This essay offers a reassessment of the historiography of 1970s US feminism by situating its emergence as a culturally legible phenomenon through the mediating capacities of mass culture. Rather than understand 1970s feminism as shaped by a break between politics and culture, I argue that postwar feminism's manifestation as a multiplicity of political movements was made possible through the visual technologies of the mass media. The essay begins by situating the terms women and masses in historical relation, charting their mutual invocation in the mapping of collectivities that both mark the technologically defined era of modernity and signal forms of actual or possible political response to its effects. The second section of the article offers a reading of two mass-cultural texts from the 1970s, the CBS sitcom Maude (1972–78) and the 1975 gothic horror film The Stepford Wives, in order to chart a shift in the categorical appeal of “women” in the postwar era and to argue that these kinds of generic shifts offer us a way to historicize the meaning of 1970s US feminism in a transnational context.
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Victoria Hesford; On Not Being Women: The 1970s, Mass Culture, and Feminism. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2015; 114 (4): 713–734. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3157100
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