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In the preface of his book, “Prime- time Feminism”, published in 1996, in reference to the diluted meaning and purpose of feminism, Bonny Dow stated: “My particular concern is with how television programming has contributed to the cultural conversation about feminism in this country at different historical moments over the past twenty-five years” (Dow xiv). In this perspective, it is clear that Dow was trying to underline the rhetorical and historical aspect of feminism in the public domain as portrayed by media. Basically, Dow’s concern can never be limited to media alone, as far as the current perception on feminists and feminism are concerned. In fact, a keen observer must notice that Dow is not a lone in his concern about this rhetoric. In their analysis of the contents of the major television programs of ABC, PBS, CNN, and NPR, Lind & Salo (211) found out that real feminists were given little opportunities to air their views in these programs, and if given airtime, they were often demonized. They also revealed that the present ‘feminists’ are less often victims of discrimination in the wider society, since they had the support of agencies with strong appeal to powerful people. According to their conclusion, it is just unfortunate that modern ‘feminists’ are not concerned much with the common woman’s day-to-day life that involve work, leisure and motherhood, but instead concentrates on the media activities, art, and politics (Lind & Salo 223). If the most prominent and popular definition of feminism is that it is “a movement for social, cultural, political and economic equality of men and women” (Humm 278; Walker 39; Lovenduski & Baudino 56), then how come many of the activities of the modern feminists are concentrated in the public sphere of politics, media and prominent personalities purporting to be fighting for the common woman’s right?

There are three waves that define the origin of the word ‘feminism’ in the historical perspective. The first wave started towards the end of 19th century and proceeded to the beginning of 20th century, it was followed by the second wave in the mid of 20th century (specifically in the 1960s and 1970s) (Walker 40). The third and last wave began in 1990s to date, with several changes accompanying the present feminism, often referred to as post-feminism among the many scholars (Walker 40). It is through these waves that feminist theories emerged, as they were incorporated in various academic fields. The first-wave feminists were committed to the ideals of society as far as equality between men and women were concerned in the social, political and economic arena. From this perspective, I can give my definition of feminism as the right to information and just treatment on social, economic, and political issues to women as proscribed in the cultural ideals of the society. 

However, in the early part of the Second-Wave feminism revolution in 1960s, the feminists group, National Organization for Women (NOW) did not permit a number more than a third to be married women (Thornham 76). President George Bush in the campaign to encourage chastity among young people and his 2004 declaration that civilization itself depends on traditional marriage, where the liberation process in regard to “choice and diversity in both domestic, sexual and kinship relations” (Thornham 77) clearly indicated that the whole meaning of modern feminism and the role of feminists do not have definite meaning and purpose to the ordinary person at all. Basically, in what would be considered post-feminism, the meaning and purpose of feminism has been transformed to accommodate every social relationship including same sex marriage. Is this the purpose for which feminism emerged? Basically, it is evident that the public perception on feminism and feminist politics has been dismantled, discrediting the initial purpose of movement as vehicle for social, cultural, political and economic equality of men and women in the larger context of traditional society.

Feminism, Media, and the Public. The early wave of feminism advocated to the general roles, duties, and responsibilities of a traditional woman in the society. In the media commercials, women were used in roles to depict an identity of traditional consumers in the homes. However, this trend has significantly changed to the positive. So far, women are not only used as home-oriented people in the television programs but have been depicted as having physical presence in almost every sector of the economy. Advertisers have used this change to advance the role of women as economic drivers. Probably the reason for this “strategic” production is the realization that as much as people would want to watch the prime-time programs such as news, they would not want to see an embarrassing situation coming from the commercials because that would make some viewers uncomfortable, hence turn the television off. Moreover, producers operate within specific aesthetic conventions, narrative patterns as well as expectations. It such constraints that would dictate the kind of messages they send about feminism.    

However, the major problem emerges from the fact that media itself has adopted a pattern in which instead of presenting women in group efforts, they are presented in individual capacity in terms of achievements, tribulations, and experiences. While this appeals more to advertisers as people would want to relate to such situations, it brings out a different picture of feminism in the narrow perspective that if a woman works harder, she will achieve the highest accolades in the society and vice versa. While this is motivating, it is not feminism but a widened aspect of sexism. The media’s individualistic approach to women issues in the world implies their belief that global problems can be solved by simple hard work, good will as well as a supportive family. They avoid the complex social issues affecting larger section of women and people in the general society, such as politics. Probably the most eye-catching phrase is that of The Women’s Liberation Workshop Statement of 1970, “we are commercially exploited by advertisements, television, and press” (Dow 8), strategically appearing in the first paragraph. This is in contrast to the original role of women in early concept as advocated by the first wave of feminist. During these early periods, women struggled to uphold their rights to issues like voting, equal access to economic resources, access to information and many other issues that brought wider society in the perspective of gender.

In another perspective, allow me to divulge into the role of media in narrowing the component of feminists to mean only representatives or leaders of sexist groups, while at the same time widening their roles in the wider society, in what I would prefer to call ‘organized feminists group’ with media as the government giving it an ending support. Why do I give it such an uncharacteristic definition? It can’t escape anybody’s attention that nowadays whenever the topic feminism emerges from an individual’s mouth, such as a media-painted feminist or whether she is a leader of a lesbian group or gay couples, they are branded as feminists. For instance, in 1998, issues emerged of Clinton groping Kathleen Willey and at the same time having extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, the media were all over with the question: “where are the feminists?” Then later in March 22 of the same year, Gloria Steinem, a media-branded feminist wrote an opinion for the New York times reasoning that Clinton’s case was really gross, but did not qualify to be termed as sexual harassment, hence did not warrant any form of action on the side of women (Lind & Salo 224) or feminists as they would prefer to be called. The following week, several columns of major publications were abounded by similar title reminiscent of: “Feminists Are Divided on the Clinton Scandal”. Basically, such kinds of media reports would sell but narrows the minds of women as that which belong to one self-professed feminists’ leader. Isn’t this an organized form of covert oppression, going against the principles of the first wave of feminism? The entire group of women has been reduced to an individual’s opinion, throwing into shambles the definition of feminism and its role to the society.

Code: Sample20

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