March 27, 2011

The Gap Vows to Be “Always Skinny”

Filed under: Advertising — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 9:50 pm

I came across this display at The Gap a few days ago. Not exactly subtle, eh?

From skinny pretzels and skinny soda cans to skinny water (yes, skinny water) and Skinnygirl Margarita, courtesy of reality star, Bethany Frankel, we’re a culture saturated with messages about getting skinny, staying skinny, and as The Gap proclaims, remaining skinny by any means necessary.

When body image activists call out products and advertising campaigns, like Urban Outfitters recent “Eat Less” t-shirt, for the irresponsible messages that cultivate, promote and reinforce unhealthy, even deadly, definitions of beauty, there’s always a backlash.

We’re overreacting. We have no sense of humor.  We must be ugly and bitter (after all, we’re jealous because we’re so damn ugly) if we object over the name of a pair dark-washed jeans or a bag or pretzels, the shape and name of a soda can or a brand of margarita mix. They’re harmless.

Perhaps, one bag of pretzels or one protein bar named “Think Thin,” might arguably be fairly innocuous and benign, but these messages and images are not isolated or few. They’re one in a torrential flood of repetitive images and messages actively constructing our cultural reality through the process of cultivation, a theory proposed by media experts George Gerbner and Larry Gross.

Cultivation is the building and maintenance of a stable set of images, a theory steeped in several longitudinal studies that assessed the behavioral and attitudinal effects of television. The studies revealed that long-term exposure of television shapes our ideas and concepts of reality; our expectations of others, our relationships, our dreams and goals and, ultimately, our view of ourselves.

I’m not concerned solely with The Gap’s jeans campaign. I’m distressed how message after message, image after image, reinforces a cult of thinness. This cult of thinness is not limited by age, race, or class. It’s a message that is ubiquitous and celebrated in every aspect of our media culture. Thinness is one of the primary components of our beauty ideal, the primary and, often sole way, girls and women are valued and ranked in our culture.

As my student, Elizabeth P., noted, “Because anorexia and harsh diets are no joke. Healthy balanced diets are always better than “always skinny” and skinny by all means.”

Am I taking these messages seriously? Absolutely. Am I taking them too seriously? Absolutely not. You can’t take these issues too seriously when 4th graders are dieting because they’re “scared” to be fat and women are dying.

I vow to be “always critical” and always expose the potency of media messages. After all, they’re the water we swim in and the air we breathe.

Cross-posted at WIMN’s Voices.

March 23, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Duke Nukem – Smack My Chick Up

Update: Randy Pitchford responded directly to this post.  Please see his response and my reply in the comments.

Following the incredibly sexist strip-club press event held for the release of the upcoming video game, Duke Nukem Forever, I thought we had finally hit rock bottom.  I was wrong.

This week, developer Gearbox Software announced the multiplayer options that will be available in the latest installment of the franchise,, including a spin on “Capture the Flag”, titled “Capture the Babe.”  Rather than trying to steal another team’s actual flag or taking an enemy captive, the objective is to “capture” a woman.

The first reports about “Capture the Babe” stated that while playing, you slapped “the babe” in the face to get her to calm down.  The CEO of Gearbox Software, Randy Pitchford took to twitter to correct everyone – it turns out she gets slapped on the ass instead of the face.  Here’s a quick note for Mr. Pitchford – slapping a woman who is scared and trying to break free, on the ass, instead of the face doesn’t make it better. It means the word “sexual” should be added to the assault.

As CEO, Randy Pitchford is the one in charge, and I have no problem blaming him for the consistent misogynistic crap his company continues to promote.  In fact, he thinks it’s “great” and “awesome” that he has angered feminists with the game’s promotion of sexual violence and objectification of women.  Randy, you know what’s not awesome?  The reality of sexual violence against women – statistics, such as, there’s a woman sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. According to Pitchford, the game can be used by feminist organizations as a teaching tool.  I guess it never occurred to him that making a game that promotes respect towards women could achieve the same educational effect.

