"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jackass for Girls

I found this recent College Humor sketch rather poignant, because it illuminates how although large pockets of society find daredevil dude-pain outrageously humorous, there's very little that's funny about lady-pain.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Subverting the Script

I babysat for my 19-month-old nephew over the weekend, and I learned that one of his favorite toys at the moment is an adorable "Finger Puppet Theater" featuring a fold-out, castle-shaped stage made of felt and a collection of "medieval"-themed felt finger puppets. Among these characters are a knight in armor, a dragon, a wizard in a purple gown and pointy hat, and the only female character is, of course, a yellow-haired princess in a pink dress.

The kid has just entered the cutest phase where he'll climb into your lap, act fascinated, and actually sit still long enough for you to tell a couple of stories with the puppets. So, when he did this with me, I suddenly felt like the pressure was on for me to stretch my feminist muscles with some non-heteronormative feminist puppet tales.

The sad thing about this is that when all you have to work with is a knight in shining armor and a princess in a pink dress, it's actually really hard to subvert the traditional "princess is stuck in the castle tower and needs to be rescued by the knight" cliche. Because when you start to make the puppets "perform" for a little kid, it feels so natural to slip into using an over-exaggerated, super-high and weak-sounding voice for the princess and an over-exaggerated, super-low and heroic-sounding voice for the knight, which would make it so easy to lead right into repeating the same old story.

I resisted the bothersome urge to follow that sexist script, but I have to admit that the stories I did tell felt super forced. I had no idea what sorts of voices to use for the characters, since their appearances seemed to suggest what their voices should sound like. After having the princess teach new spells to the bumbling wizard and tame the dragon and rescue the prince, I just felt tired and welcomed the opportunity to switch to playing with choo-choo trains.

It just made me sad, because I know that as he grows, he's going to hear and watch and read hundreds of stories, and he's going to learn all of these sexist tropes that are lurking everywhere, and if his feminist aunt who has a master's degree in women's studies has trouble improvising a few gender-role-subverting stories, what hope do we have of ever thwarting patriarchy?

Friday, September 17, 2010

How is Gender at Work?

As you've probably figured out, it's hard for me to consume visual media without thinking about the ways in which gender is at work in what I'm seeing.

For example, yesterday, I watched an episode of Hoarders that followed the separate stories of a woman (Robin) and a man (Ken) with terrible hoarding problems that made their homes completely unlivable. The interesting difference between the two stories was that while Robin was facing the possibility that her home might be condemned and demolished, Ken was being threatened with six months of jail time as a consequence for the condition of his property.

Now, it's not like their situations were identical except for their gender. I wondered if maybe Ken faced incarceration because his yard was incredibly littered with junk, whereas Robin's problem was contained indoors, and one was just more visible and therefore violated more city ordinances or whatever, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that gender mattered in how these two cases were handled.

Whether or not that's true in this specific scenario, we do live in a culture that is quick to punish men through the criminal system and more reluctant to slap women with the same charges. (I should note that this is especially true of white women, and that women of color are often not afforded the luxury of appearing too "fragile" for prison.) In many situations, we assume men are acting rationally and therefore deserve punishment for their actions, and we are quicker to assume that women are mentally ill and in need of social services.

I'm not saying that we should be quicker to send women to jail or that we should stop punishing men who commit crimes, but it's important for us to think about how gender stereotypes act subtly on our social consciousness, affect our actions and reactions to people and events, and result in myriad inequalities.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Axe Tells Men to Clean Their Balls

I refuse to give Axe any accolades whatsoever, but I can't say I'm not amused to finally see an ad campaign implying that men could use a little hygiene of their own "down there".

Now, don't get me wrong. This ad isn't sexism-free, what with the message that men should clean their junk so hot women will want to play with it, but the general absence of male hygiene ads contrasted with the sheer volume of such ads for women has helped to enforce the cultural notion that women are dirty and men don't really have to try.

Still, one funny "wash your balls" ad will never outweigh the decades of nauseating "freshness" messages we've endured.

