Discrimination is the unjust treatment of others based on race, age, or sex. Discrimination becomes a major part of someone’s life when their natural physical characteristics change the way they are received by others. I believe that females have to deal with discrimination more often than males in society. This is mainly because of the way women are presented in the media. Most importantly, women are seen as easily manipulated. On the other hand, I think that males are believed to have an inherent striking presence and are promised a certain power than women are not: “the promised power may be moral, physical, temperamental, economic, social, sexual- but its object is always exterior to the man. A man’s presence suggests what he is capable of doing to or for you” (Berger 37). Accordingly, I believe that discrimination is a hackneyed process that people perform daily where men are seen as the more authoritative. Since media sets up a “phallocentric patriarchal state” (Hooks 109), unequal notions leads to discrimination based on gender. For instance, in a highly publicized study by the National Academy of Sciences, the same resumes were handed out with either a male or female name. Results showed that the male applicants were consistently rated higher despite the same qualifications, thus revealing an existing gender disparity within academic science thanks to discrimination (Moss-Rasculin, et al. 1).
Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” Trans. Array The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.
Hooks, Bell. “Seduced by Violence No More.” Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.
In Chanel’s “Chance” perfume ad, a waif-ish woman is curled around a bottle of perfume, hair and body covered only by pale pink flowers. The woman has a childlike face and fragile, boyish body, with eyes closed and limbs on the verge of snapping. She lacks a “womanly” figure, mimicking the “boyish slenderness” that, according to Susan Bordo, becomes the dominant attractive form in times of gender role change. These images are often described as “female desire unborn.” Fittingly, the woman’s body language calls to mind the image of a fetus curled up inside of its mother’s womb.
The placement of ads like this in magazines like Allure and Instyle maintain the “slender” standard for women and perpetuate women’s obsession with thinness (Hesse-Biber, The Cult of Thinness). This ad reinforces slenderness as the current ideal for women, in which excess body weight signifies inadequacy thinness symbolizes the well-managed self (Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body”). The slender body is stereotypically female (as shown in the ad). Advertisements of slim women “overdetermine slenderness as a contemporary ideal of specifically female attractiveness” (Bordo, “Reading the Slender Body”). If current trends continue, female models will soon be no more than skin and bones, perpetuating a dangerous ideal in which women’s bodies are seen as attractive only when they appear to be withering away to nothing.
Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: “Reading the Slender Body.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness: “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery”. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 61-82. Print.
The commercial above is one of Target’s many “everyday collection” advertisements. This commercial sends contrasting messages; it advertises Oreos as a desirable food that should be sought out, and yet the female has to hide the fact that she’s eating any, as shown by her walking to them in the dark. This is a form of the “fatten up/slim down” style of food advertising, as mentioned by Hesse-Biber. Ads will promote foods that are certain to cause weight gain while advertising them using a slim model. In her article, “Reading the Slender Body,” Susan Bordo writes about how the female body today is expected to be “tighter, smoother, more contained.” She says that this new female image promotes “the right attitude;…suggesting willpower, energy, control over infantile impulse,” things that women today want in order to compete with males. Advertisements use this female desire to sell their product. While this may be profitable for food companies, it stigmatizes women who do not fit into the slender stereotype.
If ads began using women of many sizes, would it improve the mindset of how women should look? Would the product still sell? I think that adding women of different sizes to ads over time could decrease the negative assumptions made about fat women, but it is unlikely that advertising companies will take that leap anytime soon.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California, 1993. N. pag. Print.
We have seen music videos that present inequality between men and women; women are fragmented, oversexualized creatures whose sole purpose is to please the dominant male artists. Men have the freedom in music videos to exert power over women, and it is simply assumed that women enjoy it. The reality, however, can be quite different. It is our responsibility to separate what we see in music videos with how we act in everyday relationships. Mutual consent is the key to successful and respectful relationships. Our job is to understand that consent “should encompass more than yes or no,” and that “silence is not consent.” We are responsible for communicating to our partners what we do and do not want, and we should ask them to share their feelings as well. Consent is not passive; we should not allow ourselves or our partner to simply see how far we can go, or do what we like without asking about our actions. Unlike the fantasy of music videos, actual male/female relationships need the female to say what she likes too, instead of only the male taking charge without discussion. When everyone in the relationship takes responsibility to speak honestly about their desires, respect any instance when a partner says no, and ultimately treat each other as more than just their bodies, then it will be easier to put distance between the sexism in music videos and sex in the bedroom.
Bussel, Rachel. “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as a Sexual Process.” Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World without Rape. By Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008. N. pag. Print.
Christine Delphy pointed out in Rethinking Sex and Gender:
All feminists reject the sex/gender hierarchy, but very few are ready to admit that the logical consequence of this rejection is a refusal of sex roles, and the disappearance of gender. Feminists seem to want to abolish hierarchy and even sex roles, but not difference itself…Very few indeed are happy to contemplate there being simple anatomical sexual differences which are not given any social significance or symbolic value (Delphy p. 64).
People are just different. We have different sexes, different genders, different races, different talents, different opinions, different body types, etc etc etc.
Whipping Girl by Julia Serano also made me think of this. As she began taking female hormones her skin became softer, heavy objects seemed heavier, her metabolism changed, and she experienced sensations, emotions, tastes, and urges differently (Serano p. 221).
I do think women deserve respect, in many cases more respect and better treatment than they are getting right now. But I think feminists should rethink what they might mean when they demand gender equality. Women should be treated as well-respected women, not as men.
I recently saw this Yoplait commercial while watching tv, and after a moment thinking back, I realized I couldn’t recall a single Yoplait commercial that featured a man as the primary consumer of the product.
I understand that Yoplait primarily targets women for their products because they promote weight loss and healthy eating, two concerns that are stereotypically women’s problems, stemmed from societal pressure to look attractive at all times. The question I want to raise, however, is in regards to men. Don’t men also worry about their weight and want to eat healthy? I assume so, even if it is to a lesser degree than women. But would a man who is interested in buying healthy snacks want to buy Yoplait if he only ever sees ads with women eating it? Subconsciously, he might reject Yoplait because it is too ‘feminine’ a product for him to buy. Do you think Yoplait should feature men as primary consumers in some of their ads, or show a male and female enjoying the yogurt together?