February 18, 2009

Response to Kellner article

I’m responding to the Kellner article, “Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture.” The article begins with discussing media images and how they shape our view of world (143). It discusses how the media expresses power and powerless. Then the article goes on to discuss what cultural studies is and talks about the three things when discussing a multiperspectival approach: discusses production and political economy, engages in textual analysis, and studies the reception and use of cultural texts (146).

The most interesting part of the article, for me, was the discussion of the Madonna phenomenon (152). Kellner explains Madonna as using marketing strategies to reach a very diverse audience.

The end of the article reiterates exactly what cultural studies are: “it is a part of critical medi9a pedagogy that enables individuals to resist media manipulation and to increase their freedom and individuality.” That I can empower people and it’s “a struggle for alternative cultures and political change” (153).

Reflections on "Barbie in Black and White"

I never was such a Barbie fan as a little kid. I mean, I was all about the Disney princess dolls (and a prince or two), which were basically Barbies, but those interested me because they were characters whose stories I already knew and were intrigued by. I remember getting a Skipper doll as a wee one for participating in some kind of market research study and being like, “who the hell is this girl?” I remember being disappointed that I wasn’t given little action figures like the boys were, because I was completely about the Ninja Turtles back then. All I ever cared about back then with my Barbie-esque dolls was miming out sordid bi(or pan?)sexual love affairs that basically amounted to my mashing the two (or more) plastic figures together repeatedly. Oh, the innocence of youth. I never even bothered to think about how they all had approximately the same skin tone and body shape and so forth. Having read Ann duCille’s article, I realize when I look back on my childhood what a huge place of privilege I came from to never pick up on those things--and never had to, really.

Maybe it’s just the fuzziness of my memory talking, but the interesting thing about my Princess Jasmine and Belle dolls was that I think they actually had passably unique features. Of course, the bodies were the same old Mattel distorted-hourglass shape, but I think I can recall things like Jasmine’s nose and Belle’s eyes having, well, character. Assuming I’m not totally making that up, I suppose I would reason that it’s a lot easier to fashion a doll that looks uniquely anything when a template already exists--like in the movies. And, of course, whether they looked identical to every other Barbie to come out or not, it’s definitely true that they still all manage to conform to a very narrow standard of what a woman looks like. (Not that the Disney prince/Ken doll fared much better, but I didn’t know of many girls who gave two about the boy dolls for the most part, myself included. It was the ones that I thought I could look like that I cared about most.)

In her article, duCille makes the observation that costume is very largely the sole means by which culture is delineated with Barbie dolls, and reading that really resonated with me as truthful. I definitely remember buying into the exoticism element; that’s probably why I preferred Disney princesses in the first place, for the fantasy aspect. Maybe not enough to, well, actually literally buy every doll that crossed my path, but I swear all a toy store had to do to blow my tiny mind with Mattel’s own special brand of “diversity” was show me a row of dolls of moderately different skin tones and brightly colored, elaborately patterned outfits. I wasn’t interested in blonde, pink Barbie, but her cousin in the kimono I would go crazy for. I do think it speaks to my privilege as a White person that even as a little girl, I thought absolutely nothing of happily appropriating what appeared to me to be authentic representations of cultures that I found “pretty.” Pretty, of course, because the clothes were pretty, and so were the dolls in the clothes. And the dolls were pretty because in spite of their advertised racial and cultural difference, they still conformed to an ideal of beauty that I was already accepting as my ideal of beauty.

I hope that makes at least some semblance of sense. All in all, the article ended up giving me a lot to think about, though it’s probably pretty clear that it’s all a big, rambly jumble for the most part right now.

