"Roseanne" Unruly Women as Domestic Goddess

on Wednesday, 18 May 2011. Posted in Student Notes

Notes Prepared by Matt Reed

Synopsis:  In Kathleen K. Rowe's article "Roseanne" Unruly Women as Domestic Goddess" she describes a  moving of unruly women from a contained subject to a positive image of a "domestic goddess". She also examines a conflict brought up within the show Roseanne, which is a conflict between female unruliness vs. the ideology of true womanhood.   Roseanne goes against the idea, and image of the perfect domestic lady, in her appearance and her more masculine role in the household. "How our pleasure in Rosanne's show arises, not so much from narrative suspense about her actions as hero, nor from her one liners, but from the economy or wit by which the show brings together two discourses on family life... one based in tradition. The other on feminism and social class."  She also quotes Patricia Mellencamp that "Roseanne ventures farther than her comic foremothers into the masculine terrain of tendentious joke." That through her comedy, although it's funny is also bringing up real issues.  "Roseanne uses a 'semiotics of the unruly' to expose the gap she sees between the ideals of the new left and the women's movement of the late sixties and early seventies on one hand, and the realities of the working class family life two decades later on the other." There a lot of topics at play here and a combining of the old and new.

She also quotes Patricia Mellencamp that "Roseanne ventures farther than her comic foremothers into the masculine terrain of tendentious joke." That through her comedy, although it's funny is also bringing up real issues.
"Roseanne uses a 'semiotics of the unruly' to expose the gap she sees between the ideals of the new left and the women's movement of the late sixties and early seventies on one hand, and the realities of the working class family life two decades later on the other." There a lot of topics at play here and a combining of the old and new.

The article also talks about an ambivalence with the character and the show Roseanne. "Because female unruliness carries a strong ambivalent charge, Roseanne's use of it, both intensifies and undermines her popularity." Roseanne plays many roles, as domestic goddess, wife, mother that have a mixture and ideologies working within theses roles. For example "A fat women who is also sexual; a sloppy housewife who's a good mother; a loose women who is tidy, who hates matrimony but loves her husband, who hates the ideology of 'true womanhood' yet considers herself a domestic goddess."
The article also goes on to mention that "the unruly women is often associated with sexual inversion. The women on top." and that it's "not confusion about gender but has a larger social and political meaning."
Rowe also quotes an article called "Fat Texts" by Patricia Parker. She says that for women excess fatness carries associations with excess willfulness, and excess speech. " Through body and speech, the unruly women violates the unspoken feminine sanctions against 'making a spectacle of herself'." That she's going against tradition and creating this appearance that instead of this passive domestic housewife you have a domestic goddess, that might still be domestic but carries more power and authority. She is going against conventional gender representations that are too sexualized or not sexualized enough and in doing so, she blurs many of the boundaries defined by domesticity, society and femininity and the powers that are associated with those.
The article also explains how this brings up two problems that feminist studies try to tackle and engage with. One is the construction of cultural norms of femininity and the other is our understanding of how we are constructed as gendered subjects in the language of spectacle. Rowe goes on to quote Mary Russo and explains that Russo suggests that through the use of comic conventions surrounding here, they provide a space to act out dilemmas of femininity and "to make visible and laughable".
Rowe lastly describes and analyzes a scene in Roseanne where she has a dream where many many of the pressures on domestic goddesses are represented and the ending premise or result is showing how the myth of the perfect domestic women cannot exist in real life and that many more complex ideas and juxtaposition of those ideas exist in reality, but also offers a conflict between this female unruliness and the ideology of the perfect self sacrificing wife and mother.
Terms:
Semiotics of the unruly- signs of the disobedient" Roseanne uses a 'semiotics of the unruly' to expose the gap she sees  between the ideals of the new left and the women's movement of the late sixties and early seventies on one hand, and the realities of the working class family life two decades later on the other."
Female Unruliness- independent thinking women, not letting the patriarchy define them. (example Roseanne) In opposition with the ideology of the self sacrificing wife and mother.
Sexual Inversion- The women on top." and that it's "not confusion about gender but has a larger social and political meaning."
Domestic Goddess- The domestic women who has the authority and power of a goddess in domestic world and other related areas.
Questions?

- According to the article describe how Roseanne's ambivalence towards being a domestic goddess is played out in the show?
-How are cultural norms of domestic women represented? and in which ways does Roseanne counter and go against these norms?

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