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Lessons in Liberation: Schooling Girls in Feminism and Femininity in 1970s ABC Afterschool Specials

Kirsten Pike

Keywords: AFTER-SCHOOL SPECIALS; FEMININITY; FEMINISM; POPULAR CULTURE; TELEVISION; TOMBOYS

Abstract

Although representations of second-wave feminism in adult-oriented TV shows have received considerable scholarly attention, little has been written about feminist representations in 1970s television programs aimed at girls. To help address this gap, this article explores how ABC Afterschool Specials circulated ideas about feminism and femininity to young viewers. A close analysis of several episodes featuring tomboys demonstrates how Specials targeted girls through images of female progress and independence while simultaneously cautioning them about the dangers of women's liberation. Connecting the series' trend toward taming tomboys to the backlash against the women's and gay liberation movements, the analysis ultimately reveals textual patterns that convey both excitement and anxiety about the rising power of women and girls.

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