My Barbie Clone

Reading Ann duCille’s “Barbie in Black and White,” reminds me of my own experience with Barbie and other dolls growing up. I had a total of three Barbies growing up and all three (and all of my other dolls) were Black. I remember thinking to myself one day about why no one ever gave me white dolls to play with and I don’t know if I ever came to a conclusion. Today, the best excuse I can think of is that everyone wanted me to have a doll that looked like me, but regardless of what skin color those dolls had, Shani/Nichelle/Asha were never going to look like me. DuCille mentions that some professionals suggested that adults highlight the ethnic features of the dolls and point out how beautiful the dolls were. Is that supposed to encourage a girl that she is beautiful too? A more logical conclusion would be that the young girl would notice that she doesn’t look like the doll (because no one actually does) and therefore think that she is not pretty. I honestly don’t have a problem with the fact that Barbies exist, but I do believe that we think of them as just toys and not miniature recreations of ourselves. It’s not possible to capture everyone’s identity and culture into a few dolls and I hope that everyone reminds their daughters how unique they are.

Has anyone ever read the Guerrilla Girls’ Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers? This book is about stereotypes and it was the first book that really got me into feminism. They had this great section in the end with fake Barbies that represented real, imperfect, women. Church Lady Barbie, Trailer Park Barbie, some Latina Barbie with 5 kids… Maybe a dose of reality for our children?

I found a picture of one of my three Barbies (one other was a fairy princess and the other had a white shirt with pink hearts). See how much she looks like me. “Culturally specific clothes”… “spiced tones”… Yick.

Response to "The Black Beauty Myth"

I was truly intrigued and inspired while reading Sierena Riley’s article, “The Black Beauty Myth.” This piece mentions how eating disorders circulate in women of color. More times than not, society overlooks the specific ways beauty ideas differ from one race to another.

According to Riley, she says that white women dictate pop culture images of women and if those are the images you are exposed to then that is going to be the reality that you recognize. I believe that within popular culture, African American women are always seen as more voluptuous and have more realistic and attainable bodies; just an observation I have concluded. If we were to think in the terms of the Latina race, one might immediately allude to “J. Lo’s butt.” I mention this example because as a journalism major, I am currently taking a class called “People of Color in the Mass Media.” We are actually discussing the topic of how the media portrays women in the media and how ads focus on thin, unrealistic bodies, giving the society this connotation that it is “cool” and “acceptable” to be ungodly thin.

I think one of the points that stood out in this article was when Riley mentioned, "If we are so sure that images of rail-thin fashion models, actresses and video chicks have contributed to white girls' poor body image, why aren't we addressing the half-naked female bodies on MTV". Once again, this quote relates to the class that I am taking. We watched this documentary about how ads are using, for the majority, young, good-looking, white women. When have you seen an African-American woman in Vogue or Vanity Fair? This is a rare occasion. I believe that the media needs to stop disseminating the female stereotypes and begin to portray women in a more positive light: this includes bringing images of all women that are suffering to the forefront.

I believe that all women just want to feel good about themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin. Hence, I do not really believe that there is a major difference between races when it comes to body image between races. As Riley brings up that the one common thing between all women is that we just want to feel better about ourselves, like I mentioned before. We need to stop looking to the media as our source for what a woman should look like, no matter the race.

This reading really made me thinking outside of my beliefs. I never really thought of African-American women in relation to body image. Just by reading this article, I was allowed a glimpse into the world of a different race besides my own and think it relation to how that person was feeling. Riely's piece made me think differently in relation to race and body image, noting the differences. I was able to use this information from the reading and apply it to my other classes and day-to-day routine. I feel as though we are so used to the norm, which breaking down the stereotypes regarding race is a barrier that needs to be broken and addressed.

