Loading...

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics

From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond

by Karrin Vasby Anderson (Volume editor)
Textbook XII, 358 Pages

Summary

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From "Bitch" to "Badass" and Beyond examines the negotiation of feminist politics and gendered political leadership in twenty-first century U.S. popular culture. In a wide-ranging survey of texts—which includes memes and digital discourses, embodied feminist performances, parody and infotainment, and televisual comedy and drama—contributing authors assess the ways in which popular culture discourses both reveal and reshape citizens’ understanding of feminist politics and female political figures. Two archetypes of female identity figure prominently in its analysis. "Bitch" is a frame that reflects the twentieth-century anxiety about powerful women as threatening and unfeminine, trapping political women within the double bind between femininity and competence. "Badass" recognizes women’s capacity to lead but does so in a way that deflects attention away from the persistence of sexist stereotyping and cultural misogyny. Additionally, as depictions of political women become increasingly complex and varied, fictional characters and actual women are beginning to move beyond the bitch and badass frames, fashioning collaborative and comic modes of leadership suited to the new global milieu. This book will be of interest to students and scholars interested in communication, U.S. political culture, gender and leadership, and women in media.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Hillary Clinton From “Bitch” to “Badass” (Karrin Vasby Anderson)
  • Part I: Digital Politics and Embodied Feminism(s)
  • 1. Reimagining Feminist Dissent: Memetic Celebration and “The Notorious R.B.G.” (Katie L. Gibson)
  • 2. Smart and Authentic: “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” and Mediating Authentic Girls (Belinda Stillion Southard)
  • 3. #TransIsBeautiful: The Polymediated, Intersectional Feminism of Laverne Cox (Danielle M. Stern)
  • 4. Feminist Comedy’s Blond Badass: Amy Schumer and the Limits of White Feminism (Valerie R. Renegar / Lacy Lowrey / Kirsti Cole)
  • Part II: Feminist Political Parody, Satire, and Infotainment
  • 5. “How Is This Still a Thing?” The Materialist Feminism of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (Mary Douglas Vavrus)
  • 6. How to Be “Fierce as F*&!”: Full Frontal’s Angry Feminist Satire (Tasha N. Dubriwny)
  • 7. Late Night’s Funny Feminists: The Women of The Daily Show, Satire, and Postfeminism (Alyssa Samek)
  • 8. Relying on or Repudiating Stereotypes: Saturday Night Live Parodies of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton (Erika Falk)
  • Part III: Feminist Politicians in Prime Time
  • 9. The Good Wife’s Fatalistic Feminism: Televised Feminist Failures in Work/Life Balance, Romance, and Feminist Alliances (Michaela D.E. Meyer)
  • 10. The Two Madam Secretaries: Elizabeth McCord, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Mimetic Representations of Twenty-First Century Feminism (Allison M. Prasch)
  • 11. The Badass and the President: Scandal’s Prime-Time Presidency (Carrie M. Murawski / Tasha N. Dubriwny)
  • 12. Burlesquing the Veep: Veep’s Absurdist Rejection of Female Presidentiality (Kristina Horn Sheeler)
  • 13. “Yes We Can’t Not. Knope.”: Parks and Recreation and the Promise of Comic Feminist Parody (Karrin Vasby Anderson)
  • Conclusion: Political Women and the Power Paradox: The Case of Hillary Clinton (Shawn J. Parry-Giles)
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

Women, Feminism,
and Pop Politics

From “Bitch” to “Badass”
and Beyond

Edited by Karrin Vasby Anderson

About the editor

Karrin Vasby Anderson (PhD in Communication, Indiana University) is Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University and co-author of Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture and Governing Codes: Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity. She is the recipient of the National Communication Association’s James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, the Michael Pfau Outstanding Article Award in Political Communication from the Political Communication Division of the National Communication Association, the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics from the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, and the Feminist Scholarship Award from the Organization for Research on Women and Communication.

