We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Where the Aunts Are

Family, Feminism, and Kinship in Popular Culture

Patricia J. Sotirin

Publication Year: 2013

While the aunt is one of the most iconic and beloved figures in popular culture, the societal role and importance of real-life contemporary aunts are difficult to pin down. In some settings, she is the sole supporter, caregiver, or surrogate mother and exceeds her familial function as an aunt. In others, she subtly—or not so subtly—transgresses the assumed narrative of feminine identity. Surveying characters from Aunt Bee and Auntie Em to Bernie Mac's Aunt Wanda and House of Payne's Aunt Ella and countless living, breathing aunts across the country, Where the Aunts Are re-visions the ideals of family, femininity, and kinship and, in the process, offers a hopeful and progressive recognition of the multiple possibilities of womanhood in modern culture.

Published by: Baylor University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (6.0 MB)
pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.4 KB)
pp. 3-6


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.0 KB)
pp. vii-8

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (52.6 KB)
pp. ix-x

The authors extend their heartfelt thanks—as always—to our feminist colleagues in the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender (http://www.osclg.org) for their tremendous encouragement...

read more

Introduction: What’s Up with Aunts?

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.8 KB)
pp. 1-13

The aunt is a familiar, often well-loved, and sometimes notorious character in popular narratives about family, femininity, and kinship: maternal Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show, matriarchal Aunt Vivian from...

read more

1. (Not) Like a Mother: Black and White Maternal Aunts

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.1 KB)
pp. 15-36

“My aunt is like a mother to me.” In this chapter, we explore this commonplace analogy between the aunt and the mother. Both real-world descriptions and popular culture depictions promote this analogy between the aunt...

read more

2. “Othered” Aunting: Race, Class, and Institutionalized Misogyny

pdf iconDownload PDF (158.7 KB)
pp. 37-57

The legacy of the mammy aunt in the United States is troubling and persistent.1 Although thought of as part of the history of the pre–Civil War American South, the black mammy figure maintains a tenacious hold on current cultural...

read more

3. Like a (Bad) Mother: Neotraditional and Malevolent Aunts

pdf iconDownload PDF (117.2 KB)
pp. 59-74

Aunt figures are surprisingly prevalent in contemporary popular culture aimed at women—the so-called chick genres of film, television, and popular fiction, typically involving romantic heterosexual and maternal fantasies. We contend that...

read more

4. Wisdom and Witchcraft: Magical Aunts and Nieces

pdf iconDownload PDF (162.6 KB)
pp. 75-95

Among the most intriguing of the popular aunt figures are those whose explicit identities are as powerful benevolent witches who share feminine knowledge—both magical and mundane—with their niece(s). Witch aunts are featured in a wide variety of popular texts...

read more

5. Eccentric Aunts: Sanity, Sexuality, and Spectacle

pdf iconDownload PDF (149.1 KB)
pp. 97-114

Unruly, disorderly, hysterical, eccentric images of women reveal longstanding Western cultural fears and fascinations with transgressions of the feminine and the female.1 Feminist theory has celebrated the transformative potential of the feminine...

read more

6. Commodifying the Aunt

pdf iconDownload PDF (123.7 KB)
pp. 115-131

A surprising number of businesses identify their products and services— from pretzels to pet-walking—with the aunt, most explicitly by using that kinship title in the company name. A quick Web search for “aunt” will turn...

read more

Conclusion: The Impact of Aunts

pdf iconDownload PDF (143.5 KB)
pp. 133-151

Our feminist re-visioning of aunts in popular culture situates the aunt as a rallying point for progressive feminist issues and as a site of struggle over our collective sense of what women, femininity, family, kinship, and social life...

Appendix I: Aunt Websites

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.6 KB)
pp. 153-158

Appendix II: Popular Sources

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.5 KB)
pp. 159-163


pdf iconDownload PDF (163.9 KB)
pp. 165-208


pdf iconDownload PDF (111.7 KB)
pp. 209-236


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.5 KB)
pp. 237-244

E-ISBN-13: 9781602586666
E-ISBN-10: 1602586667
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602583306
Print-ISBN-10: 1602583307

Page Count: 252
Illustrations: 5
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1