Body Image in Non-America

Sirena J. Riley's "The Black Beauty Myth" highlights certain differences in how black women experience America's unattainable beauty ideals compared to media-emphasized whites. She discusses, for example, how white women have told her how lucky black women are that their men love curvy bodies, yet white women are definitely not in favor of adopting these curves themselves.
This got me thinking about body image ideals in countries besides our own, and the ease for a people to assume them. Often unknowingly, people accept their society's beauty standards and apply them to themselves as well as everyone else. In middle school, I visited my mom's side of the family in Indonesia. I specifically remember three comments I received from different family members, all saying something like, "Hey, aren't you a little chubbier than you were the last time I saw you?" With this acknowledgment, I began noticing the small amount of baby fat on my then preteen body. My older cousin later showed me videos of some "hot American girls" he and his friend found online. However surprisingly, the ridiculous rail-thin beauty ideal of our society resonates around the world! The combination of this media intake with the familiarity of Asians with their naturally thin women, any hint of being overweight was immediately recognizable.
Thinking back on this occurrence, I am shocked! Knowing that I have always been petite and decently slender, I shouldn't have accepted those comments with embarrassment... I should have thought about the absurdity in my family obsessing about my "chubby" adolescent body.


Black Beauty Myth

The ideas and views within Sirena J. Riley's “Black Beauty Myth” was very interesting. Her ideas behind how demonizing fat and how Riley says, "the demonetization of fat and the ease of associating black women with fat exposes yet another opportunity for racism" (369). I have never thought of that, but it is true, even within popular culture African American women are always seen curves and more realistic bodies, even if they are thin they are never seem to be as thin as their white counter parts.

In addition to this she brings up the point that black women within the media seem to take a backseat during critiques and criticisms. When there are raised voices about rail thin models being exploited on television and we see the same people stay silent when black females are exploited for their bodies. I think this just proves that there is still some sort of division between the feminist movements that has forever brought tension between many feminists.

I think this is a good discussion that needs to be happening more often and brought more to the other mainstream discussions about issues within the media. I think that it’s very easy for people who are not the target of such racism/sexism/etc. to not realize how bad it is, or that it’s an issue because people can understand things better that they can relate to. People who do suffer from this oppression need to speak out and help people understand why it’s important to end this discrimination. This reading really did just that for me, it really made me think outside of my beliefs.

Amy's Response to Black Beauty Myth

The first thing that came to mind as I read the first few pages of Riley's article was an episode of Weeds. Throughout the first season, there is a 10 year old girl who is continually rebuked by her mother for being "fat". The mother's concern is not for her daughter's health but for the sake of vanity. While remembering the episode of Weeds, I remembered that a few other tv series that had a similar situation occur. As Riley points out, women are told what is beautiful from the media and those around us all the time. Even in tv shows like Weeds, the idea is not to make women feel self consious about their bodies, but some how, the message that "fat" is ugly is still expressed. I think the pressure that media places on women to look a certain way is frustrating to many women. Honestly, I don't know a single women who isn't, but yet we still let it bother us.

I also see the truth in Riley's discussion about lack of women of color in our media. And, when a woman of color does appear, she is usually conveyed as an unrealisticly sensual and exotic treat. One comment that Riley made was that white women expect black women to desire to look like them, but I believe that with the new wave of "exoticness" has come more desire for white women to appear more exotic, not white. As far as weight is concerend though, her point is still very true. Thin still reigns in our culture.

On another note, I felt that I personally related to Riley. I've struggled with issues of self esteem relating to my physical image on a continual basis. I especially related to her experience with loosing weight and exercising. I'm fairly sure that it is not an unusual reaction actually. I'm sure that is why excercising for some women can become an addictive behavior. I felt that Riley expressed this issue really well, and I apprieciated that she openly discussed it.

