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Archive for May, 2011

Sexism takes many forms in a society that wants to claim we are free of it. Some sexism remains in-your-face (like Hardee’s commercials) while others have shifted to what seems a more subtle form. But what about what I like to call the “power boob” phenomenon; female characters that have some form or position of power within their story, but are overshadowed by those gravity-defying watermelons protruding from their chests? Obviously, these inflatables need no more pointing out than I would have to point out the Eiffel Tower, but how many of us see these characters and realize this as a form of sexism?

In my last “Power Boobs” post, I discussed Tsunade from Naruto. Today, I want to turn the attention on another popular manga of the same genre: Bleach by Tite Kubo. When it is even questioned whether Tite Kubo is sexist in his portrayal of women, many fans jump to defend him. He can’t be sexist, they say, his female characters can kick butt! One fan went further in his/her thoughts on a Naruto forum, explaining,

“Kubo has women in his manga who are strong in both body and mind, and who are able to fight without becoming overly emotional. Some users accuse him of making all of his women to be large-breasted and existing for the purposes of fan-service. I do not agree with this, for not all of the women in this series are large-breasted and not all of them act in a manner that could be viewed as fan-service.”

This fan goes on to say that he/she believes that Tite Kubo is equal in his treatment of both his female and male characters and that, compared to other shonen manga, the women bask in a positive light. But what about that neon glow of sex radiating from the following characters?

All three are presented as strong, resilient women and, at points, even aid or train the male hero of the story to great avail. But with each of these, the women are upstaged by bursting bosoms, lack of clothing in all the wrong places, and blatant fan service. Even if the character is not used as a fan service character per say, anyone would be upstaged if they had shiny breasts the size (or bigger) than their head. And these three are certainly not the only female characters like this either. A very noticeable number of them sport outrageous chests. (Must be something in the water.)

Think of it in terms of reality. Whether it is correct or not, do people take women who dress in a provocative or racy manner seriously? No, many people label them as easy and view them not as a person with intelligence or strength, but as nothing more than a cheap object. So, if this is what people do in real life, why would we view fictional characters any differently? With these characters, what do you think of first: strength or big boobs?

Is Tite Kubo sexist? I would like to think not. His female characters do show instances of strength (whether it’s physical or mental) when he could have made them completely useless, heaping them into the ever-growing pile of damsels. Does he fall into the traps of sexist thought process? Yes. If that wasn’t the case, a majority of his female characters wouldn’t be dominated by their physical appearance, i.e. their enormous chests.

In my next post, I’ll discuss why I still believe this, even disregarding the big bosoms of Bleach.

(I will give him credit for this: Tite Kubo is also the first person I’ve seen depicting the voluptuous, highly neglected lower half of the boob. It’s different, balances the effect of the massive cleavage of other characters, and definitely defies the laws of nature for those to stay in that shirt(?).)

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Wonder Woman has acted as a symbol of strength for girls for generations, starting back in the 1940’s. When the world gave them dolls and kitchen play sets, these girls found the radiating woman with the golden lasso like a beacon of light, the solitary female superhero among superheroes. I, too, have fond memories of watching the strong and beautiful Princess Diana on the cartoon, The Justice League when it aired on Cartoon Network when I was a kid. Forget Superman and Batman; I wanted to see more and more of Wonder Woman and sucked up every second of the rare episodes that focused solely on Wonder Woman like precious drops of water in a desert.

Wonder Woman throughout the ages.

But as I grew older and more observant, the more I began to wonder if Wonder Woman was really such a great image of a strong female character. Somehow star-patterned mini-shorts and bosom didn’t scream powerful to me. Then again, grown men running around in spandex and capes isn’t too different. Even so, something wasn’t sitting quite right with Wonder Woman and me.

For those of you like me who are not as familiar with the ins and outs of comics, Wonder Woman was created in 1941 (almost 10 years after Superman) when DC Comics decided to try to bring in more female readers. For a comic symbolizing female empowerment for many, Wonder Woman was originally created by a man, a psychologist by the name of William Moulton Marston (he also created the systolic blood pressure test, a component for the modern polygraph). Supposedly a more modern thinking man (though I have begun to wonder), Marston has been described as having “feminist” notions by people as close to him as his wife. Perhaps he had some, given that he was writing the story of the first female superhero.

However, being the first female superhero certainly did not mean Wonder Woman escaped entirely from the restraints of society. Wonder Woman was bound literally and figuratively in ways her fellow male heroes were not. In an entry by Julie D. O’Reilly in the Journal of American Culture back in 2005 wrote, “many female superheroes have the privilege of demonstrating their abilities or defending their roles as heroes in a manner not afforded their male counterparts.” Unlike Superman, Spiderman, and many other male superheroes who decide on his own that he will use his powers to help, Wonder Woman had to first gain the approval of her family, the Amazons. Though Wonder Woman did make the decision that she wanted to began a superhero, in the end, the final decision is given to someone else, like some child who must ask permission. This is a pattern that has continued into more modern female characters as well.

Also, the Wonder Woman comic was veined with sadomasochist themes of bondage; in fact, Wonder Woman’s weakness is having her arm bracelets bound by a man. Below is an amusing comic discussing the issue perfectly which I found on Sociological Images.

Click to enlarge

Wonder Woman is not without her merits; she will still be idolized by girls as a strong female superhero and certainly, we could use that. Here’s some food for thought though; 70 years later, are the majority of our female superheroes any less bound?

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Sorry for the inactivity recently; finals have a tendency to kill any creative inspiration. Anyway, in my last post, I discussed the use of sex to sell products, but blatant sex isn’t the only thing used to sell products in the United States. We Americans do love humor after all. So, the big men in business suits put their heads together and thought, “What sells besides sex that’s funny?”

