By Holly Hilgenberg
Despite myself, I purchased ELLE magazine for the first time in years this weekend (I was on a skiing trip, it was a weak moment) and was pleasantly surprised by a decent review of Susan J. Douglas’ new book Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work Is Done. Let’s just say that the media studies grad student in me geeked out a bit, but regardless, I am really excited to check Douglas’ book out (according to Amazon.com, it comes out March 2).
According to the ELLE review, in the book Douglas attacks current day media images of women “in power,” arguing that such portrayals are actually destructive and reverse the gains of the women’s movement. This is particularly interesting to me as I had been considering looking at images of “successful” “career women” in pop culture, especially things like Sex and the City and pretty much any rom com that you can think of, because something about these portrayals always struck me as…off, particularly in the sense that while women being successful in “traditional male-centric” and highly capitalistic positions are celebrated (think Samantha Jones’ PR firm or Sandra Bullock’s publisher in The Proposal), women being successful in “traditional female” roles like teaching or non-profit work are virtual absent from the glossy lives of most fictional pop culture narratives (unless you count Anne Hathaway’s teacher in Bride War’s, which, compared to Kate Hudson’s high-powered lawyer position, is completely laughable given the fact that she can somehow afford the same wedding as Hudson).
So these are things I have thought about in the past and I am really looking forward to reading how Douglas discusses them.
Also of note: Douglas also touches on the male backlash of these “successful” women portrayals, in particular how males act resentful towards such portrayals. Given what I have heard about some Dodge commercials shown during the Superbowl (apparently they instruct the men in the commercial to “put their pants back on” and rebel against “their women” bossing them around (meaning, telling them to do simple household chores like take out the trash and wash the dishes…man, those dudes have it rough!)), anger against women in popular media is not a thing of the past.
How Douglas presents all of this, however, we will just have to wait and see (for another week or so)