Friday, April 23, 2010

Why examining pop culture is an important part of feminism

A quick statement on why pop culture matters, inspired by a post at The Counter-Feminist.

Pop culture is important because it both reflects and establishes the attitudes of society and individuals in society.  Children learn a lot of their attitudes through observing the behavior of others-- and even adults adjust their norms and social scripts based on what they see.  So if pop culture presents an image of women as vapid and materialistic, and men as adult children incapable of domestic tasks and shut off from their emotions, people are going to internalize that that is what the typical woman or man is like.  The human brain uses heuristics, so whatever it sees the most of is what it's going to think of first-- and if what it sees the most are negative stereotypes, well, that's what it's going to grab at.  Pop culture influences attitudes and actions-- and pervasive attitudes can stop real progress.

Analyzing and writing about pop culture in these ways can act as a form of consciousness raising, challenging people to examine their own motivations and their surroundings.  It can help to short-circuit the messages culture sends and help people question everything, leading them to a more accurate and fulfilling notion of what life is and what life ought to be.  It also tells people who see misogyny in advertisements, movies, tv, or books that no-- you are no alone, and you are not silly for finding things offensive, even things that you enjoy on other levels.

Pop culture is a major part of modern life.  To make things better for everyone, we have to pay attention to how life is, now, and realize that even small problems add up over time.

Next post:  What is feminist sex?

4 comments:

Fidelbogen said...

@Amanda:

Examining pop culture may indeed be an important part of feminism. You're a feminist, you have told me so, therefore I will take your word for it. That is, I haven't the least doubt that what you've written here represents your true belief upon these matters.

Examining pop culture may likewise be an important part of many other doctrines, disciplines or political standpoints.

I suppose that if I wanted to rule the world, I would examine pop culture in order to understand where the collective head is at. Ya gotta understand people if ya wanna control them, eh? ;)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to look at a general attitude shift through pop culture. Take for example Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman."

Basically the singer has awesome woman and he's plain and simple singing her praises.

The hook of this song is a part of Kanye West's "Gold Digger," except the crucial lyric "She give me money" is changed to "She take my money."

Several possibilities:

The words reflect that women are becoming more selfish.
The words reflect that men are becoming more whiny.
As an audience we're bored with happy endings.
It's just a really catchy hook and two great songs used it.

I think it's totally fascinating to examine pop culture, especially chronologically to track major trends.

You can also fall down a rabbit hole reading in to it too much.

Regardless of whether or not any of those interpretations have any validity whatsoever, it's fun to pick apart. Now I'm going to make a Ray Charles/Kanye West playlist and procrastinate even more.

ScareCrow said...

Just a comment Amanda:

If you want to examine the portion of pop-culture that people like myself, Fidelbogen, Snark, et al are focused on...

You can find a really good series of documentaries on YouTube here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/manwomanmyth

ManWomanMyth - I found these documentaries as "not surprising", as the things he mentions in them - I have been noticing for a long time.

Here are the two key videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZAuqkqxk9A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiTaDS_X6CU

You seem like an intelligent woman - I am curious what you think of those videos.

Mupetblast said...

Without knowing how people actually perceive pop culture, it's all speculation.