The idea of containment of sexuality centers on arguably the most recognizable

The idea of containment of sexuality centers on

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The idea of containment of sexuality centers on arguably the most recognizable example of iconic representation of womanhood – the symbol of the Virgin Mary (Driscoll, 2002). Two key concepts recur in various incarnations of this symbol: her virginity (which represents purity) and her maternity, a contradictory tension that marks her as the impossible ideal toward which “regular” woman must strive. As Catherine Driscoll (2002) argues, the Virginity of the Blessed Mary has come to symbolize a
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28 purified state of being for all women (and therefore a preferred or ethically superior state of being) in which their sexuality is contained, controlled and/or denied (p. 142; see also Dyer, 2004 on Marilyn Monroe as the innocent sexpot, thus neutralizing the threat of her sexuality, pp. 17-63). As will be shown in the case study analysis, this is a common trope in the representation of women in the media today, particularly with regards to female reality television stars, many of whom often present (and experience) their sexuality as “real” or are able to barter it for fame (or both). There are other ways in which classical iconic representations of women foster the notion of containment – one of which is containment of the female body itself. This is commonly done through clothing such as corsets, brassières, high heels, etc., all of which not only contain the female body, but also limit movement, which, in turn, affects “how a girl produces power with her body” (Justice-Malloy, p. 111; see also Berger, quoted in Heinecken, 2003; Pollock, 2003). These physical restrictions create normative power restrictions on women’s activities both in and outside of the home. Women, however, are contained not only by their clothing, but also by norms imposed upon their physical bodies in terms of size and behavior. Women who resist – consciously or unconsciously – these imposed limitations, either by being overweight and taking up “too much public space” or by being loud and/or partaking in “male” activities, are perceived as threatening (Heinecken, 2003) and are positioned in opposition to ethical codes of conduct (see Rowe, 1995 on the “unruly woman” as exemplified by Mae West, Roseanne Barr, etc.) Women, thusly, are judged against norms of appearance and behavior. If they do not comply and extend “too far” into the public sphere, they are framed as transgressors.
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29 Additionally, certain female celebrities need to be contained in a different way – in regards to the medium in which they appear. Reality stars, in particular, are vulnerable to this type of containment, for someone who is famous for “doing nothing” should not dare try to achieve something such as writing a book or starting a fashion line. In fact, women have long experienced heavy limitations on what they can and cannot do in the media. Though by the 1980s, massive progress was being made by women’s equality movements both economically and politically, most high-powered culture and media positions (producers, directors, studio heads) were, and still are, occupied by men (Lind, 2010 p. 327; Turner, 2004, p. 84
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