November 17, 2008

Contemplating the significance of Playgirl’s end

Posted in double standards, entertainment, gender, phallocentrism, pornography, power hierarchy, representation, sex work, sexism at 10:00 am by LB

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 »


May 5, 2008

What a concept! Kyriarchy

Posted in feminism, identity, intersectionality, kyriarchy, language politics, power hierarchy, social justice at 1:06 pm by LB

This is great. I think I might start using this term.

Sudy @ A Womyn’s Ecdysis:

Let me break this down for you. When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy. It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

Read her whole post. Please.

h/t Feministe

March 27, 2008

Musings: Struggling to Share What/Who Feminism is For

Posted in feminism, gender, patriarchy, power hierarchy at 2:28 am by LB

Salon’s Broadsheet has this recent article: “Welcome to the ‘Menaissance'”, which, I have to say, struck me kinda funny…but also sad. It also struck a chord for me in light my recent thoughts pondering how people can take feminism so…wrong, especially when it’s something I have lived and breathed for the past 10 years, and what has fundamental to my understanding my experiences, others’ experiences, and the world around me.

I have been cruising around the blogosphere lately, and seen in abundance the incredibly angst that many men feel toward feminism. Clearly, feminism has ruined their life. It took away their housekeeper, it has subjected them to sexual activity that doesn’t revolve around their needs, it has meant legislation and social policy that doesn’t take men’s experiences for human experience; women’s economic independence has meant they men can no longer expect to be able to provide for a woman in exchange for control over her body and labor, and it has also meant that economic security is not enough to gain access to women at all.

And let me tell you, some men are really pissed. And say it’s feminism’s fault. And when women behave badly? Also feminism’s fault. They fail to see that an analysis of gender as a hierarchical institutional system of oppression is not just about women’s rights, but about analyzing society to reveal how the structure is harmful to all involved, but that equality often also means giving up some privileges. Women’s rights, however, often get rewritten as “special rights and advantages,” because from a man’s perspective, it might look that way because they are accustomed to seeing male-centered society as just “society.” The work structure that follows from men’s needs is seen as just “the workplace.” Men then end up resisting feminism, viewing it as advocating female dominance rather than see it as liberating masculinity as well as femininity.

I suppose I’m rambling on a bit and being vague, but I’m doing that a bit on purpose because I’m not trying to accuse or blame any particular individuals or websites. But I have had an interesting few days observing the way that many men perceive feminism-they perceive it as threatening (which is it-to structural male privilege), but in articulating their frustrations (and often rightly so) about their masculine gender role/expectation, feminism, and not patriarchy, is blamed. And it really is too bad. I’ve tried interacting with some of them, and let me tell you it’s really tough to break all these assumptions about what feminism is and what it isn’t, and articulating bad behavior that some women exhibit toward some men vs patriarchy as a cultural system of privilege. Not to mention that feminism does not advocate women’s bad behavior-women, for example, lying about being raped! Yet feminism gets blamed for this (because feminism created rape, I suppose, since it suggests women can say no if they don’t want sex. Or because feminism I guess teaches women to use whatever they can to their advantage).

We’re all concerned with young women not wanting to embrace the term ‘feminist’ because of much cultural misunderstanding. I think that problem is easier to address (by tangibly addressing real-life issues like Jessica Valenti does in her book) than how do we show men that feminism is their friend? That much of what they attribute to feminism is really a result of patriarchy? How do we convince them that it is worth it to give up some privilege in order to live safer and more meaningful lives?

Back to the Broadsheet article:

  • More than half of the men believe society is turning them into “waxed and coiffed metrosexuals.”
  • Fifty-two percent say they are forced to live by women’s rules.
  • Four out of 10 men are scared of spiders, while a third are scared of “bossy women.”
  • Many men feel they have to play too many roles.
  • For a sample of men allegedly enamored with stereotypical masculinity, they’re awfully whiny. Women are fairly familiar with the pressure to be “waxed and coiffed,” living by men’s rules and struggling to balance family with work. These men do, indeed, seem burdened and resentful, but to them, I say: Welcome to the party!

    While I don’t necessarily say welcome (although in some cases I do), it’s funny how these struggles are seen to be a result of feminism’s challenge to gender roles, therefore a reversion to traditional masculinity is seen as the solution, rather than the problem. I think men’s anxieties are very real and are surfacing now because the way we typically think about gender and sexuality has changed as a result of feminism and queer movements, and these changes and challenges bring into relief how traditional masculinity was predicated on a particular form of femininity and organization of sexuality.

    So I don’t want to welcome men into women’s struggles with patriarchy, except to hope their struggles might become the ground on which to be able to say, “I advocate feminism.”

