WHERE THE GIRLS ARE by Susan J. Douglas

WHERE THE GIRLS ARE

Growing Up Female with the Mass Media
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The author of Inventing American Broadcasting (not reviewed) takes a long, hard look at the pop culture that fed women of the baby-boom generation with images that simultaneously acknowledged a blossoming feminist awareness and reinforced sex-role stereotypes. According to Douglas, conventional cultural history says that boys were portrayed as having a serious impact as political revolutionaries and alienated rebels in films like Blackboard Jungle, while girls merely represented ``the kitsch of the 1960s'': teased hair, Beatlemania, bare breasts at Woodstock, Gidget. But there is more to this story, argues Douglas (Media and American Studies/Hampshire College). Her reexamination of popular culture shows that female baby boomers grew up hearing that they were significant and equal from sources as diverse as JFK, who encouraged them to join the Peace Corps; Helen Gurley Brown, who made being single sound exciting; and the Shirelles, who in songs like ``Will You Love Me Tomorrow'' gave voice to the issue of teenage sex and suggested that girls had choices. But while all this was going on, young women were also urged to be ``as domestic as June Cleaver, as buxom and dumb as Elly May Clampett, and as removed from politics as Lily Munster.'' Example after example demonstrates how this type of ambivalent representation helped make women the ``cultural schizophrenics'' they are today, from those who endorse many equal-rights goals but wince at the label ``feminist'' to the apparently confident souls who would ``still rather have a root canal than appear in public in a bathing suit.'' Sharp reflections on everything from Bewitched (women's power was too frightening to portray realistically) to Phyllis Schlafly (who makes ``the Wicked Witch of the West look like Mary Poppins'') ring funny and true. A witty, insightful romp through the last four decades- -especially nostalgic and enlightening for readers raised on Charlie's Angels and the Mashed Potatoes.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8129-2206-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994




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