May 10, 2009
Today’s Meet the Press featured David Gregory’s interview with President Karzai of Afghanistan. The last question posed to Karzai was regarding the legality of marital rape under Afghani law.
It is important to watch the clip rather than read the transcript, because Gregory’s tone was nothing less than ethnocentric. Gregory clearly is questioning the democratic-ness of Afghanistan because of this law’s passing. He might as well have called Afghanistan a “so-called” democracy for having passed an anti-human rights law. Clearly, making marital rape legal is an egregious human rights violation. However, as so many Americans have been shocked! outraged! at this Afghani law as was Gregory, perhaps a history lesson is in order:
Marital rape was legal in the United States in all 50 states until 1976. Marital rape has only been illegal in all 50 states since 1993. And only 17 states make no legal distinction between marital and non-marital rape in terms of legal charges, sentencing and defensibility. And Raquel Kennedy Bergen writes in her paper, “Marital Rape: New Research and Directions”:
However, in 30 states, there are still some exemptions given to husbands from rape prosecution. In most of these 30 states, a husband is exempt when he does not have to use force because his wife is most vulnerable (e.g., she is mentally or physically impaired, unconscious, asleep, etc.) and is legally unable to consent (Bergen, 1996; Russell, 1990; NCMDR, 2005). Because of the marital contract, a wife’s consent is assumed.
This begs the question: Who are we to “primitivize” Afghanistan for legalizing a heinous act that in our own country was not fully illegal until 15 years ago? And if having no legal civil or human rights violations is the measure of whether or not one is a democracy, then for the majority of its history, the United States has not been a democracy, and perhaps still is not one.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
April 29, 2009
from the "WTF: don't facts matter anymore?" file.
March 12, 2009
Wa-Po blogger Cillizza implies Obama’s Council on Women and Girls is not for addressing gender issues
In an odd phrasing, Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza seems to imply that Obama’s call for a Council on Women and Girls, is not primarily a result of his recognition that we need policies and solutions to social problems that adequately address how they impact women and families (for whom women are still overwhelmingly responsible for the care of). In other words, Obama is forming this council out of the recognition that appropriate solutions to social problems must take both men’s and women’s experiences into consideration.
Obama has both personal — his wife and two daughters — and political reasons to make this sort of high profile move to ensure that women’s needs are being addressed by his administration.
In 2008, 53 percent of the electorate was female and Obama carried that group 56 percent to 44 percent over Arizona Sen. John McCain.
So Obama’s “personal” reasons for putting the council into place are that he has a wife and daughters. Yawn. How insulting to think that men are only concerned about women’s issues and the male-centric models of citizenship and public policy because they have daughters. I would hope that there might too be fathers of boys who are concerned about gender issues so their sons could have the socially-supported ability to be at-home dads if they choose, without their masculinity being denigrated and without threat to family finances because their female partner’s career is being stymied by gender discrimination (by pay or “mommy tracking”) or sexual harassment in the workplace.
And the “political” reasons Obama is putting this into place is…to keep the allegiance of his female voters (?). So Obama is doing this to keep women happy, not because it’s good policy?
Reading between the lines, much?
Oh and let us not forget, this council is in no way (expected to be) substantial: “Expect then more symbolic moves like the establishment of the Council to demonstrate Obama’s commitment to women and women’s issues.” Because all women voters expect are empty gestures without results. Because women usually applaud style over substance. Because women don’t want to be taken seriously, just acknowledged. Because women are above all, fans of [political] superficiality.
(I think you have us confused with lad-mag apologists.)
And I think you underestimate women as political actors who demand accountability, as well as our new President, who has demonstrated at least an understanding that there are structural barriers to success that equal rights legislation did not address.
March 4, 2009
Hi all. Obviously, I’ve only been posting here once or twice a month. I have to admit, the economy and other political/sociological issues have been occupying my time. As a result, I have been posting much more on my other blog, Speak Truth to Power, as well as the group blog I contribute to, The Reaction. So check it out! But I do plan to keep on writing about gender and sexuality, as I have been, albeit not as much as I’d like. And I have plenty in the “to write on” column! I’ve been saving posts for things I’m really passionate about or that I have the time to provide adequate and unique critique. Thanks for sticking with me!
