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Beautiful Fighting Girl
Saito Tamaki
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
From Cutie Honey and Sailor Moon to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the worlds of Japanese anime and manga teem with prepubescent girls toting deadly weapons. Sometimes overtly sexual, always intensely cute, the beautiful fighting girl has been both hailed as a feminist icon and condemned as a symptom of the objectification of young women in Japanese society.

In Beautiful Fighting Girl, Saito Tamaki offers a far more sophisticated and convincing interpretation of this alluring and capable figure. For Saito, the beautiful fighting girl is a complex sexual fantasy that paradoxically lends reality to the fictional spaces she inhabits. As an object of desire for male otaku (obsessive fans of anime and manga), she saturates these worlds with meaning even as her fictional status demands her ceaseless proliferation and reproduction. Rejecting simplistic moralizing, Saito understands the otaku’s ability to eroticize and even fall in love with the beautiful fighting girl not as a sign of immaturity or maladaptation but as a result of a heightened sensitivity to the multiple layers of mediation and fictional context that constitute life in our hypermediated world—a logical outcome of the media they consume.

Featuring extensive interviews with Japanese and American otaku, a comprehensive genealogy of the beautiful fighting girl, and an analysis of the American outsider artist Henry Darger, whose baroque imagination Saito sees as an important antecedent of otaku culture, Beautiful Fighting Girl was hugely influential when first published in Japan, and it remains a key text in the study of manga, anime, and otaku culture. Now available in English for the first time, this book will spark new debates about the role played by desire in the production and consumption of popular culture.

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A Cultural Anatomy of Women's Body Building
Leslie Heywood
Rutgers University Press, 1998
"A highly unique and refreshing contribution. Heywood not only theorizes the relationships among feminism, activism, and bodybuilding but also provides what so many works on built female bodies lack-a feminine historical context. . . . Heywood concludes with a call for women to 'feel our muscles, our power, our terrible, wonderful, monstrous strengths' by leaving behind aerobics, replacing light weights with heavy ones, and claiming our right to take up space. . . . Like all influential and groundbreaking works, this book raises new and important questions that should provide grist for much feminist debate and scholarship in coming years." --Signs

"Bodymakers is most ambitious in terms of its engagement with feminist cultural criticism and its unconventional scope. Heywood comments on film, novels, magazine pictures, popular criticisms of feminism, the J. Crew catalog, [and] the concept of power feminism." --Gender and Society

"In this brilliantly insightful and immensely readable book, Leslie Heywood makes us think about women's body building in an entirely new way. She argues persuasively that, far from being an individualistic, apolitical act, it is a powerful form of resistance, empowering women to overcome their victim status and heal past abuse." --Myra Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

"Bodymakers has a power and an honesty that is unusual in a book with its theoretical sophistication." --Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight and Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J.

"With clarity, force, and passionate investment grounded in both theory and her own experience, Heywood understands that women can strengthen body, mind, and spirit through everyday practice. Her argument that body building is this kind of activist practice is as inspirational as it is poignant." --Joanna Frueh, author of Erotic Faculties

"Flexing her muscles through autobiographical, theoretical, and spectacular acts, Heywood insists that we read the muscular female body not as an 'extreme oddity' but as a 'form of activism' through which we can understand anew larger cultural issues and trends, including the American romance with individualism and the relationship of second and third wave feminisms. Muscular female bodies will never be read in the same way again." --Sidonie Smith, University of Michigan

Women with muscles are a recent phenomenon, so recent that, while generating a good deal of interest, their importance to the cultural landscape has yet to be acknowledged. Leslie Heywood looks at the sport and image of female body building as a metaphor for how women fare in our current political and cultural climate. She argues that the movement in women's body building from small, delicate bodies to large powerful ones and back again is directly connected to progress and backlash within the abortion debate, the ongoing struggle for race and gender equality, and the struggle to define "feminism" in the context of the nineties. She discusses female body building as activism, as an often effective response to abuse, race and masculinity in body building, and the contradictory ways that photographers treat female body builders. Engaging and accessible, Bodymakers reveals how female body builders find themselves both trapped and empowered by their sport.

