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March 31, 2007

Mixed Up Ads

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I was paging through an InStyle magazine, looking at all the ads. While there were many brands and products that were advertised, most of them a little pricey, two of them stuck out the most to me as a very interesting contradiction. One ad is for the brand DKNY and the other is for KY Intrigue personal lubricant. First the ad for DKNY, which I will focus on a little more, has nothing to do with the clothing brand. It features a man and a woman looking like they are about to have sex, the woman on the supine to the man, depicting helplessness and subordination to him. The lighting highlights certain features of the woman’s body: her breasts and stomach, focusing on sexual features. Both the man and the woman appear to be in good physical shape, furthering the “ideal body? both for men and women as well as the idea that only these types of bodies are desirable. The only part of the ad that actually shows the brand is on her underwear, in very small print towards the bottom of the page. I think that ads like this contribute to many of the problems in society. Young girls see these ads and think they need to strive to have beautiful bodies, big breasts, tan skin, full lips, so that the “hot guy? will want to sleep with them, because that is of course the goal here right? Not a relationship or emotional connection, but sex.

Which brings me to my advertising contradiction. My second ad is for KY Lubrication. My curiosity was peaked when I noticed that the one product that is sold for use during sexual activity, is one of the few that does not use any sexual images to sell it. Why is that so? All the ad says is “How Valentine’s Day blurs into night.? It implies sex, yet there are no toned bodies, no “beautiful people? on top of each other to sell the product.

I found a website with many different controversial ads from different places, it was an interesting website with a blog type set up. Check it out if you want to see more ads!
http://www.mediawatch.com/gallery/ads

March 30, 2007

Sex or Perfume? I'm confused.

I was looking through my Men’s Vogue magazine when I came across a ridiculous perfume ad. I thought it was funny, soI searched online for perfume ads. This is the one I found.


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I personally think perfume ads are pretty funny (you know, kind of like Abercrombie ads). What are they actually trying to sell in this ad? Sex? Racism? Objectification? (I have concluded they are selling anything but the actual product). Apparently this ad is selling a perfume called “In Black?. The woman in this photo represents an exotic, untamed, wild, sex object. Having her be completely naked wrapped in a thin string of beads only ads to the selling of her body, not the perfume. The woman is completely objectified in this photograph. Does she have a name or a personality? This ad definitely fulfills the stereotypes of what a feminine woman should be. She is wearing tons of makeup, she is seemingly hairless, thin and somewhat fragile.
It’s interesting that a black woman would be used for this ad. When I think of “in black? I imagine a woman in an outfit that is black. Black is often viewed in our society as sexy and impure. It seems so racists then, to have a woman who isn’t wearing black, but who is black. She isn’t wearing the sexy and impure she is the sexy and impure. The product name is only amplifying her skin color and the stereotypes that go along with black women. I can only assume that the dove represents some sort of virginity or purity, to sell to a non-black audience (the audience I believe this ad is selling to). The dove seems to contrast her lack of purity as a sex object.
I seriously wonder what the point of an ad like this is trying to make. Will I turn into this exotic sex object when I put on this perfume? Will someone please let me know?

March 29, 2007

Fake or Real?

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There are so many things wrong with this ad that it’s hard to even find a place to start. First let’s start with the fact that this is an image of a woman, yet the top half of her head and the lower half of her body are completely cut off. This is dehumanizing to her by just taking her body and amputating any part that the company wants to. Removing parts of a female’s body is extremely common in advertising, but rarely do you ever see a man who has part of his head cut off.

Another thing that is wrong is a more obvious one. This woman is almost completely naked with huge breasts that are only partially covered with her own hands. She is extremely thin which only further enforces societies emphasis on how being thin is the body type to strive for.

The next thing is the question in the middle of the ad that says “Who cares if they’re real?? What are they referring to in this question? My immediate thought was they were talking about her breasts. Then when I read what was being advertised I found they are advertising for “designer inspired jewelry.? So apparently they were referring to who cares if the diamonds are real. Yeah right. I don’t think it is appropriate to be referring to women’s breasts being real or not in an advertisement. Plastic surgery isn’t something that should be joked about. It is a serious decision that someone makes, not just something that they decide to do spur of the moment as this advertisement implies.

Basically, this ad is disrespectful to women in many ways. This advertisement for fake designer jewelry is very upsetting to me.

March 27, 2007

Assignment: Ad Analysis or Adbusting!

Blog Post Category 8. Adbusting (2 points)
Due by NOON on Monday April 2

Assignment Details: In American society (and increasingly in other Western and non-Western countries), children and adults alike are being socialized by the mass media as well as by parents, peers, schools, and other institutions. Advertising is a particularly interesting medium because it is meant to turn a profit. Much money is spent to induce you, the consumer, to have certain emotions and to feel certain needs. Advertisements can be viewed as very effective tools of socialization that suggest the statuses that are available within a society. They can also give insight into the values of a society.

Use About-Face.org as a resource

In this assignment you are asked to examine an advertisements in popular magazines and select one to bring to class). You must consider the following questions and write a 150 - 300 word post, OR, create (and post or bring to class) an ADBUSTER like the one you see below.

Questions to consider for your short analysis post:
1) What magazines did you examine? At what audience is each directed? How can you tell?

2) What roles in society are defined by these ads? Are they represented in any way that defines who (i.e., race, class, gender, age, ethnicity) should be in these roles?

3) What emotions are being elicited by these ads?

4) How is beauty portrayed in these ads?

5) What do these ads have to say about gender? What gendered norms are reinforced by these ads?

6) How might these ads be different from ads of the past? For example, can you see changing attitudes about men and women's work? Have ideas of beauty shifted—even in your lifetime?

7) Do you think these ads contribute to the gendered "problems" of eating disorders, sexual victimization, or cosmetic surgery? What would today's author have to say about what you found?

ADBUSTING EXAMPLE:

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Here are other examples:
Adbusters spoof ads
Feministing has some in "Fun with Feminist Flickr" category

* NOTE * You may choose to write a post AND do an adbusting example for extra credit.

March 26, 2007

"Our Generation" Dolls

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Over the weekend I was at SuperTarget and wandered over to the doll section. The past few years I have done the kids ‘Santa shopping’ for my uncle’s electric company holiday party and like someone had previously mentioned it is hard to walk down the aisle and look at things critically after you have spent many afternoons picking out dolls for people you know. On this trip however I focused on the doll aisle (the one without the Barbies and Bratz dolls). There were the Cabbage Patch dolls, the Little Mommy dolls and the ones I found interesting were the “Our Generation? dolls.

I was hoping to find something more about them online but all the search results came up with were dolls for sale. These dolls were ones I had never seen before (although they were not that different from any of the others). There were dolls with varying skin tones, different personalities and their own deluxe set of accessories that came in the same package as the doll. They were located on the shelf at eye level for about a 3rd or 4th grader and the shelf was as fun as it could get. The name “Our Generation? is catchy as some girls may hear their moms talk about Barbies and want dolls of their own (even though Barbies are always up to date with fashion, celebrities and ideas.) When I saw these dolls I thought back to the “Ethically Correct Dolls? article. The first point made was that “our children gain a sense of self-importance through toys. So we make them look like them.? These dolls all seem easy to relate to for young girls and since they are their generation, they can relate even more. All of the dolls at Target were female and I found myself immediately drawn to the doll that I would have picked out as a child (the one that looked like me back then.) Jenny came with an mp3 player, a passport and luggage for all of her travels (even stuff that I enjoy too). Sandie, Robyn and Katherine also lined the shelf, one dressed very feminine, one in her sports apparel and one “regular? girl. These dolls were larger and more realistic than a Barbie but still had a typical flawless appearance of most dolls.
Looking at the dolls closer I realized that none of them ever depict the changes a girl goes through as she goes through puberty. None of them have acne, or are awkwardly proportioned. They don’t have goofy haircuts or braces.
Dolls have changed quite a bit over the years but none of them surprised me. They continually attempt to diversify dolls but they all remain beautiful and flawless. Children will play with dolls no matter what they look like and enjoy doing so. It isn’t until people like Clarkson analyze how dolls will “empower them as racial beings? that children even realize that the doll they are playing with isn’t exactly like them. Although we are all able to criticize doll companies and pick apart the negative ideas they display, children have and will continue to love them and play with them until someone steps in the way.

Groovy Girls are Dreamtastic!

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Groovy Girls are an interesting looking doll that my sister used to go crazy about. I thought it would be interesting to see how their online store was set up. They are the “wildly popular soft dolls with their own unique sense of funky style?. On the main page there is a lot of flash animation, big flowers, and attractive looking dolls. Everything is animated and inviting you to come and dance, chat with friends, or take photos! The possibilities seem endless, and I haven’t even entered the site.

To actually buy the doll, you must go to the Manhattan Toy website, which opens in a new window, allowing you to continue all of the fun activities on the groovygirls.net site. When I click on the Groovy Girls section at the top of the site, the banner claims that their “products encourage girls to celebrate their own unique personalities!? On the side banner you may choose from these categories: Dolls, Clothing, Furniture and Accessories, Pets, Groovy Girls Mini, Dreamtastic, Petrageous, All, and New. In the Dolls drop down list, there are Girls, Boys, Super sized, Poseable, and Fun packs. My first impression was, “Whoa, cool, Groovy Boys!? Then I clicked on it and realized rather than the 46 options under girls, I can only choose from Josh or Dylan under the boys. I have slim pickings!

The dolls are very eccentric; no dolls are quite the same. The Dreamtastic Girls represent many of the images of women in our dream and fantasies. You can choose the Bride, Bridesmaid, Flower girl, Ballerina, Fairy, Princess or Mermaid, none of these girls which come in any race other than white. There are other people of color represented in the Girl section under Dolls, here there is quite a large variety of hair styles, skin colors, and outfits. Sexuality is not addressed.

My overall response to these dolls is that even though there are boys represented, they are only two boys and both of whom are white. The girls come in a much wider range, as they should. 2 out of 25 Groovy Girls Mini is available as a doll of color. The proportions are terribly skewed.

My Scene's Sex Appeal for Kids

I decided to delve into the world of MyScene.com, a website that a little girl that I baby-sit frequents. I’ve wandered at times where she picks up certain expressions and attitudes that neither of her parents or siblings portrays, and I’ve often figured it was her friends at school that she borrowed demeanors from. I realize after the MyScene exploration, that she has picked up some of her qualities from the dolls she does not even own, but simply visits over the internet. I’m uncomfortable with this.

The website was pretty exclusively geared towards little girls. It is definitely one of the “ethnically correct? doll collections mentioned in the reading, in which four different token colors of skin are supposed to represent every little girl of the U.S. The four main dolls (Kennedy, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee) each represent four slightly ambiguous ethnicities, white, African American, Latina, and Asian. The white doll is seen the most, as it appears first always as blond, with tan but white skin. The African American doll is seen often as well, with the same long hair but dark this time, blue eyes, and mold, but with slightly darker skin. The Latina doll is seen every once in a while and is described as sassy and flirty much more than the other dolls. She has the same long dark hair and even whiter skin than the “white? doll. Lastly, the Asian doll is rarely seen. She is introduced first in the “Let’s go Disco? doll sets where she is in a set of 2 along with the African American doll, all ready for clubbing.

The most shocking finding, was that if not every, than almost every page referred to the dolls “turning heads?, “catching all the guys’ eyes?, “Get[ting] noticed?, “Need[ing] a sporty cutie to step up to match her?. Appearance was highlighted, but was to be judged on how many boys paid attention to her. This is what is being taught to young girls right now. There were about 30 short little clips of cartoon depictions of the dolls in their everyday life. The “dolls? were giggly, shallow, and lacked personality. They all had the same voice, thought the same things, fought over the same outfits, and crushed on the same guys. Despite the variety in ethnicity, the dolls were all identical.

I’ll touch on the fact that these were definitely not being marketed to lower class children. The dolls were depicted as being obsessed with shopping, clubbing, and fashion. There must be some deal that Mattel (the owners) made with Claire’s, Sketchers, and Mudd jeans retailers, because they were mentioned on occasion and their were links to these stores in the “Fashions For You? page where kids can find and buy the exact same outfits as the dolls. These outfits were mostly, faux fur, denim mini skirts, tub tops, huge boots, and tiny little jackets.

Baffled by sexist toys / glamourous kitchens

I visited Toys 'R' Us' website and found out that what we talked about in class about dolls being gender oriented is completely correct. Maybe shoppers looking for something specific wouldn't notice, but after analyzing many different types of toys, I realized it's all over the place!! On the topic of marketing, I think they really try by appealing to what is popular "now" and they rely heavily on their paragraph telling what the toys does, comes with and basically why it should appeal to the young child. I believe that is where the true marketing lies.

ACTION TOYS: While scoping through several actions figures, I noticed that all the male-gendered action figures were very muscular, with huge thighs, arms, pectoral muscles and usually a six pack of abs. All the Women-gendered figures were very thin, toned (but not too muscular) and had giant breasts. They came in blonde hair, red hair and black hair. I did not see one that was any other race but Caucasian. Some of the painted on clothes were very sexist because they pointed out certain sexual body parts. For example, one figure called the Marvel Legends "Wasp" was all black and has yellow on her breasts and then going down her middle and stopped at her vagina. I was curious about the age and realized it was for a 4 year old. Interesting.

PRETEND PLAY/DRESSUP: There was a lot more items for girls to pretend play with than boys. I noticed certain categories as jewelery, makeup/nails/hair, gardening, housekeeping, money/banking and tools. Under such catgeories I noticed that when I clicked on "just girls" It would take away things like a BBQ set, sushi set, and tool belt. Obviously girls do not want to cook outside, make some sushi or like to fix anything!! This is what they are telling young girls and they are telling young boys that girls are the ones that need to clean and cook inside. All you find is lavender and pink aprons that come with hot pads, and oven mitts. You'll see vacuums and brooms... and wonderful kitchen sets. Kitchen sets really got me. This is where class comes into mind. None of the kitchen sets pictured were of one that a middle-class average family would own. They came with little extras that cost alot in real life.

The one that stuck out in my head was the "Grand Walk-in Kitchen." This kitchen came complete wtih arches, btwo breakfast bars, detailed woodwork, hardwood floors, granite look alike counter tops, stainless steel refrigerators... as you can see... it was for the avg. child millionaire. And it showed a little white girl serving her two black friends at the breakfast bar.. she was waving her hand over her kitchen..

One other toy that stuck out to me was called "My first purse" and it read "Just like mom's purse! in every little girls favorite colors pink and purple. Comes with wallet, debit card, lipstick, mirror, cell phone and keys." great for roleplay. THis showed me that obviously girls only shop and care about what they look like and talk on the phone. Definitely stereotyping the avg. girl.

I am running out of time but i wanted to talk about barbies. i noticed only a few african american barbies and they were always titled with something that had to do with their heritage. "festival of worlds barbie." and I also noticed that Barbie must always have to be white because if she is colored, than they change her name!!! What?!

FAO Schwarz

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I visited the FAO Schwarz website for this assignment. When the site first came up, I was amazed that all the items featured were advertised with pictures of white children and babies. The featured toy on the bottom of the screen said, “Create your own Madame Alexander Doll Today?. There was a white girl holding a line of dolls- all of which were white. I clicked on the link to begin creating a doll, and the description read, “You can choose from skin, eye, and hair color . . .?. Really? Can I? Because according to what I can see and what you have made very obvious (the enlarged picture from the last page), I can/should only choose the white skin color. Hmm…

Next, I started clicking on some of the specific options to check out from the long list on the right side of the screen. I made it about five items down the list before I had seen any kids that were not white. There was an overwhelming ratio of white to non-white children modeling the FAO Schwarz toys. Also, I was sickened by the prices of these toys. Toys for children that are way too young to need or appreciate expensive gifts like these. Parents and kids of the lower class might as well be counted out as far as those who can shop at FAO Schwarz. For example, I clicked under the headline, “Luxury gifts? and discovered that a Dance-On piano costs $250,000. That’s a pretty penny to spend on an eight-year-old. Other gifts such as Digital Jukebox with iPod connection, Jennifer Delonge Ava Microsuede Chair and Ottoman, and Grand Victorian Mansion only confirmed for me the fact that this toy store targets the upper-class; the rich and sophisticated. Lastly, this toy store clearly supports the normalization of gender by depicting girls with dolls and boys with toy cars.

“American “I-doll?- not for Every Girl

We all got a sneak peak into the “American Girl? website (http://americangirl.com/) in class, so I am not surprise so many of us chose to write about this site. From the little I saw of other people’s impression of other websites and stores, “American Girl? is as ethnically diverse as it is going to get. As for class-if you (or your parents, assume the site aims at 3-8+ year old girls) do not have at least $42 for the simplest (“Bitty Baby?) doll, this is defiantly not the site for you. Assuming you have a computer access (whether it is at home, in the public library or in school) you can start looking for the dolls of your dreams-and dive into one of the most “American? experiences you can get in a mouse-click.
From the pink, red and other light-colored front page I dove into the “shop? link, to get to business (my computer at home is just way too slow for watching movies or playing sophisticated games online). All the girls in the front of the “shop? page where white (including the dolls) and most had light hair-blond or brown. The whole appearance is not very welcoming to Americans of non-European (or actually, non-Northern European) descent, but since the site is looking for the people with expandable income, that not seem to be a problem (in their minds’ eye). “Bitty Baby? is marketed for girls at age 3+, and offer five skin, eye and hair color combinations. I think that this is not bad in comparison with the “Barbie? or “Bratz? websites, but maybe it is just because I became too “American?.

Continuing my “shopping? I looked at the “Bitty Twins?, all of which would have made white eugenicists very happy: apparently only white women can afford having twins, and the boys are always blond, with price tag which begins in $87 for pair of twins. The “girl of the year? was also white and blue eyed. I would not see the first current doll (not part of the historic dolls) until I reached the “just like you? section, which has the first (and last) picture of an Asian-looking girl to promote the dolls. “Just like? come only in long, smooth hair that looks the same for the dolls of all “ethnicities?. Now the “just like you? dolls are for girls over 8 years old-it is just wrong for you to know that there are so many different “ethnicities? before you are at this age.
The historic doll section was the most refreshing, and also showed some ethnic diversity (3 out of 8 historic dolls were “non-white?-37.5%), but the histories that were chosen were “problem free? mainstream accounts. Kaya the Indian girl lived in the 1760’s with her people. There was seemingly accurate description of some of the tribe’s customs, but in the 1760’s it ended; no mention of where they are today, any interaction with other (non-native) people, and of course- nothing of knowledge, culture or spirituality, just facts on they way they lived and generated food.
Addy, the Afro-American doll, lived in Philadelphia after the civil war. No mention where she, or her family, before the war. Addy is the only girl who does not have grandparents, and have only one sister and one brother. If you can read between the lines you may understand she supposedly came from a background of slavery and from Africa before that, but Addy does not have a culture, or a country she came from. She is just planted in 1864, and like Kaya (the Native-American doll) she does not have past or future.
The “American Doll? products and website are primarily for white girls (and doll-collectors) but I actually thought it was somewhat positive that the dolls were not sexualized (like Barbie, or the Bratz), and that they had some characters that were not white. This site is, as mentioned in the Ethnically Correct Dolls article, for “minority children only as long as these children could buy their products? (152). There is a long way to go before any of the “mainstream? or big corporate websites will show real wide and ever changing diversity of class, sexuality and gender, but it seems as if some of the toys manufacturers are slowly moving in the right direction- as long as they can make money out of dolls from diverse ethnicities.
I was not shocked to see the same patriarchal, racist and classist messages that one can see on television being reflected in toys, but I hope at least in my own life (or more accurately, those of my future children) I will be able to at least reduce the damages created by such “eugenic? dolls. Maybe in the future somebody should make GLABTQQ American dolls, as well as Irish, Somali and Hmong ones (and others), but right now I will still think that “American Doll? conveys better messages (to children and parents who can afford it) then those messages that were conveyed by “Barbie? or the Bratz (especially in the body image and sexuality departments).

Friday, March 30 - Feminist Talk

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Dolls

My daughter has at least one of almost every type of doll in each aisle—yes, including the more typical “boy? dolls like G.I. Joe and Star Wars figures. Although, every time I attempt to diversify her collection, she opts for the doll that looks the most like her, and that is the reason she will give as well. She chooses her dolls by who they look like-- Moms have dark hair, kids are usually blonde. We’ve walked the toy aisles of Target, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R Us, Kaybee Toys, and every other toy retailer there is in Minnesota more than likely. Her bedroom is covered in Barbie, Bratz, Polly, Joe, and Princess Padame.

To actually walk through these aisles trying to see a different feminist perspective was difficult for me because I’m used to walking through choosing birthday and Christmas gifts for Madeline or her friends.

First, walking through the Barbie aisle, which can be seen from nearly across the store by its pink glow, I wanted to see what things were placed at different eye levels. I did find that the more conservative or occasion dolls—like Special Edition or Collection dolls were placed at or above my, or the adult’s/parent’s, eye level.

Just below that were some dolls that were had an abundance of accessories and themes. There were a few minority dolls, but primarily the dolls were white with blonde or brown hair. This is where most of the male dolls were matched up as "boyfriends" as well. This must be for the 7-9-year-old girls.

I found that close to the bottom of the shelves were dolls that had more accessories like pets or friends or houses. I would guess that this is targeted at the 4-6-year-old who would be walking along holding her Mommy’s hand. Before "boyfriends" the interest seems to be in animals, and so this marketing would make sense.

Towards the back end of the aisle is where the generic Barbies were found. Also, more accessories could be found here—clothes, shoes, etc.

On the opposite side of the aisle, were flashy real-life-size princess dresses and combination packs of dolls and princesses.

I do wonder about whether or not they take into account the children who ride along in shopping carts. This would put a kink in any of my eye level findings.

I didn’t find any obvious race-related organization, but this could be because of the area of town that we visited the Target store. I suppose the lack of diversity is something that should be noted, but I found the more ethnic/exotic dolls to be mostly mixed in.

I always find it quite humorous that they actually have a doll that smells like tanning lotion and that most the cars that go along with the dolls were pink convertibles. Not to mention all the matching shoes, handbags, and hair bands… I’m just waiting for a Coach or Dolce & Gabbana or Louis Vitton doll to be released.

Target Toy Section

In this short essay, I will focus on the marketing of toys to children within Target. As I walked through the toy section at Target in Marshfield, WI, I couldn’t help but notice that I could pick out who was targeted, pardon the pun, for certain products based on nothing more than the color of the packaging and toys themselves.

As I walked by each aisle of the toy section, I could tell within a split second whether the toys in the section were marketed to boys or girls. In the sections that were targeted toward boys, all of the packaging and toys themselves in the entire aisle were blues, greens, reds, blacks, and browns. When I walked by a section that was targeted toward girls, the entire aisle was pink, purple, and pastel blues and greens. Instantly, as a child, you would know whether a section was for you or not for you based on the colors in the aisle. Even the games that were not meant to be gender specific, had a dominant color. For example, Texas Hold’Em was dominantly blue, red and black in its packaging, but an electronic pet game was pink and purple. These games could be played by either a boy or a girl, but based on what I saw in the rest of the store, a boy would be hesitant to play the electronic pet game based on its packaging “for a girl.?

The colors of the packaging were the first things that caught my attention in the store. The second was the way in which the products were organized. In the “boys? section the products were organized in a way on the shelves that put HotWheels, Matchbox and Go Tools together. Also, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Star Wars, and Marvel Comics heroes were all together as well. I found it interesting that these shows or characters were not meant many times to be focused at males over females, but that the products tied to them were entirely focused on a marketing plan toward males. Within the “female? section, Bratz and Barbie dolls were located right across the aisle from each other and were right at eye level of someone who was about four feet tall. It was almost as if you could play with Barbie as the Bratz mother if you bought each.

The final item that I noticed when I was there was the lack of racial diversity amongst the products. I noticed that the majority of dolls, male or female targeted, were white. This may have to do with the fact that Marshfield, WI is about as far from diversity as can be imagined, but it was still disturbing. The only racial diversity that did exist within the marketing of products was very African-American dominated. I did not notice any other races represented on packaging or within products in this particular store. I found this interesting since obviously everyone in the world is either black or white.

My overall reaction to the shopping experience was that I felt discouraged. I felt discouraged because all that we have learned in this class so far has been very good, and I would love to think that as a society we could adopt what we have learned and put it into practice, making the world a better place for all to live. This experience brought back a reality that we have a long way to go. How can ideals of equality and love for all overcome consumerism when we live in a society driven by monetary reward and materialism? As a child there is no way to distinguish between these things, and as a result, from an early age we start developing dichotomies between gender and race that last a lifetime. The toys we play with most definitely play a role in this!

Toys R Us

I took an online tour of Toys “R? Us. The doll section was arranged in several categories including fashion dolls, princess dolls, and ethnic dolls. Under the top selling list, the top selling doll of the month is the “Irish Dance? doll from the Barbie Pink Label collection. The doll is depicted in the perfect Irish stereotype with long curly red hair, pale skin, and green dress.

It is part of the festivals of the world collection which also includes a Ciyco De Mayo, a Kwanzaa, and an Oktoberfest doll. I was interesting to take a closer look at the Kwanzaa doll. In many of the Barbie dolls I looked at my Matel the African American Barbies were darker skinned versions of Barbie. The Kwanzaa dolls has different facial features and is missing the scary tiny Barbie nose that looks like it has been hacked away with plastic surgery. Kwanzaa Barbie comes with extremely long wavy hair and beaded earrings. Kwanzaa Barbie does not appear in the ethnic dolls section however.
Twenty Seven dolls appear in the ethnic dolls section. A vast majority of the dolls are African American, with the remainder being Hispanic. No Asian American dolls were shown. This was the only section of dolls where images were not available for many of the dolls. One of the dolls was titled “You & Me: Hispanic Baby Darla Interactive Doll? the picture of the doll however was a very pale white baby with blue/hazel eyes.
A huge section of dolls on the Toys R US website is the princess section. More often than not princesses are depicted in a tutu, a tiara and often have a wand. In the section I also came across the Prince Derek doll. Prince Derek is an African American doll complete with faux middle ages apparel. Class manifests itself in an interesting way in this doll. Although Prince Derek is a royal Prince, he is also the Royal Cobbler. He spends his time making shoes for the head white Barbie princess and her twelve princess friends. He comes with twelve pairs of shoes. So in reality Prince Derek is not a Prince at all but a house servant who wears a crown. Off all the prince dolls I looked at, Derek was the only one who had a service job, the white princess don’t spend their time making shoes.
A Medieval theme is also present in the boy’s action figure section. Many of the toy sets include knights and castle themes. Recently I read an article by Leslie Feinberg discussion transgender repression. Feinberg marks the Middle Ages and the time in which transpeople and gender crossing became a terrible taboo and crossing gender lines lead to in most cases death. It is also a time which gender relations are ideally depicted. Women are soft and feminine waiting around for their knight and prince suitors to court them with poems and flowers.
The boy’s action figure also showed elements of what was talked about in the films we viewed in class regarding males and violence. A vast majority of the toys were intensely muscular warrior type figures. A large section was devoted to military figures; compete with an arsenal of firearms. One of the more disturbing lines of toys made for boys is the series “WWE Ruthless Aggression.? The figures are of wrestling characters with huge bulging muscles and tiny Speedos, which are fairly homoerotic, except the characters beat the crap out of each other.
It was also interesting to see how non human figures were gendered. Monsters and fantasy type creatures were in the boys section. Talking bears and horses were in the girls section. Interestingly the horses often have been “feminized? with extremely long mains and tails, giant doe eyes, and often have coats of pastel colours. In the boys section there is also a coin collection category. The category does not have any real collector coins except for one set of 2001 quarters. The rest of the toys in the section are play money sets. There is a cash register and scanner, on of which is hot pink. It is interesting that this does not appear in the girls section despite its gendering. Apparently girls are not to handle money or run a business; instead they should be feeding babies and braiding hair.

My Twinn... or yours?

My Twinn is an online retailer selling-- oh, did you guess it, you clever thing?-- child-replica-type dolls. The website itself is pretty girly, hearts and flowers and that shade of pinky-purple that I never know what to do with... I didn't see a single photo of a boy paired with his doll, even though there is a boy-doll option.

One of the first distinctions is to choose a hairstyle and texture for the doll. There are six textures to choose from, ranging from "Straight hair with a slight wave" to "African-American." It seems odd to say that the hair is segregated, but it is ordered from straightest (read: whitest) to... blackest? The last two hair options are of a "coarser texture," one with tight ringlet curls, the other "relaxed with a perm or heat." It seems odder the more I look at it. In fact, I only saw a photo of one little girl of color and her doll-- and no boys.

One is then asked to choose between five swatches of skin tone, looking for the one that "most closely matches your child's skin tone." Olive, and two light-to-dark variations each on "fair" and "brown." Aside from the pallor of the "very fair" option, the variety of tones isn't very great. They look like splashes of the same paint with a drop of blue or yellow added in. It appears to be possible, though, for the "artisans" at My Twinn to work a little more closely than this process suggests.

Upon completing an order, the parent is asked to upload a photo of the child. Then the "artisans" [I'm sorry, I just can't get over my amusement at that word] will mold the face to match the child. I find this idea really interesting. Aside from the creepiness factor involved in preserving a child in plastic-- there is a real possibility that giving a child a doll in his or her own image could help teach self-love at an early age.

But for whom is this available? The doll costs $139, before shipping and all that extra junk. It seems that their clientele would be limited to the wealthy.

So there's both a racial and a class division in their offering and the dolls are clearly gendered....I try to think of their appeal, and I imagine if there were a doll that I thought would help my little sister feel beautiful and learn to love herself, I'd buy it. But then I know that the real influences on her life are the people around her, and anyway, that little girl is so full of contradictions already that no doll can replicate her. She rarely responds to physical compliments, but grins like a diva whenever a camera is nearby. She digs on lipstick but doesn't usually bother to brush her hair. She can't find a beat to save her life and rides her pink bicycle through the mud. If I really wanted to make her feel good about herself, I should teach her how to do it herself, shouldn't I?

Dolls from Toys "R" Us

For my doll report I decided to check out the Toys “R? Us Website. They had many different categories of dolls to choose from. I decided to focus more on the Barbie and Ken dolls. I looked at the collector’s dolls first and found that there were dolls of many different ethnicities and cultures. Most of these were Barbies. Some of these were Cinco de Mayo Barbies, Wizard of Oz Barbies, Tooth Fairy Barbies, Kwanzaa Barbies, and Hard Rock Cafe Barbies just to name a few.

For my doll report I decided to check out the Toys “R? Us Website. They had many different categories of dolls to choose from. I decided to focus more on the Barbie and Ken dolls. I looked at the collector’s dolls first and found that there were dolls of many different ethnicities and cultures. Most of these were Barbies. Some of these were Cinco de Mayo Barbies, Wizard of Oz Barbies, Tooth Fairy Barbies, Kwanzaa Barbies, and Hard Rock Cafe Barbies just to name a few.

I noticed that there was definitely more than one race represented, but if it was a non-white Barbie it was always specified. This was much more noticeable when I went to the princess doll section on the site. The dolls here were obviously mostly female again, with the exception of a few Ken prince dolls. A large majority of these dolls were white, and the only other ethnicity that was represented was the African American Barbies. All of these Barbies were specified as African American Barbies, while the white Barbies were specified by something else, usually what they were wearing. It seems like if you want an African America doll, you won’t really have much choice as to what it looks like, but there were many more choices of white dolls.

If I wanted to buy a Barbie, it would be extremely easy to find a Barbie that is from my ethnic group. People from other ethnic groups might find it hard to find a Barbie that is more like them, and if they do they may only have one or two choices, instead of many many different white Barbies. People will see this, especially young girls, and be persuaded to think that the white Barbie with the blond hair is the Barbie that most people look like since there are so many more white Barbies than non-white Barbies. Children should be shown that there can be many different ways that a person or a doll should look, and while this is improving with dolls nowadays compared to when I was a kid, the white blonde Barbie still provides an unrealistic model for young girls to look at. It definitely contributes to the normalization of the female gender in children.

Barbie- Still the Same

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I had to write about Barbie for this assignment; my childhood ties are so strong (I know, like millions of other kids…). But Barbies took a kind of special place in my home- while I had a few, it was my brother (3 years my senior) who had the real collection. My brother would spend hours creating elaborate sets, talk shows, outfits, scenarios, you name it. It is often his Barbie obsession that people raise their eyebrows at when looking for clues of his homosexuality in our childhood past.

The issue of gender identity is a very complicated one- yet I know that my brother identified with women. Perhaps this is why he liked female Barbies so much. This would fit into the idea that children want toys to represent themselves.

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For Christmas (when I was 4 and my brother was 7), my parents gave my brother and I deluxe Barbies for Christmas. My brother received the beautiful (white) swan princess, and I received the handsome (“African American?) Ken doll in a glittery white tuxedo. I didn’t really like him, and I was jealous of my brother’s princess.

The “Ethnically Correct Dolls? reading talks about the commodification of race in toys, and the Barbie website (even in the year 2007) seems to back this up entirely. Through browsing over much of the site, every image of a girl or Barbie as a representative image is white. The only time the Bride Barbie [(AA) next to it, for “African American?] will come up is under a product search. The descriptions for the Bride Barbies are exactly the same, but one has (AA) in her title. The same goes for the grooms. For the women dolls, the Bride Barbies looks to be entirely the same save for color- they share the same, glossy long nylon hair and pert features.

The scarcity of the black dolls (and much more infrequent Latina, Hawaiian, etc.) definitely fits in with the “commodity? theory. As if only someone looking and specifically inclined to buy a black doll would do it- they seem to be set aside, special, for those “special? situations in which the doll is being purchased for and used by a black child. When I visited the Cabbage Patch website, I had similar findings. Although the race wasn’t included in the product description, I had to actively seek out the ethnic dolls (perhaps one on each page of 10 or so) and I had to scrutinize them very closely.
I have to wonder why so many Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls alike have red hair, if indeed 1% of the white population has this trait. The percentage of people with different skin tones far exceeds this red hair color rarity- there must be 3-4 Cabbage Patch Kids with red hair for every ethnic one.

I applaud my parents for trying to break boundaries, at least on a small level, in our home. I ended up liking my black prince charming (until one day my brother’s friend threw him up into the neighbor’s storm drain). We ran out the day the Barbie with “realistic weight? was released, bouncing up and sown in the car shouting “we want the fat Barbie!? She wasn’t even voluptuous. But that’s what you must expect from Barbie, I suppose. It seems the divides are as strict as ever.

Confessions of a Toy Store Worker

Throughout high school, I worked in a privately owned toy store. The store is located in the busy tourist area of Duluth by the lake. I remember placing orders for dolls, marking them and stocking them on the shelves.

We didn’t sell any Matell dolls, but we did sell other brands with similar physical constructions. We sold a brand of dolls called ‘Groovy Girls’. These dolls were not all similar. They were not all blonde with white skin color. There was quite a diverse selection. The Groovy Girls mantra is as follows, “The hippest playmates and most fashionable friends, our Groovy Girls ® collection is spectacular! Designed with an eye for style, our groovy girls playmates sport funky removable outfits with cool details like hook and loop closures and awesome accessories. Groovy Girls show that beauty comes in all colors, styles and sizes. As no two are alike, our special Groovy Girls® teach children to celebrate diversity.? As you can see, the degree of diversity is great. Besides white, there were different races including Latina and Asian, as well as representations of both genders. Their sexualities are not an issue here. They do not have a trim waistline or a high bust. They are in their younger teens, specifically the ‘tweens’ group. The dolls are dressed appropriately, and have a Holly Hobby time of feel to them. The hair is not strait with sheen; it is in braids, short, bangs, ponytails etc. The Groovy Girls try to fit into several different niche markets.

When I would work, we would always get phone calls about the Groovy Girls, “Is the new Groovy Girls in yet? Are there any new accessories? What is the size of your stock? When do you get more in?? Their high demand allowed us to buy more products of the brand. We didn’t advertise in any forms of media in Duluth. Our business thrived on loyal customers, word of mouth and the plethora of tourists every season.

We designated a ceiling to floor shelving area for the Groovy Girls. We didn’t have any specific tactic of organizing them by their race, gender or class. When I would stock them, I would first lay out their accessories and toys on different shelves (Tents, Bikes, Boats, etc). I would then fill the ‘sets’ I had made with different dolls. The sets themselves weren’t identifies as white only or asian only. I had all the dolls in a pile on the floor and would grab one randomly and set it on the shelf. Considering that there were less male dolls than females, I made sure there was an even amount of male dolls per shelf.

I was glad that our store chose a brand that embraced diversity. It grew to be extremely popular. Never once did I receive a phone call in my time there asking about Matell, Barbie, Ken, Kimmy and etc.

Not Really My Scene

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I’ve been out-of-touch with the doll business for quite awhile. As a child I loved playing with Barbies and my older sisters’ porcelain dolls, though my best friend and I had always dreamed of getting American Girl dolls. Since my childhood long, long ago I knew that the new Bratz collection had been introduced, but I hadn’t ever heard of the “My Scene? dolls, so I decided to check out the website.

My Scene dolls are a Mattel brand, introduced in 2002 to compete with the Bratz collection, which was gaining much of the market share that Barbie used to own. As Bratz did, My Scene looks to move away from the “traditional? and conservative nature of Barbies, and focus on the “contemporary? and “hip? modern girl.

Upon my visit to the My Scene website, I wasn’t too surprised by the layout and color choices used on the home page. The target market for these dolls is certainly girls, probably ages five to eleven. The home page was adorned with pink and sparkly animations. Because the page doesn’t allow one to purchase the dolls directly from Mattel, I also visited the Toys “R? Us website. Toys “R? Us actually allows visitors to narrow their searches by category (dolls), brand (My Scene/Mattel), age (five to eleven years), and even gender (girls).

The gendering of these dolls is very apparent. All of the girl dolls have long, voluminous hair. Eyeshadow is caked above the girls’ eyes, along with eyeliner. Their lips are full and painted, and their eyelashes are long and very apparent. The chest on each of the dolls is very pronounced, and long with the curvy legs and hips. There is no ambiguity in the gender of the doll by the way they are dressed, either. All of the clothes one can purchase for the girls are typically things that women would wear; tank tops, skirts, halter tops, dresses, and capris. In searching the website I only found one pair of long pants, which came in a “yoga wear? set. They were white with pink stripes and came with a matching halter top with the same patterns. Many of the accessories that can be purchased for the My Scene girls are mostly associated with girls: fashion magazines, purses, “bling rings.? In other words, there is no ambiguity as to what the sex of these dolls are.

I also considered how sexualities were portrayed through the dolls. I concluded that the makers intended for the dolls to be “straight,? based on how society portrays sexuality, i.e. lesbians are supposed to have short hair, wear “manly? clothing, baggy pants and no makeup.

Race was another issue with the dolls. Though some of the My Scene dolls appeared to be of a different race (African-American and maybe Asian) other than white, all of the girl dolls had the same body type. I actually thought of Gimlin’s cosmetic surgery article here, where she talks about “Ango-Saxon ideals of beauty.? Did the creators choose to make all body types the same because of these ideals, or was it merely to save money on the manufacturing of the dolls?

I wasn’t completely surprised at what I found when looking at the dolls on the website because I’d seen Bratz dolls before. I don’t approve of the scantily-clad nature of the dolls, especially when they are targeted towards girls from ages five to eleven. Furthermore, upon analyzing the My Scene dolls further, I realize that the gendering of these dolls will continue to make girls, even at a young age, feel the need to “do gender,? to dress in certain clothing, wear their hair a certain way, and so on, to appease society and its need for homogeneity.

Here’s the My Scene home page:

http://myscene.everythinggirl.com/home.aspx

Bratz and the Construction of Beauty

Throughout my childhood I was the proud owner of an array of dolls. These dolls were my primary source of entertainment and I would spend hours every day staring into their faces and using them as the basis for my fantasies. My mom recalls that I would wake up and go into the living room with an arm full of dolls and arrange them under the piano. I would sit under the piano without saying a word and once in a while I would move a doll from one spot to another. I remember this game well, I was pretending I was a homeless single mother with three or four children and I had to work to help my family survive. I have talked to other girls who have recounted similar fantasy games involving dolls and single motherhood.

Although I had many barbies, (between my sister and I we had about 24), I also owned some lesser-known dolls. Two of my favorites were the “nobody’s perfect? doll and the “happy to be me? doll. My mom bought the “nobody’s perfect? doll at a garage sale and it was a small stuffed thing with a big nose and a t-shirt that read: Nobody’s Perfect. My step-mom gave me the “happy to be me? doll that was the same size as Barbie but with red hair, breasts that did not defy gravity, a normal waist, and flat feet. I loved these dolls because, with my glasses and goofy teeth, I could identify with them more than I could with Barbie dolls.
Girls today do not often own dolls which reinforce that beauty is not the main goal in a woman’s life. Instead, girls own beautiful perfect plastic molds that construct the notion of the beautiful female body. In the video, “A Girl Like Me,? 15 out of 21 dark skinned children preferred white dolls because they saw them as “good? and as more beautiful than dolls with darker skin color. These children had been socialized to believe that the beautiful body is white, or light skinned.
As Ann Decille writes in her piece, Dyes and Dolls, “Dolls in particular invite children to replicate them, to imagine themselves in their dolls’ images? (48). In this way, dolls determine what it is that children place value in. I researched the Bratz dolls website because Bratz dolls are so popular with young female children. Their website reads, “Bratz: The only girls with a passion for fashion.? Bratz dolls perform their female gender by being interested in fashion, make-overs, boys, and super secret slumber parties.
All Bratz dolls have long, smooth, relaxed, “white-girl? hair and gigantic eyes. The girls portray the stereotypical beautiful female with their fashionable dress and makeup. The combination of giant eyes, eye makeup, and the come-hither look painted on the Bratz makes the dolls look sexualized. Bratz represent the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton culture that persuades girls to dress to maximize their sexuality and please boys.
The worst thing I found about this website, aside from the fact that girls are taught to interest themselves only in fashion and make-up, was the collection of Bratz babies. Even the babies have long hair, (often with dyed highlights), eye-makeup, and lipstick. This sends the message to very young girls that they should dress like their older female counterparts and plants notions of beauty in females at an early age. Bratz dolls do the work of patriarchy (Decille) by keeping girls aware from a young age of the importance of beauty and instill in them what it means/is to be feminine.

My American Doll Life

I used to play house with my Barbies, but it wasn’t the kind of house where I wanted to cook or clean and stuff like that, it was house where I made my brother and sister act out the roll of my son and daughter (or pets) and then I would be the mom (or owner). My brother and I would go back and forth on the issue of a doll versus an action figure. To him male figurines were action figures, not dolls and I thought GI Joe and Ken were dolls. I still do. Ken is such a doll! The doll was used as only when I wanted to dress up and put makeup on this perfectly skinny doll. I was never envious of my Barbies long beautiful blond hair, I just wanted her light skin. I used to lie on the ground closing my eyes and daydream on what it would be like to be White and what it would be like if my White friend’s parents were actually my parents and what it would be like if we were in the same family. I wanted to be White so badly and have a name like Samantha (like my American Girl doll) or Rebecca (because that seemed like a nice normal name to me). After the animated movie, Anastasia came out, I got my first non-blond hair, non-American doll. My mom bought me the beautiful Anastasia doll...

and I loved her until I threw her out with the rest of my Barbies. When Barbie didn’t grow up with me, and I got bored with her I begged my parents to spend lots of money on the next best thing, the expensive American Girl dolls.

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Addy, the Black American doll that is now offered through American Girls was not an option when I chose my doll for my 12th birthday, and even now thinking back, I do not think I would have chosen Addy in place of Samantha. I wanted to be in contact with the most important characteristic of beauty to me - Whiteness. Everywhere in the media and in my culture, lighter skinned people or White people were held in such high regard. Not to say that I wasn’t pretty, I just wasn’t the prettiest. I am one of the darkest people in my immediate and extended family and I have had to fend off countless well-meaning aunts and cousins who offered skin-bleaching cream time and time again, so that I could be fair skinned and more beautiful. Even my own mother struggled with my darkness when I was much younger, she would yell at me for being in the sun all day because I would get really dark during the summer or she would say that if I ever married a White guy and had kids with him, they would turn out so beautiful because they would have such a nice olive skin tone between my White husband and I.

After I discovered computers from my tech-savvy brothers, I immediately dropped my dolls and practically gathered them all up and threw them away…all except for my American Girl doll, which is still under my bed at home. I didn’t play with dolls anymore; I discovered the joy of competing with my brothers, reading books and Mavis Beacon’s typing program, that’s when my parents started to worry. Why was I always inside reading late at night or on the computer all the time? If I was too old to play with dolls then I should be old enough, my dad thought to start learning how to cook. Ha. I still hear to this day from him that I should learn how to cook or else I won’t find a husband….oh, well…looks like I am doomed.

"The Only Girls With A Passion For Fashion!" Bratzlogo.jpg

* The dolls are marketed online at their fully interactive website www.bratz.com. The dolls aren’t sold directly from the site, they are, instead hyped up with their pictures plastered all over the place with links to how one can buy on from a retailer near by. These dolls are definitely marketed to the young ‘valley girl’ type. These dolls are only interesting in fashion, pampering puppies, and now, a Bratz fantasyland with their new breed of Pixie dolls. These dolls are not sold with a price tag, no, that is too old school, these dolls are sold with a lifestyle with a price tag on it, it’s just that that price is not relevant.

* A huge majority of the Bratz dolls are female; there are three male dolls that I came across: One older father figure and two boyfriend material dolls, all three of the males dolls are White. There are four main dolls. Two White, One Black American, One Asian, and one that is definitely not White, but she is hard to categorize specifically, I would say she is Middle Eastern or Persian. All of the dolls are wealthy or at least well-off enough to afford their pretty outfits and expensive accessories. I assume all of the dolls are “hetero-normative,? for every girl there is a boy, but the coupling is not so visible, it is just understood that the dolls are heterosexual; it is a hidden underlying rule. I assume that the Bratz company doesn’t do much with sexuality and relationships because the parents of the companies’ target audience would not be happy with their 6 year old daughters thinking about boyfriends just yet, much less a same sex relationship.

* Bratz has different dolls to appeal to different age groups.
Teen: Bratz-Diamondz-Large.jpg

Kidz: Kidz_group.jpg

Baby: Babyz.jpg

They have the most popular ones that look about 13-18, and then younger ones that look about 6-9, and then even younger that look around 8 months to 3 years old. Of course, all of then have beautiful long shiny smooth hair, fashionable accessories to go with every stage of life, and a fully makeup’d face. It was kind of weird, it was like some weird photo album of the Bratz dolls and how they have grown up. Upon further investigation of the different types of dolls I discovered that there was indeed a sporty or athletic selection of Bratz, of course they were all so pretty and decked out from head to toe in their awesome accessories.

* I was annoyed by the website. It had loud pop music, tons of flash and java scripts written all over the website that made my computer slow down so much and the dolls themselves all looked like they have had cosmetic surgery. I can definitely see that these dolls will have an adverse affect on young impressionable girls who will grow up absolutely surrounding my images of the perfect body, what the good hair is, and how skin colors are categorized,. My first exposure to Bratz dolls was about 4 years ago, right after they first were released. My little cousin had a couple of them and I thought that they look rather deformed. Sure they were no Barbie, but still, they look so bobble-headish. I wasn’t surprised or angered, just a little disappointed in the lack of diverse representation, or maybe just that I couldn’t identify personally with any of the dolls. I barely identified with Yasmin only through her ethnic name, other than that, there isn’t anything else.

*All of the dolls represented my hair texture, and there was one doll that was darker skinned, Sasha, who was I think the African American doll. I am not African American but she did kind of have my skin color. I believe Yasmin could pass for a Middle Eastern girl, so I guess I could identify with her. I found a picture of the dolls dressed up in ethnic garb.

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It looks like the dolls were dressed in a flamingo, Gypsy, genie, tribal and belly dancer style…I thought it was cute and if I had to buy my daughter a Bratz doll, I would have bought her one of these.

According to the quiz on the website, “Which Bratz Are You Most Like?? I am Yasmin.
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Who according to the website is “a little quiet, but even without opening her mouth you can sense she’s special. There’s just something about her that seems almost regal. But Yasmin’s not pretentious! She ‘s really open-minded she’s always up on alternative trends in fashion, fitness and beauty!? Because I am “always out ‘n’ about and know how to have a scorchin’ good time. [I] love to read and write and [I am] ‘in the know’ of everything that’s going on. [I am] ambitious and have the smarts to go far, but like to keep it real with [my] gal pals who know they can count on [me] to be true. I thought the quiz was quite funny and soooo accurate! Yasmin is definitely the doll for me! I mean, I am like totally always up on the alternative trends in fashion, fitness, AND beauty. Oh, Bratz…
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oliver monster for a less gender stereotyped youth

Browsing the FAO Schwarz website, I found a section called “make my own monster.? It has a lot of green and blue in the design so it looks like it’s geared towards boys, and there is even a little boy advertising it. But on the bottom, there are monsters that have been made by other little children that can be purchased. They don’t look as gender specific. There is a black and yellow one and a yellow and pink one and a blue one. I was drawn to the pink one because of the color association with girls. It was named Oliver Monster and when I clicked on the picture, I was offered more information about the monster. It was designed by a four year old boy named Niko, and there was a quote from him, and I was taken back by this quotation.

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“Oliver loves pink and really wants to grow his hair out long when he gets big and be a princess. Oliver has no arms and legs, but that's ok. Everyone is different.?

This statement broke the gendering of this toy. This is a little boy that made a boy monster that loves pink and wants to be a princess. This is saying that it’s okay for boys to like pink and have long hair. The acceptance that everyone is different is a great message for little kids. I couldn’t believe that I found this statement, the epitome of nonnormative gendered thinking, on this website.

Pricewise, the site is aimed at those who are privileged enough to have a lot of money and a lot to spend on toys. The custom made monsters cost $249, which is outrageous but the already designed ones are only $18, which isn’t that bad, but are most likely the cheapest toys on the website.

I think this website does a good job of not gendering the toys and not dictating which toy is gender appropriate for children other than by preconceptions of what a "normal" girl or a boy will like. There is not a boys’ aisle or a girls’ aisle, a girls’ section or a boys’ section to steer the child into an area of predetermined gender appropriate toys. Also, generally, the toys are advertised by themselves with no indication of which gender it is aimed at, and it is through this style of marketing that gender limitations or gender stereotypes on which toy a child should buy are able to be broken.

There is a section of playhouses and they are very expensive, not for the average buyer. What one house costs is equivalent to a house payment on a real house, if not more. In the first couple pictures, there are both boys and girls playing what looks like a game of “house.? A house titled “the princess cottage? has no children outside of it and says in the description that “princes and princesses alike will love climbing the ladder that leads to the cottage's loft? making it a toy for both genders though it is classified as a girl house. Under arts and crafts, the main picture is an easel with a boy and a girl painting on either side both wearing the same outfit, neither gendered off in pink or blue, but both are in red. Another advertisement features a little boy and little girl a playset, and another has a little boy and girl not dressed in pink and blue, playing with building blocks.

When one clicks on science and exploration, a category that is typically associated with boys, there are no little boys that come up, there are only the toys advertised and then under “our favorites? there is a little girl advertised with a spelling chalk board. Under electronics, there is a lazertag set that features a little boy and a little girl playing together. Under the vehicles category, children size cars are advertised. The main picture is a little boy driving a red mini cooper but right underneath, there is a little girl driving a yellow Mercedes. I was surprised to see her there especially in a gender neutral color, not just in some pink Barbie jeep. Also under this category, there were two trikes, a “hot rod retro trike? and a “pink Pegasus trike? and these could be easily associated, the pink for the girl and the racing stripes for the boy, but there is no child demonstrating this so it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way so if a child wanted the one that has not been normalized for him or her by societal standards, that child wouldn’t feel “weird? based on the context of the site.

They have a “dress up and accessories? section, which when one sees that category, one would generally think of little girls in dresses, but a little girl in pajamas comes up. They have a firefighter and an astronaut costume but they have little boys wearing them but they didn’t have any princess ones or very ultra feminine costumes to really emphasize girls in the opposite direction. But it was interesting and unexpected for anything for little boys to come up in that category, even if they were in more gender stereotyped professions.

Under dolls, a Harry Potter doll came up, so there was at least one male doll that strayed from the typical female doll. Under action collectibles, there were no children displayed so there wasn’t an image present to say this is for boys only and there was actually a girl action figure, Princess Leia, but she was only in a swimsuit. I’ve never seen the Star Wars movies but I’m sure she wears more than a swimsuit, so it was disappointing that the one female action figure was inappropriately dressed to accentuate her female parts.

One strong feminist critique was the “become a fashion designer? feature. The opening of the explanation starts off with “every girl dreams of being a fashion designer. Now she can actually design her own clothes.? The harsh generalization and direct assumption that only little girls dream of doing this cuts little boys off from partaking. If there were boys that wanted to do this, this advertisement makes it quite apparent that this is socialized as a girls’ activity and is not normal for a boy to desire to design his own clothes. Throughout the description it says “for her? and “she will choose?, automatically generalizing that a girl will be the one doing this. It is also terribly pricey, for it costs $800.

Under luxury gifts, a fashion design party came up for $25,000. Wow, this is not for under-privileged people. There are also gift cards for $50,000 and $100,000, very much assuming that these people are high spenders with money to burn. This website is not for families of lower income. The toys are outrageously priced in the hundreds and even the thousands so that even upper-middle class families might not even consider purchasing these items. I was shocked at the ridiculously high prices for children’s toys and playthings and wouldn’t dream of spending that much money on something that wasn’t more applicable to real life and issues of importance.

The site represents children of different races; however, the dominantly presented race is Caucasian, with the homepage displaying white children. But there are appearances of other races throughout the website to offer a range of ethnicities. There was a little Asian girl, a little boy with dark skin, and several African-American children.
There were also two children that struck me as gender neutral and this idea was also reflected in their choice of toy. In the advertisement for hand painted stacking pyramid cubes, there is a baby wearing red that has long hair that could either be a boy or a girl, and playing with a Noah’s ark set, an African-American child with long curly hair and tan clothing offers ambiguity as to the child’s sex.

There are obviously more stereotypically feminine or masculine toys or items, but they are not categorized that way to limit the buyer. There are stereotypes that a traditional toy store wouldn’t be expected to break such as a little girl playing with a baby doll or some of the stereotypical gendered toys that are being sold but I think that for the giant toy conglomerate that FAO Schwarz is, the company does a fair job of limiting gender stereotypes and not adhering to gender roles for children through their use of marketing. There is no gender dichotomy for categorization for toys “girls’ toys, boys’ toys? other than the toys themselves. I do see negatives in this website but I also see some good, which signifies some progress, some hope that gendered scripts of normative roles for children are slightly diminishing.

All Kids are the Same

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According to the official Cabbage Patch Kids website: http://www.cabbagepatchkids.com/, Cabbage Patch Kids were invented in 1976 by a young man named Xavier Roberts. Legend has it he was walking through a magical cabbage patch when he saw bunnybees sprinkling the cabbage. Out popped “all sorts of different babies and kids each with their own special look.? He then started the Babyland General Hospital where people could “adopt? a little baby complete with their own adoption papers. In 1983, the Coleco Toy Company began mass producing the dolls and received their new title the “Cabbage patch Kid.?
I can remember growing up and adopting around 10 of these dolls myself, they were my favorite. I had white dolls and Hispanic dolls but never really put much thought into the difference between them.

I decided to look at the availability in the market of the Cabbage Patch Kids. Naturally I looked on the Cabbage Patch Kids official website first. There, I found an official brochure that had an array of different ethnicities ranging from Hispanic to African American to White to Asian each individually labeled. They also had a skin tone selection chart with the options of; cream, latte, mocha, and espresso.
Next, I looked at the Toys R Us website. There, I found a list of twenty dolls on sale ranging from every ethnicity to both sexes. Not listed in any particular order and all priced the same. Finally, I searched Wal-Mart’s website and found the same results.
In conclusion, I see the Cabbage patch dolls as a very realistic display of ethnicities. Each doll on the ethicality spectrum had a couple of different “traits? including; different hair and eye colors for each. Therefore, children can not only learn about other races by playing with Cabbage Patch Kids but also interact and participate with them from a young age. This, in my opinion, will help educate children and in addition neutralize them from judging people by color.

