Posts Tagged ‘media’

When I tell people that I am a feminist and especially when I reveal that I review fiction on my blog from a feminist perspective, it’s sometimes taken for granted that I dislike fiction that isn’t feminist. That’s a hell of a lot better than assuming I spend my days plotting the overthrow of men, but enjoying and reviewing fiction is a bit more complicated than that for me so, I thought I’d share my thoughts.

It goes without saying that I love finding stories that, in addition to being  generally well told, thought-provoking, and striking, promote healthy, modern ideas about gender and gender roles. When I discover those gems, they tend to get a special place in my heart, as well as on my blog. After all, finding fiction like that means I can enjoy every aspect of the story without feeling let down about gender representation. Even more than that, stories that present characters–male or female–fighting against gender norms or dealing with the real effects of gender norms in society can leave me with a sense of empowerment and make me think about gender roles in society and in media. Other times, fiction depicts characters who are non-stereotypical and appear unrestricted by gender norms, which is equally refreshing even without an obvious message on gender roles. Frankly, putting feminism aside, those types of non-stereotypical characters and plots appeal to me more as just a fan of fiction since that makes the overall story more interesting.

But to be honest, those examples aren’t particularly easy to come by. It’s like needling out one perfect book from the mounds of average ones. Excuse me for using a corny phrase, but if I had a penny for every time I crossed paths with fiction that had sexist content, I would be a rich woman. Sexism, racism, and other types of discrimination are, sadly, one of those elements of societies that are deeply engrained in our ways of thinking and are hard to get rid of entirely.

Writing on Gagging on Sexism and getting feedback from others has clarified the way I view sexism in fiction, just as it has helped me see larger issues differently. It is easy to pick out series that I personally feel do not have good stories and that promote highly sexist or archaic ideas about gender, roles, and relationships. It’s harder, however, to discuss series that I enjoy or maybe even really love in many ways, but that disappoint me in other ways relating to gender representation. Whether I am reviewing those series or simply reading/watching them for my own pleasure, as a story lover, I don’t want to dismiss a work of fiction that succeeds in entertaining me. Yet, at the same time, I am bothered by gender issues, which in one story may not be a problem, but that are often part of larger trends that promote unhealthy representations of gender. I can’t just ignore that or the problem will pass by as acceptable.

In those cases, I don’t think the stories should simply be dismissed as “bad.” Instead, I try to make others aware of these issues as they read/watch it. We can still enjoy fiction that may have non-progressive aspects and that feed into larger issues of gender representation. However, it is better to be aware of those issues as we enjoy that fiction, rather than mindlessly ingesting it.

When I write a post on a series, I try not to suggest that you to reject or accept a series based on whether it is feminist or sexist. Occasionally I come across a piece that offends me to the point that I recommend others against it, but usually I see other problems with those rare examples than just sexism. In fact, even series that I praise aren’t necessarily written to be “feminist,” but are series that I, looking at it from my feminist perspective, felt promoted ideas that are modern, non-stereotypical, and/or thought-provoking in addition to being plain good stories. In the end, whether I point out good aspects of fiction or bad, my goal is simply to stop and think, and get others to think, for just a moment to consider what fiction is saying to us.

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This past week, I watched a 2011 documentary called Miss Representation, a play on the word “misrepresentation.” The documentary examines the overwhelming amount of objectified images of women in the U.S. media, the use of things like photoshop to create impossible ideals of women’s bodies, the emphasis on women’s appearance, and the lack of realistic women in the media. Even as someone who has been acutely aware of these issues, this movie really brings home just how bad this problem has gotten (for example, according to Miss Representation, out of all the U.S. fiction, only 16% have female protagonists).

Most significantly, this documentary focuses on the impact this emphasis on female appearance and objectification has on women politically. It claims that American girls are socialized (in large part through the media) to be ultra concerned with their appearance and that those girls who are the most concerned with their appearance feel less politically powerful. Studies have been done that show that in elementary school, an equal amount of girls and boys want to be president, but when these kids are re-interviewed in high school, the number of girls who feel they can be president has dropped significantly. Miss Representation also shows how female politicians are treated differently by the media than male politicians, making comments about how terrible Hillary Clinton looks or asking if Sarah Palin got breast implants. When was the last time you heard a news report on those gray streaks in Romney’s hair or speculation on whether Bill Clinton should get botox? This is just a piece of what the documentary discusses, but it paints a picture of how the media affects how people see women and as a result, how women are limited to certain representations.

I know a lot of people wonder when I or anyone else talks about poor representations of girls/women in the media (from commercials to movies to books to manga) how a piece of fiction can really matter. Miss Representation explains how better than I ever could by presenting a larger picture. These representations of women are everywhere and both girl and boys are exposed to them from childhood. Even boys’ and girls’ toys are segregated to socialize them to a certain role; boys get traditionally manly things like building blocks, cars, tools, etc. while one look at the girls’ toy aisle reveals a sea of pastel pinks and purples, makeup, fashion, and Barbie and Bratz dolls. We become used to seeing objectified and sexist images of women so, if one doesn’t stop to examine things more closely, it’s easy to miss them. So, when I talk about a book or movie that I feel poorly represents women, it’s likely not just that one piece of fiction, but one example of a bigger trend I see in many movies, books, manga, and so on.

If you have any interest in the U.S. media misrepresentations of women, even if you are a skeptic, you should definitely try to see Miss Representation. It goes over multiple issues related to this problem and really gives a good example of the larger impact a seemingly small thing can have on a society.

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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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