February 1, 2009
This article in today’s Times is great…well, almost. The article discusses the interesting and creative ways that middle class single mothers are successfully forming their own families of choice, made of up other families like them, who provide each other with emotional support and companionship, outside of the heteronormative nuclear family.
Some single mothers like Fran forgo romantic and sexual relationships for extended stretches, turning to one another for the help and companionship that spouses normally provide — filling up one another’s cellphone directories, thinking through whether to get speech therapy for a child who is talking late, snapping and sharing summer photos. They are friends, and also more than friends. The trips to the Outer Banks that Fran’s group takes represent a step toward an all-female, platonic, chosen extended family.
Cool, right? Until this gem:
For a woman of means to have a baby without a husband seemed to threaten the institution of marriage and, with it, family stability. Today’s single mothers by choice often do their utmost to prove that they’re not a threat to anyone’s social order, as Rosanna Hertz, a Wellesley College sociologist, points out in her study of 65 such women, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice.” After the award ceremony, Fran didn’t talk back to her pastor. For her, being a single mom isn’t a form of rebellion. She wants to share in middle-class norms, not challenge them. To spend time with Fran and her friend Nancy is to appreciate them as a couple of anti-bohemians: two middle-aged women in high-waisted jeans and tennis shoes, sitting and talking on folding chairs while soft rock and a mix of sweat and Lysol fills the air during their daughters’ Saturday-morning gymnastics class. Read the rest of this entry »
December 9, 2008
This post is about the PC game The Witcher, which someone I know has just started playing. But this post is less about the game and more about cultural representations and assumptions about gender and sexuality. He and I had a conversation around it today, which got me thinking a lot about female sexuality, male entitlement, and homophobia in our culture. So please bear through my discussion of the game to get the “big picture” analysis.
In browsing around the internets and reading people’s discussions around gender and sexuality in the game, I very often read these reasons for why the game isn’t “that bad” vis-a-vis women and (women’s) sexuality: the sex scenes are well done (they are in fact pretty tasteful) and the women aren’t represented as all dumb bimbos (as if commodifying women’s sexuality is only sexist if the women are represented as idiots.) My friend mentioned that in reading reviews, many women said the sex in the game wasn’t “that bad.” But in the game, it’s not really the sex that’s the problem.
At first, I thought that gender and sexuality in the game wasn’t so bad, but the more I was told the more troubled I became. Originally, I thought the sex in the game was just optional, with no reward attached, and the sex scenes aren’t gratuitous or very objectifying. Point one for the game?
Well, that’s not exactly it. Read the rest of this entry »
December 4, 2008
From Funny or Die, requires no comment:
See also my previous post refuting the claim that marriage has been the same since the “dawn of time.”
November 25, 2008
I was originally pretty pleased at the Guitar Hero World Tour commercials. I liked that the first one, at least, showed a group of guys hanging out in comfy, even kinda sexy, clothing, rocking out like dorks. Typically representations of masculinity perform “boundary maintenance” (see “Fraternal Bonding”, which interestingly enough specifically talks about athletes), which is about displaying masculinity through sexism and homophobia; so often in commercials, the “cool guys” are the womanizing-objectifying type (not that the first GH didn’t have at least one of those in there), not the male bonding through semi-sexy fun type. So the initial commercial, at least, thwarted my expectation by not giving into the the sexist-homophobic construction of masculinity typically seen. The first one featured several male athletes (Plelps, A-Rod, Tony Hawk, Kobe Bryant) rocking it out in someone’s living room a la Risky Business, and several more have followed including American Idol stars David Archuleta and David Cook, High School Musical actor/singer Corbin Blue, and most recently model Heidi Klum. Except they’re not really a la Risky Business.