Vintage Ad of the Day

I'm too creeped out by this to comment.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Boobs Drive Technology


Of COURSE the world's first 3D billboard would have to be for Wonder Bra.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beauty and the Doofus

Last summer, when I was making my way through every episode of 90210, I posted about some stereotype-breaking, gender-flipped scenarios I'd love to see on television.

The other night, Dan and I watched Anchorman, and not only was it way less funny to me than it was six years ago, but it got me thinking about how annoyingly common this premise is in comedy:

Absolutely ridiculous, unattractive and/or unintelligent male protagonist actively and creepily pursues and/or sexually harasses a beautiful (but not funny), intelligent female love interest. She is either immediately or eventually (and often without explanation) won over by him and falls deeply and madly in love. They work together to resolve some sort of plot conflict. He remains comically strange and unattractive. She remains beautiful. They live happily ever after. The end.

(See Wayne's World, Austin Powers, Anchorman, Zoolander, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and a million others.)

Just ONCE, I'd like to see the gender roles reversed. Can you think of any film at all where a super-quirky, not necessarily beautiful female lead lands a strikingly handsome guy with little to no personality? The only examples I can think of that come close are the ones where the female character is a robot, alien, mannequin, or mermaid, and she is quirky by virtue of her non-humanness. However, in these movies she is still incredibly beautiful, and the story is still told from the point of view of the male character who falls in love with her.

It's just nauseating sometimes.

(See here for an example of a similar conundrum.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Options or Dangerous Double Standard?

My Women's Studies students always wanted to conclude that the fact that women are culturally freer to enjoy more "masculine" things (like sports, beer, and action movies) than men are to enjoy "feminine" things (like knitting, Twilight, and Lean Cuisine) means simply that women are advantaged and have more opportunities available to them. They didn't stop to think that perhaps things associated with women and femininity are so devalued that men are socially encouraged to avoid them at all costs, while activities associated with men are elevated such that it makes women seem "cooler" when they engage in them.

A good example of this is the ability of male comedians to get laughs by pretending to really like "feminine" things. I was reminded of this when watching a Daily Show episode from a couple weeks ago where Lewis Black expresses his disappointment in the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love for its inability to live up to the profound spirituality of the book and has the audience rolling with laughter at the notion that this heterosexual man would actually have any interest whatsoever in this feminine cultural phenomenon. (The video won't embed, but you can watch the segment here.)

Can you even imagine this scenario with the genders reversed? A female comedian waxing poetic about the latest Transformers movie with the audience laughing at the complete HILARITY at the idea that she might have enjoyed it? It would just come off as confusing.

Most women know from experience that showing off all the ways in which we like what "the boys" like can earn us a little bit of power, because it somehow gives us instant credibility if men know that we know all the rules in football or how to change a tire or whatnot. Growing up, I always felt like "one of the guys" for knowing my fair share about heavy metal music, video games, and Star Wars. I only regret that guys never expended nearly as much energy trying to impress me with their knowledge of anything "girly".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Objectification, Made Simple

Via Indexed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Diet Advice, Social Eating, and Feminism

(Cross-posted at UNBREADED)

You know the standard diet tips that are always showing up everywhere? The ones we've all heard a million times, but the magazines keep printing them, and the thin and bubbly morning news anchors keep filling segments with them? Sometimes, I feel like the media is droning out an endless Lost-style radio signal telling us to take the stairs, use smaller plates, and stop eating hours before bedtime.

While I find the repetition of many of these tips mildly annoying, there's one that I keep seeing that really gets under my skin: the one that advises we avoid eating alone.

The logic behind this tip is that people who consume most of their food in the presence of others apparently let their self-consciousness about appearing gluttonous get in the way of stuffing their faces. And while this advice may work wonders for some people, it's totally lost on me for a couple of reasons:

1) I've realized over the years that I'm what you might call a social eater. For me, food -- especially junk food full of sugar and starch -- is more fun when it's being shared. While I can stay on track with a healthy eating plan with few problems by myself, I often find a way to use getting together with friends as an excuse to stop caring about what I'm putting into my body. Sadly, this has meant that the times in my life when I feel the most fulfilled socially are also the times when I tend to gain the most weight, and rededicating myself to health and weight-loss often means having to isolate myself for a while in order to develop new habits.

