in the Simpsons there is Marge and Lisa, and in Family Guy there is Lois. These women do not move the show forward in the way that the leading men do, but they might play the most important role: holding the show together. They are the people that keep the bumbling idiot men from ruining everything. In order to discuss feminist issues I will use the show Mind over Murder from the hit Fox series Family Guy. Lois, in the episode Mind over Murder, displays her choices about her family and her career and uses her sexuality to gain agency and empowerment. In order to set the context I will first go through the masculine themes of the series and that episode in particular, then discuss Lois in relation to gender roles and sexuality.
Most episodes of Family Guy begin with a short clip that often has nothing to do with the episode followed by the introduction theme song. This song appears before every show and is a great example of why Family Guy critics would say that it is not pro-feminism. The song states what we are lucky to have a family guy in order to bring us traditional family values that we do not have. The assumption that I made is that these values are traditional man top down values that would seek to prevent feminism. The reason that I make this assumption is based on two things. The first is that the song assumes that we need a man, the family guy, to bring us these values and that we are lucky to have him. The second is based upon the show itself. There are characters such as Lois’s father who talk down to his wife, and Glen Quagmire who is the epitome of the man who only looks for lose women and has no respect for women. This song can have a profound effect because “musical numbers can be understood to offer utopian resolution to the conflicts expressed in the narrative” (Moseley and Read, 246). The opening sets the stage for the top down, male dominated system. The Family Guy and his values are the way that we should deal with all of the conflicts that erupt in the show.
The show has many other elements of anti-feminist rhetoric. In the episode “Mind over Murder,” Peter is anything but a feminist. As Lois works all day doing housework, Peter is out on a boat drinking and when he comes home he destroys the living room. This action takes for granted the work that Lois had been doing all day and Peter often makes the assumption that because she is a woman she loves doing house work. These thoughts are examples of blatant sexism that women should and should like doing housework and that is their place. Later in the episode Peter builds a bar because he is bored in the house. At first he uses Lois as the dishwasher, but when she comes down to yell at him for being a bad father she finds her piano. To stem her anger, he asks her to play piano. This moment, when Lois gets on top of the piano and begins to sing is when we see Lois for who I believe her to be.
Family Guy is often criticized for women being passive and only their for men. Monaghan explains that in these shows “women are increasingly objectified as the objects of sexual appetites of men” (Monaghan, 5). But in that objectification, is there something feminist? In talking about Ally McBeal Moseley and Read make this argument for why it is a feminist text, “The show consistently addresses issues that have traditionally been of concern to the women’s movement, including female sexuality; the consequences for women of choosing family over career; the tyranny of feminine self-presentation.” All of these issues are at play in Mind over Murder as Lois struggles with her choice of family over career and her sexuality as she plays in her husband’s bar.
What I am about to discuss are emblematic of debates between second and third wave feminists. If Lois is a feminist it is for two reasons. The first is that she chooses to do the housework and to put her family very high on her priorities. The second reason is that she uses her talent and attractiveness in order to gain agency.
Lois has chosen to be a stay at home mother. When she responds to Peter’s comments about how she loves to do house work, by saying that she chooses to do it because she loves her family she uses a traditional third wave feminist notion. The notion that as a woman she has choice is an important ideal of third wave feminism. Women no longer have to fit the independent, man free model in order to be a feminist. The notion of choice is what sets the second and third wave apart. Some would say that Lois is not a feminist because her choice has placed her with a husband who demeans her and objectifies her. This argument is simply an indictment of Peter or the choice that Lois made; but the feminist value is that she has a choice, not that she makes a good one.
As Lois learns about what is going on in her basement, she goes downstairs to discover her older son is a bouncer, her daughter is a waitress, her baby boy is drunk, and her piano has been moved down to the bar. Quick thinking Peter tells her that he brought it down there so she could perform. In her mind she will finally be able to perform and be the mother that she has chosen to be.
Her performance hits a high note with the guys when she strips off her robe revealing little underneath. Her performance is an action of her sexual identity as a way to gain agency. As Gail Levin puts it (talking about explicit art), “the drive for free expression in art is intimately linked with women’s quest to claim their sexuality, agency and power.” Lois’ free expression through her performance is a claim to her agency as a woman. A command of agency is what feminists, especially third wave feminists, argue is necessary to combat the patriarchal system. In order for women to be able to make strides against patriarchy they first need to have control of their own self and body. This control is necessary in order to prevent a reintroduction of patriarchy through an attack on a woman’s literal body, their self-esteem, or their political agency.
Some will say that performances like these reinforce the beauty myth and place women under objectification. The beauty myth, as Naomi Wolfe explains, is a societal construct that women should look and act a particular way to be beautiful. This myth is very harmful to women because it forces them to become obsessed with the way that they look. This obsession will often lead to anorexia or other eating disorders. It also, according to Wolf, keeps the traditional patriarchal order. Men may have lost control in many areas, but they can maintain their dominance through the beauty myth. The idea of sexual empowerment and the beauty myth seem to be in opposition to each other in the abstract. Does it hold true in the situation of Lois?
I believe that there is a way out of this seeming contradiction. Lois does use her sexuality to her advantage, but she probably does not fit the model of the beauty myth. A large part of society’s current myth about beauty is slenderness. Lois is not slender, especially for a cartoon. She is an older woman, a mother of two teenagers. She does not fit the mold. Even if she does not fit the mold some would still argue that she is reinforcing the patriarchal system through her actions such as wearing skimpy outfights and singing provocative songs. But, as explained above, one way to fight the system is to gain agency over one’s body, or else patriarchy will always find a way to dominate. Lois’ use of her sexuality and identity is a great example of how these acts can fight the patriarchal system.
Patriarchy takes a face in Peter, her husband, when he becomes jealous and decides that Lois is forbidden to sing. Lois’ response is one of sexual empowerment and feminist ideology. Despite her husband she does what she wants to do. Her sexual display is a tool of her empowerment because it is an act against Peter and the patriarchal system that he is emblematic of. Even her song choice is proof. “Don’t tell me not to fly, I’ve simply gotta. If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you. Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.” Her performance is similar of the feminist struggle overall. She is told that she cannot do something, so she responds.
Lois is a feminist, and she is often the voice of equality throughout the course of the series. These values are probably not the goal of the show so we will often see her stray a little bit from a traditional feminist role. But, it is safe to say that she is a third wave feminist because she has made the choice to put family first and she uses her sexuality as a way to gain agency in order to fight patriarchy. However, Lois’ character is not enough to say that Family Guy is a show that is oozing with feminist values. Some would say that this is very problematic, but I believe that Lois shows that feminism can be found in places that we may not expect. Do not be so quick to right off a cartoon as intellectually bankrupt and let us keep our eyes open to the possibilities that feminism has to infiltrate our cultural knowledge.