In Risky Business, Cruise dances around the living room in a long-sleeved button-down t-shirt, barely long enough to cover his ass, and nothing else is visible until the end when you see he has skimpy tighty whities on. In the GH commercials, the guys are dancing around in replica dress shirts and long, white boxers. Not 100% authentic, but I didn’t think anything of it because it’s a daytime commercial, and I figured they probably didn’t want it too seductive. That logic only held until I saw the Klum ad, where she wears (big surprise!) only the barely long enough dress shirt–no white shorts.
Why the discrepancy? Does this go back to the idea that sexualizing women’s bodies is acceptable for general consumption, but men’s bodies are (generally) off limits? What’s especially interesting to me here is that the original context of the parody was the sexual one–it’s not like they changed the commercial to make the one with the woman more sexual; rather they specifically desexualized the men’s commercials, and in doing so, deviated from its original context. It doesn’t bother me that they deviated; it’s that they deviated from, and desexualized, only the ones with the men.
But wait–it gets better. Because they actually did make the women’s one more sexual. The version of Klum’s commercial aired during Monday Night Football featured Klum with the button-down shirt unbuttoned, displaying black lingerie underneath. During her GH “performance”, she strips her shirt off, gyrating around, shakes her boobs while leaning back–all very stripper-like moves; again, this version is way off from the original they are supposed to be parodying. Celebrity Smack has this characterization of the commercial:
Close-ups of her ass and her boobs come next, followed by Heidi jumping down on the couch and holding the guitar between her legs as though it were a 2-foot long sex toy.
It is indeed a very sexualized commercial, Klum is turned into a quasi-porn star and the guitar seems more like a phallus than a fake guitar. This still is particularly telling:
Before anyone points out that “it’s not that bad”, the point is that for a series of commercials that are supposed to be citing a famous film scene, the ad makers go out of their way to increase the sexualization of the one commercial featuring a woman, and decrease the sexualization of the many commercials featuring a man or men. The only ad they made that is an accurate representation of the film is the “family-friendly” Klum ad. And until now, I haven’t even pointed out the 3:1 male:female ratio of the ads, nor the vocations of the genders represented (athletes and musicians: supermodel, how original!).
Let me point out, that there have been more “successful” replications of the Risky Business scene. Exhibit A: one of my favorite shows, Scrubs, had a JD fantasy sequence with the guys imitating Cruise. Now they don’t go through and dance–the fantasy is cut short–and the scene is much more goofy than sexy, but there we had 4 guys on non-cable TV early prime-time (and syndicated now during the day) with the same shirt some Cruise-like much skimpier undies. No reason GH couldn’t follow suit.
But maybe our only women’s-bodies-should-be-objectified/men-looking-at-men’s-bodies-makes-you-gay society can’t handle the swooning that would ensue if we were able to see as much of A-Rod, Phelps, and Kobe’s athletic physiques as we see of JD, Turk, Dr. Cox, and The Todd. For a game that appeals quite equally to female as well as male players, GH sure didn’t aim to give men and women equal ad time and representation.
(For other posts in this series, click here)
November 21, 2008
From the world of “top lists”:
via Yahoo!’s OMG! department, that gives me pop culture news when I’m trying to access my e-mail via the Yahoo! homepage that I’d really rather not know about, comes 2 male “hot lists” that I find rather interesting. First, People magazine name Hugh Jackman the sexiest man alive. Nothing new here: People’s “sexiest man” regularly is permitted to be and look much older than “sexiest women” are (the last 3 were Damon @ 37, Clooney @ 45, and McConaughey @ 36; Maxim’s ’08 “Hot 100” #1 is 30, and the last 3 were 21, 31, and 30).
No, what I found interesting was the accompanying pictorial on the sexiest fathers in Hollywood.
