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Media-tions: Forays into the Culture and Gender Wars.

In this collection of essays from the last twenty years, Elayne Rapping, the "Culture" columnist for The Progressive, covers some of the same ground as Susan Douglas. Like Douglas, Rapping rejects a simplistic view of TV. She argues persuasively that some offerings of the culture contain progressive messages, and that they do so as a result of agitation from feminists.

"While the top priorities of those who control media are profits and ideological control," she writes, "they have often been dragged, kicking and screaming, away from those ends by progressive pressures."

In essays on soap operas, day-time talk shows like Oprah, and made-for-TV movies, Rapping labors to demonstrate the openings the media have presented for the discussion of important feminist themes--not least, the overcoming of domestic abuse and incest. Rapping elevates these so-called lower cultural planes; she recognizes that TV plays largely to a female audience during the day, anyway, and that TV executives and producers understand that feminism has informed much of this audience and so adapt the contents of their shows. (It doesn't matter to Rapping that they simply want to profit from the audience; she is well aware of that. But what matters to Rapping is that feminism affects the products they offer in a progressive manner.)

The subtext of this collection is a dispute Rapping occasioned with Susan Faludi, author of Backlash. When Faludi's book came out, Rapping gave it a negative review in Women's Review of Books, writing that "Faludi finds an almost uninflected landscape of hostility and intentional injury toward women," whereas Rapping finds nuance, contradiction, and occasionally progressive messages in between the sexism. Rapping's review brought a heated exchange in the letters-to-the-editor page of the Women's Review and Rapping, to her credit, reprints the letters here.

Yes, I have a conflict of interest reviewing Elayne Rapping and Susan Douglas. Yes, they both write columns for The Progressive; indeed, I invited them to do so for the same reason that I review their books now: because I believe they are among the best in the business. So sue me.

I love poetry. At night, after the crunch of work and the chaos of kids at home, I need a retreat. I'm a word man, so it is to poetry that I flee. I can almost tirelessly leaf through ancient Oscar Williams anthologies of the classics, which went for sixty cents on my tattered copies. But what I enjoy even more is to come upon new, fresh, startling works of poetry--especially with some political content to them. Here are three offerings from this year, a year overflowing with good political poetry.
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Author:Rothschild, Matthew
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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