From Publishers Weekly
In a sharp-witted polemic against the media's stereotyping of females and feminism, University of Michigan communications professor Douglas (Where the Girls Are
) parses music, movies, magazines, television dramas, reality TV, and news coverage to demonstrate how the girl power of the early '90s developed into enlightened sexism: a response, deliberate or not, to the perceived threat of a new gender regime. Given women's progress, enlightened sexism assumes, now it's okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women. According to Douglas, this media trend includes stereotypes of black women as lazy and threatening in characters like Big Momma or Omarosa on The Apprentice
, and the insidious sexualization of young girls. Douglas supports her analysis with data, such as on women's continuing inequitable pay and professional opportunities, black women's struggles for equality, and the negative consequences of the rising use of plastic surgery. And while the media have focused on girls bullying other girls, a much bigger problem, says Douglas, is sexual harassment of young girls by boys. Readers may not agree with Douglas's politics, but her position that women's interests are being harmed by the media is well argued and well documented. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.)
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Douglas defines “enlightened sexism” as a response to the “perceived threat of a new gender regime” following the gains made by feminists since the 1970s. Her premise is that, under the mistaken assumption that full gender equality has been achieved, it is now “OK” to resurrect sexist stereotypes because they will no longer undermine women’s equality. She explores the rise and evolution of media-created fantasies from the early 1990s to the present in TV, movies, popular songs, even network news, demonstrating how women have increasingly been reduced to stereotypes obsessed with their figures, clothes, shopping, and aging. From Beverly Hills 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to reality shows like The Bachelor and Survivor, women have been increasingly trivialized as overly emotional, unable to get along with each other, and constantly in competition for male approval. Douglas injects humor throughout, and notes the differences between her and her “millennial” daughter. She concludes with the hope that this new generation will not give up the fight. --Deborah Donovan