Tag Archives: sexism

#solidarityisforwhiteartists: the oppressive nature of a white artist’s message

Lily Allen’s music video for her single, “Hard Out Here”, is yet another installment of how white artists implicitly add a racial dialogue to deliver and solidify their messages. What is oppression? Oppression is when your culture and bodies become tools to promote white artist’s careers and criticisms of society. It is how musicians’s “anti-consumerist” messages have been embedded in consumerism closely associated with hip-hop and thusly African American culture. In “Hard Out Here”, Allen asserts that you would never hear her talk about her chains.  In becoming “anti-consumerist”, Allen only targets one type of consumer: African Americans. Oppression is also having your body become hypersexualized and on display in an effort to critique sexism while reinforcing negative stereotypical representations of your identity. Allen, while fully clothed, is surrounded by mostly women of color who are: twerking in bikini coverage style outfits, provocatively touching themselves, and dowsing themselves in champagne. Although this video is meant to be a parody, Allen’s representation of African American women just reinforces racist tropes about them in music videos. Oppression of this nature between women is nothing new, as bell hooks pointed out that “sexism is perpetuated by institutional and social structures” (127). The institution of racism still permeates our society and divides our women’s movement, as seen in the popular twitter movement over the summer started by Mikki Kendal #solidarityisforwhitewomen. There’s much to do for gender equality, but if we’re getting there through putting other women and cultures down, can we really call it progress?

Works Cited:

Hooks, Bell. “SISTERHOOD: Political Solidarity Between Women.” Feminist Review 23 (1986): 125-138. Print.

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Ad Critique: Oh My God– SHOES!

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According to The DCist, a Metro ad features a dialogue between two women where one women is informing the other of how it takes over 8,000 miles before a Metrobus breaks down. The other women in response asks, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?”

Unfortunately, this perpetuates the immortal trope of the “ditsy, shoe-crazy woman”. This made me think about how when we were looking over the definition of “gender dysphoria” earlier today in class, there were still specific culturally gender-biased descriptions present.
For instance, part of the definition stated that gender dysphoria includes, “a strong conviction that one has feelings and reactions typical of the other gender” (DSM-5). This part of the definition implies that there has to be certain “reactions” or interest that apply to each specific gender, which is essentialist and false. Also, this seems to reinforce a binary that there are only two kinds of people/two genders in the world.
It’s also interesting to see that the ad features two presumably cisgendered women, since as Spade mentions, “…a central endeavor of feminist, queer and trans activists has been to dismantle the cultural ideologies… that say that certain body parts determine gender identity and gendered social characteristics and roles” (Spade, 2013). This ad seems to further pigeonhole women into these “gendered social characteristics” and implies that women must love to wear heels, thus assigning “femininity” to a body part.
Works Cited:
“Lady Wants To Talk About Shoes, Not Bus Reliability, Implies Sexist Metro Ad.” DCist. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <http://dcist.com/2013/12/ladies_love_shows_says_sexist_metro.php&gt;.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
Spade, Dean. “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts.” Dean Spade. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.deanspade.net&gt;

Sexism and Objectification: PETA’s Advocacy Strategy for Animal Rights

Peta has been criticized recently in the news for their new birth control slogan, “Plan V”, which tells women they can lose weight through veganism to regain access to Plan B (Williams). However, this is not the first time Peta has used sexism to advance its views or associated veganism with a slender female body.

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Photo Courtesy of Business Insider. 

Take for instance this advertisement featuring Pamela Anderson, that has accompanied much of the reporting on ‘Plan V’. This print campaign that circulated in 2010 emphasizes two common problems in Peta advertisements. Firstly, it sells the value of veganism through hypersexualized displays of female bodies. Seen here, Anderson, who is bikini clad and provocatively posed, is reinforcing to female audiences that slenderness is the ideal female figure (Bordo, 205). It also continues a long standing trend in advertising that sex, and specifically the female sex, sells. Secondly, it sells the value of animals rights through the fragmentation and objectification of female bodies. In the advert, Anderson’s body is sectioned off like pieces of meat you would find at a butcher’s. Hesse-Biber asks “how much does it cost to be preoccupied with parts?” (66). Killbourne, in her documentary Killing Us Softly 4, shows that fragmentation leads to objectification, a main contributing notion behind violence against women. This ad explicitly equates a woman’s body with meat, which could instill objectifying notions in the male audience viewing this ad. Overall, although Peta advocates for animal rights, we should really question at what cost is it’s message getting across?

Works Cited:

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Body Slender.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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

Killing Us Softly 4. Dir. Jean Kilbourne. Perf. n/a. Media Education Foundation, 2010. DVD.

Williams, Mary E. “PETA’s ridiculous new birth control stunt.” Salon 3 December 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/12/03/petas_ridiculous_new_birth_control_stunt/

 

Get an Xbox One!