Dolls

When I was little Polly Pocket really fit in your pocket. She was a very small doll that lived inside a makeup compact type thing. This made it easy to bring her everywhere but there was also a limited amount of things you could do with her. I think it is probably best that they have made her bigger because she was easily lost and not good for very young children. I visited Target as well as the Polly Pocket website to check out the new Polly.

Target’s doll section filled up several of the toy section. Polly was a small portion of this. I noticed that most of the more expensive dolls were at a low eye level and all of the ones which were on sale were at a more adult eye level. Most dolls were dressed in pink and had light skin and light straight hair. The Polly Pockets were about a half of row and no different than the rest of the dolls in how they were arranged by price and looks.
On the Polly Pocket website it is obvious what the companies idea of being girly is. There are several areas of the website to visit and play games. The games include things like playing dress up or styling Polly’s hair all of the hairstyles to choose from are longer and straighter hair. You also have to choose what type of clip to put into it. Some other activities on the website are decorating Polly’s room and picking out what is out of place in the kitchen. It is obvious of what this website is pushing as things that are girly. All these things are what girls are getting to play with and thing of as things that women do like their hair get dressed and hang out in the kitchen.
The racial diversity of the Polly dolls was also very limited. There was only one darker colored girl that was offered. Most of the differences in the dolls had to do with the color of their hair. The darker girl was also always shown in the background instead of the main character. There was also on only one boy doll that I saw available.
These dolls seem to be implying the gender roll of how all women should fit into this fashion and designer loving while also enjoying the kitchen and using animals as accessories. They could do better by giving Polly some more diversity in activities as well as in the race category

A visit to target.com

For this blog post I decided to check out target.com to see what the dolls looked like and how they were sold on there. Once on the website they have a toy tab that you go to. On this tab many toys come up and there’s a doll link that you click on to see all the dolls the store sells. The first thing I noticed is that the most popular dolls were on top and that not until the middle of the page did the ethnic doll link show up. There was a black doll on the front page of the doll section though, which kind of made up for it. It was just kind of interesting to see that they didn’t make it at the top with all the “normal white? dolls like Barbie.

The second thing you notice is what all the dolls are dressed like and what comes with them. It seemed like all the female dolls were dressed as the world portrays them such as dancers, nurses, teachers, and housewives. A ton of dolls were babies as well which kind of makes it seem like all the girls are supposed to do is practice becoming a mother. It was also very hard to find male dolls unless they were portrayed as athletes as well. They definitely didn’t help with the social norms that the world has with what women and men are supposed to be and do when they grow up. I’ve never really looked at dolls this way but it was somewhat surprising to see how they actually looked and where certain ones are placed to get the most attention. I guess I myself didn’t get too affected by what I saw and kind of expected that was what I was going to see. I could see how many people could be offended by what they see when shopping for dolls though. There’s not many ethnic dolls out there for sale and the ones that are out there construct this norm of what the guys and girls playing with them should be when they grow up.

My Twinn: The Just-Like-Me Doll

My Twinn: The-Just-Like-Me Doll is a business aimed at young girls to promote individuality, uniqueness, and reinforcing stereotypes of girls to play the role as “girl? and apply the “girl-like? characteristics to themselves and their dolls. By simply looking at the pictures below, we see how girls are persuaded to dress like princesses, bake imaginary food to satisfy the domesticated housewife role, and play with their dolls that represent them to create fantasies about growing up, always trying to maintain their physical beauty with make-up and hair products, meeting the perfect boy, and making a family.

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It was interesting to go through the website and take notice of the propaganda that this company feeds to young girls and their parents (parents = MOM). Like many other doll companies, this particular business has the additional accessories that go along with the doll. What makes it stand out from the others is that not only do they have purses and shoes, it also offers furniture, eyewear, pets, sports gear, My Twinn Toddlers and My Twinn Babies so the dolls have other companions, and even arm casts if your doll should injure itself. If your doll should start to wear and tear, have no fear and send your doll to My Twinn Doll Hospital where they offer services to revive the doll (makeover package, hair restoration, new heads, repainting eyebrows, everything!) And remember it only costs anywhere from $15-$65 to make your doll just like new!

The company also tries to be racially diverse so that the choices aren't limited. There's plenty of different hair textures from slight-wave to loose curls to African-American (a category that is only racially labeled). When observing the skin tones, I noticed that the darkest color of skin was a brown that's pretty light (like Halle Berry) which reminded me of "A Girl Like Me" when they talked about how light-skinned girls are the sign of beauty and dark-skinned girls are discriminated as the lesser beauty.

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The clothes have flowers, stars, and anything else that symbolizes what a feminine girly-girl looks like. The options presented when choosing your own doll are intentionally racist where white is always the first option (and white hair, skin tone, etc.) and then descend in order of skin tone (aka dark is at the bottom - always).

Just another way of telling girls that by society's beauty standards, white is always at the top.

Unique Toy Stores Still Lack Individuality

For this assignment I chose to look at FAO Schwarz’s website since I had gone there as a kid and had been fascinated by all their unique toys. The first thing that caught my eyes on the homepage was a pretty little blonde face complete with rosy cheeks and a ribbon in her hair. When I clicked on her, I was introduced to Wendy by Madame Alexander, all ready for Easter in her pink and green flowered dress with her pink puppy Penelope.

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To me, Wendy looked boring, or maybe just bored, with her expressionless face and passive stance. Wendy’s only movement was her arms stretched out in front of her, seemingly waiting for someone else to support her. The description didn’t add much to Wendy, unlike the similar American Girl dolls, and only described her attire, which points to the priorities of the doll maker: dress and appearance over thoughts and individuality.

After studying Wendy, I decided to investigate further into the collection and looked up the doll makers website. Madame Alexander makes a wide array of girl dolls, ranging from themed dolls like “Cat in the Hat? and “Cinderella,? to character dolls like the “Scottish Lass,? and finally relatable and inspiring dolls such as “Winter Fun Dolls? and “Graduation Dolls.?

There were several themes in the collection that I found disturbing and damaging for children to idolize. The first of which was that unless the doll was dressed to a theme, she always had on a fashionable, delicate looking dress and the same passive “hold me? stance. Their image clearly stated that they were not for playing, for running in the grass or climbing on rocks, they were for proper tea parties and, well, looking pretty.

I almost skipped this argument as I was flipping through the different dolls and found a couple that I thought contradicted it, then I realized that they held the same message in different words. The first was Maggie, a Peter Pan inspired doll dressed as Hook with an intense, menacing expression and a lunging stance. But I realized that it was only when a girl was pretending to be male that could she have expression, personality and action. The second was Swashbuckler Cissy, dressed as another, female this time, pirate. The doll has movement, and seemingly a personality, even if the high boots and short tight corset don’t portray the most favorable one. The part of her that took me a back was her description, which stated that even though “Cissy may look like one of the brigands of the sea… she doesn’t act like one.? In fact, Cissy is only dressed as one because “pirate gear is so in this year.? The description even goes so far to say that she uses her sword to cut her nails, because what else would a woman have use for a sword?
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The second theme I noticed was that the majority of them, including every doll on the homepage, had a pale ivory skin color. Only a few of the relatable dolls had different tones, and even then there was usually only one African-American doll and one Latin doll found at the bottom of the page. This enforces the stereotype that White is normal, acceptable, and common, and makes it hard for children of other ethnicities to feel represented and important.

The third similarity among the dolls I found disturbing was that many of them were dressed to holidays, but only holidays from the Christian religion. This Christian theme was also supported by a series of “First Communion Dolls? and a special “Christening Celebration? baby doll. The Christian religion is posed as the sole faith of all the dolls, and pushed strongly through the relatable dolls by taking up three of the eight styles under the “Everyday Celebrations? category.
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In all, I found this collection of dolls very typical and very offensive at the same time. I went in with hope, that maybe since they were found exclusively at FAO Schwarz, they would branch out with personalities and styles of the girls, but I found only the same typecasts and harmful ideas as I find in the rest of popular media.

March 25, 2007

“Please wait… it takes time to look this good!?

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Available at Target, Toys’R’Us, eToys, Amazon.com, K-mart, JC Penny, WalMart, KB Toys, Macy’s, and BestBuy.com, Bratz are sweeping the nation as the elementary school girl’s new favorite toy and role model.

By just glancing at the different Bratz dolls, one would think that the creators did a good job of including many races and ethnicities. However when you actually look at the dolls and start to read the “’Bout Bratz? section of the website, you become startled at what you find.

On the outside, each Bratz doll is mixed and matched a skin and hair color combination. Then, these combinations are applied to the same prototype of a ridiculously skinny teenage girl with full, pouty lips, big breasts, high cheekbones, and sexy almond-shaped eyes. What is most troubling is all of the Bratz have background stories that hint at their race, ethnicity, hobbies, favorite music, etc. This implies that in order to be cool (my six-year-old cousin has informed me that Bratz are “just about the coolest thing on the planet?), a young girl must fit into this mold of an unattainable physical perfection, love fashion, be entrenched in pop-culture, and have a hobby of some kind that she is very good at. According to Dana’s profile (Dana is a Bratz doll), it’s acceptable to be a bookworm as long as your goals are fashion oriented (she spends all her time studying… because she wants to open the first shoe store in space).

Aside from the ridiculous physical standards upheld by the Bratz dolls, their profiles also provide hints to young girls about different races/ethnicities and the stereotypical social characteristics of each. For example, Sasha (an African-American Bratz doll), is not afraid of confrontation, and is interested in Dance (what else?), Hip-Hop, Beyonce, and J-Lo. With descriptions like these, young girls non-African-American girls are going to enter the social world thinking that all African-American girls are confrontational and love to dance. Furthermore, this sets another standard for young African-American girls to live up to.

The Bratz dolls website, Bratz.com, is loaded with bright colors and catchy music. The dolls themselves represent our society’s unattainable and unrealistic standard of beauty. These dolls look like supermodels and actresses seen on TV, on billboards, and in movies. Why wouldn’t young girls want to be like the Bratz? They are the epitome of cool, but, to me, they are just adding to the pressure women face in their struggle to conform to the dichotomous structure of gender that urges women to be as feminine as we can be.

Create your own doll!...mhmm

FAO Schwarz is one of the oldest leading specialty toy retailers in the world. They “seek out smaller and more specialized vendors, who provide the creativity that supports a vibrant toy market.? I am intrigued by this toy store and seeked out to find out how they categorized and gendered their own dolls. On their website, Fao.com, I found a brand which allows you to create your own doll. I decided to check this out!

The first step was to choose your doll's skin color. The choices are light, medium, and dark. I find it a little ridiculous that these are the only choices and their choice of words for a description are simply shade of a color.

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The next step is to pick the color of eyes for your doll. If you chose a light skinned girl, you can choose from either brown, grey, blue, or almond but if you chose a medium or dark skinned doll, you could only have brown or grey.

Then you can pick the color of hair. The first option is blonde. With blonde hair, your doll can have either silky smooth hair, pigtails, a playful pony, girl pixie, or funky flip. With brown hair, your doll can only have silky smooth or sassy shag. With red hair, pretty pigtails, girl pixie, and sassy shag are the options and with brunette hair, silky smooth, pigtails, and playful pony are the options. But with black hair, mop top bob, playful pony, and girly curly are the only options.

I noticed that you could only have curly hair with a dark-haired doll but I know tons of girls with curly blonde hair. I feel that the designers/makers of these dolls are making some huge generalizations about what a girl should look like. They assume that if a person has dark skin, it should have dark eyes and dark hair and don't take into consideration of other ethnicities or special characteristics. I don't understand why people think that the generalizations are what beauty is, or why children are constantly being taught such huge differences between races. To me, children should be able to create whatever eye color with whatever skin color and hair color and style. That is beauty.


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target.com Toy Representation

As a part of this assignment I decided to look through the toy section of target.com. I found it very interesting and helpful how the website allows you to sort and look through toys by age. They range from baby, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12, and 13-15. To make the search easier, considering there were thousands of toys to look through, I focused on girls toys between the ages of 2-3, because I have my cousins little girls birthdays coming up soon. Immediately after clicking on ages 2-3 two columns come up that is supposedly supposed to help with the search, but it is very stereotypical. The column states you can “shop by interest,? and they proceed to give a list of broad topic toys for girls and boys. For girls you should buy dolls, puppets, horses, princess + fantasy kingdom, dress-up + little helpers, and creative activities. For boys you should by dinosaurs, pirates, cars + trucks, trains, knights + castles, and construction + tools. It shows that target, a large corporation, follows the gender roles closely. From childhood I remember going shopping for toys and the girls and boys toys would be split up in isles and the girls isles would be very pink and the boys be very blue. This puts images in childs minds of what they are supposed to like and play with to be considered a social “norm.? Even after scrolling further down, most of the links to click on are split by weather or not it is for a boy or girl. Then I proceeded to look at the prices of toys. I clicked on a link that stated top seller toys for girls, Out of 37 toys listed 11 were over 50 dollars and 25 were over 20 dollars. The website portrays a lot towards middle class families and do not offer many options for toys under ten dollars that would appeal to young girls, I only found 2 items out of 37 on the top seller list for under ten dollars. I found it very disappointing after looking through target.com in how it follows so many stereotypes and conforms to the gender roles. You can see, some what, how children get the ideas of what girls and boys are supposed to be like and play with, and those who do not conform are considered “weird to them.?

target.com Toy Representation

As a part of this assignment I decided to look through the toy section of target.com. I found it very interesting and helpful how the website allows you to sort and look through toys by age. They range from baby, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12, and 13-15. To make the search easier, considering there were thousands of toys to look through, I focused on girls toys between the ages of 2-3, because I have my cousins little girls birthdays coming up soon. Immediately after clicking on ages 2-3 two columns come up that is supposedly supposed to help with the search, but it is very stereotypical. The column states you can “shop by interest,? and they proceed to give a list of broad topic toys for girls and boys. For girls you should buy dolls, puppets, horses, princess + fantasy kingdom, dress-up + little helpers, and creative activities. For boys you should by dinosaurs, pirates, cars + trucks, trains, knights + castles, and construction + tools. It shows that target, a large corporation, follows the gender roles closely. From childhood I remember going shopping for toys and the girls and boys toys would be split up in isles and the girls isles would be very pink and the boys be very blue. This puts images in childs minds of what they are supposed to like and play with to be considered a social “norm.? Even after scrolling further down, most of the links to click on are split by weather or not it is for a boy or girl. Then I proceeded to look at the prices of toys. I clicked on a link that stated top seller toys for girls, Out of 37 toys listed 11 were over 50 dollars and 25 were over 20 dollars. The website portrays a lot towards middle class families and do not offer many options for toys under ten dollars that would appeal to young girls, I only found 2 items out of 37 on the top seller list for under ten dollars. I found it very disappointing after looking through target.com in how it follows so many stereotypes and conforms to the gender roles. You can see, some what, how children get the ideas of what girls and boys are supposed to be like and play with, and those who do not conform are considered “weird to them.?

target.com Toy Representation

As a part of this assignment I decided to look through the toy section of target.com. I found it very interesting and helpful how the website allows you to sort and look through toys by age. They range from baby, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12, and 13-15. To make the search easier, considering there were thousands of toys to look through, I focused on girls toys between the ages of 2-3, because I have my cousins little girls birthdays coming up soon. Immediately after clicking on ages 2-3 two columns come up that is supposedly supposed to help with the search, but it is very stereotypical. The column states you can “shop by interest,? and they proceed to give a list of broad topic toys for girls and boys. For girls you should buy dolls, puppets, horses, princess + fantasy kingdom, dress-up + little helpers, and creative activities. For boys you should by dinosaurs, pirates, cars + trucks, trains, knights + castles, and construction + tools. It shows that target, a large corporation, follows the gender roles closely. From childhood I remember going shopping for toys and the girls and boys toys would be split up in isles and the girls isles would be very pink and the boys be very blue. This puts images in childs minds of what they are supposed to like and play with to be considered a social “norm.? Even after scrolling further down, most of the links to click on are split by weather or not it is for a boy or girl. Then I proceeded to look at the prices of toys. I clicked on a link that stated top seller toys for girls, Out of 37 toys listed 11 were over 50 dollars and 25 were over 20 dollars. The website portrays a lot towards middle class families and do not offer many options for toys under ten dollars that would appeal to young girls, I only found 2 items out of 37 on the top seller list for under ten dollars. I found it very disappointing after looking through target.com in how it follows so many stereotypes and conforms to the gender roles. You can see, some what, how children get the ideas of what girls and boys are supposed to be like and play with, and those who do not conform are considered “weird to them.?

G.I. Joe- A Real American Hero

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As much as I enjoyed Polly Pockets and other dolls when I was younger, I decided to look at G.I. Joes for my doll report. Before going onto the G.I. Joe website, I checked out Polly Pocket, Bratz, and Barbie websites and the difference between the websites were striking. For example, the Polly Pocket website is purple and pink with flowers and “Pol-la-la-Polly? music. It is equipped with games such as “Jewel Hunt? and “Groovy Lagoon? and “Fab-tastic Garden?. The G.I. Joe website is mostly black and green with pictures of tanks and a heading that says “You decide how Sigma 6 takes out Cobra!? The games on the website have nothing to do with jewels or gardens; they are “Viper Reef? and “The Venom Pit?, much tougher than the games in Pollyland.

It is obvious just by the websites layouts that one is geared towards girls and the other towards boys. As far as the actual dolls, or “action figures?, there is not very much variety in sex or race. As far as plain old Joe, he is blond with massive muscles. He has the characteristics of the stereotypical male, tough, strong, and big. He seems to not have any kind of a “girly? side to him, his only concern being fighting. His teammates such as Tunnel Rat and High-Tech, they differ from Joe in hair color but skin color and muscles are the same. The only action figures that seem to differ in appearance are the members of the “Sigma 6? a new group of G.I. Joe that specialize in innovative technology. A lot of the Sigma 6 look Asian by the clothes they wear and the weapons (such a Samari swords) they carry. However, most of the Sigma 6 and the bad guys have face masks. Along with the action figures there is a section of “role-play toys? on the website intended it seems to turn little boys into big, strong macho men like Joe. The G.I. Joe’s are marketed for boys and gives them the example that men must be big and strong in order to be cool, like G.I. Joe.

KB Toys

I chose to browse through the KB toys website to see how they organized their site and what they were trying to sell. At first, it seems as if the site is set up based on the child's age and brand. When you clicked on the 'toys & games' tab, the site changed a little bit. When you followed the site to the dolls and stuffed toys link, the first set of dolls that pop up are not very representative. There was only one doll of color represented in the first 15 and all dolls were female with the exception of two stuffed animals and some accessories. One could narrow their search into 'baby dolls,' 'fashion dolls,' or 'stuffed toys.' When you look at the fashion dolls, there are hardly any dolls of color and they are all female. Not many of these dolls looked very life-like at all. They were very geometrical or unattainably curvy/thin. The best part of the 'fashion dolls' search was the sub category on the side bar. You can narrow your search by ethnicity! You can choose only caucasian dolls or only ethnic dolls. What confuses me is why all dolls other than white dolls are under one umbrella term and made into 'those other dolls.' What is even worse is that when you search for only 'ethnic' dolls, white dolls are included in the search too! Even bob the builder (a very white doll) comes up! Even more interestingly, the ethnic dolls have 14 pages of dolls where the caucasian dolls have only 7 pages. I move to say that the ethnic dolls didn't even change the search criteria. That they just included every doll, even the white dolls. Moving past the dolls, when you are at the main Toys & Games page, you can click on Step 2 toys: “Toys That Inspire Their Imaginations.? The Step 2 page was very disturbing. All you can see on the first page are lifestyle dream kitchens or custom kitchens, 101 piece food set or kitchen utensils. In the pictures, you either see no children playing with the toys, or you see a little girl standing nearby. The toys that they are trying to sell are directed towards future housewives and the ‘cars’ towards little boys. The gendering of these toys is sickening. As well as the ethnic dolls’ othering by the website.

Uncomfortable looking doll makes nation go "aww"

When I was a kid, one of my friends had a Barbie head that we were supposed to decorate in order to beautify. Beauty was a flexible term for what that Barbie head wound up looking like by the end of the makeover. We had the assumption that anything applied to her face was pretty; so beauty, I guess, was making Barbie look like she did a face-first dive into a mound of crap. On another makeover, we ended up cutting her hair to the point of no return, resulting in “never-gonna-get-a-date butch Barbie.?

While pursuing the online purgatory that is “Toy-R-Us?, I have decidedly concluded that Mattel has smartened up. Rather than allowing the child to beautify Barbie, they have already put the permanent make-up on her. Not to fret, the child is still allowed to put MORE makeup on, but now they have the know-how as to wear to put the red stuff, and the green stuff. That’s pretty generous. Furthermore, the website notes that the recommended age for this product is between the ages of 6 and 10. This is alarming. What kind of kid should be learning how to put on makeup (especially to the extent that is displayed on this doll) at the age of ten?
Truth be told, the only reason I decided to write on this particular doll is because of the name of the product. After laughing in my breakfast nook (to myself), I decide more people must know of the “My Scene My Bling Bling Styling Head?. This is most likely the most hilarious part about the entire concept of the doll. I mean, what 40-something corporate idea-person sits around and decides that including “scene? and “bling bling? in a product name will enhance sales? Genius. Aside from my commentary, this is obviously startling in that girls and boys who want this toy must have some sort of understanding of what “bling? and “scene? is. This puts into a heightened awareness of just how much hip and happenin’ media affects everyone.
In any case, this product furthers the idea, and teaches children at a young age, that makeup is true to femininity. That in order to get ready for a hot party, your hair must be done, your makeup must be perfected, and that sparkling gemstones must be attached to every hole and limp on your body. Obviously this isn’t the case to those that understand contemporary standards of beauty, but to young, impressionable kids that want to find a pop-spot on the grid of social standards, this is the epitome of their longing (I assume).

Playmobil

I had to write about Playmobil because I feel like my childhood was shaped by these little plastic toys (that might be an exaggeration). In all seriousness; they were my favorite toys. My sister had a doll house that she filled with these little people and their accessories. She had the Victorian collection, I had the Native American set and my brother had a full colonial army (perfect to combat my Native Americans). My sister and I use to set up elaborate scenarios and then we would act them out. Some of our favorites were having the army kill all the Native American’s or vice versa, or the Victorian people hiding the Native American’s and protecting them from the vicious army. However, my favorite game was when we made the colonial soldiers kill the Buffalos and then the Native American’s would have to move off the land (kind of morbid). Needless to say, it was fun, and I realize now how much a child acts out American mores.

I visited the website ( http://store.playmobilusa.com/ ) and I wasn’t surprised at all to find that nothing had really changed since I was last playing with these toys. The online store was easy enough to navigate and it had a “games and fun? for kids to enjoy (like most toy websites). It was set up so you could pick what category you would like to buy under. Some of the groups are; “Adventure? (which includes anything that is somewhat exotic), “Farm? (which includes a bunch of white people) and “Modern Living? (this group includes a lot of women doing chores). Although they didn’t sell the Native American set that I owned, they had many of the same ones. You can now buy a single Native American War chief in the “specials? section or “Camp Thunder? (which is a small camp of Native American’s) in the “leisure? section of their online store. As for being able to relate to these toys, I don’t think they cut it. The toys are very simple, with painted faces and minimal differences in hair type and color as well as skin color. All the toys are the same size they are white and there are way more men then women.

I think these toys definitely gendered my family and I think that they continue to gender many children. Take for example the picture of the woman doing laundry and ironing that Rachel put up in the assignment post. My sister filled her whole doll house with these stereotypical toys. I remember she had a professor looking character who stayed in the study and red his intellectual books all day, while the nanny (a woman) was upstairs wiping the baby’s ass. American or white stereotypes and cultural restraints flooded into the Native American set also. The Native American women were always holding onto a baby or staying home while the men hunted and killed each other. I haven’t really studied or learned about Native American culture, but from the reading by Paula Gunn Allen, I can only conclude that these toys are another way White culture has impeded on the cultural identity of Native American people.

March 24, 2007

The so called American Girl Doll

For this assignment, I decided to focus my analysis on the American Girl doll website. The homepage of the website are divided into many sub categories. Among the many categories is shopping and needless to say, it is the category that has been placed on top of the rest. The category link itself is placed on top of the page so that it is at perfect eye level. Once click on the shop link, you than will be directed to the main shopping page in which there are many other sub categories such as: Dolls, bookstore, clothing furniture, accessory, bath & body care, and party kits. Similar to the shopping link, the doll link is also the first link that is placed in front of the rest.

On the page, there are two images of girls holding their dolls smiled happily. One girl is African American and the other is Caucasian and they both are hugging joyfully onto their dolls that are of the same race. Furthermore, if click onto the dolls link, than there you will be presented with many options of dolls to buy. The first option is the historical character dolls that America Girl Company is so famous for. The next few are girls of the year, just like you and etc…
Overall, the way that America Girl website is arranged is very similar to as any other business that is trying to make a profit. They placed the items that are the most popular and the options that they want us as the consumers to take notice first before the rest. This American Girl brand and how its website is constructed have a huge influence on the classification of gender. What may look like just a website selling dolls for girls, it is in fact a blatant message supporting the very discriminatory idea of gender performance roles and race myths. For example: the colors that are represented on the page, the clothes that are worn on the dolls, the images of girls that are portrayed, they all emphasized on the stereotype that girls are kind, well behave, ladylike and weak. There are no images of girls behaving aggressively or dressing like tomboys. Also, another message that the website is enforcing is the idea of race separation. You don’t see an African girl holding a white doll or vice versa. Similarly, all the accessories for the dolls are created to fit into the doll’s race factor. For instance: you need to buy the “Mexican sleigh bed? for Mexican doll call “Josephine?. Overall, I was surprised to the result of my findings. Before, I thought dolls were just dolls and they were indeed a big part of my childhood. Nevertheless, to understand and really see beyond that surface of what the so call “dolls? are representing, I now have second thought about not only dolls but toy in general. Now I would seriously have to think twice before purchasing any toy and really be aware of what are advertising in the market.

" This isn't the Spice Girl doll!!! :( "

So I used to like the Spice Girls. A lot. I really wasn't a huge fan of Barbie. But I liked Baby Spice. A lot. I would get Barbies all the time as gifts and throw them in my closet, never to be played with. I remember one year, I got a really really ugly Barbie. It was hideous. I believe it was like the "workout Barbie" which came complete with a mini pink boombox stereo and some awesome neon sweatbands. Yeah. So anyways.

This was the year that those Spice Girls dolls came out, and I wanted one so bad and my whole family knew how obsessed I was. So Christmas came along and I opened all my gifts and no Emma doll. My uncle finally brought out my last gift, wrapped in a rectangular shaped box, just like most dolls were. I was so excited! I ripped it open and saw the back of the box; Emma Bunton, Baby Spice!! I turned it around and inside was that stupid ugly doll I could have sworn I tossed out over a year ago. That's it, all my hopes and dreams of having the beautiful little doll I wanted for so long were gone! I didn't know how to explain to my uncle that this was not the doll I wanted! (Yet I was still confused why I had the box but not the doll...duh..)

He went for over 3 days pretending that he thought this was the doll I wanted. I was miserable. Little did I know that he just simply replaced the two dolls and hid my Emma in his suitcase. Well, I finally got my doll and got poked fun at for over 4 years about the little incident.

I don't know if it was pointless, but my whole family got a good laugh for a few years about how obsessed yet gullible I was, so maybe you will find some humor in it too :)

P.S. I still don't like Barbies. But I still have my Baby Spice Barbie doll.

Target and Dora

Earlier this week I decided to go shopping for some toys. The idea was to pick up a toy for my 2 year old nephew, but instead I decided to look through the "million" aisles of girls dolls.
The first aisle that I came across was an entire lane of doll houses and all the fixings that go into a house. Including ironing boards, dishes and washers and dryers. I never used to think this was a big deal when I was little or even shopping for toys for my neice. I've actually bought her a doll that came with an iron and ironing board because I thought it was cute. The next 2 aisles or so were all dedicated to Barbi. This used to be my favorite aisle when I was little. All of the dolls were stocked along one side and the toys that go along with her are on the other.

However, what I paid attention to the most was the amount of Dora the Explorer toys that they had stocked. I have become familiar with Dora through my 3 year old neice who has become obsessed with her. Dora is a younger girl that goes on adventures and solves problems for friends. For example, in one episode she has to help her friend find his stuffed animals. All of the Dora toys are stocked from the floor to the top of the shelf. I noticed that the less expensive toys were on the shelves lowest to the floor and the more expensive items are near the top, primarily at eye level. What surprised me most about all of the Dora merchandise was the fact the little girls love her and she's not white. Shes spanish. She even teaches kids to speak spanish. I liked that there was a lot of merchandise for Dora and I like that little girls do look up to her. I asked my brother if my neice has ever asked why Dora is a different color and all he said is that she looks "pretty cuz she's darker". I interpreted this is a good sign that she would not pick a doll because of its color or not.
In a little section next to the Dora dolls is Doras cousin, Diego with his show Diego's Animal Rescue. He is older than Dora and he is more for boys. He is the same color of light brown like Dora and he also helps kids learn right and wrong and also a little spanish.

I'm a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World

Growing up, I was obsessed with Barbies. If at any time in my childhood, you were to walk downstairs to my sister’s and my playroom, it was usually a mess with Barbie houses, Barbie clothes, and Barbie cars. I had the Barbie workout video, Barbie Fashion Designer on CD-ROM, and even a Barbie jeep. For this reason, I decided to take a tour of Barbie.com.


Upon entering the site, you are surrounded by bright colors and music. There are a variety of different things that you can do on the website: shop, play games, and chat and sing along with Barbie. There are several types of Barbies available on the website: Barbie Divas, Fashion Fever, Fairytopia, Beach fun, Princesses, and Forever Barbie. There are a few different races for sale including white, black, and Hispanic. There are also a variety of Ken dolls.

One aspect of the Barbie world that I like is that Mattel is featuring dolls that teach young children to be who they want to be. Barbie can be a vet, a photographer, a teacher, etc. Some things that I found less amusing were how the main color used was pink and how such an emphasis was put on fashion. Also there weren’t any items that would appeal to a little boy. Sure, there were Ken dolls, but there weren’t any “boy? accessories or games to play. Also, the vast majority of the Barbie dolls were white and appeared to be members of the rich, upper class. What kind of message is this sending to little girls who don’t have money and aren’t white?

I agree that Mattel needs to create more of a diverse group of Barbies. There should be a doll representing every different ethnic group so that no little girl or boy is left out. Also, they could create more dolls that would appeal to the male sex. Personally though, I don’t see a whole lot wrong with Barbies. Growing up I didn’t feel like I had to compare myself to Barbie, I just played for fun, which is something that I think most little girls/boys who play with Barbies do too.

"Girls Behaving Badly"

I chose to watch Girls Behaving Badly for my essay partly because I had never seen the show before. I don’t watch much reality TV, so I decided to make sure to pick one I haven’t seen before. The show is much like Candid Camera, being about four women who are constantly portrayed as sexy and beautiful. The women set up pranks for people to get caught on camera. It seems to be a show that is in good fun. The show that I was watching involved a prank with two men, who were told to put on Brooke Burke’s lipstick and use it to kiss her calendars, and when she finds out, she tells them to keep doing it so she doesn’t have to put makeup on. The segment ends with the two guys both being humiliated in front of Burke’s fans, and then they are told that they have just been pranked.

I chose to watch Girls Behaving Badly for my essay partly because I had never seen the show before. I don’t watch much reality TV, so I decided to make sure to pick one I haven’t seen before. The show is much like Candid Camera, being about four women who are constantly portrayed as sexy and beautiful. The women set up pranks for people to get caught on camera. It seems to be a show that is in good fun. The show that I was watching involved a prank with two men, who were told to put on Brooke Burke’s lipstick and use it to kiss her calendars, and when she finds out, she tells them to keep doing it so she doesn’t have to put makeup on. The segment ends with the two guys both being humiliated in front of Burke’s fans, and then they are told that they have just been pranked.

This show airs on Monday nights at 9:00 PM on Ox I chose to watch Girls Behaving Badly for my essay partly because I had never seen the show before. I don’t watch much reality TV, so I decided to make sure to pick one I haven’t seen before. The show is much like Candid Camera, being about four women who are constantly portrayed as sexy and beautiful. The women set up pranks for people to get caught on camera. It seems to be a show that is in good fun. The show that I was watching involved a prank with two men, who were told to put on Brooke Burke’s lipstick and use it to kiss her calendars, and when she finds out, she tells them to keep doing it so she doesn’t have to put makeup on. The segment ends with the two guys both being humiliated in front of Burke’s fans, and then they are told that they have just been pranked.

This show airs on Monday nights at 9:00 PM on Oxygen. Oxygen is a network that is targeted mostly at women audiences, usually people from their teens to their 40s. The show, however, seems like it is targeted just as much at men audiences, if not more. The show is supposed to show that most prank shows and the like are done by men, and women can do this just as well. The difference that you see is that on other prank shows (like Punk’d) the guys on the show are never portrayed just as sexy, handsome, etc. This makes it seem like the only way that women can do a show like this is if they are extremely beautiful women.

It seems like the message it sends is that if there was a show that was the exact same only with more “average? looking women people wouldn’t watch it. In all the pranks, they all focus on something to do with the women being sexy and beautiful. The name Girls Behaving Badly also has sexual undertones. It seems that since more attention is given to the women being sexy than anything else, it is a show that more people will watch just to see beautiful women, which would defeat the idea of the show. Another aspect of the show is normalization. It gives the message that if you are a woman, you can’t make a show like this if you do not fit the mold that the women are in on the show. If a male wants to do a comedy show, it takes a lot of intelligence and wit to be able to do one well, but if the male is not attractive it won’t really hurt him. The expectations for women on television are different. If you are not a very attractive woman, it will be much harder for you than if you are not a very attractive man. In the article by Yep and Camacho, “The Bachelor clearly reinforces current U.S. standards of female beauty and objectification of the woman’s body.? I think, to a smaller extent, that this can also be said about Girls Behaving Badly.

The issue of humiliation came up in this episode as well, but it was the males who were humiliated in this episode. Also, the males were not aware that they were on the show and were not aware that they were being humiliated until late in the prank, when the fans were all questioning them and asking them as to what they were doing kissing Brooke Burke’s calendars. According to Myra Mendible, “our interest in watching others being humiliated is an essential aspect of the success of sub-genre ‘survival’ shows.? While this is not a “survivor? show, the idea can apply to most reality shows. Humiliation is definitely a part of most reality shows, whether male or female, but it happens with females more often. That is why it does not seem as bad when these males are humiliated, but all humiliation can be hurtful.
While I think there are many reality TV shows that are much worse than Girls Behaving Badly, this show still sets a standard for what women are supposed to look like if they want to have their own television show. I think that when women see this show or other shows like it, and want to be on TV, it will persuade them to concentrate more on their appearance than the content on the show. Because there are rarely shows on that involve “average? looking women, it really makes it seem as if you aren’t good looking, even if you have a great show idea, you can’t star in a reality show. A lot of these shows make it seem like if you are good looking enough, people will watch you no matter what. The message should be the same as it is for men: if you are talented enough or funny enough to be on TV, your appearance should not matter.
I chose to watch Girls Behaving Badly for my essay partly because I had never seen the show before. I don’t watch much reality TV, so I decided to make sure to pick one I haven’t seen before. The show is much like Candid Camera, being about four women who are constantly portrayed as sexy and beautiful. The women set up pranks for people to get caught on camera. It seems to be a show that is in good fun. The show that I was watching involved a prank with two men, who were told to put on Brooke Burke’s lipstick and use it to kiss her calendars, and when she finds out, she tells them to keep doing it so she doesn’t have to put makeup on. The segment ends with the two guys both being humiliated in front of Burke’s fans, and then they are told that they have just been pranked.
ygen. Oxygen is a network that is targeted mostly at women audiences, usually people from their teens to their 40s. The show, however, seems like it is targeted just as much at men audiences, if not more. The show is supposed to show that most prank shows and the like are done by men, and women can do this just as well. The difference that you see is that on other prank shows (like Punk’d) the guys on the show are never portrayed just as sexy, handsome, etc. This makes it seem like the only way that women can do a show like this is if they are extremely beautiful women.

It seems like the message it sends is that if there was a show that was the exact same only with more “average? looking women people wouldn’t watch it. In all the pranks, they all focus on something to do with the women being sexy and beautiful. The name Girls Behaving Badly also has sexual undertones. It seems that since more attention is given to the women being sexy than anything else, it is a show that more people will watch just to see beautiful women, which would defeat the idea of the show. Another aspect of the show is normalization. It gives the message that if you are a woman, you can’t make a show like this if you do not fit the mold that the women are in on the show. If a male wants to do a comedy show, it takes a lot of intelligence and wit to be able to do one well, but if the male is not attractive it won’t really hurt him. The expectations for women on television are different. If you are not a very attractive woman, it will be much harder for you than if you are not a very attractive man. In the article by Yep and Camacho, “The Bachelor clearly reinforces current U.S. standards of female beauty and objectification of the woman’s body.? I think, to a smaller extent, that this can also be said about Girls Behaving Badly.

The issue of humiliation came up in this episode as well, but it was the males who were humiliated in this episode. Also, the males were not aware that they were on the show and were not aware that they were being humiliated until late in the prank, when the fans were all questioning them and asking them as to what they were doing kissing Brooke Burke’s calendars. According to Myra Mendible, “our interest in watching others being humiliated is an essential aspect of the success of sub-genre ‘survival’ shows.? While this is not a “survivor? show, the idea can apply to most reality shows. Humiliation is definitely a part of most reality shows, whether male or female, but it happens with females more often. That is why it does not seem as bad when these males are humiliated, but all humiliation can be hurtful.
While I think there are many reality TV shows that are much worse than Girls Behaving Badly, this show still sets a standard for what women are supposed to look like if they want to have their own television show. I think that when women see this show or other shows like it, and want to be on TV, it will persuade them to concentrate more on their appearance than the content on the show. Because there are rarely shows on that involve “average? looking women, it really makes it seem as if you aren’t good looking, even if you have a great show idea, you can’t star in a reality show. A lot of these shows make it seem like if you are good looking enough, people will watch you no matter what. The message should be the same as it is for men: if you are talented enough or funny enough to be on TV, your appearance should not matter.

March 23, 2007

Amazon Designed for GWSS Critique

I’m almost convinced that amazon.com structured their toy section for the sole purpose of this assignment. They are just asking for someone to come along and do a feminist analysis! First of all, the main category page had a link for “Toys for Girls? and “Toys for Boys.? Granted, they must categorize the toys to make shopping more efficient, but by placing them under these labels, they assume that all girls like dolls and pink things, while all boys like burly action figures and video games

The “toys for girls? were mostly dolls, and the entire first page of dolls displayed represented Caucasian figures, with the exception of Dora and one African American dollhouse. The boys’ page was predominantly video games, with some dinosaur or rocket-themed toys and a “build and discover? workbench. This reminds me of a topic that one of my psychology classmates researched last semester. She was looking for an explanation for males’ greater success in the science fields. She found out that it goes all the way back to the way parents explain phenomena to their children. Parents give more scientific explanations to their male children, which carries over into their interests and abilities as adults. By marketing toys such as a “build and discover workbench? to boys, Amazon reinforces these norms and supports a culture which gives boys the scientific advantage.
Race disparity was also obvious: most of the front-page items were Caucasian. This must mean that there is a more lucrative market for “white? toys, which reflects the privileged economic status of white people in general. However, when I searched for ethnic toys, I found there were 178 results for “African American,? 204 for “Asian,? and only 45 for “Caucasian.? There are a few ways to look at this. It is encouraging to see a variety of ethnic toys being offered, even if they are not as blatantly advertised. However, it is doubtful that “white? toys are actually less common. There are probably many more “white? toys offered, but they are not tagged as “Caucasian? because white is so normalized that it does not require a label.

Trip Through Target

I recently took a tour through the toy section of the Super Target in my hometown of Chaska, Minnesota. Instead of analyzing specific dolls, I decided to analyze the marketing and the packaging of the dolls. I looked at the cuddly, baby dolls, Barbies, Bratz, Polly Pockets, and Disney dolls. Many packages, showed pictures of “real? kids playing with the dolls or holding them, however; not one of dolls featured a boy in their marketing. They would certainly have boy dolls, but never a picture of a boy with the boy doll. This got me thinking about advertising on television, and again, in the commercials, all dolls are pictured with girls. This definitely proves that gender roles are incorporated into marketing and advertisement. Not only are the dolls marketed towards girls, they are even segregated from the “boy? toys within the store, which feature action figures, cars and other transportation vehicles, and weapons of some sort. I also looked at the colors of the packaging and mostly found girly colors: every shade of pink and purple. Here and there would be greens and oranges, but only fluorescent shades, never any manly, deep colors like hunter green or navy.

I also analyzed the clearance and sale racks of dolls. In the front of each aisle were usually featured toys on sale; today there were Polly Pockets on the bottom shelves and soft baby dolls on the top. The Polly Pockets were purposely placed on the bottom shelves, at eye level for younger kids. These types of dolls attract younger girls because they look grown up and have lots of clothes, hair accessories, purses, and even a car to drive Polly around in (just like an adult). The nice, baby dolls were on the top shelves, perfect for adults to view. Adults want their kids to play with nice toys and these dolls would be the first bought. However, when I went around the back aisle, I noticed the clearance racks were filled with Sasha Bratz dolls, the African American doll, and other ethnic dolls. Perhaps these dolls were on sale because they aren’t getting sold because the majority of Chaska is Caucasian and typically white dolls are picked because there is a resemblance in race of the customer. Or, maybe people feel the same way as those in the videos we watched in class, and that black dolls are the bad dolls and the inventory proves it. It’s really sad to think that people (especially little kids) believe that certain races are better over others but also, that these dolls are hidden in the back of the store in the corner. I am glad to see a greater variety of races in dolls sold, but I only wish that the selling of each type of doll will equalize soon.

March 22, 2007

Friends 2B Made... Yikes.

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http://www.friends2bmade.com

Have you ever walked into a store and felt like you wanted to vomit immediately because you were so inundated with a store marketing “girliness?? If you want to experience this, go to ‘Friends 2B Made,’ a store next to ‘Build-a-Bear’ in the Mall of America. You can see the pink glow as soon as you round the corner. This glow is the first thing you notice as you approach and it keeps you in a state of shock for a little while after you enter, but don’t worry they offset the pink with some bright purple and a whole lot of sparkle. Not only are the colors all pumped up, but the music pumping the speakers is a combination of pop and techno (Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson among the “hip? tunes played).

The dolls themselves are lined up along the right side of the store, each on their own pedestal, starting with the minority dolls, then continuing down the ling they seem pretty randomly placed. There is a wide variety to choose from: light skin, dark skin, blue, brown or green eyes, brown hair, black hair, yellow/blonde hair, even pink, blue and orange (or as they are named “Pinky Pizzazz,? “Bella Blue,? and “Orange Spice?). All the dolls have yarn for hair so it is pretty hard to distinguish between textures and styles of the different races. However, each doll has a face adorned with a full, pouting, bright red or pink smile and glittery eye shadow, must haves for any little girl, right? After the girls pick out what doll they want, they head over to stuff the dolls and add a voice if they want to, then comes the primping. A cute little salon set-up follows step 2 of this doll building process, where the girls can pretend to blow dry the dolls’ hair, even “curl? it if they want to.

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If a little girl could walk away happy with this, a naked doll all primped and polished, well it wouldn’t break a parents bank and almost anyone could afford this custom gift, after all, it’s only $12! How reasonable! Unfortunately, in this day and age it’s just unacceptable to buy a naked doll for your daughter (or golly maybe even your son! But I’ll cover that in a little bit.). So obviously the next step is to accessorize, and what are the vast options? Pink, purple, sparkly or if you’re really lucky pink, purple and sparkly. I’m only kidding, they actually offer a blue cheerleading get-up and a few dresses in various colors. After you pick out a dress, skirt, jeans with rhinestone hearts and a ‘Lucky 2B a Girl’ shirt, pajamas, two pairs of shoes, a purse, hair clips, a dog, dog house, a dog food dish, a dog carrying case, and a matching bracelet set for you and your dolls, you should be set! And that reasonable priced, naked doll? Don’t worry it’s still affordable at only $90. Now maybe I’ve exaggerated a little, maybe the dog doesn’t need a house or a carrying case, but the point is, this place is full of things that seem so necessary and fun that it’s easy to see how a little girl could get carried away with wanting all of it.

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I’ve been a little biased, I keep saying “little girls,? and it is completely possible that maybe a little boy would want one of these personalized dolls. In fact, they even cover that base by offering three male dolls (one blonde haired, blued eyed; one medium toned skin, brown hair, brown eyes; and African American doll) because of course no parent would want to buy a girl doll for their male son. One of my biggest frustrations came when I read the names of the dolls, and reading the girls’ names was annoying enough, but then it became extremely irksome when I got to the male dolls. The girls’ were “Fun Girl,? “Glitter Girl,? “Sunshine Girl,? “Radiant Girl,? “Sparkle Girl,? and “Cheer Girl? among a few others. Then the boys “Brave Guy,? “Adventure Guy,? and “Star Guy.? It seemed to me that they were attributing certain traits to each gender. Why wasn’t there a “Brave Girl?? Maybe even an “Ambitious Girl.? And whatever happened to that ever-popular phrase “Girl Power?? Apparently its been reduced to putting on a happy face and accessorizing, or at least that seems to be the message Friends 2B Made seems to give. It completely reinforces a materialistic mindset. Even at the cash register they aren’t done, no, you can pick up a guide on how to “party in style!? or learn how “2B fabulous,? in their mini magazine. It just makes me sad that kids can’t just be kids anymore. Dolls aren’t just dolls, they are maps of what material things are important, not what kind of person it is important to be, although it is important for every woman to have a personality that “Sparkles.? Right…

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Precious Moments Online Doll Superstore

I recently visited the online site of one of the most popular collection of dolls of all time; Precious Moments. Precious Moments can be collected by women of all ages. The larger dolls on the website were dedicated to younger girls. The pictures of the dolls at the top of this sub-site were of blonde-haired "Texan Cowgirls" As I scroll down the page, there are no longer pictures available, only links to some additional white dolls and a few ethnic ones. With the purchase of a doll, you can get an additional doll for free. The company will send a doll of what they call "overstock". Under the link to see the overstock items, there are multiple pictures of Asian, African American, and Latina dolls, oh and there are a few American dolls. The smaller ceramic-like dolls that are directed toward older women are also available on a different sub-site. These pictures show dolls of all ethnicities doing different jobs or chores. The jobs include: nurse, teacher, student, secretary, banker, waitress, a little girl washing dishes, ironing, folding laundry, and playing with a cat.
Growing up, I bought my mom countless numbers of precious moments because she was an avid collector. I really didn't think too much about it when I bought them, but now I see that the dolls are marketed in the wrong way. I thought by now that these invisible barriers separating men and women of different races would begin to diminish by now, but I guess I was wrong. While speaking to my girlfriend, I found out that she had the Precious Moments dolls as a kid. She said she always would pick out the ones that looked like her (white, blonde straight hair). What the dolls were wearing also played a large factor when choosing dolls. If the doll had a pretty dress on, then she would have to buy it. Little girls today are looking for someone to idolize. Manufacturers realize this and supply that demand with a doll that looks similar to most girls today.

Bratz

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I took a tour of the Bratz website and found myself feeling a little disturbed as I left the site. I was never exposed to Bratz as a child because they weren’t around yet, but my 10 year-old sister has many Bratz so I am very familiar with them.

I started my tour at the homepage. The dolls that they are advertising on the main page are the vast majority the dolls with white skin and blonde, brunett, or red hair.

Next, I went to see who the Bratz are. I found eight different Bratz: Breeana (red hair and white skin), Cloe (blonde hair and white skin), Jade (black hair, their Asian Brat), Yasmin (olive skin with brown hair), Sasha (the African-American Brat, with shiny black hair), Dee (white and blonde), Lina (white with bright red hair), and Charlie (white with brown hair). Among these eight girls, only two are of varying ethnicity; one is African-American and one is Asian. Sasha, the African-American, has long and shiny black hair, the exact same type of hair as the white Bratz. I don’t know a lot about African-American’s hair, but I’m pretty sure this is a misrepresentation because most African-American women don’t have long hair that is easy to move. They just have different types of hair than most white women and this is definitely not represented in Sasha.

Another thing that made me upset were the pop-ups on the website when I clicked on one of the links. When I tried to click on one of the links to the retailers of Bratz, before I could leave the “Offical Bratz Site!? there was a pop-up that said “Are you sure you want to leave? Until next time. Take Care. Keep it real. and above all BE BEAUTIFUL!? Wow, first of all these aren’t even complete sentences which is teaching young girls poor grammar, but more significantly I can’t believe the stress and emphasis they put on being beautiful. It’s like they’re saying that looks are the most important thing in a young girl’s life. No wonder the young girls these days worry so much about their looks. Another pop-up was while something on their site was loading and it says “Please wait, it takes time to look this good.?

All-in-all I was sickened by the idea behind the Bratz. The dolls have tons of make-up on and are all dressed in very suggestive outfits. This image in itself is disturbing that they are trying to tell girls that you are cool and sexy if you have a lot of make-up on, are skinny, and have sexy cloths. The other thing that upset me was the messages that the website was telling the girls about how being beautiful is so important. I used to look at my sister’s Bratz and think they were cool, but after thinking critically about them my opinion has changed.

March 21, 2007

Polly Pocket

I decided to research “Polly Pocket? because I used to play with them when I was little and I loved them. Things are quite different from when I was younger which is really sad. Since I played with them, “Polly Pocket? is no longer a small, pocket toy by an actual doll. Society is always trying to make things bigger and better and toys are no exception.

By making the “Polly Pocket? a bigger toy, the company is able to sell more accessories. The minute I entered the toy site, I was bombarded with three commercials for a “Polly Pocket? (a car and other accessories). The site has many bright colors but the main color is pink. The site has random games you can play with Polly and throughout the games, you are shown things that you can buy for your own Polly. There is a mall where you can buy toys for yourself, give Polly a hair makeover and get her new clothes. There is large writing at the bottom of the screen showing where you can buy toys so there is way you can miss the store!
The main doll, Polly, is a skinny, white girl who is clearly upper class. I searched around the site for other dolls and while there were a few more, there was one doll of color and the rest were white. While I could look like this doll, many girls do not so this toy doesn’t seem like the best fit for many girls.

Beyond Beats and Rhymes

I think that the film "Beyond Beats and Rhymes" by Byron Hurt does a very good job of demonstrating what the average male will think of the average female when he is given the opportunity to say what he really thinks. Many males seemed to make a distinction that there were only two categories that females could fall under: either she is a "slut" or she is supposedly "pure". To them, there is no in between, so if you are dressed in any way that appears sexual at all, you are automatically a slut. Most of these guys were referring to women in bikinis as "hoes" because apparently they would not dress that way if they weren't "hoes". Never mind that they are at the beach, and as one person already pointed out, what else are women supposed to wear at the beach? There were plenty of guys at the beach in swimming trunks with no shirt on, but nobody labels guys as dressing for sex and that the only reason they are wearing that is for sexual attention. In “White Privilege and Male Privilege? by Peggy McIntosh, she talks about how men are more privileged than women without either knowing it or wanting to admit it. (pg. 12) Society is set up in a way that men can act the way that they did at the beach in this film, and not have to worry about any consequences. The police said they were there to make sure no one got raped, and that was it. No one stopped any of the guys when they were harassing the women, because it was socially accepted. If women were allowed the same freedom and privilege that men have, I think there would be a less men harassing women, simply because they might know how it feels to be harassed and to feel like there is nothing that you can really do about it.

March 20, 2007

Gendering of Toys Assignment

Post to Category: 7. Doll Reports (4 points) by noon on Monday 3/26

Assignment: Visit a toystore (or online retailer) to analyze dolls and/or gendering of toys like these:

scarytoy.jpg

Take a “tour? of a doll retailer like Toys R Us, KB Toys, Amazon or FAO Schwarz . You can focus on Barbie, Bratz, Polly Pocket, My Scene, American Girl, or any doll (toy or “action figure? like GI Joe or Superman). Pay attention to how the dolls are gendered (and perform gender identity), and are raced, classed, organized (shelved or put into categories), constructed, dressed, marketed, etc.

In a 300 - 500 word post discuss your findings. Consider the following prompts to help guide your response:

* How are dolls sold (think space, place, marketing ploys)?
* How does gender, race, class and sexualities get mapped onto dolls (and/or toys)?
* What influence, if any, do you see dolls (toys) having on the gendering and socialization processes?
* What is your response to your findings? Did you think of your own days of playing with toys? Are you suprised, shocked, angered or not affected by what you've encoutered?
* Was it easy to find a doll/toy that looks like you, represents some of the salient pieces of your identity (race, ethnicity, skin color, hair texture, cultural groups, etc.)?

Use key terms, the films and the readings (assigned or optional) to guide your theorizing. Post a reflection write-up (and, if you are so inclined, a creative presentation of your findings for 5 extra credit points (Think photography, drawing, diorama, reconstructed doll...).

BONUS Extra Credit Assignment: Do you have a "doll narrative"? - a story about you and your dolls (like those that appear in Barbie Nation>? Share your story (in addition to the theoretical post) for 2 extra credit points). The film is available for viewing in the Walter LRC Library if you want to watch the tape.

Due to many requests, EXTRA CREDIT CAN BE COMPLETED ANY TIME BEFORE THE END OF THE TERM (the final date to turn in extra credit assignments, the Dec date specified in the syllabus).

NOTE: The reading "Ethinically Correct Dolls: Multicultural Barbies and the Merchandizing of Difference" is from this text:
ecd1

"The Girl Who Cries All The Time," America's Next Top Model, Cycle Eight.

"The last thing she needs is fake bitches playing up to her like that."

So says Renée as the whiny Brittany consoles a mourning Jael. She calls a lot of people that, actually. Reality television loves that stuff. Laps up all that drama and cruelty.

I will admit that I like the artistry of fashion. I will read Vogue for the photography and the theatre reviews. The only "good" part about America's Next Top Model, as far as I'm concerned, is the photo shoots. They do have really interesting concepts. But that's as far as it goes.

In this episode, the girls get makeovers. [Insert massive amounts of squealing here.] At least four of the girls had weaves put in, completely changing their hair. Some had it chopped off. One girl in particular, Jael, sat a painful eight hours as a weave went into her short hair only to find that the people in charge had changed their minds. They took out the weave and cropped her hair. Tyra and Jay mocked the way their girls have cried through the changes. Later, in the midst of a storm of cattiness and one girl’s personal tragedy, the episode's photo shoot begins. The girls are told to pose nude in a candy-shop set. They are then “evaluated? one at a time, before the group and the panel of judges, and one girl is eliminated from the show.

America’s Next Top Model currently airs on CW, a fledgling network of Warner Bros. Warner Bros has long been the biggest wig of media conglomerates, and they like us to remember it: The music behind their logo sequence is “As Time Goes By,? the theme from Casablanca. I believe that, at first, ?ANTM? had trouble finding a network, but no longer. Older seasons air on VH1 alongside their parade of celebrities, wannabes, and conventionally beautiful teenagers. (Am I the only one who really, really misses the days of Pop-Up Video?) Since CoverGirl is one of their major sponsors, their commercials get a lot of airtime, as do diet-pills, new movies, and random pizza companies (?). It is intended, of course, for the mainstream youth audience, but really to women, and to any obsessive human aesthete.

Our celebrity-drenched culture loves making the little guy big. As long as the little guy is thin and pretty with a good pout. The spitefulness of some girls directly contrasts with the open-hearted faith of others. Maybe it’s how they really are, maybe it’s editing, but they’re presented as a racially appropriate mixture of the bitch and the mother, the Madonna and the Whore. (Why shouldn’t Jezebel get the same punctuational credit as Mary? People use the latter word more often, anyway, except for those that really liked True Blue. Or Like A Virgin, hahaha.) As stated in “Commentary and Criticism,? the girls are objectified by “the camera, [which] cannot take our eyes from their breasts and their beauty.? As models, they are constantly scrutinized and criticized. As I watched, I found myself picking out which ones I liked better as people (Jael= the bomb) and which ones I thought were “prettier.? I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did. Of course they are all gorgeous, from bodacious Diana to sharp-faced Jolene. But since they were judged so frequently for their looks, it was hard to not to do the same.

