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 »
September 4, 2008
Everything I want to say about the hypocrisy around the rhetoric about Palin, and especially the Republicans’ vomit-inducing use of gender rhetoric can be summed up by this brilliant analysis by the “fake news” reporter, Jon Stewart, on the September 3, 2008 The Daily Show:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
In Canada, watch it on clip 2 here.
And in more The Daily Show-induced commentary….typically, I take the position that families and spouses/ partners are “off-limits” with regards to politics. But Stewart, in his interview with Newt Gingrich, makes an excellent point, which I think can help us forge a distinction between personal attacks on Palin’s daughter (i.e. “what an irresponsible slut!”) and dissonances between individual actions and beliefs and political positions. “The personal is political.”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
(Here in Canada)
Isn’t it sad when politicians and pundits seem to get called on their bullshit more often by “fake news” shows than the “real” ones?
August 21, 2008
As I’ve been watching the Olympics, I have had two feelings about bodies:
- How irritating it is that regardless of basically everything, women are perpetually sexualized, and often sexualized first and foremost.
- How unused to seeing exposed young, fit, male bodies (particularly in snug attire) on a regular and public basis I am. This is something hetero men are exposed to multiple times every day, and hetero women are only every four years!
I have also made these observations:
- I regularly overhear female Olympic athletes sex appeal at least in equal proportion (if not more) to their athletic skill (though it’s usually in spite of their athletic skill). Hetero men seem to be unable to comment on female athletes skill without also commenting on their physical appearance, both body and beauty. Women do comment on the attractiveness of the female athletes sometimes as well (like women are more open to doing about other women anyway, whether peers or celebrities, and regardless of sexual attraction).
- I hear much fewer comments about the appearance of the male athletes, and never from hetero men (cuz that would be gay, ya know).
August 15, 2008
Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town has a superb post about Olympic uniforms, with side by side comparisons of male and female uniforms, showing the stark differences for which there is no rational justification except that more and more women are only worthy of attention when they’re sexualized too. Now I feel like I don’t need to write one myself!
Tigtog said it before, but I’ll say it again: minute increases in performance cannot account for this difference, otherwise the men would be in skintight clothing also.
No. It’s not about faster, higher, stronger. Women in sports are promoted as sexualised bodies for ogling; men are promoted as performers.
And don’t miss this post from AfterEllen about gratuitous women’s butt shots. Another excellent side-by-side photo comparison.
Women were overwhelmingly more likely to be cropped so they were rendered faceless and in many cases totally headless. I’ve posted all these photos, un-manipulated (other than sizing) and framed as the photographer submitted them, to show how aesthetic dismemberment is commonplace when it comes to women […]
But when looking for comparable headless shots of male players I came up with only three, yes, three: two of hands and one of feet.
August 11, 2008
So the Olympics have begun, and the games are a great way to observe various gender issues and sport. For one, we see very clearly the hard-to-explain gender difference in beach volleyball attire, men in basketball-like uniforms and women in bathing suits. But in the majority of sports, event attire is similar for women and men, and according to what’s suitable for the athletic activity.
It’s also so nice to be able to watch women’s games reported in a more professional manner (although later this week I’ll try to discuss the gender difference in editorializing the athletes), focusing on their athletic and academic achievements.
But Friday’s “Creep Show” article in the NY Times, while making some valid points, was author Buzz Bissinger’s paternalistic take on young women’s athletics and seemed to reflect more his own discomfort with developing young women in the spotlight. As such, I think it speaks to some of the unease with female sexuality in-progress as well as normative ideas about what makes female bodies female. Read the rest of this entry »
July 28, 2008
Yea for The New York Times reporting on BlogHer’s annual conference.
It’s pretty pathetic that I should be so thrilled that the recent news about gender-parity in math scores was actually reported by the Times in the U.S./Education section. Yes, it’s awfully nice that the Times was actually able to put a story about females in its proper place in their paper. But actually doing their job doesn’t get them any cookies.
So, dear readers, I write letters:
Dear New York Times Editors:
Overall, I appreciate the quality of your paper and it is one of my primary sources for obtaining news. However, your history of inappropriately filing news items that involve women is obscene and, quite frankly, is unacceptable, especially for a new source of your report.
The most recent example is the coverage of the 2008 BlogHer conference, printed July 27, 2008 in the Fashion and Style section. Other articles about bloggers and blogging are printed in more substantial sections like the Technology or U.S. Politics sections. I understand that your placement often relates blogging to another topic (i.e. business, the election) but the “default” category for blogging (or any topic) women is not Fashion and Style. And since the article specifically addressed women blogging as a political act, it does not belong in the Fashion and Style section.
On July 13, 2008, you also ran the joint review of books by feminist author and blogger Jessia Valenti and journalist Kathleen Parker, which adressed contemporary gender-based political issues. It belongs in the Books section, not the Fashion and Style section.
