August 15, 2010

Badvertising: Do You Want Some Ass With That Shake?

Filed under: Advertising,Media Gallery — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 10:09 am

Ad taken from Maxim, July 2010.



July 1, 2010

Sex, Virtue and Restraining Orders in Twilight's Eclipse

Yesterday, the third installment of the The Twilight Saga was released. Though I’m sure that you already heard unless you live in a cabin with no electricity or under a rock or in the mountains of Forks, Washington….even then I’d find it hard to believe you were completelyunawares. For many reasons that have nothing to do with a feminist critique this film was a lot better than its predecessor. But, from a feminist perspective, it was full of just as many reasons to want to ring Bella’s (Kristin Stewart) neck and issue restraining orders against both Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner).

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May 3, 2010

The Token Feminists are Missing

A few months ago, I saw the-little-remix-video-that-could Buffy vs. Edward , and I subsequently fell back in love with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” (No kidding – I’ve watched the first three seasons on Netflix in the last 4 weeks). I started watching Buffy when I was 13, in the prime of my uncomfortable adolescence – we’re talking the braces, puffy hair, nose is too big for my face, but I’ve only just realized that….yeeeah. But it wasn’t all bad, and I’ve certainly heard worse junior high/high school horror stories. And, of course, I had Buffy….

One of my favorite aspects of the way that Buffy was written is the fact that she was not continually made into a victim before she had to opportunity to protect/defend herself or others. And, the vast majority of female characters are given power to protect themselves (whether it was physical [e.g. Faith] or supernatural [e.g. Anya and Willow]). I’m not going to waste too much time singing the praises of how Buffy (though sadly not Gellar herself), as well as her creator Joss Whedon, are feminist. That has been written. Many, many times. There are some valid complaints, but overall Buffy was, and continues to be, a great example of what we’re capable of. However, if you’re still not convinced and want to fight about I’ll definitely take you on *note sarcasm.*

Feeling a little drunken 90′s nostalgia, I realized that it wasn’t just Buffy. Through all of my phases and changes, I had many strong female characters to model my confused, dorky, adolescent self after. In retrospect the 90’s seem to be the era of fabulous feminist characters: Roseanne, Jesse Spano (Saved by the Bell), Murphy Brown, Rory Gilmore, The Powerpuff Girls, Dana Foster (Step-by-Step), Lisa Simpson, Andrea Zuckerman (90210), A Different World (several characters over the course), Dharma (Dharma and Greg), Marcy D’Arcy (Married with Children), Dark Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, BlossomJoey and Jen (Dawson’s Creek)….ok, I think you get the point.

So, now what I do want to know if where are all of the feminist characters? Why is it that all we see are these vapid, homogeneous, BORING female characters? Given the fact that the media that young women consume (everyone really, but I’ve never been an adolescent boy) serves as such an incredibly strong influence/unavoidable force on the creation of our self-identity and personal paradigm – I’m left wondering if Bella Swan, the girls from The Hills, Sookie oh-so-annoying Stackhouse, and Tina Fey  are the only examples that this generation of young women are growing up with? For the life of me I can’t find one female character on television that I would want my young daughter looking up to (sadly, not even my beloved Mad Men is stacking up).

What’s worse is that it isn’t just the characters. The actresses that are playing these less-than-role-model-worthy characters – or themselves (e.g. The Hills) – are not quick to pick up a feminist lifeline. Kristin Stewart has said that she doesn’t understand why feminists critique The Twilight Saga, and that “Bella wears the pants in the relationship. She’s the sure-footed, confident one…It takes a lot of power and strength to subject yourself to someone completely, to give up the power.” WHAT? Are we talking about the same story? The one where her boyfriends is a sexist stalker and she is powerless to defend herself?? She has also discussed how she grew up feeling like as a woman she could do anything.

And, there – in that statement – are our answers. The media has convinced this generation of young women that feminism is obsolete, that it’s outdated and outmoded, and that to align yourself with it is to be a pariah. They truly believe that we are living in a post-feminist world. I have heard the word “humanist” being substituted where “feminist” used to live comfortably in the mouth….and heart.

Seems a dangerous world to live in where we have to convince even the young women that the gender balances are unequal….they have finally convinced them that the lies are the truth. That we are powerful as long as we are sexy…and, so, this is what they strive for…..

April 23, 2010

Archie, Veronica….meet Kevin!