Part of the problem is that I feel like I'm less fun (maybe even less me) when I'm ordering a salad instead of fries and drinking water instead of soda. I've never smoked, and I rarely drink, but I imagine the psychological process involved is similar for people who smoke or drink socially. I have this strong feeling that such indulgence is somehow necessary to my good time. Remember that study that came out a few years ago claiming that people with fat friends are more likely to also be fat? It made sense to me, because I think people just like surrounding themselves with like-minded people who enjoy similar things. Katie and I talk a lot about how there are so many people out there who just don't seem to care about food the way we do, and we both agree that it's much harder to relate to these people socially. Similarly, I doubt someone who thinks a party isn't a party without alcohol would get a lot of enjoyment from hanging out with me, but if you're always in the mood to get together and consume a large pizza and a tube of raw cookie dough, I'm your girl.

2) Those who know me well know that I'm a raging feminist who resents how women in our culture live in a regime in which we are constantly judged by our behavior and appearance and encouraged not to take up too much space. And the "friendly" dieting advice telling us not to eat alone actively counsels us to yield to insecurities derived from societal rules about how much and what types of foods women should be eating. In a culture in which we are are constantly taught that men are entitled to rich foods in large amounts and women are not, diet advice that encourages this sort of self-surveillance in women (anyone else read Foucault in college?) serves to further entrench gendered oppression and inequality.

My problem is that my feminist consciousness makes me want desperately to rebel against diet culture, even though I often actively participate in it, and that creates an ambivalence in me about eating that makes me go back and forth between trying to eat really healthfully and wanting to lash out at the diet industry by eating whatever the hell I damn well please, thankyouverymuch. It's not that appetite and/or fatness are inherently feminist, but in our sexist culture, unapologetic appetite and/or fatness in women is inherently political. And throughout my life, I have taken a special pride in being able -- in the presence of others -- to "eat like a man". I don't know that it's ever even really occurred to me to worry that people might think I'm eating too much, but I hate it when other people know I'm watching what I eat, because it feels antifeminist and stereotypically girly.

I'm interested in hearing what others think about this. Do your individual health goals sometimes end up conflicting with your self-image or your personal politics, and if so, how do you deal with it? Which conventional diet/fitness/health tips annoy the crap out of you?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day

American Airlines, 1950:


Copy reads:
VACATIONS are for Father but... Mother makes the plans!

In most families planning a vacation is mother's job. Carefully for months on end, she looks for just the right place to give father a good rest.

Today Flagship travel brings within her reach many wonderful places never before practical. Long tiring hours "on the road" are the thing of the past. By Flagship the trip is quick and easy. The family arrives rested and ready to enjoy those extra days of vacation.

So plan to vacation by Flagship this year. You'll find your holiday starts the moment you board the plane.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Real Dolls and the Problem with "Anatomically Correct"

One of my friends just shared this short documentary piece on the making of Real Dolls. There's also a super creepy series of photos from the factory here.

Honey Pie from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Real Dolls certainly give us feminists plenty to be bothered about, but when watching this video, the thing that probably bothered me the most is when the guy explained that when he started making these things, he got lots of questions about whether they were "anatomically correct", which is why they ended up with fuckable vaginas. And it struck me -- why, in our culture, does the term "anatomically correct" automatically equal genitals? When someone uses that term, we know exactly what they're talking about. (Sort of like how we know what the term "legal" is supposed to mean, when we're referring to young girls. Shudder.)

Shouldn't "anatomically correct" also refer to working brains? Central nervous systems? Hearts, lungs, bones, pores, blood cells, metabolism, digestion? These dolls, of course, have none of these things, but as long as they're "anatomically correct" in the way that serves the penises of the men who buy them, that's all that matters.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Video Chatting and the Male Gaze

So far, I've seen two of these new iPhone 4 commercials featuring the device's video chatting capabilities, and I'm really struck by how both of them feature someone who's male reassuring someone who's female that she looks okay.

