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Jody Weinmann

High School for Feminists and Television for Artists: Critiquing the “Feminine Ideal” in a Mixed Gender Classroom

(left) Rose Horwitz, "Untitled" © 2005, (right) Abby Wilberding, "Untitled" © 2005

       I received an impeccable education from my television set. I came of age, as do most young people living in the United States, in a time and place deeply involved with ideals of femininity. These ideals are defined and reinforced, in part, through fashion magazines, clothing stores, Hollywood movies, pornography, MTV, pop music, television, and advertising. They are disseminated swiftly and thoroughly to every town in this postmodern, media-saturated world.

      As I matured, I learned to read the media with a more critical lens. I learned to consider what effect it was having on my point of view and my self-esteem. Although I still found pleasure in many sources of media (television specifically) I learned to question their impact and influence.

(left) Andres Sada, "Jay Leno" © 2005, (right) Marissa Schiff, "Ainsley Hayes" © 2005

      My thesis project is a critique and interrogation of U.S. television’s representation of women, and an attempt understand how such a very complex and personal topic can be discussed in a mixed gender high school classroom in Chicago, Illinois. In carrying out this project, I focused on answering several specific research questions. My main research question asks “What occurs when a group of mixed gender high school students explore a feminist critique of the popular visual culture they are currently immersed in and surrounded by?” Additionally, my sub-questions are, “How might students’ perceptions of and reactions to this media content be seen to change after such a critical inquiry process?” and, “How might the discourses of pleasure and desire be understood and factored into a discussion of sexually oppressive, yet distinctly affective, and at times resistance infused, media content?”

      To answer these questions, I worked with five high school students (two males and three females, ages 16-18) to complete four specific activities. The students and I recorded, viewed, and discussed television footage, focusing on identifying and critiquing gender roles and stereotypes. Students also created two printmaking projects—the first was a linoleum block print depicting the effects of television watching on contemporary gender roles, and the second was a puppet-making project in which students parodied the gender stereotypes of a specific television character. Lastly, the students used their puppets to collaborate on a digital, stop-frame animation video exploring these topics as a group.

         Jody Weinmann received a BA in Art from Kalamazoo College in 2001. In 1999, she studied abroad at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. From 2002-2003, Jody worked with Americorps, leading arts activities at the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, Ohio.


Thesis Advisor: Kevin Tavin, Assistant Professor, Art Education; Director, MAT Program

Thesis Reader: Lisa Hochtritt, Assistant Professor, Art Education

Second Reader: Angela Paterakis, Professor Emeritus, Art Education

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