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Spring 2016

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In Her Own Words:

How Culture Shapes the Stages of a Woman's Life: From Todlers-in-Tiaras to Cougars-on-the-Prowl cover photoI'm excited to announce the release of my book (co-authored with Sarah Burcon), How Pop Culture Shapes the Stages of a Woman’s Life: From Toddlers-in-Tiaras to Cougars-on-the-Prowl. The book will be out in March of 2016 and I will present this material as the keynote speaker at Eastern Illinois’s English Studies Conference on Friday, April 8th, 2016.


Book Description:

Contemporary popular culture has created a slew of stereotypical roles for girls and women to (willingly or not) play throughout their lives: The Princess, the Nymphette, the Diva, the Single Girl, the Bridezilla, the Tiger Mother, the M.I.L.F, the Cougar, and more. In this book, Ames and Burcon investigate the role of cultural texts in gender socialization at specific pre-scripted stages of a woman’s life and how that instruction compounds over time. By studying various texts (toys, magazines, blogs, tweets, television shows, Hollywood films, novels, and self-help books) they argue that popular culture exists as a type of funhouse mirror constantly distorting the real world conditions that exist for women, magnifying the gendered expectations they face. Despite the many problematic, conflicting messages women receive throughout their lives, this book also showcases the ways they are resisted, allowing women to move past the blurry reality they broadcast and toward, hopefully, gender equality.


Praise from Critics:

Melissa Ames and Sarah Burcon offer intelligent and incisive commentary on how the entirety of a woman’s life is shaped by the pop culture we consume in their groundbreaking book. From examining how young girls are taught what a girl should look and act like in movies and television to the unnecessarily imposed rigors of self-help culture to the ways pop culture distorts love and marriage, they reveal the uncomfortable truth that women are never really free from harshly prescriptive messages. – Roxane Gay, author of New York Times best-seller, Bad Feminist (2014)


In this timely and provocative book, Melissa Ames and Sarah Burcon illustrate the ways in which sexism, ageism, and restrictive gender roles continue to be sold to women of all ages via the media and popular culture. With chapters covering various phases of women’s lives, from toddlers to mature women, addressing life events such as dating, weddings, and pregnancies, the authors provide a smart and sophisticated critique which challenges readers to re-think common tropes that equality has been achieved, and instead highlights the ways in which feminism is still necessary in this supposedly post-feminist age. – Kaitlyn Mendes, author of Slutwalk (Palgrave 2015)