Postmodern Feminist Cultural Studies Theory:
Girls Make Sense of Music Performance

      by Ashley Grisso  



As mentioned previously the cultural studies framework (Fisherkeller, 1995; McRobbie, 1994) encompasses the many aspects of life that influence a person's meaning-making. The shared emphasis that cultural studies and feminism place on "lived experiences" and the commitment to expressing suppressed voices of those underrepresented fit together well as the bases to this study.

Cultural studies acknowledges the complexity of exploring identity and gender stereotyping and some of the multiple influences a girl experiences, not only mass communication. Its reliance on ideology as an important and compelling analytic category maintains a focus on the circuits of power and domination that are vital to critique of popular culture. If feminism is both a way of understanding the world and a politics, then theories of culture, i.e. cultural studies, ought to develop fundamentally from feminism. Females hold a unique position in relation to mass culture: girls and women are both subject and object. This renders feminism as a standpoint privileged to access the difficult process of demystification and subversive interpretation of culture and its products (Walters, 1995).

This framework is situated in a postmodern world-view. The media have so inserted themselves into the everyday life of most of us in the world that they have come to construct our sense of what it means to live in a postmodern world. The media are everywhere and therefore must be primary in any analysis of contemporary society (Walters, 1995). One of the marks of postmodernity is that it is no longer possible to conceptualize and analyze society as a whole, or even as a layered and uneven totality. There can no longer be one big picture of society. Feminist postmodern theory insists that we listen to the voices of those who dispute the terms of representation and who say, "This is not us." It is significant that these voices are often those of girls/women of color (McRobbie, 1994). We have to look for what emerges from between feminism and femininity. We have to attend to the inventiveness of girls and women from all walks of life as we create new social categories, some of which cause grave concern on the part of those who maintain the social order.

Popular culture, however it is defined, exists in a position of dominance in a world where television and the visual image have become the primary means through which the mass communications industry works. International corporations have redrawn the borders and boundaries of the map of the world; the production of popular culture and information is the currency of this new-world order (Jameson, cited in McRobbie, 1994). Cultural studies of media audiences regard media institutions as powerful and primary producers of cultural meaning, but also respect viewers as powerful and diverse interpreters of cultural experiences. This approach assumes that audiences' interactions with mass media are part of a broader socio-historical and cultural context. This context simultaneously informs the structures and processes of media institutions. Using this perspective, this study addresses how middle school aged girls' different cultural identities and their identity as females create meaning as they interact with the symbolic products of media, specifically music videos, and with various cultural contexts, including school and peers.