I think the thing that I admire about fashion modeling is the way the body can be moved artistically in a single frame, and the understatement of conveyance. As an actor, that both perplexes and fascinates me. But the actual art of modeling, which seems to be what ANTM contenders have the most trouble with, takes a backseat to appearance. The first comments out of the judges mouths when reviewing a photo are along the lines of “Oh, beautiful?—“This is hot?—“Honey, you look wack.? Then they get around to an actual coaching, which can be to relax the jaw and extend the neck, or it can be to suck in your stomach so you don’t look fat.

There are two plus-size models on America’s Next Top Model; I believe this may be the first time even one has gotten this far. There’s always a fuss about how they “wear their weight,? and how they have to work harder than the other girls, and how they don’t have enough confidence or comfort in their bodies. I’m sorry? Of course they don’t! They’re labeled from the beginning as the fat girls, no matter how they fight it. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they’re doing so well and I love that normal -looking people are getting this kind of attention. But does it come as any surprise that they are confident in their faces, in their personalities, but not in their bodies? Furthermore, looking at Diana and Whitney during the nude shoot (which I can almost defend, on the basis of art), they don’t look a bit different from the women I see on the street, except for their exceptional, glowing-from-within beauty. Not everyone has that—the within part, I mean. I don’t, not always, and I know it comes from having faith in yourself and feeling it, telling conventions to go to Nebraska. (Nebraska=hell. I’m mean.)


I can’t say that America’s Next Top Model truly fosters that belief, I really can’t. I could say that it’s trying, in small, subtle ways, casting here and keeping there. I could say that it’s flawed from the start because modeling is a flawed industry. Or I could simply say that the whole issue of beauty is completely messed-up, and we need to tear out all the pages of that particular set of magazines and start over.

March 19, 2007

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best. Musical. Ever.


I actually have all of the music from it, including an album of covers, from Stephen Colbert to Rufus Wainwright (amazing). This is my favorite song, though. So much of the film is about Hedwig finding herself, trying to empower herself through her own personal beauty and her creative drive.

A quick synopsis: Hedwig was born Hansel, a pretty boy living in East Berlin. An American GI, who wishes to marry him, convinces him to get a sex change. Hansel takes his mother’s identity and becomes Hedwig. Before they even arrive in the States, Hedwig’s surgically constructed vagina heals closed. Her husband leaves her. She starts to write music to heal herself. Tommy, her true love, steals her music and becomes famous. She takes her band around the country, following Tommy’s tour.

Aside from how inconceivably good the music is—it’s a way of showing Hedwig’s life and emotions in a way that is even more accessible than most standard musicals. When the band performs “Exquisite Corpse,? you really get an idea of what it’s like for her. Hedwig’s surgical complications have left her with no “true? genitalia, only an inch of skin—hence her band’s name. She stuffs her bras, wears make-up to sculpt her persona of beauty, and rocks out.

There are moments when people react to her with torturous hatred, when they ignore her (which might be worse), and when they show her love and loyalty. She loves attention, and keeps herself elevated as the queen, the diva, the glamorous one. She overshadows her second husband, Yitzhak, who is actually played by a woman, and who longs to be a beauteous drag queen.

Not only does the film confront gender as forcefully as the lady herself attacks the stage, but a theory on love and relationships is presented. Despite her strength as a performer, Hedwig is manipulated by all of the men she truly cares about. Yitzhak secretly despises her. Luther leaves her, destitute and sexless, for a young man. But she still believes that she and Tommy are soul mates, despite his callousness and the fact that he could never truly accept “the front of her.? See the song “Origin of Love? and Aristophanes’s tale. Hedwig and Tommy are two halves, she believes, that have been torn apart. She hates him for what he did to her, but still loves him, which is the greater reason why she shadows his tour. Is this foolish submission, or is she right that they need each other?

I don’t think that’s a question that can any relationship can answer.

“Suddenly I’m this punk rock star of stage and screen,
And I ain’t never,
No, I’m never going back!?

Sisters & B*tches

When viewing “Sisters & B*tches? video clips from Beyond Beats and Rhymes, it was a very clear-cut perspective of how men really view women. From what I gathered, the comments made about the differences between sisters and b*tches were very contradictive to what men have said they want. As Ludacris artistically says in the hit “Yeah? with Usher: “We want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed.? From my own personal understanding, sisters are the ladies in the streets. They are the ones that are supposed to be professional, smart, faithful, committed, and basically everything that is opposite of a slut. The b*tch is the one that men want to come home to at night and will fulfill their sexual fantasies. She is the one that may be very dumb, unprofessional, presumably a slut, dresses promiscuously, and may sleep around but she is the ideal woman that men want in their bed.

So given those definitions of what sisters and b*tches are, it’s hard to understand how men want both, but yet deny both. They want their woman to be two completely opposite personalities, when they seem to reject both. From the comments made on the documentary, they made it seem like sisters are too nice and more like your homegirl that you just kick it with, not someone you involve yourself with sexually. The b*tches are the girls that you just f*ck your brains out with but don’t involve yourself emotionally when it comes to relationships. That’s when you look to characteristics that sisters have. At one point in the video clip, the way they were treating the so-called b*tches they were practically sexually harassing them by going underneath skirts, grabbing girls’ butts, and coming at them like sexual predators. It not only showed how men use and take advantage of women, but also that the issue of male dominance in our society still exists. Women are still being treated as submissive beings to men.

In “Black Sexual Politics? by Patricia Collins, she examines and analyzes the history of both black men and women and the association made with hypersexuality. “The West African slave trade and Southern auction blocks treated both Black women’s and men’s bodies as objects for sale, yet women participated in sexual spectacles to a greater degree than did men, because Western ideas about women and femininity itself have long been more tightly wedded to ideas about women’s physical beauty and sexual attractiveness? (Collins, 321). These ideas and actions are still prevalent today in our society. Black women are still seen as sexual predators whose butts, breasts, and bodies are exposed as items for sale. They are the ultimate sexual package that every man wants.

It definitely revealed some truths that people don’t think about. Although I don’t consider myself a b*tch, I still need to re-examine how I dress and portray myself to others and realize that I am also sending a message to not only men but women as well.

Beyond Beats and Rhymes

As most people have previously commented on, Byron Hurt’s “Beyond Beats and Rhymes? was a powerful film that illustrated key points of hip-hop and the culture of hip-hop artists. Throughout the segments of the film Hurt is trying to show how hip-hop has transitioned in order for men remain in the stereotypical manhood identity: their strong, tough, have lots of girls, in control etc. He also uses the film to show how evolving manhood images that are more respectful to women or less stereotypical are being criticized. Hip-hop as I have known it has long been associated with negative ideas and disrespectful words which at one point was a form of expression through words and rhythms and brought people together. For me most of the information was not new, it was interesting to me solely that he took the time to put it together and is going around the country promoting it to raise awareness. It’s not his intention to diss hip-hop as he obviously cares a lot about it; instead he is providing education on gender violence and how to prevent it. While watching the segments of this film I was immediately reminded of Laurel Richardson’s Gender Stereotyping in the English Language. She did an excellent job displaying all the general propositions about being male and female and the slang terms that have developed over the years. Like Hurt, she did it not to offend anyone or place blame; rather it was to make people aware that such stereotypes exist. Richardson’s fourth proposition states “in practice, women are defined in terms of their sexual desirability (to men); men are defined in terms of their sexual prowess (over women)? (p.101). Just as language, music and people change, so do terms that describe people. In the “Sisters and Bitches? clip women were offended it seemed with both terms (either a sister meaning you weren’t sexually attractive or a bitch meaning you looked easy.) I think it will still take a while for people to realize that it has become a normalized word not only in hip-hop communities but in groups of people across the United States. Women got over slang terms such as “dog, fox, broad, ass, chick? (p. 101) and will continue to adapt to the changing concepts. Learning how to become socialized within your community involves not only what you wear and what you do, but also understanding the language and what different words mean in different groups of people.

Brawny Academy

Summary: “Brawny Academy? is a reality-based series that reforms and trains men contestants to do “domestic responsibilities? that are designated for women for a 2-week period in the wilderness. The men are supposed to be “real? men (don’t know how to clean, lazy, dirty. In the second episode titled “Walk a mile in her shoes?, all the contestants are put to the test through a crash obstacle course of women duties around the house including wearing high heels while vacuuming, changing diapers, putting away groceries, and cleaning the kitchen.

Origin of program: “Brawny Academy? was originally a web-based show but received national airtime back in August 2006. Because I did not watch this program via television, I watched it online and was not able to state the times and through what channels it was aired. The producers of the show are the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Fallon Worldwide, and Feisty Flix Inc. It was created because of women’s frustration of men not understanding or appreciating the work that their female counterparts go through and do.

Audience:The intended audience for this show is women. The funny thing is that the show broadcasts men that are being trained in the responsibilities that women hold around the house but the audience is intended for women viewers only. Men are not prone to watching a reality TV series that talks about household chores. They are far more interested in dry humor cartoons, sports, and news and less inclined to learn about what women have to do around the house. The main product that is advertised is Brawny towels and strategically placed everywhere throughout the episode (used in the crash course as a breaker wall, men use them to clean a cabin, etc.) Because women are the majority of viewers, it makes sense to advertise household products that they have to use in their own households.

Analysis: The first thing that really stuck out to me about the program was the fact that it was show designed to help men understand the responsibilities that come with being a woman. It’s a show based on empathizing with women. The funny thing is that the stereotype of women not being limited to household duties is not defeated. Instead, it is strongly and significantly reinforced throughout the entire program! As the Brawny Man states, “One of the things we teach here at the Academy is empathizing with the woman in your life.?

The problem that I saw was that it confines women to be the domesticated wife who only takes care of her household. I noticed that there were no obstacle courses that involved men doing jobs that women can do like teaching a classroom, running for political office like Hillary Clinton, being a police officer, etc. Bell Hooks mentioned that women who stay at home is a job in itself, not a relaxing environment. “When women in the home spend all their time attending to the needs of others, home is a workplace for her, not a site of relaxation, comfort, and pleasure. Work outside the home has been most liberating for women who are single? (Hooks, 50).

It was very much a heterosexual-based program. It did not involve gay couples because that would be unconventional and against mainstream media. When we think of household duties, we think of women who fulfill that role, not gay men. When the losing team lost to the obstacle crash course, they were led to a cabin by the Brawny man and told, “This is my first cabin. I built it in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college studying astrophysics. Best two weeks of my life. It’s a little dusty right now, but you guys won’t have a problem cleaning it up. It’s gonna give you a sense of being rugged, outdoor, self-sufficient men. It’ll impress your wives. That’s the best part.? The Brawny Academy reinforces the male stereotype back to both men and women that men are very masculine and need to make sure that their manliness doesn’t turn into being pansies. To do household duties would be considered “pansy-like? or “mama’s boy?. This could translate into saying that women are the lesser of the sexes and are incapable of doing man-like things that men can do. They are beaten in strength and power and that men are the ones that have the careers and lives outside of the home, not women.

In an essay by Kirsty Fairclough, she discusses the reality series of Wife Swap, a show about switching wives to see who the better domesticated wife is. Because men are the ones competing on Brawny Academy, they are still sending an underlying and stereotypical message to the main viewers, who are mostly women, that even though your loved ones may be learning the household chores that you do, it is still the primary job of a woman. As Fairclough puts it, “[Wife Swap] achieves nothing except to further emphasize the fact that women should be natural homemakers by virtue of their gender and confirms the notion that there is little positive about these types of outmoded gender stereotypes .. is intrinsically negative and even threatens to undo this progress due to its harking back to an outdated and conservative representation of wives and mothers? (Fairclough, 345).

One of the contestants, Buck McCombs of Dallas, Texas said, “I might very well have to start learning how to do these things to help my girlfriend and helping out around the house if we ever have kids but I don’t know if I’m gonna do it in heels.? McCombs had to vacuum with red heels on while a baby was in a sling around his shoulder. This statement can also reflect society’s thinking of women as not only domesticated housewives, but that we also only care about how we look physically for others; to please the opposite sex and be sexually appealing.

Overall, I thought the program created backward thinking instead of forward thinking.

Two-A-Days on MTV

“Two-A-Days? is a reality television show about a high school football team from Hoover, Alabama. Set in a southern town where football is taken very seriously, Hoover High Buccaneers have won four state championships in the past five years and have been named the number one team in the country by USA Today and Sports Illustrated. The show follows the team as they practice twice a day and try to handle the great pressure that they have from their coach, school, families, town, and college recruiters that are all counting on them to bring home the fifth state championship this season. …All the while juggling school work and girlfriends.

This show airs on MTV during weekday evenings. The show is rated TV-14 as it keeps out explicit language, sexuality, or violence (other than football tackles). For this analysis, I watched the first episode of the second season. This episode touched on the players upsetting championship loss last season, introduced new characters, and showed this year’s team on the field and very briefly at the homecoming dance. This reality TV show is obviously targeting senior high, and probably many junior high, school students as it follows the lives of high school students and airs in the evening when teenagers are home from after-school activities and glued to the television. Reruns of episodes can be caught on late Saturday mornings, another prime time for teenage TV watching.

This reality show clearly demonstrates “normalization? of gender. Taken from the article “The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor? by Gust Yep and Ariana Ochoa Camacho, normalization is “the process of constructing, establishing, and (re)producing a taken-for-granted, unquestionable, and all-encompassing standard used to measure goodness, desirability, morality, rationality, and superiority? (Yep & Camacho 339). With the spotlight on a completely male-dominated, all-American sport, normalization of gender roles is made more than apparent.

An exchange on the field between two players at the start of the show illustrates what society has set as “masculine?. One player asks another in a loud, aggressive tone, “You scared?? The other teammate responds quickly and even louder than the first “Hell no, I’m not scared?. During this same introduction clip, girls are shown sporting long ponytails tied with ribbon and faces caked with makeup and glitter as they lead the roaring crowd in cheers. Throughout the entire show, these gender roles are portrayed: the boys are tough football players and the girls are dainty cheerleaders. Every boy on the show is strong and aggressive while every girl is delicate and feminine. This documentary is sure to only show the girls talking about boyfriends and making signs and gifts for the football team, because after all, this show is all about the male-dominated football team. “The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor? describes how “Two-A-Days? portrays the girls (but in less prominent roles than “The Bachelor?), “. . .the show focused on their physical appearance- body shape, clothing, make-up, and hairstyle. The [girls] were mostly presented as objects of the male gaze? (Yep & Camacho 339).

Later in the show, there is a conversation between two of the varsity cheerleaders. One of the girls (who happens to be the cheerleading captain) is talking about her boyfriend, who is also happens to be a star-football player. This conversation is held after this same boyfriend, Mark, shares what he likes about his girlfriend, Brittany, to the camera. Mark is quoted as saying “. . .everyone likes her and, of course, she’s pretty?. (Followed by close-up shot of her midriff in tight jeans and a short shirt). Brittany’s thoughts about her boyfriend, on the other hand, are given much more length and devotion. She shares about how sad she is to be moving on from high school next year because she and Mark have been together for so long; they have been to every high school dance together. She shares with a friend the fear of choosing colleges. She wants to be wherever Mark is but she can’t make her decision until he does because of his college football career. Brittany says, “I’ve cried over it like four times . . . he’s gotta wait on football . . .I’m going to try to go where he does.? Her friend responds with a sweet smile, “You’re such a good girlfriend?. What is very obvious about this situation is that Brittany is not concerned about her own educational or life goals, it’s all about Mark. Mark never says anything about staying with Brittany, but following the normalization rules, it is only right that Brittany stay by her man. Another quote taken from “The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor? describes this situation: “. . . a subservient, care-taking woman tending to the needs of her [man]? (Yep & Camacho 339).

The only exception to normalization portrayed in this show lies in the cheerleading coach. Shane Martin, ex-football player, was injured playing football but loved the game so much that he became cheerleading coach to remain involved with the sport. Because he is involved with a completely female team, we see this as an exception to the show’s clearly laid-out views on gender. The exception is not too convincing, however, as Shane is very masculine and aggressive and also has a leadership role, possible alluding to the idea that a man lead a team, regardless of the sport (male or female), better than a woman could.

This team does have black players, but it is mostly white, and all the featured players are white. The cheerleading team also has no black girls, let alone any that are featured characters on the show. The students on “Two-A-Days? are of the middle to middle-upper class. Set in suburbia, the teenagers all drive nice cars, wear nice clothes and apparently do not have jobs. There are no homosexual relationships found anywhere in this reality TV show. Also, body types are society-approved: all the girls are thin and pretty while the boys are buff and good-looking.

Girls, Dolls, and Ponies

I chose to analyze the children’s cartoon, Horseland, for the reading “reality? tv assignment because the show presents “realistic? characters with whom children are meant to identify. Horseland airs on CBS Saturday mornings at 9am as part of the Secret Slumber Party series. On weekend mornings, CBS hosts a Secret Slumber Party and shows cartoons that are largely targeted towards young females. Between shows, five girls in their pajamas dance, sing, and encourage young viewers to stay tuned for more. I stumbled upon Horseland by accident and deemed it worthy of feminist analysis because of the incredible gender division presented between the male and female characters.

“Fire, Fire Burning Bright,? the episode of Horseland that I viewed, told a moralistic tale about the importance of doing one’s part as a member of a team. Five girls, chaperoned by their male friend, went camping in the woods with their horses for their first time. Two of the girls did not want to pull their weight and, as a result of their laziness and carelessness, burned down a forest and jeopardized the lives of their peers. Chloe and Zoey did not gather enough water and, when left with the responsibility of dowsing the fire, did an insufficient job of extinguishing it fully. While everyone was sleeping, a forest fire began and the characters were forced to pull together, (led by the male character Will), to escape the blaze.
What struck me initially about this series was the portrayal of the girls in the show. All five girls were stick thin and beautiful with extremely long hair. Aside from the fact that the girls went camping, they were very feminine and required a male to guide and take care of them. After the group escaped from the fire, one of the girls said to Will: “We’re all safe because of you.? Although the moral of the story was about teamwork and responsibility, the message sent was that females should trust men instead of themselves to take care of a situation. When the characters were forced to swim to safety and Chloe and Zoey explained they could not swim, another girl offered to bear the weight of one of them. Will told the girls no, that the extra weight could endanger both girls’ lives. Chloe responded by saying, “I don’t weigh that much.? This young character with whom the young female audience is meant to identify with is already worried about being perceived as heavy. The majority of the characters, (three of the girls and the male leader), were white. Two of the girls were of an unspecified ethnic background and stood as the token representatives of people of color. Each character had a horse and so it is likely that they were of a wealthy class.
Although this show may not appear to be “reality? tv, it is designed with the intent that its viewers will identify with the characters and learn lessons from them. As Ann Decille writes in her piece, “Dyes and Dolls: Multicultural Barbie and the Merchandising of Difference?: “Dolls in particular invite children to replicate them, to imagine themselves in their dolls’ images? (48). Cartoons characters as well as dolls are texts from which children learn what it is to be “real.? If the bodies girls see in the media are mainly white, thin, beautiful, and “feminine,? they will assume that this is what real women are supposed to be. Shows such as Horseland create an image of the female body that children learn to accept as normal. Deborah Sarbin writes: “In terms of the media, we continue to face the relentless homogenizing of the female body? (The Short, Happy Life of Plus-size Women’s Fashion Magazines, 241).
If the dancing girls between shows was not enough of a clue, the commercials that aired during Horseland and the Secret Slumber Party series made it quite apparent that the audience being targeted was young girls. The commercials reinforced the stereotypical portrayals of uber-feminine young girls obsessed with performing their gender through fashion, friendships, and play. There was a commercial for the Bratzgirls dolls that struck me because the promoter specifically said, “They do things just like you,? and then went on to describe how the dolls love fashion, sunbathing, and shopping. What is so intriguing about this quote is that the girls watching the commercial are taught what it is girls “should? do from consumer culture. The dolls are not modeled after girls’ activities, but the girls are molded by patriarchal stereotypes posing as dolls. Ann Decille describes dolls as: “objects that do the dirty work of patriarchy and capitalism in the most insidious way- in the guise of child’s play? (50).
The problem with Horseland and cartoons such as this is that they teach young impressionable girls how to be “real.? They bury ideas in girls heads about beauty and behavior that later manifest in weight worries, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. We need REAL role-models in the media for children to identify with if we want to break the cycle of patriarchy driven by consumer culture. Children learn from what they see and so the issue of children’s media must be addressed by feminism and in feminist goals.

Third Genders

In the film Middle Sexes I was interested to watch how gender and sexuality is constructed differently in non Western cultures and how Western values regarding sexuality and gender have spread due to colonialism. It was however disappointing that the film spend a lot of focus on the nirwaan, the castrated members of India’s third sex, the hijra. In reality only a small percentage of the hijra undergo any type of sexual reassignment and many of its members are intersexed. I would have liked the film to have gone into more depth on how the gender binary is a modern construction and that through human history in various cultures there has been room for third genders and different sexualities.

A good example of this can be seen in the Two Spirit culture of the Native Americans. Currently I volunteer at the Tretter archive where I process materials donated by the Two Spirit activist Richard La Fortune. In Native culture prior to colonization different tribes had various forms of a third gender. Each tribe had different names and social norms pertaining to Two Spirit people. In many tribes it was not just crossing genders and wearing clothing of the opposite gender, or performing the work of the opposite gender, but blending of both genders to create something new. These members were often held in high regard in their tribal communities and were spiritual leaders, valued warriors, and mediators between men and women. There was an amazing rich history and diversity that was nearly wiped out by white settlers. The term Two Spirit was developed in response to the western term "berdache" which was applied to Natives by French settlers. It is part of the Native reclaiming of tribal culture and values. Paula Gunn Allen discusses this in her article Where I Come From Is Like This where she states “an American Indian woman is primary defined by her tribal identity. In her eyes, her destiny is necessarily that of her people, and her sense of herself as a woman is first and foremost prescribed by her tribe? (pg 31). Like Paula Gunn Allen who writes rejecting western concepts of womanhood placed upon Native women, Two Spirit people reject the negative status of LGBT people in connection with their own cultural heritage.
It is also interesting to note that modern western gender binaries and heterosexism are more modern constructions. In ancient Mediterranean societies, third genders and homosexual behaviors were common and an accepted part of society. In ancient Rome priests of Magna Mater were transgendered, and homosexual practices between men were considered normal. Even with the rise of Christianity third genders were found throughout the Mediterranean world and Europe and took on various forms ranging from natural born eunuchs in Byzantium, to the kocek in the Ottoman empire to the Sworn Virgin in the Balkans.

MIDDLE S E X

The documentary “Middlesex? really opened my eyes to the biology behind intersexed humans. Until seeing the clip from this movie, I was generally unaware of how individuals come to be sexually ambiguous, of course, science does a magical job of making things more (and sometimes less) understandable. In this case, I thought that the blurbs about internal fertilization really added to the documentary and really helped make this complex subject seem perfectly natural in the realm of biology, though society would not have us think so.

What I really started thinking about after viewing this movie, and especially after doing the two readings on sexualities from Feminist Frontiers, was the idea of straight privilege. Michael Messner’s says in his piece, Becoming 100% Straight:

“…imbedded in this question is the assumption that people who identify as heterosexual, or ‘straight,’ require no explanation, since they are simply acting out the ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ sexual orientation. It’s the ‘sexual deviants’ who require explanation, we seem to be saying, while the experience of heterosexuals, because we are normal, seems to require no critical examination or explanation.?

It’s true. Our society is so quick to dehumanize individuals who are not straight or who are sexually ambiguous. We find ourselves asking questions of people who do not fit into the “straight,? male, or female category, “how did that person become that way?? Whereas being straight, I have never had to defend my sexuality, and I don’t believe I’ve ever been discriminated against for being heterosexual. In Middlesex there is a portion of the film that begins discussing and showing other clips of different species, species that can change their sex and species that readily copulate with different sexes. At the end of the clip, the commentator states, “Variation is the norm. Biology loves it. Society hates it.? And that really summed the movie and the readings up for me. After seeing this documentary, I think that this area of biology should be taught to all children. I feel that I am lucky to be an open and understanding person, and I have truly embraced what I have learned through watching this documentary and reading the assigned articles. But our society has socialized heterosexuality and only male/female sexes for so long that very many people are ignorant of the fact that other sexes and other sexual orientations exist.


Works Cited

Messener, Michael A. “Becoming 100% Straight.? Feminist Frontiers. Eds. Leila Rupp, Verta Taylor and Nancy Whitter. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2007. 49.

Survivor FIJI


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When I was trying to decide which show to watch, I was having a difficult time because of the fact that I don’t watch reality TV. I thought that by choosing Survivor I would be setting the bar high, because from what I had heard, there were men and women, where as some shows specifically pinpoint the female gender. Also, since the show had been on the air for so long, I knew that it had quite an audience. Once I watched an episode from the 14th season I realized that though there are men and women of multiple races, it is in no way a judgmental zone. This season took place in Fiji. There were two tribes named the Moto and Ravu. They competed in various activities, some physical and some mental, in order to win certain things. At the end of the episode one person is voted to go home from the losing team. In this episode a woman named Rita from the Ravu team was voted to go home. I had never seen this show before, so it was interesting trying to keep track of why things were happening and how to create a feminist analysis of this episode.


Survivor Fiji premiered on Thursday February 8, 2007. It is normally on Thursdays at 8:00PM on Channel 2 WCBS but this week it is playing on Wednesday at 8:00PM instead. This show was aired many years ago solely because of the thrill of competition; the thrill that the contestants feel and the thrill that the audience feels.

This show attracts people of all ages, races, and genders. Even though this was the first time I saw this show, I had heard many things about it before. In the begininning there were 10 men and 9 women; now there are 9 men and 4 women. Most of the contestants were raised in America, but there are numerous ethnicities represented. I watched the episode online, and the commercials had been removed, but the product mentioned by the women in the show was lip gloss. Rita, the woman who was most recently kicked off, is a single mother model.


Gender was originally almost equally represented, yet here in episode 5 of the season, there are only 4 remaining women. The only man who went home left by force due to health complications, not because of being voted off. I think this shows something about the depiction of women because continually every week a woman has been voted off. When watching this show, I learned that you must conspire and try to decide a person to vote off. Although in the show it appeared to me that everyone agreed on Anthony, Rita was still the one to go. Though in the competitions I did not really see any bias in the way they were set up, once outside of the competition and when you see them conspiring, the girls are made to look as if they are the one up to the mischief. The men talk about “what would be best for the team? whereas when it comes time for the women to talk, the way it is cut, it seems as if they are making a decision on a whim. They all essentially agree without much show of why they chose to vote Anthony off. Whether there was more conversation there or not, we will never know.

The men and women on this show seemed much bridged. The men of the Ravu tribe were upset because the women, Rita and Michelle, talked about fashion and how their ethnic skin helped them “fair better? in the sun. Rocky says that “all of the conversations they have are absolutely stupid?. The men don’t feel as if the women bring much more than their fashion talk to the table.


Race was not made to be a central focus of this show, which I think is good. Since it was not a central focus, not singling out any one person because of their race, I was able to focus instead on the diversity of the group.


As for class, until I read further into the lives of the contestants of the Fiji season, I could not tell class differences. After reading a little bit further I found out that Dre on the Moto team grew up homeless in the streets of North Carolina. Most of the other contestants attended prestigious schools all over America. These people are very intellectual and will be well off whether or not they win the money or prize from the final competition.


All of the women that were represented obviously were very fit. The women, just like the men, had to compete in many challenges and often times had to work side by side of the men. These women were skinny and well built, just like the men. I think it would be interesting to see if you had people of average lifestyle, medium build and such competing on national television. Would the show be as attractive? Numerous women were coming from the fashion industry, modeling and advertising, therefore had the body to represent women in high fashion magazines.


It is disappointing that the women have been the ones to go home, who knows if they are the “weakest link? or not. In the essay by Myra Mendible she speaks of humiliation being the concept of the game show. As Alessandra Stanley puts it, "humiliation is the unifying principle behind a successful reality show." I thought this was quite interesting when I was reading this article because so many shows come to mind when you think of humiliation of another person. It is unfortunate that shows sink to the level of insulting and humiliating people in order to attract a broader audience. The main objective of this show I do believe is humiliation, not the portrayal of women as “hot bodies? or “gold diggers?. Although I would like to think that is refreshing, I think it is still there in the subtext. No matter what you are watching you will find biases, especially among reality TV. “The "reality" in these shows stems not from their lack of a script or professional actors (most people know that what they see on these shows is edited, mediated and not truly "spontaneous"), but from the ways it reflects the underlying logic of our social order? (Mendible). This quote really stuck out to me because I had never really thought about it in that way. I never really thought about which shows qualified as a reality TV show and why. Not until after the show, in the final interviews with Rita was she portrayed as “more than what we saw on TV.? I think that this makes an interesting point as well, that women can only be portrayed as so much on TV, but once its all over and done, you can READ about how much of a round person they really are.

The Real(est) Housewives of Orange County

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The Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC) is a reality television program aired on Bravo. The show focuses on five “housewives? Jo De La Rosa, Vicki Gunvalson, Jeana Keough, Lauri Waring, Tammy Knickerbocker and their families who live within a gated community in Coto de Caza, California. I watched a marathon of the show’s second season over spring break (March 12-16) which concentrated, primarily, on the personal growth of the five housewives and their relationships with each other, their husbands / fiancées / boyfriends and their children. The show airs every Tuesday in Bravo at 9pm. Wikipedia says that Bravo is owned by NBC and that the umbrella target audience of the network is to ages 25-54, affluent, educated and tech-savvy males and females (mostly women and gay men) with high levels of disposable income. As I watched the marathon of five or six episodes there were a few commercials that stood out to me: Ranging from Queen Latifah for CoverGirl makeup, Hovercraft, an automated wheelchair-scooter for the elderly, Trio, a trendy what’s new email listserv, previews for upcoming family-friendly movies and hip new household cleaning supplies, the commercials I saw seemed to target a mostly female audience, specifically young affluent mothers.

I had watched the show before for fun, often noticing various gender, class, and racial stereotypes and negative portrayals, but never looked at the show intending to do a feminist intersectional analysis, which I am now doing. I am not surprised to say that I have found a lot more I can talk about now, especially considering I am doing a feminist intersectional analysis focusing on gender, class, race, bodies/identities, and sexualities and how the shows portrayals of specific characters creates and/or perpetuates stereotypes which could (potentially) affect its audiences.

The cast of RHOC consists primarily of White, (except Jo who is looks and passes for being White except when she uses her “spicy? Peruvian descent to exotifiy herself a little bit or to make herself stand out when she needs to, more on this later) all-heterosexual, all-upper class men and women, with the women outnumbering the men doubly. All of the women in RHOC are prime examples as Michael Messner theorizes in his article, Becoming 100% Straight, of “doing heterosexual.? They dress up, look and act the part of the stereotypical valley-(heterosexual) girl. These real housewives of the OC are anything but; from the unlimited tanning packages, fake nail tips, platinum blond hair and extensions, silicon breasts, eyelifts, face lifts, monthly Botox injections, liposuctions, and gym/Pilates memberships, these women are carefully and precisely sculpted, chiseled, and toned – after all, they have the money, why not look every cent of it? The women are shown for a majority of the episode getting dressed, shopping, or partaking in “typical girl-bonding? over lunch, manicure/pedicures, drinks, or facials while their men just show up and are there. A person who did not grow up or live in Coto might think that in California, all rich White women shop at Jimmy Choo and their only concern or drama has to do with the various men (husbands, fiancés, boyfriends, or sons) in their lives.

The importance of class does not seem to be at all important to these five housewives, until someone gets divorced and loses a majority of her (husband’s) income and is then replaced, when she has to leave the gated community because it is too expensive, by another affluent housewife who lives in Coto. These women do not shop like celebrities in that they are extravagant, but they do spend more than the average consumer. From spending thousands in shoes, purses, clothes, bar tabs, gifts, cosmetic surgery, and expensive real estate, these housewives are quite skilled in charging everything to their Black Cards. While there is no way an average person can compete with the power they have and can buy with their money, they are still one step closer to the average person, because they aren’t celebrities…yet. With the exception of Jo, the housewives have married into money or made money themselves, I thought it ironic that the one Woman of Color came into money when her family won the California lottery – it was only then could she move into Coto and take up residency as one of the fab five.
Race affects the audiences of RHOC very little, if that. Jo the only Woman of Color (WOC) is barely noticeable as a non-White female. She never does anything “ethnic? or “cultural,? she doesn’t talk about her heritage, speak in any other language other than English and she never actually identifies as a WOC unless she is trying to spice up herself to her new target audience - the music industry. There are no other People of Color in the show at all, none in the high-end stores, in the pricy restaurants and bars, in the exclusive gym, in the gated neighborhood, or anywhere – it’s Whitesville! This is definitely a show that subscribes to the notion that if the issue of race (or lack of it) isn’t brought up, it isn’t present, and if it isn’t present, it doesn’t bother anyone and the cast seem to be quite comfortable with that.

This show depicts a common portrayal of the perfect body image. Thin is in. All of the housewives, their daughters, husbands, sons, friends, boyfriends, and fiancées are in very good shape – the only thing I don’t understand is the camera never records anyone in the gym or purging after a meal. They are just magically thin, even though they are constantly eating out and drinking sugary alcoholic drinks. Tammy’s daughter Megan was some 250+ pounds when she was little and she told this sad story of being teased and picked on when she was a child because she was so fat. Now, she just smokes a lot and stays perfectly skinny, looks like she is sending out the message that she would rather have lung cancer than be overweight. I also found the lack of eating disorders among the characters interesting, no one has an eating problem and everyone who lives in Orange County seems perfectly healthy and skinny. Deborah Sarbin comments on the media’s impact on women and their body image:
“In terms of the media, we continue to face the relentless homogenizing of the female body. Makeovers, fashion’s downsizing in contrast to the reality of average size increasing (Richard Klein [1996] 1998, p. 37), the pressure to be whatever one is not [forever young, forever slim], all fly in the face of natural progression, deny change and so infantilize women by freezing their appearance in their 20s.? (Sarbin, Deborah. The Short, Happy Life of Plus-size Women’s Fashion Magazines.)

Each of the five women has had something cosmetically “fixed? and their daughters are well on their way to having breast implants or nose jobs. Debra Gimlin in Cosmetic Surgery: Paying For Your Beauty says that “…the women who undergo plastic surgery are simply making do within a culture that they believe judges and rewards them for their looks.? This is very true in the housewives in the OC. They see their image as identities that can be bought and modified, they are “turning ‘abnormal’ bodies into ‘normal’ ones, plastic surgery succeeds: the woman who participates in plastic surgery comes to possess the foundation (i.e., a normal body) of a normative self.? (Gimlin, Debra. Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty.) Cosmetic surgery seems almost second nature to the cast of RHOC. If they need it, they get it. But who is to say if they need it for not? A fierce competition is seen within the circle of the fab five. They are still loving and caring friends, but nevertheless are conditioned by our patriarchal society to judge and compete with each other. One housewife even got breast implants not too long after she moved in to Coto because she noticed that the other housewives were more endowed than she was naturally. Gimlin writes that “Women participate in cosmetic surgery in a world that limits their choices and in which the flawed body is taken as a sign of a flawed character.? (Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty.) I believe shows like this one and characters like these housewives create a near-impossible goal unnaturally to which the average person tries so desperately to achieve naturally.

In terms of sexuality, there is only one type in RHOC – heterosexual. Other sexual identities are not even talked about at all. None of the characters identify as gay/lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Even the most minor characters are straight. In the perfect world of the gated Coto community every couple heterosexual, rich, and White; this is apparent in almost every reality TV show on the market right now, “consequently, there has been a growth in reality shows that focus on heterosexual sex, relationships, and marriage.? (Fairclough, Kristy. Women’s work? Wife Swamp and the reality problem). The reason the media focuses on the heterosexual couples is because that’s what they think the majority want to see, and that is what they think the majority is comprised of. No matter the benefits to be had if the media exposed audiences to a diverse group of identities and introduced variety in a positive light – no that would just be a great use of a mass media communication tool, that wouldn’t benefit the top one percent of the world (ironically comprised of old rich White straight men) financially, would it? Ah, well. I’m off to watch an episode of Desperate Housewives. Reality TV is not for me at all, at least DH is fiction and I know that similarities between the two shows are simply coincidental and not at all indicative of present day society…or are they?

From the Bitch's Perspective

I, like many others in the class, was very impressed with Byron Hurt’s documentary, most explicitly the piece on “bitches?. I do take offense to the language used in hip-hop lyrics that refer to “bitches? and “hoes?. Someone who is a bitch to one person is a daughter, mother, sister, friend, or partner to someone else. It is all women at some point that the lyrics are referring to. Richardson states, “Being sexually attractive to males is culturally condoned for women and being sexually powerful is approved for males…slang of the street perpetuates and reinforces different expectations in females and males as sexual objects and performers.?(Gender Stereotyping in the English Language, p. 101). Language is very powerful. It is more than words; it invokes images, emotions, and behaviors. It, in large part, is responsible for the way the men were treating the women in the clip, women at clubs, and even women on a side walk in Minnesota. Society might debate this forever, but how can one fully blame the women themselves for their treatment? When looks are what society bases acceptance and attractiveness on, I can understand why some women show more skin than others. It can in some ways be compared to the humiliation that people volunteer for and even audition for to get on reality television. The women will allow themselves to be disrespected because they feel important that some famous rapper is singing about them. There is a certain status that comes with being objectified. Some of the women referred to as bitches get to be close to fame and fortune. When these women are seen on music videos or at the arm of a big rap name, other girls and women look to them to see how to achieve “success? and the perpetuation continues on.
No matter what, though, nothing gives someone the right to inappropriately touch another person against their will like what was shown. The line obviously has to be drawn somewhere. It’s very difficult to put full blame even on the men in the clip who are possibly caught up in the words of their favorite rapper and playing gender by attempting to come off as a tough, and ultra sexual (always looking for a conquest). I would like to think that the majority of people are capable of empathy, but the normalization of women seen as (sex) objects keeps are society rape-prone. Instead of feeling largely helpless like me, however, Byron Hurt decided to do something about it. He used video and the all powerful word to bring these ideas into the conscious of society including rappers and women known as “bitches? or “sisters? (since they are the same in different scenarios).
I guess that this is exactly the reason why feminism targets the oppressive system as opposed to attacking individuals. It’s pointless, and I see that now even more blatantly clear, to attempt to place blame solely on individuals when the system is in part creating these individuals. A very uplifting thought to all of this is that if language is largely perpetuating this disrespect, it can reverse it with the voices of those like Hurt.

Can’t say that "I Love New York"

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The origin of this show was described in an earlier post, but basically it’s a knock off of reality dating shows such shows as The Bachelor... at its very worst. Slowly men are eliminated at dramatic elimination rounds after they go on extravagant dates and when they are kicked off they are either totally bummed because they were completely “in love? or they rant and rave about how they can do better and the show was a waste of their time.

The episode I watched was the one following the one already written about. With four guys remaining New York takes them on double dates in Palm Springs and at the end of each night one guy is asked to spend the night with her. Each guy really ‘steps up their game’ and battles to remain in the running to win New York’s heart. New York’s mother Sister Patterson again steps in to help New York with her tough decision and she decides to let ‘white boy’ go (despite what mama tells her) because of his recent break up and how mysterious he is.
I Love New York is on Monday nights at 8pm on VH1 and reruns can be viewed at various other times as it’s apparently very popular (had the highest debut of any VH1 reality series.) Cris Abrego, Ben Samek and Mark Cronin (the creator and producer of Flavor of Love) were the executive producers and the show was created to help Tiffany “New York? Patterson find a love of her own after being heartbroken on TV twice before. The show is aired prime time at night which allows for a large audience of viewers in their teens and early 20’s. New York herself is 24 so generally the viewers that would find her most entertaining would be those a little younger. During the show commercials ran for cell phones, internet hosts, new movies, concerts and other VH1 shows. Stores such as GAP had multiple advertisements as did Jeep and Honda. These advertisements reinforce the expected age of the viewers.
To quote Yep and Camacho in “The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor?, “Heterogender refers to the asymmetrical stratification of the sexes, privileging men and exploiting women, in the institution of patriarchal heterosexuality.? In the case of I Love New York the woman has the patriarchal role as 20 men compete for the attention of one woman. She has all the power to eliminate anyone and the men just hope to stick around; their only say in the matter is if they choose to leave on their own. She mentions boldly multiples times throughout the show that “everyone should love New York? and the guys readily agree that they should and that they do. During one dinner Chance questioned her and talked back to her and immediately she got turned off and her mother told her to get rid of him. In the whole process New York is hoping to find “true love? but the guys can’t speak their minds and truly be themselves; instead they do and say everything she wants them to just so they can remain in the running showing who ultimately has the power.
A second part of the show that is quite prominent is the focus on identities and physical aspects of all of the cast members. New York is the obvious main focus in any shot, but she flaunts it and the guys acknowledge it. The first date took place on a golf course (because New York says that all men love to golf) and she shows up in a tight, short skirt, “her boobs popping out? (her words exactly) and flip flops. On the way to the date all the guys talk about is what New York should be wearing (their hopes come true) and how good they look. Not one mention about their excitement for what’s planned or getting to know New York better. The guys are fully accessorized and always have the perfect outfit for the time and place. Gender stereotypes are broken through all the shots of the guys ironing their pants for the evening and wiping the dust off their shoes on top of their desire to look put together.
There isn’t a shot where New York’s lips aren’t fully glossed nor is her hair ever out of place. She always has a revealing top on and skirts or shorts that show off even more skin. Even Sister Patterson is clothed in her skimpiest dresses and made up as if there was a shortage on make up. The two women get most of the camera time when all are in the scene and the attention is only drawn away if the guys are fighting over New York. This again reverts back to the amount of power New York holds as the star of the show and the prize for the last one standing. Each cast member had a nickname that was their identity. For ‘white boy’ it highlighted the fact that he was the last guy around that wasn’t African American. Tango I took to be the smooth talker and he claimed to be the ‘passionate one’; however he was all over New York just like the other 3 every chance he got and all he really said was “I love you?. Real and Chance fit the last two, one kept saying he was ‘keepin’ it real’ and the other ‘just take a chance with me baby’. New York is referred to many times as a “true woman? and she calls her self a “real honest woman?. The guys repeatedly get the label as “real men? but their manners and behavior suggest otherwise.
Lastly in the 9 short episodes that have played all of these guys have “fallen in love with New York?. They all repeat the three magic words throughout the episode and she is blown away by the feelings they have for her and how much love she feels for all of them. The show gets super sappy and New York confesses frequently that “she doesn’t want to get hurt.? Knowing that it is her third appearance on TV it is surprising how much she hasn’t learned about reality TV. In the humiliation article by Mendible she states that ones “sense of injury increases the more we presume ourselves worthy of respect regardless of race, gender, or other variables? and it seems to fit New York quite well. The whole basis of her show is to make up for the heart breaks she had on her first two TV experiences, according to humiliation trends she’s bound for one bigger and more painful the third time around. As a first time viewer I don’t see what all the hype is about, but I hope that it works out for New York’s sake so she can move away from the reality TV life and pursue something bigger and better (and less public.) That’s the kind of love I feel she is really looking for.

"Beauty and the Geek"

“Beauty and the Geek? just finished its third season by coupling 8 female “beauties? and 8 male “geeks? together into a mansion to live and compete against other couples to win $250,000. It is one of the many reality television shows on the CW Twin Cities-WUCW23, the product of CBS and Warner Bros. merging. The show is produced by Katalyst Films and 3Ball Productions with executive producers, Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg (“Guess Who?, “Punk’d?) in the forefront. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. also plays its role with President and CEO David D. Smith.

Despite the lack of diversity between leaders of these businesses, the show began with some racial diversity; however, 5 of the 8 women were white blonds, and by the episode I watched, the three remaining women were all very tan, very blond, very skinny, and very young white characters. The men were also skinny and young, and before their make-overs were hairier and dressed in contention with popular style. These similarities/lack of differences tell the viewer exactly what society considers to be beautiful and geeky. For women the message is clearly: change your size to skinny, your hair to bleach blond and long, your pale skin darker, or your dark skin lighter, and wear as little cloth as possible. For men, it is: cut your hair, bulk up, and dress like everyone else is dressing. Based on the tasks given, the messages go even further to claim that this is what other people are attracted to. One task puts the men up for auction and he who raised the most money was deemed the least “geeky?.
In addition to the message on appearance is the message on personality and behavior. The “Beauty and the Geek? website describes the men as “socially challenged? and the women as “academically impaired?. Upon viewing the show, its definition of “socially challenged? becomes clear and narrow. They depict the men’s challenge simply based on whether women are attracted to them. This is shown in an earlier episode where the men are competing to see who can get the most phone numbers. This can put pressure on the male viewers to equate social acceptance to sexual conquest. Similarly, the show’s definition of “academically impaired? is rarely even tested. The women are often given very physical tasks, or tasks that include the aid of the men to direct them; these have nothing to do with academics, and after watching the show once it’s obvious that what most of these girls are lacking is common sense which is actually more of a social problem than an academic one. Despite all of the contradictions, the show still seems to manipulate the characters into the stereotypes of beauty=dumb and smart=ugly.
Equally concerning is that with all of this pressure to please the opposite sex and being paired up and living with the opposite sex, the show gives off a heterogendered message, normalizing the heterosexual attractions and relationships. The show even took it a step further, completely implying that homosexuality between men is socially frowned upon and very unattractive. Toward the end of episode 6, the men were spraying each other off with a hose because they were sweaty and full of mud. During this moment, the show went into slow motion and background music began to ooze out of the speakers. The camera (in slow motion) kept going back and forth between the half naked men spraying each other down, and the women’s disgusted facial expressions.
“Beauty and the Geek? shows its hypocrisy on the sexuality issue, however, on their website. One of the site’s featured photographs is a picture of two of the women kissing a third woman between them.

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The message given to the viewer is that it is not socially acceptable for a man to show affection to (or even assist in hosing down) someone of the same sex, but it is acceptable for women to do so as long as they are doing it to entertain another party (as the photo shows one of the women looking straight at the camera while she kisses the other girl). Through this hypocrisy, the show stresses heterosexuality, but also normalizes and encourages the objectification of women.
With all of this criticism, it could be difficult to understand why anyone would volunteer or audition to be part of this type of program. Myra Mendible gives a possible explanation, “Humiliation here occupies a second-order of meaning in which any televised activity—regardless of how embarrassing—is elevated in status? (p.336). Due to the normalization of humiliation in reality television many characters feel important just because people are watching them. Yet, the consumers are perpetuating this humiliation by watching the shows, gloating and judging who they see. Yep and Camacho optimistically conclude their critique of normalized heterogendered standards for women of reality television, “Although we recognize the material advantages and consequences associated with this norm, this mythical center is in perpetual need of those outside of it to define, maintain, and reaffirm itself? (p.340). If the large television corporations can mold what is considered socially acceptable, the viewer can mold it as effectively by not watching discriminatory shows and by being smart consumers.

Sisters and Bitches

Thanks be to the great invention of Tivo, I had the opportunity to watch “Independent Lens: Beyond Beats and Rhymes? in its entirety. Because I was able to do watch this within days after the viewing in class, I’m having a difficult time recalling what I actually saw in class versus in my own living room. I will do my best to keep this as specific to the sections we actually watched as I can.

Sisters and Bitches
Just as the girls in the documentary, I am not offended by the lyrics used in rap music because I don’t feel that it is directed specifically at me. Let it be known, however, that just because I’m not offended doesn’t mean that I’m not disgusted by the words. There really is a difference.

I sometimes feel that some women do ask to get treated that way by the way they act and dress. It’s the same thing with men, of all races, now stating that they want “a lady in the street, and a freak in the bed.? There is a time and a place for everything and if a woman doesn’t understand those boundaries, she needs to somehow realize how she is representing herself. This goes for men and how they dress and act as well.

As for the men in the video acting that way about women on the beach, then yeah, that is probably offensive because like someone else said, “What else are you supposed to wear to a beach??

Bell Hooks even acknowledges that in a patriarchal society, aging has allowed women to “adopt anew the old sexist notions of feminine beauty? (34). I don’t mean to say that it is completely women’s fault in the way that men objectify our bodies, but I do think that our own ways have a contributed to the fact.

That goes for the same thing with the “N*****? word. I would never personally use that word, but I have been told time and time again that there is a difference between a “N*****? and an African-American. I only briefly understand the difference, but I still choose to not use the negative term. As for black men referring to each other by more negative, cuss words, I haven’t been exposed to it being done in a negative light. For example, I have a girlfriend who refers to her girl friends as “Hookers.? We all know the context and don’t take offense to it, and so again I think it’s a matter of a time and place for certain language and behavior.

Overall, I think that women are strong enough to not let these things offend us, by once again, not paying attention to it. If you don’t like it, then don’t participate in the activities where it is more common that a dichotomy of sexism may exist. If women aren’t in those situations and subjecting themselves to this criticism then men will have to shift their focus towards something else if they expect to get any attention from the women.

I saw something later in the viewing that I wanted to mention also: Because what is considered politically correct is ever-changing, I don’t feel that people should be attacked for using the incorrect term, but rather politely corrected. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say something that is technically a racist comment, but then follow it up with saying, “But I’m not racist or anything…? I honestly don’t think they are racist just because they are ignorant to what terms are politically correct.

Paradise City

I am a reality television junkie, and I’d like to say that I’m ashamed of that, but that would be a lie. It is to the point where I actually Tivo every week shows like The Real World, The Hills, American Idol, The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Girls Next Door, and my newest attraction: Paradise City.

Paradise City airs on E! Television on Sunday evenings at 9:30 pm. The Executive Producer that actually caught my eyes was Ryan Seacrest and it was developed by Go Go Luckey Productions which I have seen on MTV many times and I only pick up on it because of the cute little jingle that my daughter has repeated more than once much to my silent despair.

According to E! Online, Paradise City “offers a firsthand look at what it’s like to live, love, and work in Las Vegas.?

The two main characters are beautiful, blonde women:


Jenner Evans has moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles in hopes of launching an online magazine for women.


Molly Sullivan is a Las Vegas native and already has insider connections to ABC Television as a reporter, has written a book entitled, Las Vegas Little Red Book—A Girl's Guide to the Perfect Vegas Getaway.

Although these two women are sort of pinned against each other in a professional light, the show tends to focus more on the who is dating who, or who is interested in who, or who has the money to get which pretty girls to pay attention to them.

The episode that I chose to watch was subtitled as “Lions and Cheetahs: An assistant to a casino owner hits on April; Jenner and Molly fight over Mark.? If you ask me that is definitely more focused on relationships or lack thereof.

This show is very much geared towards a 25-30-something year old female. In just one commercial break the following products were advertised: Motrin, Kia Sportage, Bluefly.com, Dr. Phil and Match.com, Aveeno Moisturizing Lotion, 40 Smokin’ On-Set Hook-ups preview, McDonald’s, and SAAB. For some reason all of those products or services tend to be directed at that specific audience. I never thought that networks were that specific with their advertising tactics, but apparently I was mistaken and will be paying much more attention to that in the future.

This show isn’t dealing with the kids/teens of shows on MTV, but rather these are full grown adults. Why is it that these adults are still acting like the kids in other shows such as The Real World or Laguna Beach except in an open gambling, alcohol-filled, sex appeal environment. These adults who are still living these dramatics in life seem to have no humility. As Myra Mendible mentions about her students casually agreeing that “women are ruthless when vying for male attention? these women are no variable to that (337). It is obvious that this show is highly edited, yet it sort of plays into the lifestyle that most of us perceive already as the Vegas lifestyle with “hook ups? and lots of games played by both sexes.

I have yet to see an unappealing person appear on this show, and I have high doubts that I ever will. Just as the magazines mentioned in Carra Hood’s essay, The Body is the Message, the articles include suggestions on how to lose weight like the celebrities or “that health can be gauged by looks and that looking healthy means being thinner than we are? (240). In the previous episode, and the re-cap of this episode, the produces are sure to show two of the cast members where else, but the gym.

Playing into the “healthy = thinner? idea and the editing tactics I find it highly ironic that you will see the cast members with vast alcoholic drinks in their hands, but rarely will you see them actually eat any meals. Although, they were gossiping in a grocery store standing in the vegetable department.

The many shots of the girls “primping and gossiping,? whether at the spa or their personal bathrooms, is also taking away from Jenner and Molly’s pinned against professional lives as Marla Harris indicates in Gender Trouble in Paradise (Hotel), or a Good Woman is Hard to Find (357). These girls are being turned into just “sexually available, attractive beings? and that is it. For example, when April is introduced not just as “April,? but as “April, she works at the Playboy Club.?

The inappropriate and uncomfortable scene with another cast member, Greta, being tempted with money to take off her clothes and get on the stripper pole even though the male, I think his name is JJ, who is forking out about $2000 in hundred dollar bills knows she isn’t a stripper. He is trying to prove a point that for any amount of money, women will do anything. I don’t really even know where to begin with that, but thank you, Greta, for not taking his deal.

In addition, the same JJ, that had originally thrown the party for April, one of Molly’s friends, was elaborate, up-scale, and filled with “money.? April, as the narrator, actually pointed out that “no one had ever thrown a party like this for me back in Ohio…? He then bought her a birthday gift from Tiffany’s and offered to fly her on his private jet to see some game. This all, obviously, had the girl’s gossiping all the more, because as we all know…that is what we do best.

This whole gender stereo-type for women in Vegas is played out as women being these money-hungry beings. It doesn’t help that the men play into this, by trying to win a girl over with his huge wallet and extravagant material possessions. The sexual context of Vegas, and even this show, as being women are just there for the pickings if…you have the wallet to go with it. If the women are playing into this, then wouldn’t that just make every woman a prostitute in some sense?

noah is to middlesexes as patrick is to breakfast on pluto

The scenario of the little boy, Noah, in the Middlesexes documentary reminded me of a movie that I watched recently called Breakfast on Pluto. This film based somewhat on true events follows the life of an individual named Patrick “Kitten? Braden. Abandoned as a baby, he grew up in a foster family and never really had the strong support system that Noah does in his parents and siblings. From little on, Patrick, like Noah, knew he was different and would play in his mother’s dresses and makeup. He was continually scolded by his family, yet he continued to act as he pleased, finding joy in "doing femininity". Patrick never let others’ opinions or beliefs mold who he was, just as Noah isn’t giving in to the pressure to conform to society’s expectations of boys’ behavior. Finally, after getting in trouble at school and being scolded at home, Patrick decides that he has had enough and takes off on his own in search of his real mother. What ensues is an unusual, tragic, and comic chain of events, persistent in the plots to misuse, mistreat, and hurt the transforming Kitten as he comes into his nonnormative gender role.

Patrick never lets anyone trample his spirit, and I can only hope that Noah follows a path that is similar to his in that sense and doesn’t encounter any harm along the way.

Lorber says that

“transvestites and transsexuals do not challenge the social construction of gender. their goal is to be feminine women and masculine men.? (45)

I think that this is the main difference between Patrick and Noah. Patrick strived to be feminine and wanted to pass as a woman and in the end, he succeeded in doing so. However, I don’t think trying to be a girl is Noah’s goal. Right now, he doesn’t bother himself with others’ questions of what he’s doing. He just knows why he’s doing the things that he does, and that is simply because he likes toys and clothes that are associated with little girls. I don’t think he’s trying to be a girl; to me, it doesn’t seem like Noah is doing these things with the idea that he wants to be a girl. He is genderblurring what is normalized for boys and girls and he is not letting what society perceives as right for a little boy dictate his actions.

Sexuality is socially constructed and "Hip-Hop Better Wake Up!"

In response to one of the speakers in Antony Thomas’ movie, Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She, Shivananda Khan, (OBE, Naz Foundation International): Khan talked about Indian culture being secretly homosexualized or one that had hidden homosexual tendencies and he used the example of men dancing with men at weddings and women dancing with only other women. I think he was rather stretching that example, I think the reason that most conservative Indian men and women do not dance with each other at functions is because, they discouraged from fraternizing with each other, especially in the presence of adults – parents, grand-parents, etc…It is seen as inappropriate or scandalous – especially if you are a young, unmarried man or woman and you parents are trying to arrange your marriage or matchmake you.