- The photos used were shots of the fathers in action, playing with their kids. So lovely and sweet, but not quite the MILF-esque treatment given to editorials about “sexy moms.” Sidenote: I do think that “sexy parent” editorials are horrible: I’d rather read about good parents period, sexy or not. To me, that makes as much logical sense as having a pictorial about the best brunette parents–hair color has about as much to do with being a parent as being sexy does. But if they’re going to have the them at all, they should focus both kinds of editorials on their parenting creds (since all it takes is a personal trainer, a stylist, and a decent photographer to be sexy in Hollywood). But even still, if they’re going to take the MILF angle (ugh, I shudder each time I even type that), can we at least evaluate the dads and the moms in the same sexified manner? FILFs, anyone?
- It seems that what counts as being a sexy mother is having the expendable time, money, and energy to put the work into getting your body back to a pre-pregnancy state, tasks that become so much easier with hired help–nannies, personal trainers, stylists, makeup artists, post-pregnancy photo shoots with favorable lighting, etc. But what counts for being a sexy dad is in spending time with your kids, which I suppose is either an expected given for mothers or is irrelevant to their sexiness. Hmmm…women judged on how they look, men judged on what they do…where have I heard that before??
So the second thing I saw was again from OMG! breaking news about the 25 Hottest Hunks in Hollywood. Again, we see the age discrepancy here, with is nothing new to celebrity men’s and women’s hot and sexy status. Looking at the photos, I just want to know: why do they have so much clothes on? How can we call them “hot” when men’s clothing gives us little indication of what’s underneath? There seems to not be enough information to evaluate these men by…. yes, I’m joking but also not. I’d say, if we saw a Hot list of women with so much clothing on, I think there’d be rioting in the streets.
November 17, 2008
There was an article today in the New York Times about the recent end to Playgirl magazine. Recently it’s publisher cancelled the magazine’s distribution. I pulled out a few things from the article that I felt were very telling:*
So [in trying to rebrand Playgirl after the emphasis on gay imagery by previous ownership and editors] she and her fellow editors, all women in their 20s and all relative neophytes to the world of magazines — and pornography — resolved to fill Playgirl with something different. They aspired to bring Playgirl back to its roots, back to a time when the magazine covered issues like abortion and equal rights, interspersing sexy shots of men with work from writers like Raymond Carverand Joyce Carol Oates.
All the while, the editors juggled the demands of the publisher, Blue Horizon Media, which they said pushed to fill Playgirl with even more nudes and fewer words.
“I’m not a publishing expert, but it seems to me like it would be impossible to sustain a magazine on the quantity of ads Playgirl sold,” Ms. Collins said.
Although the Playgirl Web site is still running, the graphic content is geared more toward gay men. None of the magazine’s editors are involved.
Ms. Caldwell [one of only 3 editors] said Playgirl magazine suffered from the twin malaises of rising costs and declining sales.
Playgirl was started 35 years ago as a feminist response to Playboy and Penthouse. (Playboy sued Playgirl in 1973 for trademark infringement; the suit was settled amicably.) Over the years, the magazine changed ownership, began catering more to gay men, and whittled its operations down. Still, the magazine drew an avid readership, Ms. Caldwell said, selling 600,000 copies per issue in more than three dozen countries.
“For better or worse, this was a real blow for feminism. We were the only magazine that offered naked men to women.”
In the end, Playgirl was run by a skeleton crew of these three editors, along with what Ms. Caldwell described as “a whole horde of eager unpaid interns.”
The magazine had no marketing or public relations budget, so its editors sought to revive the Playgirl brand themselves, throwing parties at a Lower East Side bar. After Blue Horizon denied a request to finance a blog, Ms. Collins built one herself, starting it on WordPress, a free platform.
Their efforts, the women said, got virtually no support; indeed, their higher-ups, all of them men, usually resisted their push to give the magazine editorial heft.
Early in 2008, warning signs surfaced. While newsstands sales were up, Ms. Caldwell said, so were production costs.
The magazine’s editors said they were never told why the magazine was shut down. But, they said, they were always struck by the paucity of ads.