In a culture where girls and women spend such large portions of their lives feeling self-conscious about how they look and feeling scrutinized by the male gaze, it's interesting to think about the types of political consequences face-to-face video chatting technology might someday have for women.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More like Stereotypical

According to Allstate, "your typical teenage girl" is MAYHEM!

And so are "hot babes out jogging":

Good to know.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gendered Marketing Compare and Contrast

I just saw the Shake Weight for Men commercial for the first time, and I was sort of stunned (although not really surprised) by how different it is from the earlier commercial aimed at women. Everything in these ads -- from the background music and narration, to the types of bodies shown -- communicates messages about "proper" masculinity and femininity.

It's "Look how easy this is, ladies! Anyone can do it!" versus "It will kick! Your! Butt!"

It's "Be strong and build muscle, men!" versus "Get rid of those problem areas, so you can look pretty in clothes!".

But most of all, it's just annoying.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Massive Eyeroll Friday: Charlotte, NC Named "America's Manliest City"

(Warning: Out of sheer necessity, this post contains an unprecedented amount of snarky quotation marks.)

So, the Mars corporation (which owns about a million trademarked food brands) apparently just conducted its second annual study to determine the "manliest" city in the U.S. Aside from consumption of Mars' more "manly" snack foods (Get the hilarious promotional tie-in? Get it?!), the criteria to determine "manliness" included participation in sports and "manly occupations", along with a ton of other activities I sort of thought women were allowed to participate in, too. I guess I was wrong, though.

Just read for yourself. (Emphasis mine):
The COMBOS® “America’s Manliest Cities” study ranks 50 major metropolitan areas, using manly criteria like the number of home improvement stores, steak houses, pickup trucks and motorcycles per capita. “We’re excited to release the second installment of the COMBOS® ‘America’s Manliest Cities’ rankings,” said Craig Hall, general manager, Mars Chocolate North America. “Charlotte is NASCAR country so we’re not surprised that they’ve taken over the top spot. After all, COMBOS® has been the ‘Official Cheese-Filled Snack of NASCAR’ since 2002.”

Several cities made big jumps up the rankings this year – Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia all broke the top 10 after being in the lower half of last year’s rankings. In addition to cities improving or declining in returning categories, the change in rankings can also be attributed to a new category this year – manly occupations (fire fighters, police officers, construction workers and EMT personnel).

The manly occupations category was added this year to recognize the hard-working guys that make so many American cities great places to live.

Supporting the theme of manliness, COMBOS® also recently launched its Zone Sweet Home sweepstakes at www.COMBOS.com – an opportunity for guys to win an ultimate Home Theater Zone, Tailgating Zone or Gaming Zone, each worth up to $25,000.

Manly Study Highlights

  • Charlotte, N.C. now has chief bragging rights on manliness thanks to its top 10 rankings in the sports, manly lifestyle, manly retail stores, manly occupations and salty snack sales categories.
  • Chi-town natives have another reason to applaud local police officers and firefighters. Chicago moved up 39 spots in the rankings to No. 7 overall, partly thanks to a strong ranking (No. 3) in the manly occupations category.
  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Calif., Oakland, Calif. and Portland, Ore. failed to pull themselves out of the basement of manliness as they each remained in the bottom 10 spots of the rankings for a second consecutive year.
  • Tennessee men embrace a manly lifestyle as Memphis and Nashville finished first and second in the “manly lifestyle” category that tracks the number of pickup trucks and motorcycles registered in the city, sports TV viewing habits, fishing and home improvement.
  • Long known as a city for diehard sports fans, Boston backed up that claim by taking the No.1 spot in the sports category thanks not only to the number of professional sports teams, but the quality of professional sports in the city.
  • The men of Oklahoma City still know how to snack with gusto. For the second year in a row, their city owns the highest purchase rate of salty snacks, such as COMBOS®.

Glad to know that giant corporations are spreading the important message that salty snacks, steak houses, law enforcement, firefighting, construction work, emergency medical training, all sports and sports TV viewing, home improvement stores, fishing, motorcycles, and pickup trucks are the purview of men. Since my city happened to take second place in manliness, I guess that means I'll have to move to the girly west coast.

