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From the author of Where the Girls Are, a sharp and irreverent critique of how women are portrayed in today's popular culture Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America's most en From the author of Where the Girls Are, a sharp and irreverent critique of how women are portrayed in today's popular culture Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America's most entertaining and insightful cultural critics, takes readers on a spirited journey through the television programs, popular songs, movies, and news coverage of recent years, telling a story that is nothing less than the cultural biography of a new generation of American women. Revisiting cultural touchstones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor to Desperate Housewives, Douglas uses wit and wisdom to expose these images of women as mere fantasies of female power, assuring women and girls that the battle for equality has been won, so there's nothing wrong with resurrecting sexist stereotypes—all in good fun, of course. She shows that these portrayals not only distract us from the real-world challenges facing women today but also drive a wedge between baby-boom women and their "millennial" daughters. In seeking to bridge this generation gap, Douglas makes the case for casting aside these retrograde messages, showing us how to decode the mixed messages that restrict the ambitions of women of all ages. And what makes Enlightened Sexism such a pleasure to read is Douglas's unique voice, as she blends humor with insight and offers an empathetic and sisterly guide to the images so many women love and hate with equal measure.


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From the author of Where the Girls Are, a sharp and irreverent critique of how women are portrayed in today's popular culture Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America's most en From the author of Where the Girls Are, a sharp and irreverent critique of how women are portrayed in today's popular culture Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America's most entertaining and insightful cultural critics, takes readers on a spirited journey through the television programs, popular songs, movies, and news coverage of recent years, telling a story that is nothing less than the cultural biography of a new generation of American women. Revisiting cultural touchstones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor to Desperate Housewives, Douglas uses wit and wisdom to expose these images of women as mere fantasies of female power, assuring women and girls that the battle for equality has been won, so there's nothing wrong with resurrecting sexist stereotypes—all in good fun, of course. She shows that these portrayals not only distract us from the real-world challenges facing women today but also drive a wedge between baby-boom women and their "millennial" daughters. In seeking to bridge this generation gap, Douglas makes the case for casting aside these retrograde messages, showing us how to decode the mixed messages that restrict the ambitions of women of all ages. And what makes Enlightened Sexism such a pleasure to read is Douglas's unique voice, as she blends humor with insight and offers an empathetic and sisterly guide to the images so many women love and hate with equal measure.

