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Pin-Up Grrrls documents the
relationship between the pin-up as cultural icon of the sexualized woman and the
feminist politicization of female representations.
Underscoring the emergence of the
pin-up genre during the early manifestations of the women's rights movement in
the mid-nineteenth century, Buszek argues that the notion of the pin-up as
feminist has existed every since its inception. While contradictory only in pretense,
the marriage of the two (feminism and the pin-up) is granted on the one hand by
the feminist appropriation of the popular images as illustrations of female
empowerment, and the pin-up as a reflection of women's changing roles on the
other. Buszek meticulously details the genre's shifting trends, beginning with
the carte de visite, a photographic calling card used by female stage
performers during the early burlesque era and ending with third wave feminists'
celebration of the pin-up as an icon of youth culture. The author analyzes images
of figures as diverse as the "New Woman," the "Varga Girl,"
and Playboy's centerfolds, and her inquiry spans across an historical
period that includes two world wars, the Great Depression, the pornography
wars, and three waves of feminism. While the emphasized nuances displayed in
these iconic figurations vary significantly, the subsisting characteristics
that remain constant are the suggestions of sexuality, self-confidence and
independence. More than just sexual representations of the female body intended
to titillate a male audience, the pin-up becomes a visual construct capable of
subverting and threatening conventional female ideals. Such subversive effects are
materialized both through the manipulation of the images (from the constructed
theatrical self-portraits of the carte de visite to feminist artist's
parodying of traditional pin-ups) as well as through women's assimilation with the
popular icons (images of female confidence and sexuality inspired women to reject
their traditional roles).
Pin-Up Grrrls is a well
documented and thorough study. Although the author's portrayal of women's
social condition and political discourses around sexuality appears, at times,
overly optimistic, Buszek successfully unravels an organic link between the evolution
of the genre and the various stages of feminist thought commonly associated
with the three waves of feminism. For Buszek, then, the alignment of the pin-up
genre with feminism -- an alignment at times fraught with tension -- transcends
the traditional alliance between theory or ideology (feminism) and analytical
tool (use of images to illustrate or deconstruct a cultural ideal). Rather, the
author considers the relationship to be mutual such that the pin-up isn't just
a significant tool for studying the changing discourses on female sexuality and
the feminist movement itself, but feminism also represents a necessary lens
through which to study the genre of the pin-up.
The author draws from a large body
of theoretical, historical and visual research providing an uninformed reader with
the necessary background for understanding and contextualizing the material at
hand. Buszek writes with structure and clarity, avoiding overly technical terms
and theoretical jargon, making her research accessible to the general public.
© 2006 Lidia HwaSoon Anchisi
Lidia HwaSoon Anchisi received her
Ph.D. in Italian Language and Literature from New York University in 2001. Upon
receiving her Ph.D., Lidia Anchisi taught for a year at the College of Charleston. Her main areas of interest include Gender Studies, Sexuality Studies,
Modern Italian Literature, and Film Studies. Lidia Anchisi is currently an
Assistant Professor of Italian at Gettysburg College.
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