Where the Girls Are
Thursday, April 11, 2013 The book Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas gives us a look into what it was like for women of the baby boom era. It gives a different view on Disney movies, magazines, television shows and movies. This analysis of their everyday life makes women today take a step back and look at how much has truly changed and how lucky women of 2013 really are. During this time period, mass media was taking off and becoming a huge part of everyday life unlike before. This mass media sent many mixed messages to women of the time which is in part to blame for the cultural schizophrenics which had become common. It helped women feminists by educating them on issues such as one of the most important social revolutions since World War II, the women’s liberation movement. Some of this media went as far as to demean women while also handing them the tools needed for empowerment and to support the traditional notions of what it means to be a woman. Susan Douglas perfectly explains in this quote why American women are considered cultural schizophrenics: “American women today are a bundle of contradictions because much of the media imagery we grew up with was itself filled with mixed messages about what women should and should not do, what women could and could not be” (p. #9). For example, the media urged women of this time to be thin, sexually available, blonde and deferential to men while simultaneously suggesting that women could be rebellious, tough, enterprising and shrewd. The media suggests women be “rebellious” but Howard K. Smith, the anchorman at ABC can be quoted saying, “Three things have been difficult to tame. The ocean, fools, and women. We may soon be able to tame the ocean, but fools and women will take a little longer” (p. #163). This drastic contradiction poses the question, what did society actually want from women? In this book women are described as being schizophrenic but this word itself is such a harsh word to be describing a group of women. Cultural schizophrenia as described in the book is the sense of being a mosaic of traits that does not quite fit together (p. #99). Can people blame these women for being schizophrenic? As stated above, media is telling women to be rebellious, meanwhile a spokesperson of the media is claiming women will take a little longer to tame. It is as though society wanted women to be as they wished when it was convenient for them. Another way the media fed into this schizophrenia was by taking feminism seriously one minute and later turning around and mocking it. The constant back and forth was in part what drove these women crazy.
Most women first learned about the women’s liberation movement through the media. Unfortunately, the media is also to blame for giving feminists such a bad name. Many feminists were enraged by this, but to their surprise the numbers of women and men coming to support the movement increased despite the sometimes negative coverage. The media’s negative coverage of the women’s liberation movement made it a big story, not only increasing members but converting those who were once against it. It was like the saying “any publicity is good publicity”. It did not matter what the media was saying, as long as they were talking about it and getting the word out. Many women, specifically professional women, were sick of their second class status which was one of their main reasons for joining the movement. These women decided to take charge and commit to making strides toward change and equality. They were “no longer willing to tolerate the gap between the promises of equality and the reality of inequality” (p. #35). There were not just a few women eager for change but rather millions quickly turning towards feminism, and once they did there was no going back. The teenagers of the time had strong feelings of not wanting to be like their