February 2010 Archives

Blog 2- (late, I know)

1.In the past I have not thought about advertising and consumerism trends as they applied to Lesbians specifically. I found Commodity Lesbianism to be quite helpful, at least in terms of their descriptions of how Capital has created the need or the foundation for Lesbian consumers, yet has not identified them as being a substantially large enough group that would require their own target market. While many popular conceptions of gay men incorporate consumerism into their constructed identities, many lesbians remain (as they have before) anti-fashion/consumerism. As it discussed in both this article and Bitchfest, the societal idea of "lipstick lesbians" has often been popularized to either try to appeal to a newer generation, or provide an idealized, sexualized version of the real thing.
2.This concept of "choice" enters the equation again in Commodity Lesbianism as it applies to "heterosexist" ideas of appearance. It seems hard to comprehend the fashion industry embracing lesbian culture or politics. For, as Clarke discusses, popular advertising has yet to incorporate ideas of lesbian politics into their campaigns, and views their sexuality as a "choice."
3. It would have been interesting to read Serano's views of Transamerica. I almost felt guilty for enjoying The Crying Game. I wish Serano could have given more examples of this "secret," "fake," or "hidden" sexuality as it applies to media portrayals of transsexuals, specifically as it applied to The Crying Game, for even though the film is rather new, it could be viewed as groundbreaking in terms of popular cinema.

Better Late then Never- These roles

While reading over the readings of last week i was struck by how much each author took on the idea of roles. Some did not even address the issue but accepted them and yet others forth rightly fought against them.

And i get it, they are all grappling with issues of race, gender, sexuality...and so on

But what of the roles themselves? During class this past Wednesday my group touched lightly on this topic. Female body builders need to 'feminize' themselves to fit into the women role still. Native American's have to 'play the role' to get any parts in movies (what little there are). This is wrong yes, but the role of woman or role of man or anything is still a role.

You cannot escape them it seems. Even to be 'not something' is a role. The Native Americans are 'not white' and are therefor an other. Male or female or even androgynous, there is no escaping it. Everything must be labeled. every idea is a thing and has a name and is a label/role.

And if it is this apparently inescapable labels and roles are what lead to this segregating of ideas and categorizing things like people and groups then what do we do?

For something to exist there must be a paradigm, a schema, a thing we can know it by. Without labels and roles there is not idea. Without a label, you are nothing. you are not-a-thing.

Can we exist without labels?

Look at your man...now look back at me

This is the Old Spice ad i mentioned in class last night.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE
It clearly plays to traditional narratives of male attractiveness and the attributes that make a man "everything a woman could desire" - those things being diamonds, two tickets to that things you like, a shirtless man on horseback who smells great (and NOT like a lady), - while doing it in a tongue-in-cheek way. It's both a call to men to do what they can to attract ladies, and to ladies to persuade their man he should emulate this ultimate specimen of fantastic manliness. He'll provide for you (discourse - women need to be looked after by a strong man), give you something beautiful to look at (interesting use of the female gaze, in line with heteronormative values), and most of all...he's clearly in charge and you're just along for the ride. Now git on that horse!

What do you think of it?

"Straightlaced" Film & Discussion, Monday Feb. 22

We hope you'll join us on Monday night for a screening of the 1-hour
film Straightlaced, followed by open discussion and accompanied by
free pizza! This event is part of a series of discussions about
gender & social justice called "Genderheads."

Genderheads: Straightlaced Film + Discussion
Monday, February 22
6:00 - 8:00 PM
Appleby Hall 103
http://www1.umn.edu/twincities/maps/ApH

"Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up" is a new film that
unearths how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are
confining American teens, through candid interviews with more than 50
high school students from diverse backgrounds. Their stories
demonstrate how gender role expectations and homophobia are
interwoven, and illustrate the different ways these expectations
connect with culture, race and class.

For more information about Straightlaced:
http://groundspark.org/our-films-and-campaigns/straightlaced

ABOUT GENDERHEADS
Genderheads is a series of informal discussions about our gendered
lives: talking about how we experience gender identity, expression,
oppression, joy, performance, perception -- and the intersections of
gender with race, class, ability, sexuality, and all our identities.
Each dialogue is led by a different facilitator (could be you!) and
may utilize questions, texts, activities, films, art, and/or more to
prompt discussion. Sponsored by the Transgender Commission and the
Women's Student Activist Collective. Contact Ross atneely010@umn.edu
if you'd like to get involved and/or lead a discussion!

NEXT GENDERHEADS DISCUSSION
Tuesday, March 23
12:00 - 1:30 PM
Women's Student Activist Collective
Coffman Union 202

The March Genderheads discussion will be hosted & facilitated by the
Women's Student Activist Collective in Coffman 202. Everyone is welcome!

You can always find all our updated event information on the GLBTA
Programs Office homepage:

http://www.glbta.umn.edu

Commodity Lesbianism

COMMODITY LESBIANISM

Clark's explains the intentional strategies used by capitalists in the world of advertisement ()then and now) and how they struggle to digest and reproduce appeal to the consumers and their lack of Lesbianism in advertisements. Clark's point about the "discrimination poses" personally caught my attention because, although I'm unable to provide a specific commercial, I will say that this is a very true and strong reality. As children, were "thought" the social structures of society and "identify" to these learned behaviors within a particular social group; as a heterosexual, my view of advertisements (ultimately associated with how I view the world) in most ways, have been programmed to either accept what identifies to my personal beliefs or disregard difference. For example, when I watch television and see two men walking my mind automatically picks out the subtle indication of sexuality within their relationship ( their interaction- i.e, I may ask myself a mental question like, "why is his hair so long, so feminine? and why is he continuously rubbing his fingers through it?" )
Further more, D'Emilio's explanation of the techniques used my capitalist and how they are consumed by the diverse markets but still hold onto the socially accepted ideology of "heterosexuality" was another point I found intriguing. Therefore indicating that majority of society hasn't came to accept homosexuality but have learned to "respect" it and can possible "save" it (heterosexuality is the majority and therefore, majority's needs are met more directly which in turn indirectly defines them as "the norm") As stated, capitalism has changed with time (20th Century focused on family values) just as consumers of today has changed. We are more liberal and accepting to the idea that "family life" isn't perfect and therefore it isn't a necessity so in this respect we're motivated to being INDEPENDENT of other people's views of what our sexual preference may be (reason behind Dual Marketing Strategy). Based on the idea of independence, advertisements are appealing to us on a more personal level.