About the book

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond examines the negotiation of feminist politics and gendered political leadership in twenty-first century U.S. popular culture. In a wide-ranging survey of texts—which includes memes and digital discourses, embodied feminist performances, parody and infotainment, and televisual comedy and drama—contributing authors assess the ways in which popular culture discourses both reveal and reshape citizens’ understanding of feminist politics and female political figures. Two archetypes of female identity figure prominently in its analysis. “Bitch” is a frame that reflects the twentieth-century anxiety about powerful women as threatening and unfeminine, trapping political women within the double bind between femininity and competence. “Badass” recognizes women’s capacity to lead but does so in a way that deflects attention away from the persistence of sexist stereotyping and cultural misogyny. Additionally, as depictions of political women become increasingly complex and varied, fictional characters and actual women are beginning to move beyond the bitch and badass frames, fashioning collaborative and comic modes of leadership suited to the new global milieu. This book will be of interest to students and scholars interested in communication, U.S. political culture, gender and leadership, and women in media.

Advance Praise for

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics

“Karrin Vasby Anderson’s gift to us is an intellectually invigorating and forward-looking collection of essays. If the future is truly female, it’s because the ‘badasses’ and ‘bitches’ featured here—women who are on the stage, screen, platform, bench, and dais—show us all exactly how to get things done.”

—Cheryl Glenn, Distinguished Professor of English at Penn State University and author of Rhetorical Feminism and This Thing Called Hope; Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity through the Renaissance; and Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence

“This perfectly timed collection achieves something that has been sorely needed: it explores feminist politics in popular culture from multiple angles and in multiple media forms, from digital platforms and late-night comedy to television drama and sitcom. Framed by opening and closing essays that reflect on Hillary Clinton’s complex role as a feminist symbol, each of the chapters—by a dream team of feminist communication scholars—gives welcome attention to intersectionality and shows impressive theoretical range, clearly making the case that popular culture is a key battleground for public debate over the politics of gender, race, class, and sexuality. This book is essential for understanding the convergence of media, politics, and feminism in the twenty-first century.”

—Bonnie J. Dow, Professor of Communication Studies, Vanderbilt University

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

image

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Hillary Clinton From “Bitch” to “Badass”

Karrin Vasby Anderson

Part I: Digital Politics and Embodied Feminism(s)

1. Reimagining Feminist Dissent: Memetic Celebration and “The Notorious R.B.G.”

Katie L. Gibson

2. Smart and Authentic: “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” and Mediating Authentic Girls

Belinda Stillion Southard

3. #TransIsBeautiful: The Polymediated, Intersectional Feminism of Laverne Cox

Danielle M. Stern

4. Feminist Comedy’s Blond Badass: Amy Schumer and the Limits of White Feminism

Valerie R. Renegar, Lacy Lowrey, Kirsti Cole

Part II: Feminist Political Parody, Satire, and Infotainment

5. “How Is This Still a Thing?” The Materialist Feminism of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Mary Douglas Vavrus

6. How to Be “Fierce as F*&!”: Full Frontal’s Angry Feminist Satire

Tasha N. Dubriwny←vii | viii→

7. Late Night’s Funny Feminists: The Women of The Daily Show, Satire, and Postfeminism

Alyssa Samek

8. Relying on or Repudiating Stereotypes: Saturday Night Live Parodies of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton

Erika Falk

Part III: Feminist Politicians in Prime Time

9. The Good Wifes Fatalistic Feminism: Televised Feminist Failures in Work/Life Balance, Romance, and Feminist Alliances

Michaela D.E. Meyer

10. The Two Madam Secretaries: Elizabeth McCord, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Mimetic Representations of Twenty-First Century Feminism

Allison M. Prasch

11. The Badass and the President: Scandals Prime-Time Presidency

Carrie M. Murawski and Tasha N. Dubriwny

12. Burlesquing the Veep: Veeps Absurdist Rejection of Female Presidentiality

Kristina Horn Sheeler

13. “Yes We Can’t Not. Knope.”: Parks and Recreation and the Promise of Comic Feminist Parody

Karrin Vasby Anderson

Conclusion: Political Women and the Power Paradox: The Case of Hillary Clinton

Shawn J. Parry-Giles

Contributors

Index←viii | ix→

image

Acknowledgments

In her 2011 Class Day speech to the students of Harvard University, Amy Poehler offered this bit of advice:

You can’t do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.