Vintage Ad of the Day

In another surprisingly gender-neutral ad from the 1960s, a woman is shown using a power tool right alongside a man. Gasp!



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Futurama Returns!

Catch the new episodes starting tonight at 10pm on Comedy Central.

Leela Turanga from Futurama Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day: "Serious Feminine Derangement" Edition

From 1908:


Copy reads:

For she cannot help it. Women are often cross, irritable, hysteric, and declare they are driven to distraction at the slightest provocation.

Men cannot understand why this should be so. To them it is a mystery because in nine times out of ten this condition is caused by a serious feminine derangement. A remedy is necessary which acts directly upon the organs afflicted, restoring a healthy normal condition to the feminine system, which will quickly dispel all hysterical, nervous, and irritable conditions. Such is LYDIA E. PINKHAM'S VEGETABLE COMPOUND. The following letter serves to prove this fact.

Mrs. Mattie Copenhaver, 315 So. 21st St., Parsons, Kans. writes:
"For two years I suffered from the worst of feminine ills, until I was almost driven frantic. Nothing but morphine would relieve me. Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound brought me health and happiness and made me a well woman."

For thirty years Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, made from roots and herbs, has been the standard remedy for female ills, and has positively cured thousands of women who have been troubled with displacements, inflammation, ulceration, fibroid tumors, irregularities, periodic pains, backache, that bearing down feeling, flatulency, indigestion, dizziness, or nervous prostration. Why don't you try it?

Mrs. Pinkham invites all sick women to write her for advice. She has guided thousands to health. Address, Lynn, Mass.


Photoshop: Behind the Scenes

One of my students dug up this video a couple of quarters back and showed it to class, and it's too good not to share here. If you ever need to demonstrate to skeptics just how out of control the retouching industry is, this pairs nicely with the Dove "Evolution of a Model" video and the Impossibly Beautiful series at Shakesville.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day


Copy reads (emphasis mine):
See how much better they are...
Flint Gifts by Ecko

Anyone who loves to cook (male or female) is sure to love these wonderful Flint household gifts. They're beautiful, useful, lasting gifts that will be daily reminders of you and your thoughtfulness for years to come. See them and dozens of other Flint Gifts by Ecko wherever fine housewares are sold. See how much better they are!

Double-take! People who are male can love to cook?! And we can buy them cooking utensils and be considered thoughtful?! Whee!


Male Privilege: Making Women the Butt of Jokes Since the Beginning of Time

While I agree that the tea party folks are totally off their rockers, I'm not all that amused by this particular method of putting them in their place:


I realize that dissecting an image like this one is what earns me the "humorless" in "humorless feminist", but I can't help but notice when the humor in a joke depends entirely on a gendered power differential and our sexist history.

You see, this wouldn't be considered funny if women's suffrage had never been in question, and the fact that the 19th amendment isn't even 100 years old yet makes gags like these especially damaging to women. Not only does the phrase "men's suffrage" carry no similar meaning, but because men are considered the default and women are "other", individual men aren't considered as stand-ins for all men. They get a free pass on that burden.

Remember this?


It's the exact same principle at work.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

College Undergrads and the Future of Feminist Activism

So, I finished up school last week and now possess an MA in Women's Studies. In the two years I spent in my program, I taught Women's Studies 101 six times, which means I had the unique experience of getting to teach about 175 Midwestern undergraduate students some basic feminism.

Here are some observations about my students that shed some light on where they stand in relation to feminism. Don't take these as generalizations, as there were exceptions in every class. They're more like trends I noticed over the last couple of years about today's college undergrads who take Women's Studies. I also don't want some of the more pessimistic-sounding observations to come off as complaints. The vast majority of my students were learning about a feminist viewpoint for the first time, and some resistance to the ways in which it challenges what they have believed for most of their lives is totally natural. However, I think an understanding of where most students are when they first start thinking about these things can be illuminating:

