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Media Played Pivotal Role in Empowering Women

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As International Women’s Day approaches, a leading expert on women’s history has reflected on the pivotal role played by the media in empowering women.

Professor Maggie Andrews, of the University of Worcester, said the media had, over the centuries, given women the power and the platform to become liberated.

The topic is explored in a new book on the interrelationship of women’s history and media history, co-edited by Professor Andrews.

“Media has been hugely important to women in the twentieth century,” she said. “Women have drawn upon the lexicon of media images of femininity to build a sense of who they are and who they could be.

“The introduction of the radio into the homes in the 1920s, for example, changed women’s lives. It provided leisure, education and an engagement with the wider world to many housewives. As both radio and television are domestic mediums they have given women a voice and increasingly become an important space for discussion of women’s issues and a questioning of women’s role.

“Therefore media has played a vital role in twentieth century feminism – it would not be too much to say that it is impossible to imagine the changing role of women in the last 100 years without the important role of the media in these changes.”

In the chapters of Women and the Media: Feminism and Femininity in Britain, 1900 to the Present, Professor Andrews also takes a look role the media has played in the contested and changing social position of women in Britain since the Edwardian era and yet has arguably been side-lined within Women’s History.

“The Suffragettes in the Edwardian period were very media savvy,” said Professor Andrews. “Their campaigns, marches and civil unrest were always planned to get maximum media coverage. In the 1960s and 1970s magazines like Honey and Cosmopolitan gave feminism a voice. More recently the media has provided a range of feminist role modules of the latter twentieth century such as: Cagney and Lacey in the 1980s or more recently Kate Adie and Nigella Lawson.”

Professor Maggie Andrews and Sallie McNamara, of Southampton Solent University, will complete the new book in June this year, which will be published and available in the New Year.