The women who brought this project to fruition challenge and inspire me every day, and I am so grateful to them for making this book better (and more fun) than anything I could have concocted on my own. Thanks to Mary Stuckey, co-editor of Peter Lang’s Frontiers in Political Communication series and all-around feminist badass. Your scholarly accomplishments are matched only by your generosity of spirit, and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from and laugh with you. Thank you for using your hard-earned platform to elevate women’s voices.

To the women who contributed to this volume, I am grateful for your willingness to share the exceedingly scarce resources of time and creative energy with this project. The authors in this collection have been my mentors, students, and colleagues. I’m pleased that we are also all friends. Many of you stretched a bit beyond your scholarly comfort zone to participate in this project and I couldn’t be more proud of what we produced. Thanks for making #TeamFeministRhetoric truly fierce.

The entire Peter Lang team has been wonderful to work with as well. Thanks for giving this project (and that title) a green light.

I also owe a debt of thanks to my graduate students. The cohort who took my seminar in U.S. political pop culture during the spring 2016 semester helped me think through many of the ideas that are central to the book. I←ix | x→ also appreciate the good work that Lexi Szewczuga and Kristina Lee did as research and editorial assistants.

Thanks to the many women who inhabit the material and digital spaces in which I work on a daily basis. My colleagues in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University are truly unmatched in their intelligence, work ethic, and collegiality. I appreciate each and every one of you, but especially want to mention my fellow rhetoricians and contributors to this volume, Allison Prasch and Katie Gibson, as well as Elizabeth Williams—thank you for the leadership role you’ve taken in our department and the friendship you’ve given to me. Beyond my department, I want to acknowledge all the women of #TeamRhetoric from whom I learn on a daily basis, through conversations at conferences, shared posts on social media, and in the pages of our books and journals.

Finally, a word of gratitude for the women who walk closest to me on this journey: my grad school girlfriends, Kristy Sheeler, Helen Tate, Claire Procopio, Sarah Feldner, and Krista Hoffmann-Longtin; the women who’ve been my best friends for over thirty years, to whom this book is dedicated, Linda Baldini, Tammy Kerr and Stacy LaPointe; and my mom, Patricia Vasby, my first and best example of determination and grace. I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with all of you. It has changed my life.←x | 1→

image

Introduction: Hillary Clinton From “Bitch” to “Badass”

Karrin Vasby Anderson

Colorado State University

On February 23, 2008, Hillary Clinton’s first bid for the Democratic presidential nomination was in jeopardy. After Barack Obama’s upset victory in the Iowa caucuses and Clinton’s narrow recovery in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton and Obama battled it out in primaries and caucuses throughout January and February. As Clinton began to lose momentum, Tina Fey made a triumphant return to the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” desk as the program’s star alumnus. Reclaiming her seat next to Amy Poehler—the two were the first female team to co-anchor “Weekend Update” before Fey left the series—Fey used her parodic platform to stump for Clinton’s real-world candidacy:

Fey: Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch. Let me say something about that. Yeah, she is [smiling]. And so am I and so is this one [camera shot widens as Fey points to Poehler].

Poehler: [smiling] Yeah. Deal with it.

Fey: You know what? Bitches get stuff done. That’s why Catholic schools use nuns as teachers and not priests. Those nuns are mean old clams and they sleep on cots and they’re allowed to hit you. And at the end of the school year you hated those bitches, but you knew the capital of Vermont.