30 review for Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Keep in mind while reading this that this book was published in March 2010, which probably meant that the author was working on it for at least a few years before that. This is important because ENLIGHTENED SEXISM does read as being very dated, both in terms of references, who it's written for, and what it's addressing. Had this come out today, it would be laughably tone-deaf, because during several moments in this book, the author rever Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Keep in mind while reading this that this book was published in March 2010, which probably meant that the author was working on it for at least a few years before that. This is important because ENLIGHTENED SEXISM does read as being very dated, both in terms of references, who it's written for, and what it's addressing. Had this come out today, it would be laughably tone-deaf, because during several moments in this book, the author reverts to objectifying language herself, and, save for a chapter on Black women titled, perhaps unwisely, "You go, girl!", does not really feel all that inclusive in how it addresses intersectionality. "Where are the lesbians?" the author asks, rhetorically, in the reality TV segment-- ignoring an opportunity to talk about how bisexual women are fetishized on TV (A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila was definitely out when this book was published), and how trans women and queer women are often portrayed as glaring caricatures (when they're portrayed at all). ENLIGHTENED SEXISM is a book that I was eagerly anticipating because I am a feminist and I guess, being a book blogger, I'm somewhat of a pop cultural critic-- at least, in that I read things that are famous in the spheres of pop culture and then I comment on and critique them. I've not been trained in professional criticism and I've never taken a women's studies class; everything I know has been taught to me, from friends, fellow bloggers, and authors of books and articles, and I am still constantly learning. The most important and meaningful takeaway that I've gotten thus far is that it is incredibly important to be mindful about what you consume, and how, even-- maybe especially-- if you love it. In ENLIGHTENED SEXISM, Susan J. Douglas attempts to do just that, dismantling many forms of media-- movies, TV shows, commercials, billboard ads, reality television-- and talk about the conflicting messages that we, as consumers get: that we're told that society is equal and feminism is somehow unwanted or redundant, even as the subtext in many popular movies, TV shows, etc. involves the portrayal of a world that revolves around cisgendered heterosexual white men, where everyone-- even the rebels-- have to play by their rules in order to win. This is an important message, especially now. You see a lot of people online trying to steer the discourse away from critical movements in social justice, arguing that to put the spotlight on a group is to steal it away from someone else. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people say, "I don't believe in feminism, I'm an equalist." Or they get freaked out, because they think that believing in Black Lives Matter means that their (not-Black) life doesn't matter. What these people don't realize is that negating the group from the name of the movement negates the movement. It's like there's a house on fire, and a fireman comes and sprays the hose on the house next door. And the person who owns the burning building is like, "My house is on fire! Why aren't you doing anything about this?" And the fireman says, "All houses matter."  All lives will never matter until Black lives matter. And society will never be equal until women and non-binary individuals have the same privileges as men do. Hilariously, the person who owned this book before me was very conservative and took copious notes, suggesting their lack of respect for women and millennials, and bewildered by terms like "MAC" and "BET." Their comments ran the gamut of things like "why would you trust the media?" and "I haven't watched television since the 90s!" and "success and bitchiness go hand and hand" and "if you believe that, you're stupider than most women are." It's frustrating, because this is exactly the type of book that conservatives love to hold up as a strawman argument for how silly feminism is and, ironically, in my opinion, does exactly what Douglas criticizes the token lesbian character of being set up to do in Legally Blonde (i.e. superficial attacks against inconsequential facets of The Man). The main argument of this book is basically what Gillian Flynn said so pithily in her oft-quoted paragraph about "cool girls." We're seeing more powerful, kick-butt, influential women in the media, but they are being repackaged in ways that renders them non-threatening to the status quo. Black women are expected to code-switch and behave in ways that don't make white people feel threatened or racist. Powerful women are portrayed as beautiful and vulnerable, which makes them seem attainable and desirable instead of threatening. Reality TV and soap operas perpetuates outmoded sexist stereotypes, but do so while winking heavily at the audience in a way that implies that they're somehow postfeminist, because surely, it's okay to say such things if it's all occurs in a vacuum, etc. The problem, which isn't so succinctly summed up in this book, is that we don't consume media in a vacuum and our brains are wired in a way that makes us rely on shortcuts, like stereotypes. If we grow up consuming media filled with problematic stereotypes, those problematic stereotypes are what are going to be readily available when we think about women, people of color, etc. This is just one reason why having good rep in diverse books and other media is so important: it portrays society as it actually is, with fleshed out, dimensional characters of diverse and varied backgrounds that are more than just hollow stereotypes. Instead, we're peppered with shows that sexualize women, sometimes even while claiming to empower them, and often put people of color in stereotypical roles. I'm going to talk briefly about the "You go, girl" chapter, but I'm not Black, so this isn't really my lane. Two quotes in particular bothered me: "[Code-switching] was one of the great pleasures of the show [Living Single], for white audiences as well as for blacks, because here we gained access, however vicariously, to the truth-telling world of snap." (Emphasis and bold mine.) Um, yikes. Code-switching in this book is portrayed as this fun thing Black people do on TV show to play up the audience for laughs. The author does at one point mention that it's a mechanism for juggling identities (paraphrased, since I can't be bothered to look up the quote again). From what I understand, though, the deeper purpose of code-switching is because Black people are expected by white society (and Black society, in some cases) of behaving differently in situationally dependent contexts, and are constantly having to recalibrate based on whether they're "white enough" or "Black enough" at a given moment. It is not a fun, quirky thing. It is a behavior that society has forced on people of color, due to ingrained, racist stereotypes that are embedded in the architecture of society as part of the status quo. The other quote is this: "[Oprah's] effortless glide into Black Speak is endearing and almost always gets laughs. It also reminds white viewers that, as a black woman, she has a unique vantage point in white America and a special community membership that they don't. But she's going to let us in." (Emphasis mine) Here, I think the author tips her hand a bit. She's definitely writing for a white audience, in my view. But it makes this chapter extra uncomfortable, particularly since while she does criticize the "sassy Black woman stereotype" in media, and rightfully points out that often, when Black characters do appear on TV shows, they exist in isolation from Black culture, and issues of social justice and inequality, like BLM or serious conversations about racism and prejudice, she fails, in my opinion, to really point out the other problematic portrayals of women of color, like fetishization or existing to validate white people, and her critiques of BET, rap, and back-up dancers felt like it was detracting from, rather than adding to, her arguments for intersectionality. Regarding the broader message of this book, I felt like it was mostly unsuccessful. I think this works better as a work of pop culture essays than it does about feminism, since it's mostly a collection of what the author likes and dislikes on TV and in media. It's well-written, but it doesn't really feel like it has a solid scholastic backbone, particularly when she's describing Victoria's Secret models as "Barbies" and "ectomorphs" and railing about how much she hates Abercrombie and Fitch. Women on women hate is a significant part of one of her chapters, so it feels weird and kind of hypocritical to see such catty asides in an essay that's supposed to be arguing against them-- especially since one of them is under a photo caption in the middle of the book, and therefore pretty hard to ignore. Even if she's being facetious, it doesn't really strike the right tone given the overall context and ambitions of the work. As I said, though, this is about a decade old. I feel like this author was coming from a good place and it's unfair to criticize with the advantages of hindsight. I was pretty uninformed ten years ago, too (ten years ago, I was in college, and thought some pretty questionable things about the world and how it worked). Feminism is becoming more inclusive and white, cisgendered women are finally getting up and developing the vocabulary-- and the empathy-- to discuss and support issues pertaining to the LGBT+ and women of color, which white feminism can often overlook or ignore (or, in some cases, dismiss and even work against). That said, I don't feel like this book ages well, and it's weird to read a book that talks about pop-culture and feminism and doesn't mention the Kardashians or Taylor Swift. Instead, it's all about Laguna Beach, Abercrombie, Victoria's Secret, Jamie Lynn Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Oprah. Honestly, it's almost worth buying just for reliving the pop-cultural who's-who of the 2000s, which, again, makes me feel like this would be better marketed as pop-culture essays and not feminism. I ended up skimming a lot by the last third, as I felt like the author had made her point. I wouldn't recommend this or read it again, but I would like to see an updated (shorter) work of essays by this author about her thoughts on pop-culture and intersectional feminism now. 2 to 2.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    I missed the 1990s. I got married, had a baby, and lost my mind (not necessarily in that order). When I came to, I had missed the X-Files. I missed Xena. I even missed Buffy. And somehow, when I re-entered the world, we had gone from Murphy Brown to Brazilians for all. Douglas did a great job of unpicking what happened with popular media in those years to end us up here, in the world of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives, where "girls have learned to be enforcers of their own opression" (p. 237), I missed the 1990s. I got married, had a baby, and lost my mind (not necessarily in that order). When I came to, I had missed the X-Files. I missed Xena. I even missed Buffy. And somehow, when I re-entered the world, we had gone from Murphy Brown to Brazilians for all. Douglas did a great job of unpicking what happened with popular media in those years to end us up here, in the world of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives, where "girls have learned to be enforcers of their own opression" (p. 237), and who direct their anger "away from broader social forces (like patriarchy) and onto each other". Highly recommended (have alcohol ready).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marisa

