Tag Archives: culture

What Is Oppression?

What is oppression? In the words of Bette S. Tallen, quoted in “Reading the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery,” “the reality of oppression is replaced with the metaphor of addiction.” Often, the ways in which women are oppressed are insidious, made manifest in seemingly innocent ways that do not occur to consumers buying fashion magazines, weight-loss products, and beauty products. In “Reading the Body Beautiful,” Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber reveals the ways in which women are made to feel physically inadequate, which create a “fixable” problem that many women obsess over and that covers up deeper issues of inequality, poverty, education, racism, and sexism. Women’s issues are pushed to the side, secondary to the daunting task given to women by society of achieving the “ideal” feminine look.  While women have gained considerable influence over the past few decades, the fact that their appearances are still scrutinized and criticized is discouraging. As Hesse-Biber says, current culture focuses the reason for women’s problems away from social forces and onto women themselves. This is a way of oppressing women, by creating bogus problems for our culture to focus on so that the injustices being perpetrated against women are not realized and so that action is not taken against maintaining a patriarchal society.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene N.  “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.” The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Advertisements

How Should We Respond to Media?

As consumers, we’re bombarded with media that dictates our perception of society and normalcy. And within this mass of messages, we find many paradoxes in regard to our appearance and weight. Companies selling weight loss products, like Alli, play up slender body norms (Even the box has a slender shape!), yet food distributors like McDonald’s offer consumers XL sodas (Remember supersizes?). Susan Bordo observes in Unbearable Weight, “’Correct’ management of desire in [this] culture, requiring as it does a contradictory double-bind construction of personality, inevitably produces an unstable bulimic personality-type as its norm” (Bordo 187). Apart from weight, women are also shown a double standard; ads are digitally altered. The women represented in ads aren’t even real, yet the media normalizes them, so we are given the message we need to be like them. The media spreads a false and impossible standard of “normalcy.” The best response to this could be education and awareness. Dove has taken steps toward awareness with their Real Beauty campaign; here’s one of their commercials:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

I think awareness of the truth and motives behind media is important. We need to remember that we live in a capitalist society, and that companies disregard our well-being at the chance to make money.

Work Cited

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of CA Press, 1993.

Big Question: How does biological sex function in society?

We’ve studied and settled on the idea of gender as a cultural construct, within whose system society forces us to choose an identity of male or female. The role that biological sex plays in social roles is less clear. As it’s usually tied to gender, sex identity seems fairly straightforward–perhaps not as an identity at all, but a fact.

Even cases of intersex persons being forced to choose a sex seems to be tied to gender. The confusion of sex identity plays a role, but for the most part, sex as a category seems to be considered most as it pertains to gender–i.e., if the child doesn’t know their sex, how can they know what gender to perform?

The biology of sex comes up particularly, however, in “gender testing” in sports. (A side note: should it be called “sex testing” because it pertains to physical characteristics?). That testing testing is meant to measure physical advantage based primarily on testosterone levels; because of the potential of physical advantage, in sports, sex is an important category. Physical attributes dictate how the world of athletics work. In a hypothetical gender-neutral society, individuals with more testosterone would still excel at sports, regardless of gender identity. I’m interested in this because it suggests an area where cultural facts could be based almost entirely on physical, natural characteristics.

Do you agree? Are there other categories in society where having a normative sex identity–having more or less testosterone, for instance–plays a significant role, apart from its ties to gender? At least off the top of my head, I can’t think of other situations in which biological sex, not gender, manifests itself culturally. That is, in sports, the actual physical qualities of sex seem more relevant a category than elsewhere. What do you think?