Friday, November 17, 2006

Television and feminism

I am leafing through Joshua Meyrowitz' No Sense of Place, a great work on how electronic media in the body of television changed out society. It does point to some of the same issues as the extremely popular Amusing ourselves to death, but it holds so much more. It is a rich and interesting read, and since it's such a long time since I read it parts appear to me like recognitions of my own thoughts. A little sad too, as I realise it was Meyrowitz who wrote it, and not my original thought. Alas.

Anyway, here goes:
Before, isolated from men and from each other, women had "no outside standards to reckon by." "For women at home... the loss of a direct tie to the outer world means a loss of cognitive knowledge of how things work and real standards to test oneself against." As an arena of news and entertainment shared by both sexes, television alters women's perspective. Television gives women access to "outside standards" and it provides knowledge of "how things work." The shared arena of television also invites public comparison of the males and females portrayed in it. And by the male standards offered by television, women are weak, isolated, and relatively useless. If a man were in the position of most female television characters, he would probably be considered a "failure." (1987:211)

This rings with the same kind of truth as does Loving with a Vengeance by Tanya Modleski and Reading the Romance by Janice Radway. Both these works on women and popular culture show how a communication technology apparently worthless and fully commercialised was used in ways that empowered the users rather than numb their brains. Or, in the words of Adorno and Horkheimer:
The stunting of the mass media consumer's power of imagination and spontaneity does not have to be traced back to any psychological mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those attributes to the objective nature of the products themselves, especially to the most characteristic of them, the sound film.

Studying, playing and and generally hanging out with consumers of computer games does not leave me with a feeling of interacting with stunted, unintellectual people with no imagination. Quite to the contrary, they are imaginative, hard working and spontaneous - within the gaming context, at least. What I really would like to know is how the women think about it. PerhapsI should try to find one of the women's guilds or a group of women's gamers and do a Radwayian study? OK, one more point on the to-do list...

So there we go - opening one old book made me drag out two more, and one ancient article. Returning to the classics today, I guess.

1 comment:

farmer said...

Nice post.
I know Meyrowitz, and Postman, from my years in New England.
Now I'm at the University of Calgary.
"And by the male standards offered by television, women are weak, isolated, and relatively useless." is also my area of research.

I would be very curious to get about your "read" of my video blog:

Let me know,

holland wilde