Blog Entry Two

I liked the readings "Commodity Lesbianism", "Brain, Brow, and Booty", and "Tales of Difference" for how they examined representations of various groups of women and how that confuses the question of identity within intersectionalities. I was reminded a lot of the short story "Passing" by Langston Hughes written during the Harlem Renaissance. The main character writes to his mother about how happy and privileged he is to have a skin tone that is light enough so that he is perceived, or "passes", as white even though he comes from a mainly black family. Hughes uses his letter to raise into question what privileges come with resembling more like the dominant culture and consequently denying part of one's actual background. I felt like the readings presented similar situations where a different group or culture in a predominantly white culture is at risk of either having its identity commodified or essentialized, or worse, hybridized with the dominant culture to become more visibly accepted (like lipstick lesbians being in fashion, or Guzman and Valivia's discussion of Latina women with more European facial features being better received.) Even more so, like Zeisler's examination of the dichotomies of women in early Hollywood cinema, Bird proves that even women from other cultures, that is Native American women, can be reduced in film to simple Western binaries like the saint-like native princess or the sexually immoral squaw.

Blog #2

There are so many Indian tribes and yet when we refer to them we tend to group them all in one category. I always think of minorities being under represented by the media. Reading the article about Representations of American Indian Women made me realize just how much more difficult Native Americans have it to break out of certain stereotypes. There is so much more to them and yet many of us know very little if anything at all about modern lifestyles of Native Americans. I also was not aware of the way Native American women were degraded by the media so much and given the name squaw. I really would like to see more American Indian females portrayed or empowered by the media. The article mentions how most of us don't have much interaction with Native American people and the only way know about them is through media. It would be nice if we had more accurate portrayals of their culture and traditions instead of negative stereotypes or no representations at all.

Predefined Images - Buy Them or Be Damned!

The theme linking this week's readings followed on well from the notion of the male gaze discussed last week. So many groups are defined as being outside of the dominant group, marginalized by their "otherness," that it's the white male heteronormalizing patriarchy - with their inordinate amount of power - who should really be looking in from the margins and trying to figure out how their dwindling numbers can still wield any power. Of course, the hegemonic discourse they control and perpetuate ensures their privileged status...for now. In spite of occasional cries from that dominant group (if they're yelled with any seriousness, they need an intensive course of irony recognition training) about how _they're_ the ones being discriminated against, the framing of elements that are held up to define all other groups is done from the perspective of privileged white males.

Isis had to deal with the prescribed definitions of femininity that were used to judge and exclude her from achieving full membership of the gender group she herself identifies with on the Tyra Banks Show. I hadn't seen the show before and was pleased to see Tyra standing up for Isis by calling out the blatant double-standards of Clark, although I wonder how interested in the story people would have been if Isis wasn't reaching for an traditional and accepted version of feminine beauty. One of the comments (I tried not to look, honest!) on the YouTube page called Isis "homely looking." Once again, beauty rears its ugly head.

It was refreshing to be reminded that proudly occupying a resistant place to deliberately subvert mainstream values is possible, instead of something that can only be endured by those marginalized. Of course, the "choice" in being in that place is not exactly free, as lesbians have the binary challenge or option of trying to conceal their reality or expect oppression. As Williams was quoted, "By wearing the privilege of straight culture, one can avoid political oppression." I like that there's power in setting oneself up in resistant to the hegemonic forces of capitalism if it's done willingly and to make a point. The "lesbian-feminist anti-style" is used by some to label and criticize, but it can also be worn with pride. By maintaining a spot outside of heretonormative society, an island that resists colonization can exist. The term "gay window advertising" was new to me, but gave me the same pleasure from knowing that messages can be subverted and reinterpreted from the majority view, and can be given new meaning through an oppositional gaze or specific encoding that is meant to slip through unnoticed.

Blog Entry 2

The article I found most interesting this week was "Skirt Chasers: Why the Media Dresses the Trans Revolution in Lipstick and Heels." Serano states, "because we are a threat to the categories that enable male and heterosexual priviledge, the images and experiences of trans people are presented in the media in a way that reaffirms, rather than challenged, gender stereotypes." I will admit that I am not well informed when in comes to issues of the trans revolution (other than obviously what I have seen in the media). However, I found this quote interesting because I kind of view trans gendered people in the opposite light of the media. I think it can be empowering for the opposite sex(whether it be trans gendered females or males). What I mean is that if someone is born biologically a man and going through surgery, ridicule, etc. to become female, that means that the female sex has something that makes the biological man feel whole. We (women) have something of value that the man does not.