media analysis

Jeremy Price
Media Analysis
Women Studies
Feminist ask why can’t women be in a male dominant world and be feminine. The movie “GI Jane” is a great example why women can be in a male dominant world. Females in a traditionally male dominated world are mistreated in many different ways. The most important and most common ways are through double bind, beauty myth, and work conditions, all of which are in the movie “GI Jane”. There are a lot of different scenes in the movie that involve all of these characteristics of women feminism. The movie is about a lady that wants to show men that she was just as strong as them mentally and physically. She had to take in all kinds of abuse from most of the men in the movie. She had to do things that she was very uncomfortable with doing like taking showers with the men not knowing if and when one of the men will try to rape her or things of that sort, but she had to do it because she had to prove to the men in the military that she was not as weak as they assumed she was. If the men saw her show any signs of weakness out of her then they had the right to kick her out of the military because according to them she wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. So she put in her mind that she was not going to show none of the men any signs of weakness. At the end of the movie she made out of the military with high honors and a lot of respect from a lot of men in the military because she made it through a lot of the hard training that they forced her to go through to prove herself to them. In this process of proving herself to these men in the military she had to go through a little bit of double bind.
She was in a very tough situation far as double bind because if she were to quit and give up on trying showing the men that she was as strong as the men then she would be looked at as being weak by all of the men in the military. If that were to happen then it would have made her hold experience and purpose pointless. On the other hand if she did better than all of the men military she had to think about dealing with women or other men that looked at her as not being feminine enough. For example if she were to finish all of her training and tone her body up to look really ripped up like a mans body would look in the military then she would get judged as being too masculine to be a woman by a lot of men and women in today’s society. Of course this is not far to her because she has to go through a lot of things while she is trying to prove herself to the men in the military but this is just how things work in the world. Either women are too feminine to work hard at something that a man can do so men automatically assume that a woman can’t handle a man job or if a woman does do a mans job as good as a man can do it then she is too masculine.
Another issue that she had to deal with while in the military was beauty myth. Beauty myth is very important in today’s society because for some strange reason some people feel like woman has to live up to the same exact standard for as beauty. In the movie she had to something that would mess up her beauty myth, but it was required to be in the military training. She had to cut all of hair completely off. She to get a buzz cut exactly like all of the men in the military. Now of course the fact that she did this made her look even more masculine than she was and this would make it harder for her in society because now not only did her body look physically fit like a man but now all of her hair is gone so she may be mistaken as a man. This totally goes against the so called “Beauty myth”. This doesn’t make it ant easier on her because now a lot of people are going to look at her as being too masculine and that is not something that was not something that she aiming for when she entered the military with the men.
One of the most important characteristics of feminism she had to deal with is the work conditions or in her situation the conditions of the training area and military base that she had to live in with the men for quite some time. She had to deal with a lot of harassment from the men at anytime of the day and night. She had to go through many nights in the cabins that they slept in with barely getting any sleep at all because the men would be calling her names all through the night and saying all kinds of vigor things to her. She was also had to worry about that fact that she might have gotten raped or sexually harassed at anytime of the night. In fact there was a very disturbing scene where she was in the shower with the men, because they didn’t have separate showers for women, and a few of the men that were in the shower with her tried to rape while she was bathing. Of course she knew that this would happen because she is a woman with woman features and she was exposing all of her features to the men but this wasn’t done on purpose because all she was doing was taking routine shower just like the men were doing. She had to go through the attempt of rapes more than one times so she figured out a way to not go through this. She started taking showers after all the men would take a shower. She felt more comfortable doing that.
At the end of the movie she made out of the military with flying colors. Something that a lot of the men in the military didn’t think she would never do. Even men and women outside of the military didn’t think it would happen. So she made a name for herself in the military and in society. She proved that women can do whatever men can do. Despite all of the double bind, the beauty myth and the work conditions she still manage to make out of the military with her head high. She also earned a lot of respect from men in the military. She earned respect from men and women outside of the military because she did the impossible.

WMST Media Analysis

Brittany Carter
April 27, 2008

The movie Love and Basketball is one of the most popular movies among teenagers and young adults in the twenty-first century. Love and Basketball is about a young girl and boy who grow up together as next door neighbors and both share the same passion and love for the game of basketball. They also share love and passion for one another. As they undergo high school and college they both go through different trials and experiences that break them apart to eventually bring them back together in the end. The leading male in the movie, Quincy McCall, whose father is a professional basketball player, finds out that his father has been lying to him and his mother for years about his whereabouts. While the leading female character, Monica Wright, struggles at home with her mother thinking she is a lesbian because she “would rather wear a jersey than an apron.” Monica struggles with the idea that her mother assumes she is a lesbian just because she grew up as a “tomboy”, and as a result, she and her mother do not have a strong relationship throughout Monica’s childhood. Love and Basketball shows a spotlight onto the contrast between men's and women's basketball. While Quincy plays college ball on huge courts to cheering, sold-out crowds, Monica sweats, tears, and endures sheer physical dedication in front of tiny audiences in small gyms and second-rate auditoriums because of gender differences. Although this is a fictional movie, the issues taken place happen in real life. A lot of people make the assumption that female athletes, especially basketball players, are lesbians. All genders make this assumption and it is assumed for all races as well. This paper argues that the assumptions that are made about women who play sports or just try to advance in this world by fulfilling their dreams are lesbians or homosexuals. Although there is a great amount of women who are athletes and there are women who do not follow the “norm” in gender roles are lesbians, those assumptions are not always true.
Gender expectations and roles is what keep things being “normal” in society. People are afraid of change as well as things that are different. There is a traditional role of gender. When a baby is born, the world treats that baby a certain way according to what sex organ the baby is born with until the day that baby dies. The only way to change the way the world views you is to become a transsexual and play the gender role that is expected with being a male or female. Gender is a choice. An example of that is Lincoln May Scott who was born a hermaphrodite and was not given the chance to choose her sex. The doctors simply did what society at the time said was the right thing and made Lincoln a male. Fifty years later, Lincoln made the choice to live his life as a woman. From the beginning time gender rules where set. Men work and make the money while the women stay home to cook, clean, and watch the children. Women are supposed to wear dresses and high heels with makeup and nail polish according to gender expectations and roles. Women are to act “ladylike” which includes the crossing of legs, not speaking in a loud tone of voice, and making sure their dresses are tucked neatly under her buttocks before sitting down. Women are to act and be feminine. Traditionally the rules are for the women to submit to their men and do what they say. The gender expectations and roles for men include working the jobs, fighting the wars, bringing home the money and being “the boss”. The rules for them are that they sit with their legs wide open, act tough and macho, and most of all act and be masculine in everything they do. God forbid if a man were to cry, he would then look as though he is less of a man. These are just some of the gender roles and expectations of how men and women are supposed to act according to society.
To me, the gender roles and expectations are more like rules. Rules are made to be broken right? What happens when you break a rule? You face consequences. The same thing applies when rules are broken when dealing with gender roles and expectations. People are treated differently when others find out they are different or not “normal”. When people are different and don’t stick to the so-called system they are put through things and they are tested whether they are right or wrong. I believe that whether they are right or wrong is nonrelevant; it’s just the fact that they are testing the system (the system in this case being society). When they test the system they are putting out the possibility that the system is wrong. People then begin to look at their own lives and ask questions, and soon more people begin to think on their own. What follows next is the system falling apart and what used to be the “norm” is merely a thing of the past. I believe this because of personal experiences that do not have anything to do with gender roles and expectations but has the same reasoning, outcomes, and sadly, the same consequences. In the movie North Country, a situation dealing with gender roles was one of the main issues. When women were being mistreated, one woman stepped up and took a stand. She paid consequences for her actions but at the end more women followed her and took action as well. In this movie men did not want women to work in the mine with them. Although legally they had to allow women to work with them, they did not welcome them and make their jobs any less difficult than it already was. The women in North Country were seen as not performing a women’s job and referred to as playing a man’s role by working at the mine.
When women step out of their expected and normal gender role they are often called lesbians. What is a lesbian? According to the Radicalesbians, a lesbian is “the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the women who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society.” I have found that the word lesbian is associated very strongly with female athletes. I am a heterosexual female athlete so the assumption that all female athletes are homosexuals is not true. One reason that a lot of people think female basketball players specifically live a homosexual lifestyle is because of the resent “coming out” of WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes. Swoopes told NBC Sports that she “quit pretending” and stated “I feel like I’ve been living a lie,” in October of 2005. Because Swoopes was the face of the WNBA at one time she is very popular. I personally don’t think that it is anyone’s business that she chooses to have a relationship with. I also don’t see the point in her coming out and letting the world know that she is a lesbian.
In Love and Basketball Monica grew up differently than most girls her age. She was able to beat all the boys in the neighborhood in basketball. She hung with the guys growing up and she played rough and tough. Through it all she still remained heterosexual. She was forced to wear dresses, even though she hid them in the garage under a box of rags. She dressed comfortably in a pair of jeans and t-shirt daily and she carried a basketball wherever she went. She even made the mistake of sitting with her legs wide open while wearing a dress at the school dance in high school. Monica and her mother were total opposite, as well as her sister. Her mother and sister were really prissy and feminine. Although Monica and her mother did not get along very well, she and her sister were like best friends. Monica may not have fit the “norm” or followed all the rules on how to be a girl but she still remained heterosexual and over time fell in love with her childhood friend and neighbor, Quincy.
In conclusion, I would like to state that assumptions are not very reliable. I believe that all people should be able to pursue their dreams and be what they would like to be in life. Because time has changed more women have become more independent and stepped out of the “norm”. This doesn’t mean that all women or any of them want to be involved in a homosexual relationship. This simply means that women have talents, goals, and aspirations just like men do and would like to have the opportunity to pursue those things and not worry about being called a lesbian.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Being Beautiful and Empowering Equals No TrueThird Wave of Feminism

