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Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media
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Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,297 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
Media critic Douglas deconstructs the ambiguous messages sent to American women via TV programs, popular music, advertising, and nightly news reporting over the last 40 years, and fathoms their influence on her own life and the lives of her contemporaries. Photos.
Paperback, 349 pages
Published March 28th 1995 by Three Rivers Press (first published 1994)
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Mar 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: human-behavior
I'm sure that there are many negative reviews of this book, and I'm sure one of the main complaints is that the author can't be impartial because she's writing about her life but as a scholar. I have to say that that strikes me as total crap. This author makes no bones about her own experiences and weaves them throughout the book. Her feelings about her experiences serve to make the book richer, more emotional and more understandable. She doesn't hide her bias, she puts it right there in your fa ...more
Jul 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely fun history book to read. Using a variety of sources including magazines, movies, music, advertisements, television, and newspapers, Susan Douglas analyzes how the media has depicted women from the 1950s through the early 90s. She places her analysis within the backdrop of larger events in women/gender history in the United States. This book shows how far women's role in American society has changed since the 1950s. I am in my early 20s and after reading this book I had a st ...more
erin cosens
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
incredibly witty and exhaustive in its research. this book is also very sophisticated in its unwillingness to paint one portrait of the media and its role in women's lives.
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Great history of American women as portrayed in the media. She's a bit repetitive in driving home her thesis, but I think that she makes valid arguments, uses statistics appropriately, and offers a tongue in cheek history of the way American women have benefited and suffered due to the television and music industries.
Great fun. Studies images of women in popular culture, specifically on TV, and the way they reveal the advancing liberation of the women and girls of the 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. Asks subtly whether the gals on TV made it possible for the rest of us to move forward, or the other way around.
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
My review:

An easy, breezy, interesting read. Somewhat rambling. Lots of good insights about pop culture and mass media, particularly music groups and television shows. The tone can be a little sarcastic, which, for me, can get a little tiresome. Also can be a little too judgmental without being journalistic/objective. Very enjoyable, though, and englightening about the influences of women in media, from Mary Tyler Moore to Roseanne Barr and Madonna.

Quotable quotes:

1) "The moral is clear: you ca
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism, media
Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media - Susan J. Douglas   
Picking it up to read in 2017, I quickly realize I have read this, lo, these many years ago. As I age it seems that everything reminds me of something similar in the past. I'm this case the thing it reminded me of was itself. It's still as good, but I don't feel like I need the refresher: I took the lessons very much to heart.
Library copy
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book provided some striking insights into how the female body is objectified and given a lowly ranking in Western society - for example, it speaks of the strong cultural pressures for women to have a youthful appearance at nearly all stages of life, and that a rounded belly is seen as disgusting. The author defends rounded bellies, arguing that they represent childbearing, the enjoyment of a good meal or two, and just plain genetics in some cases. The author also dissects (in a meandering w ...more
Sean Xavier
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book makes you realize that all of the recent huffs over "feminism" and "feminazis" and "anti-feminism" are not just antiquated, they are older than dirt. Older than dirt and created by a "schizophrenic" mass media that feared the revolutionary wave of women's rights in the 1960s-1970s and how to both placate and demonize this new found freedom in half the population of the United States. This book is still relevant in 2014, and that is profoundly scary--especially as social networking has ...more
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was a fantastic look into women's history, specifically women and the mass media, from the late 1950s through to the very early 90s. It is so important for us women to know our history and remember just how recently we were third class citizens in this country. I'm so grateful to all the feminists of the 60s, 70s and 80s who came before us, and i will fight to preserve the progress we've made, critique the continuing misogyny in the media today, and push for even further feminist progr ...more
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
In Where the Girls Are, the reader is taken through the eras of feminism from the 1930s through the 1990s, and the effects of the media on each. The book uses the idea of the "double standards" faced by women to create a new, positive connotation of the word "feminism," and calls for equal rights and understanding of the difficulties faced by women. A focus on the mass media's role in feminism shows how deeply ingrained it is in every aspect of our lives.

In Where the Girls Are, we liked how for
Julie Ehlers
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Really funny and really interesting. While some may deem this subject matter trivial, it actually really does matter how the mass media is portraying women, especially in this day and age when our culture is so celebrity obesessed. How are women going to grow up empowered to change the world if all they get are images of weak, materialistic, know-nothing women? Susan J. Douglas's latest, Enlightened Sexism, appears to be an updated look at this topic. I'm looking forward to reading that book as ...more
Annebeth Bels
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book does an amazing job at taking you through the 20th century, discussing the relationship between gender, feminism and popular media. The writing is smart, witty, funny and relatable, and just as relevant today as it was in the 90s. Highly recommended to lovers of popular culture with a feminist inclination :-)
Sep 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
A really insightful book about the various roles of women in the media during the second half of the past century.