By not just allowing, but rather, encouraging sexual violence to be perpetuated against women, Randy Pitchford (and Gearbox Software) are not only affecting the gaming community, but rather society as a whole, by adding on to the millions of images and messages that further promote and perpetuate a culture of violence against women.  If Randy really thinks the work that feminist organizations are doing is “really important” then maybe he should try changing the messages in Gearbox’s games to include positive female role models, rather than to promote violent gameplay against women.

March 17, 2011

Feminist Frequency + Feminist Fatale on KPFK’s Feminist Magazine

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 1:44 pm

On Wednesday, March 16, 2011 I joined Feminist Frequency‘s Anita Sarkeesian on KPFK’s Feminist Magazine in Los Angeles with host Lynn Harris Ballen. Anita discussed critical media literacy and vlogging as a viable way to bring feminist and gender critiques to audiences outside academia in a way that makes them, not only more accessible, but more relatable. I join the end of her segment to discuss WAM! LA 2011, the second annual WAM-It-Yourself event in Los Angeles, hosted at Santa Monica College. Tune in for Anita’s engaging discussion and details on next week’s line-up of presenters from visual artist Daena Title, the editors of Ms. Magazine discussing the first year of the Ms. Magazine blog to body image activist, Claire Mysko, author of Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?, to Anita herself plus many more. Don’t forget to RSVP to the event here.

Anita Sarkeesian and Melanie Klein on KPFK’s Feminist Magazine

March 6, 2011

Tell Snooki & Corporate Execs that We Want Media Literacy!

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 4:50 pm

Via Reality Bites Back author, Jennifer L. Pozner–>>START A NEW FB MEME: Jersey Shore’s Snooki sold approx. 9,000 copies of her book. Her costar, The Situation, sold 12,000 copies of his. If each of my FB friends and twitter followers buys one copy of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, for yourself and for a friend, we can beat their sales and prove that the public wants media literacy. Pass it on!

March 2, 2011

Twitter Guide for Feminists

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 12:14 pm

Originally posted at Gender Focus by Jarrah Hodge. Cross-posted with permission.

 

For the two years I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve found it to be a really great place for keeping track of news about gender issues and networking with other feminists.

But for new users, it can be difficult to use Twitter effectively. I often hear people complaining that ”all it is is people talking about what they ate for lunch”. I can also see feminists maybe getting turned off given some of the offensive hashtags that end up becoming trending topics, like #rulesforgirls and #ihatewomenwho.

Although I admit I tweet a fair bit about what I’m eating, there’s a lot more to Twitter than the mundane. I’ve tried to list the top Twitter accounts for feminists to follow in a variety of categories, in no particular order. I follow almost 300 related Twitter accounts and I found it difficult to narrow it down. I’d love to hear in the comments below which accounts you think should be added.

To follow the complete list of feminist accounts I follow, check out the list page here. And follow me and the latest from Gender Focus @jarrahpenguin.

Top Hashtags to Keep an Eye On

  • #shepartyThis is a hashtag used for a weekly feminist discussion session hosted by the Women’s Media Center each Wednesday from 12-3 PM EST. It’s a great way to use Twitter to network with other feminists and chat with special guests.
  • #fem2 – Probably the most popular catch-all hashtag for feminist topics.

(more…)

February 27, 2011

Live-Blogging the Oscars

Filed under: Event,Film,Gender,Media — Tags: , — Rachel @ 4:34 pm

This liveblog is in reverse-chronological order.  Refresh the page for the latest updates.

8:36 Well it was an underwhelming and mildly offensive show.  Recap with more in-depth thoughts to be posted tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

8:14 Is there a reason why most of the best actress clips are of the women in pain?  Just wondering.

8:02 Academy brought out a woman to introduce a woman, to introduce a woman, but, whoops, forgot to nominate a woman.

7:50 I find the idea of women’s “goddess”-ness being tied to smooth legs, really, really problematic.

7:41 Well, I’m offended by the lack of diversity throughout the show.

7:28 I seriously do not understand this obsession with the early Oscars, all it does is show how far Hollywood hasn’t come, with about as much diversity in 2011 as there was in the 1950s.

7:24 Sorry for the slow updates, haven’t seen anything offensive or great in a while.

