Contentious Politics Workshop #07
“Movements’ Cultural Impacts: Feminism in American Women’s Magazines, 1960-1990”
What is Contentious Politics Workshops?
* Participants are required to read the draft of the paper before the workshop starts. Please be careful that we do not spend time on the presenter’s own presentation, but spend most of the time discussing the paper.
#07 Movements’ Cultural Impacts: Feminism in American Women’s Magazines, 1960-1990
January 28, 2022 09:00-11:00
Venue: Online session
Francesca Polletta (Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology at University of California, Irvine)
*Please register by the link below.
Francesca Polletta（Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology at University of California, Irvine）
Debra Boka (University of California, Irvine)
Caroline Martinez (University of California, Irvine)
Mutsumi Ogaki (University of California, Irvine)
Scholars know that the enduring impacts of social movements are often cultural ones. Movements change opinions, values, and beliefs. They make some behaviors inappropriate and others newly appealing. They create new collective actors and alter lines of status and prestige. Yet there has been relatively little systematic effort to theorize the conditions for movements’ cultural impacts. We examine the coverage of second-wave feminist ideas in the pages of American women’s magazines as measure of the movement’s cultural impact. With a combined circulation of over 50 million in 1970, magazines like Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, McCall’s, and Redbook reached women who were remote from movement centers. Contrary to the standard characterization of these magazines as chief conveyors of the cult of domesticity against which feminists struggled, we show that magazine industry norms, notably, a psychotherapeutic orientation to women’s needs and a dialogical orientation to readers’ voices, seeded the ground for strikingly feminist content. They led to articles and letters calling for women’s equality not just in the workplace, but also in the home. We use the case to theorize the role of popular cultural vehicles in changing public opinion about the issues targeted by a movement—but also to their role in limiting movements’ impact. Thus we show that the same industry norms that led women’s magazines to embrace feminism also led them to redefine feminism over the course of the 1970s in a way that detached it from the need for social change. Women’s magazines thus contributed both to the gender revolution and to the “stalled” character of that revolution.