Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women

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A strange duality affects the news media today. The more that women advance in the worlds of business, academia, medicine, and law, the gloomier news about women and their achievements becomes. As statistics report the rise in the number of women obtaining college and advanced degrees, the media increasingly tells them that this is a terrible mistake and that only by returning to traditional roles of wife and mother can women find true happiness. The message is that if women do achieve, they will make themselves and their families miserable. This message, often based on specious “scientific” studies and reports, gets played over and over again in televised newscasts, print newspapers, the internet, and other media outlets purporting to be objective.

Rivers, a journalist who has written extensively in the behavioral sciences, exposes the many ways news media distort stories about women. According to Rivers, these stories “sell” because they play to the fears of affluent women, one of the most desirable consumer markets. Rivers’s topics, literally “pulled from the headlines,” include negative representations of working mothers and “latch-key” kids, stories that exaggerate the perils of childcare and divorce, media treatment of powerful political figures like Elizabeth Dole, Teresa Heinz, and Hillary Clinton, and news as “poli-porn” (sex and death-obsessed tales of pretty, white girls and women like Jon-Benet Ramsay, Chandra Levy, and Natalee Holloway). Rivers also revisits ongoing debates about male and female brainpower and the claim that the attention paid to girls in schools is ruining boys’ chances for achievement and success. She examines how the media has collaborated with George W. Bush and the political right to wage war on birth control and abortion. Her conclusion suggests what can and must be done to halt the news media’s assault on women.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Rivers is at her best when she holds up a well-known news story that condemns ambitious women and reveals the bad science behind it... her media lesson is a good one: Don't believe the hype.”—Bust

”What Rivers’ book did for this woman is calm me down.”—Margery Eagan, Boston Herald

”Rivers explores examples of the disparaging ways professional women are depicted in the popular press.”—BU Today (Boston University)

"Continuing where Susan Faludi left off with Backlash, [Rivers] illustrates how specious pseudo-science, faulty "facts" and institutional sexism permeate news about gender issues, with negative consequences for public policy. Selling Anxiety does a great service to public debate by debunking the erroneous data upon which such shoddy journalism is based, and providing accurate information to counter sexist narratives."—Ms. Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584657378
  • Publisher: University Press of New England
  • Publication date: 8/29/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

CARYL RIVERS, the author of thirteen books, is a nationally-known media critic. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, MS., The Nation, the Washington Post, Working Women, and many other magazines. She is a professor of journalism at Boston University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Read All About It! Women Are a Mess!
Superwomen and Twitching Wrecks
Too Tired for Sex, Too Late for Babies?
Divorce and Disruption
Suffer the Little Children
The Mommy Diaries
The Muted Voice
Hating Hillary, Trashing Teresa, and Mauling Martha
Ladies of the Right
News as Poli-Porn
The War on Birth Control
Conclusion: Against Forgetting

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