Author Archives: lpstewart

Is There Such a Thing As Free Choice?

There is such a thing as free choice—but free choice does not exist for all people.

For women in our modern society, free choice does not exist. This is true for many reasons. The first and foremost is that women, as Shulamith Firestone explains in her writing The Dialectic of Sex, are restrained by the “tyranny of their reproductive biology.” They are subject to their “biological destiny,” the family. The expectations placed on women, as well as the limitations, make free choice an impossible concept. While women’s freedom has increased over time, modern society places more expectations on women that limit their free choice. They are expected to have successful careers, maintain the household, and take care of children. These expectations are severe limitations on free choice. Almost any decision that a woman makes is guided by the fact that she is a woman and any choice can be limited by this fact—which makes it inherently unfree.

 

Firestone, Shulamith. “Conclusion: The Ultimate Revolution.” The Dialectic of Sex ; the Case for Feminist Revolution. New York: Morrow, 1970. 233. Print.

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Ad Critique: The Car for the Richest Guys On Earth

This Chevy Malibu commercial targets the new generation of the “involved dad” or “family men.” The men who “don’t jump at the sound of the opening bell, because they’re trying to make the school bell.” The men who are “more into being a partner than making partner.” Or, “the richest guys on earth.” The slogan, “for the richest guys on earth,” and the commercial itself send a positive message to its viewers. The commercial contrasts the stereotypical “sexy” car commercial and takes a more wholesome approach. The advertisement tells men that a complete family life, i.e. involvement in childcare and perhaps even the household, makes a man “truly rich.”

Lisa Belkin’s article “When Mom and Dad Share It All” cites many examples of couples who practice equal parenting. The couples, Belkin writes, “understood that this would mean recalibrating their career ambitions, and probably their income, but what they gained, they believed, would be more valuable than what they lost.” The Malibu commercial challenges men to do just that—to set aside their career ambitions and focus on something that will make them “the richest guys on earth.”

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

What is Privilege?

Privilege can only be recognized through the absence of privilege. If everyone has a privilege, then no one truly does. A privilege, in the most straightforward sense of the word, is a right or advantage given to a certain individual or group of individuals. The ability to make your own choices, to do what you want without judgment or restraint, to be who you want to be regardless of your race or gender, to live without fear. These are the most important privileges, but they should be rights. But society has turned these rights into privileges—privileges that are not granted to everyone. Black men cannot do what they want without being discriminated against. Women cannot live without being judged by their appearance or live completely without the fear for their safety lingering in the back of their minds. Homosexual and transgender people cannot be who they want to be without judgment. These are all examples of a lack of privilege. The disparity between rights and advantages given to different people is what makes them privileges.

Ad Critique: Amazon Kindle

This Amazon Kindle commercial reinforces many homosexual stereotypes represented in modern media. The stereotypical gay male represented in many television commercials is white, wealthy, upper class, and style-conscious. Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai writes, “gayness in the marketing discourse often is defined by high-end tastes and conspicuous consumption” (Tsai, 6). In this ad, Amazon is using the gay male’s approval of their product to portray it as high-end and fashionable.

The advertisement is also extremely heteronormative. In the advertisement, the man on the beach is portrayed as the “woman” of the relationship and the man getting drinks is the “man.” The man on the beach is not necessarily more feminine, rather his position in the relationship is represented through his likeness to the woman on the beach. The concept that one man must be the “woman” of the relationship and the other the “man” is a heteronormative stereotype. This aspect of the commercial contributes to the development of heterosexual norms. In Heteronormativity and the L Word, Samuel A. Chambers writes that a norm “implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, demands, presumes, expects and calls for the normal” (Chambers, 84). In this case, heterosexual positions in a homosexual relationship are the norm that the advertisement is reinforcing.

Reading the L Word: Outing Contemporary Television. Kim Akass and Janet McCabe, eds. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006: 81-98.

Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11, no. 1 (2010) http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 31, 2012).

What is Inequity?

Inequity, a lack of fairness or justice, is at the root of every gender issue. Any gender issue—for example, the degradation of women, objectification, sexism, and unequal opportunity—can be traced back to the historically established inequality between men and women. In Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Beauvoir quotes Aristotle’s definition of women, which is an indication that gender inequity is a long-standing issue. Aristotle says, “the female is female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities, we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.” This definition explains why inequity exists. It is a mindset. The idea that women are defined in relation to men and that they are the “Other,” as Beauvoir puts it, makes it impossible for fairness and equality to exist. Inequity, in terms of gender, stems from the deep-rooted belief that men are the dominant sex and women are passive and “afflicted with a natural defectiveness.” In order to eradicate inequity, therefore, we need to recognize that women, while they do lack certain qualities that men possess, are deserving of fairness and equality.

de Beauvoir, Simone. “2. The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. McCann and Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 33. Print.

Kate Upton Washes the All-New Mercedes CLA…In Slow Motion

The Super Bowl seems to provide for a plethora of sexist and degrading commercials. This Mercedes-Benz commercial, which was shown during the 2013 Super Bowl, features supermodel Kate Upton “washing” the new Mercedes CLA in slow motion. The video features two of the modern male’s favorite objects: supermodels and cars.

The commercial clearly objectifies Upton as she struts around in slow motion, distracting the football players who are actually washing the car. The moral of this commercial seems to be that attractive women should use their looks and sex appeal to get men to do the work for them. The advertisement exemplifies one of Simone de Beauvoir’s definitions of women. Beauvoir writes, “And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called ‘the sex,’ by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex—absolute sex, no less.” (de Beauvoir, 33). In this case, Upton is portrayed as the “sexual being” to the target audience, which is young and presumably wealthy heterosexual men. By objectifying Upton, she essentially becomes the sub-human product that is being sold.

de Beauvoir, Simone. “2. The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. McCann and Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 33. Print.