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Cold War Femme
Lesbianism, National Identity, and Hollywood Cinema
Robert J. Corber
Duke University Press, 2011
In his bestselling book The Grapevine: A Report on the Secret World of the Lesbian (1965), Jess Stearn announced that, contrary to the assumptions of many Americans, most lesbians appeared indistinguishable from other women. They could mingle “congenially in conventional society.” Some were popular sex symbols; some were married to unsuspecting husbands. Robert J. Corber contends that The Grapevine exemplified a homophobic Cold War discourse that portrayed the femme as an invisible threat to the nation. Underlying this panic was the widespread fear that college-educated women would reject marriage and motherhood as aspirations, weakening the American family and compromising the nation’s ability to defeat totalitarianism. Corber argues that Cold War homophobia transformed ideas about lesbianism in the United States. In the early twentieth century, homophobic discourse had focused on gender identity: the lesbian was a masculine woman. During the Cold War, the lesbian was reconceived as a woman attracted to other women. Corber develops his argument by analyzing representations of lesbianism in Hollywood movies of the 1950s and 1960s, and in the careers of some of the era’s biggest female stars. He examines treatments of the femme in All About Eve, The Children’s Hour, and Marnie, and he explores the impact of Cold War homophobia on the careers of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Doris Day.

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Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn
Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century
Edited by Elana Levine
University of Illinois Press, 2015
Media expansion into the digital realm and the continuing segregation of users into niches has led to a proliferation of cultural products targeted to and consumed by women. Though often dismissed as frivolous or excessively emotional, feminized culture in reality offers compelling insights into the American experience of the early twenty-first century.

Elana Levine brings together writings from feminist critics that chart the current terrain of feminized pop cultural production. Analyzing everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Pinterest to pregnancy apps, contributors examine the economic, technological, representational, and experiential dimensions of products and phenomena that speak to, and about, the feminine. As these essays show, the imperative of productivity currently permeating feminized pop culture has created a generation of texts that speak as much to women's roles as public and private workers as to an impulse for fantasy or escape.

Incisive and compelling, Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn sheds new light on contemporary women's engagement with an array of media forms in the context of postfeminist culture and neoliberalism.


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Evil by Design
The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale
Elizabeth K. Menon
University of Illinois Press, 2000
Evil by Design documents the search for the origins of the iconic “femme fatale.” Depicted as a dangerous, depraved, and deadly woman, this image was found frequently in Salon paintings from 1885 to 1910.
Elizabeth K. Menon’s study is the first to use popular sources to make the critical link between the femme fatale and the rise of feminism. In addition to the Salon paintings, Menon sifts through a variety of popular sources, including French illustrated journals, literature, posters, and decorative arts. Over 120 images depict women with serpents, evil flowers, and even miniature men having their hearts cooked. She argues that the evolution of the femme fatale, with both literary and visual links to the biblical Eve figure, came as a response to increasing feminism and the desire by men to halt its spread.

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Evita, Inevitably
Performing Argentina's Female Icons Before and After Eva Perón
Jean Graham-Jones
University of Michigan Press, 2014
Evita, Inevitably sheds new light on the history and culture of Argentina by examining the performances and reception of the country’s most iconic female figures, in particular, Eva Perón, who rose from poverty to become a powerful international figure. The book links the Evita legend to a broader pattern of female iconicity from the mid-nineteenth century onward, reading Evita against the performances of other female icons: Camila O’Gorman, executed by firing squad over her affair with a Jesuit priest; Difunta Correa, a devotional figure who has achieved near-sainthood; cumbia-pop performer Gilda; the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Luján; and finally, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Employing the tools of discursive, visual, and performance analysis, Jean Graham-Jones studies theatrical performance, literature, film, folklore, Catholic iconography, and Internet culture to document the ways in which these “femicons” have been staged.

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Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia
Laurie J. Sears, ed.
Duke University Press, 1996
The stories of Indonesian women have often been told by Indonesian men and Dutch men and women. This volume asks how these representations—reproduced, transformed, and circulated in history, ethnography, and literature—have circumscribed feminine behavior in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. Presenting dialogues between prominent scholars of and from Indonesia and Indonesian women working in professional, activist, religious, and literary domains, the book dissolves essentialist notions of “women” and “Indonesia” that have arisen out of the tensions of empire.
The contributors examine the ways in which Indonesian women and men are enmeshed in networks of power and then pursue the stories of those who, sometimes at great political risk, challenge these powers. In this juxtaposition of voices and stories, we see how indigenous patriarchal fantasies of feminine behavior merged with Dutch colonial notions of proper wives and mothers to produce the Indonesian government’s present approach to controlling the images and actions of women. Facing the theoretical challenge of building a truly cross-cultural feminist analysis, Fantasizing the Feminine takes us into an ongoing conversation that reveals the contradictions of postcolonial positionings and the fragility of postmodern identities.
This book will be welcomed by readers with interests in contemporary Indonesian politics and society as well as historians, anthropologists, and other scholars concerned with literature, gender, and cultural studies.