Black Beauty Myth Response

In “The Black Beauty Myth” I thought it was interesting how so many of Riley’s body issues sparked from losing weight in high school and the compliments she received after the weight loss. She hadn’t even realized the weight she had lost until others began calling attention to it. Once she got positive reactions to her new body she began hating what she used to be. I think the effect those around you have on your body image is an important issue to bring up. Her Grandfather offered her money for weight loss, her Grandma told her she needed to stay just how she was, and her Mother was telling her she wouldn’t be able to wear pretty clothes if she wasn’t skinny. I think people get caught up in the idea that the media is solely to blame for a lot of body image issues women have. The media can help perpetuate certain ideologies but it doesn’t create them.
I would also like to discuss more in depth the role that race and culture plays in body image/self esteem issues. I’ve read articles on the topic and a lot of them focus on the idea that many women of color in the media are “white” pretty, or fit many of the ideals of western beauty. Similar to how many homosexuals in the media seem to be very heterosexual gay people, women of color in TV seem to have very white physical characteristics maybe in hopes of making them easier to swallow for those who are ignorant.

February 17, 2009

The Black Beauty Myth

I was very intrigued reading the Riley article. Reading her story was like reliving my life in many ways except she was living it as a middle class black woman and I was not. I started to think about my experiences with various groups and therapies dealing with my eating disorders and the only women ever in any of these groups were white women. Riley points out the same experience in the article, thinking of herself as an "anomoly" but she obviously wasn't. The thing is I know that there is no difference between the races when it comes to body image, but as Riley says white women dominate pop culture images of women and if those are the images you're bombarded with then that is going to be the reality that you know.

I think she makes a very good point at the end of the article when she says, "if we are so sure that images of rail-thin fashion models, actresses and video chicks have contributed to white girls' poor body image, why aren't we addressing the half-naked female bodies on MTV". I think that the media needs to stop perpetuating the female stereotypes and start to bring us images of all women that are suffering.

As Riley brings up that the one common thing between all women is that we just want to feel better about ourselves and to do that we need to stop looking to media as our source for what a woman should look like, no matter the race.

Author Identity and Text Identity

Anne Thalheimer brings up some very interesting points about authorship and identity in 'Terrorists, Bitches and Dykes: Late 20th Century Lesbian Comix'. Labeling a text one thing or another has always been a muddy swamp laced with problems. The importance of the author to the work has been long debated—does a work stand on its own? Does an author’s identity unlock the meanings of the text?
I’ll use the example of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn—the novel itself can be read as a story that empowers the runaway slave Jim by showing his personality to be kind, loving, and practical. We want Jim to succeed and to be safe in the story. In life, Twain was known to be a racist. While Twain identified as being one thing, his writing ended up telling another story.
The issue also comes up of whether these are lesbian “comix” because the authors identify as lesbian, or because the subject matter has lesbian themes. In either case, the labeling of the text is problematic, because it either boxes the author or it boxes the text. I believe that the author’s personal identity should rarely be considered when identifying or describing a text—the text’s content is what shapes its identity.
Thalheimer discusses how in labeling the text (not only a label, but a potentially polarizing label like “lesbian”) can vastly limit its interested audience. I think that there is a bit of innocence in the labeling of the texts purely from the standpoint of content. We always want to get a glimpse of a book through its back-blurb—is it a romance? Comedy? Mystery? What kind of feelings will the book elicit? Are they feelings we want to feel? One could argue that by having this choice, we limit our depth of experience by only consuming stories we want to consume. The less adventurous of us will end up reading the same types of stories that we’re used to. Though in labeling these “comix” as lesbian, the audience pushed away is replaced by the audience that seeks out material labeled with homosexual themes.
People cannot be forced to seek out new types of literatures and new perspectives—they have to come (relatively) willingly. As soon as the label “lesbian comix” is considered as much a “special interest” label as any identity-adjective, then the problem of audience exclusion is less likely.
Although we are often curious about an author’s life and identity, we should focus instead on the themes the works explore.

Race and Beauty Standards

Sirena Riley's article, "The Black Beauty Myth" discusses the way in which eating disorders circulate in women of color. Riley discusses her personal struggle with her obsession with her weight, from her childhood to present. She also discusses the ways in which society overlooks the specific ways beauty ideals differ from one race to another. Riley does admit that most eating disorders effect white women more frequently, which creates a void of discussion for black womens beauty standards.

