Author Archives: tsassidy

What is family?

As we move toward a more tolerant society, variation in the structure of the nuclear family is becoming more and more common. While the traditional family is still the most widely adopted model, we’re seeing important shifts away from this longstanding norm to include families with gay, and queer parents, and families with nontraditional relationship structures- single parents, or others. Articles like the Belkin reading make it tempting to say that family models that share parenting roles evenly ought to be the new norm. But I believe we ought to move away from normalizing particular models altogether. Instead, we ought to focus on creating accessible avenues for people of all family structures. Our reading on the Swedish parental leave policy is a brilliant example because it provides space for new dads to be a part of their children’s early lives if they choose. The policy does not force dad’s to stay at home, but they have the option to (and 85% take advantage of it). Family ought to be determined by whatever structures and roles make its members most happy. Maria Bello’s Coming Out as a Modern Family is an excellent example of such an alternate structure. As long as we encourage and make space for alternative models of family, we’ll hopefully see greater numbers of fulfilled families, that foster acceptance both within and without the family unit.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share it All.” New York Times. (accessed December 15, 2013).

Bello, Maria . “Coming Out as a Modern Family.” New York Times. December 15, 2013).

Bennhold, Katrin . “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All .” New York Times . (accessed December 15, 2013).


Virtual strippers sell the clothes they take off…?

The premise behind this “social striptease” is that by linking your facebook or twitter accounts to the website link provided you can command a virtual model to remove his/her clothing. By clicking on a particular clothing piece, the virtual model removes it and an advertisement for it gets posted to your social media account. This advertising strategy absolutely reinforces the ultra thin standards of the slender body as outlined by Bordo. But perhaps more disturbing, is the interactive nature of voyeuristic consumption. As opposed to a still image magazine ad, or a 30 second tv spot, these semi naked bodies are created explicitly for the desiring gaze of the customer. Moreover, the interactive interface actually sutures the customer into a position of power over the sexualized body, and creates a bizarre power structure that encourages the objectification of the virtual body.  At least they are egalitarian in their objectification, providing both male and female virtual models.

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. Berkley: University of California Press. 1993

Spark Post: Bechdel Test in Modern Media

After our recent reading of Allison Bechdel’s graphic novel and her appearance the Queer Methods conference, I found myself delighted upon seeing this article featuring the lady herself while procrastinating on facebook. The article describes how Swedish cinemas are now placing an official letter grade rating on films that have been assessed for the balance of gender representation in their content. The basis for this evaluation comes from one of Allison Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For strips from 1985.

The Bechdel Test is comprised of three questions:
1) Does the film have at least two female characters with names?
2) Do they talk to each other?
3) Do they talk about things other than men?

What do you think of the Bechdel test? Does it cover enough ground? Would you like to see this system put into action in North American cinemas or on television? Do you see any problems with the test or its implementation?

And privilege?

I am a middle class white male who happens to be gay. Since coming to terms with my sexuality, I’ve always felt very grateful to live outside the world of oblivious privilege arbitrarily afforded my straight counterparts. This class, however, has helped me realize that I am just ever-so-barely not the epitome of ultimate privilege, but rather am only damn near the epitome of ultimate privilege. Since our reading on Heteronormativity and the L word, it has been easy to recognize the conservative depictions of queer people in the media (now I’m seeing them everywhere)! While white (heteronormatively designed) LGBT members receive lots media attention, people of color continue to suffer from marginality. Hill Collins outlines the struggle that black gay men still endure for their sexuality, whose “sissy” representation in the media, she argues, only reinforces their alienation. There are very few visible queer people of color in popular culture, and fewer of their stories being told. Even now though, I feel as though I can’t truly know the experience of being a queer person of color, I do feel that I am at least conscious of the oppression that confronts them. Ignorance is a symptom of privilege. Privilege is inequality. Once we recognize this inequality, we can begin to affect change. I am fortunate to lie in the overlap of the Venn diagram. My position affords me a position at the intersection, a channel between the white male middle class and my queer brothers and sisters. This class has helped me more fully realize my duty to help narrow the gap of understanding between these two identities imposed by an oblivious, privileged majority.

Ad Critique: Axe again…but this one is pretty bad.

Axe is notorious for its sexist advertising campaign. The tropes identified in DreamWorlds III are repeated time and again in tv spots: women caressing themselves, a desiring gaze, little or no clothing, etc. These ads sell a rather rapey ideal to the young men they are marketed towards. One would think the potency of this message would decline in print ads, since the encounter is brief and the content confined to a single-frame image. Yet, this 400 sqft installation advertisement plastered onto the side of a dorm building achieves just that. Framed against an all female dormitory, the ideal the ad sells is quite straightforward– a new girl’s bedroom for every day of the month. What makes this ad particularly disturbing is that it’s not the same sort of vague objectification of female bodies that we see in axe tv ads. This ad is anchored to reality, on a college campus, where sexual assault occurs on an alarmingly frequent basis. The fact that the ad is life-sized, impossible to ignore and set against the backdrop of actual female student housing is unsettling. The ad also implicitly equates each room on the calendar with a night of sex, and thus perpetuates the assumption ridiculed by Bell Hooks that a visit to a girl’s bedroom automatically signifies her desire for a sexual encounter. Beneath the surface of this ad is a messy foundation of an inappropriate “she wanted it” all-or-nothing approach to consent. The axe girl decals pasted to the window beckon to every passerby all the while imposing the industry’s manufactured beauty standard to the girls whose windows they occupy. All in all, it makes for a particularly heinous entry in the Axe advertising canon.

Hooks, Bell. Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.

“Axe Calendar,” 2010

Big Question: What is the goal of feminism?

The ultimate goal of feminism is gender equality. Okay, so that seems pretty straight forward. But how do you advocate for an oppressed minority within a society whose entire social and professional framework is configured under a paradigm for white, heterosexual males? Not that contemporary white, hetero males are to blame. As Simone de Beauvoir outlines, institutional patriarchy is a phenomenon going back a millennium of human existence- present in religion, science, and philosophy. Upending this model is no small feat. Today’s feminists work to establish new thought frameworks that consider minority populations. Feminist theory is an exercise in discourse, providing a space to propose and inspect these models. The challenge is to think outside the patriarchal box we are reared in and are familiar with, to find a system that is favors all populations equally. Progress is the goal. 

Homophobic Ad!…er, on second thought…

As a gay person myself, I feel as though I have some authority to react to this advertisement. Upon first glance this ad is certainly homophobic. And although ads are rarely constructed to be broken down and analyzed by their audience, a rereading of this advertisement seems to suggest truth. Most parents don’t anticipate gay children. Most are heterosexual, and have no concept about the real pressures, anxieties, and occasional dangers of being a gay person. That unknown space is terrifying for a parent. Parents often prepare for child’s distant future for more than a decade of their child’s life before those forethoughts are shattered by an unfamiliar revelation at puberty. A parent’s love for their child is exactly what can make their child’s coming­out so shocking and difficult at first.

In some ways I think this shock mimics Julia Serano’s notion of experiential gender, which is fluid and changes with life events and different life experiences. Just as gay people have to come out, their moms and dads have to come out as the parents of a gay child. This can lead to its own ostracization, and is in many ways a confrontation with a new part of the parent identity. Though Serano’s experience as a trans woman feels quite particular, her model for experiential sexual identity is one that can be translated into other feminist/queer contexts in a positive way!