Gilmore Girls has been produced and consumed within a context of so-called ‘third wave feminism’. First wave feminism is said to have begun in the mid-1800s, during which time a Seneca Falls convention as one of the first of its kind was held, to focus on women’s legal rights to own property, sue, form contracts, and vote. Increased women’s activism work followed, expanding to public sphere demands for education and access to middle-class jobs. The consequential fight for the women’s vote concluded in the 1920s. First wave feminism made significant gains for women, including growth of education opportunities, entry into previously all-male professions, some legalisation of equal pay, and some availability to contraception and abortion. Feminism is then said to have re-emerged in the 1960s in its ‘second wave’, in the context of rising identity politics and ‘new social movements’. The first wave gains acted as conditions to aid the continuation of feminism, and its second wave is characterised by continuation of these rights. Further, realization grew about women’s ‘personal’, ‘private’ matters as politically-determined, and components of a larger system of patriarchal practices. Finally, feminism developed to a third wave around the 1980s. The Western movement became increasingly intersectional; recognition rising about oppression of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and class as interlocking. Importantly for Gilmore Girls is the development of feminism within the distinct context of technological development, popular culture and post-modernism. And critically, Western women within this third wave distinctly know more entitlements to equality and self-determination, which previous generations of feminists fought for.
This last development has led to the rise of postfeminist ideology, which theorises first and second wave gains eliminated the need to continue the political movement. This is also related to representation in media and popular culture; which are to postfeminism spheres of empowerment and success for women. Gilmore Girls intersects with these postfeminist theories in a number of ways. Firstly, the emphasis on female relationships and independent, strong female lead roles can suggest women’s empowerment. The leads Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are intensely close and dependent on each other, which remains as the men in their lives come and go. They are portrayed as a non-nuclear family, as Lorelai raised Rory alone. She also creates her own successful, entrepreneurial career at the same time, by managing and eventually owning her own Inn. Further, a significant amount of the town’s small businesses are owned by women. Such aspects of the show exhibit empowerment of women based on success of the liberal feminist issues labour and childcare. They are presented as a postfeminist norm, absent from the reality of gendered struggles for such accomplishments. The women of Gilmore Girls exist in a fictional, small suburban town; seemingly a utopia, within which the female characters face no oppression based on their sex.
The remaining blogs will deconstruct this context of Gilmore Girls’ postfeminist utopia, through examining its intersection with heteronormativity, race and ethnicity, and class. With these intersections, Gilmore Girls serves as a critical illustration of feminism within a context of popular media and culture; and of both contemporary political gains and challenges.
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Kemp, S. and Squires, J. (1997). Feminisms. New York, USA: Oxford University Press
McRobbie, A. (2013, June 3). Angela McRobbie on the Illusion of Equality for Women. Retrieved from http://www.socialsciencespace.com/
Nicholson, L. (2010). Feminism in “Waves”: Useful Metaphor or Not? New Politics, 12(40)
Stern, D. M. (2012). It Takes a Classless, Heteronormative Utopian Village: Gilmore Girls and the Problem of Postfeminism. The Communication Review, 15(3)