  • They get outraged that their high school history classes never taught them who Alice Paul was or what women had to go through to get the right to vote.
  • They are highly invested in individual merit and personal responsibility and tend to ignore systemic causes and solutions to injustice and inequality.
  • They are quick to dismiss still-highly-relevant feminist theory written 10, 20, and 30 years ago on the grounds that "things have changed since then".
  • When they learn about the ERA, they show outrage that it never passed -- until they realize that it possibly could have meant requiring women to register for the draft.
  • When they read bell hooks' "Rethinking the Nature of Work", they shy away from engaging with her critique of capitalism and instead embrace her claim that women should stop devaluing housework.
  • They remain highly invested in male chivalry and often refuse to examine the power relations underlying the practice, arguing that it's important for men to be "gentlemen".
  • Despite being able to fully articulate the problems with blaming victims for rape and sexual assault, they still maintain that women should "know better" than to dress like whores and flirt with guys at bars.
  • They recognize the sexism in breast cancer awareness marketing that objectifies women, yet excuse it as long as the campaigns are making money that goes to a good cause.
  • They respond most positively to feminist arguments that don't single out men as the cause of women's oppression, and they seem eager to give equal attention to disadvantages experienced by men in our society.
  • After reading and hearing the words "people of color" and "women of color" in my class, some of them end up using the words "colored people" and "colored women" in their writing.
  • They often mix up the words "valorize" and "vilify" -- sometimes to hilarious effect.
  • They are quick to argue that gay, lesbian, and transgender folks deserve equal rights, but they rarely notice or point out when arguments are heterosexist.
  • When asked to list women they admire, many of them name Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Palin, but most of them name their mothers first.
  • They maintain, despite evidence that our bodies are constituted and shaped by the social, that women are naturally physically weaker than men.
  • With the exception of one "LOL" in two years, they don't write in text-speak, but they do tend toward a highly informal, conversational tone in their writing.
Has anyone who's taught before seen similar things or had a different experience? Does any of this surprise you? How do you think these trends affect the future of feminist activism?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Age and Fertility: A Slippery Slope


It's been in the news that the "world's oldest new mom" has just passed away.
MADRID - She devoted years to caring for her mother, who died at age 101. Then Maria del Carmen Bousada embarked on a quest to become a mom herself. She lied to a California fertility clinic to skirt its age limit, and later pointed to her mother’s longevity as a reason to expect she’d be around to care for her kids.

At age 66 she had twins, becoming the world’s oldest new mom — and raising questions about maternity so late in life. Now she is dead at age 69, leaving behind boys not yet 3.
Although I'm not surprised that stories like this "raise questions" about appropriate motherhood in our broader culture, it always catches me a bit off guard to hear vehement judgment passed on women for their choices. (If you read any of the comments on the story, or if you happened to catch The View yesterday morning, you know what I'm talking about.) There seems to be the general feeling that it's selfish or irresponsible for a woman to have children when there is a possibility that she will not live long enough to completely raise them. But there are a number of problems with using this rationale to support laws and policies that prohibit older women from seeking fertility treatment or becoming pregnant.

1. There's a double standard at work, here. When men die and leave behind small children, we generally don't blame them for fathering children at older ages, nor do we call them irresponsible for engaging in risky activities that may endanger their lives and cut short their time on earth with their offspring. (Instead, we usually just congratulate them on their virility.) The reason? As a society, we just don't hold men responsible for the physical or emotional work of childcare in the way we do women.

2. No matter how you look at it, prohibiting women of a certain age from pursuing their own reproductive decisions is inevitably political And I hate to use the fraught words "slippery slope", here, but passing judgment on some women really does open the door for all sorts of other restrictions on women's freedom. If there is to be a cut-off age for older women to be able to choose to have children, when should it be? Should it be based on average life expectancy for all women? Should race, region, or socioeconomic status be taken into account, even though these factors have been shown to have significant effects on life expectancy? Would having different standards for different women smack of uncomfortable -isms we would rather avoid, while not doing so would perhaps disadvantage women who are arguably better equipped live longer and raise their children? Why is age and not overall health the determining factor? Shouldn't women be given health screenings before they receive fertility treatment to make sure they're in tip top health (whatever that means) before they can proceed? And why stop at fertility treatments and in vitro fertilization? If it is so incredibly tragic and detrimental for young children to lose their mothers, why not prohibit older women from becoming pregnant on their own, as well? Why not enforce contraception for all female cancer patients? How about (re)enacting protectionist laws that keep women out of all sorts of dangerous situations that men are free to enter, just so that we can guarantee all children that their mothers will be kept safe from harm?

