I was walking in San Francisco—one of America’s most progressive cities—just a few weeks ago. As I exited the subway in the Mission District, I was confronted with an advertisement encouraging sexual variety and liberation. My girlfriend wasn’t having any of it. She saw the ad as overwhelming and unnecessary, an in-your-face ploy by the city’s LGBTQ community to draw attention to itself. I challenged her on this point, the idea of being seen. I applaud the forward-thinking community’s adoption of an in-your-face tactic. Ads of this sort have a shock factor and they reaffirm that it’s cool to be on the cutting edge of gender and sexuality issues. In fact, it’s fabulous.
In a country in which the LGBTQ community is unfairly charged with proving its merits and that it deserves human rights—to the medical, political, and other communities—this ad is encouraging (Spade). It features an ambiguous human being, dressed half in “men’s” clothes and half in “women’s” clothes. The gender of the person is unidentifiable. Alongside the painting is the phrase “Gender Fabulous,” which is accompanied by a definition of the term “fabulous.” To give some context, this ad is situated amongst a number of other progressive pieces at the subway’s exit. Together, they send a message to visitors and the residents of San Francisco that variety in gender is better than the constricting nature of the current gender binary. Whereas the prevailing heteronormative system delimits what we can and cannot do based on an array of superficial factors, gender diversity facilitates the realization of our potential. I am thrilled to see San Francisco at the forefront of advancing these efforts.
Carl’s Jr. is known for its risqué advertisements, featuring celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Kate Upton, and Jenny McCarthy (you’ll forget you’re eating a salad!) But the latest ad for the burger chain, featuring Miss Alabama Katherine Webb, has inspired a lot of questions as to whether Carl’s Jr. is actually selling burgers or simply advertising sex.
The advertisement is full of fragmentation: Miss Alabama is cut up into parts- legs, hands, breasts, and mouth. She is no longer a singular being, but rather a being only viewable because of specific parts she possesses. She has “turned herself into an object and most particularly an object of vision: a sight” (Berger 38).
She is no longer a model presenting a product, but has become the product herself- she is the real object of the viewer’s desire, not the hamburger. The advertisement is not for the Black Angus Steak and Bleu cheese, but the black leather and body parts of the woman. The presentation of the wet, clothes-less female body out does the juicy hamburger that she holds in her hands. The hamburger simply cannot compete with the sexuality that the woman exudes. She is more appealing to the viewer/customer (and if you have ever actually seen a Carl’s Jr. hamburger, you know they aren’t very appealing looking at all) and this works for the target audience, but is it really selling the food?
The ad would certainly make the male audience excited, but excited for the food… or sex?
Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” Trans. Array The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.
Sexual consent is a topic that touches most college students, considering the pervasiveness of sexual activity on campuses. However, consent is not easily defined or uniform in its nature, depending on the relationship and the sexual preferences of those engaged in sexual activity. What can be defined as consent? For example, consent between a couple who has been in a relationship for many years may be completely non-vocal, consisting of reading body language in a manner only achievable with time. However, in instances when the two people may be close to perfect strangers, non-vocal consent may be leaving much too much to the imagination; without knowing a person, how can you possible know what they want in bed, if anything at all? In “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process,” Rachel Kramer Bussel contends that with consent should come vocal communication, or else “we are simply guessing” (44) what the other person wants. Beyond the issues of legality, Bussel ultimately argues that communication is instrumental in having better sex, not just consensual sex. And don’t we all want to be having better sex? Instead of agreeing, we should be shouting YES! Here’s to completely, enthusiastically, physically and vocally consensual sex.
Rachel Kramer Bussel. “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process.” From Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Seal Press: New York, 2008.
As a fan of Miley Cyrus, I (unashamedly) follow her whereabouts on the tabloid site perezhilton.com. I recently came across this article, which included a conversation between TV personality Carson Daly and Perez Hilton discussing Cyrus’ “oversexualized image.” In fact, the newest issue of Rolling Stone features Cyrus in a pool, with slicked back hair and no clothes on. While Daley criticizes Rolling Stone for “rewarding” Cyrus’ (supposed) poor choices, Hilton argues that the magazine is simply trying to boost sales. I found Daley’s perspective on the subject quite problematic: since when is a display of sexuality synonymous with “streetwalker”? And more importantly, why is Cyrus’ recent behavior taken so offensively? Can society not handle a young woman in control of her body? Perhaps it relates back to Berger’s theory on nakedness v. nudity that he offers in “From Ways of Seeing”: “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself” (39). Placed in this context, it seems that society is unable to accept Cyrus for who she is–either because they do not believe in who she is, or because they do not want to.
Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.
Although John Berger suggest that “men act and women appear,” I would like to refute this claim with evidence from Miley Cyrus’ recent stunt for the VMA’s. Miley danced before thousands of audience members and millions of TV viewers “twerking” to the beat of her own song and to the rhythm of Robin Thicke’s body. This, I would claim, was not Miley appearing before the crowd, but acting for the crowd, especially for the men. “No cultural phenomenon better expresses the current objectification of women, the power of celebrity and, ultimately, the pornification of society, than twerking” (Vine). I think this issue is especially concerning for the young female fans of Miley Cyrus. In her dance, Miley openly objectifies herself as a sex object through sexual dance moves and poses—sticking her tongue out and giving a “porn start wink” (Vine). Miley is acting for the attention of men. She wants men to notice her body and her sexuality. However, what she does not realize is that her young female fan base also notices the way in which she sexualizes her body, and sadly, those youth model that same behavior in hopes of receiving the same attention.
Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” Trans. Array The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.
I saw this vine today on “best of vines” and what really struck me was the disrespectful portrayal of gays and gay dates as such a humorous and negative idea, even in 7 seconds worth of video. Even though this vine was meant to be a joke since the guy was most likely talking about a girl as his date, the dad’s comment and “HAHA” reaction about it possibly being another male made me realize how much it has become acceptable in our culture to just make fun of certain types of sexualities. Did any of you feel this way also, or do you think the vine shouldn’t be taken too seriously? Are we falling down a slippery slope when we hardly notice that we’re laughing at someone else’s sexual preference?
On the 2013 Super Bowl, Carl’s Jr. burger restaurant chain released a commercial to advertise their new non-fried fish sandwich. Instead of highlighting the attributes of the meal itself, the company decided to objectify women in order to increase sales.
The 1-minute long commercial consists of a model in a bathing suit at the beach, applying sun-tanning lotion all over her body while being extremely erotic in the process. Once her body is all oiled-up, she moves on to taking that first bite off the sandwich, followed by a close up of her licking her fingers.
It surprises me that even at a family targeted event such as the Superbowl, which was the third-most watched television event in American history on 2013, a commercial that should have no attachment to gender (considering we are talking about a sandwich) is so heavy on its sexual innuendo.
In Judith Lorber’s “The Social Construction of Gender,” she points out how “sexual feelings and desires and practices have been shaped by gendered norms and expectations.” This advertisement exemplifies this as the model is expected to be attractive and the male viewer is supposed to feel compelled to buy a burger because of his sexual desires of the model, even though there is no rational association between the taste of the burger and (the taste?) of Nina Agdal.
Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990)
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!
This Dolce&Gabbana advertising campaign has created a huge polemic when it was released in 2007. Indeed, this is clearly the representation of the woman as an object, controlled by the four men around her, and moreover as a sexual object. The sexual dimension of this photograph goes so far in the violence, that this scene has been assimilated to a gang rape by some people. The woman is maintained on the ground by a man above her, while the other three are watching, she seems completely dominated.
To my mind, this is one of the most important and dramatic drift in nowadays advertisings. First of all, no one cares about the product anymore, this is just about making something appealing to the consumer. And what is appealing ? Sex. Sex is catching the eyes of people reading a magazine, or walking in the street. And the over-sexualisation of advertising can lead to this kind of visuals, which normalize the violence and the idea of a submissive woman. Even if Dolce&Gabbana has denied this interpretation of the ad, we can still be glad that some institutions in Italy and Spain have firmly asked for its withdrawal. The audience is not passive, and this is the role of everyone to fight against this kind of ad. We have to show that this can not go that far in order just to sell clothes, or car, or whatever.
In this French McDonald’s ad, a young man has a phone conversation with someone who is clearly a romantic partner. The two reminisce over their days in grade school together, and it is not until the end of the commercial that it is revealed that the protagonist went to an all-boys school. The commercial ends with a title card that reads “venez comme vous etes” or “come as you are.” The ad forces viewers to reflect on the assumptions they make about others; the sex of the person on the other end of the call is intentionally left unknown, and most people (including the man’s father) will assume it is a woman. Simone de Beauvoir writes that “A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain ex; it goes without saying that he is a man.” Along this vein, I think many people just assume that most men are heterosexual. This ad—unlike many other advertisements in popular media—breaks with traditional assumptions about sexuality. I think the fact that this ad was shown in France and not the US is a testament to the hurdles that still need to be overcome in the states. Assumptions about gender are so ingrained in American culture that McDonald’s thinks it would be bad for business to challenge them.
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.