When I was a kid my Dad had a huge trunk FULL of “Archie” comics in the basement. Leftovers from his childhood, I suppose. When I found them I literally devoured them, and gained a few of my very own. I was really excited to hear today that the comics writers will be introducing a new character this fall – Kevin Keller who will be openly homosexual. I would venture a guess that the original writers from way back in 1939 would’ve never have guessed that would happen! (And, the conservative Archie lovers are having a field day!) Apparently, the storyline is that Veronica has a crush on Kevin and he has to find a way to let her down….gently, of course.

We’ll be keeping an eye out in September to see how awesomely the Archie folks handle this subject!

April 21, 2010

Axe wants you to "showerpool" this Earth Day

Leave it to AXE to bring us Showerpooling just in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day tomorrow. AXE Canada, in conjunction with WWF-Canada, bring you “showerpooling” as an environmental measure aimed at helping Canadians conserve water by showering with friends.

I have no issue with environmentalism, water conservation or co-showering. But, AXE’s main intention is not water conservation. It’s selling a heterosexual male fantasy that includes slippery encounters with multiple women. Remember, these are the people that want to give you hair action and have a history of over-the-top sexually explicit ads that usually involve fantasized orgies of some sort (remember, “real men” are uncontrollable sex monsters). Does anyone remember the  2005 ad with the shower and a row of towels labeled: his, hers, her sisters, her roommate’s?

Or what about the AXE shower power tool for your man parts? After all, no “real” guy uses a loofah and the shower power tool “washes off  Jessica’s perfume off your ear” and “scrubs Jessica’s Mom’s perfume off your knees.” (Read the analysis at Sociological Images here.)

Earth Day 40 is big business and AXE is just another company seeking to profit from this event by selling the idea of one man having sex with multiple women by using their shower gel. Check their facebook page. It’s no big secret. Every image shows one man with one or two, five or ten women. And the last image in the sequence is the showerpooling essential, their stinky body wash.

Yeah, I’m all about water conservation and showering with my partner, my toddler son or some of my best friends. According to AXE, though, showerpooling is an act of water conservation that can only be performed by one man with several women with shower gel in hand. Afterall, “it’s not just environmentally friendly, it’s all kinds of friendly.” Wink.

If I’m going to conserve water in the shower, I’ll do it without a group ratio of 1:5 men to women, and without their sexist and toxic product (a toxic product doesn’t seem environmentally friendly, does it?). Or I’ll just cut down my own shower time.

April 17, 2010

Marc Jacobs is a misogynist v 2.0

After posting the latest disturbing images from Marc Jacobs the other day and connecting it to the larger array of images in advertising in the ad-round up, I have found a few of the images from his 2005 ad campaign. The series of images below are not complete. They are the only 3 I have found (so far) in my mammoth private collection of ads over the last decade. The image in the middle is from the January 2005 issue of Vogue. I did not accurately label the other two images but they were also found in mainstream fashion magazines from the same time period.

What’s particularly interesting and disturbing about these images is how much they resemble the work of photographer Melanie Pullen. In 2005, I went to see Pullen’s exhibit High Fashion Crime Scenes at the ACE Gallery in Beverly Hills. Pullen recreated from files obtained from the Los Angeles and New York Police Department’s and various coroner’s offices, crimes that took place at the beginning of the last century. She recreated these crime scenes by outfitting models in high-fashion clothing (Prada and Gucci) and shoes (Jimmy Choos and Marc Jacobs, ironically). Her work is coupled with an artist’s statement that indicates her intention in critically examining the glamorization of violence and the distraction of  that violence through the use of beautiful women in beautiful clothes. The fashion industry barrages us with seemingly normative images of violence against women in mainstream magazines advertising everything from clothing to perfume. These instances are exactly what Pullen is attempting to examine.

The difference between Jacobs and Pullen? Pullen’s work is accompanied with an artist’s statement and takes a critical eye at this rather gruesome trend and asks that we become aware of our tendency to focus on the beauty of the images while ignoring their brutality (they are images of actual crime scenes, after all). Jacobs’ work does not come with an artist’s statement. Instead, he is on the other side of the issue.

April 16, 2010

Advertised Masculinity

Filed under: Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 4:40 pm

I’m still rummaging through my ad archives and feverishly scanning parts of my massive collection. Lets see how advertisers represent masculinity (circa 2004-2005). NOTE: For more on masculinity, see the work of my hero, Jackson Katz.

