The Gift Economy, Anarchism and Strategies for Change
Terry Leahy's website
Lecture: What is Conservative/ Respectable/ High Status Dress?
Lecture: The Media as Dominant Ideology
Lecture: Postmodernism
Lecture: Can Ads Ever Be Radical?
Lecture: Types of Media Analysis
Lecture: Is Xena a Feminist Heroine?
Lecture: Radway's approach to Romance Novels
Lecture: Popular Media as Patriarchal Ideology
Lecture: The Debate About Madonna
Lecture: Soap Operas and Feminism
Lecture: Walkerdine on Rocky
Lecture: Feminist Arguments Against Pornography
Lecture: Popular Media as Patriarchal Ideology
The Reading from Cranny-Francis.

In this chapter Cranny-Francis makes use of three broad approaches:

  • A feminist analysis of social power - in other words it is argued that men have more power than women in society.

Note that one implication is that when she speaks about what "men" do, think etc, she means most men, or most men most of the time, or men organised as a social collectivity. This is about broad social structures and is not meant to imply that there are no exceptions or that people aren’t more complicated than this simplified description suggests.

  • A poststructuralist account of how ideas work in society - see below
  • A psychoanalytic account of the way in which popular media relates to the formation of people’s character.t

More detailed reflections on the chapter:

  • Patriarchal Ideology

See e.g. p 75 (i.e. get them to find it and read it - last para before heading)

In general "ideology" is used in sociology in a way that is different to the way that it is used in political science or in journalism. It doesn’t just mean a set of ideas organised into an "ism" of some kind. Instead it means a set of ideas, which supports the power of a ruling group in society. It also implies that there is something false about these ideas. In sociological writing to say something is an ideology is always to imply that it is a lie, and so to make some claim about what the author thinks social reality is actually like. For example Cranny Francis thinks it is a lie that men are innately violent by comparison to women and have sexual urges that are innately difficult to control in comparison to the sexual desires of women. An ideology doesn’t have to be an "ism" and for the sociological use of the term an ideology is probably more likely to be seen as science or common sense. So:

a) An ideology is a set of ideas that supports the power of a ruling group.

b) An ideology is at least partly false.

While Marx invented the sociological use of the term "ideology". he used it to only talk about ideologies which supported a ruling social class. Since then its use has been extended by sociologists to talk about other kinds of social inequality:

c) Patriarchal ideology is a set of ideas that supports the power of men.

  • Patriarchal Discourse

Cranny-Francis also uses the term "patriarchal discourse" , (e.g. p. 79 para one - find it etc).

A discourse is just a set of ideas. But when you use the term "discourse" you also imply that there are actions that are carried out within that mental framework. e.g. the discourse of "motherhood" is both a set of ideas about how mothering should be done and also the actions that people engage in as they realize these ideas - the actions of mothers and babies, fathers and so on.

The term "discourse", unlike the term "ideology", does not imply that these ideas are false or that they support a powerful group in society. It is a much more neutral term. So you could talk about "feminist discourse" but you could never use the phrase "feminist ideology" in sociology.

However when Cranny-Francis joins "patriarchal" to "discourse" she implies that this is one of those discourses that also happens to be in fact an ideology. This is because the term patriarchal implies that the discourse we are talking about here supports patriarchy or the rule of men. So it must be an ideology. This means that you will find in this chapter that she uses the two phrases "patriarchal ideology" and "patriarchal discourse" interchangeably.

  • Poststructuralism and Positioning

Poststructuralism is an approach to social life that is inspired by the recent theorist Foucault. It is postructuralist thought that argues that society is shaped by discourses - see above.

It also uses a number of other key concepts that Cranny-Francis uses here.

It is said by poststructuralists that people relate to discourses by taking up "subject positions" within a discourse or by being "positioned" within a discourse. A discourse invites people to think of themselves as having a certain kind of position within it - it’s like a piece within a game of chess - the rules of the game specify positions such as Knight, Pawn etc, just like a discourse specifies the kind of actions expected of people.

For example on p. 82 Cranny-Francis talks about the way the boy reader of Red Riding Hood is "positioned" by the narrative.

