November 21, 2008

Two standards of “sexy”

Posted in beauty culture, Celebritocracy, double standards, gender, hot lists, objectification, representation, sexual politics, sexy at 9:10 pm by LB

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.  

  1. 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?  
  2. 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.

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July 31, 2008

Review of a Mama Mia! review: In which being sexual and sexy are conflated

Posted in feminism, film, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 12:00 pm by LB

GRRRRRR

This is a pet peeve of mine: where a woman’s sexuality and her sex appeal are conflated. Sure, sex appeal or a woman performing what we think of as “sexy” could be part of a woman’s sexuality or her being a sexual person, but all too often they are horribly conflated, hence misrepresenting women-as-sexual-beings. In the end, my ire is with the idea that sexual display, performance, or one’s being sexually pleasing to another is what defines or indicates that a woman is being a sexual agent. It’s the classic “women are defined as sexually liberated in that they can prance around naked.”

So this is what make my stomach turn. Jessica at Jezebel reviews Mama Mia! and says the following:

Well, I saw Mamma Mia! on Friday night, and though it’s admirable that the trio of 50 to 60-something women (Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) are shown as sexual, something irked me about the portrayal of their sexuality — the movie made them into caricatures […] it bugged me that Streep, Baranski and Walters were all given choreography that involved grabbing their breasts and crotches repeatedly. It seemed to be mocking their lustiness rather than celebrating it.

Did you catch that sleight of hand? The women are shown as sexual (they has sex and experienced pleasure and from it), but the “problematic” portrayal of their sexuality is in the caricatured performance of it. Why is mocking the male-centric manner of “performing” sexiness a refusal of their sexuality? In order for that to be true, being “sexual” would have to be necessarily equivalent to representing one’s sexuality in a way that identifies with hetero male pleasure.

Isn’t this was feminism criticizes-that being validated by that male-centric sex culture does not define a woman’s sexual agency and is not what give a woman license to be sexual

(disclaimer: I didn’t see the movie, so my critique is on their commentary, not on the film)

July 22, 2008

I write more imaginary letters

Posted in beauty culture, gender, hot lists, letters, representation, sexy at 12:00 pm by LB

Dear Maxim, Playboy, FHM, Stuff, any other female-objectifying, list-making website or mag, that either masquerades as “entertainment news” or [hetero, natch] “men’s interest”:

This is what a “hot 100” [sic] list looks like. As a ‘women we love’ list. And ‘in no particular order.’ And in relevant and humanizing apparel.

This is what it looks like to appreciate smart, talented, beautiful, and sexy women for real.

Sincerely,

Women

June 3, 2008

More than the sum of her parts: AfterEllen’s ‘Hot 100’ list

Posted in beauty culture, Celebritocracy, lesbian, mass media, queer, representation, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 6:55 pm by LB

I hate ‘Hot Lists.’ I hate the idea of them. Someday I will rant on them. Not today.

AfterEllen.com, a website about lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment, publishes an annual Hot List. When I first started reading their site, I had noticed they had one. I checked it out, hoping that it would not just be a replication of the uni-dimensional hot-at-the-moment-until-they’re-prego-or-passe’ of most Hot Lists. It was not. I was pleased.

So let me qualify my first sentence:

I hate (most) Hot Lists, especially the one’s put out by lad-mags and their ilk. I hate the idea of them, which not only sees ‘hot’ in the narrowest of senses, but also they’re ‘hot’ because these women are overwhelmingly (with token exceptions) the flavor of the moment, and it also seems to favor women who participate in the culture of ‘posing.’

(Not for nothing, but the exposure-no pun intended-that women with little professional accomplishment are able to garner in the media by simply being young and pretty and thin is incredible! They are paraded around for having a nice face and/or body-and being willing to display it-but having little talent. This happens in a way completely unlike men who are in the same position-those small time accomplishments or poor acting ability but are incredibly good looking. Men definitely have it harder in this way. But women pay for our quick and easy value as eye candy with appallingly few strong female roles, and with the near-impossible task of being a successful actress or performer without participating in posing culture. I couldn’t even make a men’s parallel list to Maxim‘s 100 even if I tried!)

So AfterEllen just released their Hot 100 of 2008.

A few non-surprises? The woman who made Maxim’s 100th spot, Tila Tequila, wasn’t even close to making our list, and their number-one choice, swimsuit model Marisa Miller, barely received any votes from AfterEllen.com readers. In fact, just like last year, only two of Maxim’s top 10 showed up anywhere on our list.
[…]
Other stats about this year’s list? There are 18 women of color — a definite improvement over last year — and 21 openly gay/bi women on the list (seven of whom are AfterEllen.com vloggers), which is more than double the number on last year’s list.
[…]
Our list includes women from all over the world — from countries as diverse as Canada, England, France, India, Mexico, Norway, and Spain — and women who vary in age from 18 to 57 years old. Although the vast majority of women on the list are actors or TV personalities, there are some musicians this year, as well as a few writers, a chef, and an athlete.