Another thing I took particular interest in was not really explained much in the reading but, I think it can be incorporated into the context of the class at large. In "Brains, Brow, and Booty," when the authors are explaining popular Latino/a shows in the United States, they mention Nick Jr.'s Dora the Explorer. A few months back I had heard of a controversy over a new, 'all grown up' Dora, so I did a little bit more research. The grown up Dora had become sexualized, which outraged mothers of young children who watch the show. I just found it interesting that even TV icons for children are becoming sexual objects. It is one thing for adult actors to portray themselves as such, but now even children's cartoons are subject to such objectification of women. I guess it should not surprise me considering the images of Barbie we have seen. Anyway, if you want to read more... http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2009/03/06/2009-03-06_dora_the_explorer_dolls_get_controversia.html

Blog #2

I wanted to comment mostly on the chapter we read from Bitchfest because I think it addresses a lot of the overlying social issues that surround not only the position of transsexual women in society but the position of ALL women. Julia Serano comments a lot on the representation of transsexual women in movies and their portrayal not as women but as men who are ACTING as women. They are thought to be deceiving society, masquerading as something they are not; lying to those around them. Our society, with a deep-embedded understanding of male privilege, cannot fathom in a real way WHY a person given the gift of a penis would ever hide the physical ques needed to allow society to understand its there.

Serano says, "After all, masculinity is generally defined by how a man behaves, while femininity is judged by how a woman presents herself." This line touches directly on the root of a whole lot of feminine issues that surround us in the media, and nudge women into the thinking that if they can take control of their appearance-- wear more makeup, skimpier clothing, get a boob job, become anorexic-- they will have control of their femininity and thus their ability to attract men and succeed in society. Our thinking is directed by this often-suppressed notion that if we are able to do something well, that's great but not enough. If we can look good while doing it-- THEN we will be noticed. Take Nascar driver Danica Patrick-- she's now appearing in commercials for godaddy.com where she's using her sexuality as a direct tool for sponsorship. Is she a talented race car driver? Absolutely. Does this advertisement allow her to lead a more successful career in the public eye? Yeah-- because she is not just a great athlete now; she's a hot chick as well.

Commodity Lesbianism and Fashion

While reading Commodity Lesbianism by Danae Clark, I couldn't help but evaluate the fashion I am promoting or selling at the place I work on the Weekends. I decided to make a list of fashion that has been promoted over the years that can be worn by both male and female.

1. Tie (totally male but over a decade ago females just started wearing it for fun. Even Sarah Jessica Parker did an ad for gap with a tie.)
2. Boyfriend Jeans (seriously, fashionistas took a pair of their boyfriend jeans, rolled it up and paired it with a pair of heels and made it a style)
3. Boyfriend Blazer (so, the jeans was not enough, a fancy male blazer with rolled you sleeves becomes a women's blazer within a sec.)
4. Fedora hats and truck caps ( Truck drivers are usually men and they are always seen with the cap. Fedora hat: what men wear in the rain, a movie or on a sunny day, if not a cap)
5. High heel sneakers (a pair of sneaker "chuck like" with a heel of usually 3 inches added on)
6. overly large male dress shirt ( add a skinny belt onto it and you got yourself a tunic with style, just wear leggings no need for jeans)
7. Skinny Jeans ( even the jonas bros are wearing them)

... anywaise, Fashion does have a way of creating this practice of "inning" for Lesbians. They don't have to stand out, heterosexual females are doing what they're doing; donning male fashion too.

Blog #2 - Commodifying Identities

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This week's readings centering around popular media's way of commodifying genders were all pretty compelling but as far as discussion point that I really agreed with it would have to be Julie Serano's discussion of media depictions of trans women in "Skirt Chasers." She argues that when trans women are portrayed they almost always are cast under one of two roles: "deceptive transsexual" or "pathetic transsexual." Reading this I just kept thinking about all the examples of this in movies and television, the "deceptive transsexual" is always depicted so that they are somehow deserving of punishment and the "pathetic transsexual" is cast as continuous comic relief and/or reinforcement of masculinity. These images never subvert the stereotypes accorded to what womanhood is the way that they are truly capable of doing. Can we even think of examples from popular culture that don't meet these depictions? I'm curious.
The essay "Commodity Lesbianism" by Danae Clark was really interesting and insightful but as a far as a point for discussion I wasn't completely sold on it. I just kept thinking...do "lesbians" even want to be marketed to, simply on the basis that they are lesbians? I know that sounds like a weird question but is that supposed to be a sign that you've arrived? If big, corporate, capitalist, marketing companies acknowledge you're buying potential and therefore gear their ads toward you? And the way Clark describes it; it has to remain under the radar because....shhhhh, the heteros might notice. I don't know, maybe it's a silly question but I couldn't help but wonder.

Blog Entry 2

Although I found merit in all of the articles I read for this week, Danae Clark's essay entitled "Commodity Lesbianism" especially intrigued me because it's an issue that I can personally relate to. I felt the essay was a good candidate for my commentary because of my own personal experience with androgynous and/or "gay window" advertising from a lesbian perspective.

When I first read the words "gay window advertising," I was looking at it from an informational standpoint. However, as I began to fully understand what the essay meant by the phrase, it became quite relatable. The notion that advertisers promote androgynous styles in a predominantly straight context so as to appeal to both straight and queer females who might be looking is not a new one to me. I've seen it myself and, within the lesbian community, have engaged in discourse about it. Most of the time, these conversations aren't from a scholarly perspective; however, I've heard many a young lesbian comment on how, during periods where masculine style of dress is in fashion, the heterosexual community seems to be imitating us. I say this mainly to validate Clark's point, but also to enter into commentary about the practice.

While I have no doubt that advertisers use this approach to appeal to a larger market and make more money without many negative intentions, I don't think they realize that what they are doing actually might offend some of us. Yes, it's easy to see why many young, queer women find this kind of advertising attractive and meaningful in that they feel, in a way, accepted and liberated from the stereotypical lesbian attire. At the same time, there is a history behind this stereotyped style (or un-style as Clark calls it). During the hight of what some call the "lesbian movement," dykes saw dressing in masculine or androgynous clothing as a political statement--a blatant middle finger at then contemporary ideas of femininity--as some still see it today. In fact, they "style" had less to do with being gay and more to do with the protesting of gender roles in general. Obviously, sadly, this meaning has been lost on some. This is the case with many advertisers who seem to think they're doing us a favor. In fact, by sucking lesbian style into the hegemony, they are systematically annihilating the politics behind it. To myself and many others, that's an act of disrespect towards queer women.

