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Gender in the Mirror: Cultural Imagery and Women's Agency

Overview

How do patriarchal representations of gender impact on women's lives? What about their effects on men's attitudes toward women? How can the deleterious effects of this hostile cultural environment be overcome? These are the principal questions Gender in the Mirror poses.
Culturally prevalent imagery of feminine sexuality, beauty, and motherhood worms its way into women's subjectivity and agency. By providing authoritative language in which women describe themselves and project ...

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Gender in the Mirror: Cultural Imagery and Women's Agency

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Overview

How do patriarchal representations of gender impact on women's lives? What about their effects on men's attitudes toward women? How can the deleterious effects of this hostile cultural environment be overcome? These are the principal questions Gender in the Mirror poses.
Culturally prevalent imagery of feminine sexuality, beauty, and motherhood worms its way into women's subjectivity and agency. By providing authoritative language in which women describe themselves and project their lives into the future, this imagery constrains their self-determination. By reinforcing sexism in men, it undermines women's equality and jeopardizes feminist gains.
Resisting these pernicious influences requires personal as well as cultural change. Women need to acquire self-reading and self-direction skills that enable them to articulate their needs in their own terms and to enact their own life stories. Gender in the Mirror defends a theory of self-determination that makes sense of women's capacity to find their own voices and rewrite their self-narratives. But feminist goals cannot be met unless patriarchal cultural contexts are reconfigured — unless emancipatory gender imagery supplants patriarchal representations of womanhood. Gender in the Mirror proposes alternative imagery of feminine sexuality, beauty, and motherhood and advances an account of feminist discursive politics that takes on the challenge of neutralizing patriarchal imagery.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A superb interdisciplinary study that successfully integrates a lush prose, emphasizing metaphors of mirror and voice, with philosophical rigor"—Choice

"In this innovative, elegantly written investigation, Diana Meyers invites her readers to reflect on, and devise ways of resisting, the ubiquitous yet varied imagery of 'woman' that saturates the social-political western world, thwarting women's efforts to achieve autonomous self-hood. Ranging widely across pronatalist messages, psychiatric practice, the health-beauty industry, and subtly conveyed inducements to remake the female body, she shows how women ingest normalizing images that they must struggle to expel if they are to affirm an authentic sense of self. This is a hopeful book, for Meyers is convinced that feminist women can indeed liberate themselves from the pressures such imagery exerts."—Lorraine Code, Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy, York University

"Gender in the Mirror is a brilliant, comprehensive, account of the many ways in which androcentric images of the feminine undermine women's self-esteem and block our capacity for self-definition. Meyers argues with some urgency that a culture so hostile to women's self-development must be radically transformed; more than this, she develops a theory of female agency that would allow each of us in her own way to create narratives of our past, our present, and more importantly, of our future." —Sandra Bartky, Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Product Details

Table of Contents

1. Gender Identity and Women's Agency: Culture, Norms, and Internalized Oppression Revisited
2. The Rush to Motherhood: Pronatalist Discourse and Women's Agency
3. Gendered Models of Social Relations: How Moral and Political Culture Closes Minds and Hearts
4. The Family Romance: A Fin-de-Siécle Tragedy
5. Lure and Allure: Mirrors, Fugitive Agency, and Exiled Sexuality
6. Miroir, Memoire, Mirage: Appearance, Aging, and Women
7. Live Ordnance in the Cultural Field: Gender Imagery, Sexism, and the Fragility of Feminist Gains
Notes
References
Name Index
Subject Index

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