Contributors. Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, Sita Aripurnami, Jane Monnig Atkinson, Nancy K. Florida, Daniel S. Lev, Dédé Oetomo, Laurie J. Sears, Ann Laura Stoler, Saraswati Sunindyo, Julia I. Suryakusuma, Jean Gelman Taylor, Sylvia Tiwon, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Diane L. Wolf


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Female Body Image and Beauty Politics in Contemporary Indian Literature and Culture
Edited by Srirupa Chatterjee and Shweta Rao Garg
Temple University Press, 2024
Female Body Image and Beauty Politics in Contemporary Indian Literature and Culture is the first volume to analyze the myriad conceptualizations of South Asian women’s body issues in film, literature, advertising, and other media. Showing how body image and self-identity are constructed in contemporary neoliberal India, the editors and contributors theorize issues of body image vis-à-vis Indian womanhood while touching upon political, socio-economic, and cultural parameters.

Influences from the colonial period through the age of the internet and globalization have reinforced Eurocentric ideals about femininity and womanhood. This long overdue volume addresses the pressures of beautification that Indian women face as they struggle with body acceptance and are often denied pride in their natural bodies.

Contributors: Annika Taneja, Anurima Chanda, Aratrika Bose, Kavita Daiya, Ketaki Chowkhani, Nishat Haider, Samrita Sinha, Shailendra Kumar Singh, Shubhra Ray, Sucharita Sarkar, Sukshma Vedere, Swatie, Tanupriya, Turni Chakrabarti, and the editors.

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Feminism and Popular Culture
Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique
Munford, Rebecca
Rutgers University Press, 2014
When the term “postfeminism” entered the media lexicon in the 1990s, it was often accompanied by breathless headlines about the “death of feminism.” Those reports of feminism’s death may have been greatly exaggerated, and yet contemporary popular culture often conjures up a world in which feminism had never even been born, a fictional universe filled with suburban Stepford wives, maniacal career women, alluring amnesiacs, and other specimens of retro femininity.

In Feminism and Popular Culture, Rebecca Munford and Melanie Waters consider why the twenty-first century media landscape is so haunted by the ghosts of these traditional figures that feminism otherwise laid to rest. Why, over fifty years since Betty Friedan’s critique, does the feminine mystique exert such a strong spectral presence, and how has it been reimagined to speak to the concerns of a postfeminist audience?

To answer these questions, Munford and Waters draw from a rich array of examples from contemporary film, fiction, music, and television, from the shadowy cityscapes of Homeland to the haunted houses of American Horror Story. Alongside this comprehensive analysis of today’s popular culture, they offer a vivid portrait of feminism’s social and intellectual history, as well as an innovative application of Jacques Derrida’s theories of “hauntology.” Feminism and Popular Culture thus not only considers how contemporary media is being visited by the ghosts of feminism’s past, it raises vital questions about what this means for feminism’s future.

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Fighting Visibility
Sports Media and Female Athletes in the UFC
Jennifer McClearen
University of Illinois Press, 2021
Ultimate Fighting Championship and the present and future of women's sports

Mixed martial arts stars like Amanda Nunes, Zhang Weili, and Ronda Rousey have made female athletes top draws in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Jennifer McClearen charts how the promotion incorporates women into its far-flung media ventures and investigates the complexities surrounding female inclusion. On the one hand, the undeniable popularity of cards headlined by women add much-needed diversity to the sporting landscape. On the other, the UFC leverages an illusion of promoting difference—whether gender, racial, ethnic, or sexual—to grow its empire with an inexpensive and expendable pool of female fighters. McClearen illuminates how the UFC's half-hearted efforts at representation generate profit and cultural cachet while covering up the fact it exploits women of color, lesbians, gender non-conforming women, and others.

Thought provoking and timely, Fighting Visibility tells the story of how a sports entertainment phenomenon made difference a part of its brand—and the ways women paid the price for success.


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The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siecle
Elizabeth Carolyn Miller
University of Michigan Press, 2008

Framed uses fin de siècle British crime narrative to pose a highly interesting question: why do female criminal characters tend to be alluring and appealing while fictional male criminals of the era are unsympathetic or even grotesque?

In this elegantly argued study, Elizabeth Carolyn Miller addresses this question, examining popular literary and cinematic culture from roughly 1880 to 1914 to shed light on an otherwise overlooked social and cultural type: the conspicuously glamorous New Woman criminal. In so doing, she breaks with the many Foucauldian studies of crime to emphasize the genuinely subversive aspects of these popular female figures. Drawing on a rich body of archival material, Miller argues that the New Woman Criminal exploited iconic elements of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commodity culture, including cosmetics and clothing, to fashion an illicit identity that enabled her to subvert legal authority in both the public and the private spheres.