Along these same lines, many of us take this systematic annihilation as a direct insult in that it seems to urge for lesbian assimilation into the heterosexual culture. Although advertisers may think they're helping lesbians feel accepted, it really feels like a push in the opposite direction. Going along with this, many of us see this hetero-normative ignorance as a sort of inside joke. We laugh about it. We laugh because straight advertisers, straight MALE advertisers, genuinely think their catering to us. This is not to say they aren't catering to some (I personally know many lesbians who celebrate femininity in a hegemonic way and don't think anything of it--that's their right) but to those of us who are consciously making the choice to dress outside of feminine fashion, it provides proof that our social group and it's culture is still oppressed and alienated.

One final note about "gay window" advertising: In her essay, Clark says, "Once stripped of its political underpinnings, lesbianism can be represented as a style or consumption linked to sexual preference. Lesbianism, in other words, is treated as merely a sexual style that can be chosen...just as one chooses a particular mode of fashion...." By commodifying lesbianism, advertisers are making a correlation between fashion choice an the "choice" of becoming a lesbian. This is particularly infuriating because being a dyke is NOT a choice at all. How you represent yourself most certainly is, but every last queer person that I know would laugh at the idea of choosing homosexuality. No one just chooses to be oppressed, underrepresented, and shunned as a member of a sub-culture. This implication is just another homophobic, heterosexual, hegemonic strike against the gay community.

Blog post #2.....

After reading Bitchfest i couldn't help but think of RuPauls drag race, which i love by the way, but there was a scene in the last recent episode where two of the ladies were having a conversation and one asked the other if she always felt drag or only when dressed in drag, and the response was that she only felt drag in drag but always felt like a lady. I found this to be very interesting as i read the book and started to connect it with both the Trya episodes and the readings. So, what defines a woman? This is the question that kept popping in my head when reading and watching all of the material, including the article by Danae Clark when she mentioned bodybuilders. I couldn't help but to continually ask myself that particular question and it even lead me to having a discussion with one of my roommates. With that, as I was reading the book, it kept bringing to my attention different factors such as power, fetish, and surgery. Is it the physical appearance that defines a woman (i.e. surgery), or is it how one identifies oneself? Either way, how can you get angry with someone who identifies themselves as one or the other, or can you? Or would they be considered "fake" men and or women?

A passage from the book that I found intriguing was, "Women and men are not separated by an insurmountable chasm, as many people believe; most of us are only a hormone prescription away from being perceived as the opposite sex." So, who is being fake, and who is being real? Or, is there a such thing?

Women's Bodybuilding

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One thing that I found very interesting from the readings was the passage about women's bodybuilding from the first article Commodity Lesbianism. The author mentions how women's bodybuilding has become more acceptable in mainstream society than in the past due to more advertising of muscular women. It shows that women can still be attractive if they have muscles. However, there still continues to be this notion that women who have too much muscle are too masculine, and therefore are unattractive to males or are stereotyped as being a lesbian. In the world of women's bodybuilding, flexing one's muscles is encouraged and appreciated; while to the rest of society, women flexing is seen as emulating a man's role - which is why these stereotypes take place.

I can relate to this personally because I have ran into the problem of worrying whether or not I will become "too big" if I lift weights as a woman. My boyfriend often worries that I will get as big/strong as he is (not that it will ever happen). I don't want to look unattractive to men, or for people to assume I am a lesbian just because I am into lifting weights. Therefore, there obviously still lies this notion that women can't be attractive if they have too many muscles. This is why I am glad the author points out that there is a push to take away this negative impression and instead have it more acceptable for women to be attractive AND have muscles, whether or not they are straight or a lesbian.

Here is a link to a video with a recent women's bodybuilding show if you're interested...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp2-VnJfhco


Tales of Difference made the point that American Indians are grossly underrepresented not only in the production and directing of major pieces of pop culture, but also in their representations at all in popular TV and movies and the like. Further, when such representations actually do occur, they often fall into a very limited number of tropes, especially women.

Bird, however, contradictorily blames this on Hollywood being forced into resolving two stereotypes when representing Native women, that of their ethnicity, and that of their sex while at the same time acknowledging that progress has been made for groups such as black women, who would be problematic for dominant cinema in the same way that Indian women would be. Obviously, both of these assertions cannot be simultaneously true.

Bird did duly note that there exists an extreme otherness to American Indians, regardless of sex, and I believe that it is this otherness and lack of everyday contact which is more to blame for the continued, blatant and egregious stereotypes placed on these people. An example of this lack of knowledge, is the traditional Euro-American telling of the story of Pocahontas, from which the "Native princess" trope is derived. As Prof. Donald Sharpes in his essay "Princess Pocahontas, Rebecca Rolfe (1595-1617)' points out, rather than a story of taboo love and self-sacrifice to save a lover, the story of Pocahontas is centered around a rape and kidnapping. Clearly, not even the best-known tale about a Native American is told with any discernable degree of accuracy, yet the myth persists and continues to define stereotypes. Better education about the very real lives of both present and past Native American people will likely be needed to begin substantially eroding the inflexible stereotypes facing Native Americans.

GWSS Media Center Hours

Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center
Location: 468 Ford Hall
Spring 2010 RRFMC Open Hours

Monday: 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM • 1:15 PM - 5:30 PM
Tuesday: 11:15 - 3:15 PM
Wednesday: 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM • 1:15 PM - 4:45 PM
Thursday: CLOSED
Friday: 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM

Mary L. Gray Talk on Queer Youth in Rural Culture

Here is an exciting upcoming talk in the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Department:

Mary L. Gray,
Friday February 19th 3-4:30pm
Ford Hall 130:

"Queer Kids Here? Mediating the Politics of Gay Visibility in Rural United
States"


Here is a link to a recent write-up on her book Out in the Country:
http://www.nyupress.org/books/Out_in_the_Country-products_id-11057....

1) I really related to when she was talking about the "male gaze". I, myself, have experienced this paradigm since becoming a physically mature woman. The part that really struck me was when she quoted New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in saying that " women want to be saved from their ambition". I personally remember as a kid feeling a strong sense of self, which was somehow lost to me upon the arrival of breasts and boys and that has only recently returned to me (I'm 23). And I was further surprised/horrified at how prevalent the "male gaze" is in almost every aspect of our culture.

2) Overall I didn't have any complaints about this book other than at some points I felt as though she made some pretty big claims and didn't give a lot of support. I specifically noticed this when she would talk about the portrayal of women in movies as a whole but then just use one example - such as the film "Fatal Attraction" when she was talking about how the "free woman" still ends up alone and insane.

3) I wish the author had gone more in depth on the current state of the feminist movement and/or the current position of feminism within pop culture. I thoroughly enjoyed the history provided for us in this text and find it to be extremely relevant but I was curious to know more.

Blog One

I agreed with the way Zeisler described how the media tends to portray women who are critical of modern-day feminist notions instead of women who seek further change and progress. The word "feminist" holds preconceived notions of bra-burning hippies and man-haters who only seek to "stir up trouble," (a perfect example of the inequality that still exists). The media, if it portrays outspoken feminists at all, often tries to portray them in this light and turns their concerns into ramblings of the radical with an "oh,-not-this-again" attitude. However, when the media portrays women who criticize feminist notions, they are placed on a pedestal and thought of as more reasonable; ready to accept their place in society and act unaware or indifferent of the sharp pay discrepancies between men and women in the workplace, the ever-sexual representations of women in the media, and the ultra-thin body images bombarding every magazine and advertisement found in mainstream culture.

Where Zeisler seemed to lack defense, in my opinion, was where she discussed women's appearances on reality TV shows. The various shows were obviously insulting to many--women parading across a stage for men to choose from; a bride for a millionaire, average Joe, or stunning bachelor all ready and willing at a moments notice. However, what's missing from her discussion is the agency of the women who appeared on the shows. While many would consider their decision to participate a poor representation of women and lacking in self-respect, they have the agency to decide whether or not they feel the same way. I feel that the way she discussed it left the women who did appear on the shows without the right to decide in the same way she did, simply because they didn't feel the same way. While their decision may push feminism movement's backward in her eyes, those women may not feel the same way.

I wish Zeisler would have spent more time relating feminism in pop culture to other marginalized groups in pop culture. While feminist issues are in dire need of discussion, so are other issues relating to gender, sexuality, and race and while that may not have been the direct point of her book, I think it could have strengthened it.

Dismantling the master's house

I found Feminism & Pop Culture a great overview of the history and challenges of the feminist movement. One common thread that Andi Zeisler followed on her tour was how feminism has been demonized since its early inception as actually harming the cause of women; this objection, of course, coming from those feeling threatened by even the slightest balancing out of power dynamics. The contradictions inherent in popular culture's representations of women aren't new - mixed messages about appropriate behavior, with one set of rules for males (the "boys will be boys" get-out clause that excuses all sorts of misogyny and misanthropy) and the double-edged sword for females of desiring freedom, but being cosmically punished for enjoying that freedom too much, have been around in literature, theater, movies, and the more modern iterations of popular culture for many, many decades.

The most striking analysis, for me, was of the dangers of the post-feminist position. By adopting some of the language of feminist critique, those opposed to the rational persuasiveness of feminism are able to parade mouthpieces for the anti-feminist agenda who, to the casual observer, seem themselves to be speaking from the feminist perspective, but are in fact actively seeking to undermine it. By explaining away the failures of feminism from a putatively sympathetic and caring perspective, claiming to have the best interests of women's rights at their core, these apologists for the status quo have played a destructive role and confused people about who the real enemy of equality is. As Zeisler exposed, it is most common for the "feminist perspective" in a debate to actually be coming from an opponent of women's rights. Opportunistic spin doctors have quickly realized that sending out a female spokesperson to speak about women's rights will convince enough people that they are on the side of women, when they are simply replicating what bell hooks terms the "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy." Sarah Palin...do you feel your ears burning?

One point that Zeisler touched upon, but has me interested in looking for deeper analysis of, was the fabricated memory of nostalgia that is used to judge contemporary behaviors against an historical measure that was itself created as part of the narrative used to define how women should behave. By holding up a rose-tinted view of a "better" bygone era and wishing that modern society could revert back to it, in spite of that memory being being based on a fabrication, impossible goals are being sought. The rigidly defined roles of women - domestic goddess, subservient wife, doting mother, willing (but not TOO willing) sexual partner to a dominant husband - being held up as examples of the natural order were imposed and reinforced through representations in popular culture.

Feminism and Pop Culture

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This book is awesome! The first chapter got me right away. It got me thinking about every ad, every film, and every woman. The best thing about this book is the short gray inserts. It really ties everything together.
My favorite one was "Bottled Up: How T.V. Curbed Female Power", It took an all time favorite show of mine and turned it into an overview of female power being curbed; "Bewitched". I've never imagined that the show could be viewed as male supremacy, where Darrin tries hard to control his wife's magical powers. I prefer to look at this show with the idea that women can do good with power. Women can serve the public well.
Like I said, the first chapter got me right away. Now I'm looking at every ad/commercial geared toward women very critically.

