Tag Archives: stereotypes

What is fairness?

Fairness involves an equal, unprejudiced representation for all genders. The term “Gender Identity Disorder” does not allow a fair representation for individuals that identify themselves as transgender. “Gender Identity Disorder” is an unfair portrayal because of the negative connotations surrounding the word “disorder”. GID is used to describe a person who experiences discomfort with their biological gender and identifies with the opposite gender as a more appropriate presentation.

I first heard the term while viewing “I Am Jazz – A Family Transition” on Oprah’s channel OWN. The show is a documentary following the life of a transgender preteen that identifies as a female.  While viewing the show I analyzed that the people associated with her are open and fair about her decisions but the term used to describe her condition throughout the documentary is unfair. The term depicts transgendered individuals with a disadvantage because it is not favorable. It identifies their sexual behavior as a mental disorder that should be fixed. It positions them in a category that conflicts with the natural social conditions in society. “Disorder” implies that transgenders are not performing gender correctly and as a result the phrase can create social inequality. Transgenders are subjected to a diagnosis that defines them as a disturbance.

This dynamics can affect the representation of self with dominant gender standards because transgenders may feel like they don’t belong in a society that categorizes them negatively. It also doesn’t allow them the freedom to be themselves without scrutiny. Overall, I think it is unfair to define transgenders as a disorder in our society. There should be an unprejudiced representation for all genders.

What do you think about the term? Am I being overly sensitive about the issue considering this isn’t a widely used term to describe transgendered individuals?


“Nothing Beats an Astronaut” Axe Apollo Commercial

This ad by Axe for their new body spray “Apollo” depicts a helpless woman drowning in the ocean. A handsome, muscular lifeguard rushes into the water to save her, wrestling and punching a shark in the process (gender roles at their finest). After bringing the woman to safety, the woman looks as if she is about to kiss the man who just rescued her – but then she runs off into the arms of an astronaut, a smaller, somewhat “geeky” looking man.
Gender stereotypes are at play all throughout this commercial, depicting both women and men in a flawed manner. The woman, of course, is depicted as beautiful but weak, which is contrasted with the strength of the man who saves her. The disparity is particularly evident in the shot from behind of the man carrying the limp, frail-looking body of the woman. The male lifeguard is also objectified, as he represents the “ideal” man – strong, courageous, attractive. The commercial perpetuates the typical feminine gender role of the “submissive woman” (de Beauvoir 36). The woman is taken care of by a man, a possession to be won and protected, while also suggesting that she cannot control her impulses of attraction (exemplified by her rushing over to the man in the astronaut suit).
De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. McCain and Kim, eds. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Turn the Tide of Gender Stereotypes

“Gender construction” starts, as Butler states, with the assignment to a “sex category” based on genitalia at birth. But more importantly, children are then treated for what is “appropriate for their gender status”. There is no law enforcing these social rules, so how do so many individuals collectively begin to follow the norm? Perhaps the media?

In this Tide commercial, the “gender-proper” mother dressed in a white dress, ballet flats, and a pink cardigan is placed in a furnished living room, representing what a stereotypical female home should look like. When the mother embarrassingly looks at her “tomboy” child who refuses the “whole pink thing,” she is giving the impression that her child is not what she originally envisioned her to be or wants. With Tide, it is as if she found a solution to fix her child’s “problem”. But really, what her daughter wants to play with, whether it be Barbie’s or bricks, is the free will of the child. Like the school community in Gould’s story about Baby X, many parents will have their socially constructed binary gender-roles re-enforced by watching this commercial. In the end, it says that “Style is a option,” but is there a right or wrong one? This mother sure believes so.

Butler, Judith. (1990) “The Compulsory Order of Sex/Gender/Desire,” “Gender: The Circular Ruins of a Contemporary Debate.” From Gender Trouble.

The Crazy Wife

This State Farm commercial has been running for a while now. Though it is humorous and at first it may not seem offensive, I think it relies on and enforces gender role stereotypes. It portrays the women as two extremes. The wife is the paranoid, jealous woman that the audience is set up to dislike. The circumstances are such that she appears annoying and crazed. The hypothetical woman she suspects is on the phone with her husband is another stereotypical woman – the mistress.

If the husband were indeed cheating on his wife, he would be the disliked character in the situation. However, the revelation that he is in fact speaking to a male State Farm agent makes him the innocent, noble one. The way the situation is portrayed makes the audience root for the man and against the woman.

While I think that this ad is mostly degrading towards women I can also see the argument that the man is stereotyped as well. He appears, at the beginning, to be a sleazy cheater. The commercial clearly depends and plays on gender stereotypes in the audience.

An Objection to Objectification

Advertisements that sexualize and objectify women are common due to the sexist idea that women must please men. Simone de Beauvoir said, “She appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex.” (pg 33) This advertisement plays into that readily.

It begins with a man admiring a woman wearing a cleavage-revealing dress. The woman shouts at and slaps him, but then suddenly starts caressing him seductively. This reinforces the stereotype that women are emotional creatures with constant mood swings. She starts murmuring sexual lines to him: “Are you going to look at me all day? Or maybe… you want to go for a ride?” She dips a finger into the cream of his coffee. Some drips down her front, and the camera zooms in to frame her breasts. The man leans forward, only to find he has been touching a car. The woman had been treated as an object by the advertisement, but now, she is literally objectified into the product being marketed.

Commoditization of women and sex is problematic. An objectified woman becomes dehumanized and viewed as a sex object that pleases men. She is not human; rather, she is something appealing that can be used to sell things to heterosexual males, who will enjoy the commercial most.

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.

Breaking the Stereotype… of Beer Commercials

This afternoon I came across a video about a new Guinness beer commercial.  I  expected nothing short of the usual – something fairly humorous, possibly sexual, and likely full of very attractive women (housewives) who were gladly serving their couch-ridden-foam-finger-wearing  husbands a nice tall (manly) beer.  I was completely wrong.  This commercial has received attention for sending out a completely different message than those of other beer commercials.  It depicts a group of men in wheelchairs playing an intense game of basketball, after which all but one of the men stand up; they were using the chairs to include their friend.  The commercial then ends with a scene of all the men sitting around a table drinking beer together.  I thought it was wonderfully daring that a beer commercial made the switch from basic advertising techniques (women and sex) to instead portraying men as more respectful, brotherly, and sensitive.  Does anyone else think that this was a great commercial in that it doesn’t objectify women or portray men as dominant and sexual? Any other takes on it?