s1509 - Pocketbook Power: Women's Consumption and Activism in the Late Twentieth Century

Thursday, June 1, 2017: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM
SC 142 (Hofstra University)
Alison M Parker, College at Brockport SUNY
Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University

Session Abstract

The second half of the twentieth century marked a period of increased consumption, the emergence of deeply personal politics, and the rise of popular culture in the United States. In particular, different groups of women increasingly utilized their voices as consumers to challenge social and cultural norms through their critiques of mass media and the creation of their own variations of popular culture such as romance novels and magazines. This panel explores how varying women’s groups utilized their important roles as consumers to challenge the political, social, and cultural status quo in the late twentieth century. While some groups created their own literature in order to challenge sexist tropes within romance novels and magazines, other groups worked to reform media, such as films and comics, for the betterment of children as well as women. Two papers on the panel examine how women created their own versions of popular culture—feminist romance novels and the lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs— as a way to challenge mainstream culture. The third paper examines how the General Federation of Women’s Clubs argued that women could use their consumer power as an effective means to stymie the proliferation of obscene material through their Crusade for Morality in the Mass Media. Collectively, these papers demonstrate the creative ways in which women used their roles as consumers to create goods that reflected their values as well as gain political and social power.

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