Other female bloggers have written about your story misplacement when it comes to stories about women. May 13, 2008’s story about the lack of gender diversity in the sciences (obviously) belongs in the Science section, not the Fashion and Style section. And the list goes on.
It’s great that you’re writing about gender issues, exciting studies debunking harmful gender myths, feminist writers, and women’s activism. But putting these stories in Fashion and Style, rather than where they’d be put if they were about men, is nothing short of insulting and condescending, as if issues facing and addressed by women are somehow frivolous and irrelevent to society as a whole.
Issues and news related to women do not by default belong in the Fashion and Style section of your paper. Fashion and Style is not inherently a “female” topic and gender analyses are not periperal, light, fluffy, innocent, and inconsequential. Do not insult us and degrade us by treating women who are active in politics, do science, are participating in technology, and the like, as mere “style.”
And I encourage you all to do the same. No copyrights on my letter, either: steal away!
July 16, 2008
I was reading a post on Violet Blue’s blog (NSFW) and she mentioned that Fleshbot (Gawker’s Sex and Porn blog) was doing a series on requests for sexual material that the readers want to see. I thought “cool” and checked it out, only to disappointedly discover the series has only been of women bodies. Sure, they had redheads or small-breasted women, but considering how hard impossible it is to find decent quality free pics of het guys for het women, I would have expected some of that.
But, as I would soon find out, my expectations were based on faulty assumptions. Because curiously, the tabs at the top of the main page say “gay” and “straight.” Guess what images are in the “gay” section? Naked men. And to their credit, just glancing down the 1st few archived pages, it seems like most of them are either actually gay or at least do gay male porn. The images in the “straight” section? Glancing at the first few archived pages, all women. One het couple, that was clearly focusing on the woman’s dirty bits. And several female couples or groups.
Silly me. Why should I have expected that “reader requests” would include het men on a site where gay=male viewer and straight=male viewer, and where lesbian imagery is classified as straight, not gay, just like the malestream Adult Video Awards. If my math is right, when men are shown in the “gay” section and women are shown in the “straight” section, that means that the assumed Fleshbot viewer=male, even thought their tagline, “Since 2003: where sex, porn, and the web collide,” doesn’t specify: mostly for if you’re a dude or a chick who only likes mainstream porn made for dudes. I mean, kudos (I suppose) for having a site with both gay and straight porn; if only your definitions of gay and straight weren’t so, well, male-centered.
I’m so f-ing sick of the blatant ignorance and erasure of female desire (het or queer) when it doesn’t comply with the “liberated girls [sic] take off their clothes!” and “liberated het chicks [sic] think other chicks are hot!” bullshit. Not that those aren’t/can’t be true. But there’s much more to women’s sexuality than what appeals to het men’s sexuality. And I find the refusal to allow het guys for het women to mingle in the “straight” section with all the stuff made for men, lest the het men might get threatened, or even worse, turned on! Heaven forbid a guy might actually have to look at a sexualized man’s body, or find out he might actually admire another guy’s sexuality. Or have to deal with his female significant other looking at porn focused on or equally focused on guy parts and not just lady parts. Cuz I guess it’s hot when your het girlfriend recognizes a woman as sexy but gross! gay! if a het guy does. Oh the double standards! Oh the repressive legacy of a half-assed sexual revolution that masquerades as “liberated”!
How about this radical idea, Fleshbot? How about divide your categories by content, i.e. solo male, solo female, group male, group female, and not by subject position, then viewers of whatever gender or sexuality can decide what content suits their desires instead of you heteronormatively and sexistly (yeah, I made that word up) deciding it for them, K?
July 15, 2008
Without further editorializing on the seeming requirement that female athlete’s garb be “sexy” (save for those nasty lesbian WNBA players, snark), I read these 2 posts today:
From Hoyden About Town (AU):
A bipartisan report produced from a Senate inquiry into women’s participation in sport found that teenage girls were leaving amateur sports because of body image issues exacerbated by uniforms.
From Figleaf’s Real Adult Sex:
What is it specifically about women athletes that they need to bare, oh, maybe 25-30% more skin compared to male athletes?
People have been talking about women’s outfits at Wimbledon as if they were high couture when they’re actually… mostly *short* couture. At least compared to men at Wimbledon who all seem to wear the same basic white polo-style shirt with long-cut shorts.
Same with beach volleyball. Men manage to function in these *enormous* jams-style shorts while as of 8 seconds ago women players can’t work in anything heavier than bikinis.
Oddly women’s and women’s basketball, baseball, football, and track uniforms are all roughly equal size and length and meanwhile Men’s pole acrobatics outfits cover *much* more than do women’s.