3. Life is unpredictable. Young mothers die, too. Bousada very well could have lived to be 101 years old, like her mother before her. The fact that she ended up passing away at the still rather early age of 66 does not prove anything.

4. Finally, and I hope I don't catch too much heat for this one, but since when is deciding to have children (at any age) not a selfish act? Generally, people become parents for totally self-interested reasons, but this selfishness only gets called out when people feel they have a reason to mount their high horses and act as if their parenting is pure and selfless because they did it right (in which "right" means "according to societal norms").

We need to trust women to make choices about their bodies and their lives. If IVF is going to be available to anyone, it should be available to everyone. When we blame and punish doctors for women's decisions, it infantilizes women by sending the message that they are unable to make intimate decisions for themselves and their families.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day

While I'm not entirely sure what's going on in this picture, I can guess that you would NEVER see an image of a woman looking quite so uncomfortable holding a baby in an advertisement:


Copy reads:
Sero designs in DACRON
A poised performer -- the distinguished Bristol collar -- in an exclusive checkpoint pattern that swings with sophistication. The pink of perfection -- deftly tailored with Sero's distinctive "long-point" collar and neat, trim body lines. In no-iron Sero-press of 65% Dacron Polyester 35% combed cotton. Also available in blue and gold as shown.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day

Posted by Picasa

Get it? If you don't buy your man these products RIGHT NOW, he's going to cheat on you!

Copy reads:
Now, dare to give him what he really wants -- 007, the bold new grooming aids that make any man dangerous.
There's a 007 gift set for every assignment. The arsenal includes007 After Shave, Hair Tonic, Spray Deodorant, Cologne, Shave Cream, Talc and Soap. Each has a license to kil... women.
Give him as much as you dare. But hurry. If you don't, someone else will.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Where We Put Our News: The Politics of Information Placement

A bunch of my Women's Studies 101 students just wrote papers in which they examined the differences between popular men's and women's magazines and analyzed how magazine content sends messages about gender roles. They overwhelmingly took notice of the fact that men's magazines contain a disproportionate amount of news and current events, while such content is rarely found in women's magazines, and they were especially good at explaining how this is problematic in that it makes news more accessible to men than to women.

Well, yesterday, I was reminded of another place that men tend to see the news and women don't. Public restrooms.


I remember the first time a guy I knew told me that it's incredibly commonplace for men's public restrooms to have the day's newspaper displayed somewhere within them. That it happens most often in restaurants, that it's typically the front page or the sports section displayed, and that it's usually placed right above the urinals. I was sort of shocked, because I wondered why men get to read the news while they're in the loo and we ladies have to stare at the boring inside of a stall door with no opportunity to enrich our minds with current events. Dan guesses the newspapers are there to encourage men to keep their eyes front and off each other's junk -- to provide a welcome distraction to ease the tension of an uncomfortable situation. And although I guess that's understandable, isn't there something sort of political about the fact that men have this extra, built-in opportunity to learn more about the world around them than women do? That, through no real effort of their own, they have this extra couple of minutes of absorbing pertinent information? Doesn't there seem to be some sort of age-old stereotype at work about men caring more about the news than women?

Be it tradition, stereotype, or mere distraction, it reeks of privilege to me. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Called Out

This commercial came on last night when I was watching TV, and I started bitching to Dan about how terrible these ads are for sending the message that girls should aspire to be lifeless mannequins:

But then Dan reminded me that I was in the middle of watching America's Next Top Model, which pretty much has the exact same premise. Sigh.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Body for Everybody?

First of all, Victoria's Secret, don't even think about co-opting the language of loving your body when your models likely starved themselves in order to feel comfortable prancing around in your undergarments in your commercials. And secondly, the notion that these images depict "a Body for everybody" is downright offensive.

