Day One: January 19

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Hello and welcome to politics of sex! In addition to all of the other ways we might be using this blog this semester, I thought I would experiment with using it as a space for organizing our individual class sessions. Here's what we are doing today in class:

INTRODUCTIONS

To the Class:

  • Read over the syllabus (your handout is a condensed version of the longer syllabus, available for download soon on the syllabus page)
  • Overview of course topics

To me: Dr. Sara Puotinen

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Hi, I'm Sara or Dr. Puotinen. My preferred pronoun is she. I was born in Houghton, MI, but I have also lived in North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, California and Georgia. I have a BA in religion (Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN), MA in ethics (Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA) and a PhD in Women's studies (Emory University, Atlanta, GA). My areas of research interest are: troublemaking, feminist and queer ethics, feminist pedagogies, queer theory (especially Judith Butler), feminist and queer social media (especially blogs).

Over break I read the Hunger Games trilogy and loved it. I also watched all six episodes of Star Wars. I really enjoy teaching in the GWSS/GLBT department--and I especially love teaching classes on sex, gender and desire! In addition to this class, I am teaching a graduate course on queer ethics and an undergraduate class oncontemporary feminist debates

I have been using blogs in my classroom since Spring 2007 and I have been writing on my own blogs since 2009. I started my first blog, a research/writing blog on making/being in/staying in trouble in May of 2009 and I started two more blogs, both collaborative diablogs, this summer. One is on breaking bad consumption habits and the other is on feminist pedagogy and blogging. The feminist pedagogy diablog, It's Diablogical!, has been particularly helpful and inspiring for me this summer. Since 2009, I have written extensively about the value of blogs and blogging in feminist and queer classrooms. In addition to tweeting as gwssprof, I also tweet as undisciplined.

To our Teaching Assistants: Brittany Lewis, Elakshi Kumar

To each other:

  • Go around the room and say names
  • If time, break up into groups of four and introduce yourself to classmates. Why are you taking this class? What do you make of the phrase, "politics of sex?"
And, finally, speaking of sex: What's sex got to do with...magazine covers
Just found this blog post on comparing covers for Cosmo and Maxim over at Sociological Images. Here are tag clouds for each, illustrating the frequency of certain words (the more the word appeared on the cover, the bigger it appears in the tag cloud). Image one is from Cosmo covers between 2007-2010. Image two is from Maxim covers between 2007-2010. And image three is from Cosmo covers in the 1970s.
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Reactions to these clouds? What words appear the most? How has the frequency of words changed over time? What differences do you see between the "men's" magazine (Maxim) and the "women's" magazine (Cosmo)? Feel free to post comments to this blog entry.

4 Comments

It's easy to notice that the word sex sticks out the most in the two covers from the current time frame which shows how much more interested we our now days in the topic itself compared to back in the 70's. Although the word sex appears in the 70's cover as well, it isn't nearly drawing as much attention as the newer editions. Also the color scheme between Maxim and Cosmo relate to the intended crowd, where Cosmo has "women colors" (pink specifically) compared to Maxims that have more "manly colors".

Yes, the visuals really help us to see how much more the term "sex" is used currently, as opposed to the 1970s. It would be interesting to go back and review the covers (you can here) and try to decipher just exactly how each magazine is using the term "sex." Anyone up for the challenge? It is used to refer to being sexy? Engaging in sex practices? The "sexes"--male/female? As a sidenote: The blogger who originally created the tag clouds briefly describes his method for dealing with "variations" on sex--like sexy:

I tweaked the text to merge plurals with singulars, or vice versa, and to combine variations of words like ‘sex’, ‘sexy’ and ‘sexiest.’
So, what does "sex" mean to these magazines? What is implied with this term (certain types of bodies? certain practices? always heterosexual?) What were your immediate reactions to seeing the word "sex" so big? What were all of you thinking these magazines meant by "sex'?

Thanks @shav0046 for being the first to comment! I'm looking forward to more engagement on our blog!

What sticks out to me is the different words in each tag cloud. The modern Cosmo cloud uses words that relate to sex, relationships, body images and health, etc. Both "guys" and "men" seem to appear equally on the cover, and "love" is also a very large tag word.

Maxim, however, uses words like "sports" and "cars" and "gadgets." It mentions the names of specific women, and uses "girls" to describe the opposite sex, which is slightly demeaning to the grown women to which this word is most likely referring. If "women" is on there, it is too small for me to see or I have simply overlooked it. "Love" is mentioned, though significantly less than in Cosmo's cloud.

I don't read either magazine, but by comparing the two recent clouds it is clear what these magazines are selling to their readers. Maxim tailors its content to material objects, like cars, parties, technology, and specific sex idols. Conversely, Cosmopolitan deals mainly with women trying to have a successful love life with real men. Both magazines reinforce stereotypes of women always looking for "the one" and men never wanting to settle down. Sex, naturally, is a key factor in both of these stereotypes and is possibly what they have most in common.

I am incredibly annoyed by the fact that different fonts were used in each case. I don't know whether the word frequencies relate to the height and width of a word or it's area inside the letters. Most likely, I suspect, the creator simply increased the font size incrementally in each case, but that drastically weakens our ability to compare these clouds, as different fonts are neither equitable in height/width ratios or areas. Whether purposefully or not, the font alters our view of the data being displayed, so when I automatically tried to decide whether sex was larger in the men or the women's magazines, I couldn't because the font was skews the comparison.

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