The quote that one of the speakers (didn’t catch his name) in the video said really stood out to me. He said, “Biology loves variation, society hates it? “Can’t we respect diversity? We have to respect it because it’s nature.? It’s so true; nature is all about evolution and diversity, while society and people construct limitations and identities – whether it be sexual, racial and/or class. In the Feminist Frontiers textbook I came across a startling outlook on sexuality. In Michael Messner’s article, Becoming 100% Straight, he states that “heterosexuality is a constructed identity, a performance, and an institution.? I was really floored by this revelation – it seems like I should have already thought about sexuality as being a constructed identity; I already knew that about race being a social construction, so I couldn’t believe that I had never really thought about sexuality this way before. It makes total sense, I do (or don’t do) certain things around certain people just because I don’t want them to question my sexuality, or it isn’t acceptable to do around to some straight people. Gender performance or “doing heterosexuality? is evident, especially in my peers in my residence hall, for instance, wrestlers will grope each other, while wearing skimpy tights, for 4 hours a day and then call someone a “fag? or “queer? if that person does something that might be construed as an action that a “real manly? wrestler would never do. Or even take my family: Hypothetically, if I were to constantly bring men around to functions or just one steady boyfriend that would be absolutely unacceptable, because my parents would think we are having sex, and we are having sex before marriage, that is scandalous! On the other hand, if I don’t bring home men, (which I don’t) my sexuality is called into question and everyone, from my parents to my little sister asks me if I am a lesbian or if I have a girlfriend. Messner’s statement makes systems of power so much more poignant and it reminds me to not forget the extent society has constructed me.

It was powerful to see a heterosexual Man of Color, Byron Hurt, talk about the important issue of how music impacts the sexism in our society. In the clip “Bitch Niggaz? in his film, Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, I identified with his response to one of the woman in the video who said that she didn’t think the rappers were talking about her when they use words such as bitch or ho. Hurt said that Black people everywhere would hold President Bush accountable if he referenced Black Americans or African Americans in a negative and derogatory way. Rapper who use words such as bitch or ho are referencing woman, which I identify myself as, how are they not talking about me? If they can say it in their music videos and on their cd, they are certainly going to use those same exact words to describe me, my sister, my mother, my daughter, my friends, my mentors, my boss, and everyone that is a woman! I really do agree with Hurt in that the current hip hop scene is really detrimental to our society and perpetuates misogyny. And in response to some of the artists saying that “hip hop is a man’s game,? I believe that Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, and Beyoncé have some thing to say to them!

Bridezillas

Bzills.jpg

“Bridezillas? is a show aired on WE: Women’s Entertainment. The show focuses on “bridezillas,? a term I’d actually never heard previously, but the word itself is pretty self-explanatory: brides (who can be male or female) who turn into monsters during the planning of their wedding. In most cases, the women/men are already somewhat “monstrous,? but become even worse during the wedding preparations. The episode I viewed followed two heterosexual couples, Malia and her husband Richard, as well as Dana and her fiancé Michael. Malia and Richard were given the most airtime on this episode, and I will focus on their relationship and attitudes in this critical analysis. Malia and Richard live somewhere in California, probably in or around the Los Angeles area. Malia is obsessed with celebrities and insists that she has celebrity stylists make her up on her wedding day, a celebrity DJ at her wedding, a couture wedding gown, even a celebrity astrologist analyze her and her husband before the big day. Their wedding is held at the Wattles Mansion in Hollywood, supposedly a place where many celebrities hold their weddings. Richard is retired major league baseball player. While Malia comes off as high-strung, materialistic, and high-maintenance throughout the episode, Richard seems indifferent and unconditionally compliant to Malia’s impulses.

“Bridezillas? is a WE original series that airs on Sundays. It is part of the “Wild Wedding Night? lineup ⎯ all reality TV wedding shows. The channel focuses on attracting women viewers. WE is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, which is a subsidiary of Cablevision, a publicly traded company and the fifth largest cable provider in the U.S. As well as owning several entertainment channels, Cablevision provides internet services, owns some stadiums and theatres and local news stations. Cablevision has also started programs to educate children and encourages kids to stay in school. The Cablevision website states that WE is “the only cable network dedicated to helping women connect to one another and the world around them.?

“Bridezillas? is marketed towards women in their late twenties to early thirties, probably single. I seemed to get the feeling that the show might also be targeted towards single women who were eager to get married but so far unsuccessful, who might watch the show to heighten their self-esteem, as the soon-to-be brides on the show are mental. I could also see married women and men (probably under the age of forty) watching the show for a good laugh, or even so they could say to themselves, “at least I wasn’t that terrible during my wedding planning.?

Though the show focuses on women (and in one instance a homosexual male) who are powerful and domineering (and the WE website claims that it aspires to empower women) the show ultimately catered to the patriarchal nature of our society. What the brides are actually doing though their behavior is stereotyping gender statuses, or “the socially recognized genders in a society and the norms and expectations for their enactment behaviorally, gesturally, linguistically, emotionally, and physically (Lorber, 49).? Throughout the program I was waiting for the husbands to put leashes on their wives or smack them upside the head to knock some sense into them. By filming these wo/men, the show is affirming in skeptic’s minds that yes, women and gay men are too emotional, needy, materialistic and overbearing. One of the promotional images for the show has a bride in a straight jacket, and often times the “cuckoo? sound effect plays while the bride is talking.

The program does decent job of covering several different ethnic couples though the producers do not include weddings that are not under the Christian faith (much time is spent finding the stereotypical “perfect? white wedding gown). The show does include the marriage of a homosexual couple.

Myra Mendible’s article entitled “Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV? was really helpful when analyzing this television program. As with many reality TV shows, I often find myself wondering how anyone could subject him/herself to such embarrassment. In the case of these “bridezillas,? especially Malia who is obsessed with celebrities and celebrity status, the prospect of total humiliation to herself and to women, as well as feeding stereotypes of the “crazy bride? is validated by the fact that millions of people are viewing them on television. Mendible embodies this phenomenon by stating, “in this sense ‘being’ on TV creates an ontological condition always already validated; how can you feel ‘put down’ if millions of people think you’re worth watching?? It is this phrase that leads me to believe RTV will continue grow in popularity, both in the number of viewers and participants because it gives viewers heightened self-esteem to see others humiliated, but also gives participants heightened self esteem merely to be seen on television.

Maybe the producers of Bridezillas thought that their show would empower women by showing them who not to be like and what not to do, but for the skeptical viewer, I hardly think that his or her positive attitude towards women will be heightened after watching Bridezillas. Even I was sinking my hands in my face during half of the show. But maybe that’s why it’s become WE’s most popular program: because it’s so humiliating on so many levels.


Works Cited

Lorber, Judith. “Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender.? Feminist Frontiers. Eds. Leila Rupp, Verta Taylor and Nancy Whitter. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2007. 49.

Mendible, Myra. “Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV.? Commentary and Criticism. Eds. Sujata Moorti and Karen Ross. Taylor and Francis LTD, 2004. 335-336.

Dr. 90210

Dr. 90210 is a reality show featuring a typical day of a well-known plastic surgeon living in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, California. Dr. 90210 is focused on Dr. Robert Ray and the procedures he performs and the patients that they are performed on. There are eventually many other featured plastic surgeons and their procedures/stories that are intertwined throughout the episodes. A typical show will have about two patients, each explaining what procedure they want done and why, along with a quick background of themselves. The show then shows them meeting one of the featured plastic surgeons, the actual procedure, the recovery stage, the before and after photos, and a quick recap of the life of the patient after they are healed up from surgery. Also, the featured plastic surgeon’s ‘complicated’ lives are taped when they are outside of the operating room. In this episode patient Jay, a male entertainer, visited Dr. Jason Diamond for rhino plasticity and a chin implant and Liz, a stripper/dancer, came to visit Dr. Robert Ray for a breast augmentation
This show is produced by E! but shown by many other cable network channels. I watch this show usually late at night, when many other young adults are still up as well. This episode is targeted to young adults, both sexes but more of an influence on women, who are fairly wealthy and live a healthy and fit lifestyle and always strive to look their best. The commercials aired include many weight-loss supplements, workout equipment, beauty products, etc.

This show exposes how media can skew an image of beauty in both women and men. Dr. 90210 is all about changing people to make them more ‘beautiful’. Shows like this encourage plastic surgery, eating disorders and anything else people do to make themselves more appealing to society. In Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks states that “Feminist struggle to end eating disorders has been an ongoing battle because our nation’s obsession with judging females of all ages on the basis of how we look was never completely eliminated.? This show proves her statement; by enforcing that large breasts, straight noses, plump lips, and thighs and butts without an ounce of cellulite on them is beautiful and showing it on national television. Most of the patients are living in Beverly Hills or the surrounding area and are rich and already considered beautiful. For most, this isn’t their first plastic surgery and they just continue to find little things to fix and keep returning for more operations. For instance, in this episode, Liz wanted to have a breast augmentation already had one a few years before, but wanted bigger breasts because it was considered more beautiful and appealing in her industry (stripping).
Jay’s story really stood out to me because he was a male wanting plastic surgery on his nose. I think he was embarrassed to be getting plastic surgery because he said he wanted it so he could breathe better during his routines, but it was obvious he just really wanted to look better. When the doctor suggested a chin implant because it would, “make you look more masculine and add an image of ten pounds of muscle to your body.? Jay jumped right on this idea. This shows that men have pressures to look more beautiful too, but more in a masculine, brawny sort-of-way.
In many of these episodes patients explain that they are getting these procedures done because they want to and they’re only doing it for themselves. In Feminist Frontiers, Debra Gimlin explains that, “Rather, they alter their bodies for their own satisfaction, in effect utilizing such procedures to create what they consider a normal appearance, one that reflects a normal self.? (Pg. 113) This quote proves that yes, patients are getting plastic surgery for themselves, but the real reason is because society has changed the image of beauty so people think that being a size 2 with large, silicon breasts and an unwrinkled face is beautiful. People are beginning to see this as the “norm? and feel the need to look “normal.? Even the plastic surgeons and their families are beautiful. Dr. Robert Ray’s wife was twig thin (who he admits is 93 pounds) with unproportioned breasts and some obvious facial work. While showing a day in the life of Dr. Ray, his wife is at home alone in a huge mansion stuck taking care of their two children and cooks for him, but he never gets home in time for dinner because he goes to his karate lessons all night. Gender roles are portrayed throughout this show in Dr. Ray’s life and also Dr. Diamond’s. Dr. Diamond is married to Jessica, who is also a doctor. In this episode, they are looking for a house and talking about having children. Dr. Diamond states immediately that when they do have kids he wants his wife to quit her job and stay at home with the kids. Jessica doesn’t seem like she wants to quit, but doesn’t express her opinion much to her husband. By showing these strict gender roles and the sexist defined notions of beauty portrayed in the media it only encourages women to serve and obey their husbands and continues to distort viewers’ mind of what beauty really is.

Intersex Equality

After watching the film in class, I had newfound respect for people that are of both genders. I really felt for the people because they didn't choose this to happen to them, it just did. It hurt that people would inflict pain in these "intersex people's" lives. No parent should have to explain why their young son acts with feminine manner and no child should not accept him or ask him what is "wrong with him?" Or if he is a girl or a boy?

I felt for the young boy whose growing up in a spit household with two other brothers. Life has got to be rough for him and he doesn't even know what is coming in the future. No parent should be saddened that their son has girl-like features and worry about their child being murdered because of hate. Why can't people just respect other people, no matter any issue? Watching the film made you really take in how important things are to our society. Taking into consideration Race, Class and Gender, these are all very dominant and powerful things that are hurtful to many people. You can find cases in each of those categories that people are being oppressed, or dominated by that of another race, class or gender. It hurts me that people just can't be accepted for who they are. That it matters THAT much to us all, to our society and culture.

I also would like to say that in the case of the other man "Judy" who was a girl all throughout his childhood, until he realized something wasn't right. That must have been the hardest decision for the parents? How do you know what they will be like? That it will matter so much? It was great to see that the girl he was dating in a lesbian relationship was able to love him as a man too and be so respectful. Having her support must have been very uplifting to him. I am glad that he decided for himself what sex he should be. What gender he felt he most "fit in" with.

The movie really gave me a new look to people that are unsure, are experimenting and those that are truly happy switching their genders (ie:cross-dressers.) These people will deal with things that the rest of us may never understand and will definitely have more problems. It is similar to White Privelage, and how "black people" feel they are disadvantaged. Gender issues are very much the same way. Homosexuals and transvestites will never feel as privelaged as the rest of the heterosexual people out there. They will always be disadvantaged at some point or another! Hopefully in the next five years our society will begin to overcome their oppression and get over the hate that so many of homosexuals and other races and classes feel.

I think this issue is going to be revisited many times over and over again. The issue of a unisex bathroom, as discussed in class, and why people look at these folks as "different." Normal needs to be re-looked at, because that term doesn't describe anything. The way we act is due to the way we've been raised, the type of culture and class, race we're born with ... and privelages or lack of that. Either way, it was an informative film that taught me a lot about things I didn't know. I have a few gay friends, but I don't know an transvestites and/or lesbians. I can imagine the fight they must have on a daily basis and hope that everyone realizes that they don't need to convert to what society deems as "normal" or "right." Pleasing yourself is the best thing you can do, and if that means feeling better as the opposite gender, than that is the right choice for you.


PS: I Do not have my book because I can't find it, so I don't have any quotes.

america's next top model

A new season of “America’s Next Top Model? started recently. In real life, I actually watch this show; however, I originally wanted to critique a show that I have never seen before (there are a lot of reality TV shows that I have never even heard of) so I could analyze the show without a biased opinion. But then I thought about it and decided that it would be more beneficial to analyze this particular show through a feminist perspective and force myself to look at the issues of stereotypes and body image that are present.

The general premise of the show lies in the competition between 13 women to become “America’s Next Top Model?. The wannabe models vie for the grand prize; the opportunity to be managed by Elite Model Management, a $100,000 cosmetics campaign with Covergirl, and the chance to grace the cover and a six-page fashion spread in Seventeen magazine. The cycle 8 premier was two hours long and was divided into two segments. The first hour featured the selection process of the top finalists from the 30 original candidates down to 20 semi-finalists and then the final 13 who would go on to compete and participate. The second hour included the first real photo shoot with a focus on controversial political issues and the first elimination.

The intended audience for this program is generally younger females, and it is obvious who the show is targeted at through the subject matter of the show and through the commercials that are run during the course of the program as well. The most prominent advertisements were long segments that functioned as a sort of talk show through the network. A young woman acted as host and discussed the latest styles of bathing suits for spring break and promoted the newest hair products for the beach. It seemed like a type of “how-to? help session in the commercial breaks that lasted the length of the show with tips how to buy the right style of suit for different body types and how to execute various hair-do’s to match the different beach fashions. Another extended commercial advertised the new Pussycat Dolls’ reality show “The Search for the Next Doll?. It was basically a short preview with actual clips from the show.

“America’s Next Top Model? airs on Wednesday nights at 7 pm on the CW network. According to CW's President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff, “the network's shows appeal to 18- to 34-year-olds? (Wikipedia). This program is produced by 10 by 10 Entertainment in association with Bankable Productions, which is Tyra Banks’ production company. I think it says a lot about her success as a woman in a man’s industry that she is able to own her own business and that in itself is a positive message to young girls, one of the few that actually comes from this show. 10 by 10 Entertainment also produces the Pussycat Dolls show, which explains the extensive advertising and other shows on networks like MTV and VH1, which also cater to the younger generation.

In terms of race and ethnicity, the show does a fairly decent job with diversity. There are about an equal amount of African American models as there are white models and there is even one Latina woman; however, that is the extent of the racial backgrounds, and obviously there are many others that are not represented, such as Asian and Indian individuals.

At this point in the show, when the audience is first getting acquainted with the models, stereotypes and generalizations are underlined in the girls’ personalities and identities. For instance, one finalist is from Russia and because of the strength of her accent, it is hard not to categorize her as the foreign girl and because another girl is Latina, she falls easily and compactly under that identity. Then, of course, there is the snotty, experienced girl, the innocent, southern bell, the punk, the bitch, and yes, the plussize girls. The stereotype for the dumb model is also evidenced strongly in more than one girl in this episode, which ultimately translates into a dumb, clueless, stereotypical female, the image that gives females a bad name. "I don't want to be political. I just want to stand here and be pretty," announced the Russian, as she stood scantily clad in a bra and panties “embodying? pro-choice activism, a highly significant political issue for feminists and women’s rights. Another girl, Kathleen, was anti-fur and could not understand the concept even after it was explained to her numerous times by both the photographer and the art director. Her stupidity continued in front of the judges’ panel when she admitted her lack of understanding of her role and projected an even lesser understanding of the fur industry when she enlightened viewers with her naïve beliefs of how animals die in the wild.

This season is different than the others regarding body image. For the first time in Top Model history, there are two full figured models competing in the top 13. There has been at least one in the past, but never more than one. This is a very big deal for the competition and in a sense, the inclusion of two girls who are considered to be plussize models is a sort of breakthrough for both the program and for the modeling industry when the vast, large, greater majority is stick skinny, emaciated skeletons. But on the other hand, it is ridiculous to think that out of 13 models only TWO of them are considered full figured. This is not a realistic sampling or proportion of the different body shapes in our society today. It’s even more ridiculous of a ratio that out of the 30 semi-finalists only two of them were plussize. Also, throughout the competition, these girls are continually labeled as plussize and are never able to just be seen as regular competitors. The girls have said now that there are two of them in the competition that they are fighting against each other but aren’t there also 11 other girls in that fight as well? It isn’t just the full figured models against the normalized skinny long legged models, it is every girl for herself.

In the larger scale of things, the issue of plussize models is especially relevant to the objections of Sonya Brown to the representation of the “fat? body image in today’s media and her idea of “size acceptance?. She talks about the “comparative thinness? of individuals that are considered to be fat or full figured.

“To me it seems clear that “size acceptance? is limited only to the “average? rather than to all sizes. This troubles me despite my relief that acceptance of bodies rounder than and shorter than those of straight-size models (usually size 6 or smaller and no shorter than five foot-eight) is underway. And yet there are surely many women, whose weight is no physical impediment, but whose bodies are deemed “unacceptable.??

I think this relates to the size of the so-called plussize girls in the competition. Even though they are full figured, they are by no means “fat? and I think that they are on the skinner, more average side of that category. Their status as plussize is acceptable to the public, which is what enables them to compete in a modeling competition. If I would see these girls on the street, I don’t think I would classify them as plussize necessarily, but because they are compared to the very skinny, typical model, they are categorized as bigger girls. So in an industry that has a great emphasis on a tiny body image, girls that would be considered “average? in Brown’s eyes are called plussize and bigger.

At the same time, I think the current representation of plussize women on this program negates Brown’s second objection because these two are being photographed in the same manner as the others models are and that allows viewers more diversity in body types and depicts a somewhat more realistic look at body size and shape today.


“My second objection to the treatment of size acceptance in the dominant media: the photographs of the subject of size acceptance narratives so rarely allows the reader-viewer the opportunity a clear look at the average size body.?

The Value of a Woman

Rich plastic surgeons in a city where beauty means everything, Dr. 90210 is a reality TV program that follows the lives of plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills, California. The episode that I viewed was “Girls Just Want to Get Done?. It featured two Hooters waitresses hoping to get breast augmentations and a young teen girl in for pubic liposuction. I enjoy watching the show, but when using feminist analysis to examine the storyline I can see that the show really exemplifies what is wrong with the stereotypical lifestyles of women that American society has created.

Dr. 90210 is broadcast on E! Entertainment Television and is typically there for a male audience. This show depicts the pressure put on people (especially women) to be perfect. The Hooters girls are shown making comments on how women need bouncy breasts and big boobs=good boobs, etc. This is one instance of how our society has made it “normal? for women to have big boobs because it’s the only way that men will find them attractive. Laurel Richardson states on page 101 of Feminist Frontiers that “in practice women are defined in terms of their sexual desirability to men?. It should be a top priority for all good girls to settle down and find a good husband to raise a family and live the American dream. It’s become so normalized in our society for plastic surgery as a quick fix. One doctor showed this when he stated, “Coming to Beverly Hills for breast augmentation is like goin’ to Belgium for chocolates.?

Because of the easy access and availability to plastic surgery one doctor went so far as to say, “Personality is #1 when looking for women because we can change anything else we want to after?. If we aren’t perfect enough for the eyes of society, we can be “fixed?. However, even our personalities aren’t free from the pressures of society. Later in the program, Dr. Rey (one of the surgeons) is on a trip to Venezuela trying to find out why Venezuelan women are so beautiful. In one scene, Dr. Rey is visiting The Giselle Academy where young girls and women are taught to behave like ladies. True ladies have certain personalities and characteristics that they have to exhibit if they want to fit in with societal norms.

Another way that societal norms intervened was through the relationship of Dr. Rey and his wife. Dr. Rey was able to go off to Venezuela and meet beauty pageant queens while his wife stayed home being “mom?. One scene showed Dr. Rey at the beach with a gorgeous woman and then cut to his wife at home playing and reading with the children. The wife was also shown making statements like “I feel more confident when I’m alone?. Living in a dichotomized world of man or woman places expectations on both genders. Men are the providers and thus deserve “nights out with the boys? and vacations. Women are expected to be weak and dependent on their husbands, being stay at home moms or homemakers while their husbands are free to chase their dreams.

In another segment, a different Dr. is shown throwing a “Botox Party?. It’s becoming unacceptable for women to look their age; younger is better. After injecting a beautiful woman with botox in her forehead, the doctor commented, “There, now you’re normal.? Even in old age, it seems as though the true measure of a woman is in terms of her beauty and her sexual attractiveness to men. This just isn’t the case for aging men.

Feminist Frontiers examines plastic surgery in Debra Gimlin’s “Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty?. Gimlin states on page 105 that “cosmetic surgery stands, for many theorists and social critics, as the ultimate invasion of the human body for the sake of physical beauty?. On page 203, she states that “some writers have dealt with cosmetic surgery as if it were an attempt to attain idealized female beauty in order to gain the approval of men. Rather, they alter their bodies for their own satisfaction…to create what they consider a normal appearance?. This leads one to ask the question, what is normal? Mass media is constantly stuffing images of the real/ideal woman into the minds of young women and men. These images give the false hope that if we have the perfect, most attractive body we will be more self-confident and find more lasting happiness. This leads to another question, aren’t even the most gorgeous people on Earth unhappy at times?

Society has placed all this pressure on women to be “normal? to be “beautiful?. We have to be beautiful so that we can fit into the general public’s view of what a woman should be doing with her life, what types of relationships she should have, etc. Dr. 90210 is, in my opinion, a very entertaining show. At its core, it represents the need for women’s value to be defined as our culture says it should, by how attractive we are to the men around us.

American Idol Review

For my Reality TV post I decided to watch “American Idol?. As most of you know this is a show that was made to find hidden gems that can sing their hearts out. Millions of people from all over the United States audition for three judges in certain locations while they are on tour. At each location the judges choose the best singers out of the pack and allow them to move onto Hollywood to be judged more. Each week certain people are eliminated until finally about 20 are left. These 20 then perform on live television so that the viewers can vote for who should move on and who should go. The person left is the American Idol and usually ends up becoming a star in the music industry. The judges look for good vocals, performance ability, character, and sadly looks.

This show airs on Fox, which is one of the biggest networks in the world, is on later in the evening around 6:00 or 7:00.The purpose for this show is to literally find America’s Idol. Its intent is to scour the country for hidden musical talent that just needs a big break. The hope is that the person chosen and possibly a couple others will land a record contract that will allow them to fulfill their singing careers. It has proven to be affective in the past, which is why it’s probably still on the air each year. The targeted audience is pretty much every one of all ages, genders, and classes. The fact that it’s on later in the evening allows younger viewers to watch it after school while also allowing adults to watch it after a long day of work. The reason is because they want people of all ages to pick the person so that their musical talent can later on be bought by anyone when they make their first CD. This can also be seen by the commercials that air during the airing of the show. They have commercials for anything from beauty cosmetics, to insurance companies, to retirement funding. The people know that anybody and everybody will be watching the show so they try to get the commercials to appeal to all audiences as well. This allows the station to kill two birds with one stone.
I personally do love this show because it is a great opportunity for someone with musical talent. It is hard to make it in the music industry, so a big break like this could be all that someone needs. The only thing I don’t agree with is how the show goes about initially picking contestants that move onto Hollywood. They try to hide it a little, but for the most part it is known that people that don’t have the “idol look? they probably won’t make it to the finals. The “idol look? is obviously attractive, well brought up, and well kept like the pop stars such as Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears. There were numerous times throughout the show I watched where the judges made comments about how the person looked or how they weren’t singing the way they should. Apparently there’s a certain way these people have to look, act, dress, and sing in order to be the “American Idol?.
Essentially, what they are doing is promoting socialization when they say those things. They’re saying that if you don’t look like what you should look like you have no right to be here no matter how amazing your voice is. That’s a huge problem we have as a society in this world. Everything has to look a certain way to be normal and if it doesn’t we don’t accept those people. Even Bell Hooks states on page 35 of “Feminism is for Everybody? that “nowadays, in a fashion world, especially on the consumer side, clothing that looks like it has been designed simply for reed-thin adolescent girl bodies is the norm?. This is just another example of how girls aren’t “normal? unless they’re really skinny. I don’t know about you but when I’m listening to music I’m not thinking of how the person looks or how they act. Instead, I’m thinking of what they’re voice sounds like. I think the show would be a million times better if they didn’t even show the person singing. Block them out and just have the voice. By doing that you will get the best talent out there instead of just who looks the best.
It’s sad when a person that has more talent than anybody else there doesn’t move on to the next round because they’re not pretty enough or skinny enough or young enough. As Judith Lorber says on page 52 in Feminist Frontiers “For humans, the social is the natural?. We as a society have to move away from the norms that this world has made us think there are. This has to start with the media though and as you’ve heard this show isn’t helping the cause. I personally love this show, but some things definitely need to be changed in order to help change society’s views on what the norms are.

Lesbian Representation on MTV's NEXT

The “Next Miss Gay Girl? is…
MTV


Representations of GLBT persons are few and far between on prime time programming, especially those of queer women. An episode of MTV’s dating show NEXT recently revealed the misrepresentations and commodification of this minority prevalent in media today.

NEXT is a popular dating show on MTV. Five potential daters are loaded onto a crowded bus waiting for the opportunity to step off and vie for the approval of the main contestant. If the main dater does not like what they see, they have the power to verbally “NEXT,? or refuse, their admirer. The show relies on aesthetics, the confrontation between contestants, and sexual innuendo. Recently NEXT has started to air gay and lesbian episodes, and their approach to this programming fulfills many stereotypes and analyses prevalent of queer women in media today.

On the episode, The Next Miss Gay Girl Brie a nineteen year old, white, feminine woman is looking for a, “girl to play doctor with?. She talks about getting dirty with the boys, but wanting to jump in the hay stacks with the girls. Immediately, the viewer is introduced to a highly feminine and sexualized host, whose sexual inclinations feed the stereotypical desires of male members in the young audience. The use of the word gay in the title proves interesting as well. Most women with same-sex attractions do not identify as ‘gay,’ but rather as ‘lesbians’ or ‘dykes.’ The mere use of the word in the title suggests that the content in the show is out of line with the realities of lesbian culture. Also, the use of the word ‘girl’ connotes a submissive and sexually playful experience, when; in reality, the contestants are all women.

Many of the lesbians that we see in mainstream media today are highly feminine. The representation of butch lesbians is mostly marginalized to the Logo channel (an all gay network) and the L Word. Why is the media so hesitant to represent a broader view of lesbians; those that are masculine? Ann Ciasullo explores the representations of lesbians in the media in a relevant article, Making Her (In)visible: Cultural Representations of Lesbianism and the Lesbian Body in the 1990s. Questioning the invisibility of the butch in media she writes, “The femme, in other words, is representable not only because she is desirable but also because she is perceived as “inauthentic.?. This particular episode of MTV’s NEXT appears to be feeding viewers a comfortable ‘gay package:? one that is feminine and conforming to heteronormative views of the perfect woman. Ciasullo ponders why media networks tend to show feminine lesbians and what the implications are for the gay community:

Perhaps the configurations of single and coupled femmes work to undo the “lesbian? signifier and to de-lesbianize the subject for mainstream audiences…Without the signifier of the butch, the femme's lesbianism disappears, or, more accurately never appears in the first place. Is this, perhaps, another more important reason why “femme-looking? lesbians are the most represented in mainstream culture? Mainstream culture is thus giving with one hand and taking back with another: it makes room for positive representations of lesbianism, but the lesbian it chooses as “representative,? decoupled from the butch that would more clearly signify lesbianism for mainstream audiences, in effect becomes a nonlesbian…(Ciasullo 1990).

While there is an invisibility of butch women, especially lesbians in mainstream media, the gay dating show on NEXT did not target the lesbian community. The commercials airing during the show suggest that the series is targeting the 16-25 age bracket, both heterosexual men and women alike. Likely viewers are white and suburban, with enough money for extended cable and the leisure time to view the show. The commercials were mostly for beauty products and ‘reality show un-cut revealed’ best-of tapes, promising many scenes of sex and debauchery. Considering the projected audience, MTV undoubtedly set out to ‘give the people what they want.’ And, according to current social norms and expectations with particular regard to Ciasullo’s remarks, MTV gave their audience what they were comfortable viewing.

Of the five contestants that Brie is about to meet, four are highly feminine; one being a bit more masculine. Three of the daters are Caucasian, with the other two are women of color (perhaps of a southeast-Asian origin). As with all NEXT episodes, the daters must undergo an activity or challenge to prove their dedication and devotion to the main contestant. The challenge on this particular episode is a beauty pageant, entitled “Miss Gay Girl.? This is a very stereotypically patriarchal American tool of judgment to wean the perfect and proper woman. Ironically the first contestant in Brie’s contest was Lyla, a woman of color, who sang Yankee Doodle Dandy in broken English while wearing a sequined American Flag leotard. Brie immediately NEXTS her after her performance, based on ‘merit.’ The commentator of the show remarks that Lyla was rejected because she was a ‘skanky doodle.? She is belittled and demeaned.

The next dater to walk off the bus and into Brie’s sight is Gabriella, a full-figured Caucasian woman. Brie immediately NEXTS Gabriela, retorting that ‘she looks like she’s eaten too many cheeseburgers.? Negative stereotypes of race, gender, and body have already been confronted in the episode and it has just begun.

The more masculine looking contestant is up next. Sujey is also immediately NEXTED, this time on the basis of her lip piercing. Brie, however, proves hypocritical picking the next contestant with the same piercing. One is left to wonder whether the piercing was the turn-off after all. Sujey returns with, “Most girls have holes, and she must be straight?. The next and last contestant to come off the bus is Nicole, an 18 year old white, feminine woman who is put into formal wear and feminized even more with makeup. There is an exchange of a small kiss and they hold hands as she walks her to the stage for Nicole to walk and show her princess wave. She is called beautiful and nice and then they sit down and “get to know one another?.

The questions that follow are questions about Nicole’s past relationships and gayness. The first being “Have you had any ex-girlfriends?? the response “Of course?. Second, “Did you guys ever sleep with one another?? the response “yes?. Brie is then asked some questions about her relationships and practices and she answers that she has never has any girlfriends or ever been with a woman and that she prefers not to have any girlfriends. Then she is asked if she is completely full on lesbian, and Brie answers that she goes with guys too, is bi-sexual. After thirty-two minutes Brie asks Nicole on a second date. Nicole’s response is, “I don’t think you’re into girls as much as I’d like you to be, so I’m going to take the money and run?. She boards the bus as tells everyone that Brie asked her on a second date but she seemed a little “straight’ so she took the cash. The ending seen is Brie all dressed up in Pageant apparel saying, “I’ve realized that miss gay girl of 06 is me?.

This last sequence brings up a common question in the GLBT community: ‘how gay are you?? Brie identifies as bisexual, but her lack of experience and exclusive commitment to females is criticized. Queer theory suggests a fluidity of sexuality, that everyone is somewhere on a continuum between gay and straight. Queer tenets, however, were not taken into account in the rebuke of Brie by the contestants. She was not deemed ‘gay’ enough for their time. Although Brie does fit into what the mainstream media chooses to represent, she doesn’t fit into what the lesbian women on the bus they ‘can handle.? Feminine lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be represented in media due to a multitude of reasons, including their less-threatening appearance and purpose. Does this mean, however, that their same-sex attractions are questioned and delegitimized more than the intentions of butches’? While there’s something to be said about the lack of ‘butch representation’ in mainstream media and the feminization of women for comfortability, there also needs to be an analysis of the lesbian community and their binary views of masculine and feminine.


Sources:
Ann M. Ciasullo, “Making Her (In)visible: Cultural Representations of Lesbianism and the Lesbian Body in the 1990s.? Feminist Studies. Vol 27. Issue 3 (2001): p.577.

What is a perfect medium?

I have always considered myself to be fairly interested in an array of music styles. I don’t think that because I listen to a certain style of music I have to encompass myself in the clamor of its negativity. Yet, while watching the film Beyond Beats and Rhymes, I realized by supporting the efforts of the successful players in the music industry who peg women as toys and sex objects it just continues the endless cycle of exploitation of Women.

The chapter entitled Sistas and Hos was really shocking to me for two reasons. First, the men who were asked what they thought the difference was between the two types of women; Sistas and Hos. They claimed Hos “ask? for the treatment they get based on their clothing, presence, etc. Yet, as we watch the girls walk around the festival they were being grabbed at, exploited and filmed, and inappropriately treated just because these men felt they could do so.

Just as shocking as the men’s behavior was so was the behavior of the women. Some of them fought back when they felt violated. But, the majority of the women accepted the actions just because they are socially acceptable in the rap atmosphere. However, is it just that environment in which girls are required to be put into one of two boxes; easy and a slut OR uneasy and vigrinous. In the article We don’t Sleep Around Like White Girls Do by Yen Le Espiritu there is a statement that says, “To control sexually assertive girls nonimmigrant parents rely on the gender-based good girl/bad girl dichotomy in which “good girls? are passive, threatened sexual objects while “bad girls? are active, desiring sexual agents? (169 Espiritu). I think this only streghtens the argument that every girl is one or the other. Our society has built up that there is no happy medium and no such “sexually prefect woman? exists.

MIDDLESEX

The HBO documentary that we watched in class entitled “Middlesex? was very interesting to me. Each story that was shared looked at the issue of intersexes from a different aspect. The video proved that society does not address this issue much, in many cases by choice, and that lack of attention to this issue leaves many people uneducated and very uncomfortable with it.

I thought the story about the young boy who felt so much like a girl was fascinating. It was interesting to hear about this (later in the film) from a biological standpoint. The doctors interviewed shared that much, if not all, of gender lies in the brain, and sometimes the brain and the genitals do not match. People need to realize that this happens and it does not make the individual born this way “abnormal?. From what I have seen and heard, many people are so naive to believe that transgender men and women have sex changes just because they are gay or lesbian or even more ridiculous, for attention.
Our society is so quick to try and make everyone either clearly male or clearly female. We are uncomfortable with anything that doesn’t fit into either of the two categories. We don’t know how to react. This is the reason for the violent crimes committed against transgender men and women that was shared in this film. The case of the woman who was in love with a man serving in the military was especially tragic. When his fellow men found out that the women their friend loved was actually a man, they brutally murdered him. To hear about a crime of such hate makes is very hard for me to understand. This could not make it more clear that we need to address this issue more often in society because hate towards human beings such as this is never justified. We see this kind of hate in racism, sexism, and between religious, political and social sects. The reason for it is never justified, and especially when the hate is over an issue that is not talked about enough, it only makes it worse. Another example of how we are so uncomfortable with the condition of intersexes is the way many medical doctors think when a baby is born with what they refer to as “ambiguous genitalia?. The doctors are quick to declare the baby a girl by cutting off anything that could possibly develop into a penis. But at this point, of course, they are not even sure what the extra skin is; it could be a large clitoris or a small penis. So if they took what would have been a penis and cut it off, the baby that is now a “girl? is going to have a hard time growing up feeling like a boy. I really enjoyed this video very much and I am glad that we watched it in class.

What is a girl next door like anyway?

The show The Girls Next Door is a day-in-the-life-of reality style show that views the extreme lifestyles of the girlfriends of Hugh Heffner, magazine mogul and Playboy businessman. Bridget, Holly and Kendra are three women who live in the Playboy mansion in Los Angles, California. The girls have many things in common; their interest in being a Playboy playmate, bleach blonde hair, oversized breasts, tans, as well as that they are ALL dating Hugh Heffner.
The Girls Next Door is set in the Playboy Mansion and airs on Sunday nights at nine on Entertainment Television (E! T.V.). I missed what production companies produce the show.
In my opinion, the intended audience for this program is women. Most would believe that it was planned on generally men viewing it, however, the advertising throughout the program was geared mostly towards younger women and a little towards both sexes. Moreover, the topics of the shows are geared towards interests of women, for example, today’s show was Holly’s 26th Marie Antoinette themed birthday celebration.
In my opinion, the intensions of the program are to glamorize the lifestyles of being a playboy playmate as well as to showcase what are considered “beautiful women.? I feel as though this program does a lot of stereotyping of blonde women. For example, in today’s show Holly says while driving her new Golf Cart, “Contrariety to popular belief we can drive,? referring to her blondness.
Another aspect of the show that I feel dejects the growth of young women is the unnatural assets of the girlfriends. Each girl is showcased in all too small if at all clothing. Each has outsized breasts, unnatural hair, and abnormal tans just to name a few. Our society views this changes as not only attractive but also required to be perceived as beautiful. In the article Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty by Debra L. Gimlin she states, “Cosmetic surgery stands, for many theorists and social critics as the ultimate invasion of the human body for the sake of physical beauty. It epitomizes the astounding lengths to which contemporary women will go to obtain bodies that meet current ideals of attractiveness.? I feel that if it weren’t for programs like The Girls Next Door or the Playboy magazine itself, since it also upholds this ideas, we could reconstruct societies opinion of what is attractive. At one point in the program, Bridget states to the camera as her and Holly are getting dressed into their corset’s for French maid Birthday costumes “To get the look you want waste you must do a lot of synching and lifting your boobs is important too…it hurts to wear but it’s all worth in the end.? I feel this implies the old saying “beauty is pain? and if you don’t experience it than you aren’t truly beautiful. Why do we continue to allow this.

Finally, the show capitalizes on what is feminine. I think that the show showcases the epitome of what girls are and should be. Pink, long blonde hair, and skinny bodies. The present to Holly from Hef was a golf cart completely decked out in pink, glitter and feathers. The presents given by Kendra and Bridget were play dolls and princess gear. The tiara that Holly wore was adorned with her long blonde locks and made into a large part of the show. In the article Hair Still Matters by Ingrid Banks, she states “Ideas about relationship between hair, femininity, and sexuality, as well as images of beauty and male perceptions of femininity, surfaced as the women and girls addressed the question of whether hair is associated with femininity in any way. Several of the women explained how long hair is associated with femininity and how their beliefs have been nurtured through the mainstream media or other external forces.? Such as shows like The Girls Next Door where each “character? has very long, very blonde hair.
In conclusion, I think that this program affects the audience perceptions of what the ideals for beauty are and pushes the limits of what society sees as their fantasy. I think that I can speak for most of us when I say that we are all molded by the programs we watch and the media that manipulates our culture’s views. The Playboy magazine itself showcases women however it is always a specific type of women just as the ones that enter our living rooms every Sunday night. Our society will never shift its views of beauty if we continue to adore people for no specific reason other than their looks.

March 18, 2007

Naturalizing Intersex Bodies

Middlesexes: Redefining He and She
Director: Anthony Thomas
HBO Undercover

I found this film to be very applicable to the field of gender studies because it problematizes the division of bodies by gender. It accomplishes this through complicating biological sex. Middlesexes investigates bodies that are born without clear markers of a defined sexuality. Because essentialism in sexual identity is at stake, the notion of a “natural? sex is deemed problematic.


“The time-consuming nature of intersex diagnosis and the assumption, based on the gender identity theory, that gender be assigned as soon as possible thus present physicians with difficult dilemmas? (Kessler, 60).

Although the film negates gender essentialism by troubling the divide between male and female bodies, it is ripe for analysis because it perpetuates the notion that being “middlesex? is freakish and unfortunate. In the film, Noah’s father explains how he tried to steer Noah away from being “middlesexed.? He says: “Nobody wants their son to grow up like that.? Noah’s father wants his son to be “normal,? thus to be defined by a single gender and sex. This quote entrenches the importance of masculine behavior in “boys? and feminine behavior in “girls.? The father finishes his interview by explaining that Noah’s brother is, “a boy like any other boy.? Again, this statement re-naturalizes masculinity, heterosexism, and gender conformity.

When the HBO announcer refers to middlesex bodies he says, “people with these conditions.? His labeling of intersex bodies as deviant in a program meant to query the issue of biological sex seems to work against the argument the show seeks to expose.

Anne Fausto-Sterling is interviewed in this special on the diagnosis of intersex babies. She is the author of Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. In this book, Fausto-Sterling hashes out the politics of compulsory heterosexuality and sexual determination at birth. She explains the scale and criteria doctors use for male-female determination and pronounces sexual variation to be the norm instead of the deviant. Her argument is similarly oriented to that of Dr. Kinsey and the Kinsey scale regarding sexuality. I hold this book in high regard and recommend it to anyone interested in the politics of sex and gender differentiation and determination.


America's Next Top Model

During the show, there were two competitions. The first competition, the girls ran about a garden to try and apply makeup the fastest and look the best in CoverGirl’s new line of makeup. The second, and larger, competition was a photo shoot trying to sell ice cream. The trick to the shoot was that the women had to be shot nude covered only in bright paint and candy.

The show airs through Casey Warner Television on Wednesdays at 7pm and Encore on Sundays at 8pm. The show is a competition between young women who want a chance to get a step up into the modeling community and plenty of publicity. I believe the show is targeted towards young to middle aged women. Tyra Banks, the host, tries to help women feel more empowered and help them feel more beautiful within their own bodies, but her show contradicts these sentiments through her comments as well as the judges comments.

The show begins with 13 women and with each episode, one woman gets eliminated. I saw the third episode entitled “The Girl That Cries All the Time.? There are two ‘plus-size’ women on the show, and they have a more difficult time on the photo shoots than do the smaller women. For example, during the first competition, the women were all to choose spring dresses to wear before racing to apply spring CoverGirl makeup. The dresses that were available were tailored almost entirely to the smaller girls. The ‘plus-size’ models had much difficulty trying to find anything that would fit half as well as the dresses that fit the others.

Not only were the dresses not fitted appropriately, but during the photo shoot, the comments directed towards the ‘plus-size’ women were much different than the other women. During the shoot, the photographer’s assistant told one of the larger women to suck in her stomach and to let her face take control of the pose and the photograph rather than her body. During the smaller women’s shots, the focus was on their faces and expressions rather than their bodies much less their stomachs. I’m beginning to believe that the show is focused on the women’s faces only as long as their body is ‘perfect’ and petite; it is when you are bigger that your body becomes the focus and the face less important.

Not only were the comments directed towards the ‘plus-size’ women against their bodies, but also the tone seemed to be towards a homogenizing of bodies. The need for sameness was quite prevalent throughout the show. However, there was a pull towards the skinnier side of all. When it came down to elimination time, Tyra continued the negative comments towards one of the ‘plus-size’ women. It is as if the larger women are not seen as women but as imperfect bodies.

What I found interesting about the show was that after viewing it and reading the article, “Introduction: Gender and the plus-size body,? I was reaffirmed by my belief that Tyra was not quite living up to the standards of the media or her own words. According to Moorti and Ross, “Orbach suggests,

The Body is the Message? contends that because all knowledge on this topic emanates from the media, contemporary scholarship should pose a new set of questions that appropriately capture women’s mediated sense of self.
Although it seems that the media needs to step up to the plate and recognize that they hold the responsibility for ensuring that people’s self-esteem remains at a decent level, we cannot depend on it. Later on in the article, Moorti and Ross state that,
The media world that celebrates the thin female body rarely offers weight loss surgery as an acceptable means to attain the ‘idealized’ body.
It sounds much like the show’s mantra. Tyra and her crew talk about being healthy, independent, and beautiful, but what you don’t see them suggest is a means to become thinner. It parades these thin women that are ‘perfect save their faces’ and the ‘plus-size’ women whose faces are less important than their bodies which lack.

MTV: Juvies

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The MTV series Juvies (Thursdays at 10pm, Sundays at 7pm) gives its viewers an inside look at a juvenile detention center and the processes involved with it. The purpose is to show what detention centers are “really? like, and to expose real-life consequences to actions many teens take part in. The show is produced by Viacom, a big business media conglomerate that owns most of the major television stations. The other business that produces Juvies is Calamari Productions, the company that created the show.

The episode of Juvies I watched followed two young men, Steven and Javier, through their short stay at a juvenile detention center in Indiana. Steven, a white 17-year-old varsity football player, was charged with underage drinking and resisting arrest. Javier, a 17-year-old Latin American boy, was charged with theft. Both young men were released to their families, but were put under house arrest. The show chronicled their personal growth during their stay at the detention center.

While not many products are advertised during this show, as it is a documentary of a juvenile detention center and its inmates, the audience is clearly defined. It is obvious that teens are the target of this show because the people whose experiences are chronicled are teens. The point of the show is to illustrate what happens to teens that get in trouble with the law and are admitted to such an institution. The kids on the show get caught doing things like drinking, stealing, running away, etc., and all of which are evident in the lives of most American teens.

In Feminist Frontiers, Judith Lorber states, “For human beings there is no essential femaleness or maleness, femininity or masculinity, womanhood or manhood, but once gender is ascribed, the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations? (47). In other words, this means that naturally, there is no clear definition of a “man? and a “woman?. Instead, society defines what men and women should be, and it holds men and women to that dichotomous standard. This was evident in this episode of Juvies when Javier began to cry. It was only him and the camera, but when he started to cry, he ducked his head out of the camera’s view. This clearly demonstrates Javier’s embarrassment of exhibiting feminine qualities. In our society, men are supposed to be emotionally detached and strong, not soft and emotional like women. By crying, Javier was displaying his vulnerability, another feminine characteristic. According to our society, exhibiting such feminine characteristics makes one “less of a man?. If our society hadn’t constructed two separate, clearly defined genders, Javier would be able to cry (and express any emotion, for that matter) without feeling embarrassed and ashamed.

Another application of the assertion made by Lorber was expressed by both Steven and Javier. In a conversation with his mother during visitation at the detention center, Steven chuckled and lightheartedly told his mom and sister that everybody ran from the police. Similarly, Javier smiled while having his photo taken upon his admission to the institution. Javier also joked around with other inmates about what he stole from the house. These behaviors express both boys’ need to seem macho, strong, and brave. These boys use their masculinity to define themselves. They are either trying to rationalize their behavior as a brave, daring, masculine thing to do, or they are putting on a mask to hide their true feelings of vulnerability around the other boys. After viewing both Steven and Javier break down in front of the camera, the latter seems to be the more realistic evaluation. It is acceptable to feel scared, especially when one is in a detention center and doesn’t know how long he or she will be sentenced to stay there, but our society deems it unacceptable, under any circumstances, for a “real? man to have feminine characteristics.

There was one scene in the show where Javier asked for lotion. When he received it, he began applying it to his arms, legs, and face. This took place in a common room shared with other inmates. In shots of other boys who were witnessing this event, the viewer could easily see that Javier’s behavior wasn’t widely accepted among the other inmates. Though none of the other inmates acted in any way, shape, or form, their facial expressions made it clear that they thought Javier was “weird? or “different? solely based on the fact he was applying lotion to his skin. Our society advocates dirty, rugged men as macho and masculine. In contrast, our society attributes good hygiene, cleanliness, and soft skin to women, femininity, and often to homosexual men as well. The reactions of the other inmates to Javier’s behavior makes it clear that American society’s construct of gender is deeply instilled in the minds of its participants.

In Feminst Frontiers Peggy McIntosh states, “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant? to remain oblivious? (10). McIntosh is saying that in American society, being white gives a person unearned privileges. For example, the majority of white males in America speak English as their primary language. Luckily for them, English is the language of American society. This one unearned advantage is emphasized when Javier speaks with his parents. First, all conversations between the parents and their son were conducted in Spanish. This fact combined with the knowledge that Javier’s parents are immigrants from a Spanish-speaking country makes it obvious that both of Javier’s parents are more comfortable speaking Spanish, most likely because they understand it better than they do English. All of our country’s laws, regulations, and even rights were originally written in English. Many people, especially white people, in American society expect everybody else to learn and understand English. Therefore, Javier’s parents are at an extreme disadvantage in our society because they do not comprehend the English language as well as other English-speaking citizens.

American Idol

For my Reality TV post I decided to watch “American Idol?. As most of you know this is a show that was made to find hidden gems that can sing their hearts out. Millions of people from all over the United States audition for three judges in certain locations while they are on tour. At each location the judges choose the best singers out of the pack and allow them to move onto Hollywood to be judged more. Each week certain people are eliminated until finally about 20 are left. These 20 then perform on live television so that the viewers can vote for who should move on and who should go. The person left is the American Idol and usually ends up becoming a star in the music industry. The judges look for good vocals, performance ability, character, and sadly looks.

This show airs on Fox, which is one of the biggest networks in the world, is on later in the evening around 6:00 or 7:00.The purpose for this show is to literally find America’s Idol. Its intent is to scour the country for hidden musical talent that just needs a big break. The hope is that the person chosen and possibly a couple others will land a record contract that will allow them to fulfill their singing careers. It has proven to be affective in the past, which is why it’s probably still on the air each year. The targeted audience is pretty much every one of all ages, genders, and classes. The fact that it’s on later in the evening allows younger viewers to watch it after school while also allowing adults to watch it after a long day of work. The reason is because they want people of all ages to pick the person so that their musical talent can later on be bought by anyone when they make their first CD. This can also be seen by the commercials that air during the airing of the show. They have commercials for anything from beauty cosmetics, to insurance companies, to retirement funding. The people know that anybody and everybody will be watching the show so they try to get the commercials to appeal to all audiences as well. This allows the station to kill two birds with one stone.
I personally do love this show because it is a great opportunity for someone with musical talent. It is hard to make it in the music industry, so a big break like this could be all that someone needs. The only thing I don’t agree with is how the show goes about initially picking contestants that move onto Hollywood. They try to hide it a little, but for the most part it is known that people that don’t have the “idol look? they probably won’t make it to the finals. The “idol look? is obviously attractive, well brought up, and well kept like the pop stars such as Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears. There were numerous times throughout the show I watched where the judges made comments about how the person looked or how they weren’t singing the way they should. Apparently there’s a certain way these people have to look, act, dress, and sing in order to be the “American Idol?.
Essentially, what they are doing is promoting socialization when they say those things. They’re saying that if you don’t look like what you should look like you have no right to be here no matter how amazing your voice is. That’s a huge problem we have as a society in this world. Everything has to look a certain way to be normal and if it doesn’t we don’t accept those people. Even Bell Hooks states on page 35 of “Feminism is for Everybody? that “nowadays, in a fashion world, especially on the consumer side, clothing that looks like it has been designed simply for reed-thin adolescent girl bodies is the norm?. This is just another example of how girls aren’t “normal? unless they’re really skinny. I don’t know about you but when I’m listening to music I’m not thinking of how the person looks or how they act. Instead, I’m thinking of what they’re voice sounds like. I think the show would be a million times better if they didn’t even show the person singing. Block them out and just have the voice. By doing that you will get the best talent out there instead of just who looks the best.
It’s sad when a person that has more talent than anybody else there doesn’t move on to the next round because they’re not pretty enough or skinny enough or young enough. As Judith Lorber says on page 52 in Feminist Frontiers “For humans, the social is the natural?. We as a society have to move away from the norms that this world has made us think there are. This has to start with the media though and as you’ve heard this show isn’t helping the cause. I personally love this show, but some things definitely need to be changed in order to help change society’s views on what the norms are.

What else do you wear to the beach!?!

The video clip on the African American men harassing the women at Daytona Beach brought back some memories from last spring break. I was vacationing with a bunch of friends and their families for our ‘senior trip’ in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. My friend and I were lying by the pool tanning in our bikinis when we noticed a suspicious older Caucasian man across the pool by the bar taking pictures. We tried to forget about it, because everyone carries around their camera when vacationing, but when the camera began to only focus on us, is when we really became concerned.

I am usually very shy and can brush things off that bother me pretty easily, but in cases like this, I get extremely angry and will defiantly speak my mind. I walked up to the man and demanded to see his pictures, he tried to tell me he was taking pictures of the building, but I finally got him to show me, and the first picture that came up was a zoomed in shot of my chest down to my crotch, the next a full body shot of me walking up to him, the next my friend and I tanning, etc. I began to freak out on him and insisted he deleted them right away and bitched him out for being such a pervert! He then had the courage to say that he took a picture of the bar with a bunch of people in it and asked if I thought they’d like it if I deleted the picture of them too! I eventually got security to kick him out of the hotel premises.
This event seems much like the clip of Daytona Beach. It seems like women are looked at as objects, and are treated with no respect from a great deal of men. Men wear shorts, some even wear tight little speedos, to the beach with no shirt, and get no harassment from women, yet, if a woman wears a bikini to the beach, she’s stared at or gets degrading comments yelled at her. This reminded me of the article by McIntosh talking about male privilege, “Such privilege simply confers dominance, gives permission to control, because of one’s race or sex.? (Feminist Frontiers pg. 13) Men feel they have control and dominance over women and can treat them like objects while calling them names or taking pictures of them. The larger the group of men, the more frequent and more degrading the comments were. Maybe men are pressured to put on the act as the controlling male, but even if they are pressured, they should know better especially because most men in the video were adults. In the article, Black Sexual Politics, Collins states that, “ Like all women, Black women were objects to be seen, enjoyed, purchased, and used, primarily by White men with money? (Feminist Frontiers pg. 321). The Black women in this video clip were seen as objects by both black and white men and called Bitches and Hoes just because they were wearing skimpy clothing. The men got much enjoyment and quite a few laughs by disrespecting the women and it seemed like a game of who could find the biggest Hoe and who could harass her the most. I got extremely upset when they were also played with like toys, and were touched when the men lifted their skirts and took pictures and slapped their buttocks. I only wish that these women will soon get fed up with all this and retaliate and put men in their place!

A World of Dolls

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For my critique, I chose the newest ‘search for a star’ show- The Search for the Next Doll. If you haven’t heard of it, the point of the show is to find a seventh member for the pop girl group The Pussy Cat Dolls. The group and the show seem to embody every gender stereotype we have been picking apart in class. The name of the group itself, “The Pussy Cat Dolls?, implies a promiscuousness and cattiness from the girls with ‘Pussy Cat,’ as well as a sub-human quality by being ‘dolls.’ We have seen all of these ideas, and even labeled them as harmful stereotypes in our discussions, yet here the music industry is blatantly making them idealistic.

The structure of the episode I watched seemed carefully put together to portray and support the stereotypes of what a perfect woman should be. To begin, the ‘Pussy Cat House’ they were taken to had no shortage of decorative hearts and shades of pink. But once in the bedroom, the decor changed to animal prints, depicting that a woman should be sweet and cute on the outside, but an animal in the bed. A little later in the show, the contestants were brought to their first challenge, which turned out to be dancing in lingerie in a glass box at a bar. The challenge was meant to test their confidence, which silently said confidence in sexuality and in physical appearance is more important in a woman than confidence in who she is personally and intellectually. This is not to mention that dancing half naked in a bar invites the world of female objectification. The last structured segment of the show was the elimination, in which the nine contestants stood on a stage each with a hot pink, feather boa. The one eliminated, was asked to “please hang up [her] boa? to signify she had lost. She had failed, and proven she was not the best of the women, and therefore was not worthy of the pink feather boa.