Fey then addressed voters in two upcoming primary states directly, urging, “So I’m sayin’ it’s not too late, Texas and Ohio! Get on board! Bitch is the new black!”1 Describing Fey’s monologue as a “thinly veiled exhortation to young women to quit Obama and get with the Hillary bandwagon,” Boston Globe columnist Peter S. Canellos credited the SNL episode—which also featured a sketch with Poehler as Clinton and a cameo by the candidate,←1 | 2→ herself—with “clear[ing] some of the gloom from around Clinton” and producing a bump in her poll numbers.2 Similarly, the New York Times’s Katharine Q. Seelye credited the SNL episode with prompting a shift in the “tone of the Democratic contest” that made “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign more buoyant and Senator Barack Obama’s more defensive.”3 Unfortunately for Clinton, the boost was short-lived and Obama emerged from primary season as the Democratic presidential nominee. Nonetheless, important insights may be drawn from this convergence of politics, parody, and punditry. First, the metaphors used to frame political women in news and entertainment have a powerful influence on political candidates’ perceived electability. Second, the spheres of politics and popular culture are inextricably entwined, with pop culture increasingly serving as a platform for feminist politics.

This book examines the negotiation of feminist politics and gendered political leadership in twenty-first century U.S. popular culture. In a wide-ranging survey of texts which includes memes and digital discourses, embodied feminist performances, parody and infotainment, and televisual comedy and drama, contributing authors assess the ways in which popular culture discourses both reveal and reshape citizens’ understanding of feminist politics and female political figures. Two archetypes of female identity figure prominently in the forthcoming analysis. “Bitch” is a frame that reflects the twentieth century anxiety about powerful women as threatening and unfeminine, trapping political women within the double bind between femininity and competence.4 Although some women seek to reclaim the slur,5 and it sometimes is deployed playfully, “bitch” retains its negative connotation in contemporary insults such as “basic bitch”6 and in memes like “bitch, please.”7 As women both embraced and pushed back against the bitch frame, a second archetype emerged in political and popular culture: the “badass.” Badasses are effective leaders whose power, although imposing, no longer marks women as unnatural. Both frames may be deployed in ways that are progressive or reactionary. Additionally, as depictions of political women become increasingly complex and varied, fictional characters and actual women are beginning to move beyond the bitch and badass frames, fashioning collaborative and comic modes of leadership suited to the new global milieu.

In addition to examining the frames within which fictional and actual political women are positioned, chapters in this volume engage contemporary incarnations of feminist, postfeminist, and anti-feminist politics, assessing the ways in which feminist values are articulated or resisted in political pop culture. As a political movement, cultural phenomenon, and ideological orientation, “feminism” is a polysemous and polyvalent term. Contributors to this volume understand feminism, broadly, to mean the belief that “people←2 | 3→ of all sexes and genders deserve equal value, treatment, and opportunity in social, cultural, relational, political, and economic spheres.”8 We join with Bonnie J. Dow and Celeste M. Condit, who contend that a feminist perspective “ultimately is oriented toward the achievement of ‘gender justice,’ a goal that takes into account the ways that gender always already intersects with race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class.”9 An emphasis on intersectionality10 undergirds some contemporary academic feminism—particularly that which has been characterized “third wave” feminism.11 Both academic feminism and feminism in popular culture, however, have been slow to accommodate and reflect the complexities and challenges associated with intersectional identities.12 This book examines texts that both elide and foreground difference, with special attention paid to discourses that promote intersectional coalition-building.

Details

Pages
XII, 358
ISBN (PDF)
9781433153150
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433153167
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433153174
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433134531
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433134524
Language
English
Publication date
2018 (June)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XII, 358 pp.

Biographical notes

Karrin Vasby Anderson (Volume editor)

Karrin Vasby Anderson (PhD in Communication, Indiana University) is Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University and co-author of Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture and Governing Codes: Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity. She is the recipient of the National Communication Association’s James A. Winans–Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, the Michael Pfau Outstanding Article Award in Political Communication from the Political Communication Division of the National Communication Association, the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics from the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, and the Feminist Scholarship Award from the Organization for Research on Women and Communication.

Previous

Title: Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics