Author Archives: amaliad2013

Penelope Cruz + french lingerie = ?

This video is a part of a new ad campaign for the upscale French lingerie company, Agent Provocateur, for their new L’Agent line. The company recruited the beautiful Penelope Cruz to direct this seductive short film, which features her real-life husband, Javier Bardem. In this video, the main male character walks through a house that is experiencing some sort of orgy. Throughout this 6 minute video, the fundamental heteronormative characteristics of advertisements and music videos are present. Besides the obvious fact that there are a myriad of beautiful, thin women hanging around the house in their lingerie, looking sexy and never speaking a word, other elements are also displayed. For example, at 1:32 the man is staring at three underwear-clad women dangling from gymnastics rings, as if they are on display at an exhibit – they are not presented at women but as mere objects to look at. Although there is diversity presented (one woman is black), these women are all thin, exhibiting the Bordo’s idea of the ideal slender female body. At 1:50 and 2:00, two girls in lingerie are eating cupcakes and licking icing off of each other in the kitchen, which depicts the typical male fantasy — girl on girl action. At 2:50, two practically naked girls are touching themselves in an outdoor shower, displaying the typical “wet” female body, another male fantasy. This scene in the house ends at 3:45, when the man in the video is practically hypnotized by a beautiful woman simply whipping her hair back and forth and pressing her breasts onto his face. Not once does she utter a word, but solely uses her body and sexuality. In the end, this whole erotic vision ends up literally being a man’s dream. The alpha male in the video turned out to be a construction worker (typical male role) who passed out on the job and fantasized this titillating orgy.

What do you all think about this ad campaign? It is obviously a very sexualized/aesthetically pleasing lingerie commercial, but does that make any of these problems okay? Is the objectification of women made better or worse because it was written and directed by a woman?


Is there such a thing as free choice?

 As we talked about the history of women’s housework in class, it became ever more clear to me that even in the increasingly progressive, egalitarian world we live in, in which more women have careers than ever before, the female role in the house has not changed very much. Today being Thanksgiving simply gave me another opportunity to witness this issue – that females are maintaining their housework responsibilities, even if they are also climbing the corporate ladder.

After reading Belkin’s, “When Mom and Dad Split it All”, I started to wonder if there will ever actually be free choice when it comes to gender norms in parenting roles, or will families forever be somewhat restricted by the more traditional male and female parenting roles that have existed in society? In Belkin’s article, parents attempt to allot equal housework and childcare responsibilities to mothers and fathers, thus generating “equal parenting”. Even though some families were able to maintain this equity in parenting, the majority could not. I even witnessed this today on Thanksgiving – even though all the fathers in my family attempted to lend a helping hand, in the end it was the mothers who did the majority of the housework – cooking, baking, serving the table, cleaning up, looking after the children, etc. In the majority of situations, men may have good intentions, but women end up doing more of the housework, which is what led me to asking – do we actually have free choice? Or will women always end up doing more labor in the house? Is this because women just have a lower tolerance for letting dirty dishes accumulate in the sink? Are women simply better at cooking? Or born with the ability to bake pies? I don’t think so! These questions all demonstrate the impact of the culturally constructed notions of women’s roles in the house, which helps us understand how we are limited in our free choice when it comes to gender roles.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.

Why are tampon ads so obnoxious?

This advertisement for U by Kotex is not your typical tampon commercial. It challenges the safe and often unrealistic ideas found in ads and it also directly confronts the stigma and stereotypes associated with women’s menstruation. Typically, feminine hygiene ads feature young white women in white clothes just loving their period. They are often depicted dancing, twirling, and taking part in other quite feminine activities. The actress in this commercial however, is calling out these commercials for inaccurately depicting the reality of women’s lives, including their periods. Her frankness points out how obtuse tampon ad campaigns can be – as if buying a certain brand of tampon is allowing the actress to wear white and be active, because without the tampon a woman would be left to sulk on her couch craving chocolate and watching romantic comedies? Thus, she is addressing the misconception that women on their periods are completely incapacitated.

Overall, this commercial is not only tackling many of the (inaccurate) elements commonly found in the marketing campaigns for feminine hygiene products, but also combating the public notion that menstruation is pathological. The issues elicited in this Kotex commercial remind me of Ehrenreich and English’s, The Sexual Politics of Sickness, in which they show how throughout history, issues relating to women’s health were often interpreted by the medical profession as pathological, or attributing a negative connotation to any particularly feminine physical problem. Tampon companies today are taking advantage of this issue – as if tampons are a “cure” to a problem (i.e. periods). Hopefully by making more realistic, satirical commercials like this one, women (and men) will be more aware of the falsities relating to women’s bodies.

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Deirdre English. Complaints and Disorders; the Sexual Politics of Sickness. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist, 1973. Print.

What is Oppression?

Before this class, I used to think that oppression was diminishing. However, I now realize that oppression is a cyclical phenomenon embedded in society, a cycle between the oppressors and the oppressed, with no realistic end.

This became clear after watching Dreamworlds 3, a documentary about female oppression in music videos. This cycle of oppression stems from patriarchy – men believe they are superior to women and thus the controllers of all aspects of their lives. This supports bell hooks’, Seduced By Violence No More, in which she states that we live in a phallocentric and patriarchal state that gives men a sense of superiority and privilege over women, thus influencing their treatment and expectations of women.

