The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Pladomon lecturer speaks on feminism

Alicia Smith | Thursday, September 17, 2009

Feminism is considered a dirty word in today’s discourse, said Susan Douglas, chair of the department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, during the Plamondon Lecture Wednesday at Saint Mary’s.

Douglas explored the roles of feminism and sexism in the media during the lecture, explaining that the media portrays “have it all” women.

The media, according to Douglas, depicts women as powerful, strong leaders who have control over men. These television shows, however, present the false presumption that the goals of feminism are no longer relevant.

“What the media have been giving us then, my dears, over the past 15 years are fantasies of power,” Douglas said. “Now the media illusion is that equality for girls and women is a complete accomplished fact when it is not. Since the early 1990s much of the media have come to overrepresent women as having made it completely in the profession, and having gained sexual equality with men, and having achieved a level of financial success and comfort.”

Highlighting the examples of Katie Couric, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Douglas argued that the media celebrates these women so as to create the impression of a general trend, rather than revealing them as exceptions.

In reality, though, women who have just graduated from college make only 80 percent of what men make, Douglass said.

“In 2007, when presumably some of the privileged girls who had advantages over boys had entered the workforce, they were still, secretary in first place, followed by registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers and retail salespersons,” Douglas said. “Not a CEO or hedge fund manager in sight.”

Douglas argued that the media does not accurately portray women’s roles in society.

“Slithering just below the shiny mirage of power is the dark, sneaky serpent of sexism,” Douglas explained. “The objectification of women is now fine.”

Women also are portrayed as tyrannical if they are able to achieve power, Douglas said.

“Still despite everything, that pulses through our culture is the belief and the fear that one women have power they turn into Cruella Deville. Evil, tyrannical, hated, unloved.”

Another problem with the media’s portrayal of women is the idea that women should find power from buying the right accessories, Douglas said.

“True power comes from shopping, having the right logos and being hot,” Douglas said.

Douglas said women should come together to oppose what she saw as false portrayals.

“The only way women can straddle all this is to be super women. To pull back the curtain on fantasies of power. I say, girls, we are all in this together,” Douglas said.