Oscars 2013

The Oscars just recently took place, although I did not watch it, numerous amounts of my friends were telling me how Seth McFarlane, the host of the Oscars 2013 was being very sexist. Even though this is not a new thing to happen in Hollywood, I was surprised to hear such crude and cheap remarks made about women at an award show tendered to promote great films.

 

Seth McFarlane opens the show with a monologue called “We saw your boobs” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saHG2MLDfPI). This song consisted of him singing about the various actresses who displayed their breasts in films followed by a chorus: “We saw your boobs, in that movie that we saw, we saw your boobs!” Later on he starts listing off specific movies in which the actresses were topless. Some of the actresses were present at the Oscars and their reactions to the monologues were shown. One of the actresses covers her face in a shameful manner, which to me did not seem very funny at all.

 

Later in the monologue, Seth made the remark “we haven’t seen Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs at all.” Although nudity of women is so common in films of today, there is still a double standard when it comes down to it. Near the end of the monologue Seth points out that Kate Winslet has been in numerous topless scenes. He portrays her as being scandalous by saying that she’s probably nude in whatever movie she’s filming right now.

 

Scarlett Johansson is also brought up in the monologue, saying “we saw her boobs not on the big screen, but on our mobile phones”. As soon as I heard this reference I couldn’t help but think about the women who are blackmailed into suicide by naked pictures being threatened to be leaked on the Internet. This is a very popular issue in India, people taking pictures on their cellphone while girls are showering or changing then blackmailing these females into having sex. This is not something that should be made fun of and should not be taken lightly.

 

Furthermore, as the night goes on McFarlane consistently makes remarks about women almost portraying them as objects.  He has made outrageous comments and is targeting almost all the women that were at the award ceremony. As mentioned above, Hollywood is known for objectifying women but this has got to change. Humor is often used to undermine women and portray them as sexual objects. There are many other ways to enlighten a crowd but Seth McFarlane took it to another level by using very derogatory comments towards the women. Showcasing women’s bodies has always been a problem in Hollywood. From smash hits like James bond it has been clear for decades that women in Hollywood are encouraged and even pressured to lose more and more weight in order to be considered at the top of their profession. Women are usually never judged on their performances in movies but their aesthetic appeal. Paparazzi and media as a whole spend remarkable amounts of time and money talking about how the actresses are dressed and the “do’s and don’ts of the red carpet” rather than focusing on their talent, which ultimately creates the actresses image.

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The Boys Club

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From childhood, there is a seemingly natural divide between girls and boys. Yes, this has to do with the “cooties” phase, but this is also the root of the perpetual patriarchal society that we have today.

 

From the playground, there are formations of groups that separate girls from boys. The “girls only” clubs usually involve gossip and birthday party planning. The “boys clubs” however, also taken by personal experience, involve fort building, teasing, and rejection of all things “girly”.  The “boys clubs” ran the playground, and claimed territories that belonged to them. If a girl was to trespass, they were teased, and even sometimes physically forced away one way or another. This resulted in a hierarchy on the playground. Not only was there the obvious drama within the “girls clubs”, but also the “boys clubs” were on top and a force to be reckoned with.

 

The saying “power in numbers” is very true, however this power that is generated can be used for good and bad outcomes. This power does not come from individuals; it is a result of people feeding off of each other for support that works as a catalyst. It is a realization at a young age, and used throughout adulthood. When this power is abused, and gains so much force behind it due to the people who have fueled it, it can have a very deteriorating effect on those holding the power, as well as those who are the victims.

 

Anita Sarkeesian is an example of a woman who was harassed as the result of what a grown up “boys club” would resemble, or what she called a “cyber mob”.  She created a project called Feminist Frequency to demonstrate and deconstruct the portrayal of women in video games. Most female characters are over sexualized and poorly represented in video games, which is also common with media in general. This project was completely criticized by men who were avid gamers and tried to put an end to her “feminist schemes” by harassing her with threats of rape, violence, sexual assault and death. The perpetrators who have labeled video games as a male dominated space targeted her gender. This “boys club” was fueled by the support of  other men on message boards , where they displayed their contribution to the harassment towards Sarkeesian for approval. Similarly to on the playground, this cyber “boys club” considered this harassment a game, which it most definitely was not.