"This is a truly extraordinary argument, one that will forever alter our view of turn-of-the-century literary culture, and Miller has demonstrated it with an enrapturing series of readings of fictional and filmic criminal figures. In the process, she has filled a gap between feminist studies of the New Woman of the 1890s and more gender-neutral studies of early twentieth-century literary and social change. Her book offers an extraordinarily important new way to think about the changing shape of political culture at the turn of the century."
---John Kucich, Professor of English, Rutgers University

"Given the intellectual adventurousness of these chapters, the rich material that the author has brought to bear, and its combination of archival depth and disciplinary range, any reader of this remarkable book will be amply rewarded."
---Jonathan Freedman, Professor of English and American Culture, University of Michigan

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Davis.

digitalculturebooks is an imprint of the University of Michigan and the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library dedicated to publishing innovative and accessible work exploring new media and their impact on society, culture, and scholarly communication. Visit the website at


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Gendered Defenders
Marvel's Heroines in Transmedia Spaces
Edited by Bryan J. Carr and Meta G. Carstarphen
The Ohio State University Press, 2022

Gendered Defenders: Marvel’s Heroines in Transmedia Spaces delivers dynamic and original analyses of how women perform in super heroic spaces. Contributors from a range of disciplinary perspectives—communications, international relations, cultural and media studies, English, history, and public policy—take on Marvel’s representations of women and gender to examine how relations of power are (re)produced, understood, and challenged. Through vivid retellings of character-based scenarios, these essays examine Carol Danvers, Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel, Shuri, Pepper Potts, Black Widow, and Squirrel Girl across media forms to characterize and critique contemporary understandings of identity, feminism, power, and gender.

Collectively, Gendered Defenders challenges notions about female identity while illuminating the multidimensional portrayals that are enabled by the form of speculative fiction. Making explicit the connections between women’s lived experiences and the imagined exploits of superheroines, contributors explore how these pop culture narratives can help us understand real-world gender dynamics and prepare pedagogical, political, and social strategies for dealing with them. 

Bryan J. Carr, Meta G. Carstarphen, Julie A. Davis, Rachel Grant, Annika Hagley, Amanda K. Kerhberg, Gregory P. Perreault, Mildred F. Perreault, CarrieLynn D. Reinhard, Maryanne A. Rhett, Stephanie L. Sanders, J. Richard Stevens, Anna C. Turner, Kathleen M. Turner-Ledgerwood, Robert Westerfelhaus


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Goddesses and Monsters
Women, Myth, Power, and Popular Culture
Jane Caputi
University of Wisconsin Press, 2004

The essays in Goddesses and Monsters recognize popular culture as a primary repository of ancient mythic energies, images, narratives, personalities, icons, and archetypes.  Together, they take on the patriarchal myth, where serial killers are heroes, where goddesses—in the form of great white sharks, femmes fatales, and aliens—are ritually slaughtered, and where pornography is the core story underlying militarism, environmental devastation, and racism.  They also point to an alternative imagination of female power that still can be found behind the cult devotion given to Princess Diana and animating all the goddesses disguised as popular monsters, queen bitches, mammies, vamps, cyborgs, and sex bombs.


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Heroines of Popular Culture
Edited by Ray B. Browne
University of Wisconsin Press, 1987
From life and literature come the heroines of this volume. The essays demonstrate that women can fit the role of hero as defined by Joseph Campbell: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder, fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won, the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Contributors to this volume cover a wide range of heroic women.

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How Do We Look?
Resisting Visual Biopolitics
Fatimah Tobing Rony
Duke University Press, 2022
In How Do We Look? Fatimah Tobing Rony draws on transnational images of Indonesian women as a way to theorize what she calls visual biopolitics—the ways visual representation determines which lives are made to matter more than others. Rony outlines the mechanisms of visual biopolitics by examining Paul Gauguin’s 1893 portrait of Annah la Javanaise—a trafficked thirteen-year-old girl found wandering the streets of Paris—as well as US ethnographic and documentary films. In each instance, the figure of the Indonesian woman is inextricably tied to discourses of primitivism, savagery, colonialism, exoticism, and genocide. Rony also focuses on acts of resistance to visual biopolitics in film, writing, and photography. These works, such as Rachmi Diyah Larasati’s The Dance that Makes You Vanish, Vincent Monnikendam’s Mother Dao (1995), and the collaborative films of Nia Dinata, challenge the naturalized methods of seeing that justify exploitation, dehumanization, and early death of people of color. By theorizing the mechanisms of visual biopolitics, Rony elucidates both its violence and its vulnerability.