Friday, February 5, 2010

At least I'm only a day late this year.

I think it's become a tradition for me to forget my "blogiversary" every year. It was yesterday. It's been a great four years! Thanks to anyone who still puts up with my sporadic posting and poor attention to comments.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Betty White = Awesome

If you didn't see 88-year-old Betty White receive her Lifetime Achievement Award from The Screen Actor's Guild last night, you missed out. Hopefully, these YouTube clips stay online so you can all enjoy it (the Betty stuff starts at 2:50 in the first video clip, and her hilarious speech starts around 4:50 in the second one):

White guys, white guys, white guys.

Even though I agree with the feminist critiques of late-night TV, we still DVRed and The Tonight Show all this week, because the drama ended up making for some really interesting television and provided endless fodder for good comedy. Not only were the jokes especially funny, but Conan made a big deal about all of the amazing guests who were coming on the show in what might be (and was eventually confirmed to be) its last week on the air. As we watched it night after night, I couldn't help but notice a pattern in these guests.


That's right. With the exception of a Cirque du Soleil performer (who didn't speak) and Joss Stone (who also just performed), it was white guys, white guys, white guys.

Doesn't do much to trouble the stereotype of the late night TV boys club, huh?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day

The classic man-loves-car-more-than-you story:


Copy reads:
"The Eternal Triangle.

You would think Ralph's new love would have been curtains for me. I mean, it was all he talked about. Well, I learned to live with it. As it turned out, I think his Charger R/T really brought us closer together. He's taught me how to shift the 4-speed syncromesh. He lets me pick out the stereo tapes. And clean the vinyl buckets. It's not all bad. He even mentioned marriage once."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day

Another one for the "here's why you can't catch a man" files:


Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Problem with Using Female Orgasms to Sell Condoms

Via AdFreak, I just saw this (not safe for work) Durex condom ad from China which consists entirely of orgasm noises:

But the problem with using female orgasm noises to sell condoms is the fact that a great deal (possibly even the majority) of women do not achieve orgasms from activities (i.e. penis-in-vagina intercourse) that involve condoms. Some do, sure. And maybe a great deal many others make similar pleasure-evoking noises during intercourse even if what they're feeling isn't exactly an orgasm. But somehow, I feel like this ad perpetuates the myth that this one over-valorized sexual act is THE (one and only) way to pleasure a woman. Or that it contributes to the idea that the act that is generally considered the most pleasurable for men drives all women absolutely bonkers with orgasms, reinforcing this idea that it's the only thing anyone ever needs to do.

Or maybe I just dislike the ad for the way it takes the sounds of women's pleasure and uses them to communicate to men: "See what you can make women DO if you use our product?" Depictions of women experiencing sexual pleasure are rather hard to come by in the media, and I'm amazed by how this ad was able to take something that could have been progressive and manage to make men the actors and women the objects of their action.

Solidarity for Practical Laziness!

In a discussion on the politics of housework in one of my classes today, my professor was naming off a list of house chores that always seem to be assigned to women. And when she got to bedmaking, she barked, quite bluntly:

"Well, I would argue that no one really has to make the bed, anyway. What a waste of time for something you just get back into and mess up again. Pointless!"

And I knew right then and there that we were going to get along just fine.

Vintage Ad of the Day

Because without that morning facial, your husband may not even come home at night!


Friday, January 8, 2010

Vintage Ad of the Day


To women with pear-shaped bodies: Feel bad about yourselves! Your body is weird and unnatural! So weird and unnatural that you need extra padding to balance out your disgusting figure!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oh, look.

Some people can make "top ten" lists of notable women and not resort to including horses! Check this out:

Kotaku: The Ten Most Influential Women In Games Of The Past Decade

Pretty awesome. Just avoid the comments section unless you want to be schooled by a bunch of assholes on what makes one "influential" and on what sexism is.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Grade 'A' Pink"

When I see this subway ad photo a reader sent in to Shakesville:


All I can picture is this:

We've come a long way, baby.