Author Archives: rlaur2013

Ad Critique: Oh My God– SHOES!

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According to The DCist, a Metro ad features a dialogue between two women where one women is informing the other of how it takes over 8,000 miles before a Metrobus breaks down. The other women in response asks, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?”

Unfortunately, this perpetuates the immortal trope of the “ditsy, shoe-crazy woman”. This made me think about how when we were looking over the definition of “gender dysphoria” earlier today in class, there were still specific culturally gender-biased descriptions present.
For instance, part of the definition stated that gender dysphoria includes, “a strong conviction that one has feelings and reactions typical of the other gender” (DSM-5). This part of the definition implies that there has to be certain “reactions” or interest that apply to each specific gender, which is essentialist and false. Also, this seems to reinforce a binary that there are only two kinds of people/two genders in the world.
It’s also interesting to see that the ad features two presumably cisgendered women, since as Spade mentions, “…a central endeavor of feminist, queer and trans activists has been to dismantle the cultural ideologies… that say that certain body parts determine gender identity and gendered social characteristics and roles” (Spade, 2013). This ad seems to further pigeonhole women into these “gendered social characteristics” and implies that women must love to wear heels, thus assigning “femininity” to a body part.
Works Cited:
“Lady Wants To Talk About Shoes, Not Bus Reliability, Implies Sexist Metro Ad.” DCist. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <http://dcist.com/2013/12/ladies_love_shows_says_sexist_metro.php&gt;.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
Spade, Dean. “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts.” Dean Spade. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.deanspade.net&gt;
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Big Question: What Is Normal?

In reading about trans* issues, and reading the works of trans* author Dean Spade, I thought about one question that really stood out in my mind: What is normal?

 
When I ask that, I’m thinking more specifically about Spade’s piece “About Puportedly Gendered Body Parts,” where he mentions that our language regarding people’s bodies is quite cissexist by saying things like “male body parts,” “biologically female” or “female-bodied” (Spade, 2013). In our current state of the English language, we assign certain body parts, such as uteruses, penises, etc. to specific genders (in a very binary fashion) and then we claim that these assignments are “normal”.
 
I guess the big question could be tailored even more to say, “Does our language have a large effect on how ‘normal’ cis-identities are or are there other external pressures and factors that influence our language?” or “What is the standard we should set in our language to make sure that all identities, including trans* identites, are considered ‘normal’?” Spade has suggested that “We can talk about uteruses, ovaries, penises, vulvas, etc. with specificity without assigning these parts a gender” (Spade, 2013).
 
While Spade’s idea could potentially catch on in a social context, will this normalization of not assigning specific body parts to specific genders catch on in the medical field, since that seems to serve as a big hurdle in normalizing trans* identities?
 
Works Cited:
Spade, Dean. “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts.” Dean Spade. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.deanspade.net&gt;

Too Close (to Racism) for Comfort?

LeBron James Vogue

The other day, I ran across an image of basketball player LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchen on the cover of Vogue… except in various articles (including a Huffington Post article linked below), their picture was placed side-by-side with a vintage advertisement of the film King Kong. It was striking and disappointing to see how similar James looked to King Kong, and how much Bundchen mirrored the damsel-in-distress in the film advertisement.

This cover photo seems to perpetuate the narrow perception of black masculinity which, according to Hill Collins in her piece “Booty Call: Sex, Violence and Images of Black Masculinity,” consists of, “…aggression and claiming the prizes of urban warfare… Being tough and having street smarts is an important component of Black masculinity. When joined to understandings of booty as sexuality, especially raw, uncivilized sexuality, women’s sexuality becomes the actual spoils of war” (151).

Is this just a harmless cover with James showing his “game face”, or is there a more racist undertone (Huffington Post, 2008)?

Works Cited:
Hill-Collins, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Zaleski, Katharine. “LeBron James Vogue Cover Criticized For “Perpetuating Racial Stereotypes”.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2008. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. .

How Much Power Do We Actually Have?

Watching Jean Kilbourne’s film “Killing Me Softly 4,” I thought about questions that come up when thinking about who’s responsible for the proliferation of harmful products and messages we receive in advertisements: is it the corporations for creating and promoting these ads and products, or the people who buy products from the companies who create these harmful messages? While this is an important and interesting question, I decided to reflect more specifically on: How much power do we as consumers have in stopping harmful advertising or practices when not all of us have the economic luxury to do so?

According to Hesse-Biber, “The National Cancer Institute funded a $1 million ’5-a-day’ campaign to encourage people to eat their daily allotment of fruits and vegetables, but must compete for consumer appetites against a $500 million McDonald’s campaign” (67). In many low-income neighborhoods there are “food deserts” where markets with affordable produce are either non-existent or barely any are within an easily-accessible distance. Despite residents in low-income neighborhoods not having easy and affordable access to fresh produce, cheap fast food places such as McDonald’s are installed in many of these neighborhoods.

For people who may not have the economic means to stand up to industries that promote harmful products or messaging: is there a way that they too can make an impact on these companies?

Works Cited:
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Can We Freely Choose Our Gender?

When talking about the difference between sex and gender, Judith Butler explains how, “When the constructed status of gender is theorized as radically independent of sex, gender itself becomes a free-floating artifice, with the consequence that man and masculine might just as easily signify a female body as a male one, and woman and feminine a male body as easily as a female one” (Butler 10). In summary, Butler describes gender as being free of structure and bodies (unlike sex) and Delphy describes gender as being a social construct that precedes sex.

If being viewed as an “Other” is an integral part of being a woman, as Simone de Beauvoir suggests, then the flipside of that notion is that being viewed as a man means being viewed as normal, the default gender and comes with a wealth of privileges due to being male. If someone is perceived to be female, then that person will face sexism even in subtle everyday forms. So, based on the treatment of different genders: Does the way perceived gender and cisnormativity (cisgender normativity) play out in sexism affect how society will or will not accept or respect a person’s chosen gender if it differs from their perceived gender?

My main question in regards to all of these notions mentioned above would be: Can we as individuals freely choose our own gender and have our gender be based on our own self-perceptions, or is our gender more dependent on how others treat, recognize and perceive our gender?

Bibliography:
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Delphy, Christine. Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. McCann and Kim, New York: Routledge, 2003.

Beauvoir, Simone de. Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives “The second sex.” McCann and Kim New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Are You Ready For Some– Objectification?

As my friends and I were watching TV, a commercial for a fantasy football website called Draft Kings came on. The tour guide of the Draft Kings Hall of Fame promises that signing up for the site can help a man transform from being “a guy with holes in his underpants to a guy with bikini models in them”. Of course, this notion makes total sense since women love nothing more than a man who can earn money via spending who-knows-how-many-hours creating a fantasy football team… And of course all women are exclusively attracted to men (and vice versa), so the entire heteronormative sub-premise of the commercial makes total sense: If you want to sleep with women, you need to become a Draft King.

What was really troubling for me was how subtle and light-hearted the objectification of women was in this context. Since women are considered the “Other” as Simone de Beauvoir suggests, it makes sense that the “Other” would be an object that is solely there for heterosexual men to serve a sexual purpose or as a sexual prize for men. So forget the Super Bowl Trophy, get laid by some real trophies– women!

Bibliography:
Beauvoir, Simone de. Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives “The second sex.” McCann and Kim New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.