On September 11th, 2000 one of the most popular sitcoms debuted on UPN- Girlfriends. Thousands of women loved to sit in front of their television and watched four intelligent, African-American women go about their day and deal with daily obstacles that were thrown their way. The audience were being drawn into the feminist world of these four ladies from Los Angeles, California. Joan, the main character, was considered the unofficial “den mother” of the group; Maya - a former assistant to Joan and a housewife/author, Lynn - a needy friend that is still trying to find herself, and Toni - the materialistic and self-centered one of her girlfriends and is the self-proclaimed “cute one” of the group (2). Even though these women are different in some ways, they are all still strong, beautiful, powerful, and successful women that are not afraid of taking on masculine roles. Looking at the sitcom from a feminist perspective, it is easy to say that it is based on third wave feminism. It is clear that all the characters in Girlfriends illustrate a sense of empowerment which reflect the third wave. Even though Girlfriends has a third wave twist, it is clear that the women of this sitcom have to deal with other issues that fall in other wave periods. In our analysis, we express the issues that the women have to deal with when it comes to being successful and trying to have a perfect “tv” family. Because there was a connection made between the waves, we can argue that there is no true third wave of feminism. This paper will focus on the lives of the four women in the sitcom Girlfriends and argue how them overcoming the stereotypes of women today is tied to the second wave text, proving that there is no true third wave text.
There is a number of feminist issues that surface in this sitcom; one being the traditional issue of women being secondary to men. This was one of the most talked about issues and was addressed throughout the show through the women’s role in their workplace. Even though these women had high-power, it still wasn’t accepted by society. There is a number of ways in which this is shown in Girlfriends.
In the first season (throughout the whole show really) of Girlfriends, Joan is having a hard time finding love. No matter what she does, her relationships never last. As she goes about her life and daily routines looking for a man she realizes that the problem is her being a lawyer of a very big firm. Joan grows to understand that men become intimidated by woman who have power and make more money than they do. Joan then tries to aim for guys with high self-esteem and self-confidence. She is tired of dealing with guys who don’t understand the fight she had to put up in order to become a lawyer and make partner because she is a woman. Betty Friedan, who wrote the book The Feminine Mystique, reflects on this issue. It argues that women should be encouraged to pursue careers as well as motherhood (5). This was one of the major issues Joan had to deal with being a lawyer and wanting to form a family.
In the second season of Girlfriends, the concept of women having high-power was still an issue. But another problem that arouse was women making more money than their partner. In this season, Maya had to deal with controversy with her husband, Darnell: an auto-repair worker who wasn’t making a lot of money. Being that Maya was working as Joan’s assistant at the law firm, she was the main supplier at home. That caused major issues because Darnell felt that because he was the male, he was suppose to be the “bread winner” in their family that consists of him, Maya, and their son-Jabari. Maya was also the person that had to pay when they went out. There were times when Darnell would refuse to go to public events with Maya because he was embarrassed at the fact that he did not have the money to pay for things at the events. This goes to prove how today’s society work. In today’s society, women are expected to be nice: soft, gentle, empathetic, selfless caretakers (3). And this draws a major concern and question about our society and where we stand as feminists.
It is clear that today’s society still have the mentality of those in society during the second wave. Men in today’s society are not interested in women who have more power than they do. They still believe that women should follow and depend on them. To them, women should stay home and be caretakers; same beliefs of men during the second wave. The writers of Girlfriends make it obvious that they were trying to show African-American women who are beautiful, intelligent, and very successful with this sitcom. They also wanted to prove that women have the strength and opportunity to get high-paying and high-powering jobs that at one point in time weren’t allowed. The writers wanted to show equality with race and in the workplace. Girlfriends above all expressed the difficulty for women who have power, to find love and companionship- this being tied to the second wave.
As writers and viewers look at Girlfriends, they notice that it is not at all a third wave text but one of the second wave. That draws in some problems because the sitcom is just an overview of what women in today’s society deal with. So, how can women today be dealing with issues of the second wave? The answer to this question: we are still in the second wave. It is impossible to move on to the next wave when you haven’t solved the issues of the previous. We cannot dismiss the feminist issues from the past. Joan dominates in her powerful position of being a lawyer, but she struggles with her relationships because of it. And a show that we thought represents the third wave doesn’t because we are still living in the second wave.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Implications for Single Mothers, Social Class, and African American Women

Donavon Baldwin

WMST 2010

Dr. McCauliff


Implications for Single Mothers, Social Class, and African American Women

Prior to this assignment I had given little thought about the role and stereotypes surrounding single mothers; but in interviewing a peer who was raised in this type of environment, I realized that “Many of these women go through inordinate struggles just to get by, working against single mother, class, and race-based stereotypes” (Sidel, 42). Even though we have only known one another since this past summer, my friend Shiri’ self-disclosed to me about her life. I feel that we knew a lot about one another, and I felt that we shared a lot in common. We were both raised in a single- parent household, which seems to be a more common, occurrence. Throughout our friendship we have talked about our childhoods and the impact that those experiences have left upon our lives. Upon receiving this assignment I decided to interview Shiri’ and ask her about her personal experiences being raised by a single African American woman; this media text, combined with feminist theory, will help to further this discussion concerning single motherhood, social class and African American women in today’s society.

Single mothers face many issues: there is the typically implied lower household income per capital, increased responsibility on the mother for raising her children and working more hours to pay for all of her children’ needs. For Shiri’, there were positive effects of her mom being a single parent: her Mom served as a positive role model for independent women. Even though she was independent, she still ran into problems generally associated with single mothers who have problems in the work force: “The devaluation of mothers’ work permeates virtually every major institution. Not only is caregiving not rewarded, it is penalized” (Crittenden 191). In other words, the role of mother and caregiver is often overpowered by the single mother’s need to provide for her family.

Social Class is always an issue with single-parent homes. Due to the lower household incomes that single parents face due to their role as the only provider, they usually fall within a lower socioeconomic status. Women have had it harder than men in terms of earning money: “Of women working full-time in 2004, 20.1% earned less than $15,000 for the year; the figure is 22.3% for African American women, 32.2% for Latinas” (Bravo et.al, 180). In addition, “Women are disproportionately represented among minimum-wage earners, accounting for more than 3/5 of all those in this category. Of these women in 2004, more than three-quarters were adults and working more than 20 hours a week; the largest share (41.6%) work full time” (Bravo et.al, 180). From these numbers we see that social class is always an issue for single mothers.

Stereotypes, such as the welfare queen, are placed upon minority single mothers and more specifically; African American mothers. According to the welfare queen stereotype, women that receive financial aid from the government are perceived to be lazy and are lower class women. These women mostly live in neighborhoods where they struggle and have a hard time raising their kids. During the interview Shiri’ mentioned that her mother, being a single parent, struggled at times and had a hard time raising her children. She also stated that there was a time when there was not enough food to supply for everyone in the household. These are the stereotypes surrounding African American women as single mothers.

According to the matrix of domination, which “interlock[s] race, class, and gender oppression [and] expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect” (Collins 221). There is an undeniable link in the negative associations of single mother’s social class and African American women. Stereotypes impact the majority of society’s negative view, which can adversely affect people.

Media Analysis

Kathleen McFadden
WMST 2000
25 April 2008
Finding the Perfect Balance:
Sex and the City’s Feminist Portrayal of Motherhood
Throughout the course of Women’s Studies, a key issue of discussion has been motherhood. There is a traditional debate on whether women belong at home with the children, tending to everyday housekeeping, or in the work force making a living alongside men. For a while it was unimaginable that a “good mother” could do both. From this perception, situation comedy shows emerged throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s that highlighted the feminine mystique and commitment to their families (Kutulas 15). The mothers in these shows were portrayed as loving women content with staying home to cook, clean, and tend to the children when they arrived home from school. As times have changed however, so have women’s roles. Women have gained much more power in society and with that, their roles as mothers have changed. This is portrayed clearly in the show Sex and the City by the character Miranda. Miranda depicts a working mother and the stress she experiences. In doing so, the program addresses many themes of feminism. Two characters in the cast of the show, Charlotte and Samantha, represent the social thoughts on motherhood vs. working, which was seen throughout the Second Wave Feminist Movement. In this paper, I will show that although many people say it can not be done, Miranda, over a period of time, portrays that there is such a thing as balance between the social binary of women being stay at home mothers or being successful in the workforce, and that it is a continual learning experience.
Throughout time, women have more than not been viewed as good caretakers, put on earth to bear and rear children. According to Susan J. Douglas and Meredith Michaels,
“Woman over the past years have been dealing with the stereotypical idea that, women are, by genetic composition, nurturing and maternal, love all children, and prefer motherhood to anything, especially work, so should be the main ones responsible for raising the kids” (139).

