Colloquium | Elizabeth Nathanson

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 12:00pm

Crafts on Lifestyle Television: Postfeminist Representations of Tasteful Free Time

This talk is part of my larger research into how television narratives and technologies construct a picture of postfeminist “women’s time” in which the domestic clock is ruled by time scarcity and women are held responsible for re-clocking the home. Many sociologists and historians argue that time continues to be a battlefield on which gender inequities are staged and this talk that takes a close look at how the media offers pleasurable solutions to time stresses while also perpetuating inequalities that produce those stresses in the first place. Through analysis of cable television programs like Knitty Gritty and B. Original I consider how contemporary lifestyle television represents crafts as ideal ways to spend free time. These representations combine traditional forms of work and play, and crafts are represented as leisurely because they offer a soothing respite from the rush of everyday life and the “time-bind.” Depictions of crafts constitute a new postfeminist taste culture that values productivity and reflect a simultaneous desire for and distance from a “grandmotherly” past. While “repetition” has long been maligned by feminists for its lack of forward-moving progress, I argue that such TV shows and associated online resources about crafts revise the notion of repetition, presenting it as a uniquely productive mode for women whose lives are dominated by the linear thrust of their professional lives. These crafts projects are not just a nostalgic retreat from the stresses of working life, however; television and the Internet depict crafts as a vital tool for feminist community formation.

Elizabeth Nathanson is an Assistant Professor of Media and Communication at Muhlenberg College where she teaches courses on media and cultural theory, gender and media, documentary research, and the history of broadcasting. Her book, Television and Postfeminist Housekeeping: No Time for Mother is in press with Routledge. She has published in the journals Television and New Media and Framework and has an essay forthcoming in the anthology Gendering the Recession (eds. Diane Negra and Yvonne Tasker, Duke University Press).

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