Music videos generate cultural ideals of femininity, equating it with being desirable and submissive to men, thus putting women under male control. Music videos also depict women solely by their sexuality, devaluing and thus dehumanizing them, which enables further oppression.

The cycle of oppression in music videos commences with the male fantasy of women, women in music videos act out these male fantasies, then the everyday male audience interprets this to be reality and attempt to fulfill their fantasies in real life, leaving everyday women to bear the burden of this cycle.

It is unknown if this cycle will end, but it is crucial to remember that oppression is hegemonic – oppressors maintain control by making the oppressed willing to remain in their position. In this case, women desire to resemble video girls, which is simply maintaining male superiority.


Hooks, Bell. “Seduced By Violence No More.” Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. New York: Routledge, 1994. N. pag. Print.

Jhally, Sut, Andrew Killoy, and Joe Bartone. Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2007.

Tom Ford.

tom ford

This is a very risqué ad for Tom Ford’s men’s fragrance. As stated in Killing Us Softly 4, the objectification of women in advertisements is a way attracting attention to the product and instilling cultural ideals of masculinity and femininity in society. Tom Ford’s ad is sexualizing this woman’s body and using it to sell a men’s product, in addition to showing an unrealistic image of beauty. Her skin is youthful, glowing, and is hairless. She is “slender” with a toned body, a cultural female ideal. The fragrance bottle appears phallic, which is emphasized by the bottle’s convenient placement on the female body and helps to establish a masculine presence.

Who is the intended audience of this ad campaign? Tom Ford is featured in high fashion magazines such as Vogue, read by mostly upper class women. Despite the message that it gives to women, the ad’s content and sexual subtext make clear that this ad is for men; it is a fragrance which could help obtain female companionship and admiration. Men see the woman’s nudity and think desire and dominance. This advertisement has implicit sexual politics — against the submissive female nakedness, the bottle’s edges are pressing suggestively into her thighs, in addition to the phallic protrusion at the top of the bottle — all announcing a clear masculine presence.

The body fragmentation in this ad shows that women are nothing but sexualized bodies, inviting men to look at them (in addition to being used to sell the fragrance); by looking at someone solely as an object, you reduce their subjectivity. Overall, Tom Ford’s ad reinforces the general message about masculine dominance and assumed feminine submission.

What is Discrimination?

 Discrimination is defined as treating someone differently on the basis of their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category such as race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. Discrimination has and probably always will exist due to the extreme fear people have of the “other”.

Although it might be the case that people fear the “other” or general uncertainty, it should not interfere with one’s health and/or bodily rights. This is the case for intersexual and “genderless” children. The discrimination that society has for these individuals is so extreme that radical steps are taken to “normalize” and classify them after birth. What should be considered normal (i.e. a healthy baby) is transformed into a “life-threatening” issue. This is due to society’s inability to fit outliers into its rigid two-gender system. Even after efforts are taken to “normalize” these individuals, society still doesn’t react to them properly, thus creating discrimination.

In Arthur Caplan’s article on the case of Caster Semenya, he describes how sexual ambiguity presents a great challenge in determining playing eligibility in sports. This shows how even in the arena of sports there is discrimination towards the “other”. Sports officials simply do not know how to react towards those with gender disorders and as a result, discriminate against them (whether intentional or not). It is true that gender disorders may give advantages in competition, but the fact that biological sex is on a continuum needs to be taken into account so that discrimination diminishes and cases like that of Caster Semenya are handled differently.

The ultimate question is: how do we diminish discrimination against what society fears the most: the unknown or the other?

Caplan, Arthur L. “Fairer Sex: The Ethics of Determining Gender for Athletic Eligibility: Commentary on ‘Beyond the Caster Semenya Controversy: The Case of the Use of Genetics for Gender Testing in Sport’” Editorial. National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 8 Sept. 2010: n. pag. Print.

Axe “Morning After Pillow Talk” Commercial

AXE – Morning After Pillow TV Commercial

This Axe Commercial pokes fun at the gender stereotype that women like to cuddle while also presenting women as needy and dependent objects.

The advertisement refers to the “Axe effect” – when all men who wear Axe are so attractive that women cannot let them go. As a result of this, Axe came up with a brilliant solution for men, an inflatable man pillow “created to give you freedom”, which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes such as skinny, bodybuilder, tanned, tattooed, and hairy. This shows how it is assumed that all women want/need a man to cuddle with. But what if she wants to cuddle with a woman or no one at all? The pillow illustrates how women are perceived as the “other” or Beauvoir’s “second sex” and are also objectified to the point that an inflatable pillow is sufficient enough to satisfy them.

This commercial making it look like women are laying in bed all day, preventing men from enjoying their freedom to take part in “manly” activities such as playing sports or video games (because only men have interest in those activities, right?). This not only relates to the culturally constructed notion that women are passive in nature (part of Butler’s gender-sex dichotomy), while the man is trying to go out and be active, but also to the culturally constructed gender roles assigned.

Overall, this commercial is outright sexist and plays on the gender stereotypes present in society.