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Teenage Girls and Television Texts: The Making of Meanings around Femininity

Barrett, Richard (1996) Teenage Girls and Television Texts: The Making of Meanings around Femininity. Masters thesis, University of Essex.


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This dissertation involves a qualitative study in which a male researcher investigates the way teenage girls' femininity is constituted through their television viewing. The researcher claims that the feminist critique of men interviewing women is essentialist. He seeks a shared understanding with the nineteen subjects in the study, yet at the same time 'sees through' their taken for granted assumptions as regards their own femininity. Through undertaking single interviews with individuals and groups, the researcher reveals that academically able girls have an ambiguity towards television soap opera. Their viewing is both resistant and compliant. The narrative, in particular, is regarded as unrealistic and over dramatised, and yet it provides a sense of escapism from the rigours of the academic day. Whilst no female characters are inscribed as role models, girls do engage with such characters by evaluating them across a range of oppositions, most notably in terms of relevance to their own lived experience. Girls' ambivalence towards soap opera is interpreted as being underpinned by a number of conflicting discourses. The audience of teenage girls in the reception of television brings along competencies associated with femininity. Feminine discourse is a central plank in the construction of femininity, and through collaboration in 'gossip groups', girls retain cultural capital by keeping up with important narratives. Femininity is also constructed in a complex way through production and reproduction, in which meanings, derived from the everyday, are inserted into the text and then fed back into real life. A number of features of conventional femininity are seen to constrain teenage girls from seeking empowerment, and the discourse of romance in particular inhibits moves towards gender equality. And yet representations of diversity in desire, sexual expression and relational skills speak to girls' situation in an age of autonomy.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2022 09:59
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2022 09:59

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