 

Anna Sarkeesian did not let the efforts of the “boys club” silence her, and is currently continuing her efforts to deteriorate the portrayal of women in video games around the world. She has created a class curriculum that educators can use to help educate young children. She believes that there can be a cultural shift that will allow women to be active participants in our world, and not be silenced or dominated by men.

 

Although she failed to be silenced, do you think Sarkeesian’s project will continue to create uproar by avid gamers?

Do you think that women should be portrayed differently in video games?

Do your find it alarming that male gamers today have such a problem with changing the portrayal of women in video games? Why do you think that this over sexualized image is so worth keeping?

Do you feel as if we are living in a male dominated society? Is it changing?

 

Link to TEDx Women 2012 talk by Anita Sarkeesian (Also seen in GNDS 125 class) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player%20_embedded&v=GZAxwsg9J9Q#

Problems in Today’s Mass Media

I want to talk about the topic that we discussed in this week’s lecture, the problems of the mass media. I chose this topic because the advertisements are gone too far. Women are portrayed as objects, it is gender-based, and it provides the misconceptions to many audiences, especially to those young girls.

Most of the advertisements, that we are exposed to, include the concepts of gender. Women are supposed to be skinny and show weakness. The media is telling young girls to look like the picture of the model below. This is ridiculous. They are telling them “if you want to be beautiful, you have to look like this”. Many girls fall for the deception of the media. It is really sad that many girls want to look like this model. She is not the standard beauty of women. She is too skinny. In reality, no one looks like that.

Also, in many of the advertisements, girls are treated like objects. I get very furious at the idea of women treated lower than the products that the companies want to sell. It is unacceptable because women, and even men, are fighting for the equality for both men and women and those advertisements are not very helpful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_jIj4UWuRg. This is the beer commercial where women were treated like a table for three men. We have seen this video in our tutorial. When I first saw this video, it was very shocking and I could not believe it. It looked like men were caring more about the beer than the woman who was acting as a table. This commercial showed the loss of humanity of the woman in the commercial.

Unlike women in most of the commercials, men are shown to be tough and strong. In ads and commercials, they show dignity. It seems like they have the authority over women and able to control them.

Like this male model, most of the guy models wear fancy clothes and shows dignity in most of the ads. It can be compared the female model that I posted earlier.

I think the idea of revealing women’s bodies in ads and commercials should change because women’s bodies should be treated with dignity and they are not objects for men to enjoy. I also want the “real” women’s bodies to show up on magazines and ads for many girls to feel confident about themselves. The good news is that many changes have been made and it is getting bettersuper-skinny-super-model Danny-Schwarz-for-Ralph-Lauren-Black-Label-MaleModelSceneNet-00

The Normalization of Degradation

I would like to focus my first post on a brief but intriguing (and disturbing) reading from week two of this term’s Gender, Race, and Popular Culture course called We Are What We Watch by Susan J. Douglas.

Douglas begins her article with an examination of popular North American reality television shows, stating that fear and public humiliation are used as agents for the success and popularity of shows such as Extreme Makeover, Fear Factor, The Swan, The Apprentice, Are You Hot?, and American Idol; that viewers are meant to partake in an unthinking and mindless enjoyment of these shows without seeing any flaws to their approaches. Most people who participate in contemporary North American culture have an idea as to where fear and humiliation is derived for those featured in reality TV shows. “In the early episodes of American Idol […] we were invited to laugh at those pathetic tone-deaf pop star wannabes,” and in Fear Factor and The Apprentice, “perpetuating degradation and terror is the premise” (Pearson Learning Solutions 2). People’s appearances are dissected by judges.

