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Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture [Hardcover]

Sherrie A. Inness
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1998 Feminist Cultural Studies, the Media, and Political Culture
Tough girls are everywhere these days. Whether it is Ripley battling a swarm of monsters in the Aliens trilogy or Captain Janeway piloting the starship Voyager through space in the continuing Star Trek saga, women strong in both body and mind have become increasingly popular in the films, television series, advertisements, and comic books of recent decades.In Tough Girls, Sherrie A. Inness explores the changing representations of women in all forms of popular media and what those representations suggest about shifting social mores. She begins her examination of tough women in American popular culture with three popular television shows of the 1960s and '70s -- The Avengers, Charlie's Angels, and The Bionic Woman -- and continues through such contemporary pieces as a recent ad for Calvin Klein jeans and current television series such as The X-Files and Xena: Warrior Princess. Although all these portrayals show women who can take care of themselves in ways that have historically been seen as uniquely male, they also undercut women's toughness in a variety of ways. Inness argues that even some of the strongest depictions of women have perpetuated women's subordinate status, using toughness in complicated ways to break or bend gender stereotypes while simultaneously affirming them.Blending cultural studies, gender studies, and film studies, Inness gives new insight into the kinds of female characters offered to women as role models.

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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars It made me angry. Sept. 23 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I read half the book and got so angry I couldn't finish it. The author argues that Dana Scully of"X-Files, Xena, Emma Peel of "Avengers", Thelma & Louise, Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, Captain Janeway of "Voyager", Ripley of "Aliens" etc. all have their toughness defused by having feminine characteristics or clothing. What the author seem to want is one dimensional characters. Having feminine characteristics does not make characters less tough. Only the "bad guys" in films are portrayed as totally tough. Tough men in films are not without their softer, more "feminine" side. No one would find them compelling or sympathetic otherwise. The author says, "In many ways Ripley and Janeway are tough, but their toughness is lessened by emphasis placed on their maternal and nurturing sides." (page 119) This is ludicrous. Nurturing and positive "women" traits do not negate toughness. In point of fact, it increases it. When one can show a softer side, that shows that one is not insecure and overly dominant and aggressive. Innes states,"Thus toughness for Ripley is not some new feminist ideal, where she takes the best part of femininity and masculinity and forges them into a type of toughness that has not been seen yet" (page 107) In this line the author seems to indicate that toughness combined with "feminine" traits would be the best ideal for women, yet she successfully dismisses all the women who show "feminine" characteristics as not tough. I believe the character of Janeway has a great combination of what I would call womanly toughness. Having her hair down and being in a soft nightgown when she was suppose to be sleeping does not turn her into a victim. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tough Girls Dec 7 1999
Format:Paperback
I felt that this was an excellent resource for the research of how women are depicted in the media and how important it is to recognize even the smallest steps taken to debunk traditional stereotypes of women. I used this in writing a content analysis of the depictions of women in professional wrestling, and found her theories to be sound and her arguments legitimate. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone studying female representation in the media.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It made me angry. Sept. 23 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read half the book and got so angry I couldn't finish it. The author argues that Dana Scully of"X-Files, Xena, Emma Peel of "Avengers", Thelma & Louise, Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, Captain Janeway of "Voyager", Ripley of "Aliens" etc. all have their toughness defused by having feminine characteristics or clothing. What the author seem to want is one dimensional characters. Having feminine characteristics does not make characters less tough. Only the "bad guys" in films are portrayed as totally tough. Tough men in films are not without their softer, more "feminine" side. No one would find them compelling or sympathetic otherwise. The author says, "In many ways Ripley and Janeway are tough, but their toughness is lessened by emphasis placed on their maternal and nurturing sides." (page 119) This is ludicrous. Nurturing and positive "women" traits do not negate toughness. In point of fact, it increases it. When one can show a softer side, that shows that one is not insecure and overly dominant and aggressive. Innes states,"Thus toughness for Ripley is not some new feminist ideal, where she takes the best part of femininity and masculinity and forges them into a type of toughness that has not been seen yet" (page 107) In this line the author seems to indicate that toughness combined with "feminine" traits would be the best ideal for women, yet she successfully dismisses all the women who show "feminine" characteristics as not tough. I believe the character of Janeway has a great combination of what I would call womanly toughness. Having her hair down and being in a soft nightgown when she was suppose to be sleeping does not turn her into a victim. Innes writes, "Even if Picard had awakened to find Q in bed with him, such a scene would be interpreted far differently than the scene with Janeway. Q is viewed as a male predator who might threaten Janeway sexually but never Picard." (page 117). Q is not viewed as a threat at all; he is more of a comical character. The interpretation of this episode sounds hysterical, like a person overly sensitive to insults. In other words, the author comes across as untough, not Janeway. In point of fact Picard did wake up to find Q lying next to him and Picard pulls the covers up over his naked chest. (Episode: "Tapestry, U.S. airdate Feb. 28, 1993). I also take exception to the idea that clothing is always a meter of toughness. If a woman decides to wear pink frilly blouses than she is still the same tough woman. The idea that clothes are a meter of personality is what lawyers say to try to blame women for "getting" raped. The author has a more stringent requirement for women to be tough than men. Men can wear sexy outfits, have romance, save and be nurturing to children, be tender, and still they are tough. However, the author says if a woman character shows these same characteristics than her toughness is lessened. Hogwash! I am disappointed with the book because I feel it does a great disservice to women.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough Girls Dec 7 1999
By Tracy Christain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I felt that this was an excellent resource for the research of how women are depicted in the media and how important it is to recognize even the smallest steps taken to debunk traditional stereotypes of women. I used this in writing a content analysis of the depictions of women in professional wrestling, and found her theories to be sound and her arguments legitimate. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone studying female representation in the media.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultural Studies for Feminists Oct. 12 2011
By Erin Mulhern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book gives an excellent overview of the way women are treated in new media. Though this book focuses mainly on TV and movies, and is a slight bit dated (in the world of new media, 12 years is a long time), the theories that Inness applies to the topics of toughness and feminism are enduring and highly applicable for further works. I drew heavily on this work for my undergraduate thesis on the representation of women in video games, and this is only one example of the way Inness' work can be used to bolster new critical viewpoints. A fantastic book with fun, accessible, and informative language. As pertinent as Judith Butler but as easy to read as a magazine article, Inness makes important topics and feminism in a world of growing technology available to everyone. A very important book and a must read for anyone interested in cultural studies, new media, feminism, and modern critical work.
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