Author Archives: coranc

Ad Critique: Running Errands with Dad and Wells Fargo

This advertisement, for the bank Wells Fargo, depicts a father running errands for his partner (who is presumably female, as implied in the “Your Body After Baby” scene in the commercial) while bringing their infant along. The commercial aims to question certain gendered divisions of labor, though in doing so, it reinforces stereotypical male behavior. On the one hand, the commercial does offer a realistic representation of the type of co-parenting that Lisa Belkin explores in “When Mom and Dad Share It All,” in which both partners “work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, [and] take equal responsibility for their home” (1). The father picks up the dry cleaning, buys presents for relatives, and goes grocery shopping, thereby challenging the expectation that only mothers should be responsible for “feeding, clothing, cleaning, and sustaining themselves and their families” (Cowan 151).

That said, the commercial suggests that men are not entirely capable of assuming such roles, which is made clear by the phone exchanges between husband and wife: “Honey I got this,” the father reassures the mother. Moreover, his cluelessness is endearing, as the father takes his child with him to a bar to grab lunch. This directly relates to Belkin’s observation that, “If the toddler’s clothes don’t match, if the thank-you notes don’t get written, if the house is a shambles, it is seen as her [the mother’s] fault” (6), while the father is applauded for any contribution he makes. Thus, the commercial proves both progressive and problematic.

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

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. “Household Technology and Household Work between 1900 and 1940.” More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic, 1983. 151-91. Print.

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Big Question: What is self-determination?

Throughout this unit, we have explored the gendered division of labor that continues to persist today. This discussion culminated with Dean Spade’s “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender,” in which he calls for medical and legal institutions to listen to the voices of gender transgressive people. Spade celebrates the possibility of a society that would make “a commitment to self-determination and respect for all expressions of gender” (23). This concept of “self-determination” more broadly means the right to realize one’s full potential, regardless of class, gender, socioeconomic situation, or societal expectations. Self-determination also implies that no other person but oneself should have the right to choose one’s identity. For, we have seen the dangerous repercussions that result from others taking control over one’s own self-expression. In “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse,” Ellen Jean Samuels warns against assuming one’s outward appearance is indicative of one’s inward identification: “Such constant and invasive surveillance…almost always involves a perceived discontinuity between appearance, behavior, and identity” (247). We must take seriously the fact that this tendency effectively prohibits self-determination. Therefore, society must overcome its need to superficially organize the identities others choose to present—especially because that choice has no effect on anyone but that person. As Spade rather movingly proclaims, an environment that supports self-determination, “believes me without question when I say what I am and how that needs to look” (23). What an open, liberating world that would be. 

Samuels, Ellen Jean. “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 9.1-2 (2003): 233-55. Project Muse. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 15-37. Web. 14 July 2003.

Big Question: What is oppression?

When society fails to give voice to every one of its members, it oppresses. When society employs inaccurate and offensive representations of minorities, it oppresses. When society endorses one pole of a binary over the other, it oppresses. For example, oppression occurs when woman are treated as objects and “other forms of her self-representation” are “thus silenced” (Cornell 3). Treating women as such “sexually viable commodities” (Cornell 3) undoubtedly discourages them from speaking up. It is similarly oppressive to present black men as eternally violent and threatening: “Historical representations of Black men as beasts have spawned a second set of images” that paints this demographic as “criminals or deviant beings” (Hill Collins 158). The most oppressive act of all, however, is to promote one social group—namely, white males—over all others. This white patriarchal dominance suggests that those unequally represented must “submit to White male authority” (Hill Collins 154) in order to have their voice heard. Most upsettingly, as society continues to tailor to the needs of the white male “gaze” that bell hooks speaks of in “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators,” it only continues the oppression of those less privileged. hooks’ observation that, “power as domination reproduces itself in different locations” (115) should thus serve as a warning. For not only is oppression the suppression of certain people’s voices, but also it is the perpetuation of control by a select few.

Hill Collins, Patricia. “Booty Call: Sex, Violence, and Images of Black Masculinity.” Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005. 149-80. Print.

hooks, bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

Introduction. Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2000. 1-15. Print.