Sometimes a little academic and dry, but on the whole, pretty eye-opening.
Spider the Doof Warrior
Oct 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this years ago. It's extremely interesting, but I don't understand why folks insist on being so SEXIST against women for ages. More later.
Lindsey Lobin
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Gender roles and media? Interesting. This book? No so much. It reminded me of a slow long drawn out death... however it was better than 50 Shades Of Grey.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Memoir, not history. Nothing new - same old self-indulgent baby-boomer myopia
Bebe & Sloane's (shared account) McCammond
I liked Ms. Douglas's writing, she kept a funny tone for what can be a heavy topic. While I didn't relate to everything in the book: due to the fact we are from different generations and grew up watching different shows. How do I understand the Flying Nun, I dream of Jeanie, or Bewitched. What I watched was the Cosby Show, Cheers, Married with Children, Golden Girls, and One Day at a Time, all of these shows had strong working women. What amazed me though was how similar commercials were during ...more
Craig Werner
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: womens-lit, sixties
The first half of this book is five star, probably the best take on how the pop culture of the 50s and 60s sent incredibly mixed messages to young women, their mothers and any males who might have been paying attention, which at the time wasn't many. Douglas does a wonderful job with the girl groups, who combined beautiful sound with a conversation that put young women, in all their confusion and contradiction, at the center. I learned a lot about the evolution of television shows from an earlie ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-ve-read
I was actually quite bored out of my mind while reading this (but I pushed through since a friend of mine sent it to me). I think the problem was that in the beginning of this book, most of what I was reading wasn't new to me at all and were things that even I grew up around, except for the fact that I was born in the early 1980s (but my mom is the same generation as this author, so I saw all the shows mentioned and heard all the music mentioned and knew a lot of the strife and joys of that time ...more
This was an interesting read. It started out talking about the 50’s and 60’s; television programming and girl groups and how they portrayed women to the masses. While I enjoyed Douglas’ commentary, I was not familiar with any of the shows she covered so her writing didn’t have the same impact it may have had on someone older, but I thought she was very insightful. When she started covering the feminist movement in the 60’s (particularly the ’68 Miss America Pageant protest) I got really into it. ...more
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Fun analysis of the role of women in media by a media studies professor. She discusses a wide variety of pop culture from the 50's, 60's, and 70's forward and analyses the impact it has had on women's views of themselves and the feminist movement. I'm enjoying seeing myself, my sisters, and my mother's life choices as women placed in the perspective of messages transmitted by mass media, and I've learned some things that I didn't know. I was born in the 70's and I always find it eye-opening to r ...more
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This analysis of mass media from the early fifties to the mid-nineties is fascinating because not only does Douglas explore how women were portrayed and addressed, she explains how these media affected and shaped women as an audience and as a movement. The contradictory, ever changing role of the woman in American society and the question of how much of a woman is shaped by external influence is well examined. Unfortunately, even an intelligent professor like Douglas can only offer analysis and ...more
Mar 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: gender-studies
This is a fascinating look at mass media from the 1960's-1990's, and the way it simultaneously portrayed, influenced, and responded to women throughout the second-wave feminist movement. I think it's a valuable read, however I only gave it three stars because it lacks rigorous analysis. Many promising theories presented by the author need to be explained with more convincing data or more persuasive arguments, if the reader is to fully accept the conclusions drawn.

While reading this book, I found
An excellent, highly personal take on what Betty Friedan first articulated in her 1960 book The Feminine Mystique namely, the role of popular culture and media in shaping female identity in the 50s & 60s. As L.A. Times TV critic Mary McNamara pointed out in a recent interview on NPR Talk of the Nation regarding AMC TV's current hit series Mad Men the advertising industry's pivotal role in creating the "new femininity," which centered around the home and childrearing and which was designed to ...more
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women-s-lit
I wanted to love this book. I really did. But it slowly went in a downhill spiral from "interesting" to "oh, here she goes again..." I read it in my Women in Pop Culture class in undergrad, and while I found it informative, it reminded me of a memoir of someone growing up in the dawn of the ad era. I remember hearing the same stuff from my mother, which gives some credibility to the author, but at the same time, I grew annoyed. The author seems to portray herself as this "woe is me, I am warped ...more
Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non
An interesting analyzation of girls shaped by the media and feminism, starting in the late '50s and early '60s and ending on the brink of the '90s. It's interesting to read overall, but a lot of the analysis seems, to me, blown out of proportion. Were the Beatles really popular because they were androgynous, and girls wanted to be like them? Were certain TV show characters meant to show women how to be subservient? Perhaps, but maybe the Beatles just write catchy songs, and TV shows are mindless ...more
Dec 12, 2007 rated it liked it
an excellent cultural history of the 1950s and 1960s, which argues that the media has explanatory power. for me, though, i enjoyed the read but had problems with many of the claims. douglas works closely with personal experience, which is questionable as valid evidence to many historians. maybe douglas threw stuff at the TV and became part of second-wave feminism, but maybe many other women just watched without much thought at all to the messages. hard to make a claim about how the media affecte ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book took most of the month to read because though fascinating, wasn't an easy read. It examined the effect of newspaper, television, books, politics, music, and movies on women and feminism in America. The author discusses how her own personal perception of being a woman changed and was changed by the influence of mass media and how society at large has been inconsistent and contradictory in how it treats and expects women to be. She examines in depth the thought processes behind black gir ...more
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read this for a US studies class, and while it fit the curriculum well and was a fun, easy read, it wasn't very... academic? Too much based off personal experience and opinion. The woman is in academia, too, so I suppose that is a red flag.

There is this one chapter towards the end where she is talking about how the "80's work ethic" influenced the popularity of women showing off their hips and thighs in that era, "because getting great looking thighs is fucking impossible after you turn 21!!!"
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Susan J. Douglas is a prize-winning author, columnist, and cultural critic, and the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies at The University of Michigan. Her book Where the Girls Are was widely praised, and chosen one of the top ten books of 1994 by National Public Radio, Entertainment Weekly and The McLaughlin Group. In her most recent book, Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive ...more
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