Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Discourse of Moral Panic and Girls in Public

The three of you who occasionally read this blog might be wondering where I've been and what I've been up to, other than slacking off with regard to blog writing. I promise I haven't just been running through the sprinkler and penguin-diving into a Slip-N-Slide in the backyard all July -- not that it doesn't sound nice -- but I have actually been working on some research and writing of my own, including one article that I'm about to present at the annual conference for the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication in Chicago next week about media representations of girls and young women on MySpace and Facebook that compares and contrasts these representations with coverage from 100 years ago about girls and young women going to dance halls. 

My argument is that the media coverage of these two phenomena employs surprisingly similar language and tactics to stir up public fervor -- or moral panic -- about the notion that girls and young women would place themselves in potentially unsavory and unladylike ways in public space. In the case of dance halls, merely going to the dance hall, dancing and speaking with members of the opposite sex caused an uproar in 1908; in the case of social networking sites, the same moral panic appears to be in place with regard to girls and young women posting "sexy" photos of themselves and potentially, talking with members of the opposite sex. While there might have been some danger in both of these cases (sexual predators, for example), research has shown that the danger is overblown through the media and that the actual statistics about girls being in danger doesn't hold up to reality. However, the moral panic that is created through all of this newspaper coverage (which is done in a variety of ways that I won't go into here) essentially and not-so-subtly seeks to place young women and girls back out of the public eye into the private, and even domestic, realm. 

Anyway, it's fascinating and fairly troubling stuff, and I am excited about the project. Hopefully it can be expanded into a larger piece of work, though admittedly, the idea of writing another book sort of scares me at this point.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

FlowTV Column on the Significance of Exile in Guyvile

I had the honor of being asked to serve as a guest columnist for FlowTV, a publication devoted to critical analysis of television and media culture published through the RTF department at the University of Texas (in Austin, one of the greatest cities in the world), and my first column, which is basically, my feelings about the 15th anniversary re-release of Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville" and accompanying DVD, was just posted. 

Oddly, it wound up being one of the most difficult pieces I've had to write (yes, a 140-page dissertation was somehow easier in a lot of ways), I think because it posed so many conflicting feelings for me. 1) I love the album and have such nostalgia for the time that it was released, and it was such an influence on me as a girl, as a musician, and later, as a scholar, and 2) The way culture has changed in 15 years -- and I will argue that things ARE different now than they were 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago with regard to women, girls and sexuality -- has complicated my feelings about what Phair did even more, and 2) I'm not much of a fan of anything that she's done in the past 10 years, nor did I find myself feeling better about it while watching the accompanying DVD. Anyway, here's the column (and do read some of the incredibly well articulated responses afterward -- I think a few are better argued than my piece!):

(Thanks so much to Kristen Lambert, my editor at Flow, who very kindly let me go past deadline and my word limit. I'll do better next time, I promise.)

Now that I'm finished with the first column, I vow to get back to the primary mission of this blog -- showcasing relevant research on girls and media. On deck... Review/discussions of The Lolita Effect by Gigi Durham, Just Girls (an oldie but a goodie) by Margaret Finders and Maiden USA by Kathleen Sweeney.