The contestants and their expectations, actions and goals also perpetuate the stereotypes of what a woman should be. Near the beginning, one of the contestants confessed, “I used to be extremely overweight, like up to 192 pounds. I went from no friends and not being very attractive at all, to having the chance to be in one of the sexiest girl groups.? Her comment shows the direct link in our society between attractiveness in women and their success socially and financially. She admitted without pause that the change in her weight was the sole force that changed her life from deficient to successful.

The girl’s actions also strongly illustrated popular feminine stereotypes. Three different times in the hour long show the girls cried about pressures and failures, making them both overly sensitive and incompetent at the same time. The girls stressed the importance of their physical appearance and beauty when they were told they only had one hour to get ready to have dinner with guests and they all sprinted to their rooms. They also were made to seem gossipy and catty as a shot sequence showed two girls looking in the direction of a clumsy fellow contestant and then shrieking with laughter.

The Search for the Next Doll seemed to pull together every feminine stereotype they could and push it out to the viewer as ideal and attractive. They covered women being toys, both sexual and trophy-like, women being unstable and incompetent, and even grabbed the hypocrisy of being promiscuous yet chaste. The contestant who was eliminated at the end was let go because the judges thought “sometimes she says ‘sex,’ not ‘sexy.’? These are the characteristics of The Pussy Cat Dolls, the group that parallels the Spice Girls of our generation. These are currently the role models of our siblings, and the women they will try to imitate in their real life interactions. This is the message of our mainstream culture and undeniable evidence that gender stereotypes and sexism still strongly exist in our society. This is evidence that feminism is still needed in our generation, that it not unnecessary or without purpose, and I believe evidence that the media is feminism’s biggest target.

Our Brain-Washed Society

The video I liked best was the one that talked about transvestite or transsexual people. I thought that it was very interesting to see how different people acted towards them including close family and friends. As Judith Lorber says on page 41 of Feminist Frontiers, “We are uncomfortable until we have successfully placed a person in a gender status; otherwise, we feel socially dislocated?. I thought that quote was well portrayed with how the little kid got made fun of in school and how the older women talked about how other transsexuals she knew got treated. It seems like if people don’t know something they get scared and protective for no reason. To actually have the child make the comment about being a girl and that’s all the kids at school should know was very eye-opening. Also, to know that it doesn’t get better when you get older scares me. It’s sad that the world is like that, but it is. It was very refreshing to know that there are people out there that can accept these people for who they are like the couple with the child. She knew what he was and was ok with it even though it was hard at first. Also, the parents were very supportive of their child as well, because they knew that if that’s what the kid wanted they should want it to.

It’s just a horrible world we live in when a women gets beaten to death just because she’s not “normal? in every one else eyes. We need to start realizing that nobody is the same or has the same thoughts and feelings as anybody else. I hate to say it but I don’t think that will ever happen because society has been brain-washed too much. It’s just sad that in a country where millions of people come here to get freedom we never really get it. I just wish all people could watch videos like this one to show them what it’s like and how hard it is for those people. Maybe then could we as a society stop being so scared of someone who really isn’t any different then us at all.

The Hills

MTV’s reality TV Show “The Hills? follows a young woman living in California as she completes her internship with Teen Vogue. In the March 7th episode, Heidi is in Santa Barbara for the weekend with her boyfriend Spencer. Meanwhile, her best friend and roommate Lauren is working on an intense photo shoot in which hangers facing the wrong direction constitute a crisis. Her own weekend plans revolve around a double date with Blake, the tough hockey player. During the date, they make small talk and gossip about Spencer. Afterwards, Lauren chalks it up to a successful date, even though they both lament the fact that he didn’t get her number. Heidi had planned a girl’s night for her and Lauren when she got back, but she ditches it to go to a movie with Spencer.

The program was produced by MTV, presumably for a teenage audience. It airs on Wednesday evenings at 8:00, a time when most students in the target audience would have free time to watch it, and it can also be viewed online. The main goal of MTV seems to be exposing a young audience to pop culture and providing them with unrealistic “role models.?
The online version of the show consisted of a tiny screen with a constant barrage of advertisements below the screen. The ads targeted teens and young adults who would “identify? with the characters. The products advertised promise to give the consumers access to the glamorous, materialistic “reality? they are watching. Products such as “The Sims 2? and “Jessica Simpson hairdo extension? promote living vicariously, while one slogan for vhills.mtv.com actually reads: “Don’t just watch Lauren – live her life!? Ads for movies such as “Burnout Dominator? show guys are being targeted as well. The advertisement for Borat is ironic because this movie exposes and ridicules the cultural stereotypes, such as the frat boy mentality toward women, that shallow reality TV shows base themselves on. The common trend of these ads is to captivate a young generation yearning for the excitement of the characters on the show and then to sell them products that will make their own lives seem just as hip.
The obvious irony of reality TV is that it is not, in fact, realistic. The portrayal of young women in “The Hills? is normalized to a very narrow, unattainable, and unhealthy image. According to “The Hills,? women’s interests lie solely in fashion and men. And in effect, the purpose of fashion is to attract men, as shown by a well-dressed couple kissing in the photo shoot scene. This is patriarchy at its most powerful, suggesting that women’s lives are dominated by the task of finding a male partner. Hooks would refer to this focus as “’the enemy within,’ referring to our internalized sexism? (Hooks 14). The physical image of women is normalized as well: all of the characters are thin, beautiful, and wearing makeup and expensive clothing. The intention by the women is presumably attracting men, and the result is the men’s objectifying of the women. Spencer’s line to Heidi was: “How cute are you today, want to go to Santa Barbara?? Women are virtually powerless in this scenario because their sole worth rests on a characteristic over which they have minimal control. There was also no racial diversity on the show, and all of the dating and relationships were strictly heterosexual. All of the characters were from privileged economic classes, as shown by the fact that they were living the high life while steaming clothes for a living and then driving a Mercedes Benz home to their classy apartment.
Men are not central characters, but their influence is manifest in the friendships of the women. Heidi and Lauren’s “best friend? status was on the brink of collapse because a boyfriend was coming between them. Lauren’s other female friendship revolved around their double date and mutual search for male companions. The cat fights that result from female’s male-centered relationships show the power of patriarchy to dominate women.
Males are also objectified and normalized in reality TV. Audrey Lorde points out the cookie-cutter man: “’white, thin, male, young, heterosexual…and financially secure’? (Lorde 340). Here we see the connection to the advertisement: this ideal image fuels a market in which consumers attempt to buy perfection. Patriarchy also backs men into a corner: Lauren expressed her relief that her date was a hockey player and not a “wussy.? In addition, he was the one who failed to get her number, showing his burden of responsibility in perpetuating the relationship. Hooks points out that men are “psychologically dependent on the privileges (however relative) that they receive simply for having been born male. Many men feel that their lives are being threatened if these privileges are taken away, as they have structured no meaningful core identity? (Hooks 70). The date was a success in Lauren’s eyes because he was a good-looking athlete capable of small talk, not because she was impressed by his integrity of strength of character.
The teenage audience is highly impressionable. This show systematically presents them with an unrealistic standard which in turn lowers their self esteem and makes them more apt to buy conveniently advertised products that allow them to compensate for their perceived failures. The show is produced by MTV, a highly commercialized and far-reaching pop-culture giant. According to Viacom, which owns MTV, “MTV is the #1 24-hour ad-supported cable network among 12-34 year olds, 18-24 year olds and 12-24 year olds.? Given this information, the connection between pop culture idols, advertising, and teenage consumers is not surprising. The normalization reinforces gender and relationship stereotypes, leaving little room for change. The show does not challenge us to expand our tolerance for diversity in any aspect, rather it perpetuates the status quo. In addition, it directs our focus toward shallow materialism and away from any meaningful social message.
From a feminist’s viewpoint, “The Hills? falls perfectly into the type of normalizing mass-media that inhibits social progress.

Works Cited
Hooks, bell. Feminism is for EVERYBODY: Passionate Politics. Cambridge: South End Press, 2000.

“MTV: Music Television.? Viacom.com. 2005. Viacom International Inc. 18 March 2007. < http://www.viacom.com/view_brand.jhtml?inID=4§ionid=2>.

“The Hills.? MTV. 7 March 2007.

Yep, Gust and Ariana Ochoa Camacho. “The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor.? Commentary and Criticism. 340. (Quotation of Audrey Lorde).

Ungenderd and Endangered or Gendered and Locked in a False Binary?

Edward Guerro Junior had lived a significant part of his life, and was brutally murdered, in a different identity; she was severely hit and strangled to death by three friends, some of which she had sex with. They knew her in the name Gwen, and had killed her in the fall of 2002, after discovering the fact she had male genitals. She was the 23rd person murdered in the U.S. by men they had relations with in twelve months. The statistics did not improve much since this winter night in California: about 50% of intersexed people are either killed or commit suicide before they become 18 years old (according to the movie Middlesexes; Redefining He and She).
Especially in the United States the perceived gender roles are very strictly enforced. Deviation from the norm is usually punished quickly and violently, especially if there are men who feel their masculinity was put into question because of their interaction with the “deviant? other. Despite improvement in enforcement and punishment, “gender-based? hate crimes are all but vanished from the United States political and social landscape.

In young, urban, educated and pluralist settings there is growing tolerance and acceptance of GLBTQQ’s and people Holly Devor calls “genders blenders? (in 1989, almost twenty years ago). Genders blenders, according to Devor, were women who “refused to do femininity? (Devor, Qtd. in Lorber, 45) by dressing in identifiable women’s clothes, wearing makeup and otherwise behaving in ways that were deemed appropriate for women. The women Devor interviewed wore unisex clothes, cut their hair short, but did not necessarily saw themselves as men. Some of these women pass as women in the private sphere, behave as men in the public sphere, and generally attempted blending into the two acceptable genders- not challenging the existent gender system. The future may hold hope for greater acceptance of variation of gender, sex and identity, and reduction in the violence between the two approved genders in our society, but in the near future we will still leave in a society that define genders in a sharp binary and severely punishes any variation from the norm.
In the world of violent masculinity there are sharp and clear divisions. Men are supposed to always pursue sexual relations, have them or even “take them? by almost any mean: the worst curse a “manly man? like some people in the hip-hop industry can hit with is being a woman (which is mostly equate with being some animal, body part or “cry baby?).
Some men who demonstrate what Ray Birdwhistell calls “tertiary sex characteristics? (talk, walk, gestures and other means of communication, Qtd. in Lorber, 46) which are deemed inappropriate for men can also suffer from a violent response of “real men? who feel their masculinity is challenged by these “unmanly? behaviors or ways of communication. But the violent masculinity is in trouble, as Jackson Katz (and other anti-violence advocates) note: even men who behave “appropriately? (violently) cannot protect themselves or their families from becoming victims of other men’s violence. Jackson Katz is not alone in his warning that we have to find other ways to structure our gender relationships: Marvin (?) Byron warns in the movie Bits and Rhymes from the violent misogyny in hip-hop music, which turns quickly into a range of violent behaviors, Robert Jensen researched the penetration of pornography into our culture and the “mainstreaming? of what used to be called “hard-core? pornography, and Tony Porter publishes “calls for men? to stop being “well meaning men? and become well behaving ones.
With the greater involvement of men in anti-violence movements (women were there long before men) there is a growing hope for better, more peaceful and accepting future for intersexed babies and GLBTQQ’s in the United States. I hope to see the days in which the gender hate-crimes of the early 21st century would look like the dark-ages looked to us now; a long past period of violent intolerance that would and should never return to hunt us.

My london bridge wanna go down

I wasn’t able to actually view a television show by virtue of not having cable and not wanting to afford an iTunes rendition of crappy TV. However, I was able to view clips from certain websites, and was provided a synopsis of what was going on in some former episodes of the British version’s “What Not To Wear?. In the American version, two fashionistas surprise an ugly old maid with the chance to go on the shopping spree of a lifetime. While this obviously has its offenses, the Brit’s version gives a slight twist that to me is hilarious.

The Title: Doesn’t this title just give you that itchy annoyance…like a valley girl’s vocal chords? It’s simple, it’s blunt, and it screams offensive. In itself, the title of the show alienates the viewer, and almost forcibly turns your own critiques inwardly: quietly wondering, “what shouldn’t I wear?? What not to wear. Say that tree times over and I’m quite sure anyone could understand the obvious connotations this show will share.
The Hosts: While surfing along on the website, attempting to gather all information possible, I was greeted by two caring faces clutching mannequins, and only strutting the hottest dangly earrings. I find out that the hosts of this show are model Lisa Butcher, and singer Mica Paris.
The Twist: So here’s the hilarious part, the UK ‘programmes’ of “What Not To Wear? feature various themes ranging from widowers to post-mastectomy to former teenage mums. Here, our hosts attempt to revitalize confidence in these women by dressing them up. Don’t quite see the hilarity? We’ll get into that.
The Boring Stuff: This version of the show is a BBC production, which is rooted in the UK. Their show is under the heading “Lifestyle?, which, based on the surrounding links, is produced for women with an emphasis on health and style. The site, and this particular show seem to be attracting a female crowd of their mid-20 to 50’s.
Focusing on the teenage mothers program, the website gives the viewer personal information about a couple of ladies who participated. In this, they allow you to find out that their teenage pregnancy apparently allowed their bodies to “balloon? and for them to lose track of their own self-image. So, our hosts will nobly take a stance against self-consciousness, and make these women confident!
I think it’s a bit unfair from the get go to have a model and singer giving advice about beauty. Becoming a part of the public eye in terms of looks isn’t for everybody, that’s why modeling seems like such another world to most of us. Perhaps this perception is why we automatically give these hosts clout. We perceive beauty as it’s shown to us. In today’s mass-media culture, we are constantly being bombarded with shallow interpretations, and misrepresentations of what beauty is and should be. Opposite to what is perceived as beauty, there is ugly. We learn to perceive these hosts as what beauty is, and next to them, the woman who we’re told needs fixing, is ugly.
Moreover, this show attempts to professionalize the critique of style and looks. Using language that is unique only to that particular field, it becomes gibberish to anyone not versed in cuts, and styles. With this professionalization of a field comes a new respect for it. No longer are we looking at these hosts as cute girls who know how to dress themselves, now we are seeing fashion as a science. There is a constant patronization of the participant that comes with teaching her of this field, that is fashion. So, why do we put so much emphasis on style, and why do we grant women (with no impressive career) empowerment in this (shallow) social hierarchy?
In order to understand this social complex, we always have to go back to roots. Must we be reminded, however, that fashion, style, and it’s relation to the female has been changing and progressing over time? It’s such a foggy progression, but with a cynical lens, it’s quite clear that it is a prevalent ideal in modern society. Unfortunately, style is generally synonymous to slender, which “What Not To Wear? is sure to point out. As mentioned earlier, they emphasize the women’s weight as a ballooning effect during their pregnancy. Here, there is an obvious parallel between weight and fashion. In Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s article, “Fasting Girls: The Emerging Ideal of Slenderness in American Culture?, she creates a fascinating point in regards to the roots of slenderness in the fashion industry. She says that the standardization of sizing in the 1920’s “…put increased emphasis on personal body size and gave legitimacy to the idea of a normative size range.? Now that makes sense.
Putting that annoying little twist into perspective now, we can draw an even broader parallel. Somehow, the creator’s of this show, and assumedly the hosts attest that looking better than you did will emancipate you from the scourge of life. Somehow this makeup and dress will put courage onto your skin, further injecting itself into your blood stream, flowing throughout your body, and will purge itself into an outward glow of confidence and vitality. Perhaps this was a bit verbose, but at least we can now understand how ridiculous this thematic TV show is.
Somehow it got into the minds of contemporary society that confidence is equivalent to looking good. It’s true, when I’m feeling hot, I feel hot. I don’t think there is actually any biological reasoning for this, though. It’s purely a social perception that is embedded through media and other subversive notions. Clearly, as I’m sure we all have seen, media has an intense effect on who we are and how we act. The participants in this show willingly obliged to being made over because they wanted to have more confidence in their self-image. I dare say, however, this “self-help? is established through outside influence…perhaps, a process of self-normalizing? Debra L. Gimlin talks of female normality specifically in the field of plastic surgery in her article, “Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty?. She argues that while women are not necessarily looking for beauty in cosmetic surgery, they are instead “…responding to highly restrictive notions of normality and the “normal? self…?

Bitch Niggaz

In the clip we saw in Beyond Beats and Rhymes clip on “Bitch Niggaz? the dialogue was the most shocking because the men talked about the women very bluntly and harassingly. The men split women into sisters and bitches. Sisters were the friends or mother of his baby, whereas the bitches were the women who are bound to be a baby’s mama r someone sexually active. The men use the language as if it was no big deal. The majority of the assumptions of names were designated by the appearance of the various women. The women were dressed mostly in short shorts and bikinis, pretty standard beach attire. I wonder if the women were of a different race, especially white, if the response would have been different. If the women were not colored would they still have been categorized as sisters and bitches? Would there me more respect for women in general if this dialogue did not exist? According to bell hooks appearance obsession is the result of an “industry of sexist defined fashion?( page 33). If we did not have predetermined ideas about fashion, created predominantly by men, would this dialogue exist? This whole idea about the ideals of fashion being created by someone other than it pertains to seems a little out of the ordinary to begin with. I grew up in an area where high fashion essentially did not exist. I grew up in a farm house, with farm neighbors. My high school was made up of mostly farmers. There were only two black students in my school, one was adopted by a white family, and the other was an exchange student. This dialogue would have shocked the people of my community just as it had shocked me. When I moved here to the cities, I realized how much of the world I was naïve to. Is it the genre of music’s fault? Can we solely base it on the lyrics and the hype of hip hop?


I thought this clip was quite interesting because of the dichotomy that was created one again, not by race or by gender, but by appearance. Dichotomies are present everywhere.

Film Response

The clip that we watched in class that interested me the most was the one about sistas and Hoes. I personally don’t listen to a lot of rap but I am not offended by them referring to women as bitches and hoes. As the girls who were interview said they weren’t offended either. Maybe it should be more offensive but it just seems like more of a way to differentiate between different types of women. Hoes obviously don’t get the same respect as sistas. They made it seem like Hoes were something they wanted to just have sex with.

This was kind of dehumanizing and the women maybe should be able wear what they want but they know what kind of attention they are going to get when they go out dressed that way into a situation where it is not as appropriate. The clip actually made me think of a line from a Dr Dre song that says “you can’t make a hoe a housewife?. A hoe is not the type of woman you would want to marry. I feel that when they refer to woman as hoes it is women who don’t appear to have respect for themselves so how can guys respect them. It is not just about how you dress, sistas could dress to look good to guy but in a respectable way. I don’t think there is any excuse for men to dehumanize these women for any reason by molesting them. They should not grab at them no matter what they wear. You would think that when he women dressed like the women in the videos who are being groped they might realize they guys watch the videos as well and might think that its alright to grab at them. I think that these videos that the artists are representing are creating these gendered sexual scripts as talked about in The Social Construction of Gender: “Gendered sexual scripts, the normative patterns of sexual desire and sexual behavior, as prescribed for the different gender statuses. Members of the dominant gender have more sexual prerogatives; members of a subordinate gender may be sexually exploited.? (Feminist Frontiers p. 49) They are getting these ideas that women are just there to dance and shake their ass’s for men.

The Agency

Infiltrating the modeling industry like no other television series has, "The Agency" takes a stark look at the men and women, who search for, mold, scold and comfort raw, young beauties -- all in an effort to groom the world's most marketable people. The series is not just about glamour. It's about the harsh realities of a business in which millions of dollars are at stake daily, and the competition for landing high-end models and campaigns can lead to both euphoric victories and bitter defeats. Created by VH1 a programming and MTV network, The Agency airs on VH1 Tuesdays at 9:00.

The show is targeted towards a young adult and teen audience. Many of the commercials are clothing and beauty based. The show gives many women the false perception of what women should look and act like. Therefore, advertising companies take advantage of the message of what a beautiful woman is and advertise clothing, make-up, perfume, purses, accessories, shoes, anything a woman would buy to make themselves feel that they are more attractive.

After researching the show I found it funny that the agency, Wilhelmina Models, states on there website that this modeling agency represents talent ranging from super-star men and women, to full figured women. However, throughout the whole episode I watched I did not see one “full figured? women.
This show is very good at showing what media portrays as the ultimate and most attractive figure. In the episode I watched you could see the already signed models, which of course fit that stereotype of tall and obscenely skinny. However, I got to see a lot of the models trying out for the agency and most declined for ridiculous reasons. There was a scene where ten girls were lined up and each had to go in front a panel of judges who would determine if they would receive a career with the agency. It was horrible when all you heard out of the judges for the first three girls were “bunny face,? “big nose,? and “horrible skin.? The judges were utterly humiliating to these girls because they did not have what they consider the perfect body.
The agency has what they call the “high-end board? which is used to find high end fashion models. Becky, one of the leaders of this board, describe a model as having a canoe chin, wide nose, and she is nothing special. Becky does not follow the gender roles; she is brutally honest, cusses, speaks in a deep voice, and does and says what she wants. However, she takes it way to far and basically put down and humiliated every model she was looking at. Fredrick Schick elaborates on the interpersonal dynamics of humiliation. “He argues that a defining characteristic of the process is that the victim is made passive and conscious of the humiliating act, while perpetrators must be aware of the victim’s condition and derive satisfaction from it: being somehow disempowered is basic to every humiliation. But it must be a disempowerment forced on the subject’s attention (humiliation essay).?
You could really see the gender and class roles played out in this show. The white rich male was the president of the company and all the photographers featured were males. Mainly the people in charge of telling the models what to do were white privileged males. Laurel Richardson states, “These verbal practices are consistent with the gender stereotypes that we encounter in everyday life. Women are thought to be a part of man, nonautonomous, dependent, relegated to roles that require few skills, characteristically incompetent and immature, sexual objects, best defined in terms of their relations with men.?(Gender Stereotyping in the English language, pg. 103) This quote shows perfectly that women are supposed to do what men want and tell them and they are basically just their for men to look at them as sexual objects. This was represented almost perfectly in the show “The Agency.?
I found it very striking when one of the male models was told he needed to gain weight and bulk up if he wanted to go on casting calls. There is just one good weight for both men and women, if you are to skinny you are called anorexic or bulimic and if you are too heavy you are called fat. This show really showed me that reality TV puts out a false impression for all the young men and women trying to feel good about themselves and feeling they have to take drastic measures to get there so called “perfect body.?

Bam's Unholy Union

Bam’s Unholy union is a reality show on MTV. It is similar to shows such as Newlyweds except with Bam Margera and his fiancé Missy. Bam is a pro skater who is most famous for his crazy stunts and TV shows like Jackass. In this series Bam and Missy have to plan their wedding in a very short period of 3 months. Most of the work is put on Missy as Bam doesn’t want to have anything to do with planning the wedding. The episode I watched was titled, “Off With her Shirt?. In this episode Missy is approached by playboy to do a celebrity guest photographer shoot of Missy by Bam. She decides to do the photo shoot as a gift to Bam for their wedding. Missy wants to do the shoot her way but Bam assures her that it doesn’t work like that. Bam’s Unholy Union airs on MTV Tuesday nights at 8:30. It is produced by Sonar entertainment, MTV series entertainment, and Bam Margera Productions.

Bam’s Unholy Union is directed towards teenaged boys. Bam being a pro skater and kind a buddy figure is appealing to younger boys. The commercials are also aimed at the average MTV audience which is that younger high school aged people. Commercials for shoes or Axe body spray which is depicted as attracting flocks of women are aired during the commercial breaks.
Bell Hooks talks about equality in a relationship each partner should treat the other with respect. Bam is constantly disrespecting Missy. He does things he know will bother her or hurt her feeling and feels that her can “win her back? usually by buying her something. There is not a lot of equality in Bam and Missy’s relationship. Bam does nothing to help Missy plan the wedding and actually makes it harder for her by messing things up and making last minute changes. He also brings his friends along on things that he shouldn’t and they act like children. Whatever Bam says goes. Missy is forced to do all the work but if he decides he doesn’t approve of her decisions they are vetoed and she has to go back and change things. Bam also does things that he know bother Missy. In this episode Bam takes Missy’s Ugg boots off her feet and throws them into the fire because he doesn’t like them. She is obviously upset but he doesn’t apologize and says that he can “win her back?. He is constantly doing mean things and then trying to make up for things by buying her stuff.
Women and men’s roles are very divided into stereotypical gender roles in this series. The men are shown drinking, fighting and playing. The women are shown cooking and planning weddings and having girls night type events. Then the boys end up coming in and messing up the events. Missy is viewed as an object at times or just Bam’s fiancé. Even in the title Bam’s Unholy Union only Bam’s name is present. Bam is the only one who is mentioned in the title even though it takes two people to get married.
They also use sexuality to sell the show. Missy and her friends go to a lingerie shop to look for things she can wear for Bam on the Honeymoon and wedding night. They shop and look at things such as crotch-less panties. Missy is also dressed up in lingerie to do a playboy shoot for Bam. When the Playboy crew arrives Bam asks them if the “no boob? thing is an issue, since Missy does not have the largest chest. This seems to imply the a large chest is what make women appealing to men. They assure them that they have their “tricks? which will make Missy’s chest appear bigger.

This show is being marketed and directed towards young males. However it is not giving them a good idea of what an engagement or other relationship is supposed to be about. In “Night to His Day? : The Social Construction of Gender, it states “The pervasiveness of gender as a way of structuring social life demands that gender statuses be clearly differentiated.? (Feminist Frontiers p. 47) This TV show is illustrating to young mean a stereotypical view of a man and a woman’s role in an engagement type relationship. Young boys are looking up to Bam who is a pro skater which is something a lot of young boys really think is cool . It implies that women are supposed to do the girly things and take their clothes off to impress their partners while men don’t have to do anything other than buy them presents when they make their partner angry at them. It is not ok to intentionally make your partner angry for your own amusement and then just buy them back.
As talked about in the article “Humiliation, Subjectivity, and Reality TV? Bam and his friends use humiliation as the basis of their shows. “the object of humiliation must know s/he is being humiliated and the perpetrator must be willfully exercising that power? Which is the exact thing that Bam does. He will either convince his friends to humiliate themselves or he will subject them to humiliation. He does this to his fiancé as well in a less direct way. He will embarrass her by brining his friends around to do stupid things with him in front the people she is trying to have serious conversations with such as the wedding planners and other people working on the wedding.


What Are You?

In Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks proclaims, “Cultures of domination attack self-esteem, replacing it with a notion that we derive out sense of being from dominion over another. Patriarchal masculinity teaches men that their sense of self and identity, their reason for being, resides in their capacity to dominate others? (70). This notion of belittling ones self-esteem crosses many cultural borders. In ‘Bitch Niggaz’, a clip from Beyond Beats and Rhymes, the detailing of this practice within the Hip-Hop community is highlighted.

Why do we as humans feel better about ourselves when we compare ourselves to another person? Is it because of the constant race where only the strong survive, and knowing we have an edge over someone else makes us strong? Or is it for narcissistic values, where we can feel better mentally by bringing someone down? Or is it a power complex, where we can gain a sense of control and power over others by attacking their mental state? All these and more are each different reasons in which we may begin to understand why we attempt to dominate others. In the clip viewed in class, there was much discussion between what made a man a ‘Bitch Nigga’ or a ‘Pussy Nigga’. What’s so bad about a man with some feminine characteristics? Males and females borrow from each other’s ideals, beliefs and traits. Is a man only a man if he is 100% male? According to some in the hip-hop community, it’s necessary for a person to be alpha-male. They must fill the stereotypes required, whether or not they hold negative connotations (thug, criminal intentions, moral debates). If any one strays from this demeanor they are called out, much like how 50 Cent called out Ja Rule at a concert for crying in a music video.

In the clip they also showed an event called Spring Bling, presented by BET, where many in the hip hop community gather during the spring and enjoy music. Females are presented at this event in a sexual demeanor. They are seen as targets of sexual desire. Men do not hesitate to go up and grab a female in the ass or aim their camera up their skirts. Some women let them do it; others fight back and mean it, while others fight back in a playful, “ill let you win later? way. This clip further extended the stereotypes required by the hip hop community to fulfill as they talk about the differences between ‘sista’s’ and ‘ho’s’. Men can sleep with ho’s as long as you never marry one. You can only marry a sista. Sista’s can’t sleep around, that right is reserved for ho’s. This small part of the clip sheds light on the fact that women also participate in the power complex of bringing others down for one’s own personal enjoyment.

Project Runway, Second Season: The Not-So-Glorious Fashion World in Reality T.V.

Working on the reality television project was somewhat challenging for a cabelless television hater like me, but when I thought everything was lost I fell upon Project Runway: Season II and the first chapter of this season became the subject of my feminist inquiry. Project Runway is a reality television show that puts 16 new and established fashion designers in a competition for a prize of $100,000 and the opportunity to design their own clothing line. The big sponsors of the show are Banana Republic (which is owned by Gap Inc.) and L’Oreal, and the host is the model/actress Heidi Klum (armed with a slight German accent and a 2nd or 3rd trimester pregnancy as the show begins, which is actually the first time I can recall seeing a pregnant women host a fashion show on American television).
Like most reality shows (if I understand the concept right) there is a bitter and high tension competition between the participants, a few of whom are eliminated in each chapter of the season, and both competitors and fashion “judges? address the cameras and speak to the viewers at home about their feelings and opinions about the fashion designers, models and of course, the designed clothes.

The intended audience for this show is probably young people (mostly women and gay men, if we fall into the old stereotypes) who are interested in fashion and in the last fashion that is the most trendy right now (at this moment as we speak, or in case of late bloomers like me, in the last season of the Runway Project). In a way it was a pretty hard show to evaluate critically since it diverged from other forms of reality television in its diversity and relatively equal representation of men and women (at least among the competitors). The show also presents people (mostly women) in a wider variety of ages and roles than the average RTV show. According to Judith Halberstam, “all (participants) tend to be young, good-looking and financially secure? in RTV shows, but among the competitors in Runway there are at least two women there who are more than 35 years old (one who is more than fifty years old), and the youngest competitors are in their early 20’s (when on most reality shows they would be the “old fellows? of the show).
So Project Runway shows men and women, including gay men, non-white men and women, and even older women, so is it all good from a feminist point of view? Well, not quite. There are some issues that linger even in this (relatively good, feminist-wise) RTV show, the first of which is the average body weight of the models (e.g. the young women that are there only as clothes hangers, or mannequins, for the competitors’ designed clothes).
I would prefer to see women of healthy weight on television and ads, but I understand that making ninety percent of the women in the world feel bad about their body weight and shape is part of the job of fashion models today. The women in the show were mostly good performers of the “walking-skeletons? fashions. One or two of them maybe were somewhat close to normal weight (from the very skinny side) but most were tall, walking skeletons. When you can see the ribcage and shoulder blades of a model on the runway you may start feeling she may be sending a unhealthy message about body image and weight to the viewers at home, but when they stand near “their? designers (without saying a word, of course, they are not there to talk) and their wrists are about half the wrist size of “their? designers (non of whom was fat, even though the two that were first eliminated in the first show had healthy figures) you definitely notice the models are extremely skinny.
The young and skinny models are not the only women figures in the show, though, and Heidi Klum (the show’s host and one of the designers’ judges) does provide a somewhat different image of women, maybe. She is very visibly pregnant in this first chapter of the show, but still wears “sexy? clothes that are light in color and show a lot of skin (especially breasts and legs). Ms. Klum shows that even pregnant women can (or should?) be sexy, blond, big eyed and well dressed. It is good and refreshing to see pregnant women on television (and not as a “bad girl? or murder victim in CSI) but I also think she must look much better than any real pregnant women in her second (or third?) trimester. Most women cannot usually afford an army of dietitians, personal trainers, makeup artists, clothe and hair designers, and who knows what else that make Heidi Klum look so good “in her condition?.
The thing that makes the show “real? and makes it work is the strong emphasis on the competitors’ emotions, hopes, faces and body gestures as they stand in front of the judges to hear the verdicts on their designs or their participation in the show (or removal from it). The more raw emotions in the show, the more attraction and “reality? it reflects to viewers. This drive to see “reality? (even if it is a well scripted, edited and acted “reality?) in television thus becomes a main drive for the reality television to show “more?: more emotions, tears, anger-tantrums and cut-throat competitions, and also more joy and happiness of the winners in the shows.
Project Runway is now in its 3rd season (I think) because it provides viewers with what they want to see: according to a study “conducted for Psychology Today…RTV viewers place a very high value on both revenge and competition; most prominent among the attitudes expressed by fans surveyed, however, is the desire for prestige and status? (Mandible, Myra) . This show has both bitter competition and a struggle for success and prestige, and it is therefore as attractive and interesting for RTV viewers as any other show of this kind.
Reality television has not become any more liked by me after watching Project Runway and attempting to analyze it through feminist lenses. This show happened to be better than many others in its representations of race, age and sexual diversity, but it still portrayed mostly unhealthy images of women among both models and competitors in the show. It is important to end with the little reminder that “reality TV? is no more “real? that any other movie or program on television or in cinema. The effects of RTV are greater because many people believe what they see is “real?, and this is also the reason feminist cultural critics have to continue educate themselves and the public around them of the true nature of the reality TV shows like Project Runway.

The Hills

The Hills is a spin off of the first generation cast of Laguna Beach. It features Lauren Conrad also known as L.C in Laguna Beach as the main character. Similar to Laguna Beach, the Hills is a reality television show based on the journey of Lauren Conrad in her quest at starting a new life at a different city than Orange County. Hence, it is no surprised that the show is narrated by Lauren herself. Through each episode, we as the audience get a glimpse of how Lauren lives her life as she juggles school, work, and friendship. The Hills is currently now showing on Monday, at 9 o’clock central time on MTV.

Similar to Laguna Beach, The Hills is also a MTV production. The show is designed to specifically aim at the female audience especially those from the age group of “tween? and above. Besides its schedule running time on Monday, MTV also has the show on many repeats throughout the week. The episode that I watched and chose to complete the analysis on is the latest episode that aired last Monday. It was called “New Year. New Friends?. During the episode, I have noticed that the majority of the commercials that were played were mostly on cars, cosmetics, and clothing.
The episode I watched was a continuation of the fight between Lauren and her best friend, Heidi. Apparently, Lauren is mad at Heidi for choosing her boyfriend, Spencer, over their friendship. Lauren had tried many times to convince Heidi that Spencer is a bad guy and that he will hurt her. Thus despite through her numerous attempts, it had only made her friendship with Heidi worst. Although this might seem just like any normal problem that anybody can experience, The Hills is far more than a mere accurate representation of reality. The show confirms many of the theory that we have discussed in class.
First, The Hills demonstrated perfectly the concept of class differences and white privilege. Lauren and all the cast members from the show all came from rich, upper class families. They live a luxurious live and had nothing but the best. Lauren and Heidi live in private, gated villa while other cast members reside in million dollar houses. They drive cars that an average American could never afford in his/her life. Simply put, they never have to worry about anything except for their own emotional needs. They are privileged in every aspect of life. The only time that Lauren and her friends ever feel distraught is about boys or having to figure out what place or things to do next. The show made this even more obvious by only taping the time that Lauren and the cast members go shopping, dine, and clubbing. Although it is mentioned briefly that Lauren goes to school. But of course, there would be no scene showing that she does. It would simply be too boring for reality t.v.
Furthermore, another concept that is very obvious in the show is gender differences and physical appearance. Even though the show might have more female cast members than male and that it may seem like the message that it’s sending is about gender equality, what actually appears when the show airs is completely different. First, on the issue of physical appearance, the characters in the show confirm exactly to the image that the media is portraying. They are thin, skinny and are dressed in the latest fashion trend. Not one single character in The Hills is overweight or badly dressed. Chanel, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, there are just a few examples of the fashion designers that are shown. In other words, Lauren and the cast members are simply a walking advertisement for the media. This sends out a very bad message to people who are watching especially those who are in their adolescent years. Just like Deborah has stated in her article called The Short Happy Life of Plus Size Women Fashion Magazine, our society has “continue to face the relentless homogenizing of the of the female body? (sarbin page 5) from every aspects especially the media, and this only further help contribute to the rising epidemic of anorexia. As was suggested in the Cara Hood’s article, “dieting is not a solution, rather than the means to produce healthy female bodies; it represents a short of media trickery, connected to the desire for thinness and the shame of obesity, that actually undermine the women’s effort to figure out how to eat? (page 2). Also, the girls in the show are very confirmative to their roles as male and female. For instance, they’re always in a search for a boyfriend, someone who can take care of them. This is clearly stated by Lauren during one of the episodes when she said, “I only need guys when I need to fix things and to carry my groceries or something heavy?. They are the perfect representation of the stereotype that girls are fragile, gossipy and always love to shop. Overall, this show has a bad influence to its audience. It is not recommended for watching and in case that one must, please only take this as entertainment and don’t take it seriously.

Surviving Motherhood

“Surviving Motherhood? is a show on the TLC network that shows 5 mothers with their young children who meet in a coffee shop to give each other parenting advice. The show has some old-fashioned information about parenting but is a “refreshing blend of information, bold discussion, and real-life stories?. Along with advice from fellow mothers, there are renowned therapists and childcare experts in every field that give advice throughout the program.

The title of this particular episode was “Busy Working Mom? and it focused on a working mother of three, Rosalie. Rosalie is a University professor and her husband also works outside of the home. Her main concern is learning how to manage her time better. The other mothers sympathize with her but explain how it is impossible and okay to let some things go. Everything can not be done right away so you need to have some priorities. While she works long days and then comes home to help with the kids, she says that she “can’t ask [her husband] to do more?. I found this very interesting because she mentions how he cooks dinner every night and that is her idea of him pulling his weight. Rosalie gets home from a long day, helps her children with their homework, gives the baby a bath, reads them a story, finishes her own work from the University, and then goes to sleep. She does not make time for herself and seems to be doing more than her husband. There is an EXPERT MOMENT in every show and this one was from Dr. Kimberly Flemke, Family Therapist. She mentions how you should not have this “Super Mommy Ideal? because you will set yourself up for failure. You need to let some things go and then give yourself some time to recharge your battery; have mommy time (i.e. go for a walk, exercise, have a bubble bath, read a book, have a nap, etc.). By taking this time for yourself, the rest of the time spent with your family will have better quality.
The intended audience for this program is mainly mothers. The show airs on TLC at 9:00 am Monday through Friday. This seems like an appropriate time because mothers who work at home would most likely be around at this time. The commercials are also geared towards this audience: Tickle Me Elmo, Pampers Cruisers, Tide with Bleach, Olay Eye Care, Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Shampoo, etc.
“Surviving Motherhood? is for TLC by Banyan Productions. Lisa Lucas is the executive producer for TLC and Dawn Lorenzo is the executive producer for Banyan Productions. Other shows for Banyan Productions include “Trading Spaces? and “Day of Weddings?. Furthermore, Banyan is the production company for networks including TLC, NBC/Discovery Kids, Discovery Channel, Nick @ Nite, Discovery Health, Lifetime, Sony International, Oxygen, The Food Network, Travel Channel, PBS, Style, and HGTV.Com. Banyan Productions seems to be geared towards women and reality television … ideal for this course!
The main focus for this particular episode was working mothers and how they should balance their lives. According to Audrey Vandenheuvel, author of “Women’s Roles after First Birth: Variable or Stable?? from Gender and Society, society is “dominated by the idea that women can be sorted into two groups, namely those for whom labor force participation is primary and those for whom family is primary? (357). Rosalie does not fit into this dichotomy because she is a married woman, mother of three, and still chooses to work outside of the home in a very demanding job. While women have been in the work place for some time now, women are still faced with the decision whether to work or have children. It is difficult to decide on both. Society encourages women to have children before having careers; men are not presented with this dilemma. In “20/20 Vision, A Perspective on Women’s Changing Roles and the Structure of American Families, Past and Future? from Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, author Susan D. Tollier explains how many “women entering the job market with the notion of working for only a few years and then ‘retiring’ to start a family may postpone or alter their plans if the rewards of their job are great – if the work is fulfilling and enjoyable? (30). For me, “Surviving Motherhood? is a wonderful program because it shows all types of mothers (i.e. working, single, young, old, first time, etc.) and it allows women to make educated decisions on what they should do with their lives. Rosalie is a great example on how you can have a successful career and still be a mother that is highly involved in the lives of your children.

Marriage and Middlesexes

After watching the film clips in class last week, the part that really stuck with me was a quote from “Middlesexes?. It was said by one of the women that without marriage, women are nothing and that you’re not an adult until you are married. I think that this is an underlying issue in our society and after the readings it seems possible that it stems from the English language.

In Laura Richardson’s essay, “Gender Stereotyping in the English Language? she highlights that one of the problematic stereotypes in the English language is the way women are defined in terms of men. She says, “Fifth, women are defined in terms of their relations to men; men are defined in terms of their relations to the world at large? (Feminist Frontiers, pg. 101). She goes on to give the example of the words master and mistress. Even though the two words began with the same meaning, over time they evolved to be different and mistress began to be defined by men. This seems also to be true with the names given to unmarried women and men. An unmarried man is called a bachelor, a term that has a more positive connotation, where an unmarried woman is called an old maid, a term with a negative connotation. These processes of pejoration and amelioration are evident to have come from the English language and the idea that women are defined in terms of men and men are defined in terms of the world.

This idea could also stem from gender processes. The patriarchal values in our society allow the normative gender roles in marriage to be that women are inferior to men in a family system. If the English language promotes this patriarchal gender role through the way men are women are defined, it only makes sense that women could be ultimately defined by their marital status, an issue that is seen in everyday language.

Laguna Beach: The Finer Potrayal of Our Youth


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Laguna Beach was created by MTV to capitalize off the success of Fox’s The OC. MTV originally marketed the show as ‘The Real OC’, but this changed once The OC became passé and Laguna Beach more popular than the original. The premise of the show is that cameras follow several teenagers in high school and their socialization and interaction with friends, community and the camera are documented. Each season of the show contains a narrator, one that the audience primarily follows and is supposed to identify with. As an audience we see Laguna through their eyes and pick up on their direct characterization of other people on the show. This character has, so far, always been female. In the first season a girl named Lauren, or LC, was the main voice and we followed her as she dealt with the boy she can never get, Stephen, the minx he is always with, Kristen, and plenty of ‘drama’.

The program airs on MTV, produced by MTV Networks. The show is currently in it’s off-season, but when it airs it is typically in the nine o’clock hour on either a Tuesday or Wednesday night. As originally stated, this show began as the real life alternative to The OC, a fictionalized take on the lives of rich teenagers and their parents in California’s wealthy Orange County. Other than the original nine o’clock broadcast, this show is re-run constantly throughout MTV’s schedule both during the day and at night, making it easily attainable by different audiences of different ages. The show is also currently available on both DVD (Which is have, both seasons), iTunes and on the MTV website.

The audience to Laguna Beach is teenagers, of who primarily are females. Given that the narrator of the show is female, this would make females the target audience. Although there are plenty of representations of males in the show, so teenage males would be considered the secondary audience here. Commercials that typically air during the program include make up brands like Cover Girl, hair products like Garnier Nutrisse, clothing brands like Old Navy and American Eagle, cell phone companies like T-Mobile and Sprint, and especially other MTV ‘reality’ shows like Real World, The Challenge, Sweet Sixteen and so on. By these examples, it’s obvious MTV wants it’s viewers to buy and then watch their other shows. They attempt to build in these audiences so they will be dedicated viewers every night of the week. This show is a peek into the life of the wealthy young adults, so people of any social class will view it. People of a lower class rank will watch and come out empty handed, while those with expendable incomes and Mommy/Daddy’s money will enjoy it because of the materialization that the show promotes.

The episode of Laguna Beach I watched was the first one of the series, and introduced many of the key players as they socialized with one another, and ended with a throwing of a ‘Black & White Affair’. They show these teenagers shopping, talking on their cell phones, laughing, playing with make up and doing their nails like it is normal behavior. On normalization, Gust Yep and Ariana Ochoa Camacho, in their article The Normalization of Heterogendered Relations in The Bachelor, write, “One powerful strategy for this closure [heterosexuality as a institution of the Midwest] is normalization…which refers to the process of constructing, establishing, and (re)producing a taken-for-granted, unquestionable, and all encompassing standard used to measure goodness, desirability, morality, rationality, and superiority.?

The episode begins with the setup of all key players. LC, the narrator, details the love triangle involving the innocent Stephen and the ‘whore’ Kristen. This biased portrayal of Kristen begins in the credits where LC is shown smiling and working on homework while Kristen is shown emerging from a pool wearing a skimpy bikini. This triangle is the typical set up where there are two women fighting for the male, who is seen as the innocent one in the situation. Yep & Ariana also reflect on this male power complex by saying, “…[the male] has tremendous proactive power…while the women are given very limited reactive power.? As the show continues there is constant contrasting viewpoints given of LC and Kristen. LC is continuously shown with her friends representing the ‘nice girl’ persona, socialization politely, dressing in clean colors and styles, simple underdone makeup and longing over Stephen by not acting out, she manages also to display the helpless, “come save me white knight I need you? persona. Kristen is shown as going out of her way to Stephen (going to his work, going on a date), establishing that she has the upper hand between t he two girls. Stephen is shown as a guy having a good time with his friends, careless, and also has these two girls on the side in which he has all the power. Stephen is shown as saying, “Kristen is fun for fooling around with and hooking up, but as a girlfriend I would say LC is better for that.? At the Black & White party, thrown at an upscale pricey hotel on the coast, everyone wears black except for Kristin, who boldly chose a revealing white dress. On her outfit selection LC comments, “Kristen is the only girl wearing white, how ironic.? Another character, Lo, details, “White is flashy and tacky.? In the sea of black you can pinpoint Kristen, playing the whore in this setup. The white is paralleled to the scarlet letter; she is branded as this persona of the whore and is pointed at as so among her peers. When Kristen leaves with Stephen at the end of the show, LC is on the balcony looking helpless as a maudlin song plays representing her helplessness and desire for her to be “saved? by Stephen.

There is a dominant portrayal of heterosexuality in this show. There is not one gay character admittedly shown. I say admittedly because in the background of two or three episodes there is a male named Gary, though his homosexuality is never stated, he is shown with the girls giddily laughing and acting flamboyant. There is also a dominance of white. There is only one character of a different ethnicity, Cammie, but she is a mix and blends with the other tanned girls of her age. And she is not shown dominantly until season three where she is a main character. Everyone on this show is wealthy. There are continuous shots of Laguna’s gorgeous community, the big houses, expensive stores, ocean coastline, and lush green, tropical atmosphere. The show goes out of its way to specifically show how much money these people have. In one scene, LC shows Stephen the site where her architect dad is building their new house. She shows him her room, where wide eyed she tells, “I have two closets, this one [pointing to one side of the room] is for my shoes and purses, and the other [pointing to the other side] for my clothes.? They show shots of palm trees being craned into the front yard. LC stands on the edge of the property facing a gorgeous view of the ocean and says, “I think this is the Jacuzzi...no wait, this is the pool? to which Stephen says, “This house is like the OC.? Does he not realize the atmosphere he lives in is exactly the OC, or is this a subtle scripted conversation to establish that this show really is the ‘The Real OC’ and they want their audience to specifically know this.

Laguna Beach is a frivolous and entertaining reality show. I admit I watched it religiously, and continued to purchase them on DVD for further enjoyment. It is not a show to be taken seriously. It is obvious this show is somewhat scripted and slanted in a certain light. I am known by my friends for liking things of this frivolous nature; things that promote materialization, shopping, ‘pretty things’. But I know where to cross the line at taking things seriously. The questionable thing is, what do younger audience who are more naïve and still developing their ideals and practices think of the show? Are they taking this seriously and shaping themselves off the identities displayed in the show? It’s possible, but what else is MTV known for? It’s definitely not the music.


Noah's Story

The documentary film, Middlesexes, showcases a few different stories of both men and women who have distorted the images of socially constructed gender categories. The story I found particularly interesting was that of Noah, a young boy who finds himself enjoying girly activities, including taking on the role of young girls in society. He likes to dance like a girl in front of the mirror, play with dolls, do hair, dress up in feminine clothes, and partake in other activities that little girls do. Noah and his family were interviewed and asked questions about his interests, social gender-related behavior, biological factors which may have influenced his behavior, and what his family hopes for Noah's future.

In his interview, Noah seemed pretty comfortable with himself, his interests, and how he likes expressing himself, but he explains that kids at his school constantly ask him questions about his identity. They say things like, “Are you really a boy?? “Are you a girl? and “Why do you do this or that?? He simply responds by saying, “Yes I am a boy and I do it because I like it.? I think the students are confused because they are used to seeing obvious socially constructed gender differences in other kids their age that they don't know what to think when they see little Noah who likes girl things. Judith Lorber, author of “Night to His Day?: The Social Constructions of Gender explains that, “Gender signs and signals are so ubiquitous that we usually fail to notice them – unless they are missing or ambiguous. Then we are uncomfortable until we have successfully placed the other person in a gender status; otherwise we feel socially dislocated? (Lorber, 41).

“Individuals are born sexed but not gendered, and they have to be taught to be masculine or feminine...In early childhood, humans develop gendered personality structures and sexual orientations through their interactions with parents of the same and opposite gender. As adolescents, they conduct their sexual behavior according to gendered scripts. Schools, parents, peers, and the mass media guide young people into gendered work and family roles? (Lorber, 46).

One of the reasons I like Noah's story so much is that he does not follow the norms of the gendered scripts. He is his own person and refuses to listen to people when they say what he likes and what he is doing is wrong. This is not because he is selfish or rebellious, it is because he truly and personally does not feel like he is doing anything wrong. Noah's parents seemed pretty supportive of their son's behavior and personality but his father explained that he would be relieved if his son's hormones eventually changed. This was not because he was ashamed or embarrassed of his son, but his greatest fears are that someone will hurt him, or he will end up hurting himself.

I think Noah's parents are very noble in their support for their son. I can completely understand where they are coming from in their protective manner of their son, but absolutely hate the fact that they have to be worried about their son's safety. And so do they. In most cases, gender construction starts with assigning a sex category based on the genitalia at the baby's birth. Then the babies are dressed by their category so parents are not constantly asked whether their baby is a boy or a girl. Noah's parents are very proud of their son. They never mentioned anything about how they may be chastised or ridiculed and how they feel about that. They simply do not agree with the social constructions of gender that may put their son in any uncomfortable or harmful situations.

March 17, 2007

Redecorating the Penis

It seems that for the most part masculinity is perpetuated through the demands of attempting to fit in with other guys. While casually talking to some male acquaintances, this realization has furthered itself in that most of these men are aware of this façade of masculinity, yet find it insignificant. Things will never change if the majority decides to look at a circumstance as “just the way things are?. Under the circumstance of masculinity, there needs to be a tremendous shift in how things are. Thus society should begin to see the root of violence from a different perspective.

Because we live, work, and strut in a male-dominated bureaucracy, it’s a very hard task to change minds and shed blinders. When we see an increase of rape and murder in our city, we hire on more officers to hit the streets harder. This isn’t enough; it just costs us more money. “Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the crisis in Masculinity?, clearly peels away the layers of masculinity, leaving us with obvious attributions to violence. Enforced by peers and males of dominance, these layers begin with the depiction of what “male? is in the lens of the media.
Like femininity, masculinity is a learned behavior. Enforcing this theory, Judith Lorber states, “Individuals are born sexed but not gendered, and they have to be taught to be masculine or feminine.? (46). Ideally, it would be perfect to just not teach gender, to “unlearn? it. Realistically, this is in no way feasible. Gender, to the majority, is perceived to be as biological as growing fingernails, if it’s even considered at all. We assume that by virtue of having a penis you will play football, and if there’s a vagina you’ll smell really good. Gender is an embedded simile to sex. There is a generational teaching of gender roles, which inevitably results in mascul- and femin- inity, and all of the loaded connotations of these words.
So, in the name of violence let’s get off our high horses, retrace our pitfalls, and dispose of that gendered world. In doing so, I have a sneaky feeling we’ll be kicking out most of those dirty things that happen in our world, and we’ll be saving some tax-bucks.

They Should Wear What They Want

I found this clip of the African American men and women at Daytona Beach rather disturbing. While I think it is an important to discuss this issue, it was very difficult for me to watch. I was very torn when watching these clips because part of me was thinking how some of these women wanted the attention by dressing this way but another part told me that they can dress how they choose. It is warm weather and they are at the beach; they have every right to dress the way they want. I was recently on a beach in Malibu and I realized that I did not have to deal with sexual harassment like those women had to endure. I was able to walk along the beach in my bikini and feel comfortable. During the clip, not only did I feel bad for the women but I was also concerned with their safety.

I have never been in an environment like the one depicted in the film clip but it really mad me wonder … where did these men learn to behave like this? I think a lot of it has to do with the media and then encouragement from their peers. According to Patricia Hill Collins, author of “Black Sexual Politics? from Feminist Frontiers, “[M]en of African descent were also perceived to have excess sexual appetite …?(322). Also, “[M]en are far more likely to stare at and comment upon women’s breasts, buttocks, legs, face, and other body parts then are women to subject men’s bodies to this type of scrutiny.?(321). By having this mentality, it enables men to behave in this manner and think that there is nothing wrong. There is a clear double standard of sexuality because men are “cool? when then discuss their sexual desires but women are “sluts?. A good way to stop behavior like this (i.e. men yelling inappropriate comments, grabbing women, cornering women, etc.) is to change how men treat women in the media (i.e. music, film, television, music videos, etc.). Women should not be dehumanized in society and should feel safe.

March 16, 2007

Wife Swap

Two themes ran throughout the episode of Wife Swap that I viewed. One was that of class conflict the other was the image of womanhood. The show depicted two families, the first being upper class family living in a large spacious suburban home. This family is headed by Shannon and Wayne. The second family is that of George and Belinda’s who are a working class family in a much more modest household.

Shannon and Wayne’s household is depicted as, prefect, clean, and civilized. In the show Shannon describes their life as “four beautiful princesses living in a fairy tale house.? This is juxtaposed with George and Belinda’s household which is depicted as trash ridden filth and barbaric. The show devotes a lot of attention to Belinda’s “trash picking,? where she revamps and reuses discarded furniture. The fist household is always shown in correlation with what they have, fancy cars, new furniture, a huge house set on a giant well manicured lawn. Working is never talked about; the viewer has no idea what Wayne does besides obsessively cleaning the house and playing golf. In one small blurb we learn that Shannon is a kindergarten teacher. It is never called into question how this family has so much money to afford such a grand life style. Their lifestyle is simply depicted as normal and ideal. Shots of the house are always paired with bright cheery music, birds chirping, and is always brightly lit. This is juxtaposed with George and Belinda’s household which is always filmed with dark lighting, dopey tuba music, and the sound of a record being abruptly stopped. George’s work hours are constantly highlighted as well as the fact that Belinda is a stay at home mom who home schools her children. At every turn Belinda and George are framed in the age old media archetype of the great unwashed working class. Belinda does not focus on housecleaning and thus is described as, lazy, filthy, ignorant and destructive. In the swap Shannon hopes to bring civility and cleanliness to the household to show the family “just how much better they can live.? Belinda’s family has a lot of pets, and often the family is depicted as living like their pets, as dirty poop covered animals. Belinda’s children are home school and she is depicted in a negative light for breaking with the norm of public education. He children are shown as being lazy and unable to focus and behind other normal children. In one scene Wayne declares that Belinda’s children will “be the ones sucking at life because they have no friends.? On the other hand the intellectual prowess of Shannon and Wayne’s girls is never commented on because they attend a “good? public school.
Both wives are depicted differently when it comes to what makes them women. Shannon is depicted as the ideal, perfectly polished and well groomed. She states that “the way you look says a lot about you.? She also states that she is always trying to improve herself by, reducing her wrinkles, keeping her teeth white, having her makeup and hair done at all times, and keeping her weight the same as it was in high school. This image of beauty is passed on to her daughter who are punished for having chipped nail polish and state that it is important to be beautiful all the time. Gender norms are also enforced in the household as dad is said to pursuer more manly activities like playing golf and leaves the women to “do face painting or whatever it is that girls do.? The main message of the household is that women are to be feminine by dressing like proper women, putting on makeup and doing there hair before being seen in public. Not to do these things would make them less than woman and filthy.
The archetype of filth in this episode is Belinda. She is shown as being frumpy and manly. Because she does not spend time painting her face and grooming she is constantly referred to as lazy and disgusting by Shannon’s husband Wayne. Interestingly Belinda’s husband George never comments on Shannon’s appearance.

