Good Housekeeping: A Feminist Analysis

Powerful Essays
Mass media represent a powerful force in modern societies as they shape public discourse and influence public opinion by transmitting social, political and cultural values.
For decades, women’s representation in mediated popular culture has been a central problem because of the gendered ideologies it circulated. From the 1880s to the 1970s, American women’s magazines played a significant role in disseminating the dominant ideology and patriarchal order, perpetuating the myths of female disposability and domesticity, maintaining traditional images of femininity. They promoted the idea of women’s emotionality, vulnerability and beauty ideals. Such magazines as The Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, The Woman’s Home Companion McCall’s,
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At the time of the emergent second wave movement, feminism appeared as a major force for change. It argued for new conceptions of women, expressed resistance to dominant ideologies and constructions of gendered identity. Its aim was women’s mobilization to improve their status by securing equal rights and to influence public policy. As leader and founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, the first and largest second-wave feminist organization , Friedan used her experience in journalism to change the public image of women in the media and to advance gender equality by bringing women into the mainstream of American society. From its inception, NOW was engaged in monitoring mass media content that was degrading to women. Its statement of purpose established in 1966 declared: “IN THE INTERESTS OF THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF WOMEN, we will protest, and endeavor to change, the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media […]. Such images perpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves.] ”. For NOW, media were a strategic and political tool that could be used as a powerful movement resource. Through media, feminists could mobilize new women, win public approval and shape the image of feminism and its…show more content…
However, both branches of the movement condemned depictions and portrayals of women in mainstream media for their stereotypical and demeaning representations of femininity. Not only did feminists want to challenge dominant media representations and offer positive portrayals of women, they were also eager to take action against the media marginalization of feminism. Early second-wave feminist representation was distorted and often framed as deviant, illegitimate and extremist in the news media . Feminists were ridiculed, referred to as bra-burners, hysterics, and were supposed to be unfeminine, aggressive man-haters. They were portrayed as “A bunch of incompetents, who, if you gave them just a little power, would turn into megalomaniacs and become as lethal as Snow White’s wicked stepmother” . This negative and manipulative depiction was damaging because it denied any legitimacy to the movement and trivialized its cause. Nevertheless, the role of the media was central in shaping public understanding and interpretation of feminism because they veritably defined the movement. Thus, the dependence on the media to promote the movement and its issues remained very problematic. The representation of feminism in the media could affect their ability to mobilize new members, to generate collective feminist identity and to develop political
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