Feminism and Pop Culture

This book is awesome! The first chapter got me right away. It got me thinking about every ad, every film, and every woman. The best thing about this book is the short gray inserts. It really ties everything together.
My favorite one was "Bottled Up: How T.V. Curbed Female Power", It took an all time favorite show of mine and turned it into an overview of female power being curbed; "Bewitched". I've never imagined that the show could be viewed as male supremacy, where Darrin tries hard to control his wife's magical powers. I prefer to look at this show with the idea that women can do good with power. Women can serve the public well.
Like I said, the first chapter got me right away. Now I'm looking at every ad/commercial geared toward women very critically.

Blog Entry 1

1. In her wrap-up, Zeisler discusses the controversial relationship between feminism and sex work. It is interesting to see how some feminists' current views of this relationship is nearly the same as feminists in the 1980s. If anyone has seen Not A True Love Story, this conclusion that "sex acts aren't necessarily empowering, but I'm getting money, and I have the right to make money any way I want and with that mindset feminism can still progress" was around in the 1980s, have we really progressed?

2. Though this was not her opinion, Zeisler included Carol Clover's "Final Girl" theory, which seems completely far-fetched; Zeisler openly questions it. If this theory is a form of "gender subversion," why are these 'women' sexualized to an extreme degree before their ultimate triumph over evil? Can men really imagine being brutalized in such a way that they could even comprehend or relate to the "forty-plus minute" rape scene in I Spit on Your Grave from a 'female' perspective? Or do they just need to be re-assured of their place in society by seeing a popular 'female' actress tortured on the big screen?

3. In her introduction Zeisler states that she'll discuss the riot grrrl movement later in the book, but in the chapter, "What Women Want," she barely touches upon the music, the thought behind the music, or what made these groups form in the first place. As I'm sure some know, Babes in Toyland, a staple of the riot grrrl bands is from Minneapolis; Hole actually played here for a while. What was it about the environments of Minneapolis and university cities in Oregon and Seattle that helped foster this new movement? Bands such as 7 Year Bitch, L7, Bikini Kill... what did they all have in common, and what were their shared goals? Because really, the riot grrrl movement started with the music, and was not only a 'female' response to the overtly chauvinistic portraits of women in the backgrounds of Poison music videos...and I think she could have done a bit better/more in depth overall explanation of this movement as a whole and how it impacted our society. Zeisler seemed to skip from SATC to Spice Girls without taking any breaks.

Blog Entry 1

One thing that Zeisler mentioned that I found interesting was the concept of a female gaze. While I definitely believe it is true that women are more sexualized in pop culture than men, I also think it is important to realize that women are capable of viewing men in the same light. I am glad this fact was recognized.
I felt that most of the examples given in the book were illustrated as too negative and read into too deeply. For example, the comparison between The Cobsy Show and Roseanne. Zeisler states that the Cobsy Show makes being a working mother look to easy and Roseanne was too flawed. I think that at times, we need to just take shows for what they are, entertainment. If all shows were made just as things are in reality, we would not watch. Roseanne was a loud, pushy woman because it was amusing to watch. I think that some things (not all) should just be taken at face value.
I would like to have seen more of a discussion on where to go from here. Its seems not matter what is done in pop culture to try to help women feel more empowered and improve the treatment of women there is always some sort of argument against it. Back in the 1930s when the Hays Code was set in place the reasoning was to minimize the degrading of women and people in general. It obviously had a backlash. Today, Ziesler gives the example of the Dove ads, which have been debated for a multitude of reasons. So, I am left wondering, if we will ever get to a point where both sexes fell equal and of value.

Blog Post #1

The book, Feminism and Pop Culture captivated my interest in a very unique way. Although we weren't giving a lot of time to really sit and analyze this book, I feel as though the message taken was interesting. Having all aspects of pop culture covered, helped when trying to compare get a better understanding of what the author was really trying to say. What I found intriguing was when, in chapter 4, Zeisler discussed the TV show the Cosby's and how it changed our perspective and view of the working housewife/working mother. The author went on to discuss how the creator of this very well know show was the total opposite of what was portrayed by the family she had created, but also created a more familiar family and women that was totally going against feminism itself yet was of another race.

Zeisler went on to talk about reality TV shows, and stated that, "Apologists claim reality TV isn't sexist because no one forces women to appear on these shows, but the impact on the shows' participants is almost beside the point." It further goes on to say that the women on the show isn't or shouldn't be our main focus, but the viewers watching these shows and the impact it is creating. What are these shows really portraying? Shows like the watch, which I have to admit I watch, gave off a sense of uneasiness and pity while watching these women, whereas someone else would have thought it to be somewhat empowering. One minute, their life was impossible and doing anything to build them up wasn't even a factor until she was transform into a beautiful swan. Does beauty determine out life's worth? I believe we all have a choice, but what is that choice?

Blog Question 1

A part of the book that I really enjoyed was the comparison that Zeisler made between the characters of Maude and Mary Tyler Moore on T.V. during the 70s. I have to admit, I loved watching the MTM show growing up and she did have some positive influences on me and was a good representation of an independent woman overall. However, she was a pushover and let her boss treat her like garbage, especially in contrast to how he treated other employees like the macho male news anchor. Maude, on the other hand, was a character who didn't take any crap from anybody and was so strong and opinionated.

One point that I disagreed with the author on was in her endorsement of the Powerpuff Girls. She used them as an example of superheroes who were good representations for young girls. However, the fact remains that their powers were derived from a male creator. I guess I don't see much difference between them and the Charlie's Angels who were picked and trained by a man.