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Imagining la Chica Moderna
Women, Nation, and Visual Culture in Mexico, 1917–1936
Joanne Hershfield
Duke University Press, 2008
In the years following the Mexican Revolution, visual images of la chica moderna, the modern woman, au courant in appearance and attitude, popped up in mass media across the country. Some of the images were addressed directly to women through advertisements, as illustrations accompanying articles in women’s magazines, and on the “women’s pages” in daily newspapers. Others illustrated domestic and international news stories, promoted tourism, or publicized the latest Mexican and Hollywood films. In Imagining la Chica Moderna, Joanne Hershfield examines these images, exploring how the modern woman was envisioned in Mexican popular culture and how she figured into postrevolutionary contestations over Mexican national identity.

Through her detailed interpretations of visual representations of la chica moderna, Hershfield demonstrates how the images embodied popular ideas and anxieties about sexuality, work, motherhood, and feminine beauty, as well as class and ethnicity. Her analysis takes into account the influence of mexicanidad, the vision of Mexican national identity promoted by successive postrevolutionary administrations, and the fashions that arrived in Mexico from abroad, particularly from Paris, New York, and Hollywood. She considers how ideals of the modern housewife were promoted to Mexican women through visual culture; how working women were represented in illustrated periodicals and in the Mexican cinema; and how images of traditional “types” of Mexican women, such as la china poblana (the rural woman), came to define a “domestic exotic” form of modern femininity. Scrutinizing photographs of Mexican women that accompanied articles in the Mexican press during the 1920s and 1930s, Hershfield reflects on the ways that the real and the imagined came together in the production of la chica moderna.


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La Raza Cosmética
Beauty, Identity, and Settler Colonialism in Postrevolutionary Mexico
Natasha Varner
University of Arizona Press, 2020
In the decades following the Mexican Revolution, nation builders, artists, and intellectuals manufactured ideologies that continue to give shape to popular understandings of indigeneity and mestizaje today. Postrevolutionary identity tropes emerged as part of broader efforts to reunify the nation and solve pressing social concerns, including what was posited in the racist rhetoric of the time as the “Indian problem.” Through a complex alchemy of appropriation and erasure, indigeneity was idealized as a relic of the past while mestizaje was positioned as the race of the future. This period of identity formation coincided with a boom in technology that introduced a sudden proliferation of images on the streets and in homes: there were more photographs in newspapers, movie houses cropped up across the country, and printing houses mass-produced calendar art and postcards. La Raza Cosmética traces postrevolutionary identity ideals and debates as they were dispersed to the greater public through emerging visual culture.

Critically examining beauty pageants, cinema, tourism propaganda, photography, murals, and more, Natasha Varner shows how postrevolutionary understandings of mexicanidad were fundamentally structured by legacies of colonialism, as well as shifting ideas about race, place, and gender. This interdisciplinary study smartly weaves together cultural history, Indigenous and settler colonial studies, film and popular culture analysis, and environmental and urban history. It also traces a range of Indigenous interventions in order to disrupt top-down understandings of national identity construction and to “people” this history with voices that have all too often been entirely ignored.

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A Latina in the Land of Hollywood
and Other Essays on Media Culture
Angharad N. Valdivia
University of Arizona Press, 2000
From ads for Victoria's Secret to the character roles of Rosie Perez, the mass media have been defining race and femininity. In this diverse set of essays, Angharad N. Valdivia breaks theoretical and methodological boundaries by exploring the relationship of the media to various audiences. Throughout A Latina in the Land of Hollywood we are challenged to think differently about the media messages we often unconsciously consume, such as the popular representations of certain Latina cultural icons. Valdivia shows how reporters focus on Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchú's big smile, Brazilian media magnate Xuxa's blonde hair, and Puerto Rican actress Rosie Perez's high-pitched voice, never quite creating a comprehensive portrayal of these women. In her discussion of lingerie catalogs, Valdivia uncovers a similarly skewed depiction. The lush, high-class bedrooms of Victoria's Secret differ as much from the earthy, spare world of Frederick's of Hollywood as the types, sizes, and uses of the lingerie that the two companies sell. Valdivia takes a look at family films, arguing that single mothers are almost always portrayed as either trampy floozies or sexless, hapless women, whereas single dads fare much better. Whether examining one teenager's likes and dislikes or considering single parenthood in family films, Valdivia investigates how popular culture has become the arena in which we struggle to know ourselves and to make ourselves known. She calls for scholars to move beyond investigating implicit themes in films and media to studying the ways that audiences of different colors, ages, genders, and sexual preferences might understand or misunderstand such cultural messages. A Latina in the Land of Hollywood aims to explode traditional discussions of media and popular culture. It is a must-read for anyone interested in popular culture, television, and film.