I quote these segments, because I can see the writing on the wall: Read the rest of this entry »
November 15, 2008
I’ve had several pieces I have wanted to write that don’t really fit on this blog, with its theme of gender and sexuality and cultural production. A few of them have been my last few posts. So I started a new blog. It’s called Speak Truth to Power, and it will have pieces that are more socially and politically minded, with a focus on institutional inequality. After my Master’s Thesis, which as I’ve written before, was a theory-focused, cross-institutional analysis of marriage in the United States, and now teaching Sociology has reawakened the social theorist and critic in me. So alas, a new blog for lindabeth. My goal is for weekly posting on each, although with all the prep work for my classes done after this term is over, hopefully next term I’ll be able to write several times each week.
November 11, 2008
November 10, 2008
So I’m still on a little of an election, kick. I promise I’ll get back to more gender-y stuff soon ;-)
I am thoroughly confused about the media arguing that the election of Obama does not mean Americans want liberal policies or that Obama should pursue them. Say what?
via Media Matters:
Then there’s CNN’s John King Wednesday night. Just try to follow his logic:
KING: Without a doubt, the electorate voted for Barack Obama, but still perceives him to be a liberal. And one thing you don’t want to do when you win an election like this, a sweeping election like this, is alienate the people here in a place like Cincinnati. Why? George W. Bush carried that county four years ago. You don’t want to drive them away.
So, Barack Obama is making inroads in communities that not too long ago voted Republican. The last thing you want to do if you want to keep them four years from now is to alienate them with a liberal agenda.
Right…people voted for Obama, but don’t really believe in his platform. They perceive him to be a liberal, but don’t actually want liberalism? Communities who previously have believed in conservative politics voting for a liberal politician could possibly have changed their minds about what direction we need to take, could they? Especially since the last 8 years have been sooo successful! And you wouldn’t want to alienate them by enacting the changes you said you would make. Is this even any sort of logic?
Don’t forget, after Bush’s 2.5% victory spread in 2004, he claimed (indeed, he insisted) he had earned political capital and that he was going to spend it. After Obama’s 6 point win, it’s rather audacious it to suggest that Americans do not support liberal politics, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been suggesting:
Saying over and over that we are a “center-right” nation will not make it so.
And if Obama’s administration is successful, perhaps “liberal” and “progressive” can change from being dirty words and as labels that politicians don’t want to embrace.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
November 5, 2008
Since my master’s thesis was on marriage, normative gender roles, and the production of heteronormativity, I very much enjoyed Jon Stewart’s November 3rd commentary on Proposition 8 opponents (even though my own marriage politics is of the Beyond Marriage flavor).
He comedically points out that while those who are against the legalization of same-sex marriage rely on the definition of “traditional marriage” and the way it has “always been,” their arguments, if nothing else, are short term at best.
With traditional marriage, women were property exchanged between their father and their husband, often for the sake of political power, transferring wealth, and keeping the peace. And as Stephanie Coontz points out in her book Marriage: A History, the idea of marrying for love is a fairly recent phenomenon…perhaps less than 100 years old! Love and sexual faithfulness were less important feature of marriages than were the political and economic interests that were advanced by the union. “Marriages of convenience,” at many times, were actually quite normative at some times.
The bottom line is that there is no “traditional marriage” or marriage “norm” that we can either continue with or change. The fact is, that marriage ideals have always changed with societal changes, and often with changes in technology. Marriage’s definition has always been a social construction, and has always been related to political, social, economic, gender, and racial power. Stewart’s piece demonstrates this basic, yet unacknowledged fact:
Even more, just like there is so “natural” definition and understanding of marriage–that it is a human construction that can be defined differently, the way we have organized societal obligations along the lines of marriage is also a construction, and so can be constructed differently. That we take the married family to be the social unit upon which our social assumptions are made is something that needs it change; it does not reflect the interests and realities of many Americans’ lives and their desired choices today. We have to stop foreclosing ways to organize one’s economic, reproductive, and sexual needs, as well as the way we wish to form relationships commitment other than heterosexual marriage. Just like heterosexual marriage is not what is always has been defined as, social organization does not have to be what it always has been. We can be creative in the way we organize our lives to meet our needs, if we can only decenter marriage as the central, normative, ideal set of living arrangements.