Take Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent, for example.   Much like American IdolAmerica’s Got Talent, and Canada’s Got Talent, this show has a tendency to scrutinize contestants’ physical appearance before allowing them the chance to demonstrate their talents, and humiliation was anticipated with her performance. Scrutinization begins when she enters the stage, evident in Simon Cowell’s tone, a cat call from the audience following the first signs of nervousness, and laughter from the audience at the discovery of her age. It is clear that not much is expected from Susan at this point. But within seconds of beginning the song, countless audience members stand to cheer, and the judges appear to be pleasantly surprised by her abilities. Near the end of the video, one of the show’s hosts remarks, “You didn’t expect that, did you? Did you? No.”

As Douglas points out, “humiliation [has become common] in what passes for daily entertainment” (Pearson Learning Solutions 2).

Following this introduction, she then compares the mentioned reality shows to the horrors of Abu Ghraib – a prison in Iraq that gained notoriety during the Iraq war due to “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” and human rights violations initiated by the U.S. army, including “[b]reaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee” (M. Hersh). Douglas is adamant that reality television did not necessarily cause what happened at Abu Ghraib, but “she argues that it help[s] create an environment in which something like Abu Ghraib could be such a media sensation,” (Pearson Learning Solutions 1) focusing specifically on the misconduct of Lynndie England.

This photo shows Lynndie England with a naked prisoner at the end of a leash. More offensive images can be found online.

This photo shows Lynndie England with a naked prisoner at the end of a leash. More offensive images can be found online.

In her writing, Douglas seems concerned primarily with the idea that Lynndie England’s actions have caused negative repercussions for women and feminism, explaining that “both reality television and the cultural conversations about Abu Ghraib are rife with anti-feminism” (Pearson Learning Solutions 1). My understanding is that she believes England’s actions during her time at the prison were detrimental in the sense that they advanced anti-feminism through the criticism and discussion that followed her actions; that she may have given women in the military a bad reputation with “‘no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show'” (Pearson Learning Solutions 3). According to Douglas, “Linda Chavez suggested that the presence of women in the military ‘encouraged more misbehaviour’ in the prison,” and “George Neumayr of the American Spectator summed it up this way: ‘The image of that female guard, smoking away as she joins gleefully in the disgraceful melee like one of the guys, is a cultural outgrowth of a feminist culture which encourages female barbarianism'” (Pearson Learning Solutions 3).

In an article from Marie Claire (http://www.marieclaire.com/world-reports/news/lynndie-england-1), author Tara McKelvey has  a more empathetic approach towards Lynndie England’s story. Personally I feel that criticism against Lynndie England was justified in the sense that her actions were immoral, but not justified in the sense that Chavez, Neumayr, and others seemed to target England specifically for being female. Why should her actions be treated any differently than the actions of participating males?

With regards to reality television, Douglas believes that it is anti-feminist because it perpetuates the “ideal” image of femininity, “keep[ing] women in their place and encourag[ing] a retreat from citizenship and world affairs into consumerism and the domestic sphere” due to its “obsession with women’s appearance, sexuality, [and] ability to please men” (Pearson Learning Solutions 3), among other things.

Susan Douglas concludes her article with the following: “In these shows, the inevitability of female narcissism is rendered utterly natural, almost genetically determined. But so is a culture of surveillance, voyeurism, and demeaning exposure. Post-feminism – the insistence that deep in their hearts women really want a return to 1957 – is thus deployed in the service of a culture of humiliation. People may dismiss reality TV as mindless. But when they simultaneously naturalize misogyny at home and shamelessness abroad, we need to take a pretty hard look at what our society finds entertaining- and why” (Pearson Learning Solutions 3).

Douglas brings light to a parallel between popular culture and the realities of the world that is often overlooked or unrecognized. Complacency in a culture of humiliation is an example of how pop culture can have adverse effects on people’s actions. It’s important to consider pop culture when thinking about news events because pop culture is a reflection of the way that people think and vice versa; it can also have an affect on the way that people think.

