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The Marginalized Majority

Media Representation and Lived Experiences of Single Women

Kristie Collins

This book presents a cultural analysis of social discourses and lived experiences of single women, a demographic category that census figures indicate to be the statistical «norm» in the United States and Canada – and yet, it remains a group that largely sees itself as marginalized. While singleness and other forms of non-normative lifestyles have been gaining interest from academics and society at large, a distinct commitment to female singleness studies has yet to emerge.
Each chapter looks at distinct features of social constructions of female singleness and/or lived experiences of single women, and textual analyses and cultural critiques are used to develop a richer investigation of the data. The theoretical framework is grounded in a cultural analysis, not only using the concepts thematically to more clearly understand the data, but also calling into question the utility of the concepts themselves.

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2. Singular Identification: Interpretations of the “real” single female experience 83

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83 2. Singular Identification: Interpretations of the “real” single female experience [S]ome images and messages are harder to resist than others, like the one that insists that a forty-year-old woman should have thighs like a twelve-year-old boy’s, and that no self-respecting woman should ever have wrinkles. This is because women, much more than men, have learned from ads, movies, and TV shows that they must constantly put themselves under surveillance […] There is much that women my age don’t have in common. Yet we do have a shared history of listening to the Chiffons, watching Bewitched, wearing miniskirts, idolizing Diana Ross, singing “I Am Woman,” watching Charlie’s Angels, being con- verted by Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, and Betty Friedan, hooting over Dallas and Dynasty (but not missing a single week), and, as a result, becoming women with a profound love-hate relationship with the mass media, and with the cultural values the mass media convey.1 As the previous chapter ascertained, the role of the mass media in promot- ing and disseminating “chosen” messages and discourses cannot be over- emphasized, and yet the extent of its influence on the ways in which me- dia consumers construct their own identities—informed by media representations with which they identify or reject—is greatly contested. Although audience studies research has rarely been able to establish de- finitive causal relationships between mediated messages and viewer re- sponses and behaviours (such as violence in television programming and increased rates of aggression in children, for instance), of particular...

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