The music video “Timber” by Ke$ha and Pitbull starts off with a bunch of men carrying Ke$ha in a worshipping way, perceiving that they are beneath her. This is definitely different than most music videos when the women are half naked dancing around the guy singing. However, when Pitbull starts singing, that is exactly what happens… A crowd of half naked girls surrounds him. But, what is really strange is that throughout the video, whenever it flashes back to Pitbull there is a girl on him, but when it flashes back to Ke$ha she is posing alone, or with girls.
It seems that society expects that the man should be seduced by a strip tease from all of the women in the video. Today, most music videos have the male singing and a group of girls strip teasing for him. During the twentieth century, the practice of strip teasing was greatly decensored. But the question remains: Does this show male dominance? Some people, like Dahlia Schweitzer, argue that strip teasing gives women power over men. She argues that the women “are clearly in charge” and that “By removing her clothes, the stripper disrupts years of patriarchal hegemony” (Schweitzer 2000, 72).
Schweitzer, Dahlia. 2000. “Striptease: The Art of Spectacle and Transgression. ”Journal of Popular Culture 34(1):65–75.
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.
The image above is part of an ad series that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women launched recently in order to spark a much needed dialogue on a very real issue. The ad series includes images of women whose mouths are covered by Google search options. It is appalling to think that after typing in “women need to…”, the options given were so degrading, such as to “be put in their place.” Now, according to UN Women, these search options were taken on March 9 of this year, which is still too recent to ignore. Although the options listed are different today (Oct. 31, 2013), one search option that Google provides based on popularity is “…shut up.” Women need to shut up? Really? This idea of having to control women is too ingrained in our society. We’ve seen, through Dreamworlds 3, that music videos—an incredibly popular media form—portray men as the aggressors and the ones with power over the submissive women; women are basically nothing without a man. This depiction is shared among other forms of media as well, such as print advertisement and television commercials, and is unarguably influencing the way society views a woman. Google search options are apparently a great way to see what society thinks on the subject! As UN Women put it, women don’t need to be controlled, they need to “be seen as equal.” Society needs to collectively change its opinion on women because we don’t deserve to constantly live in fear of being sexually abused or taken advantage of, which is merely one of the results of this sexism.
Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. Dir. Sut Jhally. Media education foundation, 2007. Film.
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.
Generation Opportunity, funded almost exclusively by the Koch brothers, recently paid for an anti-ObamaCare ad entitled “The Exam – Creepy Uncle Sam.”
The ad employs horror movie scare tactics: the Grim Reaper music, the dim lighting, the innocent young woman, the very creepy Uncle Sam, and, of course, the forceps. Given that the “misguided” protagonist of the ad is a young woman, it’s safe to say that the ad is directed at, and trying to scare and thus control, women. Additionally, the ad patronizes women by suggesting that they cannot make their own medical decisions, and that their unwise decisions will haunt them later. This is “gender as structure” at work, as theorized by Judith Lorber. She attests that women are devalued, and thus controllable in the eyes of the dominant (Lorber, 117).
Finally, it should not be ignored that Uncle Sam is creepy, that he is holding forceps, and that it appears that he is going to be giving some kind of pelvic exam. Given that the female patient assumed that a doctor would be examining her, that she originally had her legs spread, and that she struggles to close her legs as Uncle Sam moves closer to her, the ad is tainted with violence and sexual violation.
Source: Lorber, Judith. “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990).
Recently, I saw an ad for Victoria’s Secret Body Lotion. The copy read something along the lines of “You’ll be 20x more Sexy!” What does that even mean? First of all, why does Victoria’s Secret have the power to tell me what is and what is not sexy? Apparently they even have the power to make me 20x sexier. I thought about this ad yesterday in when discussing a doctor’s power in decision making. Victoria’s Secret has the money and distribution abilities to get their messages out, but who gives them the power to create uniform definitions? We do, as the consumers. People who buy their lotion are validating Victoria’s Secret’s claim and propelling their power. I’ve bought Victoria Secret products before, and I’ve watched the famous fashion show. Does this mean I am allowing Victoria’s Secret to define what is sexy?