    I really wanted to love this book. It was tragic that instead I found myself repeatedly inclined to throw it across the room. Part of this is my fault - I should've paid more attention to the dust jacket and realized that it was going to be nothing but a polemical against portrayals of women in the media without attention elsewhere. The title is incredibly misleading, for the record: this is much less about feminism or sexism but instead a 300-page description of women in media between 1990-2010 I really wanted to love this book. It was tragic that instead I found myself repeatedly inclined to throw it across the room. Part of this is my fault - I should've paid more attention to the dust jacket and realized that it was going to be nothing but a polemical against portrayals of women in the media without attention elsewhere. The title is incredibly misleading, for the record: this is much less about feminism or sexism but instead a 300-page description of women in media between 1990-2010ish (and why in 1990 their portrayal was so much better, etc). In reading it, I got long synopses of TV shows I’ve never watched (and never will) with a brief analysis thrown in in the end, usually accompanied with some line about how feminists of her generation had much superior programming to watch. Most of this book was a phenomenal exercise in do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, without the author ever specifying what you (or we, as a society) SHOULD do, but rather lambasting everything that we shouldn't. Examples: long discussions on why Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch are offensive, while the author admits to spending her money there on her daughter. (Whether you buy the stuff for yourself or your kid, your money is still talking, lady.) Talking about how many romantic comedies she enjoys and then turning around and criticizing said comedies. Talking about how unfair the standards of beauty are and how unacceptable it is that we, as a culture, obsess over women’s beauty…and then stating that she, too, drops lots of money at Sephora. Etc., etc…. At one point she actually used the phrase “patriarchal standards of beauty.” Not ironically. There are few if any actual studies or anything remotely academic included to justify her positions (though she did at one point criticize someone else for their lack of academic support, if I recall correctly). Most of the references she includes are ones pulled out of other (possibly better?) books. It’s also nit-picking in the extreme without any actual practical suggestions for how to improve women’s portrayal in the media or what we, as consumers, can do about it. (Hint: stop spending money on things you don’t support.) Here’s a great example of Douglas logic: There should be stronger women in the media because there are too many man-hungry Barbie dolls. When there are strong women in the media, their lives are totally unattainable and that’s not cool, you guys. We need “REAL WOMEN” represented in the media. It’s totally unrealistic how many strong female characters in high positions there are! (Let’s not even acknowledge the fact that for most of us, movie and TV consumption is all about escapism, and, hey – maybe these “unrealistic” portrayals will help inspire the newest generation of girls.) There should also be strong, educated people of color featured in TV Shows. Except that wait, there are. But when they are, they’re “tokens!” And then those shows with educated people of color on them will include other people on the show that aren’t as strong or educated. But then when those people who aren't strong or educated aren't included, they're being marginalized. (You see how circular and obnoxious this all is.) Let’s not even get into the farcical analysis of Palin and Clinton during the 2008 campaigns. Yes, Clinton was treated dreadfully by many, many men in the media – but the media’s treatment of Palin got an (almost) complete pass by Ms. Douglas. Apparently it’s okay to repeatedly objectify a woman, mock her, use offensive gendered insults, etc., so long as she doesn’t fall on the same political spectrum as you. All this aside, my biggest gripe is this: there’s nothing practical in this book. No good “take-aways” for how to improve the situation. Nothing useful for young feminists (but plenty of condescension about how we’ve fallen into implicitly supporting sexism). Nothing for people new to or curious about feminism to help inform their view. Instead: whine, snark, whine. Skip this book and, if you want a practical suggestion for improving women’s portrayal in the media from someone (you won’t get one in this god-awful book): stop financially supporting the biggest purveyors of sexism. Stop spending money on “women’s magazines,” stop eating at Hooters, etc. Frankly, as one person you probably can’t change an entire culture – but you can change you and potentially inspire your daughter or neighbor or coworker, too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I first encountered Susan J. Douglas 20 years ago when I read Where The Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. Back then, Douglas’s chatty, irreverent approach to her subject matter was a breath of fresh air in a field which seemed to attract the stodgiest of academics.The Rise of Enlightened Sexism follows on from Where The Girls Are, charting the media’s response to growing female empowerment, and how it is pitting women and girls against each other. As Douglas explains:“Enlightened I first encountered Susan J. Douglas 20 years ago when I read Where The Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. Back then, Douglas’s chatty, irreverent approach to her subject matter was a breath of fresh air in a field which seemed to attract the stodgiest of academics.The Rise of Enlightened Sexism follows on from Where The Girls Are, charting the media’s response to growing female empowerment, and how it is pitting women and girls against each other. As Douglas explains:“Enlightened sexism is a response, deliberate or not, to the perceived threat of a new gender regime. It insists that women have made plenty of progress because of feminism — indeed, full equality has allegedly been achieved — so now it’s okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women.”Douglas’s writing style is still fresh and easy-to-read. Sometimes her humour seems forced, as when she writes that, as a feminist academic, she wears a ski mask when shopping for cosmetics, so as not to blow her cover. But sometimes she is downright funny. In the aptly-titled chapter, “Castration Anxiety”, Douglas analyses the media portrayal of three cases which occurred in 1993-94 — teenager Amy Fisher, who shot the wife of her 36-year-old lover; Lorena Bobbitt, who castrated her husband; and US Attorney-General Janet Reno’s handling of the siege in Waco, Texas. Writing of the Amy Fisher case, Douglas says: “The last name of the couple — Buttafuoco — evoking as it did some unholy combination of Italian desserts exploding with cream stuffing and rough lovemaking between mountain goats — only added to the delight of the tabloid press as they followed the case of the pistol-packin’ ‘Long-Island Lolita’.”Using well-reasoned arguments backed up by extensive research and sharp observations, Douglas dissects media phenomena such as the rise of “lad mags” and sexually-charged TV shows; reality TV shows which use highly selective casting and editing to portray female archetypes such as “the slut” and “the bitch”; the rise of “mean girls” in film and TV; the “beauty-industrial complex” and its effects on the female psyche; and the explosion of gossip magazines with their creepy and invasive “bump patrol”.Whether you regard popular culture as a guilty pleasure, or with growing unease, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism will challenge your perceptions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    All I can say about this book is "ehhh..." Here's why: the first chapter in which Douglas defines the term "enlightened sexism" is cool because she explains this new phenomenon in which it appears that feminism has won, women have it all, and, therefore, we can ignore any signs of sexism that we still see because they're not relevant to the overall success that women have achieved. I also like how she emphasizes that the same old female stereotypes are being packaged in a new gift box of indepen All I can say about this book is "ehhh..." Here's why: the first chapter in which Douglas defines the term "enlightened sexism" is cool because she explains this new phenomenon in which it appears that feminism has won, women have it all, and, therefore, we can ignore any signs of sexism that we still see because they're not relevant to the overall success that women have achieved. I also like how she emphasizes that the same old female stereotypes are being packaged in a new gift box of independence. For example, she discusses the Spice Girls and their Girl Power mantra. She says that these women had a message of Girl Power while sexually showing off their bodies in hot pants and bustiers and writing songs about attracting men. She says that feminism has basically amounted to girls continuing to bare all and get plastic surgery all in the name of female independence (i.e. I got this boob job for ME, not for men). But, she argues we're then failing to see why women even want boob jobs or hot pants, even if it is just for themselves. So far so good; I'm listening, Susan. But then she just uses all the same old evidence to back up her point. Anyone who has read even ONE feminism/pop culture book, knows everything she's already saying, and doesn't need another 300 pages at $27 dollars (the cost of the hardback version of this book) to know. Blah blah blah...women are shown as sex objects on TV; women can't get along with other women on TV; women are snobby and materialistic on TV; black women are shown as argumentative and angry on TV, etc. etc. etc. Now, if this is your first book on feminism and pop culture, you're in luck because it's engaging, easy, funny, relevant, and, overall, contemporary (maybe excepting the chapters on 90's TV shows, which really only applies to my generation (maybe ages 25-40), but that's the audience for this book - my generation of feminists, who may actually be becoming moms themselves now - so I think it's appropriate). In fact, I'm going to use a whole chapter of this book next semester in one of my classes because I think for students who are new to this subject and type of analysis, Douglas's book is a great read that is not filled with a lot of theoretical language or obscure references. For experienced feministas, this is just a more current version of stuff you already know. So, read my summary above and save yourselves the $27.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Well, I know now why I couldn't get into Alias. Douglas, in an extremely funny and 'I'm gulity of it too' voice dicusses how modern televison is sexist, just in more subtle (in some cases) ways then in the first place. She also examines why some shows worked and some shows didn't. Wonder why the Bachelor is still on tv, this will tell. I do have to admit, howver, that I would have liked to see inclusion of both The Wire and Homicide as they bucked some of the trends that Douglas talked about. Man, Well, I know now why I couldn't get into Alias. Douglas, in an extremely funny and 'I'm gulity of it too' voice dicusses how modern televison is sexist, just in more subtle (in some cases) ways then in the first place. She also examines why some shows worked and some shows didn't. Wonder why the Bachelor is still on tv, this will tell. I do have to admit, howver, that I would have liked to see inclusion of both The Wire and Homicide as they bucked some of the trends that Douglas talked about. Man, do I miss Xena!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    I was recommended this book after I made a video about Retro Sexism in advertising (http://www.feministfrequency.com/2010...) and I'm really glad because I can't believe I almost missed this one. Douglas provides a well researched look at the backlash against feminism and its sneaky manifestation as something she calls "Enlightened Sexism". I think it's an incredibly important work that uncovers the way that sexism and by extension patriarchy still works to oppress women in some very subtle ways I was recommended this book after I made a video about Retro Sexism in advertising (http://www.feministfrequency.com/2010...) and I'm really glad because I can't believe I almost missed this one. Douglas provides a well researched look at the backlash against feminism and its sneaky manifestation as something she calls "Enlightened Sexism". I think it's an incredibly important work that uncovers the way that sexism and by extension patriarchy still works to oppress women in some very subtle ways. There were a few moments in the book that I didn't entirely agree with, for example a short section that discussed the television show Gossip Girl as ironically looking at the oversexualization of youth, I couldn't disagree with this more, I don't think the show is trying to be ironic in anyway but rather sensational and profiting off of the objectification of women's bodies and perpetuating the image of women as catty and 'bitchy'. Also the chapter "You Go Girl" about Black women in the media, while having some good points (and was probably not written for a feminist pop culture critic as it's target audience) rubbed me the wrong way. The several page build up to her actual point felt a little exotifying of Black women with her redundant statements of how she wishes she could have the sass of black women such as Wanda Sykes. This frankly, made it incredibly uncomfortable to read. However, throughout much of the book Douglas intermingles snarky sarcasm in just the right dosage, the message is solid with sadly, way too much evidence to back up her claims. I really liked this quote near the end of the book on page 300. "But many men hold both negative and positive attitudes towards women that sustain enlightened sexism: they feel protective towards certain kinds of women (mothers or girlfriends who are nurturing or submissive) and hostile toward those who fail to conform to such feminine scripts and want to have the same opportunities and responsibilities as men. As the researchers note, benevolent sexism might seem harmless, even noble, "but its effects can be devastating" precisely because it's so insidious." I would also check out this review of the book that breaks down some of the more problematic aspects of it further - http://www.wimnonline.org/WIMNsVoices...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jane Costanza

