Cultural Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Mapping Femininity: Space, Media and the Boundaries of Gender

Theresa McLoone

Major Professor: Mark Jacobs

Committee Members: Alison Landsberg, Amy Best

Johnson Center, Room 240A
December 06, 2009, 07:00 PM to 07:00 PM

Abstract:

Images of girl power have saturated visual and other forms of culture for the better part of two decades and suggested a reclaiming of the term "girl" to describe a wide range of ages and embodiments. Intertwined with this new form of girlhood is a rethinking of public and private, distinctions which are instrumental in determining gender norms and which illustrate that space and identity are mutually determined. This blurring of boundaries between public and private in terms of physical space as well as for images and information is central to a popular narrative depicting a schism between feminist generations. A main argument between what are termed second-wave and third-wave feminisms seemed to be about visibility: when, how and in what context a girl is visible and the consequent value of notice and recognition. In this dissertation I explore how media worlds intersect with lived worlds to function as a blueprint for social tensions about feminisms and femininity. Through the lens of media, my analysis uncovers masked relationships of social structure, power and identity which underpin feminist and Cultural Studies scholarship. Using qualitative methods of semiotic textual analysis of the television series Alias alongside ethnographies of girls interacting in private as they discuss media images and in public as they carry out social relations, my research draws from television theory, feminist theory and cultural sociology and geography.

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