The show really enforces a lot of the norms and stereotypes in society. The women’s main value is how well the can maintain a household. If they are unable to keep themselves and their houses in perfect condition they are shown as less than woman and a failure. Wayne is depicted as doing a vast majority of the housework; this problem is solved in the show by having the four daughters fall into their gender roles and start to do a vast majority of the house work while dad takes it easy. In the second household George also does a lot of the house work, because Belinda is depicted as a giant mess incapable of her gender role, the children are then urged to do housework and chores, thus normalizing the family. It is often stated in the show that George should not have to work 16 hours a week then come home and do house work, that his role should be as breadwinner and that his wife Belinda needs to step up either by working or by getting her house together. The norm of marriage is also reinforced. The wife is depicted as property of the husband and her role is to serve the family and ultimately the husband. Wayne perfectly illustrates this when he states “a wife is like a puppy dog, just flip them a treat or a dollar bill and they will do what you want.? Gender performance is also highly stressed. The show highlights that a true and successful woman is one who is feminine, skinny, and primped for her man’s pleasure. Anything that steps outside this norm of womanhood is depicted as barbaric, dirty, and inexcusable. To fix the barbarous Belinda, her house is cleaned and she is made to reflect on the values of the elite class, and to apologize for her unwomanly ways. Shannon is also made to reflect that being a caring mother is also the norm for a woman that she needs to spend more time focused on her daughters. Kristy Fairclough in her essay Women’s Work? Wife Swap and the Reality Problem notes that “it’s and old school morality tale which starts out with how frightful the working classes are, then winds us round to the inevitable conclusion that, hey, they may be poor, but they’re good and they’re happy (Zoe Williams 2003). The lives of the working classes are paired with a barge of commercials that reinforce the upper middle class lifestyle. Many of the commercials were for those of luxury SUVs, cell phone family plans, and home improvement products. Clearly the target of the show is the Middle American mother who upon viewing might want to step up her own lifestyle. The gender performance roles highlighted on the show are also reflected in its commercials, the vast bulk of the advertisements were for women’s beauty products, shampoos to make your hair shine more, products to boost the colour of blondes and brunettes, micro derma-abrasion and anti-wrinkle products, and makeup ads. In her book Feminism is for every body bell hooks explains that “images of reed-thin. Dyed-blonde women looking as though the would kill for a good meal have become the norm? (hooks pg 34). She also notes that this image reinforces and fuels a white male capitalist fashion and beauty industry (hooks pg 34). Also ads selling home cleaning products were also prevalent. The message was clear, good wives look good, and keep good homes, if you feel like you might be a sloppy working class woman it is easy to fix through a long line of products.

The Pussycat Dolls: The Search for the Next Doll

The reality show that I decided to watch was “The Pussycat Dolls, The Search for the Next Doll?. I had never seen the show before this but it seemed, even from the title that it would be a good one to do a feminist analysis on. The show airs on Tuesday nights at 8 pm on CW. The title gives away the main plot of the show. The popular musical group, The Pussycat Dolls, is on the prowl for a new kitten to add to their group. Through extensive “Pussycat Doll Boot Camp?, the new doll will be voted on by the creator of The Pussycat Dolls and the current lead singer of the group, as well as a dance instructor and a vocal coach. This particular episode was the auditions, where a group of eighteen is narrowed down to a final nine by group renditions of former Pussycat Doll songs and dances.

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The intended audience of this show is definitely a younger one. The fans of The Pussycat Dolls are younger and it is apparent by the commercials played during the program. Like many other programs shown on channels like VH1 and MTV, there are no commercials for minivans or new medications. Instead, the commercials are mostly those for new makeup (maybe that will make you look like the next Pussycat Doll as well?) or for updated, high-tech cell phones. There are also many commercials advertising new shows that are aired on CW. I also think that this show is mostly aimed for girls because of the “girl drama? and the music.

The first thing that caught my eye about the show was the title of the group. First of all, why any person would aspire to be a “doll? is confusing to me, and after seeing the way the girls trying out for this show dressed and acted, it confirms the title of doll. A doll is fake, plastic, and perfect. Its actions and words are completely up to it’s owner or someone else who is “playing? with the doll. Also, the sexy and erotic dance moves done by these dolls suggest that their title of “Pussycat? refers to more than just a cat or their catty appearance and personalities.

The introduction of the show claims the fame of the Pussycat dolls, calling them an international sensation and pure talent, however, I found it ironic that the description of the show is “A hunt for a beautiful and talented girl to join The Pussycat Dolls.? It struck me as odd that even though this group has pure talent, beautiful is emphasized first in the description. At the beginning of the show, Robin Antin, creator of the group describes what a Pussycat Doll should be and she first says that they must be sexy. She continues in a new sentence to say that they must be talented singers and dancers as well. It seems strange that this group of “pure talent? cares first about the appearance rather than the talent.

Throughout the show gender and sexuality stereotypes are at work. The girls in the top eighteen all “do their gender? just as Judith Lorber discusses in her essay, “’Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender? She says, “Gender norms are inscribed in the way people move, gesture, and even eat?. The girls dress, talk, and walk in a way to shows the world that they are in fact, female. One of the girls breaks out of the gender norm of being a girly-girl and shows off her burping abilities. Where stereotypically guys burp and think its cool, the girls on this show thought it was disgusting that one of their fellow future dolls burped that way. You could see in their faces that a beautiful girl burping was not inside the gender norm. The dance instructor to the girls also provided a stereotype, but instead of a gender stereotype, he provided a sexuality stereotype. His name was Mikey Minden and he acted as the stereotypical flamboyantly gay man. He taught the girls how to dance erotically and was very well groomed with a higher pitched voice, a stereotypical gay man. In the essay written by Liz Morrish and Kathleen O’Mara, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: Confirming and Confounding Masculinity?, they discuss the stereotypes of gay and straight men. They say, “[T]he whole show functions as a carnivalesque assault on traditional assumptions about masculinity and sexuality, while operating superficially with a set of comforting stereotypes about gay men.? Never in the show is Mikey Minden said to be gay, but because of these stereotypes, it’s assumed that a less masculine dance instructor is gay. The other male present in the show is a vocal coach who acts more masculine and has a lower-pitched voice and never once is he questioned in the show to be gay.

This show is produced by 10X10 Entertainment which is a smaller branch of Wonderland Entertainment. This company produces other popular reality shows of launching ordinary people into fame like America’s Next Top Model. It also produces shows on networks such as MTV and VH1, shows that are intended for a younger viewing audience that are connected to the pop music scene. The affect this show could have on audiences is the normalization of the problematic stereotype of women as objects. Girls could think that in order to find fame they must be tiny, beautiful and have sexy enough dance moves to intrigue men and that talent really doesn’t have that much to do with it. One of the girls says on the show that The Pussycat Dolls are about “female empowerment? and my question is how is becoming a beautiful plastic “doll? empowering to anyone besides the person playing with it?

Middle Sexes and Gender

What struch me the most about the Middle Sexes clip, was the horror that a suburbian couple could produce such a child. Although this might be because I grew up in the epitome of suburbs, I understood the parents' point of views. Out here, most people believe that looking good in the right brands, having money, and being thin are the most important parts of life. I cannot say that in my childhood, I knew anyone like that little boy. People were put into one of two groups. Male or female. There were not boxes for Gay or Straight. Everyone was assumed to be straight and if a child dared to push that boundary, the community and parents were outraged. Boys at school who do not play football at recess were 'sissies' or 'gay' and girls who chose to play football were called 'tomboys' and shunned for not being girlie enough. This is what I grew up in. I had not dared to push those boundaries as Judy/Max had. Within the suburbs, one sees the exaggerated version of society's normative behavior. A person must act out a certain gender, or a gender performance, in order to fit in. A person must follow within the appropriate gender roles for their gender performance in order to fit in. According to Lorber,

Individuals may vary on many of the components of gender and may shift genders temporarily or permanently, but they must fit into the limited number of gender statuses their society recognizes. In the process, they recreate their society's verson of men and women: "If we do gender appropriately, we simultaneously sustain, reproduce, and render legitimate the institutional arrangements...If we fail to do gender appropriately, we as individuals - not the institutional arrangements - may be called to account (for our character, motives, and presispositions)" (West and Zimmerman 1987, 146)
That quote from Feminist Frontiers page 47. If we follow the societal norms, we are reinforcing their ideas and 'boxes'. Judy/Max and the little boy (I forgot his name) push those boundaries and, in the process, confuse and anger the normative community.

March 15, 2007

Beauty and the Geek

Reading "reality" TV: Beauty and the Geek

I have to admit- I love the concept of Beauty and the Geek. I don’t have any time to watch TV with my busy schedule, but the concept of nerds and beauties coming together in a mansion and competing with one another definitely merits a download.
The first episode (my introduction) presents us with a group of women who are supposedly the “beauties? (women who have gotten through life by relying on their looks, and needn’t have any intellectual capabilities), and “geeks? (men who have lived their lives reveling in nerdy antisocial bliss). Their goal is to pair up and compete against one another in teams, to reveal at last which team succeeds most in having the women de-ditz and the men acquire some smooth social skills

It is evident immediately that this show is about stereotypes. It’s ironic in the sense that its purpose is to obliterate stereotypes; in doing so, it reinforces them. Much like John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, in attempts to say ‘we’re all the same inside’, the characters are starkly separated on the outside. All of the ditzy women are extreme caricatures of ditzy women- the taglines that appear under their names to help the viewer identify which woman is which include ‘sorority girl’, ‘playboy model’, ‘bikini model’, ‘beauty pageant queen’, ‘former hooters waitress’, and the nonspecific ‘model’. The Geeks’ taglines are similarly non-telling and oblique, but manage to give us an easy way to identify the different men. Their info includes ‘owns 25,000 comics’, ‘had a perfect S.A.T. score’, ‘singer: star wars band’, ‘Harvard graduate’, ‘has only kissed one girl’, and the most telling: ‘virgin’.
The show creators do an insurmountable amount of damage in just these labels alone. They say, “categorize these people! They are one-dimensional!? yes, the show attempts to consolidate the divergent personalities later on, but the initial stage of the game reinforces the predominant thinking that occurs in our immediate world today. By saying ‘look at this geek, he owns 25,000 comics!’ we attach ideas to the concept of comic book collectors and nerds alike. The two are almost interchangeable nowadays anyway- why not ‘wears pocket protectors and glasses’ or ‘plays Dungeons and Dragons’?
The tags do make sense- I certainly find it easier to think about Nate as the guy who sings in a Star Wars band and Scooter as the Harvard Graduate than to accept the shows proposal that these men are ‘Geeks’. The women, on the other hand, are much easier to accept as ‘beauties’- their tags of sorority girl and model don’t stick in your mind. They don’t’ need to- the beauty aspect of this game is fairly tangible. To boot, every time one of the women open their mouths, I have to cringe.
The groups of beauties and geeks do include minorities- though the basis of the show is a heterosexual dating game of sorts. At least there is a range in the tight categories. But for the most part, the show is not about diversity. The contestants do not have religious beliefs, or out-of-the-norm sexualities. They are bread-and-butter people, simplified down to two pillars- brains and beauty.
What’s more upsetting to me than the premise that these two groups fall into clean stereotypes is the fact that during the challenges the characters of the show receive, they often fall into the stereotypes perfectly. I had to laugh when the geeks were forced to ask strangers on the street to rub suntan lotion on their backs, but I felt really sad when the beauties could not, for the life of them, find library books.
Predictably, the two most attractive and seemingly well adjusted of the geeks were able to get a stranger rub lotion on their back. In a later challenge, one of the beauties conducted an interview with the author of ‘Freakonomics’ and actually succeeded in asking questions that were relevant to the book. The judges (and other contestants) were all quite impressed- but when you take a step backward, you’d have to admit that any person that had a lick of sense could perform such an interview. In this, the show is telling us that the beauty can have brains, too- but the rest of the beauties fail miserably at the interview, and fall back into their stereotypical rut.
This show makes the women it features look bad. I have a lot of trouble with the concept of this show—beauty and brains are fundamentally different things, and they are by no means mutually exclusive. The worst a geek can do is say something smart, or fail to get a girl’s phone number, A beauty, however, can make it appear that her brain is made of Jell-O. I think the latter is much more dangerous to the masses of viewers. We shouldn’t be looking at women this way- it’s demeaning.
I don’t know whom this show is targeting—certainly, we all love to indulge our stereotypes. “Beauties?, “geeks?, and the rest of the population alike can enjoy the concept. The show is, after all, produced by pop-culture wunderkind Ashton Kutcher. The show is more than just entertainment, though. It feeds a fundamentally skewed idea that these two groups are separate. It keeps us believing that the geeks are losers, and the popular kids always win. We internalize much of what we see on TV- these thing in turn become a part of our socialization process. This show probably does more harm than good to impressionable youths. I like to think that I can see past the stereotypes- but maybe I’m wrong.

April 21 - Latin American Feminism

New Directions in Latin American Feminism
Saturday, April 21
125 Nolte, 315 Pillsbury Dr SE
This will be a one-day workshop to discuss the new challenges and new directions that the pluralities of feminisms are taking today in the Americas and how are these challenges are shaping new theoretical approaches.

Participants will engage in dialogue with four distinguished guest panelists and with each other as we address recent perspectives on feminist cultural theory in/about Latin America and discuss the new directions that Latin American(ist) feminisms are taking or need to take in the re-articulation of feminist practices.

Sara Castro-Klarén, Johns Hopkins University
Jean Franco, Columbia University
Amy Kaminsky, University of Minnesota
Cynthia Tompkins, Arizona State University

Questions that will frame our discussion include:

The appropriation of new theoretical frameworks by feminist criticism and theory- in particular postcolonial and transnational approaches and the new directions that these perspectives are generating in the already existing pluralities of feminist positions in Latin American feminisms.

The new challenges for the feminist literary and cultural studies.

The impact of new models and theoretical frameworks on the possibility of imagining new identities and communities and in their representation.

The new debates in cultural studies and their effect in Latin American(ist) feminisms, in particular in relation to literary studies and cultural critique.

The role of interdisciplinary approaches to the consolidation of new dialogues, new languages, and new practices.

The impact of globalization in current feminist studies in/about Latin America
Free and open to the public, but we ask that participants RSVP to spanport@umn.edu to assist us in our planning.

A day at the beach

Bitch Niggaz and Sistas & Hos was a bit on the educational side for me. It is a couple of things I have always kind of silently questioned and it was good to see a formal definition, if you would call it that, said aloud. The rap industry is full of so many controversies that the public doesn't even know about. So when there’s a huge music event like the Urban Music Awards happening and 50 cent refers to Ja Rule as a bitch nigga, the public is definitely going to wonder what is going on. I think that the term along with others is just a part of the industry and should therefore never be normalized. Although it may seem highly offensive, each word on their own is thrown around so much in the industry that together they lack significant meaning. However, I think that the lack of respect being shown is more of a cause for concern. Both rappers have contributed a large amount to the industry and for one of them to do that on a big stage demonstrates what kind of person he really is. Now I may be wrong about the whole thing because I admit that I’m not familiar with the whole story behind it, but this is just my opinion from the very short piece of the film we saw.
As for the piece on Sistas & Hos, I think it’s laughable that the women believe it is ok for others to be called ho’s until it refers to them, in which case it is unacceptable. I do, however, believe that the way the men at the beach treated the women was ridiculous. They acted as if they were the shit of the place and the women were there just to please them. I thought it was pretty weird when the men were asked to define the difference between a sista and a ho and they could not clearly say what it was. When they finally sputtered out somewhat of a weak response, it was absurd. It sounded to me as though a sista was someone they would not have sex with because she wasn’t attractive to them, and a ho was every other woman with whom they would have sex. This way of thinking is completely unacceptable and if they were to teach their children that, then our future is looking pretty pathetic.

Monday Night Raw

Reading Reality TV: WWE’s Monday Night Raw

The fireworks erupt, the lights come on, it’s Monday night and that can only mean one thing… RAW is on the air. The name itself is very fitting for such a wrestling show. It clearly defines everything a man enjoys to begin his hectic work week: a rowdy crowd, enraged men beating the hell out of each other, and of course the beautiful women that accompany the wrestlers to the ring. On this particular episode, the highlights of the night include an appearance by Donald Trump, the unveiling of the new Playboy featuring WWE’s own “Diva?, Ashley, as the cover model. The show also features the usual few wrestling matches involving men fighting for some absurd reason. In between these three main storylines, a chiseled wrestler can be seen applying a brutal hold on the very petite female wrestling announcer, and two of the company’s former Playboy cover models, Torrie and Melina, also battle it out for the Women’s Championship in a catfight where the women are dressed in their usual attire; a short skirt and a top that holds barely anything.

WWE’s Monday Night Raw has been on the air for about thirteen years. It originally aired on the USA network and has moved to others such as Spike/TNN and has recently moved back to its regular eight o’clock time slot on USA. It made those jumps between networks because it began promoting a more risqué type of show in the late 90’s. This new promotion led to much higher ratings and allowed it to compete with the primetime networks such as NBC, ABC, etc. Since the WWF merged with rival wrestling companies WCW/ECW to form WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), WWE produces the Monday night show along with other weekly wrestling shows. Most recently WWE Productions is making its own movies staring the same wrestlers you see in the ring.

With a quick glance at the front row of the audience in attendance, it is not hard to see that men are the majority here. I don’t think that a woman would enjoy watching muscled guys beat each other up while a couple of women parade around half naked; however, I could be wrong. While the commercials air I feel even more like the show is directed towards me as a guy. I see a TAG body spray commercial, Just For Men hair gel, Ultimate Fighting Championship, and an advertisement to buy the new NCAA 07 basketball game. The night that RAW airs is perfect for the busy working male who dreads another long week and wants to let go of his stress after a hard day’s work. The show is also perfect for the raging hormonal male teens whose head is full of thoughts of violence and gorgeous women. The wrestlers are role models for these teens because they display a tremendous amount of strength, have amazing physiques, and of course are a hit with the Divas.

The president of WWE, Vince McMahon, embodies the true identity of a patriarchal male. He is rich, powerful, confident, masculine, and he even has his special “I’m the shit? strut that he performs when he walks in public. In this certain episode we get an example of two patriarchal powerhouses, Vince and Donald Trump, arguing over who is more powerful as Trump states that “My ‘Trump Towers’ are much more powerful than you ‘grapefruits’, Vince.? The arrogance of the president of WWE leaks to the wrestlers as they take possession of the Divas and often fight over them. They can be heard and often seen demonstrating their manhood power over others as they claim to be “saving? the women from making bad decisions. So needless to say, the show takes on many sexual confrontations resulting in male dominance. The Divas mainly just fill the role as the “object of affection? as Yep and Camacho state in their article referring to “The Bachelor? (p.2). Meanwhile the subject of race is also toyed with. Black wrestlers often find themselves in the same old storyline of “White man holding back the more powerful black superstar.? The black superstar is forced to start at the bottom of the wrestling society having to face superstars lacking talent and is forced to work his way up to a world title. The male superstars take the main stage in this episode, but the Divas put up a strong fight. There are segments where the Diva would flaunt her assets to get what she wants whether it is a title shot for the wrestler she manages or if she needs a simple pay raise from the boss. Women should not feel like they need to show off their bodies in order to get what they want as Mendible compares this to “gold digging? in her article (p.3). And don’t think for a single minute that gays and lesbians aren’t welcomed on RAW. There is nothing more that viewers at home would love to see than to have a group of supposedly gay male cheerleaders get beat up by a couple of the companies’ bad asses, or to have what WWE calls “HLA?. “HLA? (Hot Lesbian Action) is a special segment on RAW that comes every few weeks where, you guessed it, a couple of Divas are brought out to the ring and simply make-out until a wrestler who opposes lesbians arrives and censors it. So why would anybody on Earth want to have a show that addresses ALL of these controversial issues? The answer is simple; ratings. In the TV business, ratings are all that matter. Shows like RAW uses every possible way to draw audiences. Just like in a commercial I once saw for WWE in which Snoop Dogg states that he watches and loves RAW, so you should to. The exploitation of men and women for profit has been around for along time. The WWE is just taking it to the extreme by throwing everything together into a two hour male soap opera. When RAW is being scripted, the only thing going through the writers’ heads; controversy creates cash.

Film Response

The response is to the films about “Bitch Niggas? and the differences between Sistas & ‘hos.

I thought it was interesting during the first portion of the film about Bitch Niggas that a Bitch Nigga or Pussy Nigga was someone who didn’t have a lot of hos and who wasn’t a gangsta committing crimes and fighting. I thought it was ridiculous how the things that disallowed a man to question another’s manhood were that the other man was being a criminal, immoral, and a thug. It is as if the rap industry requires that everyone involved with it needs to just be a bad person. I think it’s even more ridiculous that this is the kind of material that sells in society. This image of being a gangster or a thug is required in order to have your records sell. That says a lot about the rest of the society we live in, and it’s saying a lot that is not very positive. Finally, I think it’s crazy that if these are the things that describe a “bitch nigga? that it is considered to be the biggest slam in the industry to get called that. I just don’t understand the whole culture surrounding the hip-hop industry and how it got to be the way that it is because I know hip-hop didn’t start out this way. In the wake of the east-west coast rivalries I appreciate that the man who created the documentary did it to draw attention to the negative aura surrounding the industry.

I do not understand the difference between sistas and hos either, especially in the context of looking at each at that beach and being able to tell which is which. It was appalling the way that women were treated at Spring Bling. From what it sounded like on film, a sista is someone who could be a great friend and is marriage material, but a ho is someone who is good only for sex. At a beach I imagine that it would be hard to distinguish between these two, so therefore it was as if every woman became a ho for the way that she dressed…at the beach! The women in the video were objectified as being nothing but a piece of meat that could be screwed. It was as if it was expected too. If a woman lashed out at a man for touching her inappropriately she was laughed at and made to feel small for standing up for herself. There was an opinion that because of how the woman was dressed, she was asking for it, and that just simply was not the case. It was funny how the first part of the video talked about the differences between sistas and hos and the second part of the video turned everyone into a ho because of how they were dressed. It was a lose-lose situation for the women there, and the men took advantage of it. I also found it interesting how this was related back to hip-hop and that hip-hop basically calls for this behavior and ties it to being a man and if you don’t behave this way your manhood is questioned. Again, it’s great that the author of the documentary made it. There are way too many negative aspects of hip-hop and the culture around it that need attention.

I "Love" NY

The show that I watched for my “reality TV? assignment was I Love NY. New York was a character competing for the love of Flava-Flave, a rapper who starred on his own reality TV series The Flavor of Love. In The Flavor of Love New York fell in love with Flave, but he chose someone else other than her twice. After rejecting her, he helped her produce her own show that would help her find true love. In the show, New York chooses from a pool of about 20 men to find the one who will be the love of her life. In the first episode she gives all of them pet names so their real identities are hidden. They have to compete against one another at different tasks, etc. to show NY how much they “love? her.

Based on the content in the commercials, I would guess that the audience that is trying to be reached with the show is teenage girls. The commercials were for makeup products, restaurants, and other reality TV shows for the most part. There were no commercials for beer, so the main target audience is teenagers, and I would say more so teenage girls rather than teenage guys. A further reason for this is that the guys in the show spend a lot of time without their shirts on and New York is extremely controlling of them, which would have much appeal to a lot of female audiences.

The specific episode that I watched was deep into the season, and only five of the contestants remained. The contestants names were Whiteboy, 12-pack, Real, Chance, and Tango. During the episode, New York invited the ex-girlfriends of each of the guys on to the show. Knowing how much that scenario would make my skin crawl as a guy, patriarchy took a back seat on this episode. New York was able to find out everything she wanted to know about the guys from the people who would be the most critical of them in all aspects. Based on what the ladies said and New York and her mothers’ opinions, New York would take one of the guys on a date at the end of the show before the elimination round.

The first analysis that I will do is on the show in general. I think it is very interesting that the show is called I LOVE NY. There are a lot of things that the guys might feel about New York, but I don’t know if love is one of them, and I don’t know if she is really judging whether she loves them or not. I say this because in the side talks with the guys, most of them will say how hot New York is, and things of this nature, but rarely will they comment on her personality and an emotional connection. Also, I found the names on the show to be interesting while associating the show with love. All of the people in the show including New York have pet names, and anyone watching the show would have no idea a person’s real name. I think it is rather symbolic of the fake and surface level relationships that are built on the show.

Another point of emphasis about the names on the show are their implications as they relate to our class. Whiteboy is a name that emphasizes the importance of race on the show and to NY. Three out of the four remaining contestants on the show are African American. 12-pack is a name that shows the importance of physical appearance to NY, and in society in general. The only other name that caught me was Real. I thought it was interesting how “real? could be judged in the first five minutes of NY meeting him.

The second part of the analysis will be on the episode that I watched. I have to comment on the complete lack of patriarchy and almost anti-patriarchy that existed within the show. I wouldn’t say that there was feminism, but the women that were present on the show had to have made the men feel completely helpless. New York took out five women who the men had all dated for the entire day to learn what she could about each of the guys, and then sat down at dinner with the ex-girlfriends and the guys. As Bell Hooks talk about patriarchy as the unearned advantages that come with being male in a male-dominated society, based on this definition, patriarchy did not exist in NY’s world. The men were required to sweat the entire day worrying about what the girls would tell NY about their hidden pasts. NY was able to find out which ones had omitted the truth. Also, at dinner, NY questioned the guys in front of their ex’s so they had to be honest with her. Finally, if the men were paying attention to their ex’s over NY, she would call them out right at the table. The men were in a no-win powerless situation, and they were put there by the person in which they were competing to love. I thought it was a very interesting dynamic of the episode. Tango actually couldn’t take it and started packing his things to leave because he couldn’t take the lack of power NY made him feel. Granted, NY was entirely rude and over the top, but it just showed that she was going to require at least equality in the relationship with her man, but would probably require the power in the relationship.

The only other mention of anything related to class that really stuck out was the portion of the show that questioned 12-pack’s sexuality. His ex-girlfriend talked about how her parents were sure he was gay, and that he had danced in a gay club. I thought it was interesting that he was the guy eliminated after the show. In his going away speech, he said, “My ex was lookin’ real good when she came on the show so I’m going to go back to NJ to bang the sh*t out of her.? That’s true love for NY on his end for sure!

Queer Conferences

National Jewish LGBTIQQ Student Conference
March 23 – 21 – Washington University – St. Louis, Missouri
NUJLS is the National Union of Jewish LGBTIQQ Students. Every year, they hold a conference at a college in North America where students and alumni
from LGBTIQQ communities gather for discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities. Registration is still open and is available online at http://www.nujlsonline.org or http://www.washunujlsconference.googlepages.com. If you would like to be part of the conference, please visit the website and register. If you would like to be involved in volunteering for the conference, either in logistics, hosting, welcoming guest, or setup, please contact Margaux at mmbuck@wustl.edu or Ross at rzeitlin@wustl.edu

Faces of Faith: A Passion for Inclusion
Saturday, March 31, 1 – 9:45PM – Ted Mann Concert Hall – 2128 Fourth Street South, Minneapolis
This conference event, presented by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, includes several workshops on the subject of GLBT identity in faith communities, a keynote address by Bishop John Shelby Spong, and TCGMC concert “One in Spirit.? For further information or to register, please visit http://www.tcgmc.org.

Eighth Annual White Privilege Conference (WPC)
April 18 – 21 – University of Colorado – Colorado Springs
Don't miss this award-winning, national diversity conference! This year's theme for the national conference is: The Matrix: Examining Intersections, Making Connections, & Building Allies. WPC is a conference that examines the challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team-building strategies to work toward a more equitable future. Students and community members may participate in the WPC for University credit at the undergraduate or graduate levels. For more further information please visit: http://www.uccs.edu/wpc.

12th Annual Rainbow Families Conference
Saturday, April 21, 8:30AM - Bryn Mawr/Anwatin Schools, 256 Upton Avenue S, Minneapolis
The largest event of its kind in the country, with more than 1,200 adults and children attending last year, the conference is an exciting day for GLBT parents and their children, prospective parents, extended family, friends, educators, and those serving our community. Registration info available at: http://www.rainbowfamilies.org/conference

Out There: Second National Conference of Scholars and Student Affairs Personnel Involved in LGBTQ Issues on Catholic Campuses
October 19 and 20, 2008 - DePaul University – Chicago, IL
The deadline for proposals has been extended to February 26. Proposals are sought for papers, roundtable presentations, panels, and/or workshops that address issues of scholarship, curriculum, pedagogy, campus climate, and support for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff. The organizers aim to build a program that addresses a wide range of issues of relevance to LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students at Catholic institutions, from nuts-and-bolts organizing in student services to the place of LGBTQ Studies at Catholic universities and the challenges of Catholic identity for LGBTQ individuals. For the proposal cover sheet and further information, visit the conference Website at: http://condor.depaul.edu/~lgbtq/ or email outthereconference@depaul.edu

March 30 - Queer Multimedia Performance Art

"Cicatrix"
Friday, March 30; Sunday, April 1; Saturday, April 7, 7PM –

Acadia Café – 1931 Nicollet Avenue S, Minneapolis

Cicatrix is the scar of a healed wound. This multimedia/performance art piece will explore the politics of pain and pleasure through the body/mind/heart. The piece will consider both the internal and external scar and how we all heal from such scars. Sexuality, personal experience, emotions, and random parody will be used as metaphors. This piece is through a feminist lens but applies to the human condition. Created and Performed by Linzey Infynity. Mature Audiences Only. Cover Charge: $3.

March 24 - Diva Riot Cabaret

Diva Riot Cabaret
Saturday, March 24, 7 – 9PM – Bellentine VFW Hall – 2916 Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis

Drag Kings, Comedy, Music & Special Guests! Performers include Colleen Jameson, Ashley Gold, Lynn Lane, April Citizen Kane, Blaisian Monroe, and Sweet Pea.

Doors open at 6:30PM.

Cost:$7 (cash only).

March 24-25 Man to Man Sexual Health Seminars

Man to Man Sexual Health Seminars
Saturday & Sunday, March 24-25, 8AM – 6PM

You are invited to attend a two-day multi-media interactive seminar providing education on sexuality and intimacy between men. All men who have sex with men (or who are attracted to men) and are 18 years of age or older are invited. The seminar lasts from 8AM to 6PM on both Saturday and Sunday. This event is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota. The seminar includes large group discussions, mult-media presentations, small group discussions, and short exercises. Food will be provided free of charge. Advance registration required. Registration is FREE. To register go to http://www.epi.umn.edu/m2m or call 612 626-7187 or email mantoman@umn.edu.

March 17 - Acting Lesbian Workshop

"Acting Lesbian" workshop with Carolyn Gage
Saturday & Sunday, March 17-18, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
The Playwrights’ Center – 2301 Franklin Avenue E, Minneapolis

Come discover the fierce and fascinating characters of lesbian drama! Here is an acting workshop for all ages and all abilities and orientations. Carolyn Gage, author of four books on lesbian theatre and fifty-four plays, will teach a two-day acting workshop of scenes and monologues from her plays. Participants will learn how and why the lesbian, especially the butch, is censored in popular culture, and will have the opportunity to select scenes and monologues to perform for a final staged reading. $40 for both sessions ($20 low income). To register please call 612 721-1186x1. Leave your name and phone number and they will call to confirm.

March 17 - Queer Fundraising Cabaret Show

Spring Fever 2007: Cabaret Fundraiser and Silent Auction

Saturday, March 17, 6:30PM - St. Joan of Arc Church - 4537 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis

Join One Voice Mixed Chorus for a Spring Fever Cabaret, silent auction, and raffle fundraiser. Performances by Dennis Spears, the girls, A Chord of 3 Strands, Tracie Hodgdon, Darcy Juhl, Rachael Kroog, Andy Kuula, Tom Larson, Joy MacArthur, Linda Muehlbauer, OVation, One Voice Mixed Chorus, Paul Pederson, Kevin Wojahn, Minnesota Chorale ensemble, Twin Cities Women's Choir ensemble, and a fabulous 8 piece band. Emceed by Jerry Rubino.

Cost: $20 general admission, $45 table seating.

For tickets, call 612 332-1302 or visit www.ovmc.org <http://www.ovmc.org/> .

March 20 - Queer Ally Training

Ally Training
Tuesday, March 20, 11AM - 2PM - Coffman Memorial Union, Room 303

Ally Trainings include GLBTA Jeopardy, a panel of community members, and facilitated discussion focused on dispelling myths and stereotypes about the GLBT community. Members leave the training with concrete steps they can take to help eliminate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, both on campus and in the larger community. Lunch will be provided. For further information or to RSVP to attend the training, please contact John in the GLBTA Programs Office, glbta@umn.edu or 612-625-0537.

March 29 - Queer Politics Talk

Don't miss this year's Toni McNaron Lecture in Arts & Culture! Mab Segrest will be speaking on the policing of gender and sexuality in Southern mental institutions...

"Drag You Off to Milledgeville: Southern Regimes of (In)Sanity and Southern Queer Writers and Activists"
Thursday, March 29, 7PM
West Bank Auditorium, Willey Hall
225 19th Ave S, Minneapolis (West Bank Campus)

Free and open to the public, with a reception to follow.

March 14, 2007

The Real Housewives of O.C.

This show is based off of five women and their families who apparently represent the “real? households of Orange County. This particular episode delves into the daily lives of the “housewives?, exploring what they do on a daily basis and how they do it. The women go shopping, visit their kids, discipline their kids and work on their careers. Throughout the show, the viewer gets to know the “wives? a little better, allowing us to hate or love them even more. The show is aired on Bravo (owned by NBC Universal) a network known for other shows such as, Project Runway, Top Chef and Queer Eye. The target viewers (gathered from the commercials as well as content) are women ranging from mid twenties to mid fifties.

I think it is imperative to start with the title of this show, since it implies so much. The word “real? implies that these five, white, upper class women represent all that is real about Orange County, California. What does that mean? Are all the other people that don’t fit into this narrow category of real, fake? Does it make a difference that only 60% of the people living in Orange County are white? Are the people cleaning these women’s houses not real? Obviously this title is completely inappropriate and degrading for everyone who doesn’t fit into this category of real. Moving on; the word “Housewives? throws many stereotypical images at the viewer. A housewife is viewed as a woman who runs a smooth, put together household, which is clean, proper and functional. A housewife is there to greet her husband and teach her children. The women in this show do everything and anything but what I just described, however; not conforming to the word “housewife? earns these women some harsh criticism from the viewer.
Myra Mendible states, “While contestants are often shown in an unfavorable light, the fact that millions are paying attention makes them important. Humiliation here occupies a second-order of meaning in which any televised activity – regardless of how embarrassing – is elevated in status.? I think it is important to note that everything these women do during this show is scrutinized and they are subject to humiliation. The camera angles (often on their bodies), content that is aired and the ridiculous things they say all make it to our TV sets. All things that might be intelligent or view these women in a positive light are ignored. A perfect example of this blatant humiliation is when Vicky, one of the women, surprises her son at his university in Colorado. She gets upset because her son doesn’t want her there and cries in his bathroom. When she starts feeling better, her and her son work it out (without any apologies on either side) and she ends up doing a keg stand with her sons friends. Is this proper behavior of a “housewife?, or is this how real housewives act from Orange County? Clearly many of the viewers will have opinions for this type of behavior and they will criticize and humiliate Vicky. Since one of the quotes from the intro to the show is, “Here is to not being fake?, I can only assume these “housewives? see themselves as above any criticism or critiques from society. This is also part of the humiliation aspect of reality TV because the women have an “elevated? status because they are on TV, so they can behave any way they want to and not feel ashamed.
My second point is about the stereotypes these women are fulfilling by participating in this show. The whole premise of the show is to see how these women live and since they are of an upper class, they live “rich and fabulous lives?. The women go shopping quite often, deal with their kids and run their households. More often than not, their lives are chaotic and disorganized. Divorce, dating and being single are discussed throughout the show. Kristy Fairclough (in reference to Wifeswap, but it applies here as well) states, “The premise of the series is based exclusively around the women’s place in the home and any reference to careers and the workplace is inconsistent and alarmingly limited. Allusions to the women’s jobs is often portrayed as troublesome, an interference in the lives of those who have to live with them.? There are many good examples of this theory throughout the Real Housewives of O.C. where the women’s careers are often viewed as a joke or cause conflict within the family. Lauri has many problems with her daughter who is living in a house Lauri owns. The daughter is messy and unmotivated, living off of her mothers (and fiancé’s) dime. Lauri wants to sell her house and make a buck, but her daughter throws a fit and won’t let her mom do it. I think in this situation, Lauri isn’t furthering her career or finances and at the same time is hindering her daughter’s ability to live independently. In this case, Lauri’s career/life is negatively affecting her family’s lives.
It was big news when Jo moved into a house and was now on her own. She was now paying for everything and needed to budget her life now that she wasn’t being supported by a man. She ends up buying $1,500 shoes towards the end of the show, confirming the stereotype that women will shop no matter what their situation is. Not only are female stereotypes amplified by this show and the behavior of these women, the show concentrates only on the men in their lives when the men are providing something for the women, and it is often in a patriarchal manner. A good example of this is when Jo was meeting a producer for her music and her boyfriend did all the negotiating and “protecting? her in the business deals between all the men in the room.
The housewives of this show represent a very small population of women in America and what they experience in their lives is not representative of “real?. The women are humiliated throughout show because their behavior is scrutinized by the viewer and their careers are often overshadowed by superficial and domestic problems. The viewer should have a more critical mindset when watching this show.

Bitch Niggaz

I really enjoy all the video clips that we watched in class last Tuesday. Among those clips, I find the one that focused on masculinity in Bitch Niggaz the most interesting. In that clip, one can clearly see the many different gender concepts that we have been discussing about in class. For instance: gender performance and the need to fit so badly into the specific, predetermined gender roles were extremely obvious in that fairly short movie clip. Men were being aggressive and acting very superior toward their female counter part. Sensitivity and emotions were the two important elements that were definitely not tolerated. Their behaviors are what bell hook would considered to be part of the “patriarchal male domination? (pg 84) that she desperately wants to break. Similarly, what surprised me the most was the fact that the women in that clip actually believed that the men’s behavior and words were tolerable unless they were being directly aim at them. What I also found ironic was the way the women behaved. They knew that it was a hip hop event; it was a place where men come together to do nothing else but to check out other women. Thus, the women still attend. They even played into the expectation by dressing very provocatively and also did nothing besides serving the mere purpose of being looked at. Yet, they got angry when there were things said or unwanted behaviors that were not to their liking. In other words, considering the context of the event, knowing the situation and what are expected, why would one even attend? I’m not saying that these women deserved the consequences but certainly, one cannot say with conviction that these women are purely innocent either. They come to the event playing into their expected part, so can they really blame anybody for the treatment that they received? It’s just like adding oil to the fire. These women are really not exactly helping to prevent that fire from spreading.

March 13, 2007

Viewer's Vote: Which Character Do YOU Think is Gay?

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MTV.com gives a brief summary of the current season of the Real World. It explains that it was programmed in Denver, Colorado where seven strangers will work with kids who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. This brief synopsis, however, was obviously not going to be enough to attract viewers so they added in a small part to ensure viewers that there will be the expected caddy drama: “However, the true test of their survival skills will come back in the house as hasty hook-ups and deep-rooted conflicts make living together a challenge of sometimes epic proportion?. I wonder if I researched every season's summary, it would say almost the exact same thing?!

The Preview:

The episode I decided to watch and analyze, entitled “Butting In?, began by recapping what happened in the previous episode; It showed a guy and a girl laying in bed, playing footsie and flirting up a storm, talking about how because the guy is gay, has a boyfriend, and they live together, the girl does not want to have sex with him! Wow, this really got me interested.

The Episode:

So as I watched the show, I found out that Brooke, the girl that was in the bed with Davis, the gay guy, is very interested in him. Davis' boyfriend, PJ comes to Denver to visit, and Davis has the idea that they all have a threesome. This causes some drama and Brooke ends up confronting PJ that he is young and naive and should never fully trust anyone, especially Davis. Brooke and Davis end up arguing over the fact that she may have ruined his and PJ's short time together, but they soon resolve it. Anyway, I feel that if I weren't watching this show for a class assignment, it would have been a wasted half hour of my life. What I did get out of it, however, was that the entire episode was based on Davis' sexuality and his relationships with PJ and Brooke. In fact, I'm not sure if I could count how many times the fact that Davis was gay was mentioned in the episode.

Intended Incorporation of Sexuality in the Characters:

Tying into MTV's online summaries, Davis's biography states, “Davis is the typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed frat boy. Or is he? Hailing from the south, his upbringing was steeped in conservative Christianity. There's only one issue...Davis is gay.?

An article entitled “Look at The Real World. There's Always a Gay Teen On There: Sexual citizenship and youth-targeted reality television? pointed out that, “Designed as a social experiment to investigate 'what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real,' the program brings together seven 20-somethings, across different modalities of race, gender, sexuality, class, geography, and nation, to live together for six months, under almost total surveillance. Most of its 14 seasons have featured at least one gay, lesbian, or bisexual character...Reality television's mandate – 'being real' – now requires that lesbians and gay men be woven into the dense, social milieus of each series? (Kachgal, 362).

In “Butting In? in particular, the producers mainly focused on Davis's sexuality and openness of being gay (shots of him acting affectionately with his boyfriend, expressing emotional and physical attraction and dependency, etc.) Being aired on MTV along with many other shows that produce similar images of gay men, young adults are more likely to produce these stereotypes as well. In most contexts on MTV, in order to gain viewers' attention, the featured character/s must be represented as very sexual individuals, when not all homosexual people really are that open. I actually find it kind of funny that the producers feel that they should have at least one gay or bisexual male or female in each season. They use the same technique with different races and genders, which I will discuss as well.

The Audience:

I feel like they try to incorporate the gayness in their characters so much because this show is obviously geared toward a young adult, teenage audience. “With recent polls indicating a marked generational difference in tolerance for lesbian and gay rights, with young people much more supportive, the implications of youth-targeted reality television demands further scrutiny? ( Kachgal, 362).

One can tell that this show is intended for a younger audience not only because of the age of the characters, but by their language, dress, physical and sexual activities and tendencies, and even commercials in between all of the drama that this show creates. A few advertisements included Old Navy, previews for the movie Premonition, Playstation 3, the Megastar tour of the Blue Man Group, and Covergirl makeup.

Intended Incorporation of Race and Gender:

I do not want to focus explicitly on the sexual citizenship of the show, but also the integration of race and gender in the characters. In the Denver season, there are four men and three women. For the most part, the producers try to keep the gender balanced, so they throw in a gay guy.

First, we have Alex, a 22 year-old Caucasian male from Texas. He is described as an over-confident women-loving jock. Next is Brooke, a 24 year-old Southern Caucasian who is purposely described as having “ended a long-term interracial relationship just prior to joining the cast of the Real World?. The second male introduced is Davis, the gay guy aspiring to change his life from his fear of showing the world who he truly is. Then there is Stephen, a 22 year old black male who is, oh no! An extreme Republican who is against gay marriage! Jennifer is a 22 year-old quirky white cheerleader, and Colie is also a 22 year-old white party girl. Finally, to throw in another black guy, we have Tyrie who is an ex gang member making an effort to leave his past behind.

As you can see, race plays a major role when selecting characters for this show. I feel that the producers have generally good intentions of providing a variety of different cultures and races for this show and for viewers to relate with, but another thing I noticed was that every person is almost the exact same age. I think they do this because they want to cause added drama between cast members by having sexual relations with one another and of course they have to be around the same age to do that. I guess young people are beginning to accept homosexuality in their lives, but not any extreme age differences between couples or those who have intimate relations.

I have watched the Real World a few times before, but I definitely have never looked at it with such a critical eye. The first season I watched, I remember thinking how it was really cool that each cast member was so different from one another. I never thought about how the producers purposely designed it to be that way or how each character was about the same age. I don't necessarily think this is a horribly put together show like some of the other shows on MTV, I just wish they didn't put out such a stereotypical image of gay people and incorporate that throughout each season.

March 29 - Ferry Tales Film

"Ferry Tales"
Thursday, March 29, 6:30 p.m.
Walter Library 402

Staten Island Ferry powder room brings together suburban moms, urbanites, white-collar, blue-collar, sistahs and socialites. In broaching topics as divorce, single motherhood and domestic violence, “Ferry Tales? shows us the realities of life for working women, and provides a rare and honest look at the intersections of race and class.

Post-film discussion facilitated by Associate Professor Joanna O’Connell, Spanish & Portuguese Studies.

March 19 - Asian American Poetry Film

"Between the Lines: Asian American Women's Poetry"

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Monday, March 19, 6:30 p.m., 325 Science Classroom Building

This engaging documentary serves as poetry reading, virtual anthology,
and, perhaps most importantly, moving testimony about gender, ethnicity,
aesthetics, and creative choice. The film reflects both individual voice
and diversity within the Asian-American women’s community. Post-film
discussion facilitated by Assistant Professor Evelyn Ch'ien, Department
of English.

Between the Lines:
Asian American Women's Poetry
A videotape by Yunah Hong
US, 2001, 60 minutes, Color, VHS

BETWEEN THE LINES offers rare interviews with over 15 major Asian-Pacific American women poets. Organized in interwoven sections such as Immigration, Language, Family, Memory, and Spirituality, it is a sophisticated merging of Asian-American history and identity with the questions of performance, voice, and image.

This engaging documentary serves as poetry reading, virtual anthology, and, perhaps most importantly, moving testimony about gender, ethnicity, aesthetics, and creative choice. The carefully edited interviews and poems read reflect the filmmaker's desire to show both individual voice and diversity within the Asian-American women�s community. Theoretically as rich as the images and poems provided, there is also an implicit conversation in the video about the possibility and usefulness of an Asian-American women�s aesthetic/poetic. Using carefully selected archival images, historical footage, and brilliant photography as the scrim through which we hear the poets, BETWEEN THE LINES provides important and lively viewing for literature, history, ethnic and women�s studies classes.� - Joseph Boles, Visiting Scholar, Center for Visual Culture, Bryn Mawr

April 28th - Young Women's Leadership Conference

Mid-West Regional Young Women’s Leadership Conference
Saturday, April 28, 2007
University of Minnesota-Duluth
$25

This one-day conference will focus on issues important to women and the often overlooked connections between reproductive rights and health, sweatshop labor, HIV/AIDS, slavery and human trafficking, foreign policy, women in conflict, and violence. Women, especially young women, can change the current state of the world! Let's do it together!

Friday, April 27, 2007 from 6-8 p.m. , at the Building for Women, 32 E 1st St., Ms. magazine & Feminist Majority Foundation will host a free "Never Go Back" Forum & Community Networking Event for students, community members, and faculty.

REGISTER HERE

Women, especially young women, can change the current state of the world but they must know how the issues are interconnected.

April 15th - A TRANS-BORDER DIALOGUE ON ALLIANCE WORK

We invite you to
A TRANS-BORDER DIALOGUE ON ALLIANCE WORK
on Sunday, April 15, 2007

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with members of Labor Education Service (University of Minnesota), Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, and Sangtin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan (Sitapur, India)

2:30-5:30 PM
In the Heart of the Beast Theatre (3rd Floor of Plaza Verde)
1500 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55407

Translation and childcare will be provided

Please join us in this unique opportunity for a discussion with members of Sangtin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan (Sangtin Peasants and Workers Organization). SKMS is working to build a strong movement of women and men in the villages of Sitapur District in North India. From SKMS come Surbala and Richa Singh, full time organizers in Sitapur, and Richa Nagar, a professor at the University of Minnesota. SKMS emerged from discussions of social and economic violence in the daily lives of rural women, and in the donor-funded organizations that seek to empower the poor. SKMS interweaves grassroots organizing, collective reflections, and collaborative writing to build dialogues and solidarity networks with rural communities in Sitapur, and with educators and people's movements located outside of Sitapur. For SKMS, projects of empowerment, instead of being imagined and diffused by funders and experts, must gain their meaning and form through dialogues with communities they seek to empower.

We will begin with some key questions in SKMS' journey: How does donor-driven-politics influence grassroots activism? How does unequal access to education, livelihood, and information shape the lives of workers and peasants? How can university-based research and grassroots struggles support each other? Subsequently, local organizers, students, and those directly affected by unequal access will engage with these themes and raise others. We hope to start a much needed dialogue about how our struggles overlap, what we can learn and take from each other about visions and strategies, and how we can build alliances despite significant differences in our contexts. We hope that this three-hour session will provide adequate time for meaningful conversations to happen.

A note to paid staff at community groups and unions: This discussion seeks to expand the circle of participants who get a chance to engage with such questions. Often we find that the same people participate in events such as this, and therefore, we ask that you bring members from your organization with you if you plan to come.

Please RSVP by April 1 to hamarasafar@gmail.com indicating the language in which you would like us to provide translation and, if you need childcare, please let us know how many children will accompany you.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota's CLA Scholarly Events Fund, Institute for Global Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, Department of Chicano Studies, Department of American Studies, and M?S(S) Color, the association of students of color of the Department of American Studies.

March 12, 2007

Beyond Beats and Rhymes

When I first heard about the documentary “Beyond Beats and Rhymes? I was not all that interested because it seemed obvious to me that a lot of mainstream hip hop is offensive, and I was not sure if it could show me anything new. But after watching the clips in class, I changed my mind. The documentary went into so much more depth than I had come up with on my own. It broke down the meanings of the images we see in mainstream hip hop, and showed it consequences.

One example was the chapter on the phrase “bitch niggaz,? in which Byron Hurt showed the extent at which it was being used (by 50 Cent on film), and then showed in detail how the phrase was harmful to our ideas about both women and men. Hurt explained that the phrase was simultaneously perpetuating the idea that real men are strong, don’t cry and only do “manly? things one hundred percent of the time, and that since real men are socially above womanly men, then real men are obviously superior to women too. The clips watched in class made me want to see the rest of the film, and motivated me to learn more details about the stereotypes spread by our media and their effects on our culture.

Another thing I would like to add is that “Beyond Beats and Rhymes? reminded me of an MTV interview with Snoop Dogg I watched last year. In the interview, Snoop Dogg was asked his opinion on the overwhelming oppression of women in the African-American culture. Snoop replied that treating women poorly, as if they weren’t fully human, was all that a lot of young boys in the culture saw; they knew nothing else, so that is what they imitated. Snoop then added that as people grew up, they usually learned that this view of women was false and harmful. He stated that if it were to ever change, it would be by the people who had learned otherwise, and that they would have to stop perpetuating the image of women as lesser beings to the younger generation.
My question after watching this interview was how does Snoop believe escorting two barely dressed, voiceless women in dog collars and leashes to a public awards ceremony show the younger generation that women are just as human as men? Although Snoop Dogg can talk about the issues of women’s oppression and the reasons behind it, he is still a huge contributor to “Beyond Beats and Rhymes’ ? idea of hip hop gender stereotyping, and talk is not enough.

March 21st - Native Women's Leadership

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March 11, 2007

Dancing with the Stars; Season 2

The reality TV show that I decided to watch again was an episode of Dancing with the Stars, season two. This particular episode aired last year on ABC on a Tuesday and a Wednesday evening at a seven o’clock timeslot. This time would be known as “primetime? on most channels. Dancing with the Stars is going to starting its fourth season on March 19th and when I started to see commercials about the show this distinct episode, well actually season, replayed in my head.
Walt Disney Productions is the production company for this show along with BBC worldwide. Dancing with the Stars actually originated overseas and then was popularized in America. The executive producers for the show are Conrad Green and Richard Hopkins. And the Co executive producer is Izzie Pick. This show is filmed in front of a live audience in Los Angeles California.
During this show there is a very eclectic group of commercials. Ranging from make up to cars and, which didn’t surprise me, Botox commercials. I thought that the variety in the commercials made the show look as though it was directed to a more diverse group of people. In the show they have celebrities dancing with world famous stars. Celebrities including actors, TV hosts and sports figures.


During the second season of Dancing with the Stars there was a very controversial member of the group. The rap mogul Master P was asked to join the group. Master P had difficulty from the start, what with wearing baggy pants and shirts and tennis shoes. The three judges, all of which are white, and his dance partner, also white, had a huge problem with his lack of respect for the rules of dancing. Men and women wear tighter clothing, the women wearing almost nothing at all. Master P was given a lot of grief. He expressed his views with not even wanting to be on the television show, that he was just doing this for his son, so he didn’t care what he wore. It became an even tenser episode when his dance partner didn’t defend him, and on national TV told him off about how he was an embarrassment to her. In the end, Master P was eliminated that week from the competition.
I felt that the episode showed a lot of how people of different colors view each other. In my opinion, I think that if Master P would have been in front of a panel of African American judges, he wouldn’t have been told that the way he was dressed was wrong. In fact, in that particular season, there wasn’t a professional dancer who was African American. For any celebrity on this show who isn’t white, I see that as a problem.
In the reading found on WebCT titled “Humiliation, Subjectivity and Reality TV? I found an interesting quote from Avishai Margalit. He stated that “…an ideal of universal human rights independent of individual achievement or status, a society where the dignity of individuals relies only on the fact that they’re human beings.? Reading this made me think of Master P because I feel as though this show was humiliating him. He most likely went on this show for the money, which is what I would do as well, but he went on as himself. And throughout the shows that he was on prior to his elimination, the judges were trying to change the person he was. I’m assuming that when this big, tall, African American man stepped out onstage the judges took one look at him and made their own assumption about the kind of person he is.
In Feminist Frontiers, R. W. Connell writes in the section “Masculinities and Globalization? that “We are so accustomed to thinking of gender as the attribute of an individual, even as an unusually intimate attribute, that it requires a considerable wrench to think of gender on the vast scale of global society.? This quote reminded me of the clothing that the women wear on this show. Most dances are more intimate and a fun and flirty dress is most often important to the dance, however, most of these women come out and dance in clothing that looks as though they should be on the beach! In my opinion it is almost as bad as a rap music video. She has barely any clothing on, and the risk of her having a “wardrobe malfunction? is high.
Regardless that this show may show some racism with Master P and sexism with the women wearing barely there costumes, this is still a highly popular show. In fact, it was the number two show this past fall on the ABC network. And, despite flaws that this show may have, I am still a huge fan of it. Its easy for me to watch this show and say to myself, “not everyone is like that? and dressing and dancing like that isn’t expected of me. Which makes is easy for me to sit down and spent two hours watching celebrities dance.

dean spade talk

On January 22, I attended the Dean Spade talk sponsored by the GWSS department in the Monday afternoon time slot. This particular colloquium, titled “Consolidating the Gendered Citizen: Trans Survival, Bureaucratic Power, and the War on Terror?, addressed the issues of transrights and transidentity in the United States for transgender individuals and stressed the role that administrative law plays as a specific tool for oppression. The three most prominent components of the fight are identity classification and documentation, sex segregation, and medical care.

Identity documentation presents the greatest obstacle for normalization in the transgender community as identity is nationalizing. Social security and birth certificates have crept in gradually as an accepted part of our lives where they have become important, even essential over time. There are 52 different birth certificates for 50 states, Washington DC, and New York City, which makes it difficult for individuals who wish to change their sex on their records to navigate doing so in the current system of identification. Complicating the matter even further, there are discrepancies within the legal system regarding the rules and qualifications for the alteration of necessary documents. Some people just cross out gender on ID cards, others simply have new documents made. These inconsistencies of the rules mean unfair results for various individuals. The current laws generally require proof of sexual surgery, a surgery that most individuals don’t have. This requirement is based on the stereotype of a sex change The ideal situation would be to have a special certificate with no gender marker, however, an easier way to better the situation would be to reduce the emphasis on medial change. There are great difficulties in achieving equal rights and proper identification and this is demonstrated as the War on Terror instigates further problems in the struggle for identification. Homeland Security looks for people with mismatches or discrepancies regarding IDs and transgender individuals usefully fit under this category if their sexes are different on different forms of identification. If this is the case, then these people are unfairly arrested and mistreated, even beaten and sent to jail, because of the obstacles in gender classification. These arrests can lead to problems too with where to put them in a jail facility where they are often abused for their differences. The unjust treatment of these individuals eagerly compels the US towards the standardization of licenses. Transactivism focuses on hate crimes and preventing deaths.
I received an email with word of this talk, and even before the event was posted on the course blog, I had already decided that I wanted to go, without making the connection to the requirement that attending would fulfill, because I didn’t really know very much about transgender individuals. Coming from white suburbia, I was never faced with anyone who classified his or herself in this way and I was really drawn to understanding the concept and the community that identified with it.
I remember going home and telling my good friend that I had found her calling in life. She likes to work with the elderly and she is active in the LGBT community, so I proposed that she open a transgender assisted living home. An individual in the audience was very vocal about the negative issues surrounding the transgender community, especially in this area, and the uncomfortable situations that arise in an environment that is weary or ignorant to their needs.
Spade teaches law at the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, and in 2002, Dean founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which is a non profit collective that provides free legal assistance to individuals within the transgender, intersex community that are confronted with poverty and racism.

