Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where the Girls Are...

Happy Spring Nor'Easter, readership! If you're anything like moi and everyone else I know, you're cuddled up in some cozy room listening to the pitter-patter (err, make that pelting-pummeling) of the rain and wondering if these April showers will kill all the May flowers.

Fellowette's been a bit of a mess this week. I got back from a wonderful ski trip in Utah with a pesky cold and a nasty case of jet-lag/altitude-induced fatigue. I've been having a hard time dragging my sorry ass to work and play, so this weather gives me a nice respite and a chance to finally dump my thoughts on this'n'that here, where it belongs.

A wonderful family friend who lives in Salt Lake gave me and my mom a copy of Susan J. Douglas' great book of media commentary, Where the Girls Are, and perusing it has gotten the gears up in my mental attic a-churning. The essential thread of the book was this: on TV and in music, the power-brokers follow the zeitgeist by creating powerful female characters, but they always take something away from them too. In other words, put a feminist on TV--Maude--but make her old and un-feminine. Put a band of strongly-bonded sisters on TV--Charlie's Angels--but make them wear skimpy clothing and report to a beneficient patriarchy. Give women a message of empowerment but use it to sell things like face creams and female-centered cigarettes. You get the point.

A lot of the stuff about 60s and 70s pop culture was a wee bit dated for even me, but it still resonated (I watched Nick at Nite after all), and Douglas' chapter on the 1980s fitness/personal care product boom hit extremely hard , particularly the "buns of steel" craze and how it took feminism's message: "be strong, be in control" and fed it to the patriarchy--"you must work harder to be perfect," "return to a pre-pubescent ideal" etc. etc. And her chapter about how the media pitted Gloria Steinem against Phyllis Schlafly during the strife-ridden women's lib era was extremely provocative--and true, natch.

The book was thoughtful and even moving, and it justified my endless scrutiny of how tv shows and pop singers represent women as a whole--like my bitching about how the Holiday forwent Kate for Cameron, f'rinstance.

And then, on Weds night, I saw Lily Allen at the newly-christened Fillmore east, and I listened to the shrieks of approval from the mostly-female audience at Allen's profanities, cigarette breaks, and alternately up-yours and reflective lyrics...

I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise,
and not feel bad about it for days and days and days.
In the magazines they talk about weight loss,
If I buy those jeans I can look like Kate Moss,
Oh no it's not the life I chose,
But I guess that's the way that things go)

...and the message of how much pop culture matters was reaffirmed. Go Lily Allen and Susan Douglas. Three friggin' cheers.

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