It is almost as if being a mother was idolized and put on a pedestal at one point, as something glorious, natural, and instinctive. Because of this “theory” many women chose to stay at home, believing that raising and taking care of their family was the most important task in life.
It was not until more recent times, growing most between the 1960s and 1980s that women were actually seen in the workforce on a normal basis (Witwer 184). In 2004, women made up forty-six percent of the U.S. labor force. Although women are seen in the work place more in modern times, they still struggle to maintain their jobs, and make enough money (187). According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005, the average man with Bachelor’s Degree made around $76,462 annually, while a woman with the same degree made only $50, 483. What is even more shocking is that in 2005, a man with a Doctorates Degree brought in a total of $116,617, while a woman only earned $83,208 that same year. A problem that many working women run into while working and making enough money is a leave for pregnancy. Studies show that starting in 1981 however, the trend for pregnancy paid benefits in the work place began (Witwer 184). However, the desire to be a good mother, and the expectations of society on how to carry out this task, hold many women back from ever returning to their careers, and instead making home-keeper their new job. Because of these society norms, when a working woman gets pregnant, she often feels as though she is left with a choice, which is so clearly depicted in the HBO series, Sex and the City.
In Season Four of Sex and the City, the red-haired witty character Miranda reveals to her three best friends over lunch that she is pregnant. What shocked audiences however, was that the young woman was pregnant out of wedlock. Not only that, but she was not even dating her child’s father at the time. This alone is what much of society is against, and what some Feminists are trying to change. Conversation around the breakfast table arises about an abortion. According to an S&F online article, this conversation in Episode 59 in Season Four was a bold move for producers, seeing as that in 1992 “… Vice President Dan Quayle reprimanded the sitcom character Murphy Brown for having a child out of wedlock” (Akass 1). It was also groundbreaking for Feminists. At this point Miranda is faced with the choice. Already, she poses as the less confident, over analyzing, and somewhat pessimistic member of the quartet. To complicate her predicament even more, Miranda had a very prestigious job working as an attorney in New York City. To juggle being pregnant and having a child would not really seem appealing to someone in this situation for many reasons.
Statistics show that most women conform to the same areas of the work force including service, sales, and secretarial jobs (Witwer 181). On the other hand, only sixteen percent of law firm partners in the United States are women (“2007 Best Law…”). In a workplace that is dominated by males, Miranda had managed to become part of this elite group of women partners, and not allow her Harvard education go to waste. Because of her lifestyle (a large apartment, single friends, nights on the town, and a fabulous job), Miranda is faced with a serious choice that is constantly brought up by two of her best friends who represent both feminist views on motherhood.
The writers of the show undoubtedly knew what they were doing by putting Charlotte’s character into the group. By portraying her as a woman whose main goal in life was marriage and children and constantly talking about it, she makes Miranda’s choice that much harder when she learns of her pregnancy (Tropp 863). Charlotte some what gives Miranda an ultimatum: Either have the baby, quit work, and stay at home, or do not have it (which really was not an option in her eyes) and keep working (864). With this plot line Judy Kutulas comments:
Baby-yearning plots emphasize the implicit
Backlash threat; pursue your career at your own risk if you are female
Because the day will come when you will want children and everything
Else you have achieved will pale by comparison (26).

It is ironic that right as Miranda finds out she is pregnant, Charlotte reveals that she, on the other hand, has fertility issues, and in fact may not be able to have children of her own. This revelation makes Miranda’s decision that much harder, because unlike her best friend, she does not want to be pregnant, but is scared she may never have the chance again. Most women are well aware of the fact that after turning thirty five, if pregnant, they are considered to be in a high risk pregnancy (Wallace). Miranda is aware that her opportunities to conceive again are slimming with each day, making her really ponder over the issue.
Quite on the opposite side are the feelings of Samantha. She, unlike Charlotte, is completely content with her promiscuous ways, and in fact has no interest in children. She is dominating and comfortable in her ways. Samantha is so convinced that children are not the answer to what is missing in life that she throws herself a “I Don’t Have a Baby Shower;” dismissing the biological discourse as well as the saying of the “have-it-all” discourse (Tropp 864). She is perfectly fine with only her friends and occasional sexual partners, and does not want to give up her luxury lifestyle. According to Laura Tropp, “Samantha is the hardest for Miranda to communicate and bond with because of her thoughts on the whole situation.” (864)
These contrasting viewpoints on motherhood leave Miranda with a choice at hand. Does she keep the baby or have the abortion? Does she “give up her life” as society tells her she will have to, or keep everything the same? It is through this that the viewer sees Miranda neither fully reject motherhood, nor fully embrace it (Tropp 865). Because of the societal beliefs that a woman can not manage both a child and a job, this raises confusion in her life-changing decision. She realizes that the expectations of motherhood and of herself to be a good mother and a good attorney, would be hard for her to balance; However, because of her worries that she will never again have an opportunity to conceive, Miranda decides not to abort the child, but at the same time refuses to give up her professional career.
Her pregnancy throughout the Season is not idolized or romantic in the least, which contradicts Charlotte’s views on motherhood. The writers de-romanticize it by showing the character in real-life situations that occur during pregnancy, instead of making her glowing and happy (Tropp 867). The program is showing a “realistic view of motherhood,” which undoubtedly addresses the feminist issue of de-romanticizing motherhood. Furthermore the program attributes to theories of third-wave feminism on single parenting. Miranda refuses Steve’s first proposal, and learns to be a mother on her own. The viewer sees her grow into a good hard-working mother, who has managed some how to juggle all her worries and stresses she accumulates in the last three seasons.
According to Laura Tropp, Miranda is the balance between the two opposite viewpoints on motherhood. She states that, “Sex and the City does not assign any one feminist perspective on the subject of motherhood but uses its characters to reflect differing viewpoints.” Through out this course I have learned that feminism is about a woman making her own choice and not following what society expects of her. In the first article we read in class entitled “What is Women’s Studies?” it states, “Feminism is continually developing a more multicultural and inclusive perspective, reflecting the lives of women of all races, ethnic groups, and classes” (12). After acquiring knowledge on the Third-Wave Feminist Movement, I believe that Miranda displays many of the Third Wave qualities. She disregards society’s beliefs and expectations and tackles motherhood and her career in her own unique way. I believe that because the show Sex and the City illustrates both viewpoints of feminist and motherhood and finds the medium that so many women look for in today’s society, Miranda is a unique character that embodies Feminism to its fullest, and displays that a woman does not have to choose but can instead do it all.

Works Cited

"2007 Best Law Firms for Women." Working Mother. 2008. Working Mother Media Inc.
22 Apr. 2008 .

Akass, Kim. “Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water: Miranda and the Myth of Maternal Instinct on Sex and the City”. The Scholar and Feminist Online. Ed. Lisa Johnson. The Barnard Center for Research on Women. 10 November 2007. <>

Bravo, Ellen, Gloria S. Anna, and Linda Meric. "An Overview of Women and Work."
Women Images and Realities. McGraw Hill: Higher Education. 180-184.

Douglas, Susan J. and Michaels, Meredith W. The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of
Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women. New York: Free Press, 2004.

Kutulas, Judy. ‘‘‘Do I Look Like a Chick?’: Men, Women, and
Babies on Sitcom Maternity Stories.’’ American Studies 39.2 (1998):
15, 26.

Tropp, Laura. “Faking a Sonogram : Representations of Motherhood and Sex and the City”. The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 39, No. 5 (2006) 861 – 877.

