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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.