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The Masculine Woman in America, 1890-1935
Laura L. Behling
University of Illinois Press, 2001
The Masculine Woman in America, 1890-1935 examines how the suffrage movement's efforts to secure social and political independence for women were translated by a fearful society into a movement of unnatural "masculinized" women and dangerous "female sexual inverts."
Scrutinizing depictions of the masculine woman in literature and the popular press, Laura L. Behling explicates the literary, artistic, and rhetorical strategies used to eliminate the "sexually inverted" woman: punishing her by imprisonment or death; "rescuing" her into heterosexuality; subverting her through parody; or removing her from society to some remote or mystical place. Behling also shows how fictional same-sex relationships in the writings of Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gertrude Stein, and others conformed to and ultimately reaffirmed heterosexual models.
The Masculine Woman in America, 1890-1935 demonstrates that the women's suffrage movement did not so much suggest alternatives to women's gender and sexual behavior as it offered men and women afraid of perceived changes a tangible movement on which to blame their fears. A biting commentary on the insubstantial but powerful ghosts stirred up by the media, this study shows how, though legally enfranchised, the new woman was systematically disfranchised socially through scientific theory, popular press illustrations, and fictional predictions of impending sociobiological disaster.

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Mothers Of Invention
Women, Italian Facism, and Culture
Robin Pickering-Iazzi
University of Minnesota Press, 1995

The first in-depth look at culture produced by women in Fascist Italy.

Mothers of Invention was first published in 1995. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

To Mussolini, she was either donna-madre, the lauded domestic model, or donna-crisi, intellectual, masculine, a degenerate type. But woman, as Mothers of Invention shows, was not a category so easily defined or contained by the Italian Fascist state. This volume is the first thorough investigation of culture produced by Italian women during Fascism (1922-1943).In literature, painting, sculpture, film, and fashion, the contributors explore the politics of invention articulated by these women as they negotiated prevailing ideologies. Essays on women’s film spectatorship, on Anna Kuliscioff as the leading feminist in the Socialist party, on Teresa Labriola’s concept of Fascist feminism, on futurism and on Irene Brin’s reportage on female fashion and self-invention examine women in mass culture, political thought, and daily living. Contributors: Rosalia Colombo Ascari, Sweet Briar College; Fiora A. Bassanese, U of Massachusetts, Boston; Maurizia Boscagli, U of California, Santa Barbara; Emily Braun, Hunter College, CUNY; Carole C. Gallucci; Mariolina Graziosi, U of Milan; Clara Orban, Depaul U; Lucia Re, UCLA; Jacqueline Reich, Trinity College; and Barbara Spackman, New York University.

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Poison Woman
Figuring Female Transgression in Modern Japanese Culture
Christine L. Marran
University of Minnesota Press, 2007

Based on the lives and crimes of no less than twenty real women, dokufu (poison women) narratives emerged as a powerful presence in Japan during the 1870s. During this tumultuous time, as the nation moved from feudalism to oligarchic government, such accounts articulated the politics and position of underclass women, sexual morality, and female suffrage. Over the next century, the figure of the oversexed female criminal, usually guilty of robbery or murder, became ubiquitous in modern Japanese culture.

In Poison Woman, Christine L. Marran investigates this powerful icon, its shifting meanings, and its influence on defining women’s sexuality and place in Japan. She begins by considering Meiji gesaku literature, in which female criminality was often medically defined and marginalized as abnormal. She describes the small newspapers (koshinbun) that originally reported on poison women, establishing journalistic and legal conventions for future fiction about them. She examines zange, or confessional narratives, of female and male ex-convicts from the turn of the century, then reveals how medical and psychoanalytical literature of the 1920s and 1930s offered contradictory explanations of the female criminal as an everywoman or a historical victim of social circumstances and the press. She concludes by exploring postwar pulp fiction (kasutori), film and underground theater of the 1970s, and the feminist writer Tomioka Taeko’s take on the transgressive woman.

Persistent stories about poison women illustrate how a few violent acts by women were transformed into myriad ideological, social, and moral tales that deployed notions of female sexual desire and womanhood. Bringing together literary criticism, the history of science, media theory, and gender and sexuality studies, Poison Woman delves into genre and gender in ways that implicate both in projects of nation-building.

