Mary Douglas Vavrus
This essay fuses a feminist analysis of news media with political economy and branding research to examine a case study of how a group of mothers – “Security Moms” – became branded and pressed into profitable service for the Republican Party and a “peace through strength” think tank. I argue that constructed identities like this one, which come in and out of vogue in mainstream news media, tell important stories about the media's relationship to feminism. Since the 1990s, news stories in the United States have popularized groups of women and men supposedly cohering around particular practices: “Soccer Moms” and “NASCAR Dads,” for example. Such identities not only prove to be profitable for corporations, they also politicize identities and reinforce both neoliberalism and self-surveilling governance.
Walking through a parking lot several years ago I spotted a bumper sticker that caught my eye. “Soccer Mom and Proud of It!” it exclaimed. This bumper sticker stuck out not only because I have researched the Soccer Mom identity and how it has been used by mainstream news outlets to talk about women as a swing-voting bloc (Vavrus, 2002), but also because it underscored a phenomenon this chapter addresses. That is, the woman who drove this shiny new SUV had willingly adopted a media-generated, media-circulated label for her identity, and in the process had given herself over to being part ...