    (the inclusion of this video is not to imply that The Feminist Majority speaks for all feminisms or all women)

    March 11, 2008

    Victim-blaming, feminism-blaming(?): Dr. Laura’s comments re: Spitzer’s infidelity

    Posted in gender roles, power hierarchy, victim-blaming at 8:43 pm by LB

    I am too incensed to not comment on Dr. Laura’s comments about Spitzer’s infidelity, specifically that he cheated because his wife “failed him”. I agree with what Melissa at Shakesville says regarding this:

    Secondly, it’s absolutely true that if someone’s (reasonable) needs aren’t being met by a spouse, then something will eventually and inexorably give. But that doesn’t justify cheating; it justifies ending the relationship. That’s true whether it’s husband or wife (or both) failing to deliver; it’s not a one-way street.

    The other TODAY show panelists (rightly so) called this out as victim-blaming-that while both parties are responsible for the relationship, no partner is ever at fault for the other cheating.
    But what I want to comment on is something else-Dr. Laura’s implicit blaming of feminism (or at least women’s rights) for this particular situation, if not for the situation of cheating husbands everywhere.


    “When the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings, sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he’s very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs.”

    And on an appearance with TODAY’s Ann Curry:

    I would challenge the wife to find out what kind of wife she’s being,” she said. “Is she being supportive and approving and loving? Is she being sexually intimate and affectionate? Is she making him feel like he’s her man?

    So unless women support their partners in a way that assures them that they are the bastion of patriarchal manhood, women are responsible if their partners cheat.

    also from Dr. Laura with Ann Curry:

    I have kept marriages together after affairs because I have reminded women that you have the power to turn this around. He had his children with you. He has his future life plans with you, his dreams, his whole mind, body and soul was wrapped up in the promise of you. If you now turn that back on, all that stuff you turned off because ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I’m irritated’ or ‘I’m annoyed’ or ‘I’m self-centered’ — if you turn that around, you have that man back.

    So, dedicate your life and being to making sure he feels like a “real man” (however patriarchally and heteronormatively defined), deny your own feelings to cater to his, and don’t do anything for yourself if it might make him feel less of a man….she only barely falls short of saying “If feminism didn’t corrupt women into thinking their wants and desires are as important than men’s, we wouldn’t have this problem”.

    This also comes from the person who says that if a woman is not in the mood for sex when her husband wants it, she needs to a) cut stuff out of her life-her job, other activities, etc., and b) suck it up and do it anyway. Clearly, Dr. Laura feels that a woman’s primary responsibility in the marital relationship is sex, and also that this poorly defined marital relationship is not just one important part of a woman’s life but the most important part. She, like others, think that once married, the husband is owed sexual access to the wife’s body.

    It isn’t like the mantra “feminists are selfish” or that “feminism has emasculated men” aren’t already common arguments in our culture. Especially with regards to sex: how dare women say that sex doesn’t end when the man’s orgasm does! How dare women decide what sex acts they do and do not want to do! How dare women have sex only when they want to! How dare women demand equal attention in the bedroom (and in the rest of the house!) How dare women be so…selfish?!

    And how dare women, you know, have jobs? How dare women not support classical suffocating visions of masculinity and gender roles? Clearly the issue is with dirty ole feminism…and not at all with men thinking that gender equality means that men don’t have to change anything about “the way things have always been.” Gone are the days of only a rights-based liberal feminism, where equality means women can have entry into the male space of the “public sphere.” Feminist gender analysis means a critique of how gender is produced in our culture and how that harms both men and women. It’s about analyzing interlocking forms of oppression-that patriarchy, exploitive capitalism, heterosexism/homophobia, and racism all feed off of each other in their oppressions. I’m getting off topic a bit here, but it isn’t too hard to see that Dr. Laura blaming Spitzer’s wife for him getting his “needs” met elsewhere–and the needs she’s talking about seem to me more about masculine ego and not about sex–is an attack on feminism’s critique of the construction of gender under patriarchy and practices of sexism.

    A final note (also somewhat off-topic, but I found it quite interesting)…

    One commenter on feministing made this insightful speculation:

    I can’t help but to think of his massive sense of self-entitlement in hiring a “high priced hooker,” when hypothetically he could have spent under $500 on a fancy dinner and sex with some area DC lady (not a professional) who would have made the decision independently to do this for her own thrill.

    And Melissa on Shakesville said the following:

    But most importantly, this idea that spouses cheat solely or mostly because they are lacking “love and kindness and respect and attention” at home is antiquated horseshit. Yeah, some spouses cheat for that reason. And plenty of others—especially men in positions like Spitzer’s—cheat because it’s exciting and fun and because they are self-indulgent narcissists who are stupid enough to believe they’ll never get caught.

    Considering Dr. Laura’s analysis, I don’t doubt that this narcissistic entitlement can be fueled by the male ego being unable and/or unwilling to adapt to the notion that they are not the centre of the universe, despite what patriarchy entitles them to. But this is not women’s fault or feminism’s or the erosion of traditional gender roles that consolidate masculinity– it’s men’s own attitudes regarding their own masculinity that needs to be questioned a bit more.