Van Zoonen begins by defining her terms (feminism, cultural studies, etc.) and outlining the book. She also provides a brief overview of some feminist theories. These sections were useful, but as I have taken many classes that examine the intersection of gender and cultural studies, this was section was not particularly exciting for me.
Van Zoonen also describes feminist critiques of the academy, pointing out that women as subjects of study, women’s ways of knowing, and women’s experiences have been historically ignored by the academy. I thought this was a very important section because it showed how our knowledge is predominantly shaped by (and reflective of) men, masculine values, and masculine ways of knowing.
I was most interested by Van Zoonen’s section on feminist analysis of pornography. I thought this section was particularly interesting for three reasons. First, van Zoonen’s discussion of pornography was highly heterocentric, which is interesting in and of itself due to contemporary feminism’s tendency to resist heterocentrism. Though considering heterosexual pornography is much simpler than factoring in gay porn, the notion that pornography is inherently denigrating to women loses validity when one realizes that pornography also exists sans women.
Secondly, I thought the discussion of pornography was interesting because the feminist analysis of pornography seemed to largely ignore the audience. Given that our last class was about the importance of audience studies, I think the fact that feminist critiques of pornography (or at least the ones included by van Zoonen) neglect to look at how audiences “read” pornography really calls the validity of these scholars’ analyses into question.
Finally, I thought this section was interesting because it largely ignored the feminist pornography (or pornography made for women by women) phenomenon. I’ve read a lot about pornography and feminism in other classes, and I think that writing off all pornography as anti-woman really neglects a growing cultural trend.
All in all, I think the decision to include a discussion on pornography was a good one (as there are many "safer" subjects to include); however, I think it would have been more beneficial if it had covered more on the topic, so if anyone is interested in reading about feminist pornography, they can read about it here. Also, if anyone is interested in reading more about feminist debates about pornography, this page gives a pretty good summary of various feminist viewpoints and provides a feminist defense of pornography.