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Feminist Consciousness and the Production of a Contemporary Women's Section
Unformatted Document Text:  Tracking number: ICA-12-11416 1 Feminist Consciousness and the Production of a Contemporary Women’s Section For nearly a century prior to the 1970s newspapers across the country included sections devoted entirely to women. Not only were these pages designated for women readers, the section titles across the tops of these pages made this fact perfectly clear. These sections contained content typically understood to fall within the feminine sphere – including society news, recipes and advice columns on relationships and family. During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, however, newspapers stopped providing women readers with a section of their own. 1 Instead, the pages became known primarily as “Lifestyle” sections. The conversion, editors claimed, was meant to attract diversified audiences into the world of “soft” news and entertainment. Not coincidentally, the switch from pages designated and named for women to unisex lifestyle sections came during an especially active period of the women’s movement. Several people within and outside of the industry have credited feminism with influencing newspapers to make this change. But not long after newspaper editors eliminated women’s pages, sections targeting and named for women came back. Papers of all sizes have reconstructed explicitly named women’s pages. For example, one of the country’s largest newspapers – the Chicago Tribune – publishes a weekly section titled “Woman News” and has for a little more than a decade. The Capital Times, a mid-sized afternoon daily in Madison, Wisconsin, and the focus of this study, also produces a weekly section for women. But how does feminism fit into this re-emergence of women’s sections? Are these newspaper editors progressive in their thinking about gendered audiences and responding to a previously neglected group? Or is this a step backward – away from feminist convictions and the progress made during the 1970s when women’s sections were eliminated from U.S. newspapers?

Authors: Harp, Dustin.
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Tracking number: ICA-12-11416
1
Feminist Consciousness and the Production of a Contemporary Women’s Section
For nearly a century prior to the 1970s newspapers across the country included
sections devoted entirely to women. Not only were these pages designated for women
readers, the section titles across the tops of these pages made this fact perfectly clear.
These sections contained content typically understood to fall within the feminine sphere –
including society news, recipes and advice columns on relationships and family. During
the late 1960s and into the 1970s, however, newspapers stopped providing women
readers with a section of their own.
1
Instead, the pages became known primarily as
“Lifestyle” sections. The conversion, editors claimed, was meant to attract diversified
audiences into the world of “soft” news and entertainment. Not coincidentally, the switch
from pages designated and named for women to unisex lifestyle sections came during an
especially active period of the women’s movement. Several people within and outside of
the industry have credited feminism with influencing newspapers to make this change.
But not long after newspaper editors eliminated women’s pages, sections targeting and
named for women came back. Papers of all sizes have reconstructed explicitly named
women’s pages. For example, one of the country’s largest newspapers – the Chicago
Tribune – publishes a weekly section titled “Woman News” and has for a little more than
a decade. The Capital Times, a mid-sized afternoon daily in Madison, Wisconsin, and the
focus of this study, also produces a weekly section for women. But how does feminism
fit into this re-emergence of women’s sections? Are these newspaper editors progressive
in their thinking about gendered audiences and responding to a previously neglected
group? Or is this a step backward – away from feminist convictions and the progress
made during the 1970s when women’s sections were eliminated from U.S. newspapers?


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