Sunday, January 29, 2012

Conceptions of "Woman"

Reading Gill's interpretations of postfeminist media culture highlighted several key points of interest for me.  The first is the realization that the concept of "woman" in media has experienced a shift since the onset of postfeminist ideology.  The onset of media representations of women that "do it all" has created a perfectionist view of the postfeminist heroine, someone who does not have to worry about balancing professional ambitions with social happiness.  Comparatively, previous depictions of women showcased their abilities in the home, within the strict boundaries of feminine propriety and desires.  While this is a positive step towards cultural recognition of postfeminist goals there is still a lot of pressure on women to mold themselves into a societal "ideal".
Gill points out that it is not a psychological aspect or attitude that defines media's portrayal of femininity, but a focus on a physical body that simultaneously serves as a sexual power and a source of continual upkeep.  It is no wonder that female eating disorders are on the rise considering the main, if not sole, measure of women's femininity is physical appeal and beauty in contemporary media.  The reciprocal relationship media representations hold with cultural norms ensures that continued emphasis on the "sexy female body" will result in increased female insecurity and lack of social power.  Magazines like Cosmopolitan frequently have multiple articles to 'help' the ordinary reader become sexier, have a more tone and fit physique, and/or become a knowledgeable fashionista.  Most other articles focus on relationships with men, mostly physical, that further enforce the cultural expectation that women's actions and appearances are for the benefit of men.
Staying optimistic, a third point that Gill makes highlights postfeminism as a dynamic, accommodating view of feminist ideals that is juxtaposed with race, class and sexuality.  While not anti-feminism, post feminism acts as a modified and more world-concious frame to view the differences in gender.  Though harder to define in strict parameters, postfeminism reminds us that the same ideologies cannot remain static in an ever-changing environment.

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