I believe was subconsciously aware of this dichotomy because although it didn't come as a surprise to me, this article articulated what I had not (in my head). I always wondered how young women of color responded to how the media portrays what women are supposed to look like, specifically because they are often under represented. Personally, I have never believed that black women were always happy with their bodies and white women were constantly unsatisfied. Nevertheless, I recognize the extreme lack of support or even representation of women of color in studies of eating disorders. Race does obviously play a part in what woman expect of themselves. Black woman's beauty standards, especially the negative ones, often go unrecognized by the public.

Barbie in Black and White

Growing up I was a huge collector of barbie dolls. I had every barbie you can imagine. I had a variety from Evening gown barbie (which was White) to hip hop diva barbie (which was African American). I never really thought about it when I was little but why did evening gown barbie always white and why was hip hop diva African American? After reading DuCille's article on how barbie dolls have had an impact on racism and segregation toward young children. When the production companies make these barbie dolls, they make them the most in the most stereotypical way. They even go as far as putting background information about the doll on the back of the box. For example, if the doll is made with darker skin, the background information states that the majority of that culture comes from African Decent. It amazing that kids can grow up thinking their just playing with a fun toy, but sub-consiously they are choosing the doll based on race and ethnicity. I remember for my friends birthday I bought her the same hip hop dancing barbie, but she did not want the black hip hop barbie she wanted the white one, so she returned it. In Hopson's doll test study he found that over 65 percent of black children would pick white dolls over black, and 75 percent of the children studied said that the black dolls looked bad (DuCille 130). This study showed Hopson that the majority of the black children in the study identified with white images, which reflects on the black childrens self perception. This article tells us that society needs to re-evaluate their concept of race and ethnicity. We need to teach kids to celebrate and embrace difference in race, gender, and ethnicity. Hopefully by the time I have kids, my child will not care if she gets a caucation barbie or a ethnic barbie.

Thalhiemer "Terrorists, Bitches and Dykes : Late 20th Century comix"

I really found the Thalheimer piece quite interesting. The article focused on labeling and more specifically on the "lesbianism" as a literary label. She focuses on 3 prominent comix "Hothead Paisan", "Bitchy Butch", and "Dykes to watch out for". In the article she investigates that past their title there are very few differences in the texts. It was a pretty straight forward article that presents a very interesting arguement. The article ends by stating that society's obsession with labeling "lesbian" literature is because it is a way to avoid it. The attention to labeling "lesbian" literature is indicative of a society where it is "....acceptable to be a lesbian... but is not yet accepted". The article points out a certain parallelism with "feminism" and "lesbianism". Both terms are misunderstood in their true meaning and the labels are used in a way where the terms themselves are used to signal the "mainstream" to stay away.
This article resonated with me because in my philosophy class we recently talked about anger and how anger requires a certain relationship with another entity and anger is actually a positive emotion. We compared two prominent figures in history MLK and Malcom X and the professor argues that MLK meats the criterion of anger much better than Malcom X. This article described in the 3 comix different kinds of anger. The comix want people to pay attention to a problem that is prominent in society today. The article also states that these comix are in a unique situation in which because of their "status" or lack there of they can offer a truly honest critique of society and its problems.

February 16, 2009

Black Beauty Myth

I found the "Black Beauty Myth" article to be extremely interesting. As a psychology major, eating disorders get brought up in all my clinical/abnormal/counseling/women's psych courses. And in every single one, the message is essentially "Oh, poor white girls influenced by the skinny white media... oh, but as an aside, this isn't true for black women!" Yes, studies have shown that the percentage of black women unhappy with their bodies is lower than that of white women, but I feel like the myth is that black women never have body image issues and are never represented as "too thin" in the media, or that there aren't any "guidelines" regarding what a black woman should look like.