“Two-Thirds of Women Now Work During Their First Pregnancy; Half Return to Work
Within One Year.” M. Witwer Family Planning Perspectives. 1990. Guttmacher Institute.

Wallace, Olivia. "What is High Risk Pregnancy." Pregnancy ETC. 2005. 21 Apr. 2008

"What is Women's Studies?" Women Images and Realities. McGraw Hill Higher
Education. 8-13.

Ideal Women

Darryl Gamble

WMST 2010

April 24, 2008

Media Analysis

An Ideal Woman

An ideal woman of the 21st century would be about 5’7”, 127 lbs, blue eyes, and blonde hair, holding a mirror to show her all of her flaws. Women strive to be thinner and look younger; they are often dissatisfied with their bodies as a result of today’s advertising and media imagery. “Women today see themselves as less attractive than women of past generations did. A recent meta-analysis by Yale researchers Alan Feingold and Ronald Mazzella found that, prior to 1970, women were no more likely than men to voice dissatisfaction with their appearance. After 1970, however, a gender gap arose in self-perception, with women tending to rate themselves as less attractive than men rated themselves” (Anonymous). Modern media has developed an image of what a beautiful woman looks like. I believe that Dove’s Campaign For Real Women is arguably a reaction to the modern media’s portrayal of women and the effects of it on the consumer. In this analysis I will argue the definition of real beauty by pointing out how the media influences us into believing stereotypes about beauty, and how Dove’s Campaign For Real Women is trying to change the standard and propose a more improved aspect of beauty in its place.

Why are women dissatisfied with their bodies? I believe the media is responsible for this ongoing question about women’s beauty. For example, many diet product commercials have female actors that fit society’s stereotype, though they aren’t the ones who use these products. The women who actually use them are seen as unfit to be in those types of commercials such as Trim Spa. In “Teen Mags: How to get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self-Esteem,” Anastasia Higginbotham writes about the attack of media image that show thin models who are dissatisfied with their bodies. The constant stream of images, along with “the sophistication of modern media, which constantly exposes us to impossibly thin, computer-adjusted images, creates ever more elusive physical targets, especially for women” (Lewis). Numbers give us proof of women’s growing dissatisfaction with their bodies: “the proportion of women calling themselves ‘moderately unhappy’ with their figures has risen from 31% in 1984 to 35% in 1998. The percentage who say they are ‘very unhappy’ with their bodies has jumped even higher in this time period, from 11% to 18%” (Anonymous) and in the United Kingdom “more than 50% of women questioned – compared with less than 25% of men - said they would consider plastic surgery, according to a survey of around 25,000 people aged between 17 and 35.” (Lewis) Women seem to always find something that’s wrong with their image. For example, when a woman asks multiple questions about their size when trying on clothes like “Does this make my butt look big?” when actually the clothes fit perfectly. With all the stereotypes surround this subject; I believe Dove is making an important effort to bring the stereotypes to a halt.

The Dove Campaign is the frontrunner in portrayal of glamorized “real women.” The campaign supports the Dove mission: “to make women feel more beautiful every day by challenging today’s stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring women to take great care of themselves” (Dove). The campaign commits to real women of various ages, shapes and sizes to encourage discussion about beauty and share their views on real beauty around the world. According to The Dove Campaign, they also:

The Campaign for Real Beauty appeals to women on the national and local levels with outreach including national television and magazine advertising as well as interactive billboards, transit station signage and city bus ads. The campaign is intended to challenge women’s notions of beauty with communication in high-profile downtown locations and along high-traffic roads in major cities: Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, New York and San Francisco.

Dove also takes part in Real Women Bare Their Real Curves which consist on, “six brave women – two students, a kindergarten teacher, a manicurist, an administrative assistant and a café barista” (Dove) who all are different sized women and pass along their message to “stand firm and celebrate your curve!” (Dove), Dove not only advertises in its Campaign For Real Beauty, but they also influence the consumer’s common perceptions. When I say influence, I mean that they try to sell an image that you don’t have to be 5’7”, 127 lbs, blue eyes, and blonde hair to be beautiful.

I believe Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty’s attempt to change the standard of beauty is gradually changing for the best. Also, when it comes to body figures, teen magazines send a elaborate message: “Girls are encouraged to love their bodies, no matter what they look like, by magazines with fashion spreads featuring only stick-thin, flawless-faced white models in expensive outfits” (Higginbotham). Change should start from within; the woman needs to realize that she doesn’t have to change her appearance to become beautiful and they should feel comfortable the way they look. Other than your inner feelings about yourself, most pressure comes from your surroundings, peers, and even your culture. For example, “only 3% of Caucasian-American women rated their own beauty a 10 on a scale of 1-10, a full third of African-American women did so” (Anonymous). Thus; the common perception amongst African-American women is that “the thicker the better” or at least that’s what I hear, but as for Caucasian-American women there also is a perception that being very thin is the way to be. “Beauty is visual, but in most media images, it is the same visual – the eye popping features and stunning proportions of a few hand-picked beauty icons. When only a minority of women is satisfied with their body weight and shape in a society captivated by diet and makeover programs, it is time for a change” (Dove).

Love and basketball and "Traditional" Motherhood

Agu Itebe

Women’s Studies 2010

Kristen McCauliff

25 April 2008

Love and Basketball and “Traditional” Motherhood

The movie Love and Basketball seems to tell you all you need to know, in the title about the storyline of the film, but these two topics in the name are only the surface of the critically acclaimed movie. Love and Basketball came in second in its opening weekend in the year 2000. Making more than $8 million in sales and grossing over $27 million in the box office, this movie produced by the renowned producer Spike Lee, gave thousands of movie-goers the opportunity to see a movie portraying possible feminist ideas (The Internet Movie Database). The movie, based in the 1980’s, follows the lives of two neighbors, Monica Wright and Quincy McCall, who both share an incomparable love for the sport basketball. Monica, being a female ballplayer goes through a tough time both on the court and in her own home. Her mother Camille, a stay at home mother, seems to have strong opinions on how she believes a female should behave, and her views has a direct effect on her and her daughter’s relationship. For Camille, being a stay at home mother drives her role in the movie. Because of misinterpretations and backlash, people often believe that housewives like Camille have a negative view in the feminist community. This paper will argue that although Camille acts as what people might consider a “traditional” (stay-at-home) mother in the movie, her role in the household does not make her any less of a successful woman than her talented daughter, Monica.

The role Camille Wright plays as the mother in Love and Basketball epitomizes the traditional motherhood role. She seems to fit the “perfect mother” stereotype flawlessly: she quit her job to raise her children, she cooks, she cleans, and she takes care of her working husband. In our everyday society most people have opinions on this kind of livelihood. I believe that one position looks well upon it, believing that it is an honor to just take care of one’s husband and children and another side has taken another point of view and looks negatively upon taking on this traditional job. In society a traditional mother is usually defined by what we see in such shows as “I love Lucy”, “The Simpsons”, “The Brady Bunch”, and “Seventh Heaven”. These women are stay-at-homes mothers, who alls job is to take care of their families. Due to many feminist’s ideas denouncing the forced traditional motherhood role. Many have blamed feminism for the negative stigma that sometimes now arises with the traditional stay-at-home mother position. In the movie, Camille shows us that, agreeing with most feminists, being a stay-at –home-mother does not have to take away from empowerment.

Feminists do not in fact believe that being a stay-at-home mother is negative. They actually believe that stay-at- home mothers often face the ever-oppressing double bind. They can choose to stay at home and give up what they truly want or they can decide to juggle work and motherhood and be looked down upon by society. As Susan Faludi’s piece, “Blame it on feminism”, that we read in class explains: women shouldn’t be forced to choose between public justice and private happiness. In this case, Camille chose to give up her catering career when she became pregnant with her first child, to take care of her household and kids. Because feminists speak negatively about mothers having no choice in sacrificing so much for motherhood, many interpret it as them denouncing motherhood as a whole. Many blame feminism for the negatives stereotypes placed on traditional mothering. As one opinionated author states, “Today's anatomy-obsessed feminists enjoy a stronghold on American academia that strips child-rearing of its value, separates actions from their consequences…” (Peck). Individuals who believe this have misconstrue misunderstood the feminist’s ideas. Most of today's feminists however embrace the traditional ideal of motherhood. All we want to do is eradicate the oppressive idea associated with it which values women exclusively in terms of their childbearing functions positioning them firmly in the domestic sphere” (Ir-shai and Ross).