    I didn't enjoy this book as much as i thought i would. The author critiques pop- media (especially television sitcoms) over the past decade over its portrayal of women. Media and entertainment industry is sexist. Duh. It's racist and ageist too. It is hard to take seriously any straight faced critique of pop media. Pop media is so bizarre that im a bit bewildered why anyone would do a flat critique of it. I didn't enjoy this book as much as i thought i would. The author critiques pop- media (especially television sitcoms) over the past decade over its portrayal of women. Media and entertainment industry is sexist. Duh. It's racist and ageist too. It is hard to take seriously any straight faced critique of pop media. Pop media is so bizarre that im a bit bewildered why anyone would do a flat critique of it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Online

    ANXIOUS EMPOWERMENT Brenda R. Weber Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done By Susan J. Douglas Times Books GIVEN ITS DEPRESSING TOPIC— the media’s insidious contribution to the waning influence of feminism— Enlightened Sexism is a delightful read. Douglas had me laughing out loud as she made her irreverent but persuasive case against a popular culture that promises girls and women they can be whatever they want as long as they don’t want the wrong things. This “empowerment” ANXIOUS EMPOWERMENT Brenda R. Weber Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done By Susan J. Douglas Times Books GIVEN ITS DEPRESSING TOPIC— the media’s insidious contribution to the waning influence of feminism— Enlightened Sexism is a delightful read. Douglas had me laughing out loud as she made her irreverent but persuasive case against a popular culture that promises girls and women they can be whatever they want as long as they don’t want the wrong things. This “empowerment” touted by the mass media takes the guise of beauty and allure, of looking good in the eyes of boys and men. As Douglas notes, the connection between heterosexual attractiveness and self-worth is one of many things feminists hoped to “deep-six back in the 1970s,” but these pressures and more are back with a vengeance. Douglas’ book is part of an ongoing discussion about postfeminism— the idea that feminism has achieved its objectives, women now compete with men on an even playing field, the war against sexism has been won. For anyone paying attention, these goals remain elusive. Meanwhile, the battlefield has become increasingly more abstract, requiring that we develop new skills of critical analysis to deal with such developments as grrrl power, the Spice Girls’ empowerment ballads and reality-TV accounts of self-confidence achieved through plastic surgery and style makeovers. The present situation has little to do with the triumph of feminism, Douglas argues, although it is precisely due to feminism’s advances that postfeminism has found a welcome audience among those who, at heart, are just a little bit anxious about what a truly powerful woman might do. “Enlightened sexism,” a phrase Douglas has coined, is a way for the media to keep the ambitions and attitudes of girls and women in check, even as it promises to deliver the moon of fulfillment and happiness. Douglas prefers the term to postfeminism because it more accurately indicates what is at stake in the contemporary negotiation of female identity: anxiety about women’s achievements; a renewed and amplified objectification of young women’s bodies; the dual exploitation and punishment of female sexuality; the pitting of women against each other by age, race and class; and the intensification of branding and consumerism in the name of women’s empowerment. Her introduction is rich with timely examples, from Sarah Palin’s celebration as a working mother to MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen, featuring spoiled “princesses” who cajole their wealthy fathers into displays of love through ostentatious consumption. The chapters consider various media-related flash points, including an Ally McBeal-inspired discussion of the thin female body and a look at funny woman Wanda Sykes’ role as surrogate for her viewers’ inner rage against sexism and injustice. Douglas rightly notes that women and girls are not mere media “dupes.” Indeed, we are increasingly wary consumers who eye the media with irony and some detachment, though she warns that this very irony often convinces us that we have been inoculated against—and are thus immune to—pernicious content. By provoking us to laugh, Douglas teaches us to resist. Her book is a powerful booster shot meant to keep us thinking critically about how television, movies, ads and popular culture depict the lives and desires of girls and women. BRENDA R. WEBER is an assistant professor in gender studies at Indiana University and author of Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship and Celebrity (Duke University Press, 2009).