Thus, it was really refreshing to read this article. I really liked when Riley discussed how white women are often quick to divide themselves by saying "It's okay that you're fat, because you're black, but not for me, because I'm different, and need to be thin." I think the same thing happens on an individual level, too - that is, if a friend is overweight, we might tell her "Oh, you don't need to lose weight! You should be happy with your body!" But if we reach that weight, or even gain a couple pounds, we freak out.

I think the entire concept of the media being "responsible" for eating disorders is way overemphasized in society. We all know that EDs are generally due to a lack of control in one's life and the need to regain control. While the media does, of course, have unrealistic physical portrayals of women that are obviously not true to real life, eating disorders usually have other underlying issues that are way more important. I think when focusing on the media, it is just as important to see how women are portrayed in their PERSONALITIES, strengths, weaknesses, submission... the media that SEPARATES women from men, emphasizes difference rather than similarity... I recently saw "He's Just Not That Into You" [friends made me go!] and was completely disgusted by it - not by the actresses' appearances but by the way that they acted, the parts that the writers decided to emphasize about the women's lives, the desperation and patheticness and stereotypes that the film enforced... this is getting a bit off topic, but I guess my point is that the media is not the only issue at hand here. Thus, focusing on the way that white and black women are portrayed in the media physically is not the whole story, and that it is important to focus on how women are told to ACT and the way that women are told they should be treated.

Body Image is NOT Dependent on Race

After reading "The Black Beauty Myth" by Sirena J. Riley, I was not really sure how I felt about it. The idea of black women always being happy with their bodies and white women always being unhappy never seemed to reach me before. I never heard about the newsmagazine piece that Riley talked about, that made her proud and envious at the same time. As I read Riley's personal story, I could relate to it. I knew we were separated by race, but I didn't really think about that as I read her story. I think almost all body images in the media are unrealistic, I have never really separated it into "black body images" and "white body images." I've always thought of it as, "skinny women" and "fat women" categories. The skinny category being something I knew I would never attain. I think it is ridiculous for anyone to categorize eating disorders as a problem only affecting white women; we know that's not true. Riley makes some interesting points about how white women give themselves too much credit thinking that black women want to look like them (364). I never looked at it from a black woman's perspective. As a white girl, I looked up to the black and white women alike. At times I've idolized some of the black women in the spotlight more, like Beyonce, because I was always told I have a big butt when I was growing up. I tried to embrace that, which left me outside the "acceptable" body images for white girls.

The more I write about this article and my thoughts, the more I worry I am confusing myself and any readers. I was confused growing up, and never really thought about race. Some of my best friends growing up were not white, but I never thought about that until years later in high school and now in college. Does our group of friends growing up determine the body images we look up to? It must have some influence. Am I better off for never having realized the different of black women and white women body images, or does that make me more ignorant? I'm not sure. Elementary school and middle school are not exactly times I would like to return to. Riley's article has opened up my eyes to a new perspective that I think I am still mulling over in my head. I hope it will become clearer for me before class on Thursday.

Side note: The A. duCille article, "Barbie in Black and White" was not in my course packet- I've searched page by page twice. Does anyone else have it?


Kellner =discusses the ideology and how certain texts use them to empower the audience or provide escapism. One of my favorite shows is "The Girls Next Door" which both empowers views and provides escapism. Although the "girls" are in objectifying roles that could be understood to reienforce women's roles in a relationship, they also are rich (now on their own) have good jobs, and have the "power that comes with being able to attract men" (from Senna). Even though these girls have careers their lives are not attainable or realistic for most people--providing escapism. We never will be to experience what they are, but we can see it happening, escaping from our own reality into theirs.

Kellner's piece is really interesting because it discusses why audiences react the way they do to texts. In our media/celeb saturated culture it is really important to understand WHY audiences are influenced by these things because they influence our over-all social structure and basic national attitude. With a country that's going down the tubes, maybe we are escaping into these celeb lives too much and not paying attention to what is going in the "real world"