“We provide the ultimate solution for Asian women who seek to become the ideal beauty”
These Uniface Masks promise to give women “a lifetime’s worth of confidence…to satisfy today’s beauty standards”. It may sound ridiculous but this funny concept is not far from the normal standards of beauty that encourage women to disapprove of themselves. “Giant anime eyes, long lashes, a high nose bridge, and narrow chin and cheeks are all in one product.” Although the product is a joke, these are often the features women aim to attain when altering their appearance with products and plastic surgery in order to fit into perceptions of beauty. Mainstream media’s beauty standards constantly encourage women to alter their appearance in some shape or form. “The ultimate solution” indicates that there is something wrong with the appearance of women and their appearance must be fixed. Women so often do not have the free choice of being themselves and feeling comfortable with their natural aesthetics because standards do not allow women to be satisfied with their looks. Do we have a free choice in our aesthetics if they are only acceptable when followed by the mainstream standards of beauty? Especially if such standards are not aligned with what women actually look like? This also reminded me of a video I viewed on YouTube that displays a woman posing during a photo-shoot and the after effects of the image once altered in Photoshop. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17j5QzF3kqE While viewing the video one can see the huge amount of editing involved in order to change the woman’s features to fit the ideal. In the beginning she looks like a normal person but the subject changes drastically to reflect the perfect body and face. There are no free choices available for beauty if only certain looks are normalized. The UniFace Mask also reveals how industries love to profit off of women’s insecurities. As mentioned by Kilbourne, the media sells only one option of what is beautiful and it is often profitable for business when we feel bad about ourselves (Kilbourne 55). If industries are profiting on women’s insecurities then ours choices of expressions are narrowed because women will only want to conform to the ideal.
This hearing advertisement by Widex takes on a different marketing approach to their products as they use a stereotypical portrayal of a man to their advantage. The caption “Men never listen. Still, it’s nice to know they can” speaks to the notion that men have selective hearing when communicating with women. This advertisement suggests that, if men buy this product they do not have an excuse not to listen to what women are saying. As mentioned by Lorber, “in social interactions… individuals learn what is expected, see what is expected, act and react in expected ways, and thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (Lorber 115). This add reiterates her point because it demonstrates how men may behave with women based on the social constructions that encourages them to detach from expressing emotions and fully communicating. Men are encouraged to look at women but not listen. Paying attention to details is not considered a macho trait and is not widely used to describe a man’s personality. This social construction as well as the many other traits learned by men encourages rational and less sensitivity to details whereas women are stereotyped as natural listeners capable of empathy. As Gloria Anzaldua mentions in La conciencia de la mestizo, acting macho is a learned behavior that is the result of hierarchal male dominance. With these gender roles men may become “confused and entangled with sexist behaviors that they have not been able to eradicate” (84).For these reasons, men may oppose the behaviors they feel inclined to in order to maintain their constructed gender roles.
The Social Construction of Gender by Judith Lorber
La conciencia de la mestiza; Towards a New Consciousness by Gloria Anzaldua
The above video shows a mildly clothed thin woman on the beach eating a large sandwich. This video is from a Hardees television commercial that depicts Nina Agdalin in provocative poses in comparison to the sandwich. When I first viewed the commercial I noticed the way she devoured the food in a sexual manner. After viewing a second time I noticed how this commercial has the potential to promote disorderly eating. As Biber mentions “The media bombards us with images of every imaginable food…at the same time women are subjected to an onslaught of sources devoted to dieting and maintenance of a sleek and supple figures” (67). Physical perfection is displayed in advertisements of thin women eating immense portions of food. Physical perfection is often associated with thinness but yet foods that are harmful to the heath and have the possibility to make people fat are promoted along side skinny women. The representation of a skinny woman eating unhealthy food is damaging to a society that polices body conformity. Many people try to control their body weight by not eating fast food in order to obtain a similar body to ones viewed in commercials such as Hardees. These kinds of advertisements promote disorderly eating in an environment that juxtaposes unhealthy eating habits with unattainable figures.