Camille plays an important role in her household as well as the movie. She is the stabilizer in her home and takes pride knowing that her children and husband’s lives run smoothly due to her hard work. Though she takes pride in what she does, she is still taken advantage of, and feminists would agree that this is where the work of a housewife becomes negative. Because Camille is expected to take care of the house she is often stepped over and forgotten. In a scene where Lena, Camille’s oldest daughter, is braiding Monica’s hair, Camille walks into the bedroom and tells her two daughters how tire she is, telling them that she needs to go and lie down. Nathan Wright, her husband, then comes into the room holding up two dress shirts and asking his wife which shirt he should wear the next day to work. Upon answering the question and pointing to which shirt she liked better, he proceeds to ask her to iron both of them tonight “just in case”. Camille then nods, puts a small fake smile on and takes the shirts (Love and Basketball). Through scenes like this in the movie, it is understandable as to why viewers might get a negative impression of the traditional housewife. Her role throughout the film is dedicated to her being “behind” her husband or supporting her children. It seems as though there is no real Camille. On the other hand there is Monica, her second daughter, who takes a completely different role in the house: she will not help with things such as setting the table, chores her mother thinks she should learn. Camille’s conventional way of living and Monica’s more modern style have a strong influence on their relationship.

Camille and Monica have two very different outlooks on the way they view themselves as woman. As discussed earlier, Camille tends to stick to the conservative, matronly way while Monica takes a dive into the non-traditional role of a basketball playing “tomboy”. Because they have such different perspectives on womanhood they look at each other in different lenses. It is clear that Monica has no respect for her mother as a housewife, and many individuals believe feminists do not have. When Monica’s father asks Camille to iron the two shirts, Monica looks away when her mother takes the shirts, cringing, as if her mother accepting to iron both shirts hurt her physically. Camille looks down upon her daughter for a different reason. Her daughter, Monica, is not the daughter she wished/ expected her to be. In a scene where Camille and Lena are setting the dining room table as the father sits and watches and Monica sits and complains about her basketball game, Camille comments to Monica, “I wish you would grow out of this tomboy phase” as she also adds in that Monica should do something with her hair. Both these women have strong opinions on what they believe should represent women and in their eyes the other does not. In an ending scene, Monica learns to respect her mother for her role in the household. Close to the end, Monica confronts her Mother about how she feels about what her mother does. She tells her mother that she always looked down upon her for letting her husband step all over her as a housewife. In turn Camille replies, “Is that really all you think of me”? Camille explains to her naïve daughter how she ended up in the position she is. She got pregnant, and chose to stay at home to raise her kids. She is glad she did it and adores the job that she does. Monica finds a new respect for the woman who has raised her all of her life, sees the success of her hard work: two grown, intelligent, strong-willed women, her and her sister.

The ending scene of the movie shows Monica, who has now made it into the WNBA, and Quincy, her husband with their baby daughter. Monica is now a mother, and though she has chosen to not take the traditional role of the stay-at-home housewife, it is clear that her mother’s role in her life has had an impact on the mother she will be. Camille, who chose to be a housewife, was no less successful than her daughter who got drafted into the WNBA. They chose different routes in their life, but both ended up successful in what they wanted to do. Feminists believe that it is the women’s choice to choose what she wants to do, which was showcased in the movie. Feminists again do not denounce motherhood as a whole. “Common to all feminists is the conviction that motherhood is not the only means for realizing womanly potential” (Ir-shai and Ross).

Princes, Princesses, and Revolution: Gender Roles in Revolutionary Girl Utena

Once upon a time, a young princess was all alone, mourning the deaths of her parents. Along came a noble prince on a white horse who rescued the princess from her despair and comforted her. The prince urged the little princess to never lose her innate nobility and inner strength, and, giving her a rose signet ring, promised that they would one day meet again. However, the princess was so impressed by the prince and his manner that she vowed to one day become a prince herself and also rescue girls in need. Flash-forward several years, and now Utena Tenjou, a middle school student at the prestigious Ohtori Academy, is pursuing her princely ideals while searching for the mysterious prince from her childhood. While defending a friend’s honor, Utena is drawn into a mysterious series of duels against the Student Council for the hand of Anthy Himemiya, a strange girl known as the “Rose Bride” who holds the key to revolutionizing the world.
Thus begins Revolutionary Girl Utena, a manga and anime series from the early 1990’s about growing up and carving out one’s place in the world no matter what society may say. The series is rife with symbolism and allegory, to the point where a viewer is almost sure to be confused the first time she watches the story unfold. One of the most prevalent and obvious themes, however, and the one that this essay will focus on, is the system of gender roles present in the world, and the third-wave feminist attitude of breaking them in the name of individual freedom. Perhaps the best example of this theme is the title character herself, a girl who wears a modified boys’ uniform to school and dreams not of marrying a prince, but of becoming one herself. Utena’s journey to attain such a noble nature is contrasted by her “fiancée” Anthy, who embodies feminine passivity, and Anthy’s older brother Akio, who represents masculinity in a patriarchal society. It is by these two that Utena’s character is tested and her identity is shaped throughout the series.
A central theme of the world of Ohtori Academy is that “all girls are princesses.” However, this is far more sinister than the gentle, heartwarming message of A Little Princess, where all girls are special and deserve to be loved. This is a law set down by the series’ world of old: women are passive and submissive, and must wait for a male prince to come to their rescue. Any girl who should defy this law would be branded a witch, and, like all fairy-tale witches, suffer for her crimes. “These were the two categories into which girls were separated, and there was no in-between” (Lundy). From the beginning, Utena defies this creed, dressing like a boy, participating in sports, and dueling for Anthy’s freedom. These actions immediately draw the attention of her teachers, who scold her for breaking the spirit, but not the law, of the dress code, her female classmates, who idolize Utena for behaving so “princely,” and her male classmates, particularly Touga, the Student Council President, who see her as something to pursue and claim as their own, so they can make a “proper woman” out of her.
Despite her aspirations to break the status quo, during the first season, Utena herself is guilty of enforcing the school’s patriarchal regime through her relationship with Anthy, whose free will is subsumed by that of whoever she is currently engaged to. When she loses Anthy to Touga, he tells her that whatever friendship the girls shared was all a lie. Anthy may have acted more like a “normal” person than usual during her time with Utena, but only because that was what Utena had wanted Anthy to be. In doing so, Utena had unwittingly perpetuated the notion that a girl should be told how to behave around others. However, Utena learns from the mistake, and after winning Anthy back, allows her to act as is normal for her, rather than what is normal to Utena.
During the third season, Utena’s behavior shifts toward the other end of the gender spectrum under Akio’s influence. The Chairman, a mature, elegant, and charming adult, reminds Utena of the prince she idolized since childhood. As she begins to spend more and more time with Akio, eventually becoming his lover, Utena starts to take on more traditionally feminine traits, letting her goal of Revolution and winning Anthy’s freedom slip as a priority. This fall from grace is exactly what Akio wants. As a bitter shell of Dios, the ideal Prince in the world of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Akio possesses all of the traits expected of a man in a patriarchal society: he is sexually aggressive, powerful, and in control of the women in his life. By controlling Anthy, the Rose Bride, he controls the key to unlocking the power to revolutionize the world. And by controlling Utena, the favorite to win that power in the duels, he can easily take it for himself. He believes that a girl cannot possibly control that kind of power because she is innately a princess, someone who by definition cannot be an agent of change. This attitude, conceited and sexist as it is, stems from Akio’s noble past; he was the Prince who did nothing but rescue Princesses. Thus, it is his duty to “rescue” Utena from her path, before she is struck down as a witch for her hubris. Anthy, who sealed the Prince away from the rest of the world and took on its hatred in the form of a million stabbing swords in his stead, is already damned to be the Rose Bride forever, but Utena can still become a Princess, if only Akio can stop her. While it may seem that Akio has good, if warped, intentions at heart, however, he is actually “more that of a spoilt child than an actual adult, claiming his own maturity where there is not yet any” (Harpy). He manipulates Anthy and Utena’s emotions, using sex and their love for him as tools to keep them in his thrall. Once Akio has taken what he wants from Utena, the sword that will break down the door to Revolution, he “hacks at the door with his sword, aware that every time he strikes the door it wounds Utena. She staggers towards him as the sword breaks and he informs her that the seal can never be broken now. He can always start over. The Rose Bride will be his forever” (Satan). These are hardly the words and deeds of a noble prince, even one with outdated views of how the world works. “Where Dios comforted and healed the sick, Akio feeds on weakness and insecurity, nurturing only his lust for absolute power” (Ohtori). It is this callous nature that allows Utena to see Akio for what he really is, and break away from him to return to her original goal of becoming a genuine prince for Anthy’s sake.
In the end, Utena finally reclaims her nobility and acts as a true prince, seeking to rescue Anthy from her pain and bring her back into the living world, just as her prince had done for her. “The ‘prince’ is anyone who is noble, selfless, truthful. […] Thus in the world of Utena, it is possible for a man or a woman to become a prince, and in so doing, our heroine breaks through the mold of the two limited roles to which women had been assigned up until the Revolution. Not a princess, or a witch, but a true prince” (Lundy). Unexpectedly, though, something goes wrong. Anthy falls into the darkness, and Utena disappears amidst the Swords of Hate and the crumbling ruins of the dueling arena. Utena’s strength gained her the power of revolution, but in doing so, she lost her place as either a princess or a witch. Without a place for her, the world thus ejected her from it.
Despite Utena’s apparent failure, the series ends on a triumphant note. After so many years of letting herself live a false life trapped in the role of the Rose Bride, Anthy packs up and leaves to search for Utena in the world outside of Ohtori Academy, leaving her brother and his control behind her forever. When Utena became a true prince who sacrificed herself to rescue Anthy from her pain, Anthy decided that it was time to rescue herself. “She no longer had to be the Rose Bride, she was no longer under Akio's control. And she was the only one who realized it. So she left” (Satan). “This time, it’s my turn to go. No matter where you are, I swear I’ll find you,” she promises an absent Utena before she picks up her suitcase and walks through the campus gates and into the world outside of the school, the “real” world. The school bells that had formerly rung to signify the end of a duel and Anthy’s continued servitude peal once again, this time in celebration of Anthy’s freedom.
Many anime series reinforce traditional gender roles, implying that while a girl can easily be capable of fighting monsters and performing “many brave deeds and [becoming] a strong character, […] in the end, she still must end up with a prince” (Lundy). While love is a beautiful thing and should involve supporting one’s partner through whatever challenges life may throw at him or her, Utena herself raises an interesting point when the subject of jumping through hoops in order to find a romantic match is brought up: “what’s wrong with not getting married?” Revolutionary Girl Utena defies expectations by having Utena and Anthy both decide that they do not need a prince to protect them, and can make their own way in the world. This attitude usually coincides with second wave feminism, but the way it is brought about, by defying traditional gender roles and breaking free of the “princess/witch” binary that had chained them for so long, marks Revolutionary Girl Utena as a third wave work. It is a tale fraught with pain and mistakes, but Utena and Anthy are both growing up, have “tasted adulthood only through pain, [are] able to recognise the end of the 'game' and leave the garden” (Harpy) that is Ohtori Academy, and enter the real world. By questioning and discarding the expectations placed on them as girls, Anthy and Utena have become mature, independent adults.