What do I think of when I think race??

RACE Exhibit
Science Museum
St. Paul, Minnesota
3/9/2007


I attended the RACE exhibit at the Science museum of Minnesota, I walked into the exhibit and the first activity that I came across was a booth that had the words The meaning of white; what is white privilege? on the top. I figured this would be a good starting point since this is a topic that both frustrates and enlightens me. It was a study done by Doug Hartmann to discover what people know and how they feel about white privilege. I have always taken the stance, since I am a suburban white girl, that I am no more privileged than the next person. However, white sitting at the booth I decided to actively participate in hopes that I would be able to understand this subject better. There was a phone receiver where you could learn more about the subject and I did just that. The biggest thing that I took away from the study was the following statement, “White people are more willing and able to talk about African American disadvantage than white privilege because they are forced to recognize inequality- however, say this is not ‘our’ problem.? After I heard this statement I immediately because conscious of the fact hat I choose not to see the despair that most minorities face and when I do recognize it, I always declare there is nothing that ‘I can do’ about it. I spend most of my time defending how hard my parents worked for what we have and that we haven’t been ‘given’ anything we didn’t deserve. In reality, I feel if we took the energy that we spend protecting our positions and put it towards change we could all truly begin to make a difference.

I moved on to another booth entitled Who is white? This was a survey on your opinion of who is considered white and who is not. The options for answers were white, not white, unsure. After a answering this question on a list of approximately 25 cultures/nations I received these results; “American scientists say ‘white is a “squishy category? and point out the variability of race categories worldwide. The question who is and who is not white has changed overtime in the U.S.- as to reasons why notion of distinct races is not scientifically valid.? I thought that this was interesting because we, as humans, constructed the suggestion of race and yet there is no clear cut description of what constitutes each category, so why ever have it at all.
As I continued walking through the exhibit a quote hanging from the ceiling caught my eye and I couldn’t help but reflect on it. “How can it be that so many well-meaning white people have never thought about race when so few blacks pass a single day with out being reminded about it?? –Patricia Williams. After reading this, I was aggravated because we all work for equality, no matter what race, I feel that singling out white people and stating that race isn’t an influencer, is in itself discriminatory, Personally, I feel as though race has played a substantial role in my life just as it has anyone else. Who gets to decide what discrimination is valid and hurtful and what isn’t? And being white doesn’t always present itself as a privilege and in fact in can be just as much of an “obstacle? as it can be to be not white.
The final booth I focused on was Separate and Unequal. There was a quote that stated “[race] plays an important role in our lives.? This booth concentrated on the ever changing roles and laws that this country has built. I can not argue that favoritism hasn’t been an issue in our culture. For example, in 1854 the California Supreme Court “ruled in People v. Hall, that the testimony of a Chinese man who witnessed a murder by a white man is not admissible in a court of law.? This is the most blatant of bigotry however, as the country progressed so have the laws. Laws of this nature would and should not be tolerated in today’s society. Nevertheless, we need to keep moving forward rather than progressing backwards by defending how “our people,? whether white, black, Asian or Albanian, have been discriminated against and focus on how we can equal the playing field for all by not letting the color of our skin determine who we are.
In conclusion, the final quote that received my attention was “Most of the benefits of being white can be obtained without ever doing anything. Personally, whites are given the privileges of a racists system, even if they are not personally racist.? –John Powell. It is my contention that though this may be unjustly true in a handful of instances there is no generic rule that states because your skin is white you will receive everything you ever need and will never be discriminated against, because this unquestionably isn’t the case. In fact, I believe that every person, despite their race, will face challenges- there are no free passes in this world.

Film Response

Im responding on the film Beyond Beats and Rhymes. I couldnt believe that those men treated those women on the beach the way they did. If some guy came up and grabbed my butt I would freak out. I wouldnt just keep walking and just brush the act off. It also really bothered me that those girls when asked didnt have a problem with what rappers talk about in their songs. I actually do like Rap. I do listen to it, quite frequently, and most of the time sing along with the radio. When I am doing that the words dont mean much to me. Im just having fun singing along like an idiot! But, its when I see the music video along with the song, I get very frustrated. I guess I just dont understand what the point of women dancing around half naked, taking their clothes off, and smiling and laughing because they are being referred to as "bitches" and "whores". It bothers me because nowadays music videos and rap songs are getting worse. And if the women on the movie didnt think that those men were referring to them, then little girls growing up now are going to think even less of themselves because of these songs. And after seeing this video in class it really got me thinking about how women are always the target of sexism.

12th Annual Women's Day Celebration

For my activist event, I attended the 12th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration on March 3, 2007. This event was held by the Minnesota advocates for human rights and the human rights program and the University of Minnesota at Coffman Memorial Union.
The women’s day celebration was a day long ceremony that included inspirational and informational lectures, educational films, slam poetry, music, and, my favorite part, a section of the day dedicated to all the women’s organizations in Minneapolis. Over 65 organizations set up tables in Coffman’s Great Hall, and I spent the afternoon wandering around and learning about all the opportunities available around me. I picked up pamphlets from local sexual assault and unexpected pregnancy help centers, international relief organizations, and even learned about a Minneapolis bookstore dedicated to teaching peace and unity.

The organization that held my interest the most was a group called ARC, the American Refugee Committee. The American Refugee Committee is a non-profit organization that fights against gender-based violence and aids its victims. The ARC defined gender-based violence as “violence such as sexual assault and exploitation,? and recognizes it as a weapon of war, stating that especially in conflicting societies, most people have experienced or witnessed sexual violence, and that the environments of the refugee camps are too unstable to offer the protection and safety women need. The ARC also explains that

“having lost everything in war, women and girls often feel they have no other choice but to offer sex in exchange for food or other necessities. Some mothers, desperate to survive , feel they have no recourse but to push their daughters into prostitution.?

The American Refugee Committee works to aid the women of conflict regions by offering immediate care and help, legal help, and by working to stop gender-based violence before it occurs. Currently, the ARC is present in Liberia, Thailand, Pakistan, Guinea and Darfur, and is working to set up branches in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. I asked how it was possible to help in Minneapolis and was told that there are opportunities to help raise consciousness in the American public, raise money, and find volunteers for the locations across seas that need help. To learn more about their opportunities to help, The ARC presents tours of the organization the second Tuesday of every month. To attend or find out more, you can call (612) 607-6495 or email rsvp@archq.org.

The International Women’s Day Celebration had more interesting organizations represented than time to learn about them. It was eye opening and inspiring to see how many ways different women were involved in our communities, and how many different causes they were fighting for. The event made it easy to learn about all the opportunities Minneapolis has to offer me, and to find an organization I feel strongly about and want to get involved in. I plan to pursue the American Refugee Committee, to volunteer and do what I can to help out. Without this event, it is probable that I would have never learned about the ARC and never gotten involved, and I highly recommend attending the 13th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration next year to see what else is out there.

Eva Hesse

On January 8, I visited the Walker Art Museum on one of its FREE Thursdays and toured Eva Hesse’s show room of paintings and sculptures. While admiring her art I was able to learn a little about her life through the ‘tour guide’s? lecture.
Eva Hesse was born in 1936, in Hamburg Germany. Because her family was Jewish her parents sent her to Amsterdam on the “kinder train? to flee Nazi control in 1938. By 1939, she was living in New York City with her parents who divorced in 1945, and in 1946, her mother committed suicide by jumping off of a roof.
It could have been the fact that I was analyzing her art work while hearing about her life, but her work really seemed to evolve through the years. This stage of her life seemed to come out in her early work through mostly black and white (pen/paint) imprecise brush strokes. The art had extremely distraught figures in uncomfortable positions, or at least that’s what they felt like to me.
After studying at Yale, Hesse married Tom Doyle, a fellow sculptor in 1961, a time where the field was very male dominated. This is a phase in her work where she began to use more color; this is what she was widely known for. I could see abstract landscapes with brides, rivers, and a feeling of cycles and flow. They were much more peaceful than her former work. Also around this same time, she began doing “child-like? art which included many arrows, squares, and lines. Each one seemed to tell a story, but as she often stressed herself, they could be a completely different story for every different person. In this art I saw a depiction of the mess of child-rearing, diaper changing, nursing, the chaos, but it was not negative, just scrambled. Another looked like a city from a birds eye view so that one could only see the roofs of life.
In 1964, Hesse and her husband Doyle moved back to Germany for a year, working in a textile mill. She refers to her work at this time and slightly after as “nothings?. They were very repetitive patterns of squares and lines. They made me recall monotonous work that I have been unfortunate to have experienced. There were slight changes in color which brought the work to life, but it did not make it any less dull.
In 1966, Hesse and Doyle divorced, and her father died. There was another transition in her work. My personal favorite piece was at this time period. It is a sculpture of what looks like an extremely long, jet black, blown-up balloon hung on a string that has a slightly detached head at the bottom which looked extremely phallic like especially when in front of the dangling punching bag below it. The depiction of the penis being so long didn’t seem sexual, it seemed to symbolize a cold emotional distance one could portray, experience, or witness in a sexual way. Next to this piece was another sculpture. Once again, I can only describe what I saw which may not be what anyone else would have seen or felt. It was a black box with a hole in it and a coiled rope spilling out, which seemed awfully vagina-like to me. These sculptures felt tormenting, extremely emotional, and thought provoking.
In 1970, Eva Hesse died of a brain tumor that she was aware of for at least a year before her actual death. Her last pieces of work almost combined her first few stages of art. Apparently, she was such a well known artist at this time that she had multiple aids to assist in her art, doing the actual labor end of it, as she was the master mind. Her work reminded me of windows. Her blues were a combination of sadness and acceptance and tranquility at the same time.

Nikki G

Nikki Giovanni "Truth Telling and the Need for Poetry
Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 7:30 PM
Ted Mann Concert Hall


I’ll be honest; prior to February 28th I had never heard of Nikki Giovanni. I knew her face from a photo of a poster and I knew her name from the mouths of other people. Other than this she was a mystery to me. What did she do? What made her life important? Where is she from? What is her relevance to me? After listening to Nikki on that night, all my questions were answered. I now am glad to say I know Nikki Giovanni.

Going into the concert hall, I was amazed at the energy of the audience. Their dynamic body motions and eager conversations conveyed their sense of excitement for Nikki. Everyone giddily exchanged words as they kept one eye on stage, waiting to see the stage door open signaling the start of the event at hand. As the time drew close to 7:30, I read over the program I received in the lobby. I became aware of the importance of Ms Giovanni. Her extensive work in publishing is intimidating. She is extremely well accomplished in academics and her personal life. I questioned why I have not heard of her prior to this evening. I could hardly wait for her to take the stage.
Once Ms Giovanni took stage, the audience watched in awe. We laughed when she laughed. We cried when she cried. We hurt when she expressed pain. And we questioned ourselves when she asked us to. Her focus of the night was, as the program details, the need for truth telling and poetry. She talked of her relationship with Rosa Parks, and how it lead to her writing in a children’s book telling the story of Ms Parks. She read several excerpts from the book, interspersing random anecdotes about their relationship. She went off on tangents about stories; one about a boy in the south was killed about angry white men, with the death trying to pushed aside by the police. She talked a lot about her relationship with her family, with an emphasis on her mother. Although Nikki’s mother is no longer with her, her words made her seem alive on stage. She also read her favorite pieces from her current work Acolytes. She expressed the greatest need for reading between our youth, the need for us to express ourselves, and the need for us all to live and feel alive.
I learned many things from Ms Giovanni that night. I learned of a woman who deserves to be heard by everyone. Her voice is not one to be ignored. You do not need to be of a certain status or of a certain color to identify with Ms Giovanni. I am adding many of her works to my reading lists. I hope to hear and read more of Nikki, and I look forward to telling more about this great woman.

Hmong Women

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 7:30 PM
Ka Vang & Noukou Thao
Un-Named Series: Hmong and Lao Writers

This event was hosted by The Loft in downtown Minneapolis and cosponsored by COMPAS (Community Programs in the Arts). Ka Vang and Noukou Thao are both active Hmong women artists in their own community. Both have made many efforts to help, inspire, and motivate other fellow Hmong community members to embrace and support their culture. Many of their artistic works and biographical information can be found online at www.loft.org.

This event was very deep and powerful filled with countless readings revealing the many histories, assimilation problems, role of women, and beautiful culture the Hmong have. Noukou Thao’s readings were first to be performed and her style seemed much more somber and concentrated mostly on the history of Hmong women in their own culture. One of her readings (couldn’t remember the title because I had walked in the middle of it) discussed the pain of Hmong women in their own culture including bearing these strong domesticated roles and hardly having a voice to speak out with. This specific piece really spoke out to me individually because it reminded me so much of the movie clips we saw of “Iron Jaw Angels? with Hillary Swank and the whole movement of women’s rights.

Ka Vang is not only a great artist, but also a past mentor/advisor of mine from Hamline University. She is an inspiring woman who shows how proud she is to be a Hmong woman. Ka’s readings felt like a roller coaster as she performed them. I remember a few of them. One reading was called “Yellow-skinned woman(?)" and she dug into the stereotype of Asian women and exoticism. Some things mentioned were rather blunt and bold to say but admirable. She talked about how Asian women are perceived as sexual animals with sly intentions – ready to please the white man with all their exotic characteristics.

“Venereal Mind? – this poem was very graphic and talked about women being the sexual objects men desire and their role to please them. One of the parts of the poem that I really thought stuck out was:

“Machiavellian mama
lurking in the hip-hop clubs
preying on
Big Bad Wolf
with 12-inch canine
her pouty lips drooling to suck him dry
ready to grind his behemoth bone

He jumps onto her thighs
for a thrill ride,
“ride-little-red-hood,
ride-on,?
til his batter bursts
like Mt. St. Helen
on Valentine’s Day?

This reading confirms all of media’s triumphs and efforts to symbolize women as sex objects who are waiting to feast on their prey of men and fulfill all of their sexual fantasies, even if it’s not for women’s pleasure.

The final piece was “Disconnect": a play written by Ka Vang and performed by Mei Lee Yang and Bryan Thao Worra – both famous local Hmong artists. This play was the best part of the entire event. It really captured Hmong culture and the complications that come with assimilating to American culture in both a humorous and thought-provoking way. It started with Mei Lee Yang as a girl who is preparing to dye her hair blonde and singing "Like A Virgin". She receives many calls including ones from her Hmong ancestors warning her of something that is about to occur (but vague) and then a particular call from a company named (McDonald, and the other three were titles of other companies that started with M - obviously metaphorically resembling corporations that run America). The company then starts a survey asking Mei questions that confirm stereotypes of Hmong:

-all Hmong marry around 15 years old to men twice their age
-they like to dye their hair color from black to blonde
-speaking to ancestors is regular
-1st and 2nd generation not knowing as much about their culture and assimilating to American culture by watching MTV and attaching those American characteristics to themselves, rather than their Hmong roots
-the understanding that Hmong women only marry, reproduce, and take care of the family
-Hmong people and violence (lady drowning 6 of her own kids, Chai Vang trial)

Even the company (voice of Bryan) makes fun of the way white people pronounce "Hmong". He consistently says "ha-mong" whenever he asks Mei a question. She plays along with the stereotypes that are given and giggles about them without realizing the damage she is causing.

This play was very much a reality for many Hmong and other Asian communities, even though it was done in a playful and humorous manner. I think Ka wanted her own people to see how they've become "disconnected" from their own community and culture and see the urgency to examine their own behavior and attitudes to their root culture.

Overall, I was very glad that I was able to attend such an event. It was a great and inspirational experience. I'd definitely recommend The Loft for future events.

March 9, 2007

The Scientific Community

Watching the documentary “Middlesexes? definitely provided some light on a confusing and often misunderstood topic, Middlesex. I thought the video was great, providing the viewer with many stories and situations ranging from across the globe and from varying time periods. Max’s story placed into perspective the oppression that he experienced in his life time. Max was constantly confused about his identity, trying to fit into a category created by western society, but never really finding it. Not only did he have to go through life feeling constantly confused, he was never told about being a male pseudo-hermaphrodite. It is hard to imagine that not too long ago, it was okay to withhold or hide medical information from a person. Max never got the choice to decide what he wanted to be, or where he wanted to fit.

The movie and the article by Kessler were very critical of doctors and the medical/scientific community. Kessler states, “Members of medical teams have standard practices for managing intersexuality, which rely ultimately on cultural understandings of gender. The process and guidelines by which decisions about gender (re)construction are made reveal the model for the social construction of gender generally.? (Kessler 56) I think this statement is completely reinforced by the way intersexed people are treated in the medical field. Take Max for an example, he was never informed of the decisions made by doctors (people that possibly had no real worry about where Max ended up 30 years down the road). The doctors just did what they had been taught in school when dealing with ambiguous genitalia.
Something that bothers me about this movie or even when just discussing intersexes and homosexuality is how the medical/scientific community is always brought in, justifying the way things are. It is like saying it is “okay? now if people are gay or intersexed, because we can show/track what is happening as they develop. I am pretty sure it was okay to be gay or intersexed before the scientific community could prove that being intersexed or gay is a “just biological mix-up?. I don’t think that we need science to say that being intersexed or gay is okay. The science is only pointing out that something went wrong, that it wasn’t supposed to be that way, but since it happens, we should accept it. I think that providing scientific answers will only open more doors to stereotypes and prejudices. Things are the way they are, there doesn't need to be an answer.

3/22 Cherrie Moraga at Macalester

Cherríe Moraga @ Macalester
Women’s History Month Keynote Speaker
March 22 :: 4:30 PM
Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel



Cherríe Moraga
, a noted playwright, poet, and essayist whose plays and publications have received national attention, will provide the keynote address to culminate the events of Women's History Month. Moraga has published extensively as an essayist and poet. She is the author of "Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Paso Por Sus Labios" and "The Last Generation," and co-editor of "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color" (1986; 2002). She has edited numerous publications, including "Cuentos: Stories by Latinas" and "Third Woman: The Sexuality of Latinas." As a playwright, Moraga has developed many plays, including "Watsonville: Some Place Not Here" and "The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea." Currently, Moraga serves as the Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Drama and the Department of Spanish and Portugese at Stanford University. Among her courses are Latino thater & Literature, Intensive Playwrighting, and Creative Writing.

My Super Sweet 16!

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For my reality T.V. show, I watched Sweet 16. This is a show about girls (mostly) and boys who have very wealthy parents and who are having a sixteenth birthday party. These kids pretty much can have a party with no limitations as far as money goes. The one I watched was about a girl named Nikki. Nikki had a beach themed party, held in a night-club like atmosphere, and complete with a famous performer named Pit-bull. The show starts with introducing the girl, then how she plans her party and how much money her parents spend on it, and then it ends with the party.

This show is one that airs on MTV. It is a channel geared toward tweens to people in their twenties. The show I watched played at 5:30 P.M. but I know that there are airings of this Sweet 16 show on many different times during the day. I think this Sweet 16 program airs for a couple of reasons. First, I think it is geared toward people (mainly girls) who have yet to have their 16th birthday so that they can see it and see how big of a deal some people make of it. Then they can want to have a big party, just like the one that they see on the show. Also, I think it is there for people (again mostly girls) who are above the age of 16 so that they can just watch and see how spoiled these girls are. I really don’t see any other point to the show than just to see how these girls get anything they want and don’t really appreciate it at all. Right when the show ends the big MTV symbol comes up saying it is a MTV production.

Like I said I think that there are two intended audiences. I watched the commercials as well as the show, and some of the commericals were: Gap, United States Navy, Burger King, the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics, gum, sanitary napkins, a comedy called Blades of Glory, ring tones for cell phones, the Sonic fast-food restaurant, the movie Preminition, and MLB 07 video game from Wal-Mart. There were no commercials for minivans, Viagra, or dentures which makes sense because this show isn’t for older audiences.

While watching the show, I noted many things that I may have never noticed before taking this women’s studies class.

For Nikki to decide who could go to her party, she had a pre-party at her house. During this pre-party, she had everyone get on the opposite side of her volleyball net and she threw mini-volleyballs to them. Whoever caught one would be invited to her party. To me this just seems like only the ‘strong’ survive. Out of the 10 or so balls we saw her throw during the show, I would say about 8 of the people who caught them were guys.

Another thing that was a big deal in the show was Nikki’s dad meeting the boy who was going to be her date at the party. She wasn’t allowed to date until she was 16 so since this was her 16th birthday, this meant that it was time for her dad to meet her date. For this to happen, her dad and Nikki met the boyfriend at a nice restaurant. They show the boyfriend pull up in a huge truck with huge tires on it. It was a demonstration of the upper class having ridiculous accessories. The only thing the dad does to see if the boy is acceptable for his daughter is ask him a series of questions: where he lives, how old he is, who his parents are, and where he goes to school. These questions seem to me like all the dad cares about is where the boy comes from and if his social status is high enough to date his daughter. Her dad never asked any questions about if he knows how to treat a girl or if he has a safe driving record. I thought this was an example of the class divisions in society and how these divisions tend to stay within themselves. This also made me think, why is it her dad who has to approve of the boy, why isn’t the mom allowed a say in who she thinks that her daughter should date? I think this is a form of male privilege. In reading 2 of Feminist Frontiers, Peggy McIntosh has an article called “White Privilege and Male Privilege.? She says “only rarely will a man go beyond acknowledging that women are disadvantaged to acknowledging that men have unearned advantage.? (pg 10)

The most obvious thing that I was thinking about in this show was division of class and white supremacy. Peggy McIntosh says, “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets? (pg 10). Nikki’s party was full of white people. The only minorities that I saw the whole show were some African-American men who were working at her party. It was also very obvious how everyone at that party was “doing gender.? It was like Judith Lorber said in her article “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender,? “gender, like culture, is a human production that depends on everyone constantly ‘doing gender’.? (Feminist Frontiers, pg 41). Every girl there was dressed in the most girly cloths, including the moms. Also, the dads were all really tough looking, and Nikki’s mom was a stay at home mom. I don’t see how the dichotomy between males and females will ever be erased if the media is constantly encouraging it.

All in all this is a show that I would be lying if I said I had never watched before. The thing is, when I watched it this time with a critical eye, I saw how many wrong things it is encouraging and instilling in people. It isn’t a show that young teens should be growing up watching.

March 7, 2007

3/22/07 Poet at Weisman

Deborah Keenan
Thursday, March 22, 2007
7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Free and open to the public!

Edelstein-Keller Minnesota Writer of Distinction Deborah Keenan reads from her work. Keenan is the author of six collections of poetry: Household Wounds, The Only Window That Counts, How We Missed Belgium (written with Jim Moore), One Angel Then, Happiness, and Good Heart, her newest. She is, with Roseann Lloyd, co-editor of Looking For Home: Women Writing About Exile, which won the American Book Award in 1991. Keenan has received two Bush Foundation Fellowships, an NEA Fellowship, and The Loft McKnight Poet of Distinction award. In 1994, 2000, and 2004 she was named professor of the year for teaching and service in the Graduate School of Liberal Studies (MALS & MFA programs) at Hamline University.

Read an excerpt of her work.

Contact:
For further information, contact Terri Sutton at 612-626-1528 or sutt0063@umn.edu

Emasculation

“Bitch Niggaz?, a clip from Beyond Beats and Rhymes, addresses that when one man truly wants to insult another man, he will feminize the other man’s character. By calling him a “pussy?, “sissy?, “bitch?, or even “bitch nigga?, he is taking away from his opponent’s masculinity and making his component seem less of a man.

In her book Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks states, “Patriarchal masculinity teaches men that their sense of self and identity, their reason for being, resides in their capacity to dominate others? (70). Therefore, due to the male-female dichotomy of our society and the duality of American gender systems (which state that you must be a man or a woman, and you must act in accordance to the social construction of your gender), men define themselves according to their degree of masculinity. To be a man is to have power, especially power over women. To be labeled as a womanly-man, is, to men, worse than being a woman. Another man has emasculated another man to the point where he is no longer seen as a man, but a feminine man. In our society, femininity alludes to a powerless person, or a person having less power.

While African American men were the perpetrators of assigning feminine qualities to other men as a means of insulting the core of each other’s beings, this abuse of the gender systems dichotomy is prevalent in all races. Boys and men, no matter what color their skin or country of origin, will call other men “fags?, “sissies?, and “bitches? because they know the other man will take offense to it. It is an intentional act done by one man to emasculate another.

On the topic of using “fag? to insult a man, the terms “fag? and “faggot? are overused in our society in a way that negatively reflects homosexuality. Homosexual men are biologically no less a man than his heterosexual counterpart, but our dichotomous society has shoveled homosexuals (of both male and female variety) into the “no-man’s land? between the clearly defined “man? and “woman?. Our society assigns feminine qualities to homosexual men, and masculine qualities to homosexual women, which gives them less power than if they were in either clearly defined gender. Homosexual men and women deviate from our constructed gender norms and are therefore socially and sometimes physically punished for it in our society. Consequently, calling a man (whether homosexual or not) a “fag? is demeaning, degrading, and insulting to that man. You have taken away the power he has by conforming to the socially constructed gender norm of “man?, and at the same time you have assigned him as feminine, which in our society reflects powerlessness.

The Jewish Experience

A few weeks ago, I believe the date was February 19th, I attended a University event entitled “Diversity Dialogue: The Jewish Experience.? This was held by a number of students, professors, and other Jewish University employees that have organized and are members of Hillel: The Jewish Student Center that is located right on University Avenue. They are a registered student organization and their mission is “To provide social, cultural, educational, social action and Israel related programs and opportunities to Jewish students at the University of Minnesota as well as provide educational opportunities about Judaism to the non-Jewish population.?
The group of students and professors that joined this discussion group was very diverse; there were people of different race, gender, and age. I wouldn’t want to even attempt to address the other societal differences in fear of assuming something incorrectly, and so I’ll leave it at that. About 30 people gathered in this small room in Piek Hall and everyone was very reserved at first, including myself.

The two main speakers were both Jewish students here on campus. One was a Reformed Jew and the other an Orthodox Jew. Speaking about the major differences in the different types of Judaism had me realizing that I really knew nothing about this religion or culture. I walked into it thinking I understand the basis of their traditions and beliefs, but I definitely found myself being completely wrong on a lot of the topics that hey touched on. I found it very interesting that there are only three Orthodox Jews here on campus, at least as far as students who are open about their religious affiliations goes.

There were a lot of topics that the two speakers spoke on, including clothing attire, holidays, modesty, racial issues, and a lot of discussion on what Shabbat really is. The Hillel Center even hold an open Shabbat every Friday night and anyone is welcome to come by and experience that.

The difference in the clothing that the different types of Jews wear is based on a rule of modesty. Especially for Orthodox Jews, the rules are even stricter. Although, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they think they are strict, but it’s their way of holding this modesty. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to touch anyone and vice versa. I had heard about this practice, but I had never actually put it together with it being only an Orthodox Jew. This was the first point that I realized I really did not know anything about their traditions.

Also, Hanukkah is probably the only Jewish holiday I recognize in the calendar year, but I found out that to the Jewish community it’s not the most important holiday, but it just happens to be the most commercialized.
I was curious, and ended up asking a fairly controversial question: “I saw a bus last summer that had “Jews for Jesus? painted on the side of it, what is the significance of this?? This was asked just after a discussion between a couple of Muslim students and the Jewish students discussing the similarities and differences in religion and culture. Well, I sort of got laughed at, and I was a little embarrassed. According to one of the professors that participate in the Hillel activities, there is absolutely no affiliation between Judaism and Jews for Jesus. She even stated that if a Jew for Jesus student tried to come into the Hillel Center that they would probably be escorted out. If nothing else, I learned not to confuse those two.

There are a lot of racial issues in the Jewish community that I had never heard of. Specifically, there was a lot of talk about the Jewish community in New York City not getting along with the African-American community. Both communities share the same space and the violence that occurs between the two groups isn’t really understood by anyone. Police in New York City don’t do much to stop it because it’s just “what happens? there.
I also found that there actually is an African-American Jewish group, but nothing much is really known about them and so no one could comment on it.

This was a really great experience for me because I actually learned a lot more than I thought I would. Being that I’m at a time in my life where I’m sort of investigating different religions, since I was never exposed to any (not even Christianity) as I was growing up, I found this discussion just another step towards understanding my own beliefs.

Hermaphrodites: a Third Gender?


This post is in response to Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She. The filmmaker, Antony Thomas, approached many of the issues that we have addressed in class. One segment in particular related to the course reading, “The Medical Construction of Gender? by Suzanne Kessler. In the video, “Judy? had been born a male pseudo-hermaphrodite and doctors had decided that her penis was too small to be considered a penis and she had been raised as a girl. Judy had grown up questioning why she didn’t fit in with the girls or the boys. She tried being a lesbian and tried being straight, but she still felt as though she were an outsider. It wasn’t until later on in life when she found out that she had been born with ambiguous genitalia and still years later until she decided that she wanted to transition into life as a man. Judy, who now goes by Max, made me question why “physicians (and society) hold the incorrigible belief that female and male are the only “natural? options? (Feminist Frontiers p. 56). Everybody has to fit naturally in the dichotomy of male and female or all hell will break loose. In the words of Kessler on page 57, “The experts must ensure that the parents have no doubt about whether their child is male or female; the genitals must be made to match the assigned gender as soon as possible; gender-appropriate hormones must be administered at puberty; and inter-sexed children must be kept informed about their situation with age-appropriate explanations.?
Society places so much pressure on girls and boys to stick to the gender norms and if they don’t fit into these norms, they are gay, freaks, perverts, and living in sin. The pressure is so great that it’s a race when a baby is born to assign it to one of the two categories, so much so that “male" is not defined by the genetic condition of having one Y and one X chromosome or by the production of sperm but by the aesthetic condition of having an “appropriately? sized penis? (p. 59).
There either needs to be a new gender category created or, even better, we need to get rid of gender stereotypes all together. 1 out of every 100 babies born is born with ambiguous genitals. This number has significance, and it’s time for society to start treating these people like people, and accept them the way that they are. Kessler states on page 66, “Accepting genital ambiguity as a natural option would require that physicians also acknowledge that genital ambiguity is “corrected? not because it is threatening to the infant’s life but because it is threatening to the infant’s culture.?

Beyond Beats and Rhymes

After watching the few clips from the documentary "Beyond Beats and Rhymes" I realized how much I see gender roles played out in my everyday life, but I never noticed them because they are such a social norm. “Gender is so pervasive that in our society we assume it is bred into our genes. Most people find it hard to believe that gender is constantly created and recreated out of human interaction, out of social life, and is the texture and order of that social life. Yet gender, like culture, is a human production that depends on everyone constantly ‘doing gender’? (Judith Lorber, “Night to His Day?: The Social Construction of Gender, pg.41). This quote really helped to sum up what was happening in the video.

Gender performance is the social norm. Everyone has an idea, usually the same, of what is a typical women and man; how women and men should act, dress, walk, talk, and what they should look like. The men in the video were following the stereotypical norms that men should be tough, strong, and can be very sexual without it coming off bad to women and especially other men. You could definitely see that the men were following their gender system:the system in which males and females, as groups, promote their sexual identity, in direct relation to society and culture, in which, there are certain expectations that result for predetermined forms and stereotypes of male and female behavior, actions and values. The video was at the set of the BET spring break and many of the women were dressed very sexy, showing a lot of skin, however they were at the beach. The men would lift the girl’s dresses and skirts up and then take pictures and videos, some would get upset but then some would act like it was normal and not really criticize the man for doing that. I feel that partly those women were bringing it on, even though it was a spring break party, they were not on the beach swimming or lying out, they were walking the streets. If you do not want that kind of attention you could cover up a little. Both sexes in the video were following there gender roles. “It seems as though the small, the graceful, the unpredictable, the nurturing, and that which is owned and/or controlled by men represents the feminine, whereas that which is a controlling forceful power in and of itself primarily represents the masculine.? (Laurel Richardson, “Gender Stereotyping in the English Language,? pg.100)

Flim Clips Response

In watching the four different clips that we saw in class this week, I feel each one touched and affected me in a different way. Instead of choosing just one of these clips, I have decided to look at each of them and evaluate why they were significant to me.

The first three clips we watched were from the video Beyond Beats and Rhymes.

The first clip, “Bitch Niggaz,? it showed me how insulting it really is for a man to claim that another man has feminine qualities. This is surprising because I feel that it isn’t the same if a woman would tell another woman that she has manly qualities. In some contexts it may be insulting to a woman but in other it may not. I don’t feel like there would be any circumstances where it would be complimentary to a man to claim he is woman-like.

The second clip, “Sisters and Bitches,? reinforced how much men encourage each others inappropriate behavior. During this clip, a guy grabbed a girls butt and she got upset about it and was confronting him. The other guys around didn’t stand up for the girl at all, instead they gave the guy who grabbed her but high fives. How is the dichotomy between males and females ever going to change if it is being encouraged by our peers?

The third clip, “Tough Guise,? really reinforced to me how men feel they need to stay in their manly “box.? This is a disturbing fact that society has these two “boxes? that are “acceptable? for people to fit into. While this clip showed how men feel they need to stay in their box, we can’t forget how women are also being forced by society to also stay in theirs. For example, “women recruits in the U.S. Marine Corps are required to wear makeup—at a minimum, lipstick and eye shadow—and they have to take classes in makeup, hair care, poise, and etiquette.?(Feminist Frontiers, Lorber, pg 47) Can someone please tell me how this takes place? Perhaps it is the fact that the military has a strong history white supremacy and male dominance? These white males have an idea of how women should look and so they will only let women attend their academy if the women fit into their mold.

The last video we saw, Middlesexes, was one that really disturbed me. This movie just showed me how wrong the mindset of the doctors who assign gender is. They say, “gender must be assigned immediately, decisively, and irreversibly? (Feminist Frontiers, Kessler pg58). Why should someone’s gender be decided so quickly before they have even developed at all as an individual? I wish that society would form a greater acceptance for transgender individuals.

All in all the clips we watched this week were disturbing but effective. This is something that I haven’t given much thought to in the past but I now feel much more educated on the topics.

Middle Sexes Response

When one of my liberal friends informed me last semester that gender is not binary, I must admit I was skeptical. After studying gender and sex in this class, I now understand the distinction between gender as a social construct and sex as a biological one. With advancements in surgical procedures and technology, it seems that there are ways for individuals to manipulate their “sex? in order to support their “gender.?

In the documentary “Middle Sexes,? there was some interesting evidence from nature to undermine the binary mentality. One quotation stood out in particular: “Biology loves variation, society hates it.? From homosexual activity between primates to male seahorses giving birth, the “natural? world does not impose such rigid constraints on gender norms as does society. This same idea was found in Kessler’s article, The Medical Construction of Gender: “The belief that gender consists of two exclusive types is maintained and perpetuated by the medical community in the face of incontrovertible physical evidence that this is not mandated by biology? (Kessler 65).
So why do humans feel the need to categorize gender? The effects of this normalization were felt heavily by Noah’s family. Class and geographical location played a huge role in placing pressures upon this family. The small town, hardworking middle class, religiously conservative Midwest atmosphere was not accepting of deviations from the expectations about gender. Noah’s father obviously struggled with this issue. He loved his son, but he was strongly influenced by the opinions of those around him. At one point, he made the comment: “nobody wants their son growing up like that.? The mom and step-dad took a slightly different approach. The mom talked about the religious pressure she felt from her family to raise Noah differently, but she was resolved to support him in being who he was. Her main concern was for his safety: he was already experiencing alienation from his peers, and she was afraid this would escalate into violence. The step-dad noted that he wants Noah to grow up and have the agency and strength to be himself.
Race and ethnicity also affect the way we view gender. The case in India was unique. On the one hand, weddings were a socially acceptable place for men to release their pent-up feelings and dance provocatively with one another. On the other hand, society’s condemnation of homosexuality forced a gay couple to live double lives that were not fair to their spouses or to themselves. This hypocrisy regarding sexuality goes unquestioned because it is so normalized in the culture.

March 6, 2007

The Beauty of The Vagina Monologues

I attended the 8th Annual Vagina Monologues on February 15, 2007. MPIRG put this on production based on the play written by Eve Ensler in honor of V-day. V Day was born from the Vagina Monologues to raise consciousness about the realities that women face in violent situations. V-Day is “an energy, a movement, a catalyst, a day to end violence toward women?. The money from the event went to getting stricter security at a woman’s shelter in the Twin Cities area.

The production was put on in the theater of the St. Paul Student Center. In my opinion this was the perfect location because the theater was small enough to feel personal, yet still have the stage effect to feel like you were in the audience. The actresses were women from around campus who were passionate and dedicated to the cause; dedicated to teaching people about the personal stories of many women around the world. The women all dressed in black and red. Though they were in a color uniform, each woman dressed differently. Some wore pants, some skirts, some dresses. The women who were in the production were of different ethnicities and ages.

I really enjoyed the play because it was an experience that men, women and children could learn from. People had the opportunity to learn about personal stories and also about the general concepts about women’s lives through history. Many of the stories represented numerous women. A single story could speak for women who had experienced similar situations, and many women have. Though this was is true, it was made very clear that every women has her own story to tell and every woman is unique. This production was about celebrating womanhood and combating the forces oppressing women. I was able to cry and laugh along with many other women. This was a play in which is brought women together and taught the broader audience about real lives.
I had never been to a production that was so forward with the vocabulary about women and the issues surrounding women as a whole. Hearing the word cunt being promoted was quick a shock. This section of the play used very loud vocals and humor to display the previously unrealized impression that cunt can mean. I think that it was really neat to see this section most because in every other context I have heard cunt mentioned, it was in a very negative, derogatory meaning.


I really enjoyed being part of such a personal experience in which women come publicly to speak about the incidents that they had to deal with, the good and the bad. Women in the audience were able to rejoice and weep together.
I think that this is an event that everyone should attend because so many women have stories to tell, and without witnessing the telling, the stories will go untold. I enjoyed the production also because I was able to leave more knowledgeable than I had come. I was able to share the wealth of knowledge I had gained with friends. I think that it is important to pass on stories indirectly as well as witnessing things first hand, because the information can spread so much faster and across a more broad audience. It works sort of like the Pay It Forward movement; in the idea that when you pass something on to someone else, that person passes it on to three others, and so on. This is a powerful movement. Though it works better in theory than in reality, the spread can be quite rapid. It is exciting that knowledge can spread about such an important cause by word of mouth. Attending events like this is important for people of all genders, ages, races, classes, etc.

The Vagina Monologues was a powerful event to attend because of the young and admirable women on stage and the stories they were telling. I can’t wait to go again next year.

Margaret Cho

Event Report: Margaret Cho

District 202 Benefit
Margaret Cho
Saturday February 17, 2007
8:00 PM
Part of the Alphabet Soup Conference
At Northrop Auditorium, U of M campus

Margaret Cho held a benefit for District 202, a local GLBT homeless youth center, on Saturday, February 17th. The performance was part of the Alphabet Soup Conference hosted by the University of Minnesota, specifically the QSCC and GLBT Programs Office. Northrop Auditorium was filled with eager fans, a large majority being student conference attendees.

The opening act was a transgender/queer comedian who spoke about being transgender and coming out along with the difficulties and challenges of transitioning. This was interesting to me because Margaret Cho has always been GLBT friendly, but has never specifically addressed any issues of gender and specifically transgender issues. The mere act of slating a transgendered person to open for her impressed me. One of the most interesting things about Cho is that she doesn’t identify or label her sexuality yet she is seen as an ally and a person directly within the community. Her unspoken refusal to categorize her identity is incredibly interesting and subconsciously aligns itself with the tenets of queer theory.

As an outspoken Korean, sexual, real-bodied immigrant woman, Cho addresses a wide-range of stereotypes and norms in her comedy acts. Cho questions why things are the way they are and states how she wants the world to be. She is also, however, forthcoming about her conditioning and how she sometimes succumbs to society and “norms? or expectations. The way Cho reveals her vulnerabilities makes her relatable and funny. For example, Cho spoke about her experience fad dieting, trying to lose weight. One of the diets she was on only allowed her to eat a certain vegetable, nothing else. Subsequently, she defecated in her car in a traffic jam. She explains that she was so preoccupied with becoming thin that she was now paying for it by sitting in a pile of shit. She also creates a safe space to think about our own relationships with these different issues and to question them but also not feel guilty for being human and following norms.

How she identifies as an ally with all issues seems like a “feminist, queer, intersectional analysis? of society and expected norms within daily life and identification. She challenges labels in all of their forms. She also makes fun of herself and what she knows, she picks it apart so we understand clearly and she’s not academic or pretentious, she’s relatable and lewd but compassionate.

Margaret Cho is an activist without buying into the activist culture. She does so much work without acknowledging it and without manipulative rhetoric or talking down to people. She isn’t selling anything; she’s just speaking her mind and views.

Here are some of the notes I took about the broad range of issues she discussed:

• racism
Specifically Asian stereotypes and Immigration issues, racism in entertainment industry and media
• sexism
Body image, eating disorders, not being oppressed by males, independence in straight relationship, strong sexual power within relationships- esp. with men but also talking about how she’s conditioned to, pro-choice
• homophobia
Gay marriage, coming out to parents, stereotypes of GLB community, unspoken pro-queer message – she doesn’t identify or label her sexuality
• sexuality
free expression without labeling or condemning, masturbation, sex toys- pleasing yourself, makes the taboo sounds natural, extremely GLBT friendly, she doesn’t talk about her sexuality – she’s an ally but she’s in it – a fight everyone should be fighting,
• political correctness
through language, shock factor with no apologies, states her views clearly, really opens discussion, anti-Bush, so many celebrities have their PR in mind (how it comes off) and she is an outspoken critic of everything – the Gwen Stefani example, she doesn’t hold back and doesn’t apologize for having a voice and an opinion
• religion and conservatives
When talks about Christians she talks about all Christians – but it is understood that she’s talking about fundamentalist Christians
• media
What’s happening now and deconstructs it, encourages people to question representation – esp. racial, sexual, body image and GLBT representation
• minority image
Asian, body weight has fluxuated, identifies with gay and straight communities – identifies with both binaries which ultimately destroys the binary – without championing one or the other, it’s not a war between the two, immigrant family, she’s forty, parents speak Korean, challenges of assimilation and cultural expectations, she’s married but still she can’t be read clearly, low-middle class family, she brings San Francisco culture into her comedy – where she is from effects her outlook

Transgendered rights - the War on Terror by Dean Spade

In late January, I attended a transgendered colloquium on campus held by the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies department in Ford Hall. The talk was lead by Dean Spade, a law teacher at the University of Calfornia – Los Angeles Law School. Before I went, I researched Dean's background to be sure that he was a credible source and would be a valid event to attend. I found that Dean graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College and was awarded the Jane S. Gould Prize for Best Women's Studies Senior Thesis. In 2002, he founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a law collective which provides free legal help to low-income people and people of color facing gender identity or expression discrimination. I was very impressed with a few of his articles and decided it would be an interesting event to attend.

Dean's main focus of the talk was his current research article about the War on Terror on transgendered rights. For the paper, he researched how trans gendered people do things to prevent hate crimes and how they can create laws in accordance with this. The main point was that mostly all laws aimed towards the trans gendered population or unjust and improper. He brought up so many points while reading and explaining this article that I would never even have thought about.
One such topic was birth certificates for transgendered people. The law states that once you change genders, you must obtain a new birth certificate. He spoke about how stereotypes of transgender people are that they must have a sex change surgery so in order to get a new birth certificate, you must PROVE that you have had genital surgery, but this is not fair because some people consider themselves the opposite gender even though they have not undergone a specific surgery. He argues that there should be a proper use of gender check or classification because there are so many inconsistencies within the government.
Within the War on Terror, governments have been very strict on identification cards and status in general. The Government is looking for people with mismatched id's and it is no surprise that transsexuals are targeted. If their genders are not matched or anything else conflicts with the law, their bosses will be sent letters, outing them of their employee's sexuality. When sheltered or imprisoned, they are most likely placed according to their birth gender, which goes against their own moral and personal self. Dean mentioned in his speech numerous of times how transpeople are just very vulnerable in society in general.
What I noticed about Dean was that, even though he was transgendered (having had surgery as a female to become a male), he still had some feminine characteristics. After attending the event, I remained interested in many of the topics brought up in the session and also Dean's physical presence. I decided to research some more of his articles and maybe get a bit more insight into the transgender realm. I read an excerpt from a letter Dean wrote to his brother about his surgery. He explains to his brother that often times when people think about sex changes, they feel that they are trapped in the wrong gendered body and they change their body in order to live as the other gender and try to pass as that new gender. But this is very different from how he views gender and sexuality. He notes, “The basic thing is that I don’t believe people fall into two neat gender categories-male and female. The world divides people into these categories, and gives them lots of meaning...I believe that people don’t just exist at the extremes of gender, but in fact fall in all kinds of places in between.? He thinks that it is exciting to live in a world where she can experiment with expressing her gender and just find what is right for him. He is glad to have been born a female but feels most comfortable somewhere in between male and female.
Learning all of this, I feel that I have a much more open mind about transgender identity, rights, and conflicts than I ever would. If I did not attend this talk, I may not ever have understood the problems facing the trans population in America and all the crap they have to deal with. I feel empathy and compassion with them and strongly support Dean Spade and all his efforts to dominate over transgender discrimination.


If you are interested in Dean's work or want to read the letter to his brother or any other personal, informal pieces, check out : http://www.makezine.org/events.html

The Race Exhibit!

I attended the race exhibit at the Science Museum in St. Paul on Saturday, February 10th. I went to the science museum with the Anthropology club of the University of Minnesota. The race exhibit was created to examine the concept of race and its implications in society. It has had a long and popular run at the Science Museum in St. Paul. I attended with my friend Ben, and we found the exhibit insightful and articulate, though far from comprehensive. Although the exhibit was small, it was extremely concise considering the multitude of material surrounding the question of race. The function of the race exhibit was to deconstruct race and to blur the lines of racial difference.

One quote that stood out to me read:
“The things we identify as racial markers mean nothing unless they are given social meaning.? Melvin Oliver
Sociologist

The race exhibit was relevant to gender studies because both race and gender operate as social constructions. In her piece, “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender,? Judith Lorber writes:
“As a social institution, gender is one of the major ways that human beings organize their lives? (42).

All people perform their racial identity as well as their gendered identity on a daily basis in their routine activities. The race exhibit supported evidence that race itself is a social construction and a way of organizing and dividing society.

The race exhibit was also relevant to class because it addressed privilege systems and (unearned) white (male) privilege. A sign-post in the exhibit read: “Privilege Lane? and was filled with evidence of privilege based on skin-color in American history.

In her piece, “White Privilege and Male Privilege,? Peggy McIntosh wrote:
“A ‘white’ skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us? (15).

The race exhibit exposed the power structures that design and maintain racial difference and supported the deconstruction of racial borders.

One of my favorite aspects of the race exhibit was a wall of photos in which those pictured answered the question, “Who are you??. Each person’s racial identity was printed under their written response. Not all pictured defined themselves according to their race.

An interactive exhibit that negated the credibility of inherent racial difference was a board of people’s faces with bulbs next to them. There was a board that had statements listed such as, “These people are an A blood-type.? The exhibit was designed so the spectator would push a button on the board and the bulbs would light up to signal the person to whom that statement applied. This exhibit was designed to show commonalities between people of seemingly different “races.?
I found this exhibit both educational and artistic. I was very impressed that the science museum challenged such a controversial topic and took such a liberal stand in their presentation of race. The exhibit itself defied essentialism in regard to racial borders and thus rendered the study of eugenics null and void.

Vagina Monologues: VDAY

The artistic event that I attended for class was the “Vagina Monologues.? The event took place at UWEC in Eau Claire, WI. The Vagina Monologues is based on a book written by Eve Ensler. She interviewed hundreds of women and got them to talk about their vaginas.

Some of the questions she asked them included; What would it wear, what would it say, what does it smell like, and have you ever had an orgasm? It took a while for the women to open up, but when they did there were many issues they wanted to talk about. The purpose of the monologues is to draw attention to women’s issues around the world. It has become an international event to celebrate “V(agina)-Day.? In Eau Claire, the Vagina Monologues proceeds are going toward the Bolton Refuge House, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, and CASA, or Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault, a place on campus where victims of sexual assault are encouraged to talk about their experiences and help other victims with support groups. V-Day sponsors that make the event possible include; Barney’s New York, Bloomberg, Dramatists Play Service, Glamour Magazine, Luna Bar, Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, and Vosges Haut Chocolat.
The content within the Vagina Monologues is very diverse. Some is extremely humorous, and some focuses on serious issues that are affecting women around the world. It is about the empowerment of women, their sexuality, and sisterhood and to draw attention to women’s suffering worldwide. The Monologues draw attention to women’s sexuality with the discussion of the necessity of foreplay, masturbation, and locating the clitoris. Discussions of these issues are considered taboo in society, but the Monologues provide a good outlet for the empowerment of women and provide a place to learn about women’s sexuality issues that are normally not talked about. There was a dialogue about masturbation that was really related to class. There was a 24 year-old woman who was showing a 16-year-old how to pleasure herself so she would never need a man. This was empowering for the younger woman, and it helped her to understand the beauty of her sexuality. This was a common theme within many of the monologues.
Other than the empowerment of women and discussions about the beauty of their sexuality, there were many issues of a more serious nature that were discussed in the Monologues. These issues include female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, rape, and torture such as acid burnings. These horrible issues were talked about on mostly, a worldwide scale, but over 500,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. There were more shocking statistics including, 1 of 3 women and 1 of 5 men are sexually assaulted during their lives, and in Pakistan and Islamabad, over 2,000 women have been the victims of acid burnings in which their bodies and faces have been nearly burned off. Within these acid-burning cases, only 1 of 9 men had been prosecuted by law enforcement. Also, there was a dialogue about over 300 women who had been tortured in Juarez. They were taken to a desert and tortured for over a week and came back with hands, nipples, and faces cut off. Finally, there was a dialogue about how a woman was raped in Bosnia during the war by soldiers. Soldiers shoved their guns in her as well as taking turns raping her for over a week. These were some of the horrible issues that the Monologues were hoping to draw attention to. The images that were produced in my mind as the women were talking were horrific and will stay with me for a long time.
Based on our discussions in class, I thought that there were some content within the Monologues that could have been eliminated. There were some parts that were humorous, but may have undermined some groups of women even though the purpose was to empower women. There was a monologue about “moaning? that had the “moans? of specific groups of women including; Irish-Catholics, African-Americans, Jewish, and bisexual. The moans associated with these groups enforced stereotypes that may have hurt these groups. I thought it was interesting how the entire performance was focused on women in general, but may have hurt these individual groups. It reminded me a lot about the different forms of oppression other than gender that can be affected.

V-Day

For my artistic event I attended a performance of “The Vagina Monologues? on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at Luther College in Decorah Iowa. My sister just graduated from Luther College and was involved in the production of the show and she encouraged me to see it. I went with my mom, dad, and brother and I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for what the show entailed because I can admit that even at 19 years old, the word “vagina? still makes me a little squeamish, especially hearing it over and over in front of my dad and brother. The show didn’t shy into words like vagina and “taboo? subjects. One of the first monologues was about hair and shaving, which definitely shocked me. I can also admit however, that by the end of the play, the word didn’t bother me quite as much.

There were two monologues (among many) that really stuck with me. The first was the “Women of Juarez?. It was a monologue about how women in Juarez, Mexico are disappearing, being raped, and being murdered everyday on their way to and from work at Americanized factories. The women must travel far distances to find work and then are paid only around four dollars a day! Above the stress of the distance and the labor, they must also worry about their safety as well. The worse part of this is that there has been very little progress to protect these women or find and prosecute their killers. A few summers ago I spent ten days in Juarez helping to build a house for a family in need and I think that is why this particular monologue struck me as much as it did. This place where women were being raped and murdered by the hundreds to the countries knowledge was a place where I have been, stayed, and served and I had no idea.

The other segment that stuck with me was “My Short Skirt?. In this monologue, a woman discussed that fact that just because she wears a short skirt, it is not an invitation for anyone. Her short skirt doesn’t mean that she wants sex and it is definitely not an invitation for rape. I think that this is important because it seems unfair that a woman is labeled a certain way, thought of a certain way, or puts herself in any kind of danger by what she wears. It discusses that in the legal system, the excuse that a women “wanted it? by what she wears will not hold up anymore. I thought this short, somewhat humorous, monologue was important in the cause of women and violence.

After the play, I was interested in why the show has to be within a certain time and what exactly the “V?, in V-Day, stands for, besides vagina. I discovered that the whole idea behind “V-Day? is not only a play on the abbreviation for Valentine’s Day, but also an idea about taking back Valentine’s Day in the name of women. It stands for ending violence towards women, it stands for “taking back the night?, for the safety of women. It is an organization that not only sponsors “The Vagina Monologues? but other artistic events that promote women creating art instead of being afraid. It also raises money for women, like the women in Juarez that need help. I really am glad I went to “The Vagina Monologues? because it really made me aware of what kind of things are going on around me that I’m unaware of. It connected me personally to issues that are facing women everyday and gave me an organization to connect with. It also was a humorous and heart-felt play that I enjoyed going to and will probably go to next year two weeks before or after February 14!

V-Day

For my artistic event I attended a performance of “The Vagina Monologues? on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at Luther College in Decorah Iowa. My sister just graduated from Luther College and was involved in the production of the show and she encouraged me to see it. I went with my mom, dad, and brother and I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for what the show entailed because I can admit that even at 19 years old, the word “vagina? still makes me a little squeamish, especially hearing it over and over in front of my dad and brother. The show didn’t shy into words like vagina and “taboo? subjects. One of the first monologues was about hair and shaving, which definitely shocked me. I can also admit however, that by the end of the play, the word didn’t bother me quite as much.

There were two monologues (among many) that really stuck with me. The first was the “Women of Juarez?. It was a monologue about how women in Juarez, Mexico are disappearing, being raped, and being murdered everyday on their way to and from work at Americanized factories. The women must travel far distances to find work and then are paid only around four dollars a day! Above the stress of the distance and the labor, they must also worry about their safety as well. The worse part of this is that there has been very little progress to protect these women or find and prosecute their killers. A few summers ago I spent ten days in Juarez helping to build a house for a family in need and I think that is why this particular monologue struck me as much as it did. This place where women were being raped and murdered by the hundreds to the countries knowledge was a place where I have been, stayed, and served and I had no idea.

The other segment that stuck with me was “My Short Skirt?. In this monologue, a woman discussed that fact that just because she wears a short skirt, it is not an invitation for anyone. Her short skirt doesn’t mean that she wants sex and it is definitely not an invitation for rape. I think that this is important because it seems unfair that a woman is labeled a certain way, thought of a certain way, or puts herself in any kind of danger by what she wears. It discusses that in the legal system, the excuse that a women “wanted it? by what she wears will not hold up anymore. I thought this short, somewhat humorous, monologue was important in the cause of women and violence.

After the play, I was interested in why the show has to be within a certain time and what exactly the “V?, in V-Day, stands for, besides vagina. I discovered that the whole idea behind “V-Day? is not only a play on the abbreviation for Valentine’s Day, but also an idea about taking back Valentine’s Day in the name of women. It stands for ending violence towards women, it stands for “taking back the night?, for the safety of women. It is an organization that not only sponsors “The Vagina Monologues? but other artistic events that promote women creating art instead of being afraid. It also raises money for women, like the women in Juarez that need help. I really am glad I went to “The Vagina Monologues? because it really made me aware of what kind of things are going on around me that I’m unaware of. It connected me personally to issues that are facing women everyday and gave me an organization to connect with. It also was a humorous and heart-felt play that I enjoyed going to and will probably go to next year two weeks before or after February 14!

