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The Carletonian

Author Susan Douglas speaks about the “F-word”: feminism

<ugh convocation speaker Susan Douglas is currently a lecturer on media and communications in Ann Arbor, MI, she is known by many other titles: feminist, media critic, mother and acclaimed author. Her works include Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media and Enlightened Sexism. Her speech last Friday explained how the poisoning effect of mass media on the minds of young women creates a hostile social environment today.

According to Douglas, the mass media is to blame for amplifying the disparity between the sexes. The top five female occupations in the current job industry still don’t “have a CEO in sight” however, modern reality television shows depict fantasies of female power in characters such as the female CEO or ruthless lawyer. The fault of the media therefore lies not in providing a means of escapism for the countless numbers of young female watchers, but rather in sending mixed and confusing messages.

The success of female characters strongly correlates with their sexual purchasing power, which Douglas criticizes as a strong negative influence that misleads young women. It also doesn’t help that men in these reality shows are easily trampled on by the social power these women wield, thus furthering the grossly erroneous notion that possessing sexual superiority alongside of “buying stuff, the right stuff the important stuff” on TV equates to a successful life off screen

She continued her criticism of how this blatant – but nevertheless intentionally scripted – glorification of successful women is then used as evidence of female equality. As this seemingly monstrous feat has finally been accomplished, society “finds it fine, even amusing, to employ sexism once more,” Douglas said.

Because television portrays men falling easily for surgically enhanced women in positions of power, people don’t see a problem in wielding sexism once more now that the perceived underdog is male.

Today, the greatest irony is that women have a choice of feminism or anti-feminism, except now the latter is much more hip and appealing, Douglas said. However, she concluded her talk by employing statistics of female inequity.

For instance, women make approximately sixty cents to a man’s dollar and women earn significantly smaller salaries a decade out of university compared to men. Thus, the misleading escapism provided by the mass media lulls young women with fantasies of power.

Therefore to be successful, one has to be Superwoman.

“If the media is a mirror, then it is a funhouse mirror, and it must be smashed,” Douglas said.

Though grounds are being made in female equality, they still suffer setbacks by the cunning mass media, and as Douglas said, “there is plenty more unfinished business at hand.”

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