1. Sexual. So sexually ravenous and energetic that they need protein-infused energy bars to handle all that action.

2. Hey, men are so horny that they try to get it at work. In the second ad sexual harassment becomes a joke.

3. Violent as depicted in this ad featuring brand names Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel and Puma. Note the open pornographic magazine on the floor. Timely in light of Robert Jensen‘s recently posted interview on pornography, masculinity, racism, misogyny and media literacy.

NOTE: Often, violence/aggression and sexuality are interwoven in the construction of masculinity. Search or click on the categories at left: violence, sexuality, aggression, masculinity for related posts.

4. Stoic, unemotional and/or uninterested in relationships. “Disposable, just like your ex.” Stuff Magazine, 2004.

5. The photo below the disposable razor ad is a picture that accompanied an article in FHM titled “How to Dump Your Ex.”

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Botox: The One. The Only.

Filed under: Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 3:38 pm

In my promise to unearth my old Marc Jacobs ads, I’ve uncovered hundreds of forgotten ads that I collected between 1999-2006. I’ve been meaning to scan and post them for over a year and this is the perfect opportunity.

I’ll start with these Botox ads from circa 2004. Botox as empowerment? Bridal Botox. Afterall, can YOU think of a better reason. Take a gander. Click on the image to enlarge.

April 15, 2010

Marc Jacobs is a Mysogynist

Filed under: Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 10:06 pm

What other explanation is there for a company that continues to create ad campaigns that depict women as 1. disposable 2. victims, sometimes disposable victims.

If you saw the ad round-up posted recently, you have seen the patterns, image after image reinforcing narrow and limiting themes of women in advertising.  To see the images lined up next to one another takes on a remarkable quality and produces a powerful impact. I know it did for me when I saw all of the ads put together, even after 15 years of conscious and critical analysis.

With that said, I’ve seen scores and scores of ads as a consumer and even more through the lens of a media critic and, unsurprisingly, in that process I have become a bit desensitized. Oh, another super skinny model, another model posed passively, and on it goes. I’ve seen such awful ads that many have become less shocking because there are others that are so much worse.

Marc Jacobs continues to strike me with the blatant devaluing of women and the often brutal or degrading circumstances in which they are depicted. The two below are no expection.

Top: Marc Jacobs ad from the March 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar (Kate Moss is on the cover)

Bottom: Marc Jacobs ad from the March 2010 issue of W (Megan Fox on the cover).

They’re both disturbing (and entirely unnecessary to sell whatever they’re trying to sell: the bag? the shoes?) but the bottom is one is what really made me cringe. Do we need to draw on rape scenes of women assaulted in back alleys? It reminds me of the Marc Jacobs ad campaign circa 2005 when shoes were being sold by placing them on models whose feet would be attached to a lifeless body on the ground, legs poking out from behind a bush. Yup, more images of disposabe, victimized women. I’ll be rummaging through my collection of ads to post them if you’re in the least bit skeptical or doubt me.

So, not much has changed in 5 years. In fact, not much has changed in over 30 years. Check out the vintage ad for shoes from 1974 that Ms.Blog posted yesterday. The fact that these images have not changed drastically in several decades solidifies my commitment to remaining vigilant and using my media literacy skills to call out the misogynistic companies that use victimized, brutalized and disposable women as ways to make a profit. Shame on you.

April 12, 2010

Tina Fey ribs "Bombshell" McGee

Ok. Yes. I’ll admit it. Tina Fey cracked me up with the whole “ran out of room on the labia” thing! But, my reaction is pretty well versed in this quote/comment from Dustin Time beneath the Huffington Post article (one of the only comments with a pro-woman stance that didn’t think bashing McGee was the appropriate avenue to traverse) :

Yeah, but on the other hand… it’s sort of perverse for women sympathetic to Bullock to direct their venom at this relatively powerless, easy-target female instead of James himself–the one who made the vows to Bullock, the one who clearly didn’t need a temptress to stray sordidly…

So much for sisterhood.

I agree, DustinTime. Fey also did a sketch that that poked fun at one of Tiger Woods’ mistresses, as well. I think that all of the laughs tie right back into Melanie’s post about female relationships. I doubt that Bullock and McGee will ever be friends, or even friendly (despite today’s apology), but to blindly laugh at Tina’s jokes and  not recognize that we’re perpetuating the cycle of false, harmful, damaging female relationships and stereotypes is basically accepting that their existence is inevitable.

Sady at Feministe.com said:

I will go a step further, and point out that a lot of the “fun” is… well, just straight-up misogynist stereotyping.

I’m with DustinTime & Sady here; let’s stop blaming McGee for “ruining” Sandra’s life and start pointing the fingers where they belong…..

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