  10. 4 out of 5

    michelle

    A very good read. Douglas dissects pop culture, the media and politics and presents a truly horrendous analysis of how women are presented to the public and how we continue to be treated as inferior to men despite the strides of feminism. What I particularly enjoyed was the calling out of alleged feminist characters in television and film as stereotypical ball busting bitches with no positive feelings towards men. I highly recommend this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa H

    This book was ok. I was already aware of most of the information but it will be a good resource, facts wise, for my papers that I write for school. Overall, though, I did not like the style of this book. It had the feeling that the author was trying to be lighthearted and sarcastic but she just couldn't make it stick. Where as when I read Jessica Valenti the words just seem to flow, this writing was jarring at points due to grammar and failed attempts either to be "cool" or funny. The author even This book was ok. I was already aware of most of the information but it will be a good resource, facts wise, for my papers that I write for school. Overall, though, I did not like the style of this book. It had the feeling that the author was trying to be lighthearted and sarcastic but she just couldn't make it stick. Where as when I read Jessica Valenti the words just seem to flow, this writing was jarring at points due to grammar and failed attempts either to be "cool" or funny. The author even used the word "douche-bag" when trying to describe a young man wearing an obscene t-shirt. This term is one that I hate as it is just as bad as calling someone a pussy. It denotes that like female genitalia , this kid is smelly, dirty and just plain disgusting. There are hundreds of other names she could have chosen, instead she chose one that goes in the exact opposite direction that her book is trying to get to. She also seemed to think too much in the black or white train of thought. Either things were feminist or they aren't. Instead especially in our society so much in mainstream culture is both. In fact, in order to be mainstream media it pretty much has to be both. Instead she focuses mainly on the bad instead of looking at the strides that have been made. Without looking at the good she presents a fairly bleak view of our world and it's future as far as Women's Rights go. It also felt like this is another book where a Second Wave feminist writer does not see the strides being made by feminists now. This is especially apparent in the epilogue where the author presents her view of what could happen which for the most part is a pretty standard liberal feminist world view. She then encourages everyone to work toward that world view, as if we aren't already trying to. Overall, I found that this book actually left a bad taste in my mouth even though there are some good ideas in it as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    I loved her Where The Girls Are, which was about baby boomers and the growth of the feminism movement. This book picks up in the 90s, so it's all times I lived through. Thought provoking. Looking back, well, my view was clouded by the NOW. I think as you get older the NOW has less of a hold on most of us, but that's a separate issue. When I was young, I guess I just thought the world was getting tackier. It was happening around me. The envelope was being pushed, more sex everywhere. Reality TV. I loved her Where The Girls Are, which was about baby boomers and the growth of the feminism movement. This book picks up in the 90s, so it's all times I lived through. Thought provoking. Looking back, well, my view was clouded by the NOW. I think as you get older the NOW has less of a hold on most of us, but that's a separate issue. When I was young, I guess I just thought the world was getting tackier. It was happening around me. The envelope was being pushed, more sex everywhere. Reality TV. Enlightened Sexism is basically sexism post feminism. Female lawyers, doctors and detectives on TV convince us that women have made it to the top. Meanwhile, in real life, women (even college educated, white women) make less money than men. And fill relatively few of these positions. And than it all nosedived. Feminism became a bad word. Girls expressed their new sexual freedom by acting sexy in ways that conveniently suited men. It was all "I'm in on the joke, so I'm jumping on this trampoline in a bikini. But you can't criticize it because it's just a joke and we're all in on it." And, "I'm not a feminist, but..." while taking everything feminists fought for for granted. As if we always could vote, not just for slightly less than a hundred years. I've never not been a feminist. So it was interesting to read that the early 90s were the last good time. 1992, the year I myself turned 16, four women were elected to the Senate. I had Sassy magazine and Riot Grrrl feminism. Sure, 90210 was on, but that was easy to ignore, it was so stupid. But girls younger than me had to grow up with Sex and the City. And on and on and on. Etc. As a culture we are manipulated. And we seem to have no memory, Thus we've convinced ourselves/been convinced that sexism and racism are over, things of the past. And they're not over, they've never been over. But they're not shooting feminists down in the street (like young black men). Just keeping us in our place.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fadillah

    First, i will only recommend this if you are familiar with a pop culture around 90s and 2000s-ish. You will be totally lost if you are not familiar with Xena : the warrior princess, sex and the cities, survivors and the apprentice show, the magazines like Cosmo or maxim and pop stars like britney spears and so on. Second, this book's central focus is the Mass Media of USA - from TV programs, songs, movies, and news. Third, i cant help but wonder what if the author have seen few tv dramas in Mala First, i will only recommend this if you are familiar with a pop culture around 90s and 2000s-ish. You will be totally lost if you are not familiar with Xena : the warrior princess, sex and the cities, survivors and the apprentice show, the magazines like Cosmo or maxim and pop stars like britney spears and so on. Second, this book's central focus is the Mass Media of USA - from TV programs, songs, movies, and news. Third, i cant help but wonder what if the author have seen few tv dramas in Malaysia that overtly sexist but no one called it out. The fact it was inserted within culture and religion make it so hard for people to fathom that it was sexist. I for once has stopped watching any local dramas and movies because i cant stand the message it brought into it. The book are divided into 10 chapters and each one of them explored crucial issue like body image, empowerment vs. objectification, the media scrutiny over female artists on magazines and tv, the 'bitch' syndrome, sexual liberation, women portrayal and characters in the media, plastic surgery and body modification and the rigidity of beauty standard. 1. Introduction : Fantasies of power 2. Castration Anxiety (this is my favourite chapter) 3. Warrior Women in thongs 4. The new girliness 5. You go, girl 6. Sex R Us 7. Reality bites 8. Lean and Mean 9. Red Carpet Mania 10. Women on top .. sort of Epilogue : The F Word While i thoroughly enjoyed this book, i wish the author could make a sequel and covered the enlightened sexism in a global scale and maybe updated the chapter of social media and the rise of influencers towards teenagers. I did not think this book could serve as tool to reduce the generational gap of baby boomer's feminist and millenial's feminist but i can say that this book came close to explaining why the current mass media managed to seduce women from millenials and gen z that feminism is done and why they no longer need it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex Templeton