In the interest of creating discussion: Do you think that media affects the outcome of a culture, or that culture affects what is presented in the media? (Media → culture, or culture → media?) Is one more prominent than the other? Given the complacency in humiliation and harm that is created through popular culture, is Lynndie England at fault for her actions? What do you think?

I’d like to finish on a positive note by quoting Anita Sarkeesian from the Youtube series Feminist Frequency: “There’s often a lot of hostility towards watching TV, like it’s this big, bad, horrible thing that’s gonna warp our brains. But I don’t think that’s true. […] I think it’s important to critically engage with [media] because it’s a reflection of our society” (Sarkeesian).

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Finally, a female protagonist who “wears the pants!”

The term “Hegemony” refers to the dominance of one group of people has over others. For example, the wealthy class might have hegemony over the middle and poor class due to their ability to use money to influence aspects of society. Hegemonic masculinity is another aspect of hegemony that involves the segregation of and demotion of women from man. Although hegemonic masculinity can be seen everywhere in media and society today, one show stands to eliminate this view. The show Suits follows a college drop out, Mike Ross, who accidentally lands a job with one of New York’s best lawyers, Harvey Spector, this show illustrates their struggles trying to win cases and the friction within the firm itself. The Boss of this firm is a character named Jessica Pearson, who is a woman and is a racial minority. Her character displays reverse hegemonic roles and inverse gender roles. Usually in media, hegemony is shown in white males over other people but in this show, Jessica is shown to have masculine characteristics usually associated with the gender roles of males. Some of the characteristics she shows are: courage, inner direction and considerable amounts of toughness in mind and body, which are usually associated with males. Furthermore, suits dispels preconceived ideas of man and women. Although we see the idealistic male gender roles in Harvey Spector, he is more or less controlled by Jessica Pearson and the character shows that she “wears the pants” in the firm by taking charge and controlling the actions of the people that work under her. An example of reverse hegemonic and gender roles can be seen in the interaction of Jessica Pearson with another character from the show, “I put you out once. When I beat you this time, they’re going to have to peel you off the wall.” This quote shows a sense of aggression, courage and strength, which is usually portrayed in male characters but never female characters. Furthermore, females are often depicted as passive, not making their own decisions and beautiful. When they do make a decision or manage to convey an opinion in media, the decision is usually portrayed as a bad decision and leads to destruction. This is not the case with Jessica in suits because the characters’ decisions are shown to be wise, tactical and of a true leader. Furthermore, when one of the co-stars makes a mistake she is the one to clean it up and make it right; this is not what is usually depicted in popular culture. In popular culture we are shown that once the female makes a mistake the hero or male comes sweeping down to save her and fix the problem.

 

Additionally, the character Jessica Pearson is a black female, which breaks racial roles as well. In media today, not many minorities are displayed as the “boss”. Thus, media today portrays the ideal boss or hegemonic character as being white and male. Therefore, a black female being the boss is completely opposite to the views of today’s society. In addition, a study done on movies showed that “Black women are shown as being violent in movies 56% of the time compared to the 11% of white women.” (http://voices.yahoo.com/racial-stereotypes-media-38872.html?cat=9) This shows that minorities are depicted as having animal like qualities and are vulgar human beings. Which is certainly not true but is how media today displays the non-idealistic characters, meaning not being a white male or female.

 

In conclusion, do you think that as society matures and learns to incorporate more realistic images of races that gender roles will be exterminated? Do you think the male-female complex (hegemonic masculinity) will ever change and if so how? 

Dare To Defend The Usage of Sex in Advertising

“Jovan Musk Oil, introduced in 1971, was promoted with sexual entendre and descriptions of the fragrance’s sexual attraction properties. As a result, Jovane, Inc.’s revenue grew from $1.5 million in 1971 to $77 million by 1978” (Sloan & Millman, 1979)

In a documentary, Killing Us Sofly by Jean Kilbourne, she portrays an endless collection of advertisements that utilizes sexuality in order to sell products. She argues are that “women are consistently turned into a thing – dehumanized” and that ad agencies unwarrently sexualize women for the sake of commerce.

