Author Archives: Jonathan Paz

Only in Commercials?

As if the world was not ridden with violence and several (notice its plural) humanitarian crises, Neft Vodka released a video that is supposedly advertising its product. Through the first-person angle, the video showcases some “hero” killing his way through some organized group of thugs.

In many ways, this video should anger everyone. It simply serves to create a more sadistic audience and more likely, numbs them to watching violence.

The problem with this type of advertising is that it conceals and romanticizes the violence that actually happens in the world. The audience of such an advertisement is more likely to believe that such violence is only possible not, in the real world, but only through their TV screen. One example could be people’s awareness of the inner working of the strip club industry. As Sheila Jeffreys points out, “…strip clubs are likely to have criminal connections, with media reports suggesting that some strip club owners and managers are associate with organized crime.” Ads like these don’t let people who indulge in strip clubs or prostitution consider that organized crime and violent patriarchy is very real and present. With almost 20 million views, this normalization of violence is exactly how violence against women-or anyone for that matter- goes unnoticed in the private and public domain.

What is Fair Representation?

As we have seen in Dreamworld 3, the mainstream media has been a historical tool to distort people’s ideas of each other. It sells misogynistic images, exploits the queer image for financial purposes and perpetually marginalizes transsexuals. Knowing this, it is a fitting exercise to critique representations that are not only disrespectful but on the whole, contradictory. However, when do we know what is too much or too little representation (i.e. heterosexual couples)? When do we know that the representation is genuine (i.e. queer couples behaving heterosexually)?  When do we know if it’s enough to be fair?

            I would contextualize the answer to this question with Samuel A Chamber’s definition of a norm. He says, “A norm implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, demands, presumes, expects and calls for the normal. This means that norms construct and continuously reinforce (even if only in the background) our idea of ‘the normal’…” I would argue that any type media that promotes egalitarian norms, or is one consistent with the love of humanity, can be fair. Those that are not informed of past oppressions, or at very least, remotely aware of themselves, are promoting an individualistic mindset that assumes depictions of human life are neutral. Depictions of human life can never be neutral. They assert norms and therefore, behaviors.

To assess if a type of media is unfair, we need to evaluate the extent to which it “expects and calls for a norm” that falls outside the aforementioned parameters. The discrepancy between what is considered normal in the media and what is the real-world experience of its audience (more likely, a diverse world), hints at the extent of the injustice produced. 

What is Gender Fairness?

Throughout our time exploring gender, we have seen several feminists denounce its purpose. As Judith Lorber explains, gender can be broken down into three components: process, stratification, and structure. Each of these components highlight that the gender binary is not only endogenous within its social function (a structure assigning men and women roles) and conception (the process by which we conceive an identity) but, more importantly, its implications (an unjust, gender hierarchy). Simply put, we see that gender serves to stratify the human race into two hieratically constructed roles.  When we consider these critiques, a question becomes fiercely present: what would be a just alternative?

In her piece, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?,” Fausto-Sterling humors alternatives beyond our rigid, gender binary. She proposes a utopian alternative where the “cultural genitals counted for more than physical genitals…” Fausto-Sterling meant this when discussing legal battles where the legitimacy of a heterosexual couples was in question. The plaintiff was “surprised” to discover his transsexual partner. It becomes clear that Fausto-Sterling is for not just open-mindedness but a paradigm shift. I agree. We need to become open to the variability in people’s bodies and more importantly, respect people’s right to self-identify.  This is what Fausto-Sterling meant by “cultural genitals.”  Our culture needs to allow people to develop a deep understanding of their body, their sexual tendencies and then, what they would expect from others. Gender, then, can actually become the individual’s process- not society’s preconceived notions of physical genitals.

 

Too Many Beckham’s

Apparently, H&M is running out of ideas. To promote their new and flexible briefs, they have David Beckham running around a neighborhood that is clearly Beverly Hills, or something close to it. All of this while just wearing H&H brief. As if the plot itself is not criminally uncreative, there are some obvious problems with the advertisement.

As Hesse-Biber puts it, “The fitness industry has also deconstructed bodies into individual parts to be sculpted and perfected.” The problem is not that David Beckham can’t have a chizzled and sexy body. He does. The problem is that there are too many David Beckham’s being portrayed as the “must be” thing. It is as if the only people worth watching- without a shirt on- are either beautiful celebrities or fit men. In other words, the commercial implicitly creates a sense of inadequacy in its audience because the only type of body worth having is Beckham’s.

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food Dieting, and Recovery” (2007)

What justice are we trying to achieve?

After watching our in-class film, “La Mitad de Todo” (2012), I began to wonder: what justice are we trying to achieve?  If we are creating theoretical frameworks, which will, in effect, inform our practices and function in the real world (and hopefully, one day, make a more just world), how are we prioritizing feminism to our understanding of other forms of oppression?  To better contextualize the question, we can analyze this through Julia Query’s (“Live Nude Girls Unite!”, 2000) negotiations with the owners of the strip club. Was their effort to become a closed shop union a feminist struggle or a labor struggle? If it’s a combination, what needs to be considered if an endeavor necessitates compromise on some goals over others? I ask this because, in any struggle, there are intersecting issues at hand. Going back to Query’s situation, how could we evaluate the success of the union if they conceded racial equality to better salaries and overall benefits?

Although abstract, this notion of priority is important. When discussing feminist ideas and even feminist utopias, we need to keep in mind other forms oppression that have become entangled with patriarchy. Doing so, helps us understand if a solution to a certain oppression creates another oppression for others. Of course, this question of priority would need to be contextualized with some specific situation. Firestone sets a good example in her utopia, “A cybernetic socialism would abolish economic classes, and all forms of labor exploitation, by granting all people a livelihood based only on material needs.”  (Firestone, 274). Here, Firestone prioritizes a feminist revolution but within a socialist change. In closing, as we further our understanding of gender and sexual oppression, we need to continuously create notions of justice that encompass other struggles to achieve the best understanding of the justice we want to see in this Earth.

Don’t be stupid, protect yourself. – Condomshop.com

In a marketing scheme to deliver more “creative” ads, Condomshop.com delivered with some questionable interpretations of safe sex. In the following ads, two situations showcase a group of guys, armed with their phallic symbols and protective equipment, at a crossfire in roles historically portrayed by only men. In both groups, there is one man not just fully engaged in the action but also, fully naked. Both ads illustrate the cry of wisdom: “Don’t be stupid, protect yourself.” At first glimpse, this ad seems harmless. It appears to be endorsing the use of condoms in what is implied heterosexual intercourse (following a long pattern of heteronormative advertisements where men use their phallic either as weapons or hoses).  However, as creative the ads may be, they showcase certain implicit problems.  As Judith Lorber summarizes, “As a social institution, gender is a process of creating distinguishable social statuses for the assignment of rights and responsibilities. “ Lorber reminds us that the problem is endogenous with their use of gender. The destructive nature of the gender binary is rooted in its very function- not just consequence- in assigning roles to both men and women in an unjust hierarchy. First, we see that women are absent in both situations. This implicitly infers a few things: the counterfactual (i.e. if a naked woman filed up behind other men…) would be deemed inappropriate or, Lord forbid, inconceivable for the public because, as this and other ads show, only men can fit these roles (and can be naked in public advertisements with their chest in display). In other words, the ad is unaware of its own less-than-ideal vision of women or anyone fitting outside their heterosexual mold. Only heterosexual men can fit these roles!, the ads shout-unaware, that variability in safe sex can be just as “creative” as those performing it.

 

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