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A quick stroll through the toy aisles in any American superstore splits gender as neatly as Moses did the Red Sea. On your left, the pink and purple ghetto reserved for girls intent on dolls and their endless accoutrements; to the right, the swaggering, bare-chested superheroes with bulging plastic muscles doled out to boys. Once out of the toy store, a gazillion more real and imaginary "tough guys" like Bruce Lee and Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and James M. Cain and Ernest Hemingway lope across the social radar. It's only in the last few decades that a battalion of "tough girls" hailing from toy stores, comic books, films, TV, and video games have carved out their own clearly lucrative niche. "In a culture where women are often considered the natural victims of men, tough women rewrite the script," says Sherrie Inness, author of Tough Girls. Whether you like them or loathe them, she adds, these cartoonish femme icons flexing muscle and attitude expand the acceptable scope of gender roles in the public consciousness. Deftly exploring how images of toughness and femininity play out in pop culture, politics, the military, and business, Inness also pays heed to how and why women's punches get pulled. --Francesca Coltrera --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
While "tough guys" are pervasive icons of American culture, images of tough women have been hard to come by. The dearth of strong female role models, argues Inness, who teaches English at the University of Miami in Ohio, makes it difficult for girls and women to take active control of their own destinies or to imagine themselves departing from traditional gender roles. Lately, however, tough women, like Ripley from the Alien films and Xena from TV's Xena, Warrior Princess, have become more of a presence in the media; the coded messages these characters hold for female audiences are Inness's primary subject matter. Even as toughness has gained wider acceptance as a feminine trait over the last few decades, she contends, tough women are still presented as being less capable than men and are frequently relegated to roles as sidekicks. Examining, in sometimes clumsy prose, how female toughness has evolved from The Avengers's ice-cool kick-boxing female agents to the heroines of Charlie's Angels, Thelma and Louise and the X-Files, Inness discners a broad cultural ambivalence about changing gender roles. The influence strong heroines hold in young women's lives, she argues, is not to be underestimated. "The female hero can rescript stereotypes about what it means to be a woman. Just by being, she suggests that the male stranglehold on the heroic can be subverted."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.