6:48 Well that’s twice that a woman was part of a winning team and didn’t get in a word.  Not sure if it was decided beforehand who would speak, but just an observation.

6:28 Academy is better at recognizing women filmmakers when looking at foreign movies, apparently.

6:26 Disappointed to see cross-dressing being played for laughs.

6:12 Why is this show glamorizing “old” Hollywood so much, conveniently ignoring that it was full of racism, sexism, etc.?

5:57 Aaaand, now he’s hitting on the winner too.

5:55 Hailee Steinfeld is in the wrong category – should be “Best Actress”, she is the star of True Grit.

5:53  The whole Kirk Douglas-Anne Hathaway thing had a cringeworthy “creepy old man” vibe to it.

5:45 Sad to see the woman (set director) not able to get in a word during the first win.

(more…)

February 17, 2011

Beyonce Dropped The F-Bomb!

I must admit that I get excited when I hear anyone embrace the term ‘feminist’, especially in the world of modern media; that is, of course, until that person refers herself as a ‘mama grizzly‘.  So naturally, when I came across an MTV interview in which Beyonce used the term to define herself, I was rightfully stoked.

I think I am a feminist in a way. It’s not something I consciously decided I was going to be; perhaps it’s because I grew up in a singing group with other women, and that was so helpful to me. It kept me out of so much trouble and out of bad relationships. My friendships with my girls are just so much a part of me that there are things I am never going to do that would upset that bond. I never want to betray that friendship because I love being a woman and I love being a friend to other women.

I have been a fan of Beyonce’s for years,  ever since Destiny’s Child’s second CD The Writings on The Wall came out in 1999.   They gave a fresh, young perspective on their experiences in the world as women and I sincerely respected their musical talent and honesty.    Those are qualities that I respect about Beyonce to this day.

There has been much debate within the feminist blog-o-sphere  about whether Beyonce’s lyrics (specifically those of Single Ladies) should be considered empowering.  Empowerment is the foundation for all feminist approaches and one might argue that for a woman to say to a man, “this is my bottom line, take it or leave it”, regardless of what that bottom line is, is the very definition of empowerment.  Clearly Beyonce is not a Women’s Studies major with years of feminist theory under her belt; however, she’s never claimed to be.  Despite the fact that she is not the first pop star to openly categorize herself as a feminist (TLC’s Chili, Lady Gaga, Ellen Page and Ryan Gosling are also on the f-train), Beyonce’s positive acceptance of a term deemed so negative by the media is most definitely praiseworthy.   Considering the fact that feminism has been (and still is) regarded as a movement that is no longer relevant, it is extremely important for celebrities to encourage a supportive conversation regarding feminism- as they can reach a demographic that otherwise wouldn’t think twice about it. Not everyone has the privilege of growing up with positive female relationships like Beyonce and I personally wasn’t able to foster my own until I took a Women’s Studies course; but the beauty is that while our phenomonologies are vastly different, we can still come together as empowered women willing and able to advocate for ourselves.


February 10, 2011

Rants Of A Gamer Girl: Is Carol Lieberman The Worst “Expert” In The World?

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rachel @ 10:00 am

This article has been updated and revised in light of the information released a few hours after it was posted.

Most of what is covered in this column deals with the sexist crap spewed forth by the video game industry.  However, Fox News posted a story, a couple days ago, proving that the sexism surrounding video games doesn’t solely lie with developers, retailers, and gamers.

Fox News posed the question: “Is Bulletstorm The Worst Video Game In The World?”  They didn’t outright answer whether it is or not, but I get the feeling they hoped readers came away thinking “Yes!”  Now, if you think it’s the worst video game in existence, I’m already going to be questioning your knowledge of the form of media.

For a little background, Bulletstorm is rated M (Mature), which means it’s only considered suitable for players age 17 and over.  It’s not law – but, neither is the MPAA.  These are guidelines, and much like the “R” rating on any one of the thousands of incredibly violent movies that exist, it is the responsibility of the parent, not developers or artists or filmmakers, to make sure that the product doesn’t fall into the hands of children.