Ad Critique: Equinox Fitness’ Surveying and Surveyed Women

In this advertisement, shot by fashion photographer Terry Richardson for Equinox Fitness, a woman is being “filmed” by a man as she spreads her legs and gives a “come hither” look to the viewer. Thus, the woman fulfills her role as both the “surveyor and the surveyed,” for she must “survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance…” (Berger 37). That is, it is not the woman herself who is the central feature of this ad, but rather what the woman represents to the male viewer. She makes direct eye contact with what bell hooks calls the male “gaze” (115) to affirm that her target audience approves of how she is presenting herself. Additionally, the woman in the advertisement is blatantly made a “sexually viable commodity” (Cornell 3), as the brand relies on the fact that female hyper-sexuality will always sell. The advertisement also subtly implants the viewer with the belief that fitness and general maintenance of one’s body lead to “self-containment, self-mastery, [and] control” (Bordo 209)—and in turn, a body like this woman’s that in reality is an “impossible standard” to achieve (Nagy Hesse-Biber 63).  In this way, the advertisement is a definitive representation of the way in which women are portrayed in the media.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-9. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.

hooks, bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

Introduction. Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2000. 1-15. Print.

Nagy Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.”The Cult of Thinness. Second ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. 61-90. Print.

Sexuality and Sexual Display: Reflecting on Miley Cyrus’ Behavior

As a fan of Miley Cyrus, I (unashamedly) follow her whereabouts on the tabloid site perezhilton.com. I recently came across this article, which included a conversation between TV personality Carson Daly and Perez Hilton discussing Cyrus’ “oversexualized image.” In fact, the newest issue of Rolling Stone features Cyrus in a pool, with slicked back hair and no clothes on. While Daley criticizes Rolling Stone for “rewarding” Cyrus’ (supposed) poor choices, Hilton argues that the magazine is simply trying to boost sales. I found Daley’s perspective on the subject quite problematic: since when is a display of sexuality synonymous with “streetwalker”? And more importantly, why is Cyrus’ recent behavior taken so offensively? Can society not handle a young woman in control of her body? Perhaps it relates back to Berger’s theory on nakedness v. nudity that he offers in “From Ways of Seeing”: “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself” (39). Placed in this context, it seems that society is unable to accept Cyrus for who she is–either because they do not believe in who she is, or because they do not want to.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

Hilton, Perez. “Did Miley Cyrus Deserve Her Rolling Stone Cover? Carson Daly and Perez Hilton Fight It Out On AMP!” Perezhilton.com. N.p., 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2013. <http://perezhilton.com/2013-09-24-miley-cyrus-rolling-stone-carson-daly-perez-hilton#sthash.qre4PyDC.dpbs&gt;.

Big Question: What is discrimination?

As a child, I was taught that discrimination is the unfair treatment of an individual because of that person’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other similar category. For example, I learned that blacks were enslaved because they were seen as inferior to whites due to their skin color. Now as a young adult living on my own, I have developed a more meaningful sense of what discrimination is: it occurs when someone is not afforded certain opportunities because of a characteristic that either that person cannot control (such as race or ethnicity), or is defining to that person (such as sexual orientation or gender). According to Bell Hooks, “as with other forms of group oppression, sexism is perpetuated by institutional and social structure; by the individuals who dominate, exploit, or oppress…” (127). Implicit in this quotation is that individuals are discriminated against because of aspects of themselves integral to their identity. Discrimination therefore forces individuals to, “behave in ways that make them act in complicity with the status quo” (127). Just as it was discriminatory to impose laws upon blacks because of their race, it is discriminatory, for example, to prohibit intersex couples from getting married because one or both of the individuals identify with a gender that does not match their anatomy (Fausto-Sterling 112-13). When society neglects to provide rights to individuals because of how they choose to identify themselves, society discriminates.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” Sexing the Body. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 78-114. Print.

Hooks, Bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women.” Feminist Review 23 (1986): 125-38. JSTOR. Web. 05 Sept. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1394725&gt;.

Ad Critique: “The Best Part of the Day is the Night,” by Bebe

I found this advertisement for the retail company Bebe in Glamour magazine recently. In it, a woman is leaning against a man, with the caption “9pm to 5am: the best part of the day is the night,” splashed across the page. Both the image and its accompanying caption belittle the idea of an independent woman and instead promote her reliance on man. In “The Second Sex: Introduction,” de Beauvoir argues that woman is “defined and differentiated with reference to man…she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other…” (33). That is, woman cannot exist without man, for she can only be defined in relation to him. Bebe’s advertisement reinforces this denigrating concept. Firstly, the caption inverts the typical workday hours (9am – 5pm), effectively undermining the positive contributions women make at their workplaces. From Bebe’s perspective, only the nighttime is worth looking forward to because it is spent with a man. Moreover, the female character in this advertisement is over-sexualized, though her sexiness is supposed to appear glamorous. She is not making eye contact with her male companion, suggesting that he is not interested in her personality and depth, but rather in her physical appearance. Thus, just as de Beauvoir fears, the woman exists solely for the man’s pleasure, and as Bebe emphasizes, she is his object.  

de Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 32-40. Print.