Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism

Univ of North Carolina Press

In this book, Amy Erdman Farrell traces "Ms." from its pathbreaking origins in 1972 to its final commercial issue in 1989. Drawing on interviews with former editors, archival materials, and the text of the magazine itself, Farrell examines the role "Ms."
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About the author

Amy Erdman Farrell is associate professor of American studies and coordinator of women's studies at Dickinson College.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of North Carolina Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 1998
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Pages
232
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ISBN
9780807847350
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Feminism & Feminist Theory
Social Science / Popular Culture
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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One of Choice's Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates, 2010-2011

To be fat hasn’t always occasioned the level of hysteria that this condition receives today and indeed was once considered an admirable trait. Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture explores this arc, from veneration to shame, examining the historic roots of our contemporary anxiety about fatness. Tracing the cultural denigration of fatness to the mid 19th century, Amy Farrell argues that the stigma associated with a fat body preceded any health concerns about a large body size. Firmly in place by the time the diet industry began to flourish in the 1920s, the development of fat stigma was related not only to cultural anxieties that emerged during the modern period related to consumer excess, but, even more profoundly, to prevailing ideas about race, civilization and evolution. For 19th and early 20th century thinkers, fatness was a key marker of inferiority, of an uncivilized, barbaric, and primitive body. This idea—that fatness is a sign of a primitive person—endures today, fueling both our $60 billion “war on fat” and our cultural distress over the “obesity epidemic.”

Farrell draws on a wide array of sources, including political cartoons, popular literature, postcards, advertisements, and physicians’ manuals, to explore the link between our historic denigration of fatness and our contemporary concern over obesity. Her work sheds particular light on feminisms’ fraught relationship to fatness. From the white suffragists of the early 20th century to contemporary public figures like Oprah Winfrey, Monica Lewinsky, and even the Obama family, Farrell explores the ways that those who seek to shed stigmatized identities—whether of gender, race, ethnicity or class—often take part in weight reduction schemes and fat mockery in order to validate themselves as “civilized.” In sharp contrast to these narratives of fat shame are the ideas of contemporary fat activists, whose articulation of a new vision of the body Farrell explores in depth. This book is significant for anyone concerned about the contemporary “war on fat” and the ways that notions of the “civilized body” continue to legitimate discrimination and cultural oppression.

In the winter of 1972, the first issue of Ms. magazine hit the newsstands. For some activists in the women's movement, the birth of this new publication heralded feminism's coming of age; for others, it signaled the capitulation of the women's movement to crass commercialism. But whatever its critical reception, Ms. quickly gained national success, selling out its first issue in only eight days and becoming a popular icon of the women's movement almost immediately.
Amy Erdman Farrell traces the history of Ms. from its pathbreaking origins in 1972 to its final commercial issue in 1989. Drawing on interviews with former
editors, archival materials, and the text of Ms. itself, she examines the magazine's efforts to forge an oppositional politics within the context of commercial culture.
While its status as a feminist and mass media magazine gave Ms. the power to move in circles unavailable to smaller, more radical feminist periodicals, it also created competing and conflicting pressures, says Farrell. She examines the complicated decisions made by the Ms. staff as they negotiated the multiple--frequently incompatible--demands of advertisers, readers, and the various and changing constituencies of the feminist movement.
An engrossing and objective account, Yours in Sisterhood illuminates the significant yet difficult connections between commercial culture and social movements. It reveals a complex, often contradictory magazine that was a major force in the contemporary feminist movement.

To be fat hasn’t always occasioned the level of hysteria that this condition receives today and indeed was once considered an admirable trait. Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture explores this arc, from veneration to shame, examining the historic roots of our contemporary anxiety about fatness. Tracing the cultural denigration of fatness to the mid 19th century, Amy Farrell argues that the stigma associated with a fat body preceded any health concerns about a large body size. Firmly in place by the time the diet industry began to flourish in the 1920s, the development of fat stigma was related not only to cultural anxieties that emerged during the modern period related to consumer excess, but, even more profoundly, to prevailing ideas about race, civilization and evolution. For 19th and early 20th century thinkers, fatness was a key marker of inferiority, of an uncivilized, barbaric, and primitive body. This idea—that fatness is a sign of a primitive person—endures today, fueling both our $60 billion “war on fat” and our cultural distress over the “obesity epidemic.”

Farrell draws on a wide array of sources, including political cartoons, popular literature, postcards, advertisements, and physicians’ manuals, to explore the link between our historic denigration of fatness and our contemporary concern over obesity. Her work sheds particular light on feminisms’ fraught relationship to fatness. From the white suffragists of the early 20th century to contemporary public figures like Oprah Winfrey, Monica Lewinsky, and even the Obama family, Farrell explores the ways that those who seek to shed stigmatized identities—whether of gender, race, ethnicity or class—often take part in weight reduction schemes and fat mockery in order to validate themselves as “civilized.” In sharp contrast to these narratives of fat shame are the ideas of contemporary fat activists, whose articulation of a new vision of the body Farrell explores in depth. This book is significant for anyone concerned about the contemporary “war on fat” and the ways that notions of the “civilized body” continue to legitimate discrimination and cultural oppression.

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