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Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics

From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond


Edited By Karrin Vasby Anderson

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.

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1. Reimagining Feminist Dissent: Memetic Celebration and “The Notorious R.B.G.” (Katie L. Gibson)


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

Katie L. Gibson

Colorado State University

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s rhetorical legacy is marked by a long history of feminist dissent. In 1973, she delivered her first oral argument as a lawyer before the United States Supreme Court. As Ginsburg stood before the nine male justices, she concluded her argument by quoting abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sarah Grimke. “I ask no favor for my sex,” RBG boldly declared, “All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”1 Beginning in the 1970s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg led the most profound attack on sexist law in the history of the United States.2 Her legal advocacy directly confronted the patriarchal voice of the law and challenged a long tradition of constitutional interpretation that silences the voices and experiences of American women and undermines their equal citizenship stature. “Put simply,” Nina Totenberg recently remarked: “she changed the way the world is for American women.”3 Despite her history as a feminist trailblazer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg remained relatively unknown among the broader American public throughout most of her career. In 2013, Justice Ginsburg captured the attention of feminists online when she publically dissented the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.4 “The Notorious R.B.G.” meme transformed the justice into a popular culture icon and confronted the rhetorical scripts that routinely discipline women’s political power to frame Justice Ginsburg’s feminist dissent...

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