Christine L. Marran is associate professor of Japanese literature and cultural studies at the University of Minnesota.


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Queering the Global Filipina Body
Contested Nationalisms in the Filipina/o Diaspora
Gina K. Velasco
University of Illinois Press, 2020
Contemporary popular culture stereotypes Filipina women as sex workers, domestic laborers, mail order brides, and caregivers. These figures embody the gendered and sexual politics of representing the Philippine nation in the Filipina/o diaspora. Gina K. Velasco explores the tensions within Filipina/o American cultural production between feminist and queer critiques of the nation and popular nationalism as a form of resistance to neoimperialism and globalization.
Using a queer diasporic analysis, Velasco examines the politics of nationalism within Filipina/o American cultural production  to consider an essential question: can a queer and feminist imagining of the diaspora reconcile with gendered tropes of the Philippine nation? Integrating a transnational feminist analysis of globalized gendered labor with a consideration of queer cultural politics, Velasco envisions forms of feminist and queer diasporic belonging, while simultaneously foregrounding nationalist movements as vital instruments of struggle.

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Selling Women's History
Packaging Feminism in Twentieth-Century American Popular Culture
Westkaemper, Emily
Rutgers University Press, 2017
Only in recent decades has the American academic profession taken women’s history seriously. But the very concept of women’s history has a much longer past, one that’s intimately entwined with the development of American advertising and consumer culture. 
Selling Women’s History reveals how, from the 1900s to the 1970s, popular culture helped teach Americans about the accomplishments of their foremothers, promoting an awareness of women’s wide-ranging capabilities. On one hand, Emily Westkaemper examines how this was a marketing ploy, as Madison Avenue co-opted women’s history to sell everything from Betsy Ross Red lipstick to Virginia Slims cigarettes. But she also shows how pioneering adwomen and female historians used consumer culture to publicize histories that were ignored elsewhere. Their feminist work challenged sexist assumptions about women’s subordinate roles. 
Assessing a dazzling array of media, including soap operas, advertisements, films, magazines, calendars, and greeting cards, Selling Women’s History offers a new perspective on how early- and mid-twentieth-century women saw themselves. Rather than presuming a drought of female agency between the first and second waves of American feminism, it reveals the subtle messages about women’s empowerment that flooded the marketplace. 

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Sexual Politics and Popular Culture
Diane Raymond
University of Wisconsin Press, 1990
Almost wherever we look, depictions of sexuality, both subtle and not-so-subtle, are omnipresent. Whatever the medium, popular culture representations tell us something about ourselves and about the ideologies of which they are symptomatic. These essays examine the strategies of power implicit in popular representations of sexuality. The authors—scholars in fields such as sociology, philosophy, biology, political science, history, and English literature— eschew rigid disciplinary boundaries.

front cover of She's Got a Gun
She's Got a Gun
Nancy Floyd
Temple University Press, 2008
In 1991 Nancy Floyd bought her first handgun.  Soon she was participating in Ladies Day at her local shooting range and reading Women & Guns magazine.  In 1993 she began interviewing and photographing women who were fellow gun owners.  In 1997 she started researching "gun women" from the past to see how they were represented in the popular imagination.  Now she has brought her work together in a riveting new book, filled with remarkable photographs and candid first-person stories, accompanied by an eye-opening illustrated history of female gun ownership in America.

Sympathetic but unsentimental, Floyd presents gun-toting women young and old, including an eleven-year-old girl competing in her first gun competition, a woman whose grandmother was killed by an intruder, and a war veteran who experienced firefights while stationed in Iraq.  Whatever you might think about gun-toting women before you open this book, your preconceptions are sure to be shattered by the end.

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Skin Deep, Spirit Strong
The Black Female Body in American Culture
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Editor
University of Michigan Press, 2002
The essays in Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture chart the ways that the simultaneous interrogation of gender, race, and corporeality shape the construction of black female representation. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders has enlisted a wide variety of scholarly perspectives and critical approaches about the place of black women's bodies within the American cultural consciousness. An impressive gathering of essays and visual art by feminist scholars and artists, the book presents a persuasive argument for broadening the ongoing scholarly conversations about the body. It makes clear that the most salient discourses in poststructuralist and feminist theory are made richer and more complex when the black female body is considered.
The collection blends original and classic essays to reveal the interconnections among art, literature, public policy, the history of medicine, and theories about sexuality with regard to bodies that are both black and female. Contributors include Rachel Adams, Elizabeth Alexander, Lisa Collins, Bridgette Davis, Lisa E.Farrington, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Evelynn Hammonds, Terri Kapsalis, Jennifer L. Morgan, Siobhan B. Somerville, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Carla Williams, and Doris Witt.
Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture will appeal to both the academic reader attempting to integrate race into discussion about the female body and to the general reader curious about the history of black female representation.
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders is Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts and Institute of Women's Studies, Emory University.