Diversity is valued, age isn’t a barrier, and when you look at the kind of women that queer women find hot, you’ll quickly understand why there are few cross-overs with the lad-mags. Queer women clearly value flat, physical beauty (although their idea of beauty is not the narrow version purported by most lad-mags). But they also value talent, wit, humor, intelligence, success, not as separate from but as part of what makes women hot. It’s a little different from another counter-hot list: the excellent non-celebrity The Real Hot 100, where smart=hot and physical beauty has nothing to do with it. AfterEllen’s list seems to embrace physical beauty, alongside and equal to other aspects of women’s personhood. Beauty is part of being human, but unlike other Hot Lists, AfterEllen readers seem less apt to value women who are only beautiful but as people seem less-than-interesting. And I find this really fascinating.

I also love the photos they use to illustrate their list-no lingerie here!

And I love this part:

The following pages provide photos for all 100 women in ascending order according to your votes, with some further details provided about the first 25. We’ve also linked each woman’s name to other articles about her on AfterEllen.com, in case you want to do some more reading about them, and we’ve listed each woman’s rank on the 2007 list below her name.

Imagine that?! ‘Hot’ women aren’t just for looking at-their ‘hotness’ isn’t simply based on their measurements, so they’re actually people you would want to read up on!

The thing is, I think beauty is wonderful. But a hell of a lot of women are beautiful, celebrities and peers alike. Honestly, I don’t think beauty alone is all that ‘special.’ Put most of the women I know on the cover of a magazine with the kind of lights, makeup, and photoshopping that goes into a celeb or model photo shoot (and especially add in personal training and wealth needed for complicated beauty regiments), and they’re just as ‘hot’ as the women on there each month. Hot lists that are only about physical hotness are pointless and are more about selling magazines by reiterating the importance of the people (well, really women)-of-the moment.

AfterEllen’s list? There’s more going on here and I’m liking their idea of ‘hot’ and the context they view it in.

May 6, 2008

Where are all the sexy men?

Posted in gender, mass media, music, objectification, representation, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 1:30 pm by LB

OK, so I’ve been writing a bit about sexual representations recently. It’s not on purpose, just what I’ve read about recently. I’ll try to get to a new topic soon :-). Yesterday I stumbled on 2 articles that speak to the post I’ve written recently about the disparities in publicly eroticizing men’s and women’s bodies.

The first one speaks to the idea that concepts of ‘sexy’ by default refers to women’s (not men’s) bodies. Forbes.com has an article titled “Hollywood’s Sexiest Celebrities.” Guess what? They’re all women.

My first thoughts were: Is it because when we’re making top lists of sexy people, sexy “people” implicitly and really means “women”? Or is it because Forbes.com doesn’t think any men are sexier than these 15 women? But no, these were taken from an E-poll, not a single person’s choice–and the top male, Matthew McConaughey weighed in at only 41st. What does this say about what or who we consider ‘sexy’? Is it that women are “really” sexier than men? Or is it that “sexy” has been defined in terms of women? I at least think part of it must be that we are provided with sexualized images of women quite frequently, where actual images of celebrity men all sexy, posed, and scantily clad is significantly rarer. So why would we even think of men when asked about who’s “sexy” when their bodies are less than accessible (in magazines or films) and hardly on the radar? Read the rest of this entry »

March 14, 2008

Helen Mirren needs to speak to a larger crowd!

Posted in Celebritocracy, empowerment, sexy at 6:38 pm by LB

Actress Helen Mirren gets my “that is so true!” of the day. Maybe even of the month. I think what she says needs to be heard by all age ranges, serving a different purpose for each. And it’s also something that both women and men alike need to hear and really consider. Which is why I wish this quote wasn’t from More, a magazine geared toward 40+ year-old women.

Which is also why I want to quote some right here because it’s too good not to share.

I tried to find the article online, but it’s not available. I will try to buy a copy and post more of the interview if I can. For now, here’s the snippet Jezebel quotes, ’cause that’s all I have!

Mirren talked about how fabulous it is to get older and how she is trying to avoid the “sexy” label: I’m still trying to wriggle out from under that label. […] Being a sexual object is mortifying and irritating, yet it’s giving you power–an awful power that you’ve done nothing to deserve, a powerless power. I think some young women fall in love with that power, and it’s really objectifying. And when it starts falling away, it’s an incredible relief.

Right on! And it’s unfortunate that this is the way we understand “sexy” in our Celebritocracy. Because nothing’s sexier than a kick-ass woman like this-I’m taking sexy back, and saying this woman’s one of the sexiest I’ve seen-heard* in a long time.

*because truly “sexy” is both seen and heard. I think I should trademark that.

(NOTE: nothing more after the jump.)