So, a discourse offers various subject positions which people can take up. For example the male reader can take up the position of the Wolf or The Hunter but is not invited to take up the position of Red Riding Hood or the Grandmother. The narrative of Red Riding Hood suggests to the male reader that the two positions Wolf or Hunter are the only ones available for men - that it is impossible, for example, the be a real man and not to be violent at all. It also implies that the sexually active male, the Wolf, is a dangerous anti-social figure while the other option is to be in control of one’s dangerous sexuality - the position of the hunter. So you can see that the discourse of Red Riding Hood is seen by Cranny- Francis as offering a number of subject positions for readers of the narrative and that these readers may be influenced to take up these subject positions and so to create their "subjectivity" (or what we would normally call their personality) through this.

There are two ways of describing this process. One looks at it from the point of view of the discourse as a social force in society - the discourse positions the reader.

The other looks at it from the point of view of the individual subject. The reader may (or may not) take up a position specified by the discourse and in doing this create their subjectivity.

  • Psychoanalysis and Media approaches

In dealing with the myth of Red Riding Hood, Cranny-Francis first takes the text as both an influence on society and one of a number of other texts with a similar structure.

She also sees it as a myth which represents and also creates in men and women a particular kind of unconscious structure.

For example, for men, they experience themselves as split between two warring parts. One part is seen as the "id" that Freud talks about. It is seen as an innate and animalistic part of the personality that is difficult to control and often determines behaviour in a way that the conscious mind of the man may not approve of. This conscious part of the man is the superego, which is like the moral conscience. Within the myth the wolf represent the id and the hunter represent the ego. (p 81 )

While Freud genuinely thought that these parts of the mind were innate, Cranny-Francis suggests that they are socially constructed. That is men are socially constructed to think of themselves and to act in these ways and even to be unconscious of why they are behaving in the way they do - e.g. the strong feeling that most men have that they "need" sex and have to have it even if the women that they desire are not interested is seen by Cranny-Francis as socially created but this process of social creation is not available for conscious inspection by the men themselves - they just feel this way and have been made to feel that this is their inner nature.

Note the implications for media analysis of this account. People do not necessarily identify with one particular figure in a media narrative. Instead, different characters in the narrative may represent different aspects of the personality of the reader. This is a distinctively psychoanalytic approach to media analysis. Also, this identification and these links are not necessarily made at a conscious level. For example, the Red Riding Hood story is not explicitly about dangerous male sexuality and social control of bad male violence by good male violence, but Cranny-Francis thinks this is what it is really about and how it is received subconsciously.

Some other comments.

p 82 Is the threat of rape the major way that women are controlled in society. It is certainly important. For example, women do not have secure use of public space at night - there is an informal curfew on women travelling unaccompanied by men unless they are in a big group etc. etc. However, I am not sure that other means of control are not just as significant. For example women earn an average of 45% of the wage of men ( when you take into account both lower wages and the fact that women are often less employed than men) and are usually unemployed when they have young dependent children. These facts make them massively dependent on men economically. This is a version of the Wolf/Hunter structure in society in that the husband is the Hunter who protects his wife with his economic power whereas other men - the government and so on will not give her economic power unless she is under the control of some husband or other - for example there is no government payment for single women with children that would let them live equally well economically to women with husbands. It is other men through their control of "their" money that play the wolf in this situation.

p 83, 87, 88 Cranny-Francis says that it would be better for men if they could liberate themselves from the confining constraints of the patriarchal discourse of Red Riding Hood - they wouldn’t have to fear failure in competition with other men; they could enjoy their sexuality without always fearing that it could get out of control and do harm; they could have less stressful interactions with women and so on. Do the students think this is true? Ask for discussion.

See list on p 88 of characteristics expected of women and the reverse in men - which of these serve the interests of men? Write them up and discuss them with the students.

Cranny-Francis also says that men have more power than women in society (see p 89) and the Red Riding Hood discourse certainly supports men’s power in various ways - e.g. the threat of male violence keeps women in control; men’s control over violence gives them access to political power that women do not have and also relates to men’s power over women; fear of competition from other men is the price that men pay for seeking power and so on. Doesn’t all this imply that men’s interests are served by their position of power.

This relates to a more general issue - if feminism is the theory that men protect their position of power because it serves their interests, you can’t turn round and say that they’d be better off if they gave up power.

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