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Feminism without Feminists: Gender, Race and Popular Culture


This dissertation combines insights from feminist and critical race theory to understand the social significance of Sex and the City (SATC) and its popularity among U.S. fans. I argue that popular consumption of SATC helps to illuminate current discourses and controversies surrounding changing gender roles and feminism in contemporary society. It also explores how responses to the series and film are shaped by fans' gender, race, and sexual orientation. My research is based on 42 in-depth interviews with fans, Internet film reviews and discussions about the series, and participant observations of film screenings in the Los Angeles area and a SATC bus tour. The data reveals that Internet discourses were often gendered, and themes related to misogyny and homophobia were central to these public discourses. Men were often disgusted or felt threatened by the series' popularity. On the other hand, the largely female fan base delighted in the representations of female economic and sexual liberation, although they often did not identify as feminists. Based on my interviews with fans, significant racial differences in meaning productions emerged. White women were more likely to relate to all of the characters, but women of color often identified with the relatively sexually conservative characters because their "values" were more consistent with their upbringing, especially among immigrants. Lastly, although several of my heterosexual viewers found the stereotypes of LGBT characters problematic, the queer fans I interviewed felt it was a fair representation of their community, and certainly more realistic than the way gays are typically portrayed in mainstream media.

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