    Anyone who's paying any attention knows that the subtitle of this book is, duh, true. Therefore, it's nice that every ten years or so a book comes along that analyzes the past ten years of pop culture and says that, while we've made progress, there's still a lot more work to be done. This is that book for 2010. As someone who's generally familiar with what's going on in pop culture and has read quite a bit about it, I found a lot of this book to be retreading of stuff I already knew. Still, ther Anyone who's paying any attention knows that the subtitle of this book is, duh, true. Therefore, it's nice that every ten years or so a book comes along that analyzes the past ten years of pop culture and says that, while we've made progress, there's still a lot more work to be done. This is that book for 2010. As someone who's generally familiar with what's going on in pop culture and has read quite a bit about it, I found a lot of this book to be retreading of stuff I already knew. Still, there were a couple chapters that discussed ideas that were new to me. One that stands out is chapter two, which analyzes how the media's obsession with Lorena Bobbitt, Amy Fisher, and Monica Lewinsky were all manifestations of (sometimes literal) castration fears our masculine culture has about women, particularly women who are open with their sexuality. (Fittingly, it's called "Castration Anxiety"). I sometimes found Douglas' tone to be that of a trying-to-be-hip mom scolding the younger generation for their silliness--if I had a copy of the book at hand I could give an example. Anyway, a good read, and I hope that in another 10 years a book of this nature will be much shorter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    I really enjoyed this book. It was intelligent, well-informed, and articulate. Writing with humor and attitude, Douglas calls the many faces of media on it’s secretly sexist, psuedo-feminist BS. Citing examples from popular TV shows, retail, magazines, and news media, Douglas provides several examples of enlightened sexism and backs it up with plenty of research. It’s written simply but is still very intelligent and doesn’t pander to the reader (a less than easy tightrope). It’s dense and a littl I really enjoyed this book. It was intelligent, well-informed, and articulate. Writing with humor and attitude, Douglas calls the many faces of media on it’s secretly sexist, psuedo-feminist BS. Citing examples from popular TV shows, retail, magazines, and news media, Douglas provides several examples of enlightened sexism and backs it up with plenty of research. It’s written simply but is still very intelligent and doesn’t pander to the reader (a less than easy tightrope). It’s dense and a little repetitive at times but I didn’t find it that bad. It’s not a fast read but some of the best feminist books aren’t a cake walk. At the end, she presented 2 scenarios and in the hopes of inspiring someone she did get a little preachy but I liked the message. And I’m with Douglas hoping that some women are inspired by her disturbing and depressing facts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kichi

    I was hoping to get oriented with the genuine and clear-cut feminist cause by reading this book. Instead, the experience was akin to running on a treadmill. It started off a little interesting, wasn't a complete waste of time, but no matter what pace I took, I remained exactly in the same place from beginning to end. This book shows why feminists get heat from other political circles. A lot of over-analyzed and inconsistent issue-making. I was hoping to get oriented with the genuine and clear-cut feminist cause by reading this book. Instead, the experience was akin to running on a treadmill. It started off a little interesting, wasn't a complete waste of time, but no matter what pace I took, I remained exactly in the same place from beginning to end. This book shows why feminists get heat from other political circles. A lot of over-analyzed and inconsistent issue-making.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}

    This book is similar but covers more ground then the "viriginty culture" of the Purity Myth. Definitely recommend it as well. This book is similar but covers more ground then the "viriginty culture" of the Purity Myth. Definitely recommend it as well.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elspeth

    I’m ambivalent about this book. Although I’m sympathetic to Douglas’s concerns about the media’s assault on the ideals of feminism, there was also something missing in her critique of pop culture. In a nutshell, the author’s argument is that the feminist ideals of the 1970s were attacked and destroyed by media and pop culture, during the 1990s. Douglas maintains that television and the media, more generally, endorsed conflicting messages about women; telling them they could “have it all” in thei I’m ambivalent about this book. Although I’m sympathetic to Douglas’s concerns about the media’s assault on the ideals of feminism, there was also something missing in her critique of pop culture. In a nutshell, the author’s argument is that the feminist ideals of the 1970s were attacked and destroyed by media and pop culture, during the 1990s. Douglas maintains that television and the media, more generally, endorsed conflicting messages about women; telling them they could “have it all” in their love/home life and careers (which is statistically false), and then telling preteen girls and teenagers that they should be stereotypically feminine, shop as a hobby, work on having perfect bodies, please their boyfriends, and be properly girly by basically rejecting the tenets of feminism. Douglas does a great job unpacking what happened with popular media during the 90s, but I honestly found her focus on shows like 90210 and The Real World (juxtaposed against Xena and Buffy) a bit annoying. To her credit, she does address issues of race and the media’s erasure of lesbians in this backlash via shows like Oprah and Ellen, but focusing on sitcoms and things like Cosmo magazine seems a bit absurd. I am a feminist. I was a preteen and teenager in the 90s. So, that would make me one of the young women Douglas is talking about here. I do remember feeling insecure as a teenager and wanting to fit in (who didn’t), but I think that media alone is not the culprit in the “war on feminism.” The story is more complex. Douglas pinpoints some interesting trends in pop culture, and she writes in an engaging manner, but she never tackles the question of agency: Why is this backlash against feminism happening? Is it the result of a political movement against feminism? Is the media actually trying to undermine women’s equality? Are there chief executives plotting to make girls insecure? Or do they market this stuff because girls actually enjoy consuming this sexist stuff and it makes money? If so, the deeper question is why do girls embrace these stereotypes? What makes them appealing to young women? Why does the media succeed in capturing this audience? What explains the change in their marketing scheme in the 90s? Are parents failing? What about public education? In short, the deeper issue of agency (vs. consumerism) seems to go unaddressed by this account of pop culture undermining feminism. There is a bit of a chicken/egg problem here, but Douglass never explains who planned this conspiracy, or why they did it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    A.R. McKenna

    Excellently written and supported, I found Enlightened Sexism had the answer to a question that has been bothering me for quite awhile now: why does everyone think that the United States has surpassed sexism? I have also asked this about racism and classism and the other oppressions that continue to dominate American culture, such as homophobia and ageism. Well, this book made it perfectly clear why so many people call me a 'femi-nazi' and harass me online when I speak about feminism. I am very Excellently written and supported, I found Enlightened Sexism had the answer to a question that has been bothering me for quite awhile now: why does everyone think that the United States has surpassed sexism? I have also asked this about racism and classism and the other oppressions that continue to dominate American culture, such as homophobia and ageism. Well, this book made it perfectly clear why so many people call me a 'femi-nazi' and harass me online when I speak about feminism. I am very happy that abortion has been legalized and that I can fulfill my career, among many of the achievements that feminism has granted women. But I cannot believe that things are peachy for American women. There are issues for women in other parts of the world, and unfortunately we almost never hear about them. We also never hear about the horrible stories that women, especially women of color and poor women, experience in the U.S. We never hear about the transgender and genderqueer community, either. Ever hear about the struggles that illegal immigrants experience (besides on Spanish news stations)? This is a deliberate choice made by the media to silence these voices. I could go on and on, but this book nails it perfectly. I am so happy and even relieved that I read it. Because now I don't feel crazy for the way I feel about the 'wonderful' media. I don't need to buy its B.S. messages. And neither should you. I fiercely embrace the F-word.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I've been waiting to write this review because I honestly just can't think of enough words to sum up how incredible it is. I thoroughly enjoyed Douglas's (Douglas'??) Where The Girls Are when I read it for a women's studies class in college. This is Where The Girls Are 2.0, for my generation. It made me rethink all of these things that I grew up on and am currently experiencing. It pissed me off (in the best way possible), it made me laugh, it made me (true to my generation) roll my eyes so hard I've been waiting to write this review because I honestly just can't think of enough words to sum up how incredible it is. I thoroughly enjoyed Douglas's (Douglas'??) Where The Girls Are when I read it for a women's studies class in college. This is Where The Girls Are 2.0, for my generation. It made me rethink all of these things that I grew up on and am currently experiencing. It pissed me off (in the best way possible), it made me laugh, it made me (true to my generation) roll my eyes so hard I feared they would get stuck back there. It articulated all the things I, as a 20-something Feminist (autocorrect decided it needed a capital F, and I tend to agree) WANT to say and know but never quite found the words for. If you read this and aren't outraged, then you're obviously part of the problem. I plan on reading it again very soon, just to make sure I got everything. I want EVERYONE to read this book. I know a 300-some-odd page nonfiction book seems daunting, but I swear it is an easy and enjoyable read. Susan Douglas is relate-able without getting preachy, sarcastic in all the right places, and most importantly makes a DAMN good point about how we haven't really come as far as mass media would like us to think.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Clark