Zeisler uses examples of women being main actors in films, challenging the status quo and patriarchy, but were the directors and producers still men? And how did this effect the result? This is one thing that I wish she would have talked about more. Does simply showing women as bad asses on the screen demonstrate progress? I think that real progress comes from women being in actual positions of power, where they can dictate what the image that's being created is, like directors, producers and movie executives.

Feminism and Pop Culture

I found that Zeisler did a good job of personally reaching out the reader. I can relate to her when it comes to being "obsessed" with pop culture. For instance, I am constantly around pop culture, whether it be watching the latest celebrity updates, new Hollywood movies, music videos, or reality TV shows. This is why I was very glad the author pointed out some of the flaws when it comes to some of the latest reality TV shows. I felt very convinced when she stated that certain reality TV shows degrade women and send out disturbing messages about women to the public. For example, Zeisler talked about the show, The Swan, where people (mostly women) were given extreme makeovers, which included plastic surgery and extreme dieting. In the end, the women get to look at the "new them" and compare themselves to how miserable they were before the makeover. This kind of show, according to Zeisler, tells women that in order to by happy you must look amazing, even if it means getting a new face or body. I personally remember watching this show as a teenager thinking exactly that.

One thing that I did not necessarily find as compelling was Zeisler's argument on whether or not "choice" directly relates to feminism. She argued that "choice" was not always a good thing, especially when it comes to pornography, which can be degrading to women and have negative influences on other women. On the other hand, she also mentioned how many feminists agree that women should be given a "choice" for having an abortion. This is contradicting itself because it says that women have a right to their bodies when it comes to having an abortion, but if they want to make porn it is not okay because it sends the wrong message...? Well abortion and porn both send out bad messages, in my opinion. I am personally not for abortion for my own body, but that is my own choice that I made. If other women want to have an abortion, than that should be their choice. And in my opinion, choice is what makes feminism so great, because women can do what they want, whether it be making porn or having an abortion.

One thing that I would have liked Zeisler to have talked about more is what we can do to change the way the media portrays women and/or other minorities. It is one thing to educate us on certain issues and make sure others are aware and be critical of what they are seeing in the media, but it is another thing to actually go out make changes. If so many people (men and women) in our current day are saying that feminism is not needed and denying that gender struggles no longer exist, than how can we as feminists go about and change these people's minds? Another thought is how can we directly make changes in the media, without upsetting our bosses or losing our job by going against what is happening? I just feel that if you going to point out the problems, you should talk about how to solve them as well.

Blog Post One: A New Chapter

Feminism and Pop Culture is an interesting compilation of cultural icons over the past 70 years or so. It was interesting how they covered all aspects of pop culture from television and movies to magazines and media coverage. What really interested me was the female anti-feminist movement continuously found in society and how they are usually publicized over feminists. The specific point that unnerved me was the fact that Camille Paglia would even put forth the notion that it is a woman's job to avoid being raped. As though men should be excused because of the entertainment value found in rape. I did not believe that there are not leaders found in the feminist movement per say. The movement has been segmented into different specific organizations that focus on the needs of different people. I feel leaders are found in these camps that don't necessarily encompass the entire notion of feminism. I wish the book would have gone on to explain more of the positive changes to the music movement. Many artists have tried to move away from the sexualized climate found around the current music scene. Many girl groups Flyleaf, The Veronicas, Meg and Dia and many others have proved that girls can rock too.

Blog Entry 1

I found this book to be very informative and clear in the points it was trying to make. I really appreciated a lot of what the author had to say; however, some of her points convinced me more than others.

One of her arguments that was entirely convincing was her point in chapter 5 about how feminism isn't, in fact, dead as many media sources have claimed it is. She gave several examples of feminist groups that are still around and active as well as a brief description of what they're still working on. She pointed out that even though some of the issues that were often combated by feminists in the past have been solved, compromised, or dropped altogether, there is a new slew of them that are still being worked on. I found it intriguing when she demonstrated how feminist progression in the area of women's representations in the media is somewhat of a paradox: we can criticize the media all we want, but to get the word out about these critiques we have to send them through the media. Further, sending them through the media tends to bring about not only further critiques on feminism, but also a twisted version of the feminist message. I related this directly to the models of communication in that what is signified by the encoder (in this case, feminist critics) is twisted by the mode of communication (the media) and therefore decoded differently than intended by the decoder (the consumers of the media product).

While I agreed with many points of this book, one argument by which I was not quite swayed was Zeisler's argument about 'choice.' She seemed to be implying that it's possible for a woman to make a choice for herself and in doing so be anti-feminist. There's not a very clear way to say this, but in my mind I feel that 'choice' itself is very feminist, no matter what that choice may be. However, I do agree with the author in some way in that not all choices made by women may be the best for feminism overall. On issues such as sex-work and pornography, I believe that many women are capable of choosing what they want to do with their bodies. I also think that images from the media influence the way women think at a very basic level, in effect, brainwashing them into believing that want to make certain choices and that making these choices is decidedly feminist. Perhaps this is the point Zeisler was trying to make when she talked about 'choice.' I guess that it's less that I don't agree with her, and more of a case of weak argument and unclear lineage.

There are certainly topics in this book that I wish the author would have taken further in her analysis. While she spent a long time talking about the history of feminism, she didn't give much insight into the prospective future of feminism. While she alluded to the work of feminist groups and task forces in a non-specific way, she didn't really spur a real call to action for contemporary feminists. I wish she would have expanded her final chapter to include more information about the contemporary feminist issues she briefly names. I was a little confused by the fact that she didn't. After all, it seemed as though that was what the book was going to culminate to throughout its many arguments about what still needs to be done in the feminist arena. I was a little distraught at the place where the book ended.

