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Beautiful and Bad Women: Media Feminism and The Politics of Its Construction in Taiwan
Unformatted Document Text:  19 the public, a group of women called “Women’s Liberation Army” proposed a manual for “fixing” abusive husbands, teaching women how to kill men without getting punished by the legal system. This group, similar to SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), which promotes violence against men, is rarely (or more precisely, never) discussed in mainstream history of feminist activism, not to mention women’s magazines. One significant piece of feminist history that gets erased is the labor movements. One example is the protest organized by prostitutes in 1997. Faced with the city government’s sudden decision to outlaw prostitution, many prostitutes came forward and protested against illegalization, demanding their rights to work, live, to be free from police harassment, and exploitation. This protest marked an important chapter in the history of feminist activism in Taiwan, and many feminists have engaged with this issue in major newspaper forums. 5 However, unlike the issue of sexual harassment which is seen as pertinent to women’s everyday lives and is therefore treated in the “women’s page” in newspapers and women’s magazines, this protest for sex work has never been discussed in “women’s page,” but is treated as a social problem in newspapers. And of course, it is absent from women’s magazines. I use this example to demonstrate that even on issues of sexuality, as long as it is related to labor practices, to exploitation, and non-consumption, it will not make its appearance in women’s magazines. This silence on labor practices in international women’s magazines echoes what Stabile observes in her case study on Nike: “The disappearance of labor exploitation in media imagery is critical for transnational corporations to persuade consumers that consumption is an ideal means through which they can experience their identities as liberal, multicultural citizens” (Stabile, quoted in Parameswaran, 311). Women’s magazines’ erasure of sites of production and exploitation allows them to construct a liberal, independent, pleasure-seeking feminist figure whose ultimate aim is empowerment through consumption. Within the ideology of heterosexuality and consumption that women’s magazines demand, feminists are constructed as well-educated, man-loving women with strong consuming power. These feminist images include Xiao-hung Zhang, Wen-chien Chen, and many fashion models in women’s magazines’ advertisements. This media feminism has made feminist politics into lifestyle politics, and the feminist slogan “the personal is political” is transformed into “the political is personal.” As Bonnie Dow comments, “The political is personal, it tells us, as a set of 5 In fact, this event divides Taiwanese women’s movements into two camps—the pro-prostitution camp and the anti-prostitution camp—with lots of bad feelings involved. Even till now, this issue still takes up a significant amount of scholarly attention in feminist work in Taiwan.

Authors: Yang, Fangchih.
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19
the public, a group of women called “Women’s Liberation Army” proposed a manual
for “fixing” abusive husbands, teaching women how to kill men without getting
punished by the legal system. This group, similar to SCUM (Society for Cutting Up
Men), which promotes violence against men, is rarely (or more precisely, never)
discussed in mainstream history of feminist activism, not to mention women’s
magazines.
One significant piece of feminist history that gets erased is the labor movements.
One example is the protest organized by prostitutes in 1997. Faced with the city
government’s sudden decision to outlaw prostitution, many prostitutes came forward
and protested against illegalization, demanding their rights to work, live, to be free
from police harassment, and exploitation. This protest marked an important chapter in
the history of feminist activism in Taiwan, and many feminists have engaged with this
issue in major newspaper forums.
5
However, unlike the issue of sexual harassment
which is seen as pertinent to women’s everyday lives and is therefore treated in the
“women’s page” in newspapers and women’s magazines, this protest for sex work has
never been discussed in “women’s page,” but is treated as a social problem in
newspapers. And of course, it is absent from women’s magazines. I use this example
to demonstrate that even on issues of sexuality, as long as it is related to labor
practices, to exploitation, and non-consumption, it will not make its appearance in
women’s magazines.
This silence on labor practices in international women’s magazines echoes
what Stabile observes in her case study on Nike: “The disappearance of labor
exploitation in media imagery is critical for transnational corporations to persuade
consumers that consumption is an ideal means through which they can experience
their identities as liberal, multicultural citizens” (Stabile, quoted in Parameswaran,
311). Women’s magazines’ erasure of sites of production and exploitation allows
them to construct a liberal, independent, pleasure-seeking feminist figure whose
ultimate aim is empowerment through consumption. Within the ideology of
heterosexuality and consumption that women’s magazines demand, feminists are
constructed as well-educated, man-loving women with strong consuming power.
These feminist images include Xiao-hung Zhang, Wen-chien Chen, and many fashion
models in women’s magazines’ advertisements.
This media feminism has made feminist politics into lifestyle politics, and the
feminist slogan “the personal is political” is transformed into “the political is
personal.” As Bonnie Dow comments, “The political is personal, it tells us, as a set of
5
In fact, this event divides Taiwanese women’s movements into two camps—the pro-prostitution
camp and the anti-prostitution camp—with lots of bad feelings involved. Even till now, this issue still
takes up a significant amount of scholarly attention in feminist work in Taiwan.


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