Source: The Cult of Thinness by Sharlene Nagy Hesse- Biber
An article titled “The Real Boy Crisis: 5 ways America tells boys not be girly” on Salon.com lists five behaviors that are unacceptable for boys because it diverts from masculine gender norms. The article reveals the notion of men and gender representation. Gender norms and its association with masculine and feminine traits create gender oppression. Gender oppression often focuses on the oppression of women in a patriarchal society because women are constantly encouraged to assert feminine characteristics. Women are seen as the oppressed gender and men are seen as the suppressors. However, gender oppression also has an affect on men’s behavior as they are constantly bombarded with images that tell them how to assert masculinity. Masculinity limits men’s ability to express their feelings. The idea of masculinity needs to be proven by asserting strength in the forms of aggression and independence. Being a man implies that a person is able to handle situations on their own without expressing any emotional empathy or vulnerability. These characteristics aim to devalue feminine traits men may obtain that are associated with being unmanly. Feminine traits are described as showing emotions such as compassion, love and sensitivity. Boys are told not to act like girls because it is shameful to their masculinity. These limitations allow men to be criticized when acting in a feminine manner. Men are encouraged to conform to these gendered stereotypes, which lead to an oppression of true thoughts and actions. Performing masculinity prevents men from being themselves. These ideas shape the way men and women treat one another because men are devalued for expressing the same traits women are expected to perform.
The DiGiorno commercial ties very well with the main ideas discussed in Beauvior’s text titled The Second Sex: Introduction and Lorber’s text titled The Social Construction of Gender. In this commercial both genders are stereotyped into traditional gender roles as the men are seen relaxing outside while viewing sports and the woman is seen heading into her home with two large grocery bags. The men decide to order a pizza – but the main male character decides to call his spouse instead to demand her to make him a pizza the way he likes it. She replies, “you know I hate when you do this” as if this is an everyday occurrence between the two of them. He then demands her to make the pizza quickly. This commercial resembles how Beauvior discusses gender: “man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him” (Beauvior 33). Her existence is dependent on serving men instead of being independent to do the task she enjoys. Lober’s belief that gender “creates the social difference that define woman and man” because people “learn what is expected…thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (Lorber 115). This construction is seen as the woman is expected to make the pizza for the men as she always does. After making the pizza the woman retaliates by turning the sprinkler on the three men. The men have no reaction and continue to watch sports, as if they are oblivious to her existence. Their actions demonstrate that men are seen as the supreme and the woman is only significant in service to men. Therefore, the woman is only defined according to the men’s terms.
Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender”, 1990.
De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.”, 2003.
Fairness involves an equal, unprejudiced representation for all genders. The term “Gender Identity Disorder” does not allow a fair representation for individuals that identify themselves as transgender. “Gender Identity Disorder” is an unfair portrayal because of the negative connotations surrounding the word “disorder”. GID is used to describe a person who experiences discomfort with their biological gender and identifies with the opposite gender as a more appropriate presentation.
I first heard the term while viewing “I Am Jazz – A Family Transition” on Oprah’s channel OWN. The show is a documentary following the life of a transgender preteen that identifies as a female. While viewing the show I analyzed that the people associated with her are open and fair about her decisions but the term used to describe her condition throughout the documentary is unfair. The term depicts transgendered individuals with a disadvantage because it is not favorable. It identifies their sexual behavior as a mental disorder that should be fixed. It positions them in a category that conflicts with the natural social conditions in society. “Disorder” implies that transgenders are not performing gender correctly and as a result the phrase can create social inequality. Transgenders are subjected to a diagnosis that defines them as a disturbance.
This dynamics can affect the representation of self with dominant gender standards because transgenders may feel like they don’t belong in a society that categorizes them negatively. It also doesn’t allow them the freedom to be themselves without scrutiny. Overall, I think it is unfair to define transgenders as a disorder in our society. There should be an unprejudiced representation for all genders.
What do you think about the term? Am I being overly sensitive about the issue considering this isn’t a widely used term to describe transgendered individuals?