Author Archives: gficeraigarland

Access for Voters With Disabilities

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A new campaign promoting access for voters with disabilities has released a string of ads depicting physically disabled individuals with the slogan “He/She has issues.” While this is the first thing to catch the viewer’s eye, upon closer look these “issues” are revealed to be things like the environment, immigration, women’s rights, and the economy. These ads play on stereotypes and hint at prejudices surrounding the disabled by showing disability in a normative way – one man is in a wheelchair, another walks with a cane, and one woman has a guide dog. At first glance, the viewer may think the “issue” is the person’s disability, when the purpose of the ad is to say “Yes, I’m disabled, but this is not my only issue, and may not be an issue for me at all. My disability should not inhibit my rights.” The ad raises awareness of the challenges faced by disabled individuals but also reminds us that the label “disabled” is just that – a quantifier of their condition. Campaigns like this one, as Dean Spade points out, work in concert with the disability rights movement, which “is about pointing out that disabled people are capable of equal participation in, but are currently barred from participating equally by artificial conditions that privilege one type of body or mind and exclude others.” The campaign for increased access for voters with disability is a physical manifestation of this conviction.


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Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Print.


Let’s Get Physical: Healthcare Campaign Doing More Harm than Good?


Ad copy reads: “OMG, he’s hot! Let’s hope he’s as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers. I got insurance.”

“Susie and Nate: Hot to Trot”

“*The pill doesn’t protect you from STDs, condoms and common sense do that.”

ProgressNow Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative have recently released a new ad campaign promoting ObamaCare that is offensive to young people, especially women. One ad specifically appears to target young, white, middle-upper class, heterosexual women, most likely aged 18-35. It portrays young women in an unflattering light, showing a woman holding a pack of birth control pills and giving a thumbs-up with her mouth open wide in an excited smile. Next to her, a confident looking man has his arm around her. In the ad copy, the young woman boasts about her birth control pills and hopes that the man next to her will be easily convinced to sleep with her.

The ad reinforces heteronormative ideas that women constantly think about having sex with men. The ad makes it seem that birth control is the only healthcare issue women find important. While birth control is “a fundamental prerequisite for the emancipation of women” (Davis), the attitude that women will only support the Affordable Care Act to have sex with men is not only demeaning to women but harmful to the overall cause for safe and accessible birth control methods and affordable healthcare.  Ad campaigns like this one turn a serious issue (contraception and healthcare in general) into a joke and make women appear shallow and driven solely by sexual desire for men. It over-simplifies feminine needs and “reduces women to sex organs and one night stands” (ColoradoPeakPolitics).

Ads like this are reflective of how women are viewed in society, as they reinforce the attitude that women are “biologically speaking, specialized for one function and one alone – sex” (Ehrenreich and English), and that this function consumes their consciousness and determines their opinions on healthcare plans, which women have various and complex reasons for supporting or not supporting.


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Davis. “Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights.” (202-221). Print.

Ehrenreich, Barbara and Deirdre English. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women. New York: Anchor Books, 2005 (2nd ed). Print.

What Is Inequity: How Strip Clubs Reinforce Male Privilege

In a world where women are gaining economic status and independence, inequity between women and men is still perpetuated in establishments like strip clubs, where women are viewed by customers as sexual objects. Strip clubs provide a way for men to “relax” and “be a man” (Jeffreys 167) without having to worry about feminist women being offended by sexual objectification. Strip clubs promote the idea that it is natural that men need time to unwind and do “manly” things, like drink, smoke, and carry on with their friends while objectifying women. But why does this need to take place in a setting that subjects women to male control? Men have control over women in strip clubs by determining the size of strippers’ tips and how long and to what extent interactions with the women go, reinforcing the power disparity between men and women. According to Jeffreys, strip clubs “provide a compensation for the decline in power that men have experienced as their wives, partners, and women workmates have shed their own subordination, begun to compete with them, and demanded equality.”

Though the act of stripping is seen as empowering by some women, many men do not see it this way. Thus, strip clubs extrapolate the inequity between men and women by creating a place where men can openly objectify women, where women not in the sex industry are unwelcome, and where men do not need to treat women as equals.  

Jeffreys, Sheila. “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 34.1 (2008): 151-73. Print.

You Go, Girl!