"Desperate" to be the Perfect Mother

When the weekend begins winding down and the time to gear up for another week of work or school is approaching, Sunday nights offer woman, as well as men, the opportunity to indulge in the guilty pleasure of viewing the outrageous lives of four women living in an upscale suburban neighborhood on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives, created by Marc Cherry, has captured millions of weekly viewers, causing the television show to receive praise and awards in return. Desperate Housewives “is a balanced mixture of drama, comedy, soap opera and mystery, giving rise to conversations on topics such as love, marriage, surface appearances, human interaction, gender roles and the dark underbelly of suburbia” (Di Gregorio 63). Mary Alice Young, once a friend and neighbor on Wisteria Lane to the woman until her suicide, now narrates the lives of her friends; Susan Mayer- a clumsy, yet attractive single mother, Lynette Scavo- a tough, fearless mother, Bree Van De Kamp- a prim and proper, dedicated homemaker, and Gabrielle Solis- an adulterous, ex-model. The show focuses a great deal on the importance of beauty and appearance, but also displays the struggles with being a housewife and a mother. I plan to focus on the role of motherhood for Lynette Scavo and the obstacles she faces when trying to balance raising her children, a career, and her marriage while dealing with oppression and the need to conform to traditional gender roles.
Motherhood is a complex subject and is debated often by the mainstream media and feminists on what constitutes the best “role” of a mother. Whether mothers choose to stay home or have no choice but to stay home, work full-time or have a part-time job, and whether their married or single are all aspects that affect motherhood. The way an individual was raised can influence one’s particular views on motherhood as well. Someone who had a mother stay home to raise them is probably more acceptable of the idea of a “stay-at-home mom” rather than someone who had a mother that was always working, but not in every case. Time magazine states these particular people may be dedicated to their work, but many of them experienced having parents work long hours and prefer to give their own children more attention than they received (Time). Today, “our culture insists that to be a remotely decent mother, a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional, and intellectual being “24/7” to her children” (Time). The unattainable expectation can therefore be accredited to such debate on motherhood.
Whatever the case, the role of motherhood is controversial and challenging, as we see in Desperate Housewives. The show “represents the oppression of upper-middle class, suburban life and the difficulties which these women encounter in their roles of housewife and mother” (Richardson 158). Studies have found evidence that such television shows shape young female’s views and expectations on family and gender roles, particularly in regards to marriage and motherhood (Carine T. G. M. et all, 955). The young females believe these television shows portray an accurate way of society and do not realize the show is a form of entertainment which strays from that of real life. Also, these type shows have typically stereotyped woman as dependant on men, causing them to receive less recognition and respect. Though finally, shows are starting to have mother characters not solely as homemakers, but holding professional jobs outside of the home. (Carine T. G. M. et all, 956). In doing so, more families are able to relate to the motherhood role in the show.
Lynette faces the issue of dealing with motherhood and a career. She has always been the ideal career woman; very dedicated and successful in her executive position with an advertising company. She truly enjoys being in the workforce. Lynette and Tom then decide to have children and soon enough they have a son, two twin boys, and a daughter. To make matters worse, the twins suffer from ADHD, making having four kids even more of a handful. As a result, she is forced to leave work to be a full-time mother and is constantly stressed while doing so. Desperate Housewives “is one of the first series to actively critique the cult of “New Momism”; a deluge of cultural images representing contemporary super-women who unite demanding professional jobs with selfless childrearing (Richardson 158). Lynette “claims that people expect only one answer when they ask her whether she likes being a full-time mother: “It’s the best job in the world!” (Di Gregorio 64). Lynette struggles with the fear of being a bad mother more so than she struggles in any corporate job, making her secret regret of leaving work somewhat understandable (Metro Magazine 145). The show “demonstrates that being a superhuman “new mom” is not quite as easy as contemporary media would suggest” (Richardson 158). Though she tries to use the same positive attitude and successful strategies in her role as mother as she did in the office, she does not get the same appeasing results in return.
While struggling with her job as a mother, Lynette has flashbacks to when she found out she was pregnant with the twins and Tom insisting she stay at home because he believes children are raised better when they have a stay-at-home mother. Quitting her job “is very much one oppression in which Lynette is constrained by gender traditions and, as a result, now finds herself trapped in a role which she finds difficult and even traumatic” (Richardson 161). Lynette found comfort when finally admitting to her friends the struggles she was experiencing with motherhood and learning they also find motherhood difficult.
Motherhood also takes a toll on Lynette’s marriage. When her husband insisted she quit her job and stay at home, he is unaware of the struggles she faces while being a full-time mom. In return, there is a great deal of tension in the relationship and constant arguing. Therefore, Lynette experiences another form of female oppression while being “bullied” by her husband. In scenes with Lynette, as well as Gabrielle experiencing female oppression, “the sequence sets up a dichotomy between the husbands as monsters and the wives as victims. The dominant impression is one of powerlessness in which these women are trapped in marriages and under their husbands’ control” (Richardson 161). Her husband is just another example of some described in The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued. People, such as Tom, take for granted the job of a mother and do not give them the respect they deserve, and rather just assume the mothers do “nothing” all day (Crittenden 48). To appease Lynette, Tom is willing to hire a nanny for Lynette. The move backfires when the nanny is too attractive, causing trouble for the marriage once again. Until the traditional gender roles were reversed and Tom became a stay-at-home dad while Lynette returned to work did Tom realize the degree of stress Lynette has been facing. In one scene during the show, Lynette came home from work to find Tom asleep on the couch, exhausted from his role as “mother” that day.
Lynette had actually experienced anxiety when deciding to return to work or not, a far cry from her start as a full-time mother. Lynette only wanted the best for her family, but that often meant straying from the traditional gender roles which society has a hard time accepting. The housewives are infatuated with their neighbor’s opinions, therefore, the show “does not represent people being whatever they want to be—but instead shows “desperate” people obsessed with conforming to appropriate social roles” (Richardson 169). Consequently, this is prime reasoning why Lynette struggles with career and marriage issues on top of her role as mother. The controversial issues surrounding appropriate motherhood just make matters worse for her character. Television needs to continue trying not to stereotype motherhood a certain way. Woman should be able to raise their children however they like, while receiving a little respect in return.

