Where The Girls Are
Catherine Redfern reviews Susan J. Douglas's book.
An excellent, entertaining, amusing and easy to read analysis of the female
baby-boomer’s experience of growing up with the mass media. Douglas’s key
concept is that when it comes to women, the media is schizophrenic; promoting
feminism on the one hand, and negating it on the other, even in the same song
or TV programme.
All through her life, Douglas says she has been given
contradictory messages on what women should be. As a result, women are pulled in
opposite directions, drawn to the glossy images we see, yet hating them at the
This idea that the media is neither one thing nor the other and can
present opposing ideas at the same time is one of the best and most accuarate
analyses of the media I have ever read. Her other basic idea is the absolute
viability of women’s cultural history. Complaining that male figures such as
Elvis or the Beatles are seen as trailblazing cultural icons of massive
importance, whereas female acts are seen as superficial and somewhat
embarrassing. Douglas reclaims them, saying that singing your heart out to ‘Will
You Love Me Tomorrow’ is something to be celebrated, not dismissed as
‘Where the Girls Are’ takes us on an exhilerating tour from the
1950s to the early 90s, from the Shirelles to Madonna, from Beatle-mania to
Charlie’s Angels, through to the growth of second-wave of feminism in the 60s
and 70s, and the bizarre obsessions of the 80s. This is an excellent overview of
a woman’s experience of the last 40 years.