Here are some of the examples of these advertisements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTlmho_RovY

In spite of all the negative connotations with the usage of sex in advertisements (A recent University of Wisconsin study shows that audiences view ads 10% less favorably if they use sex to sell un-sexy products) the usage on the sex is on the rise (increasing from 15% in 1983 to 27% in 2003).

In spite of the fact that this is a blog for a Gender, Sex and Popular Culture class, I still found the communicated viewpoint on the usage of sex to be a very specific one.

Having been exposed only to what I consider to be extreme ‘right-wing’ views on the usage of sex in advertising; as a business student, I felt the need to at least communicate why businesses utilizes sex and dispel some of the myths and statements commonly made against usage of sex. Before I begin I would like to restate that I am merely attempting to offer some other viewpoints on this issue. Specifically, to explain the usage of sex from a business point of view so that people can view both sides of the coin; by doing so I am not implying that I support all usage of sex in advertising. After all one of the purpose of this course is to invite student inquiry.

One thing that really bugged me from “Killing Us Softly” was when Ms. Kilbourne makes the statement that sex is only used as a selling point, that advertisement is ‘selling sex’ that it’s a cheap tactic to make greater profits.
However, I disagree and frankly found this to be a superfluous statement. To be precise, in marketing, sex is merely a tool to grab an audiences’ attention, it is not what “sells” the product. Martin Lindstrom, a branding expert conducted a seven million dollar study which found that “sex does not sell anything other than itself”. What he was referring to was that at the end of the day sex cannot make up for a bad product. What sex is good at is grabbing a consumer’s attention; it is hardwired in our brain, a primitive INSTINCT. Granted, it is used as a selling tool and it does benefit products that have a correlation with sex (ex: beauty products, alcohol, clothing) but it is NOT solely used as a selling point because the end of the day, a consumer will not continuously buy/pay more for an inferior product just because they have a “sexy ad”.

Furthermore, Ms. Kilbourne talks about the use of only extremely skinny models and models with literally unobtainable beauty. She states satirically that this is the FIRST thing that advertisers do, “surround us with the image of ideal female beauty, so we all learn how important it is for a woman to be beautiful, and exactly what it takes.”

This is truly an unfair statement to make. She communicates that it is not important for a women to be beautiful as advertisers suggest. First, I must make it clear that the ‘ideal female beauty’ used by companies is the view of the vast majority of beholders, collected from various on-site research studies and questionnaires. The significance here is that the ‘ideal female beauty’ is not something created by the advertising industry. Secondly, originating from our primitive stages, we all have an innate idea of what is attractive about women. Is it fair to blame advertisers that we have this idea? Aside from the obvious blame to our hormones;  from the concepts of sex, gender and cultural hegemony, I would say that it is fairer to place the blame on cultural hegemony and more specifically the social institutions and parenting that largely influences an individual’s perception of cultural norms at a young age. Furthermore, contrary to what Ms. Killborne stated, Matrin Lindstrom concluded from his research that “Celebrities and ‘preternaturally beautiful’ people overshadow the message and brand… they add a sense of inauthenticity to the message.” Thus, it is in the interest of businesses to stray from the ‘Barbie-girl types’ and I believe it is becoming more diverse as media becomes more globalized and niche-driven.

The sole, fundamental reason for corporations to ‘live’ is to provide value to its customers in return for payments, which are then distributed to the corporations’ stakeholders (employees, shareholders, taxes to government, etc.) A simpler way to convey my point is that the customer is always the boss; without them a business cannot exist. For that reason I believe that corporations are changing the utilization of sex. I believe that some corporations have already begun to realize that the public view on the usage of sex is changing. More specifically, corporations are starting to adapt to its consumers’ changing view on the utilization of sex in advertisement. Take Dove for example that have begun to use plus sized models in their advertisements and started the Dove Foundation, the Self-Esteem Fund and a ‘Campaign For Real Beauty’.

