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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Lilly Goren looks at modern-day feminism

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Most of us were not alive to remember a time in America when women couldn't vote, and many are too young to recall when they marched for equal pay and reproductive rights in the 1970s. The stakes were higher then, and today there is more to take for granted. When challenged with forging an identity within the dichotomy of radical feminism and traditional femininity, most young women fall somewhere in between. Their media role models are increasingly polarized, with Hillary Clinton and Paris Hilton at opposite ends of the pop-culture spectrum.

Editor Lilly Goren, associate professor of politics and global studies at CarrollUniversity, compiled a dozen essays around contemporary women's issues in You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture.Generally relegated to the abortion debate, feminism prominently entered the sphere of national politics during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, creating a schism among second- and third-wave feminists.

Goren's own contribution to the book, "Supermom: The Age of the Pregnant Assassin," focuses on the shift from motherhood as a liability to its incarnation as a veritable superpower, and she cites examples from the strong female protagonists of Kill Bill and "Alias." Cecilia Konchar Farr's essay, "It Was Chick Lit All Along," offers an incisive critique of the "gendering" of novels. Novels by and for women, she argues, became marginalized by literary critics who "reduced a diverse and democratic genre to a few monumental texts, all by 'serious literary artists' who tended to resemble the white male academics who studied them." Other essays discuss women in pop music or at the helm of the news desk.

With few exceptions, the book's contributors are Ph.D.s; most are professors of political science or women's studies at private, faith-based colleges and universities. And while the essays on the whole veer toward the dry and academic, Goren's book is a thought-provoking, valuable guide to understanding a host of contemporary issues around women in popular media.

Although Bay View's Broad Vocabulary closed its doors, A Broader Vocabulary Cooperative presents this event as part of its continuing mission to promote feminist dialogue in Milwaukee, with or without the brick and mortar. Goren will discuss her new book at the Tool Shed, 2427 N. Murray Ave., on Monday, July 20, at 7 p.m.