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Samantha Stephens as the Third-World feminist other: border theory and Bewitched


In this thesis I argue, using Samantha Stephens from the television show, Bewitched, as an example, that Third-World feminism can be expanded beyond identifications of ethnicity only in terms of physical appearance, in order to speak to experiences by women who are oppressed by dominant society in ways that are not easily recognizable. Bewitched presents a narrative of a Third-World oppressed experience, as defined by Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands, Sonia Saldivar-Hull's Feminism on the Border and the collective "radical women of color" in This Bridge Called my Back. Samantha's experience as shown through this narrative is not a typical experience of oppression because her ethnicity is portrayed through the fictional idea of Samantha being a witch. The show very clearly defines Samantha's identity as a witch as a cultural and ethnic difference, which is different and opposite from the dominant mortal culture. Samantha's narrative relies on the conflict that is created when Samantha marries Darrin, a mortal. Several episodes set up Samantha's identity as a witch as an ethnicity that is oppressed by mortals, and most of these episodes rely on Darrin's experiences with Samantha's mother, Endora. Endora and Darrin's interactions set up an "us vs. them" dynamic through the show, which parallels experiences of oppression in This Bridge Called my Back, which represents a collection of women who experience oppression in many different ways, because of their different identifiers, but who seek to understand each other and reach a common goal of equality. Samantha's experiences as a witch who must exist in a mortal world when she gets married, makes her narrative parallel with the ideas expressed in Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands, because of Samantha's place living among two liminal spaces. This relates specifically to Anzaldua's experiences expressed through her book living on the physical Borderlands in Southwest Texas, which further leads to a psychological border set up to distinguish and categorize places that are "safe and unsafe." Samantha's experiences are further complicated as she must face further oppression because of her place in a gender role as a 1960's middle-class housewife. Samantha's feminist struggles are comparable to Saldivar-Hull's Feminism on the Border because her theory speaks to a complicated identity as a female and a Chicana. And finally, I make the argument that through this analysis of Samantha Stephens' Third-World Feminist struggles in Bewitched, we have a model in which to judge television more critically in order to reach a more fair look at disparate experiences. This look at Bewitched can also help to encourage a more authentic look at the historical past, because of its representation of the 1960s.


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