    I am almost finished with this book. Overall, I enjoyed it, if that is the right word. In many ways, it is an upsetting book. I say upsetting, because I agree with the author's premise that the powers that be are attempting to return women to their rightful place, under the thumb of patriarchy. (And yes, I am saying this with a straight face.) I wish I had read this book before teaching my Female Hero and Superhero book--very useful. Douglas examines how women are portrayed on TV and in film, in I am almost finished with this book. Overall, I enjoyed it, if that is the right word. In many ways, it is an upsetting book. I say upsetting, because I agree with the author's premise that the powers that be are attempting to return women to their rightful place, under the thumb of patriarchy. (And yes, I am saying this with a straight face.) I wish I had read this book before teaching my Female Hero and Superhero book--very useful. Douglas examines how women are portrayed on TV and in film, in music and in other media and compares these depictions to how real women are living their lives. We have a long way to go, and I find myself comparing how women are portrayed on the Netflix shows I watch as to whether or not they are women-friendly. This is why I give the book 4 stars. Douglas made me think.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gofita

    Douglas really lays out how media continues to incorporate sexism into society and he we just buy it now. It was pretty disturbing and opened my eyes. I'm definitely more sensitive now and that's a good thing. It's good create awareness. The only thing I didn't like is she did repeat some ideas over and over again which got a bit annoying. But overall an excellent book on feminism, sexism, and the social media. Douglas really lays out how media continues to incorporate sexism into society and he we just buy it now. It was pretty disturbing and opened my eyes. I'm definitely more sensitive now and that's a good thing. It's good create awareness. The only thing I didn't like is she did repeat some ideas over and over again which got a bit annoying. But overall an excellent book on feminism, sexism, and the social media.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Super compelling book. I loved Susan Douglas' other book, "Where the Girls Are," and this book brings many of the same issues into contemporary culture. Douglas is a funny, spirited writer, and although I agreed with many of her critiques, she's getting into the more insidious and subtle kinds of antifeminism here and therefore not everyone will agree. For that reason, this would make an excellent read for a book club or for a women's studies class. Super compelling book. I loved Susan Douglas' other book, "Where the Girls Are," and this book brings many of the same issues into contemporary culture. Douglas is a funny, spirited writer, and although I agreed with many of her critiques, she's getting into the more insidious and subtle kinds of antifeminism here and therefore not everyone will agree. For that reason, this would make an excellent read for a book club or for a women's studies class.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    The author writes very well, with a lot of humor, in bringing home the point that, not only is feminism's work not done, but powerful forces using the media are seeking to undo what has been accomplished. In the 2012 political climate, the anti-feminist agenda is even more obvious than when the book was written. The author writes very well, with a lot of humor, in bringing home the point that, not only is feminism's work not done, but powerful forces using the media are seeking to undo what has been accomplished. In the 2012 political climate, the anti-feminist agenda is even more obvious than when the book was written.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jade Lopert

    This was a fairly frustrating read. While, over all, I (think) I’m on the same page with the author, it also felt like a lot of mixed messages were being sent throughout the book. On one hand, all makeup is bad and giving in to the patriarchal standard? But on the other the author herself shops at Sephora and has many feminist friends who wear mascara? More than anything it felt a little bit like a diatribe about how amazing the pure women’s movement of the 70s was and how much has been lacking si This was a fairly frustrating read. While, over all, I (think) I’m on the same page with the author, it also felt like a lot of mixed messages were being sent throughout the book. On one hand, all makeup is bad and giving in to the patriarchal standard? But on the other the author herself shops at Sephora and has many feminist friends who wear mascara? More than anything it felt a little bit like a diatribe about how amazing the pure women’s movement of the 70s was and how much has been lacking since the 90s. The criticism of pop culture was mostly there, but there were incidents where if you’re going to critique something you need to take into account its totality and not just the parts that fit your narrative. Two examples: The Bachelor is brought up again and again as part of the problem of enlightened sexism, but there isn’t even a passing mention that the Bachelorette exists and is the same exact show. Mean Girls. Totally takes out of the equation that the ending message is sisterhood and that women don’t need to compete with each other. Which pretty much changes the entire feel of the movie. Overall I think there are better books about sexism and feminism in media that don’t come off as so snarky about other women who the author may not agree with, especially reality stars. Is it really not possible to point out the issues with reality tv without attacking the women (and men) who take part in them? Really?

