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Enlightened sexism theme of Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium

cover of Susan Douglas book

The mass media messages women receive today demand conflicting and confusing roles. The 19th annual Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium on Friday, April 25, will explore the roles of women and how they are portrayed in the media.

Susan Douglas, a columnist, cultural critic and author of The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild, will be the symposium keynote speaker. Douglas will help kick off the symposium with a book talk and signing at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24, in the Founder’s Suite of the Bone Student Center.

The symposium will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, April 25, in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center. The morning will be filled with student panels and research presentations, performances and spoken word. The annual program scholarship will be presented over lunch.

Douglas will give the symposium keynote address from 1 to 3 p.m. She will explore the themes of her book Enlightened Sexism. There will be multiple afternoon panels following the keynote address.

Her most recent book, Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work Is Done examines the evolution of the women and girls in the media with an eye toward a new phenomenon, which Douglas calls “enlightened sexism.”

Enlightened sexism is feminist in its outward appearance, but sexist in its intent. It takes the gains of the feminist and civil rights movements as a given, and then uses them as permission to resurrect retrograde images of girls and women as sex objects, mommies, helpmates and eye candy whose value is defined by their appearance and biological destiny. Examples can be found in the meteoric rise in makeover, matchmaking and modeling programs on TV and online.

Douglas is a professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and also author of Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. Her scholarship has appeared on The Today Show, Working Women and NPR’s Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation.

The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided for those who RSVP to Mandy Dartt at 438-2947 or email wgstudies@ilstu.edu.

For additional information on the symposium, go online to http://wgs.illinoisstate.edu, or email wgstudies@ilstu.edu.

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