One thing that I found revealing in the book was how many of the unflattering news reports on second-wave feminist events took aim at those participating, not at the actual events. The stigma attached to such people is still palpable when I occasionally talk to some of my friends about feminist issues. Despite their genuine concern and progressive thoughts they have in these discussions, they vehemently refuse the label "feminist" with one even admitting this is only because of the connotation surrounding the word.
I'm not compelled by the argument that DeBeer's (and others') advertising to a new demographic of young, single and affluent women is so "egregious." While the diamond industry certainly has social issues to answer for, such concerns are not specific to the aforementioned demographic's purchase of jewelry. Additionally, while some of the ideas the ads present are indeed laughable, they are no different from the advertisements of any other non-essential item. The goals and targeting methods in these ads are essentially no different from any other company looking to move more pointless product.
I'm curious as to what extent girl pop groups of the 60s had creative control over their products. The book casts such groups in a some-what negative light by highlighting their corporate nature, but either the record companies were sympathetic enough to feminist issues to let empowering lyrics be recorded, or had planned on producing such from the start which wouldn't seem to be such a negative.

Blog Entry #1

I have to say, I really liked this book, so I wish we would have been able to take more time reading it and pour over all the little fun pop culture icons that came up and discuss them in detail, but alas, I'm sure we have equally interesting readings to move onto. So firstly, the point/discussion that I was compelled by was Zeisler's attempt to explain the relationship between feminism and pop culture. I saw part of the goal of this project was maybe to highlight and trace how pop culture (more importantly the media) has had a large part in shaping the way feminist movements have been interpreted by the public and hence caused an enormous "backlash" that in turn caused a lot of negative connotations to be associated with feminism. This is something that interests me and, since I didn't live it, I am always so puzzled by it myself. So I was eager to hear her take.
I actually have two points of discussion that popped out at me that I wish the author could have explored more in depth. The "male gaze" is a term I hear thrown around a lot but I actually didn't know exactly what was meant by it and in what context, so this was the first text I read that tried to explain it rather than just refer to it. And although she went back to the concept several times throughout the book I wouldn't mind exploring pop culture history just specifically through this lens to see how it has shaped and changed over time as women have increasingly taken roles in producing pop culture. Additionally, Zeisler brought up the treatment of abortion in popular shows several times and how it's all but taboo nowadays. This intrigued me because it is something I have often wondered about myself when watching T.V. shows that address an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy and I always think "they'll never discuss abortion directly and surely not have her follow through with it" cause they just never do! This I just don't understand, and although she tries to tackle the subject, I could have read more. I feel this topic could get us into any even deeper discussion about the role religion plays in the normative structures that shape our every day lives.
Although I did enjoy this book the one thing that continues to resonate with me was that I wasn't completely convinced that she dealt with or addressed the extremely racist, classist, and homophobic nature that plagues pop culture. She dealt with the sexist aspects, but as we all know peoples identities don't stop at gender. I can't say she didn't touch on these other aspects, especially when discussing Blaxploitation films or pointing out how ads always act as though their speaking to white, middle class audiences but I feel she could have driven those points further.

Volunteers Needed for Hip Hop Conference

Voices Merging is an urban arts student collective at the University
of Minnesota that aims to educate and empower our communities. This
year on April 9th-11th, 2010 we are anticipating our 3rd biennial
Voices Merging Conference titled, "From Vices to Verses: An New Era of
Hip Hop & Action" how hip hop and spoken word can be used to educate,
empower and transform communities. The organizers and presenters will
discuss and workshop methods to creatively apply the elements of hip
hop to engage diverse young people in a variety of forums. All will be
invited and students, educators, artists, and community organizers
will demonstrate creative modes of teaching and learning that
challenge us to use our bodies and talents to theorize social justice.


This conference is comprised of 3 major themes:
April 9th: Hip Hop Feminism: Using Art, Culture and Politics to
Transform Learning
April 10th: Remixing Borders, Transgressing Boundaries: Hip Hop as
Transnational Praxis
April 11th: Hip Hop for Healing: Old Problems, New Solutions

(Find more info about these themes at vicestoverses.blogspot.com )

Help is needed to make this happen! We're looking volunteers, to take
shifts of half-days to help make this run fluidly. You will be exposed
to a number of great local and nationally known artists and speakers
such as Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Bakari Kitwana, Rosa Clemente, and more.
In return for volunteering your time, you will receive a T-Shirt,
lanyard and free admittance to the concert on April 10th. Most
importantly, you will be teaming up with some of the Twin Cities' most
talented, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic people out there whose
mission is promote the groundbreaking elements of Hip Hop education
and make meaningful change in our communities through the Vices to
Verses conference.


If you or your organization are interested in volunteering, please
sign up by March 12th. Add your name directly at the link below.
Please remember to "save & close" after entering your contact
information on this document. If you have problems or questions email
us at rtoriq@gmail.com .

Volunteer Sign Up:
https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtkUtOBwPzggdGwyQ0dLWFhzcW...


Thank you for your consideration and we hope to see you there!

Blog Question #1

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In reading Feminism and Pop Culture, briefly

1) Identify a point/discussion that you were convinced/compelled by/why
2) Identify a point/discussion that you were not convinced by/why
3) Identify a point/discussion that confused you or that you wish the author would have explored in more depth/why

These should brief, succinct posts: you can write them in short hand, they are meant to guide us in Thursday's discussion and to illustrate active reading practices (@ 250 words)

"It's bigger than I thought!"

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The number of stereotypes that are perpetuated through this ad is astonishing: Men are clueless, women are simpering fools, pouting grotesquely is sexy...and many, many more - all for the low, low price of your lack of imagination. It's the time of year for Vermont Teddy Bear Valentine's Day ads! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Fa41HOJ_iI

It's funny because it's true?

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