  26. 4 out of 5

    kylajaclyn

    This book is absolutely essential. Within the first ten pages I was already like, “Yep, yep, yep.” I want to walk around and hand this book out to everyone on the streets. Admittedly, if you don’t like pop culture it may not be an enjoyable or enlightening read for you. That said, every woman can clearly see from the evidence laid out that the US is severely lacking in concern for women’s issues. I hope the world proposed in the epilogue can eventually become more of a reality than not... and pr This book is absolutely essential. Within the first ten pages I was already like, “Yep, yep, yep.” I want to walk around and hand this book out to everyone on the streets. Admittedly, if you don’t like pop culture it may not be an enjoyable or enlightening read for you. That said, every woman can clearly see from the evidence laid out that the US is severely lacking in concern for women’s issues. I hope the world proposed in the epilogue can eventually become more of a reality than not... and preferably before I die.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    WHERE THE GIRLS ARE was assigned in the Introduction to Sociology course I took in the second semester of my freshman year of college. My professor recommended looking for used copies of the course books at the bookstore, but advised that we'd all have to buy new copies of Douglas' book because nobody sells it back at the end of the semester. He was right. I hoped ENLIGHTENED SEXISM would be the new WHERE THE GIRLS ARE. I don't think it will be. Douglas' writing is as conversational, engaging, a WHERE THE GIRLS ARE was assigned in the Introduction to Sociology course I took in the second semester of my freshman year of college. My professor recommended looking for used copies of the course books at the bookstore, but advised that we'd all have to buy new copies of Douglas' book because nobody sells it back at the end of the semester. He was right. I hoped ENLIGHTENED SEXISM would be the new WHERE THE GIRLS ARE. I don't think it will be. Douglas' writing is as conversational, engaging, and even as stimulating as I remember (though some will be put off by her tone; it's just not for everyone). She patiently contextualizes theory with history--anyone interested in 1990s pop culture should pick this up--to trace social perceptions back and forth through the illusions of "girl power." And there are plenty of back and forth trips to make. If you were to illustrate the theory of enlightened sexism, you might use a wolf in sheep's clothing that unzips to reveal a wolf costume that unzips to reveal a sheep's costume that unzips to reveal all five of the Spice Girls. Though I can imagine ENLIGHTENED SEXISM opening a new dialogue for college freshmen, I also worry that many of the examples Douglas uses here are too dated, but not old enough to be "classic." The extended discussion of 90210 (the original, of course) was tiresome, even for me. The significance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's popularity seems a more worthy point of reference; Ally McBeal and Xena: Warrior Princess, who gets a whole chapter, seem like members of a noisy chorus backing up--at the risk of drowning out--the salient point. The point is important and true and it's something that new Intro to Soc students should consider, but I'm not sure they need to consider it for 300, occasionally disjointed pages. About two-thirds trough, I started wondering if the book would have made a better "Dos and Don'ts: Two Decades of Feminism in the Media" list or a series of case studies published in whatever feminist magazine is still in print. I don't remember wishing WHERE THE GIRLS ARE was diluted like that. Though ENLIGHTENED SEXISM didn't introduce much new information, but rather confirmed what I already knew to be true of the supposed leaps the feminine and feminist images have made, it was a good exercise in acknowledging, or admitting, that those leaps have not been as great as we would like to believe. And it would make a valuable primer for introductory readers because it's clear, engaging, and will spur many readers to rethink their impressions of women, sexism, and feminism.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nan

    I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. I could not be more thrilled. Susan J. Douglas is a Professor of Communication at the University of Michigan, and she uses all of her skills to analyze feminism and sexism from the nineties to the present. Through her study of television, magazines, and music, she illustrates the way in which the powerful feminist impulses of the early nineties (such as the Riot Grrrl movement) were co-opted and emptied of meaning through co I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. I could not be more thrilled. Susan J. Douglas is a Professor of Communication at the University of Michigan, and she uses all of her skills to analyze feminism and sexism from the nineties to the present. Through her study of television, magazines, and music, she illustrates the way in which the powerful feminist impulses of the early nineties (such as the Riot Grrrl movement) were co-opted and emptied of meaning through consumerism (the capitalist response to the Riot Grrl movement: The Spice Girls). Her analysis of the present moment is quite troubling. She explains that a new force appeared on the scene during these two decades: enlightened sexism. Enlightened sexism claimed that it was OK to portray women in a demeaning fashion (the gold diggers of Joe Millionaire, the wealthy girls of My Super Sweet Sixteen) because it was all ironic. It was OK to laugh at these girls and women for their absurdities while at the same time creating a venue to display and encourage this behavior. The other side of the problem is the fact that powerful women are overrepresented on TV and in movies. (Just how many surgeons are women compared to how many we see on Grey's Anatomy . . .) Through this overpopulation, popular media encourages the notion that feminism's work is done because we have (according to these TV shows) achieved power. They show us a reality where there is nothing left to strive for, and create the perception that we no longer need a powerful feminist movement. Douglas' argument is powerful and complicated, but her light, angry tone works quite effectively to get her point across to her readers. I highly recommend this book for anyone, but especially for those that think feminism's work is done. Douglas wants her readers to become angry with this status quo and to organize from the ground up to fight it. I am proud to follow her in the chant: "I'm an f-girl, and I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    This one's a curious book in that, in terms of quality, I think it easily earns five stars. Then why did I only give it three? Because it kept making me angry. Not because I disagreed with what Douglas was saying (for the most part, I think much of what she had to say was absolutely spot-on) -- but because I _agreed_, and it made for frustrating, difficult reading. It is frustrating to realize how much feminism still has to achieve ... and, for that matter, how much, in some ways, it has backsli This one's a curious book in that, in terms of quality, I think it easily earns five stars. Then why did I only give it three? Because it kept making me angry. Not because I disagreed with what Douglas was saying (for the most part, I think much of what she had to say was absolutely spot-on) -- but because I _agreed_, and it made for frustrating, difficult reading. It is frustrating to realize how much feminism still has to achieve ... and, for that matter, how much, in some ways, it has backslid. But the concept of enlightened sexism -- which, as she explains it, is basically the idea that, "Hey, feminism has done its job! There's no such thing as sexism anymore! So women can go back to using their sexuality and physical appearance as their sole source of power, because sexism has been conquered! And using your looks as power is what you gals want anyway, right?" -- is an important one. Douglas looks at how enlightened sexism (and its surprising counterpart, embedded feminism) affects our culture (particularly our pop culture), and the result is that you come out of the book unable to look at things in quite the same way. Which is annoying and freeing at the same time. Read this book. It might make you mad, and you probably won't agree with everything (I know I didn't). But there's a lot of food for thought here -- and, more than that, there's the point at the end that, if we don't like the way things still are, we can fight to change them. We are quick, in our cynicism, to roll our eyes and say that society is the way it is and there's nothing we can do to change it, so we might as well SIU (Suck It Up) and deal. Douglas reminds us, however, that the women's lib movement in the 60s and 70s (and the suffragettes fifty years earlier) have already brought about huge changes and advances for women. The belief that we can't do anything to change things is mistaken. So read the book -- and start acting.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas argues that the through the combination of "enlightened sexism" and "embedded feminism," the media and popular culture conceal the very real need for continued feminism - the very idea of which having become almost a dirty word. In embedded feminism, tv shows and the media present women in power as fait accompli, leading women to believe that feminism is part of the cultural landscape and hiding the fact that there still exist many disparities between wome In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas argues that the through the combination of "enlightened sexism" and "embedded feminism," the media and popular culture conceal the very real need for continued feminism - the very idea of which having become almost a dirty word. In embedded feminism, tv shows and the media present women in power as fait accompli, leading women to believe that feminism is part of the cultural landscape and hiding the fact that there still exist many disparities between women and men in this country. Through enlightened sexism, women continue objectified and exploited in popular culture, but the viewer is meant to watch with irony. Douglas writes in a conversational tone that immediately pulled me into her writing and kept me interested. I also enjoyed reading the examples she cites of movies, tv shows, and popular culture in which embedded feminism or enlightened sexism are at work. This book definitely got me thinking more about feminism, and the role that it plays in my life. It's not something I've really considered before, and I'm definitely watching tv shows and movies in a new light now. Overall, I'd say that this book is illuminating and well-written, but be wary before picking it up if you're not completely interested in the subject material. You can find my full review at Rantings of a Bookworm Couch Potato.

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