Sunday, 14 February 2010

Wk2 Representation of women and work: April O'Neil and Carrie Bradshaw

Women have struggled through and overcome endless conflict throughout history. Since the late 19th century, women have protested for equal rights as they have faced barriers such as the right to vote and an unfair perception that they are uneducated people only fit for homemaking. Considered dependent on their husbands, women were excluded from employment until they became part of the workforce during WWII. Even so, women were still not taken seriously and still to this day are paid less than men. With ambition for their own careers and independence in society, women slowly began to gain equality after leading battles against maternity leave and budget cut-backs. By the 1980s, the role of women in the workplace increased greatly.

To represent women and work I have chosen a female fictional character from the 80s and another from the late 90s / early 00s.

In the 1987 animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April O'Neil was a television reporter who expressed frequent disagreement with her "anti-TMNT" assignments due to her headstrong nature and passion for her work. She drove a blue van and wore a yellow jumpsuit which were clear embodiments of power and masculinity. She also lived in an apartment in New York City and her Aunt Agatha was a detective. Both of these representations of women suggest independence and as these subtle details suggest female power, it is noteworthy that even in a cartoon for children, the greater role of women at work is defined. Despite April being portrayed as a capable woman, she was often represented as the typical damsal in distress as her innate curiosity and determination placed her in danger on several occasions and she often had to be saved by the Turtles. This suggests that she was merely a token female character in the series, appearing only to balance out the masculinity of the series. However, she did contribute to the Turtles by alerting them to trouble and possible leads, showing her resourcefulness - a characterstic typically displayed by men.

Carrie Bradshaw is the lead character of US drama Sex and the City. She is a New York newspaper columnist, socialite, fashionista and freelance writer for Vogue magazine. In 2009, The Guardian named Bradshaw as an icon of the decade, stating that "Carrie Bradshaw did as much to shift the culture around certain women's issues as real-life female groundbreakers." To some, this may be an odd choice as perhaps Hillary Clinton is more deserving of icon status when considering contemporary feminist activism. However, Carrie is relateable to women and serves as an inspiration to them as well. Stuck between finding true love and settling down, women can identify with Carrie by escaping the dilemma of relationships and starting a family through shopping. It can be argued that Carrie did not do as much to shift the culture around women's issues compared to real-life feminist groundbreakers such as Hillary Clinton, but SATC in general shifted the cultural landscape in many ways. The show exemplified that even successful feminist women spend a lot of time talking about love, romance and sex and SATC made it seem smart, relevant and less shameful to do so. The character of Carrie also showed audiences that a lively female personality is just as interesting as female sexuality or motherhood; she is a writer who arrived in the big city and immediately found her voice.

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