The answer: stupid women.

Like a shiny new divine message sent from heaven, the businessmen must have held their hands up in dumbstruck awe at the genius of this idea that can compete with pure sex! Men (especially white men) are being pushed around a lot in today’s world and need a bit of a moral boost after all; they’re still feeling a bit of bad whiplash trying to catch up to modern times. The days when old, white men held the power of this world in their fat, sweaty grasps and women could only wave their sons, brothers, and husbands off as they marched off to higher places are gone. While the medieval men make a mad dash, reaching for something that has already come and gone, women have embraced what they have long been deprived of; a world ready for the taking (and not in the Limbaugh-scifi-nightmare scenario when feminazis take over the world and enslave the male population). Women are going to colleges and graduate more than men now, moving up in the job field (despite the lower pay rate), and are even running for president. But as the type of man who is reeling from his loss of dominance and perhaps about going bald struggles to reach the TV remote to flip on Super Bad, a commercial pops on:

Ah, nothing like a commercial utilizing stupid women to fluff the egos of the delicate endangered macho, big-headed male. For just an instant at a time, these men can delude themselves that women are as thick as the meat on one of Hardee’s heart attack-on-a-bun burger. That instant adds up to more, however, with the amount of commercials depicting the jokes of sad, deflated men. Beer companies love to use this tactic of approach since the beer companies themselves live under the delusion that women don’t drink beer. Keystone Light beer has gone so far as to create a fictional Neanderthal of a character for their commercials by the James Bond-esque name of Keith Stone (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that name?).

With the looks of a man who hasn’t left his man cave in years and has the tact of one who spent that entire time trying to pick up skills from Austen Powers movies, Keith Stone makes an impression alright. Making entrances to cheesy music, his debut appearance was helping an old woman rescue her “kitten” from a tree; that kitten was a dull (but beautiful) woman in tight clothes. How does beer fit into that ad? The only thing I can think of is that it might take a couple of beers to dream up that commercial and think it’s good.

 

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Commercials are kind of like gnats; annoying and in your face. Unlike gnats, however, which must content themselves with harassing people for a number of months while they’re outside, commercials can (and do) bombard us 24/7, like I.V.s connecting us constantly to the market. Commercials invade our world better than any army could and seal us in through our TVs, newspapers, magazines, they appear on billboards as we drive, and are even plastered in public bathrooms at times! We are looked down upon by obnoxious 7-year-olds trying to pressure us to be cool by buying the latest car! But if your average commercial is a gnat then sexist commercials are gnats the size of Donald Trump and about as tactful, too.

Speaking of big, blundering annoyances, Hardees is the biggest gnat I can’t seem to get rid of. For years, the brains behind Hardee’s that are eternally stuck in a time warp of college days that reek of beer, immaturity, and frats have been cooking up more soft porn burger commercials that make me more nauseous than hungry.

Let’s see some samples!

There is no doubt that Hardee’s is selling some kind of meat. Granted, these sultry sauce-licking, skin-glowing, cleavage-showing models are from commercials from a few years ago. In fact, after the messy eater to the left went off the air, there was hardly a sign of these sex bombs that had previously rained down upon the public without mercy. Unfortunately, just as I relaxed and finally felt safe enough to emerge from my bomb shelter, this smacked down:

Most people were probably a tiny bit distracted with the all but faceless sex object sauntering around, but I assure you, there was a burger in that commercial.  Hardee’s doesn’t give up though; there were a nice few seconds where the speaker points out the burger print on her bikini, emphasized by a close up on her breasts. That was sure to have many watchers drooling. Granted, it’s not quite soft porn like the examples above, but Hardee’s still demonstrates their complete lack of respect for women. But Hardee’s is just taking hold of the reins in a society where women are already used like cattle; we take the parts we want of them (their bodies) and forget the rest and boy, does it sell (to the point that our country has grown obese and dull on it)!

Hardee’s is not ashamed of their strategy to bring in customers. They readily defend their approach and their executive vice president of marketing, Brad Haley explained that Hardee’s is simply sticking to their “truths” which are the following:

  • “We believe in burgers. Big, fat, juices-running-down-your-arm kind of burgers.”
  • “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.”
  • “We believe that life is short. So if it feels good, do it, and if it tastes good, eat it.”

Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2011/04/27/3059771/carls-jr-and-hardees-offer-no.html#ixzz1L0iAwUuF

I would say that burgers are the only thing Hardee’s believes in, because it certainly doesn’t appear that they believe that women are better than meat, but the words stick in my throat just as sure as that burger would stick in my artery. How much do they really believe in their fat burgers if they must rely on cheap sex to sell them?

But Hardee’s is not the only lonely, insecure boy on the block trying to be cool. Many companies are attracted by the tacky neon glow of sex like stupid, possessed flies to a house light. Just check out this in-your-face sex reference brought to you by Burger King. 

Then there are those ads from Victoria’s Secret with the skimpy models thrusting out their frilly, push-up bra-clad chests with pouting faces with the intensity of some kind of sex warrior. Whenever a Victoria’s Secret ad pops on and my eyes begin to glaze over, I always wonder; are they trying to sell (sex) to men or (underwear) to women?

Or how about the DirecTV commercial below? Sexy women in workout clothes stand around just to show the man’s wealth like some fancy, new vase he just purchased and wants to show off

In each commercial the viewer is expected to be young and male and, although the product does show up, it could just as easily fade away because the product isn’t what these companies are selling you; they’re selling you a male sex fantasy. Apparently, they didn’t hear that female consumers account for around 80% or more of all purchases. In the end, these companies are speaking–shouting–to the world what they think of the commoners glued to the TV; men like big food, beer, and sex and women must just be too busy in the kitchen to see any ads.

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