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Swinging Single
Representing Sexuality in the 1960s
Hilary Radner
University of Minnesota Press, 1999

front cover of Talking Back
Talking Back
Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture
Edited by Joyce Antler
Brandeis University Press, 1998
Fourteen provocative essays challenge traditional notions of Jewish female identity presented in mass media images, films, narrative, and stories by portraying the American Jewish woman not only as subject but as shaper of American popular culture. Sometimes internalizing negative presentations but more often "talking back" to them, Jewish women created alternative images that became tools of rebellion, subverting and dismantling such stereotypes as the "Yiddishe Mama," the Jewish Mother, and the Jewish American Princess. Over the course of the century -- and particularly as a consequence of feminism -- Jewish female novelists, screenwriters, dramatists, entertainers, and grass-roots feminists were able to create new possibilities for the expression of Jewish women's voices.

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Virginia Woolf Icon
Brenda R. Silver
University of Chicago Press, 1999
This is a book about "Virginia Woolf": the face that sells more postcards than any other at Britain's National Portrait Gallery, the name that Edward Albee's play linked with fear, the cultural icon so rich in meanings that it has been used to market everything from the New York Review of Books to Bass Ale. Brenda Silver analyzes Virginia Woolf's surprising visibility in both high and popular culture, showing how her image and authority have been claimed or challenged in debates about art, politics, anger, sexuality, gender, class, the canon, feminism, race, and fashion.

From Virginia Woolf's 1937 appearance on the cover of Time magazine to her current roles in theater, film, and television, Silver traces the often contradictory representations and the responses they provoke, highlighting the recurring motifs that associate Virginia Woolf with fear. By looking more closely at who is afraid and the contexts in which she is perceived to be frightening, Silver illustrates how Virginia Woolf has become the site of conflicts about cultural boundaries and legitimacy that continue to rage today.

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Virtual Gender
Fantasies of Subjectivity and Embodiment
Mary Ann O'Farrell and Lynne Vallone, Editors
University of Michigan Press, 1999
This collection breaks new ground in the area of gender studies both because it creates a name for gender fantasy--virtual gender--that introduces a new understanding of the concept, and in expanding the idea of virtuality to include people and events in history. The essays in Virtual Gender help identify and name the persistent cultural desire for an imaginative space in which to "put on" alternative gender identities, while examining as well the equally persistent and consequent critique of that desire.
The sweep of the volume's coverage is impressive, ranging across historical periods and academic disciplines, as contributors consider the place of the body in gender fantasy and the consequences of gender fantasy for real people and real bodies. The essays investigate figures and topics including Amelia Earhart, soap-opera chat groups, Elizabeth I, mesmerism, lesbianism in the early modern period, cybergames, women in the federalist period, the transgendered body, and performance art. Also examined are the status of embodiment, the origins of gender, gender politics, the pains of subjectivity, the uses of utopian fantasy, technological advances and information technology, the experience of gendered communities, and the role of gender in global politics.
Contributors include Harriette Andreadis, Seyla Benhabib, Charlotte Canning, Bernice Hausman, Janel Mueller, Mary Ann O'Farrell, Kay Schaffer, Sidonie Smith, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Helen F. Thompson, Lynne Vallone, and Robyn Warhol. The book will appeal to an interdisciplinary audience of scholars, critics, and students with interests in gender, identity, and cyberculture.
Mary Ann O'Farrell is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University. Lynne Vallone is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University.

front cover of Work!
A Queer History of Modeling
Elspeth H. Brown
Duke University Press, 2019
From the haute couture runways of Paris and New York and editorial photo shoots for glossy fashion magazines to reality television, models have been a ubiquitous staple of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American consumer culture. In Work! Elspeth H. Brown traces the history of modeling from the advent of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s. Brown outlines how the modeling industry sanitized and commercialized models' sex appeal in order to elicit and channel desire into buying goods. She shows how this new form of sexuality—whether exhibited in the Ziegfeld Follies girls' performance of Anglo-Saxon femininity or in African American models' portrayal of black glamour in the 1960s—became a central element in consumer capitalism and a practice that has always been shaped by queer sensibilities. By outlining the paradox that queerness lies at the center of capitalist heteronormativity and telling the largely unknown story of queer models and photographers, Brown offers an out of the ordinary history of twentieth-century American culture and capitalism.

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