Conflicts of Race, Class and Gender Under the Hidden Patriarchal System on Dance Moms

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Dance Moms, in its fourth season on Lifetime, a channel whose main demographic is women, featuring dance studio owner/dance teacher Abby Lee Miller, is the flagship “maternal television” program to be examined in this paper. Abby is famous for the pyramid, a system in which she ranks her favorite dance students (top of the pyramid) and least favorite (bottom) directly in front of the students and their mothers. These three groups of females, particularly the mothers and Abby, are in constant negotiation with another as they fight for a place at top of the pyramid and this paper theorizes the techniques and reasons for their power negotiations.
Employing the method of content analysis, I examine the important exchange of power between the female groups and answer the question, “How do these females negotiate power and manage conflict?” The content analysis revealed three ways the mothers tried (usually unsuccessfully) to negotiate power with Abby: claiming motherhood, accentuating their gender, and using money. The first two of these ways relate to gender and the second relates to class both of which I theorize in depth.
Both an empirical approach and feminist approach have been applied to this paper. A feminist approach was vital in understanding the various feminist discourses on the program for each woman speaks a different feminist language causing a clash within what is actually a patriarchal system all the mothers are working under. This is important since historically in media, men have been the ones to have power and women are portrayed as subservient. However, men are absent from Dance Moms and women reign…or so it seems. I argue that childless Abby, while female, is representati...

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