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 representative of males since she always has power over the other women and does not face any of the gendered hardships the mothers face. The women’s ways of negotiating are usually related to class and gender. However, race is not to be left out and can be a factor in these negotiations since dance mom Holly is the only African-American in an all-white cast. Analyzing how, gender, class and now race, play a role in these power negotiations will demonstrate how Abby represents men and a patriarchal society which in turn reveals the nature of hurt different women sustain as a group in a male-dominated world.
The popularity of the program can be attributed to various socio economic factors. Mainly the economy plays a vital part in the popularity of reality television and Dance Moms. New technology has made cameras more mobile and allows viewers real-time glimpses of never before seen lives. Due to Dance Moms using “ordinary people” the program is also more inexpensive to produce. The popularity of talent shows such as Dancing with the Stars and a recent “tween boom” makes Dance Moms a familiar hit with females of various ages as various ages are present on the program. The behavior of the women is also due to the...