Oh, and a 3rd…
From Uncensored Feminista:
I have such a problem with this because why do women need to prove that they’re sexy and can play? I don’t see the same thing happening for men. It’s as if they need to show their sexiness and their femininity in order to be recognized for the players that they are.
July 10, 2008
I like the multiple entendre of this title…but unfortunately this post isn’t about one of the awesome interpretations. It’s about gendered eating in recent advertising.
I’m a bit late on some of these commercials, but they go better together in one post anyways.
Unapologetically Female and Feminocracy both have great assessments of Adam Corrolla’s (yeah, of the Man Show, known for it’s sexism, which clearly makes him the ideal spokesperson for what men like) ad for Taco Bell and his insistence to “eat like a man.”
“You deserve a meal made for men.” Let’s break this down. Read the rest of this entry »
June 13, 2008
This post from Ms. Naughty (blog NSFW) got me thinking. She wrote a post about the Topfree Equal Rights Association, and their argument that it should be legal for women to bare their breasts in public since men can: that not being able to amounts to discrimination since it’s the “same” body part. Ms. Naughty quotes this bit from Topfree’s website, which struck me:
“This is a rebellion against a woman’s body being considered everywhere and always a sex object. As women we want the right for ourselves to decide when our breasts are sexual. That isn’t going to be in a swimming facility, and therefore they must not have to be covered. We want permission to bathe topfree, as men do.”
I’m really seduced by the idea of women being able to assert when our bodies are and are not sexual. This is something that has bothered me for some time, and was a large part of what I have written previously: that representations of women’s bodies are usurped and posited as sexual/sex objects despite what the woman herself desires. Women’s bodies seem to be by default sexual. They are subject to sexualization and sexual (or “beauty”) evaluation simply by existing. So I really like the theoretical argument presented here about women being able to own the sexualization of their body.
But while the argument is seductive, I’m not sure that it’s practical. Because the cultural reality is that women don’t own our sexualization. We are constantly evaluated and sexualized. We are catcalled; we are told to put clothes on. Celebrity women are subject to Hot Lists and 25 Unsexiest Women Lists. We do not exist publicly as people, but rather as women. And I don’t think that women baring their breasts publicly will radically change the way that our culture perceives women and their bodies.
I’m actually afraid it might do the opposite. Read the rest of this entry »
June 6, 2008
from CNN.com (not to mention a slew of radio talk shows!):
Lesbian kisses at game ignite Seattle debate
The usher, Guerrero said, told them he had received a complaint from a woman nearby who said that there were kids in the crowd of nearly 36,000 and that parents would have to explain why two women were kissing […] The code of conduct — announced before each game — specifically mentions public displays of affection that are “not appropriate in a public, family setting.” Hale said those standards are based on what a “reasonable person” would find inappropriate […] “I would be uncomfortable” seeing public displays of affection between lesbians or gay men, said Jim Ridneour, a 54-year-old taxi driver. “I don’t think it’s right seeing women kissing in public. If I had my family there, I’d have to explain what’s going on.”
This is the very definition of heteronormativity. This is the kind of thing Queer Nation used its performances/demonstrations to point out. This kind of thing is not just a double standard but it’s evidence that “acceptance” of queer people does not mean social equality and does not mean that we have by any means had any sort of self-reflexive pondering of what sexuality means and about assumptions about sex, gender, and sexuality.
Why do we have to “explain” queer sexuality? Shouldn’t we need to “explain” any sexuality? Is it really time to pull out the Heterosexual Questionnaire to point out the lunacy of Jim Ridneour’s statement? Read the rest of this entry »
June 5, 2008
The problem this Cosmo reader encountered is one that I have always been irked by.
From a semi-related post on Female Impersonator:
This attitude was shown in one of the “Cosmo Confessions” featured monthly in Cosmopolitan magazine:
“Once a month, my boyfriend has a guy’s night out with his buddies. Normally, they shoot poll or go to a ball game. But last month, I overheard him making plans to go to a strip club. It really upset me that he didn’t bother asking how I felt about his sticking dollar bills in other women’s G-strings. Instead of confronting him, I did some investigating and found out that the night he was planning to go to the club happened to be amateur night, which meant that any girl could get on stage and dance. So I called a few girlfriends, and we headed to the club. After a few drinks, I surprised my guy as one of the novice strippers. He was so shocked that he just froze–until I started undressing. Then he jumped on the stage and begged me to come down, promising me he’d never go to a nudie bar again.”
I think it’s great that the male partner in this story realized how his female partner must feel about his being there by how he felt seeing her up there. I wish more men could have the visceral experience this one did. Many men say that they should be able to go to strip clubs, but wouldn’t want their girlfriend to strip. They justify this by saying that they themselves would not strip, and that they wouldn’t care if their girlfriend saw a male strip show. This is not a equivalent comparison to me, and I’m going to try to elaborate a little on why I think this. Read the rest of this entry »