In this advertisement, a gay couple is featured and they are presumably getting married. While Target took a positive step and many companies do not market non-hetero normative love, this advertisement is still problematic. It markets same sex love as alien and rare. The copy reads ‘be yourself together, build a Target Wedding Gift Registry as unique as the two of you’. This word choice ‘unique’ and the gay couple featured works dialectically, and correspondingly suggests that there is something particularly ‘unique’ about the gay couple. In reality, all couples are likely unique. The copy would likely read differently if a heterosexual engaged white couple were featured. This process of deeming something unique can be positive but it can also be‘othering’ and perpetuate marginalization. There must be balance between glorifying diversity and difference while maintaining respect and inclusion of different groups.
In the United States, the supposed public creed is fairness. Through the legal system, it is evident that America purports justice, fairness and equity as central ideals. However, legal interpretations and verdicts have not always yielded a ‘fair’ outcome; what exactly is fairness? Does fairness mean giving everyone the same expectations and opportunities? If so, how can America accommodate diversity? What happens when different types of people want different opportunities and have different expectations for their own lives? Clearly, the uniformity of the law is compelling because it deters prejudicial law, however this uniformity can also be conversely crippling because it does not always allow for necessary complexities that people have.
The transgender population suffers under the law’s uniformity and its’ ‘fairness’ because this group does not fit neatly into the law and there is additional diversity within the transgender population. Specifically, healthcare law largely does not protect self-identified transgender people fairly. As with women’s health, healthcare policies are primarily reserved powers that states have. The law’s disunity on transgender healthcare policies, which diverges on state lines, directly contradicts ethos of fairness and inhibits one’s freedom.
Dean Spade, “Resisting Medicine, Re/modelling Gender” (2003)
Advertising monetizes ideals. In buying shampoo, you are not buying shampoo but a revolutionary product that promises to transform your life because of its’ magical straightening properties. Whether it’s straighter hair or lighter skin, advertising frequently sells idealized beauty. That is to say, a white, upper- middle class idealized beauty.
This construction makes even the most popular and praised women change. For instance, Beyonce has famously had her nose done and allegedly has undergone skin lightening treatments. If this was her independent choice, then I think most would not flinch. However, it is a larger societal pressure that makes even the most celebrated women morph into whiter versions of themselves to gain wider appeal and desirability.
In this L’Oreal advertisement, Beyonce underwent significant phenotypic changes. These changes may make her power and existence more digestible to a wider audience (chambers). In doing so, this ad bolsters the dominant white beauty ideal.
Samuel A. Chambers, “Heteronormativity and the L-Word” (2006)
Everyday, we see desired bodies. Inundated with advertisements, consumers quickly learn what is desirable and what is not. However – in reality – desirability is not fixed. Despite what our televisions and billboards tell us, one size does not fit all. Based on culture, race, class and sexual orientation, the desirable body shifts. However, what seemingly does not change is that there is a desirable body. There is an ideal. This ideal is constraining, restricts our freedom and partly disables our ability to fully love ourselves.
Whether you worship thin Victoria’s Secret models or idealize Beyonce’s curves, most people prize a certain body type. People also negate the entire person and choose to solely desire a component of the body, such as a women’s breasts or bottom. The desirable body adversely affects men and women. Body ideals change our bodies from forces of freedom to sources of oppression and anxiety. Interestingly, the body ideal creates body anxiety. In particular, fat phobia, corresponding body anxiety and subsequent dieting pervades American society (Wann and Hesse-Bieber).
Due to recent readings and personal experiences, I have wondered, how can this system be subverted? How can we appreciate multiple bodies? How can all bodies become desired bodies, and in turn how can we create a freer culture where all are celebrated?
Marilyn Wann, “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution” (2009)
Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food Dieting, and Recovery” (2007)
A Malaysian ad agency created this advertisement for Borders Bookstore. The illustration features a woman who is married over six times. The caption reads ‘It’s time you learned to cook. Choose from more than 5000 cooking titles’. The combination of the caption and image suggest that her marriages failed because she could not cook. This ad perpetuates gender stereotypes and assumes that women ubiquitously play the homemaker role. Borders quickly disavowed their association with the agency. The Malaysian produced ad corroborates a pervasively Malaysian instantiated normative expectation. This expectation conflicts with Borders, a multi-national company, because they have a divergent standpoint on gender, and exemplifies – as Christine Delphy and bell hooks contend – that gender constructs and experiences are regionally different, culturally varied and relative.
bell hooks, “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women” (1986)
Christine Delphy, “Rethinking Sex and Gender” (1993)
In 2013, can the Western world transcend sex and gender? Moreover, has sex and gender’s significance become obsolete? Gender and sex are not the same thing. However, these terms have been historically conflated. Sex is biological, while gender is social. Technological advances and legal changes have facilitated the flexibility of these two terms. For instance, medical procedures – such as anatomical reassignment surgery – and childrearing methods – such as raising genderless children – both show that sex and gender are malleable. Due to the implications of these changes, binary gender constructs are not necessary. As Fausto Sterling contends, a gender spectrum is now possible and should be implemented. Due to technological advances and legal procedures, any person can elect to embody the gender of their choice. Additionally, people are now able to elect or reject gender without sacrificing their social goals such as marriage or childrearing. However – even if alternate routes are taken – gender is inescapable. By rejecting gender’s binary construct, there is a cognizance that gender constructs exist and this alternative community is still ‘doing gender’ due to their cognizance (Lorber). While gender will always be present, society can rise above its’ subjugation and transcend.
Lois Gould, “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” (1978)
Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990)
Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” (2000)