What is inequality? One only has to look at the disproportionately low number of women who serve as world leaders to understand this concept. Of the 196 national leadership positions listed by http://www.filibustercartoons.com/charts_rest_female-leaders.php,only 19 of them are filled by females. This means that most women involved in politics operate behind the scenes, supporting men who take center stage as global leaders. Rather than having their own voice, the socio-political views of women (including interests related to gender) are delivered indirectly through male-dominated governments where men do the talking for them.
Gender inequality in government politics is seen around the globe, and one of the worst offenders is the United States. While many democratic nations have been led by females, the highest offices in the U.S. have been exclusively occupied by males. Currently, women hold only 18.3% of the seats in congress (http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/fast_facts/levels_of_office/Congress-CurrentFacts.php) and only 20 % of those in the Senate. In spite of the fact that women have had the right to vote in the U.S. since 1920, there has never been a female candidate for President and there have been only two female nominees (by major parties) for Vice-President. In her essay, “The Social Construction of Gender,” Judith Lorber notes that “In countries that discourage gender discrimination, many major roles are still gendered…men dominate the positions of authority and leadership in government…” That is precisely what is occurring in the United States, a country that seemingly prides itself on equality. Women remain grossly underrepresented in the political process, especially in positions where they would have the greatest influence. This glass ceiling negatively impacts our nation as it limits access to one of our most valuable resources: a pool of talented, bright, and articulate women who could offer a different perspective and serve as agents of positive social change.
“Facts.” Congress_Current. Center for American Women and Politics, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
“Female World Leaders Currently in Power.” Female World Leaders Currently in Power. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
Lorber, Judith. “The Social Construction of Gender.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. By Estelle Disch. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. 113-20. Print.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines power as “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events” (incidentally, the example phrase the dictionary provides is “the idea that men should have power over women”). However, I think this definition is incomplete. Power is not only the ability to control the external, but also ability to establish the internal. Reading David Colapinto’s “As Nature Made Him,” I was struck by the actions Brenda undertook to make her self-perceived male gender harmonize with how the world saw her. I think most of Brenda’s childhood behavioral issues were a product of her fruitlessly attempting to establish her power. Wittingly or not, Dr. Money, Brenda’s parents, and most everyone around her took away her power by forcing her to be a girl. I think this is perhaps why some parents choose to raise their children as “genderless”—they do not want society taking away their children’s power to establish who they are by imposing upon them preconceived notion of what gender is.
Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Print.
What is privilege? Privilege is a special right or advantage granted to a certain group of people not based on personal merit, but based merely on something they cannot control, such as race, class, sex, or gender. Multiple studies have shown that in childhood, boys receive more money than girls for doing the same chores. “Masculine” chores such as mowing the lawn net more money than traditionally feminine chores Most likely, the majority of parents are not consciously deciding to pay their girls less. However, subconsciously, they have come to value the labor of males more than the labor of females. This is privilege at work.
Most people with privilege do not realize that they have it. Many men claim that they cannot possibly be sexist because they have sisters, implying that they can sympathize with women more because they grew up with one. However, one of the studies found that men who grew up with sisters actually tend to do less housework than their spouses and are also more socially conservative.
Having privilege is not a crime, but those with privilege need to recognize the advantages they enjoy and try to equalize the playing field, as the privileges they have were not gained from personal merit.
Chemaly, Soraya. “Even Little Kids Have a Wage Gap.” Salon. Salon Media Group, Inc., 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2013.
This Skyy Vodka ad begins in a sexual manner, as the first scene suggestively shows a man riding in a dimly lit elevator with two beautiful women in skimpy clothing. They are hanging onto him as if they “cannot think of [themselves] without man,” and are only defined as “relative to him,” as noted by Beavoir (33). The man (dressed in professional attire) then strides into a club and claps his hands with god-like power, making lights turn on and dancers degrade themselves by grinding on men. The ad focuses on shots of the women’s butts, legs, lips, and breasts, but rarely show her entirety at one time, objectifying her to pieces and once again showing that woman is “not regarded as an autonomous being” (33). Interestingly enough, the vodka itself isn’t even mentioned by brand until later on, but promotes the idea that the vodka is provided for only the best and most powerful (in this case, men). The ad made me believe that the audience is clearly male, as it depicts man’s dominance (hand claps) and success (sexy women by his side), sending the message that man instantly gets what he wants because he is male, and therefore respected and powerful.
de Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 32-40. Print.