Jennifer Lawrence on Body Image

In the video linked above, Jennifer Lawrence speaks out against society’s impossible beauty standards in answer to a question from a young girl about how to deal with the pressures from peers and the media to achieve perfection. I found her answer not only refreshing but inspiring. If society shared her views, more women would love their bodies. Women face the nearly impossibly task of feeling confident in about their own bodies while ignoring the harmful (and wrong) messages society sends about what is healthy or beautiful. A new attitude toward appearance – when “fat” and “skinny” are no longer relevant terms, when every woman’s body shape is accepted for its inherent beauty, and when women are no longer compared to and pitted against one another – is the ideal that society as a whole must strive for. Because as Lawrence says of how it is now, “that shouldn’t be the real world.” Amen, Jennifer!

What Is Oppression?

What is oppression? In the words of Bette S. Tallen, quoted in “Reading the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery,” “the reality of oppression is replaced with the metaphor of addiction.” Often, the ways in which women are oppressed are insidious, made manifest in seemingly innocent ways that do not occur to consumers buying fashion magazines, weight-loss products, and beauty products. In “Reading the Body Beautiful,” Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber reveals the ways in which women are made to feel physically inadequate, which create a “fixable” problem that many women obsess over and that covers up deeper issues of inequality, poverty, education, racism, and sexism. Women’s issues are pushed to the side, secondary to the daunting task given to women by society of achieving the “ideal” feminine look.  While women have gained considerable influence over the past few decades, the fact that their appearances are still scrutinized and criticized is discouraging. As Hesse-Biber says, current culture focuses the reason for women’s problems away from social forces and onto women themselves. This is a way of oppressing women, by creating bogus problems for our culture to focus on so that the injustices being perpetrated against women are not realized and so that action is not taken against maintaining a patriarchal society.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene N.  “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.” The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Perfume Ad Perpetuates the Ideal Slender Woman


In Chanel’s “Chance” perfume ad, a waif-ish woman is curled around a bottle of perfume, hair and body covered only by pale pink flowers. The woman has a childlike face and fragile, boyish body, with eyes closed and limbs on the verge of snapping. She lacks a “womanly” figure, mimicking the “boyish slenderness” that, according to Susan Bordo, becomes the dominant attractive form in times of gender role change. These images are often described as “female desire unborn.” Fittingly, the woman’s body language calls to mind the image of a fetus curled up inside of its mother’s womb.
The placement of ads like this in magazines like Allure and Instyle maintain the “slender” standard for women and perpetuate women’s obsession with thinness (Hesse-Biber, The Cult of Thinness). This ad reinforces slenderness as the current ideal for women, in which excess body weight signifies inadequacy thinness symbolizes the well-managed self (Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body”). The slender body is stereotypically female (as shown in the ad). Advertisements of slim women “overdetermine slenderness as a contemporary ideal of specifically female attractiveness” (Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body”). If current trends continue, female models will soon be no more than skin and bones, perpetuating a dangerous ideal in which women’s bodies are seen as attractive only when they appear to be withering away to nothing.

Works Cited
Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: “Reading the Slender Body.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness: “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery”. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 61-82. Print.

Lululemon: Everything in Moderation?

“brahmacharya: (moderation, non-excess) This yama, or yogic philosophy, teaches us to recognize that moment of “just enough” so we don’t move past it into uncomfortable excess. Maybe it’s by pushing away the plate of french fries or using our pent-up energy for a run. By focusing inward, we keep our bodies healthy and energetic. (And hey, there are some things we’re better off avoiding altogether.) Where in your life could you practice moderation?”

I read this quote on the side of a bag from the popular store lululemon athletica, a women’s and men’s athletic clothing store targeted toward fit, stylish young adults willing to spend relatively high amounts of money on clothing that will supposedly lift and sculpt their bodies. Lululemon markets itself as being focused on health, fitness, and bettering both the mind and body, but is this really just a marketing technique that feeds on the pressure facing young 20-somethings to be physically fit and attractive?

It is somewhat ironic that this quote presses “everything in moderation” when the clothing being sold is so expensive (for example, $82-$98 for a pair of yoga pants). In my opinion, this is a product of the culture we live in – everyone has to have whatever will make them the “best” version of themselves, and if they are not striving to achieve this (i.e., spending money) they are made to feel guilty by the media, similar to what Jean Kilbourne said in “Killing Us Softly 4” about the guilt associated with eating and not exercising – with being what society deems “lazy.” The quote on the bag is condescending, insinuating that the reader doesn’t really need those french fries, now do they? Thus making consumers feel guilty. The marketing is genius, really; “We (the brand) know you (the consumer) are ashamed of your body and embarrassed of any ‘weak’ moments you’ve had. Luckily, we have an entire store full of clothes that can help you look and feel better about yourself.”

Do you agree that stores like lululemon use the pressure on both women and men to be fit as a way of selling overpriced clothes, adding to the obsession with physical attractiveness? Or are they really a brand focused on promoting healthy lifestyles?