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Or GAP’s “GAP- BE BRIGHT- BE ONE” Ad, with two homosexual men pressed together under a shared t-shirt. They are hugging each other and facing the camera cheek-to-cheek. “BE ONE” is in large letters which emphasizes the same-sex relationship.
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How do you guys feel about this change of tactic?

Do you agree or disagree with the usage of sex in advertisement and why so?

Do you believe it is fair to blame companies for some of the problems Jane lists such as: violence against women, eating disorders in women?

The Magical World of Disney

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I am going to begin my blog with a few questions: If you asked a little girl what they wanted to be when they grew up, what would they say? How about what they wanted to be for Halloween? Or the theme for their next birthday party?

The vast majority of little girls I know would say something along the lines of “Princess!”, as I know I would have as well.

The Walt Disney industry is more than just a company, it is something that every child will inevitably be exposed too. When I was younger, I loved Disney movies. The magical stories, the pretty princesses and gorgeous dresses were something that appealed to me. The simplicity and accessibility of Disney made it very easy to enjoy.

Today, I still love Disney movies. They are a huge part of my childhood and watching them brings me back to those days. However,  after being in Gender Studies 125 , I have been exposed to the numerous subliminal messages that Disney is sending out to their audience, and how it is affecting our perception of gender, race and pop culture.

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(Found at: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/disney-princess/images/21448208/title/hidden-messages-photo)

 

Above is a picture that clearly demonstrates the messages Disney is sending to its audience through the “celebrity” princesses that are idolized by many girls throughout their childhoods’ all over the world. Disney implies many gender roles that girls and boys should have, as well as other hegemonic messages such as what it means to be “feminine”. Disney also socially constructs how girls and females should be viewed and how they should act through the actions and lifestyles of the characters in their movies.

As seen in the photo above, the message associated with Snow White in the Disney movie Snow White is: “At first it may seem terrible, being so beautiful that other women get jealous enough to try to kill you. But don’t worry, once your beauty attracts a man, he’ll protect you”

This message is implying that there is a hierarchy to beauty, instead of encouraging that every girl is beautiful in their own way. There also is an association with violence, and the means that girls will go through to be the “most beautiful of them all” (as seen in the movie with the witch who tries to kill Snow White with the poison apple). Lastly, the message is implying that all you need is to be beautiful to attract a man, and nothing else matters. In reality, many other things matter and are attractive to men such as personality, knowledge, hobbies etc that don’t seem to be of great value in many Disney movies. Men are also seen as the “protectors” or the “prince charming” who will always save the damsel in distress which removes the emphasis of power and independence off women and creates the image of dependency.

Secondly, the message associated with Belle from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast is: “Appearances don’t matter, what counts in what’s in your heart. Unless you are the girl.”

In the movie Beauty and the Beast, Belle is held captive and abused in the Beasts castle, however sees through the “beast” and falls in love with him. Girls are always supposed to be graceful, skinny, and express their “femininity” in order to seem attractive, and in this movie, this is not the case for the male. In addition, the movie also involves captivity and abuse, but the princess still falls in love with him and forgives him. This sends the message to young girls that males are dominant over females, and implies where the power is held.

I found this photo very interesting, and very truthful as to what Disney is demonstrating for young children. Disney princesses, and the movies as a whole, serve as role models for children and send messages that only continue to alter and mold their perceptions of their roles as males, females, and members of society.

So, even with the subliminal messages and impact on our perception on social construction, gender, race, pop culture, gender roles and many others, it looks like Disney has built an empire that is continued to be supported by our population. With the help of the media and advertising industries, Disney has truly built a “Magical World” that is far from the real world we all live in today.

I am going to finish off with some questions for discussion: Can you imagine a world without Disney? Would you be a different person today without growing up immersed in the “Magical World of Disney”? Do you think that Disney should alter their over sexualized, feminine and unrealistic princesses into more accurate figures? Would this change be accepted by society?