The most interesting play - Vagina Monologues

I actually went to the Vagina Monologues on Friday, Feb. 16 at Macalester's Weyerhaeuser Chapel, as entertainment and a learning experience with some friends. We had all heard of it but had no idea what it entailed or what to expect. I didn't even think of doing it as an event until yesterday, when I had a hard time coming up with an idea with a fellow classmate. And then I thought.. Oh yes, I attended the Vagina Monologues...so here I am. Stunned..

This play has taught me that there are plenty of women out there that are comfortable with their vaginas. The word alone does not, as said in the play, need to sound like such a "dirty word" or a "medical term." There are many slang words used for vaginas that piss me off. I hate it when I hear the word "pussy" or "Cunt" but in the play it made women embrace and love the slang terms. In one part she was discussing how one woman did not like how she used the word "cunt" in her play previously, and so Ensler decided she would embrace the word. An example of this was "CA - cavern, clit, cute, come-closed..."Cu" curvy, under, up urge..."cun" soft and warm..."t" texture, take, tight, taste..." All of these make up the word cunt that was so hated before.

I enjoyed the play because it made women realize they can love their bodies. They can love their vaginas. It gave awareness to men and women alike that there are serious problems with abuse, with women over in rape camps that are getting raped in horrible ways. "Sticking their rifles up us, sticks.." The things discussed were both outrageous and funny and then serious.. and then seriously sad.

This one monologue made me hate men. It was about a man that wanted his wife to shave her vagina and she loved her hair. He cheated on her. She wouldn't shave. It made me saddened that women change their bodies because of a man's desire. We all want to be wanted, but a man should love you, black,red or blonde hair-down-there and all. If a women chooses to change that aspect of her vagina, to decorate it, to not dilute it with soft smells of roses, that is her choice.

I really felt for the 10-year-old girl who was raped by her father's drunk friend. how horrid to think that everything bad comes from your vagina. These women were strong, to let the world know how they felt about their vagina was amazing. There were stories that I would never think a person would admit, how it felt to be with a 24 year-old-women when you're 16.. and what that 24 year old women was thinking being sexual with a 16 year old. Than again, a positive experience came from this. The young girl now knows her vagina and knows how to be sexual with herself.

I think woman somehow learn since a young age, don't let anyone touch or see your vagina. Do not play with yourself. Boys masterbate, girls dont. I think the play really opened a lot of the audience's eyes when she described in detail being a sexual woman with a sexual vagina that wants to be loved, and touched and fondled in a deeply connecting way with a man or woman or the owner of the vagina (ie: yourself. )

It was an amazing story of this one man who loved looking at this woman's vagina - this woman who couldn't believe that this man just loved staring at something that sort of "smelled like fish' and in one part there was a joke about a man who passed a fish market and said "hows it going, ladies."

It taught women to not be afraid of a man (or woman) enjoying the sight of your vagina. That it is beautiful and yearning and wants the right kind of attention.

It also helped people I think that have had problems coming to terms with their past rapes, whether it be from being forced in a rape camp to being raped by your friend in college. It definitely raises awareness that these stories are true. Women are being faced with this all the time. Their abusive mothers that make them hate their vaginas to their male friends that take advantage of them to husbands cheating because of a hairy vagina. AND how dare the therapist suggest she "shave it for him." HORRID. I wanted to slap that man who would be such a "cock" to his wife and I wanted to smack some sense into the therapist who is supposed to be helping this woman not oppressing her more..as if her husband were in the RIGHT??

One last comment about sticking things up your vagina. The truth is, until the play, I never considered tampons as dry pieces of cotton that you stick up your vagina. It was asked "why not lubricate the cotton?" NO KIDDING! it's never a comfortable moment when you get your period, but I suppose these companies are thinking, --well she must be wet from her period - why lubricate the tampons!? --WELL I HOPE YOU COMPANIES WERE THERE AND TOOK NOTES> WE WANT COMFORTABLE TAMPONS!!

And doctor's offices... stop making it such a cold, horrible place to go. Just as the woman talking about her experiences with that awful place, it reminded me of previous pap smears and how much I hate going. I hate everything about it. My boyfriend once stole purple latex gloves thinking that it would sexy to "play doctor" one night... I thought there was nothing sexy about putting lube on your fingers in purple gloves that shouts memories of a previous visit to the doctor .with duck lips, cold stirrups and massaging your breasts...plus isn't it uncomfortable to have a strange person, that you pay to stick fingers and cold tools in your vagina? There has got to be another way.

If this play taught me anything, it was to embrace my body, love and be honest with my vagina, remember what other women are going through in our country and in many other countries that are forced into rape camps with soldiers abusing their bodies minute-by-minute.

These women and their vaginas are Gods. They are perfect. Their stories make a difference.

Race Exhibit

The Race exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota is an informative and fun way to teach the community about race. The exhibit being free with admission is also a good way of getting people in that may otherwise not have been as interested in the exhibit. The last exhibit, Body Worlds, seemed more cut off and less accessible. The Race exhibit let’s families bring up the issue of race in our society something that parents might feel strangely bringing up with younger children.

This gives them a different perspective and base for starting these conversations in a fun setting. It is informative and thought provoking for any age however. It raises questions about weather different races are actually that different or if society just makes them seem that way. The exhibit gives a good sections for people to actually converse and talk about the issues at hand in a comfortable setting. The exhibit deals with issues such as oppression and discrimination in our society. It goes back in history and brings up issues of race struggles over time. It demonstrates how far we have come but how far we still have to go with how we look at race in our society. It also demonstrates how we are not different and have all come from the same place despite some of the superficial differences. This is important for people to understand that we are all the same even with the differences in skin color and cultures. We learned about some of this in my history class. We read a book called “Guns, Germs, and Steel? by Jared Diamond, that went back to the when humans evolved in Africa and eventually made their ways to all the continents as they increased their technology and invented things like boats. The author of the book we read in this history class argued that no race was superior to the other since we are all genetically the same. The book went into how different cultures evolved in different directions and why some became industrialized societies like ours and some are very different. This exhibit reminded me of this book. Part of this exhibit reminded me of how everyone originated in the same place. Since we are all the same we should all be treated will equal respect no matter what color or background. I enjoyed how the exhibit used so many methods of delivery. They have things to read things to watch and interactive sections. This seems to me one of the most important exhibits to the science museum in raising awareness and delivering scientific fact to the public. When you first think about a Race exhibit at the science museum it doesn’t really seem like a science thing it seems like a social thing. However they end up using scientific fact to counter some social ideas that people have about race. I think a lot of people are not very exposed to a variety of races and that’s part of the problem. In my high school in the suburbs there were very few minorities and most of the ones that went to the school were shipped in from other cities. Having them shipped in made it harder to identify with them and they seemed to hang out only with that small group that they could identify with. This made it hard to talk to them and understand them. This exhibit is good because the science museum has a lot of schools who come to see their exhibits. This is good for schools like mine were where there isn’t much diversity children aren’t being exposed to race much in a lot of the suburbs, making them less aware and understanding of it.

angry vaginas, satisfied vaginas ;), battered and bruised vaginas and almost lost vaginas...all for raising public awareness and for an entertaining evening

The Vagina Monologues was an extremely entertaining way to spend a Thursday evening and to write about for my first event post (I wish I could remember exact lines and section titles because they were both hilarious and powerful). I honestly haven’t laughed so hard and been so serious all in same night. The Vagina Monologues as someone previously mentioned was February 27 at the St. Paul Student Center sponsored by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG). It was put on by students to raise public awareness and funds for local organizations working to end violence against women and girls.

The show was collection of individual and group performances based on the responses from women on surveys and during interviews. Each segment was related to the vagina, whether it was the positives (sex, love, orgasms) the negatives (rape, mutilation) or the neutrals (menstration, birth). Other monologues focused on the variety of names for the vagina or the physical aspect of the female body. Most of the skits were hilarious because they involved “unspoken about? topics (masturbation) and moments that are generally uncomfortable (the first time you used a tampon or bled through your pants)—but at the same time all women go through and can relate to. They also made fun tools the gynecologist uses, tampons and the items society decides women should wear (and how these ‘anger’ the vagina). On the more serious side, they had powerful presentations about rape, domestic violence and discrimination. These pieces were eye opening and informative as they exposed truths I had no idea existed such as the ‘comfort women’ mentioned in other posts. These women went through horrific things and those that are still alive today are simply asking for an apology that they will never receive. Other education presentations described discrimination of women of different races, prejudge had against women and the equality women fought so hard to gain. Throughout the night a recurring theme was that the vagina is a tool of female empowerment whether it’s for personal pleasure, public education or global awareness. Women need embrace who they are, fight for what they believe in and stand up for one another.
Although the auditorium was filled with mainly women, the guys I saw and sat next to laughed just as hard, if not harder than I did and seemed impacted just as much during the serious parts of the evening. Along with both genders there were people of all ages, all enjoying the monologues in the same way. As the lights came back on the noise level skyrocketed as everyone wanted to discuss the show, the new lessons learned and all the amusing ways to discuss the vagina. I went into the show not really knowing what to expect. I had heard that it was a must see and that I would enjoy the presentation. After the fact I loved the monologues and felt I still had a lot to learn about struggles women had in the past and issues that still face women today. I think it is amazing it was put together 8 years ago and students participate to raise money and awareness. I am curious what else the Vday organization does to promote awareness and protect women and girls from sexual abuse and violence.
In researching that, I found a site of people that criticize the Vagina Monologues stating they had ‘a negative and restrictive view of sexuality and an anti-male bias’. This was found in pro-sex feminist, gender egalitarian, and individualist feminist movements. Some groups are so outraged that they are encouraging parents and students to protest the production of the monologues on college campuses and in some places it has caused the show to be moved to off campus locations. I have by no means what I would consider strong feminist views, ideas or opinions and I walked away from the show feeling that it was a great way to learn about feminist issues without bashing men or putting a negative spin on sexual issues. I never once felt uncomfortable or felt they were out of line for something they said. They do a good job of showing the good and the bad, the happy and sad and all types of relationships. They don't bash men instead they show how men can help women discover her love for herself and her vagina as shown in Because He Liked to Look At It. They also show the power of lesbian relationships on a women’s self image and self esteem as shown in The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could; a story about a rape victim that was finally comforted and felt emotionally supported only by another woman. It also was good mix of humor and education that would greatly benefit anyone open-minded enough to see it. People will always find some way to bash a good thing even feminists that I would assume would be happy about the awareness that is being raised, but it goes to show you never really know and you can never please everyone.

The Vagina Monologues

The Vagina Monologues
February 15th 2007

Having no idea what the Vagina Monologues were, I went ahead and bought my ticket on the chance that I could learn something and have a good laugh while doing it. Of course I had some pre-conceived notions about the monologues (i.e. a bunch of women standing on stage and talking about their vagina’s), and although they turned out to be true, I realized there is a lot more to it than some vagina jokes.


The first thing I noticed was how great the audience was. Everyone seemed to be really into the show, laughing a lot, and being respectful when the monologues were more serious. I thought how great it was that these people could perform and give a message (which can be quite controversial at times) to an audience that was very supportive. After the show I got to thinking about consciousness-raising groups that were formed early in the feminist movement. I was trying to think of groups that were around today, obviously there are quite a few (just a few named during our fourth blog posting assignment), but I thought that the Vagina Monologues could be a place for modern day consciousness-raising. The audience mainly consisted of women (with a few men here and there) and the play was about women. Each skit had something to do with women and the concerns they had or just stories they wanted to share and express.

As I said before, there was a lot more to the monologues than I had imagined. It turned out to be relevant to today’s world violence and strife including stories from many different wars and violent times. The monologues touched on class and ethnic issues as well as general issues that women face daily.

One of my favorite stories was about the comfort-women of Japan. The comfort-women were described (by the monologues) as women forced or bought into service by the Japanese Military from surrounding countries. These women had no rights; they were raped, abused, starved, and killed. They were basically there for the soldiers to have sex with. And now that it is 60 years later, these women want an apology from the Japanese government, but they won’t get one. In fact, the Japanese government erased all knowledge of this from their text books and literature. More information can be gathered at Comfort-Women.org, an educational site about the history and movement of these women. http://www.comfort-women.org/v2/index.html

This was just a sample of one of the monologues. Others covered topics ranging from female genital mutilation in many cultures, to abuse of women in Native American communities. The more and more I thought about it, I realized that these monologues were a way to inform and excite people into action.

Some of the more light-hearted skits had a great message as well. These skits were mostly about women’s vaginas, what women called their vaginas, what they thought of them, how they were treated or specific women’s testimonies and stories. My favorite of all of these was about a woman’s vagina that was pissed off. She didn’t like the cotton tampons or the stirrups and the tools used at obgyn clinics. There was a lot more to it and I wish I could repeat the whole thing because it was so funny. A theme that I noticed in this specific monologue as well as the rest of them was, “your vagina is you?. It can define you and you should know it, not be afraid of it, not let anyone treat it poorly, use it’s name in a derogatory fashion, abuse it… ect. It seems kind of silly for me to talk about a vagina like this, but it makes a lot of sense.

I couldn’t help but think that a lot of these women (in the stories) have experienced oppression about their own vaginas. They weren’t comfortable with their bodies (specifically their vagina) or how they wanted to use it. One monologue was about a woman at a vagina workshop who found complete ecstasy once she realized she hadn’t lost her clitoris. The fact that she ever thought she lost her clitoris says something about the way vaginas are viewed not only personally but as a society. And since a vagina is a part of every woman, it says a lot about what society thinks about women in general.

Everyone should see these monologues performed. They were sponsored by MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group) and they are performed around Valentines Day every year. I saw them performed at the St. Paul Student Center, but Augsburg and Macalister also hosted them.

Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love

Kara Walker was born in 1969 in Stockton, California; she received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her Masters of Fine Art from Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Since that time, she has created more than 30 room-size installations and hundreds of drawings and watercolors, and has been the subject of more than 40 solo exhibitions. She currently lives in New York, where she is associate professor of visual arts at Columbia University, New York.

Monday I chose to go the Walker Art Center to view Kara Walkers exhibit; My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. I chose this activity for the assignment, because I heard that the art was very moving and she used different ways to portray her feelings. She is the first person I have seen to use cut outs, it really stood out and much easier for me to see the meaning. I am not much of a painting enthusiast, but the way she portrays her work in the cut outs really stood out and moved me.

Below is a link to download one of her cut-outs, I could not get it to save onto my post.
Download file
Kara Walker, Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress

Kara Walker began working on these cut out designs in 1993, while she was a graduate student at Rhode Island. She developed the interest in paper cut out silhouettes when she was researching art in the 19th century, where the aesthetic of art work was confused with a sense of exaggerated sentimentality or melodrama. To create a silhouette, Walker draws her images with a greasy white pencil or soft pastel crayon on large pieces of black paper, which she then cuts with an X-ACTO knife. As she composes her images, she thinks in reverse, in a way, because she needs to flip the silhouettes over after she cuts them. The images are then adhered to paper, canvas, wood, or directly to the gallery wall with wax.
Kara Walker states, “I was really searching for a format to sort of encapsulate, to simplify complicated things...And some of it spoke to me as: ‘it's a medium...historically, it's a craft...and it's very middle-class.’ It spoke to me in the same way that the minstrel show does...it's middle class white people rendering themselves black, making themselves somewhat invisible, or taking on an alternate identity because of the anonymity ... and because the shadow also speaks about so much of our psyche. You can play out different roles when you're rendered black or halfway invisible.?("Conversations with Contemporary Artists" (New York: Museum of Modern Art 1999) http://www.moma.org/onlineprojects/conversations/kw_f.html)
This art exhibit seemed to really follow what we had talked about in class about oppression and power. Most of Kara’s art is portraying power being taken away or given up. I found most of the art and shows in her exhibit to be very moving and strikingly honest. It was definitely a show for a mature audience, with many references to sex, especially with children. After seeing this show I understand how Kara is widely critiqued for the upfront images, some think to be vulgar, but I found it to be very different and interesting. The most shocking to me was the silent puppet show of a little boy who is one of the masters, forces an older gentleman to perform sexual favors for him. It was hard to watch these shows, but I can imagine these instances probably happened and you can really get the full effect of power over someone.

I really suggest for everyone in the class to go see the exhibit before it leaves May 11, it will really move you, but it is not for the faint of heart.

We must change our time, so that we can be the change we want to see in our world

“For you see, to be a man of your time in the 1700’s, you sold men into slavery. To be a man of your time in the 1800’s: You fought a war that you said was about rights, but it was only about your right to keep slaves. To be a man of your time in the 1930’s, you donned a brown shirt and knocked on the doors of Jewish people, sending them to their death. To be a man of your time in the 1950’s you passed ‘black laws,’ laws of segregation. And to be a man of your time in the beginning of time, you stood in the square asking to ‘Free Barabbas.’ No one should be a man of their time, and thank God Rosa wasn’t a woman of her time; she was a woman of the future.?


On Wednesday, February 28th 2007 I went to see Nikki Giovanni at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. I went with my mother Barbara, my father Jerry, and my good friend Melinda. I really didn't know what to expect from the lecture, I had read up on Giovanni and her beautiful poems and thought - well this will be a great experience. By the time I left and as I am reliving the evening I must say it was more than an once-in-a-lifetime experience; it was inspirational, it was painful, and it was full of reflection, heartfelt passion and amazing words. I sat in complete rapture with Giovanni while she talked of spending time with Rosa Parks and Corretta Scott King, two women who have I come to admire and respect tremendously over the years.

The highlight of my evening was when Giovanni spoke on the excuse a lot of people make as to being “a person of one’s time.? I have been given this same excuse with my father and other such figures in my life, “oh, give him a break – he is a product of his environment.? Or, “he is just a man of his time.? Not until tonight had I heard such a painful, but passionate rebuttal to this weak argument of social injustice. Giovanni said to be a man of your time in the 1700’s, you sold men into slavery. To be a man of your time in the 1800’s: You fought a war that you said was about rights, but it was only about your right to keep slaves. To be a man of your time in the 1930’s, you donned a brown shirt and knocked on the doors of Jewish people, sending them to their death. To be a man of your time in the 1950’s you passed ‘black laws,’ laws of segregation. And to be a man of your time in the beginning of time, you stood in the square asking to ‘Free Barabbas.’ No one should be a man of their time, and thank God Rosa wasn’t a woman of her time; she was a woman of the future.? I was stunned and tears ran down my face. I even get goose bumps reading this to myself. How true it is that this simple statement is that one was a product of that time period, has been used to excuse millions of deaths due to social injustice!

I absolutely loved the lecture and I thought Giovanni was so personable and warm. My mother even my father said that they enjoyed the night and I know it is one that I will never forget. Growing up, I wasn't introduced to strong Women of Color, especially writers and I have always been so anxious to search them out and try to use them as role models for my hectic schedule that is my life, and so I came away with the wish to be so passionate about my life and work like Giovanni is. I know that she didn’t start being an activist so that one day she could stand up before us and talk about her pain and experiences and that gives me hope. Seeing Giovanni talk about her experiences for what they are, gave me the inspiration to know that I can get through my days, even if I have to live them day-by-day. God will give me strength and I know that I am fighting for a cause that I believe wholeheartedly in – social justice.

March 5, 2007

Race Exhibit

For the scholarly event, I attended the “Race Exhibit? at the Science Museum. I found this exhibit to be very interesting and educational. I thought it communicated the issue of race very effectively, using factual information and personal testimonies. There were also interactive demonstrations that allowed you to gather information about and create new understandings of race.

One display that I thought was pretty intriguing was the one that demonstrated how other physical qualities are not linked to race. I liked this part of the exhibit because it was very visual and I consider myself to be a pretty visual learner. There were pictures of people of different races and ages. You could press a button that represented either a certain blood type or fingerprint type and the picture of the person that had the given type would light up. The point was that there is no correlation. Aspects of the exhibit such as this really drove home the point that race is a mysterious thing.
When I was looking through one of the books full of visitor responses, I found one entry that I thought made a brilliant point. The entry was about the idea that white pride is much more uncomfortable to people that pride of different races. Blacks can have black pride, Hispanics can have Hispanic pride, Asians can have Asian pride, etc. and that is completely acceptable and encouraged. But once a white person has white pride, they becomes racist and of white supremacist attitude. This entry hit me as shockingly true. While any race has the right to be proud of who they are, it seems like no race but the Caucasian race has so many negative associations with pride.
Another part of this race exhibit that I found particularly interesting was a testimony in one of the videos. It was an interview of a man who was sharing a story from when he was just a boy, a memory that stuck with him. When he was a young boy, he was talking to his neighbor’s worker who was a black man. The man tells about how the neighbor came over and asked the boy why he was talking to this worker, and when the boy responded, he referred to the worker as “Mister …? and the woman said that this black worker was not a “Mister?. The black man remained silent, and that silence proved to the man sharing this story, who was just a little boy at the time, that it was acceptable to treat the worker in this way. Or for that matter, all black people in general just because they are black. It is powerful to think that such prejudice was and often still is installed in people’s minds so early on in life. Something to take from this story and from other displays in the exhibit is that black history has to do with more than just the black community, but with all of us. It affects each and every one of us in different ways. Whether you are the one that is discriminated against, the one making the discriminations, or the one shaking your head at discrimination, we all have a place when it comes to race in our society, and we are all affected whether we realize it or not. This idea really became clear to me because beforehand, I didn’t really think about why or how the issue of race was relevant in my life. In truth, it is all around us and we deal with it everyday.

Race Exhibit at the Science Museum

For my first event I decided to attend the Race Exhibit at the Science Museum of St. Paul. I knew beforehand that this exhibit was going to be about the different races of the world. All of us have learned about Rosa Parks and how she didnt give her seat up in the front of the bus because her feet hurt. People of different races and colors have been oppressed and discriminated throughout history. Even still to this day, people are looked at differently and treated differently because of their color/race. The race exhibit covered three themes throughout history 1) The Everyday Experiance of Race 2) The Contemporary Science that is Challenging Common Ideas About Race and 3) The History of This Idea In The United States. Race is involved in every aspect of our lives. In social and political issues, health care and education. It is common knowledge to us all that racism is not just inside our heads, we're not just necessarily told what to think, but racism is in fact built into the laws, traditions and institutions of our life. We as people need to also realize racism and the seperation of ethnicities are all man made. I dont like to think of myself as racist, but I do feel some things between races are divided. For example, I do not understand my african american people can call each other the "n" word, however, if any white person were to say that we would be called racist and could be cited for harrasment. I actually hate the "n" word and cringe when I hear people saying it, but its still curious to me that african american people use their "blackness" to essentialy use their power over white people. I do have a one sided opinion, my dad and brother are both, to an extent, racist, and I grew up with that around me. Also, I grew up in a city of about 30,000 people and we could count the african american people in the city on one hand. Thats why I decided to go to the Race Exhibit. I wanted to experiance the views of others, and to learn some history as well.

An Inspirational Woman...

This past Wednesday (February 28) I attended the Nikki Giovanni presentation at Ted Mann Concert Hall. The event, presented by the Office for University Women, was absolutely fantastic. If I had to describe Nikki Giovanni’s performance, only one word comes to mind: inspirational. As an older African American woman who personally knew Rosa Parks, Nikki Giovanni inspired me to not only become more in touch with myself, but also to act on the things I truly care about.

The most amazing part of the Nikki Giovanni’s presentation was the true story of Rosa Parks. She was so attuned to every detail, even in the illustrations. It was important for Rosa to fiddle for a dime because it showed that she was compliant with the laws and rules of the time. I would have never thought about aspects like that. Also, the fact that she personally knew Rosa Parks made me feel the story was very authentic. Growing up, I was one of the people who thought that Rosa Parks was a disgruntled African American passenger who was just tired of sitting on the back of the bus because that is basically what I was taught. I learned in school that there was a positive result to Ms. Parks’ rebellious behavior. Now that I know she merely did not get up out of the seat she was already sitting in, and nobody else needed her seat at the moment, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for her actions on that day. She didn’t make an outrageous aggressive move, but instead, she simply and strongly held her ground.
I also appreciated the respect she received from the community. Although I don’t think when she refused to move from her seat on the bus she was thinking, “Oh, I’m glad it’s me doing this because nobody would back up anyone else,? I do like how the community supported her in solidarity. Like Nikki Giovanni said, I don’t think that Rosa Park’s actions would have had the same effect if she was not backed by the community. I also enjoyed learning that it was indeed women who initiated the bus boycott. It was never brought to my attention in school that a group of women spent all night making signs advocating the boycott. All we learned was that Rosa Parks rebelled and was thrown in jail, and then Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped in.
I also liked how Nikki Giovanni incorporated Emmett Till into her children’s book. Although the children who “read? her book have no idea who Emmett Till is, the fact that Nikki Giovanni so strongly felt she needed to have his name on the newspaper in the illustration shows that she is sincerely devoted to presenting the truth about the whole ordeal. Her story of Emmett Till’s death was eye-opening. Again, in school, all I learned was that Emmett Till was an African American boy who inappropriately grabbed a while girl and was killed for it. I am glad I now know the truth, and I am angry that I have been ignorant for so long.
Nikki Giovanni’s poetry was unlike anything I had ever heard or read before. The elegance was in the wording, although to me, the presentation seemed choppy. My favorite poem was the one called “I am a Pillow? (I think that’s the correct title). Her poetry wasn’t watered down so that things rhymed, sounded pretty, or read to a certain beat. Nikki Giovanni’s poems were choppy, truthful, and real. I really, really liked it. Its crude construction and naked truth and emotion validated the sincerity of her writing. It was like she was writing for herself, because she loves to write, and not because she had to please an audience. I truly respect that.
I now have a great admiration for Nikki Giovanni and all her writing and poetry represents. I am very glad I attended her presentation because it not only opened my eyes to the hidden truth beneath what I was taught, but it also inspired me to know myself better than I do now. There is power in writing, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface in all of my writing classes I have taken. I want to be able to express myself in some way, shape, or form like how Nikki Giovanni expresses herself in her writing and poetry.

The Vagina Monologues

On February 15th, I attended the 8th Annual Production of “The Vagina Monologues? at the St. Paul Student Center. The production was sponsored by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG). It is a “student run and directed non-profit, non-partisan organization … that focuses on Women’s Issues along with the environment, fair trade, homelessness, and affordable housing.? I went with a group of my girlfriends but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many men attended as well. There were also many ages which was also nice to see.

I have wanted to go to a production of “The Vagina Monologues? for some time now and I was so excited to hear that it was playing around Valentine’s Day. This production usually performs around this time because of “V-Day?. V-Day is a global movement that’s goal is to end violence against women and girls including rape, battery, incest, and sexual slavery.
The show consists of interviews from women of all ages, all nationalities. The issues discussed in this play range from personal hygiene, periods, masturbation, slang terms, domestic abuse, discrimination, governmental issues, childbirth, etc. This show touched on more subjects than I could imagine and walked out afterwards feeling that I learning a lot while still feeling entertained. One of the main focuses was sexual awareness in young women. Young girls are not informed about the bodies in practical terms (i.e. masturbation) and I think it is a real shame. Hopefully this show with help inform future generations of young girls about their bodies.
A very touching moment in the show was in the first act and the section was entitled “Say it, for the Comfort Women?. I never knew about the “Comfort Women?. They were young girls in Asia that were forced into sexual slavery during the war and they were forced into prostitution for the soldiers. This was an emotional segment because the government has never apologized or even acknowledged what happened. These women will soon be dead and all they want to hear is an apology. I cannot believe something like this would ever happen and it was a very shocking moment in the show.
Although there were some very intimate issues addressed in this production, I felt comfortable during the show. Although I did not know anyone there, there was a bond between the cast and the audience. You could relate to the material if you were a woman or if you had had any experience with women in your life. One of the goals of this show is to make people aware that “vagina? is not a bad word and we should embrace our bodies and be proud.
While this show had some great laughs and things that everyone can relate to, it was very educational. We need to talk about these things because that is the only way society can learn.

RACE exhibit

For my scholarly event, I attended the RACE exhibit at the Science Museum in St. Paul. I thought that the exhibit was informative, leading off of topics that we have discussed in class. The main message behind the exhibit was that there is no scientific evidence behind “race?; in fact, all humans share a common ancestry. Rather, race is socially constructed by society. One quote that I liked, but I’m not sure who said it, “The separate physical traits used to mark one race from another aren’t linked to another nor to any aspect of human variation,? and it was basically restating that there is no biological/scientific reason for race. The exhibit also brought up white privilege, and the idea of the so-called “melting pot? that when it was first created, was extended to only white immigrants and not to people of color.
The exhibit focused on other “races? as well. There was a quote given by a Native American expressing how his people have felt racism too and how even though they aren’t given credit even though they were here long before the pilgrims, “We are dedicated to our country- the physical land…It makes no difference whose name is on the deed. We are the landlords?- George Horse Capture.
One aspect of the exhibit that I found especially interesting was the feature on the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. I’m from Grand Forks, where UND is. It was interesting to see how differently the situation is portrayed here than in Grand Forks. I’m not saying that the Native Americans don’t have the right to be offended by the “mascot?, but I personally do not understand it. At all sporting events, every game begins with a five minute tribute to the tribe. Also, at games, there aren’t unruly fans mocking the tribe, and we don’t have a mascot dressing up in tribal garments dancing around in the audience. Also, one of the main causes for concern about having to change the mascot from the Sioux falls around the issue of what will happen to our hockey arena. Ralph Engeldstad donated 100 million dollars to the university to build a state of the art hockey arena. It’s absolutely gorgeous. However, in building the arena, he stated that it could only be used if we kept the name “Sioux?. He made sure of this by having the Sioux emblem embedded in the marble floors and walls and seats; if the name is changed, the arena is useless. I know that probably eventually the nickname will have to be changed. I know that it isn’t right to keep a name if it’s making a group of people uncomfortable, yet I wish that it didn’t have to be that way. The Fighting Sioux are a tradition in North Dakota. I just wanted to put this out there because I feel like other cities paint the wrong picture of Sioux fans as disrespectful and discriminatory towards Native Americans, and this is not the case.
In conclusion, I thought that the exhibit displayed a wide variety of topics concerning race. I liked all the different areas that represented racial topics: forensic science, medicine, schools, racial classification, etc. I’d recommend this exhibit to others in our class because it tied together a lot of the things that we have discussed in class.

March 4, 2007

race exhibit

For the scholarly event, I attended the Race Exhibit at the Science Museum Institute. I find the exhibit to be very interesting and informative. Obvious from the title, the exhibit’s main focus was to examine the issue of race. It brings forth many aspects as well as information about race. Through its wonderful technique of integrating modern technology and history facts, the exhibit really does provide its audience with the opportunity to examine themselves and how they view others.

There were many topics that I found very intriguing and similar to what we have talked about in class. For instance, one of the station’s topics was whiteness and its privileges. It confirms what we have learned in class. People who belong to the white race do inherit more privileges than others. Also, although those privileges are not as obvious as they were before, they still exist. One explanation that the exhibit was pointing out as the cause of these unfair treatment was simply the fact that America has only been governed by white male. I completely agree with that statement. Ever since America has been established, white is always viewed as the only legitimate race of the country. All the others are merely visitors. Even though that notion is not so blatantly displayed anymore, it has not made any great progress.
Similarly, this idea was also mentioned in another station at the exhibit. It was an interview with one of an African American woman. She was in her mid thirties and one comment that she had said during the interview that I remembered the most was that despite the fact that America is so diverse, none of the races really know anything about one another. She believed that it was because of the “whiteness? belief that still exists in our country today that has put a halt to any progression forward. In her own words, she said: “we only learn about the other race through the mainstream media?. And to her, the media is not a very good source of information since it is controlled by white people. I find this very true. Especially, after we had discussed about in class on media conglomerate. It is still shocking to me on how strongly the media can be influenced. It is such a disappointment knowing that what we see is not what really is happening. It is very discouraging knowing that the so call news that everybody is eager to watch, the very news that was supposed to report nothing but the truth can be manipulated so badly. That very same news has done nothing but bring forth mistaken ideas and wrongful stereotypes against other races.
Another remarkable concept that I have encountered at the exhibit is the event of “White flight?. White flight happens when white people are moving out of their own neighborhood due to the purchasing of homes in that neighborhood by people other than their race. What is even more frustrating is the fact that real estate agent are more likely to introduce their clients of other races to homes where people of the similar race are residing. The reason behind all this is the fact that white neighborhoods are deem to be more valuable than non-white neighborhoods. After finished reading the material, I was very frustrated. How can such a concept ever exist? What difference does it make if the neighborhood is owned by people that are not white? Are they not people? Do they not have a family?
Overall, I am very glad that I went to the Race Exhibit. However, I can not helped but feel sad about the whole issue. It is a fact that racism still exists, it is a fact that white privileges are still happening, yet people are still refusing to accept the truth. It is very discouraging as well as frustrating knowing that up until today, diversity is something that is still can’t be fully accepted and respected by our country. Why must race matter? Why must one check that self restricting square box under the race categories when applying to places? Why can’t one just be looked at based on only one’s qualification and ability? I suppose these are the questions that can’t be answered. Thus, I do hope that by having exhibits like the Race exhibit will enable people to realize more about this ever lasting problem.

12th Annual International Women's Day Celebration Visit

This weekend I visited the 12th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration, located here at the University of Minnesota in Coffman Memorial Union. The women’s fair was presented by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota. There were display and information tables from over 65 co-sponsoring organizations that I went around and visited. They all were very eager to answer any questions and were extremely happy to be there supporting their organization.

I started off my visit with a fresh cup of Peace Coffee, an organically shade-grown coffee that is 100 percent fair trade. I was also given plenty of free food! I then went around to the information tables and learned about each organization.

The Midwest Health Center for Women is a non-profit clinic dedicated to the belief that reproductive choices for women are vital for their health and well-being. They provide low cost birth control, Plan B, Surgical and Medical abortion, free pregnancy testing, HIV testing and counseling, annual exams or PAP smears, ultrasound exams, and Colposcopy. They were handing out different forms of free birth control and I learned about the great volunteer opportunities as being a clinic escort. There were also many other clinics that had information tables such as Planned Parenthood, Abortion Provider Expansion Project (APEP), and Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education.

Another favorite booth of mine included the League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters’ mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government. They sponsor debates, hold open forums on local, regional and national issues, register voters and encourage everyone to get involved in democracy, influence public policy through education and advocacy, and publish and distribute non-partisan voter guides and other election materials. I was also given a booklet of the history of Minnesota women’s suffrage and the latest issue of their newsletter.

There were many domestic violence organizations that had informational booths set up. I visited the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project’s table were I was given many pamphlets on the abuse of children and the effects of violence on children, warning signs of an abusive partner, and how to profile a stalker.

At another booth, I met Siona L. Nchotu, founder of Zyombi International Project, Inc. a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide consistent, reliable education and HIV/AIDS prevention to the African community. She was informing me about ‘Zip It Up’ the promotion for stopping and spreading the knowledge of HIV and AIDS.

I visited many other booths including Sigma Delta Epsilon, a fraternity for graduate women in the science field, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), Employment Action Center, Zonta Club, Girl Scouts, and plenty of cultural booths with clothing, jewelry, instruments, and art work of the featured country or culture.

After I was done browsing the informational booths, I watched a performance by Voices Merging. The performers included: Moira Pirsch, Lenora Magee-Howard, Mosunmola Ogunlana, and Jasmine Omorogbe. Voices Merging is a multi-cultural student organization founded in 2002 at the University of Minnesota by a group of students and a faculty advisor. This organization gives students to perform their art at regular open mic sessions twice a month and also at workshops throughout the year. The songs were about everything we’ve talked about in class. They included white privilege, gender roles, ethnic/cultural identity, and media portrayed beauty. I enjoyed one song about a man’s life as soldier fighting over seas and a woman’s life in poverty with three children. Another song was about beauty and the artist got a good laugh out of the audience when she explained that media portrays beauty as the “balla hoes? and even though they have large, fake breasts and are pencil thin, they end up with four kids in the next three years with uncertainty of the father and who will end up on welfare. She says she’ll take her junk-in-the-trunk booty and plus size body over that any day. My favorite song was about a woman’s African heritage and the difficulty living in the United States entails. She says that they get harassed for being in poverty, but yet criticized for getting an education and being as smart as the ‘white man.’ She sings that an intelligent black is the white man’s worst fear, and though I don’t think there are problems to the extent of that today, she certainly gets her point across.

The International Women’s Day Celebration really exposed me to all of the elements that make up a feminist view. I never knew there were so many organizations to go to when in need of help or guidance. It was nice to see all the organizations that are involved in encouraging feminism and out there to help and educate others!

Voices Merging Performance

As a part of the 12th International Women’s Day Celebration at the University, I attended a performance by the campus group “Voices Merging.? Voices Merging is a multi-racial group of students that write and perform their own poetry. The lyrics were original and genuine, and the spoken word performances were energetic and heartfelt. There were four women performing, and the audience was very receptive. Throughout the pieces, people would cheer their approval for certain messages in the lyrics, and at the end, the women received a standing ovation.

Many of the pieces were protesting against being oppressed as women or as African Americans. There was bitterness against “White America? thinking the country belongs to them and resentment about the way America has historically treated Africa. One girl made the analogy of Africa being raped, which I think meant that it was stripped of its valuable assets, its people and natural resources, completely against its will and for the sole purpose of satiating the rapists’ (America’s) lusty greed. It was a strong analogy. This same girl said it takes bravery to face the truth and confront the injustices, but she feels compelled to do so. One piece encouraged other African American women to acknowledge their black history and to dream big, as in going to college. This makes me think of how much I take being at college for granted. I am not a first-generation college student in my family, I did not have to worry about not being able to attend college for financial or academic reasons, and everyone in my high school experience was supportive of this next step. It’s good to be reminded of the privilege of being here. One of the lyrics in this poem was “baby girl, you’re the future.? What an empowering statement! The next performer confronted the stereotypes against her head-on: “you thought I was too small before I was even born.? Because of her gender, her race, and whatever other “non-dominant? factors, society disregards her potential to be “big.? This girl encouraged others not to “let the haters get to you.? I think she was equating the haters with the stereotypers. The implication that she is somehow less than a full-fledged human being is certainly degrading beyond apology. She brought up an interesting point in the end, that someday the haters would realize that “you’re the one who can truly help them.? This was thought-provoking because it reverses the power roles and exposes the ignorance and destructiveness of these hateful mentalities.
Some of the messages were strongly pro-female, and reminded me of passages I’ve read in the Feminist Frontiers textbook. One girl did a modern-day takeoff on Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?,? talking about being the taxpayer in her household and yet not being valued enough by society to take advantage of what she had helped create in the community. She also felt “caged by my differences and I can’t get out;? this phrase tied in perfectly with Marilyn Frye’s model of oppression as a birdcage made up of interlocking forces. Her differences, presumably referring to race and gender among other things, worked together to create a binding situation in which she felt powerless. Another piece entitled “Beautiful Ladies? spoke about “a different brand? of beauty. The author acknowledged beauty as “a gift from God,? but rejected the way that society typically responds to beauty: cat calls to chicks on the street, beautiful women who end up with children from multiple men, etc. This woman spurned this type of beauty and instead spoke about self-respect and being a “strong, respectable female.? What a powerful message for women, to embrace their beauty not as a superficial thing but as an inner strength.
The women in the audience were obviously moved, but the purpose of the performances was to inspire action rather than just to entertain. In one of the poems, the speaker acknowledged that poems themselves cannot bring about social change, but perhaps their listeners can.

Art Is Sexy

Last month I went and checked out the Body and Politics exhibit at the Walker. Here, one could see a ton of work created by artists ranging from Picasso to Darger to O’Keefe. There was an air of intimacy being that it was a fairly small gallery space. One could observe, and somewhat understand the cultural and social significance of the work because of the gallery’s size. The show was a bombarding array of sexuality, nudity, discomfort, and beauty…and it was sexy.

One of the first pieces I confronted was a stark black and white woodcut. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s “Large Prophetess?, 1919, is a woman’s portrait with no real understanding of the anatomical constructions of a natural face. Rather, it’s more of an exotic conception of another people. The portrait resembles that of a tribal mask, that is, it carries hard angles, a long, narrow nose, wide, almond shaped eyes and a very narrow face. This work seemed as if it was attempting to portray a different culture from his own, while retaining his own individual style. However, it is very familiar for artists of that time to construct ethnicity based on their perception of that ethnicity. That is, to never have experienced that culture, but assume of it, and create. Obviously this leads to unconvincing portraitures that perpetuate a perceived notion of a people; forever being classified as “the Other?.
Continuing on among empowering, degrading, perplexing works of art, I stopped at a wretched portrayal of a woman. At first thinking it was silly, I looked deeper into the possible focus of this piece. Picasso’s 1937 work, “La Femme qui Pleure, I (The Woman Who Cries)? emphasizes his later-year cubist style. It shows the disorganized dimensions of a woman, who, according to the title, is crying. As mentioned, this work is highly disorganized, showing great chaos in line and dimension. Although there is always some lack of perfection in cubism, this work seemed highly tumultuous (contrast this work with “Portraits of Jacqueline?). Further, this woman looks barbaric, and unkempt, and just down right disgusting. It’s not a beautiful depiction of woman by any means. Pair this observation with the title of the work, and my mind screams. Perhaps this work toys with that age-old notion of women being “docile? and perfect. In whatever case, she certainly ain't beauty.
Today seeing nudity and “racy? art is expected. However, when Egon Schiele was alive and kicking his work was quite controversial. Known for his, not only nude, but also pornographic work, he existed well before his time. At the Walker, there was only a sketch of two women figures embracing which dated to 1917. Highly provocative in sexuality, it also was a very homosexual representation of relationship. This is especially profound because of it’s period-the early 1900’s. This work stood out to me, because it was unclear whether this was objectifying the woman body, and playing into male fantasies of sex between two women. On the contrary, it also was an empowering image, and gave liberality to sex, nudity, and homosexuality. Although it was only a sketch (and his other works are far more interesting-check ‘em out), it was still an enigmatic piece that got me questioning.
Although this show was not a direct reference to womanhood, homosexuality, femininity, masculinity, etcetera, it encompassed all of them gloriously. It allowed for viewers to get out of their comfort zones a little bit and critically look at these works, wonder about them, and get a little awkward. Artwork is an amazing lens for history. It demonstrates social constructions, and maybe tries to ruffle the edges a little bit. At least the good art does that.

Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love

kara-walker-mural.jpg

On Friday, I attended Kara Walker’s exhibit “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love? over at the Walker art center. Her exhibit is the biggest highlighted exhibit at the moment; she’s had a small room of work as a part of the semi-rotating “quartet? of artists, but this showcase included an astounding amount of her work from 1992-present.
Walker is best known for her cut-paper-silhouette technique, which is a play on the classic 18th century art medium. Walker flips this traditional form upside down by portraying subtly striking images (as opposed to the romantic couple or the plantation). A quick glance at the cutouts may not warrant any thought- you might catch a glimpse of a southern belle or gentleman, perhaps of some slaves or black girls in a field near a tree. A closer look reveals a scene full of gendered, sexual and racial turmoil.

Walker infuses her work with images that strive to make the viewer uncomfortable, by challenging our thoughts on inter-racial attraction, heterosexuality, and historical accuracy (to name a few). Images include racially ambiguous women walking in prairie dresses; the only thing out of the ordinary is a baby trailing on an umbilical cord beneath her. Slaves are pictured performing sexual acts on one another, on their masters, and vice versa. What we perceive to be young white boys are having sex with adult black men. One of these instances, a shadow puppet silent-movie was particularly striking—Walker animates her characters in the story of Uncle Remus telling the story of Br’er Rabbit to a young master. The film begins with “Little Timmy? running up to Uncle Remus and begging to hear the story of “Br’er Rabbit?. Uncle Remus laughs and says he’s too tired, Timmy keeps begging, and at this point the viewer still thinks that a story is coming. Timmy then starts chiding Uncle Remus and the story quickly darkens; it becomes clear that this is not about a story, and eventually Timmy forces Uncle Remus to perform sexual acts on him “or else he’ll tell?.
At this point, I was surprised to see that there were still several children running around the exhibit on this first free-Saturday at the Walker. My Dad came with me, and we both agreed that the images shown were inappropriate for the extremely young audience (who said “yay! Shadow puppets!? to the film I just mentioned).
Another image that I found extremely striking was a graphic drawing of a black woman giving birth to a large rat. One image depicts a white woman running away with a black woman’s unborn fetus; another shadow-puppet film depicts a young white boy and young black girl slave having sex, and then reversing their roles as the slaves gain power and begin to whip their masters. Walker achieves success in provoking her audience—I was disturbed by many of the up-front, unapologetic images.
The disturbing ideas presented by the exhibit bring up questions of multicultural feminism and the difference model. If we’re forced to see all of this difference, divide and past unfairness, how are we supposed to consolidate our current ideas and work together on the same plane? Walker addresses this point briefly in her opening statement about the exhibit: “It’s interesting that as soon as you start telling the story of racism, you start reliving the story. You keep creating a monster that swallows you. But as long as there’s a Darfur, as long as there are people saying ‘Hey, you don’t belong here’ to others, it only seems realistic to continue investigating the terrain of racism.?
My expectations for the exhibit were surpassed—I was surprised how moving I found it to be. I’m still very uncomfortable with a lot of the imagery. When I think about why this is, a lot of my past prejudices and beliefs come into play. It wasn’t so much the gender or sex components that struck me—the combination of these and the explicit sexual depictions were what really made me think. Although overtly sexual, most of the images were sort of ingenuine—the sexuality was humorized and demonized (not celebrated). Walker covered many ideas in her exhibit—I’m still thinking about what it all means.

March 3, 2007

The 12th Annual International Women's Day Celebration

The 12th International Women Day’s celebration in the University of Minnesota was prepared by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program in the University of Minnesota. The event focused on the global challenges that are facing human (and particularly women and children’s) rights around the globe and in the United States, especially as these challenges relate to immigrants in the United States. The day’s motto was “Crossing Borders, Connecting Cultures?, and it was not focused only on the negative side and the challenges which are still facing human rights, but also on reasons for optimism and celebration of recent achievements by women in the U.S. and across the globe.

The event began with introduction by Barbara Frey, the director of the Human Right Program in the University of Minnesota, which other than introducing the keynote speaker who flew to Minnesota from New York shared the following information and statistics:
According to recent statistics, 20% (1 in 5) of the women in the world would be a victim of sexual violence during her lifetime. 10-60% would be victims of relationship violence (rates are vary greatly across the globe, and are about 22% in the United States). On the Positive side Ms. Frey pointed out that there is continued change through legislation and other forms of advocacy for women’s rights across the globe, for example: the former Soviet Union republic Moldova had just pass yesterday (Friday, 3/2/07) its first ever law to tackle the epidemic of relationship violence. Additionally, women’s rights were put on the agenda at least formally, being marked as one of eight indicators of development and protection of human rights around the world, and an issue that impact not just the women themselves but also their families, communities, nations and continents. Frey called on the people present to hold the legislators accountable for creation of change-not just in the declarative (theoretic) level but also in actual practice, budgeting and attention that will actually impact real women’s lives.
The keynote speaker in the IWD (International Women’s Day) celebration was Maria Jose Alcala, an activist with long and impressive international record in the human rights arena, including her being the principle author of the 2005 and 2006 report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Ms. Alcala spoke in length on many problems women and girls are faced with today, but also on some of their achievements, especially in the field of political empowerment and legislation. There are more and more women who take key positions in their countries leaderships, including roles as presidents in non-western countries such as Chile, Jamaica and Liberia (which have the first woman president in this continent history). Women also took the 2nd in command position in the UN and the 3rd in the U.S. (with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi).
Despite the recent developments, Alcala mentioned that only 17% of the political representatives in parliaments across the world are women, and that they are also a small minority among the UN representatives. Alcala also repeated the call to make representative accountable for their agenda promises at every level, from local municipalities to states and international organizations representatives who work in parliaments or the UN.
Maria Alcala shared the following statistics:
1) 25-50% of women in the western world have children before they are 18 years old.
2) 65% of women with children under 5 years of age were working (internationally) in 2005.
3) About 50% of all immigrants are women- that mean 95 million women.
4) 1.2 million people are trafficked annually, 80% (960,000) of them are girls and women. Most of the women are
trafficked from underdeveloped countries to western countries for the purpose of sexual slavery.
5) 50% of the sexual assaults (globally) are on women under the age of 15.
6) There are 19,000,000 unsafe abortions per year (internationally), 5 million of which are performed on women
under the age of 18.
7) In 2005 about a half (50%) of HIV positive carriers were women, and the number rises to 60% in the African
countries south of the Sahara (sub-Saharan Africa) and 75% of all teenage HIV carriers in this region are
young women.
8) There is estimated number of 340 million curable STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) cases per year, 1 billion
STI cases including the incurable ones.
9) 3 billion people, 50% of the world population, earn less than $2 a day, half of which are women.

To some it all up; education of young women (including “sex-ed?) is a matter of life or death for most of the women in the world. Family planning is directly tied not just to women (and generally human) rights, but also to communities economic welfare, development and health. Guess who is not supporting the UNFPA (United Nation Family Planning)? If you say United States you are right, if you say it because we have a fanatic president who rather that billions of women would contract STI and HIV, get pregnant and be poor single mothers, vulnerable to violence, economic and sexual exploitation- I am afraid I would have to once again agree with you.
Over 70 women and human rights and advocacy organizations supported the International Women Day’s celebration, most of which were local (or local chapters of national or international organizations). There was a wealth of opportunity to learn about different organizations, their activities, and opportunities for contribution to them (through volunteering, monitory support or even internships).
There were also two sessions of workshops (4 options in each section). I went to a mostly informative workshop on Women’s trafficking and sexual slavery in Turkey and Cambodia, and also on the attempt to spread around the “Tourist Code of Conduct? to educate and prevent the sexual victimization of children (mostly in under developed countries) by tourists (most of which are from western countries). This code of conduct is explained on “Air France? airplanes to “sex tourism? destinations, as well as other tourist agencies and industries across Europe and the globe, but guess in which country no airline is working with this code of conduct? (Yes, it is the U.S. again. Can you believe it?).
The second workshop I attended was titled “Global Needs, Global Changes: New Developments on Violence against Women?. This workshop focused on the challenges and advancement in legislation on violence against women across the globe. On July 2006 a UN report on violence against women established the (obvious) connection between violence against women, health and development across the globe. The report stated that legal report is the most efficient tool in bringing change, if the laws are enacted, implemented and monitored (to assure they are not ignored, and reach their target populations). There is also growing demand of governments to ensure violence victim’s safety, as a human rights issue and obligation, not just as states responsibility for their citizens’ welfare.
Once again, the workshop stressed the importance of education and health services for women as means of economic and social development; development money that goes to women yield stronger and healthier communities while money that goes to men is usually a wasted investments (as it is used for buying of weapons, prostituted women and other “status symbols?, or just plainly “disappear?).
Final note: while there are still many big challenges, there are also many positive developments and reasons to celebrate the International Women’s Day. Education, health care and peace are three of the most crucial ingredients of changing the world into a better place for all its inhabitants, and there are many good women (and men) that are working on development and implantation of these ingredients for development but additional help is always appreciated.

Happy International Women’s Day!


Fair Trade and Women's Power

The 12th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration was today at Coffman, presented by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at the U of M. I attended the workshop session entitled Empowering Women Around the World through Fair Trade. There were three speakers representing different organizations that support women workers internationally. According to their handout, some of the main ideas of fair trade are “creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers,? “dealing fairly and respectfully with trading partners,? “gender equity,? and “developing producers’ independence.? These goals have had enormous impacts on liberating women economically.

Becky Flory represented North Country Fair Trade, an apparel business. She noted the irony of women being exploited in the apparel industry, when the primary consumers of their products are other, more privileged women. Becky spoke some about the history of women being oppressed as workers, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Northeastern colonies to outsourced factories threatening to leave a given area if their female workers attempt to challenge the system in defense of their rights. North Country trades with women factory workers from Mexico who are now being encouraged to speak out against offenses. Becky made the comparison of a $37.99 UCONN sweatshirt for which 18 cents goes toward wages, versus a North Country t-shirt, for which 6% of the cost goes back to the workers.
Mindy Ahler-Olmstead spoke about 10,000 Villages, a retail outlet that sells products from 113 groups in 32 countries. She gave the example of Rosa, a Latin American woman who was able to upgrade from a tin shack to a brick house as a result of their business transactions. These women have also been able to employ others, generating a ripple effect. These women gain power and value through their businesses that society might not otherwise allow them to have. They use wages to pay for food, education for their children (one woman’s daughter had dreamed of becoming a nurse but the family did not have the money to send her to school), healthcare, and housing. These are such basic needs, and it is extremely meaningful that these women can provide them for their families. Mindy spoke about a woman in Bangladesh whose husband left her. By obtaining a job at Beaverton Paper Factory, she was able to become literate, obtain loans, and rebuild her parent’s home after a flood.
Kristen Johnson works with Global Mamas, a brand name that encompasses about 50 individual coops around the world. She spoke primarily about women in Ghana. The individual nature of the coops means that each woman has ownership over her particular product and can ensure that it is of good quality, but the brand name umbrella provides solidarity for these women to recognize that they are part of a progressive community. These women generally earn 40% of wholesale, compared to less than 1% in sweatshop settings. The structure of the organization is very democratic and involves the women in decision making.
I spoke more with Kristin after the program about the way that economic self-sufficiency influences power relationships for these women. She said that many of these women are now the primary income generators for their families, which has a huge impact on their confidence and dignity. Her organization has noticed increased confidence in the way these women conduct themselves soon after joining the program. She said a women may not flaunt their economic role in the family for her husband’s sake, but between the two of them, they know who’s paying the bills. In the future, Kristin would like to see these women becoming more involved with their communities and exerting other kinds of power by becoming involved in politics.

March 2, 2007

Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) Events at Coffman - Tomorrow!

"WAMM is a nonviolent feminist organization that works in solidarity with others to create a system of social equality, self-determination and justice through education and empowerment of women. WAMM's purpose is to dismantle systems of militarism and global oppression.

WAMM has around 2100 member households, most of which are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. We are consciously a local justice and peace organization, living our feminist principals by using a non-hierarchical organizational structure. WAMM is governed by a Steering Committee of volunteer activists who use consensus decision making. We program from the grassroots -- allowing activists to form committees and act on issues based on their own passions."

Tomorrow WAMM will be celebrating International Women's Day at Coffman Union. They'll be doing film screenings, there'll be photo exhibits, performances, information tables and workshops, too. Here's a link to the events page, just scroll down. There are a lot of other great events listed; check it out.

It's all free -- hope to see you there!

March 1, 2007

Saturday, March 31 - Beyond Marriage

"Beyond Marriage: Building New Alliances Around the Politics of Sexuality": A talk with Lisa Duggan

Saturday, March 31, 2007 7:00 p.m.
Loft Literary Center Off Campus
FREE!

Contact Information:
Institute for Advanced Study, (612) 626-5054

"Beyond Marriage: Building New Alliances around the Politics of Sexuality" will analyze the motivations of the group of intellectuals, activists, and artists that have come together to broaden the agenda of GLBT political movements via the formation of the activist network BeyondMarriage.org. Duggan will discuss efforts to reframe the narrow terms of the marriage debate in the United States. She identifies opposition to same-sex marriage as only one part of a broader pro-marriage, "family values" agenda that includes abstinence-only sex education, stringent divorce laws, coercive marriage promotion policies directed toward women on welfare, and attacks on reproductive freedom. Duggan will explore emerging trends in GLBT activism in relation to the theoretical foundation of her forthcoming book, The End of Marriage: The War Over the Future of State Sponsored Love. Lisa Duggan is the Director of the American Studies Program and Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. Co-sponsored by Twin Cities GLBT Oral History Project, Department of American Studies, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and GLBT Programs Office and organized by the IAS Global Sexualities Research Collaborative.

Here's an interview with Lisa Duggan - HERE

Brianna Lane Concert

TOMORROW Friday, 3/2 at 7pm at The Whole in Coffman Union:

Brianna Lane with Haley Bonar and Breanne Durenberger

I really want to go, please let me know if anyone else is interested!

Tickets are $5 for students and its 18+