In attempt to advertise the Xbox One, Microsoft released an online letter that was meant to encourage non-gamers to buy the new consul. It was taken down after receiving criticism for being sexist. The letter was meant to be interactive allowing an individual to customize the underlined words. However, it’s the default setting that is a little shocking for our time. The very opening of the letter caused the most uproar. “I know, I know. You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this.” Microsoft really couldn’t come up with a better choice for its default setting than to knit? Knitting is the quintessential stereotypical female hobby. That is the first indicator that lets you know this letter is directed to a woman; in other words, that only men play video games: first problem. Keeping in mind that this letter seems to be from a man to a woman, the fact that knitting is juxtaposed with slaying zombies in this instance also implies that women have no fun while their partners have all of it: second problem. It’s not comforting to know that women are still thought of as killjoys, as is implied by the desperately-sounding letter (there are three postscripts by the end). The header itself is a little bit questionable to me as well. “We got your back” sounds a lot like Microsoft is taking the man’s side. So basically, this ad says to me, “women need to stop sucking the fun out of everything, and let their partner have an Xbox One”—not very promising for a better society. But is any of this surprising? Video games are notorious for objectifying female characters, from body shapes to the clothing they wear. Regardless, if Microsoft wants to boast more female consumers, then it can’t send out these kinds of messages.

Ad Critique: The Sexist Swiffer

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Image Courtesy of Business Insider

This advertisement for a Swiffer mop offensively uses a powerful image of American feminism to sell a product associated with centuries of female oppression. Although the racist and patriarchal elements of Rosie the Riveter make her a problematic icon to begin with, Swiffer’s equation of housework productivity with female empowerment is contrary to current feminist goals. This advertisement is reminiscent of pre-second-wave feminism—a time in which technological improvements like the washing machine were viewed “as liberating, rather than as oppressive, agents.”[1]

In addition to misusing Rosie the Riveter, Swiffer also employs the common advertising tactic of the alluring female glance. This Rosie’s seductive glance portrays womanhood as sexual and compliant rather than direct and assertive, which negates her authoritative arm-cross. This ad is also unrealistic. The actor’s appearance is significantly modified by makeup and editing, and the kitchen undoubtedly belongs to an upper-middle class family, inaccurately representing Americans’ real economic conditions.

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Image Courtesy of Ad Forum (text refers to celebrating a quiet vacuum)

The possibility of a different advertising culture has been proven in Sweden, where “ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers.”[2] Below, is one such ad for a vacuum. While this image suggests Sweden may have an problem with race variability in its advertising, it notably does not portray an adult woman. This is representative of the gender-neutral shared housework responsibilities existent in Swedish families.

Although there are significant differences in the racial, economic, and governmental conditions between the US and Sweden, this ad provides hope for alternatives. Perhaps nonsexist American advertising will only appear widely when an expansion of the social welfare system in the US creates more support for families. Until then, American consumers should demand advertising changes from the companies they buy from through investment strategy and product boycotts.


[1] Ruth Schwartz Cowan, “Household Technology and Household Work between 1900 and 1940,” in More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 191.

[2] Lisa Belkin, “When Mom and Dad Share It All,” NYTimes Magazine, June 15, 2008, 4, accessed November 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Feeding the Macho Appetite

Feeding the Macho Appetite

 

Nothing turns a man on like a “hot” woman cooking in the kitchen, and nothing sells a man’s deodorant like the fantasy of female servitude. This tasteless ad for Lynx deodorant (which features a shapely twenty-something female, cooking dinner while dressed in lingerie) objectifies women and reinforces domestic inequality. Like the turkey that she is preparing, the woman’s life is devalued, and she exists merely to satisfy a man’s appetite. The accompanying text: “Can she make you lose control?” reinforces the desirability of women whose sole purpose is to serve. As a final touch, the ad’s retro styling cleverly reminds men of an era that predates the Women’s Movement, when a woman’s place was in the home, and a man’s home was his “castle.”

 

This ad features the type of gender stereotyping and sexist attitudes that have perpetuated a patriarchal system in the home. Belkin notes that women have made progress in the workplace, but still shoulder the majority of domestic responsibilities (4). As implied by Lynx, some men are not only oblivious to this unfairness, but find the power differential to be a “turn on.”

 

Although the ad has been effective in boosting sales, it is primarily geared towards white heteronormative males and has limited appeal to specific segments of the population. From the perspective of an African American male, the image of servitude may be a distasteful reminder of the master-slave dynamic and trigger repulsion rather than attraction. When seen through the eyes of a homosexual female, the sexual intent of this ad may be confusing. Since domestic responsibilities are shared more equally in same-sex couples (Belkin 13), doing housework is routine for both partners and unlikely to be perceived as sexually “hot.”

 

         Works Cited

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” The New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

 

 

Kelly Rippa’s Faithful Fridge

Kelly Rippa is the celebrity advertiser for Electrolux kitchen supplies, the most recent ad being for their new refrigerator (seen through the link above).  She advertises its ability to regulate its storage temperature, a quality that is a perfect companion for someone who is serving as often as Kelly is in this commercial.  

This commercial could be seen as sexist in that Kelly is the only one in the house who is doing the serving, hosting, or entertaining.  There is only one shot with a man, and he is with a group of other females who are being served by Kelly. This ad insinuates an unequal division of labor, choosing the woman to be in charge of both the kitchen tasks and providing for her children and friends.  Although there are women who honestly enjoy these tasks, there are others who feel they must perform them in order to have a good social standing (Belkin, p.6)  It is hard to eject ourselves from these stereotypes, however we may try, because scenes like this are common, almost expected, in society (Belkin, p. 5).  

Would  Electrolux sell less appliances if they advertised the man as the primary user? Would they sell more? Although it is becoming more common to see men in the kitchen, the “make me a sandwitch” stereotype still lingers, so people may not respond as well to a man compared to a woman showing off this refrigerator.  

When Mom and Dad Share it All. Belkin, Lisa. NYTimes Magazine.  2008.