The Simpsons Do Feminism

When you think of feminism in mainstream media, I’m guessing The Simpsons is not the first show that comes to mind and that’s ok! Much to my mother’s displeasure, my brother and I have been watching The Simpsons since the tender of age of five years old, and while some people disapprove, I think it has served me well (especially in terms of this assignment). Because I have watched almost every episode at least seven times at varying stages in my life, I have witnessed first hand my own growing awareness of the messages the show presents to the audience. Matt Groening’s often used quote is that “The Simpsons is a show that rewards you for paying attention” (qtd. in Irwin and Lombardo 81). Both my brother and I have noticed how, as we got older and learned more, we began to pick up more on the social satire and of course, the almost overwhelming number of references, ranging from pop culture to poetry to literature. Simone Knox asserts that since it’s start, “the series has become accepted as a vital part of both US and global culture” (Knox 73), winning 23 Emmys, a Peabody Award for “providing exceptional animation and stinging social satire, both commodities which are in extremely short supply in television today” in 1996, and being named “Best TV Show” of the century by Time magazine in 1999 (qtd. in Knox 73). Currently, it is the longest running American sitcom ever, with over 400 episodes and counting.

Matthew Henry writes, “The Simpsons is above all a sophisticated satire on American culture…offering scathing critiques of America’s numerous faults and flaws. Among other things, The Simpsons mercilessly exposes the hypocrisy and ineptitude of pop psychology, corporate greed, commercialism, consumerism, and modern child-rearing, as well as the potential dangers of fundamental religion, homophobia, racism, and sexism” (273). Each episode questions the universality and normativity of-so called “traditional family values” and satirizes America’s own exclusionary practices of “minorities” in American culture, whose status, which Henry points out, is based on religion, race, age, sex and gender (273). This essay specifically explores how the show presents feminist ideas and feminist struggles through Marge, but in the end falls back on traditional gender norms.

Due to the changes in women’s lives and a shift in theoretical perspective since the height of second wave feminism, many women struggle with what it is to be a feminist, and as Henry notes, “their lives are marked by ambivalence and ambiguity, complexity and contradiction” (274). In Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, Susan Douglas states, “American women today are a bundle of contradictions” (9). Douglas demonstrates that much of the confusion about women’s “proper place” and roles in culture are present in mainstream mass media, causing many women to be in a conflicted state, torn between traditional and stereotypical ideas of who and what they ought to be and progressive and liberating concepts of who and what they can be. Douglas writes, “The war that has been raging in the media is not a simplistic war against women but a complex struggle between feminism and antifeminism that has reflected, reinforced, and exaggerated our culture’s ambivalence about women’s roles for over thirty-five years” (12-13).

One issue that feminism has had an on-going discussion of is that of the stay-at-home mother. In season three, the episode “Homer Alone” (#8F14) attempts to address the same issue. Opening on a stressed Marge, it shows a sped-up version of her daily routine. Like a perfect storm, the combination of practical jokers on the radio, heavy traffic, a rude tailgater and Maggie, who spills her bottle of milk all over Marge and the car, lead to her breaking point. Stopping her car in the middle of a bridge and creating gridlocked traffic in both directions, local newsman Kent Brockman shows up to report on the situation. It is at this point that the gender issues discussed in Ann Crittenden’s “The Price of Motherhood” are brought to light as Brockman states, “An overworked and under-appreciated housewife has snapped and parked her car on a bridge.” Eventually, Homer arrives at the scene and pleads with Marge to come home, promising to help out more. Marge agrees, but insists on having a vacation for herself.

While vacationing at Rancho Relaxo, Homer struggles with tending to the children and the home. In some shows, Marge would be called back early to help restore “proper” order to the house, but instead, Marge finishes her vacation. Homer desperately tries to put the house together so it would appear that things were fine in her absence. Instead, the image of perfection at home that Homer wants to recreate is contrasted with the “real”, when Marge holds up a photo of her family (one in which everyone is well groomed) and lowers it to reveal the unkempt group waiting for her. The episode ends with Marge stating that she expects more help from everyone around the house to lessen her own stress level, and everyone agrees to pitch in. However, it seems that while the show highlighted the labor involved with taking care of the home, which has long been devalued or unacknowledged, the show seems to fall back upon the well-established gender norms for a resolution.

In season six, women’s roles outside the home are addressed in the episode “The Springfield Connection” (#2F21). In this episode, Marge has a knife pulled on her by the petty thief Snake, and during a rush of adrenaline, she successfully defends herself. After her exciting brush with danger, Marge struggles to find thrills in her life as a homemaker. Eventually, Marge goes down to the police station and announces that she wants to join the police force. Later that evening when Marge shares her news with Homer, it is obvious that Homer subscribes to the idea of polarized gender roles. He states, “Marge, you being a cop makes you the man, which makes me the woman, and I have no interest in that.” Marge quickly reassures Homer that there is no need for him to feel threatened, an acknowledgment of the idea that the feminism is a threat patriarchy.

Marge successfully completes training and becomes one of the best cops on the force, but she finds that her success comes at a price. Outcast by the town, it is Homer who finally voices his complaint: “You’ve become such a cop. Not that long ago, you were so much more to me. You were a cleaner of pots, a sewer of buttons, an unplugger of hairy clogs.” Marge replies, “I’m still all those things, only now I’m cleaning up the city, sewing together the social fabric, and unplugging the clogs of our legal system.” Homer, locked into the binary gender roles, asks “You’re cooking what for dinner?” Later, Marge writes a ticket for Homer’s car parked across three handicapped spots, but Homer simply claims that she is not a real cop, taking her police hat off and verbally mocking her. Embarrassed in front of the crowd that has gathered, Marge demonstrates the realness of her job by arresting Homer. Now fighting, it is only when Homer discovers that a counterfeit jeans operation is being run out of his garage that he realizes the role Marge plays as a cop. Following a dramatic chase scene, Marge successfully captures the criminal. But just like in “Homer Alone” this progressive ending is undone when after seeing all of the other cops trying on the illegal denim, she says “There’s too much corruption on this force,” and quits, returning the characters to their status quo.

Despite this “return to normalcy” at the conclusion of these episodes, I find it inspiring that these issues are receiving greater exposure in mass media. While we have established how enormously successful the show has been, I think it is important to consider what this means for episodes like those discussed here. Many of the viewers will not have taken a women’s studies class where they would be exposed to feminist ideas like undervalued motherhood and the rigidity of gender norms in marital relationships, but these episodes are able to reach a wide audience and hopefully, will inspire a discourse of some sort. The Simpsons continues to air today and even in the most recent episodes, they have managed to slip in quite a few references to feminist ideas (most recently Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and the idea of women as the objects of men). Matt Groening himself has stated that he sees the show continuing for many more years, and for me, that means more opportunities to reach those unfamiliar with the ideas of feminism and maybe change some minds.