A Feminist Critique

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9780064350259: A Feminist Critique

With examples from the communications media, film, literature, popular culture, art, and art criticism, this book explores how feminism has changed American society and culture over the last 50 years and how it has shaped our notions of "feminine" and "masculine". Beginning in the 1940s with Hollywood's image of the American woman, Cassandra Langer goes on to discuss images of home, family and domesticity in the 1950s, and the impact of Betty Friedan's "The Feminist Mystique" on the 1960s generation. The dilemmas of feminism in the 1970s, the so-called golden age of American feminism, are examined, including sexual politics and reactionary rhetoric about lesbians and women who did not follow the party line. Langer also tackles women's rights in response to anti-feminist cultural discourses, discussing Susan Faludi's "Backlash", the abortion debate, and other political, social and cultural issues. Finally, the book assesses the highly charged sexual politics of the 1990s, using the writings of Camille Paglia, Naomi Wolf and Sophie Rophe to analyze the different facets of post-feminism.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Failing to deliver on the title's ambitious promise, this is a scattershot look at feminism, sexism, movies, music, art, homophobia, violence, legislation, Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and whatever else crops up along the way. Feminist historian and critic Langer begins with a brief, superficial look at the history of women's rights activism, the origins of various groups of feminists and pseudofeminists, and some theories about the nature of sexism. With that out of the way, she commences a topic-hopping discussion of matters having to do with female socialization, sexuality, and reproduction; the influence of the media (especially cinema) on society's attitudes toward women; and the stands (sometimes completely opposing) that various women's groups take on feminist issues. Marring the book's arguments are questionable leaps of logic that at times seem more intended to annoy than persuade. For instance, Langer asserts that, were welfare suddenly ended, a large number of women ``would become prostitutes.'' Langer is also given to delivering sweeping generalizations, telling us what ``most'' or ``many'' members of various groups think (``Most ultraconservatives assume that teenage boys are `loose cannons' ''). At times, even her credible statements lack supporting data, as when she comments that female voters were the ones who in 1992 sent three new women and returned one female incumbent to the US Senate. This work does feminists few favors, although, by its very shortcomings, it suggests just how valuable a cogent, unbiased, popular history of the last half century of feminism would be. -- Copyright 1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Cassandra L. Langer
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