The author interviewed psychologist, author, and “expert” (quotes because it’s still not clear what exactly she’s an expert in), Carole Lieberman.  She stated there was a direct link between sexual content in video games and sexual violence – something that is “highlighted so well in Bulletstorm”  Unfortunately, there are no links, explanations, or statistics supplied in the article to support her assertions.

The gaming community, essentially accused of being on the brink of turning into sex offenders, based solely on their fondness for playing video games, began to fight back.   Lieberman’s books have been flooded with negative reviews on Amazon.  K-Mart has posted a blog on their gaming site refuting the accusations made by Lieberman and the other “experts” interviewed.

Kotaku, the Gawker Media gaming website, that originally brought much of the communities attention to the Fox News article, called Ms. Lieberman this afternoon, in an attempt for clarification of the statements she made in the original story.  She agreed to an interview, and told Kotaku that “The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content, the more likely one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them.”

When asked for a source that supported this, Ms. Lieberman referenced “thousands” of studies that prove her assertion.  However, she was unable to provide the name, author, or title of even one study.  Accusing gamers of being on the verge of becoming rapists and sexual offenders is disgusting, and damaging – to gamers, women, and feminists.  To drag the victims of sexual assault into a debate with not one fact to back it up, isn’t just stupid (as it doesn’t take into account that women now make up almost half of the gaming community), it’s irresponsible as well.  Lieberman admitted to Kotaku that she hasn’t played any video games in her lifetime; making video games the villain of society is nothing new, but Carol Lieberman has taken fear-mongering to a new low.

February 8, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Welcome To Titty City

Filed under: Gaming,Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 7:01 pm


The above images are from the press event for “Duke Nukem Forever” and appear on the
official Facebook page and blog of 2k Games.

Yesterday, a press event was held in Las Vegas for the newest installment in the Duke Nukem video game series. The developers invited the press to learn more about the game, and play a demo of the upcoming release.  The game has been in development off-and-on for over ten years, finally being completed by Gearbox Software.

Now, Duke Nukem is certainly not a series that is known for it’s positive portrayals of women, or high-brow comedy.  However, they brought the 3-D objectification of women in their games into the real world, by holding the event in a temporarily renovated strip club.  (Most developers hold press events in hotel conference rooms or large offices.)  The signage outside the strip club was replaced to advertise “Duke Nukem’s Titty City.”  Arrows pointed men and women in different directions, and the demo screens were set up around stripper poles on small tables.  President of Gearbox, and former employee of 3D Realms (the original Duke Nukem company), Randy Pitchford, took to the main stripper stage to make the announcements.

Rather than focus on the first-person shooter gameplay, or the game’s lengthy development process, Gearbox instead decided to focus on the sexist environment they’ve created, and to make it their main selling point.  Women were hired to parade around in tiny outfits to bring drinks and snacks to the press.  Gearbox and 2k games updated their twitter feeds throughout the event, and posted pictures on the official blog, like outlines of topless women painted in neon colors, or “Hail To The King” posters with women depicted as submissive sex objects.

Female game journalists had to watch and listen to the exclusive announcements being made, in a building called “Titty City.”  (And women were there, they can be seen in the pictures posted from the event.)  To anyone who insists there isn’t sexism in the gaming industry, that everyone’s a big happy family, that gender doesn’t make any difference, I’d really like to hear their take on this event.  Because to hold a press event in a building where women are objectified, every. single. day. is to ignore the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of every female gamer, journalist, and  employee in the industry.  It’s these attitudes and behaviors that are so pervasive throughout the entire industry, that cause websites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty to exist.


January 18, 2011

Mattie Ross: True Brat?

Filed under: Film,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , — Rachel @ 7:53 pm

The following post contains spoilers for the film “True Grit”


This morning Rachel Simmons tweeted a link to a story on her blog – a high school girl’s take on the adolescent female characters in the recent films, Somewhere and True Grit.   I was pleasently surprised when seeing True Grit, that the star of the film is a smart, brave, headstrong, gutsy, no-nonse 14-year old heroine named Mattie.  Unfrotunately the high school blogger who penned ““True Grit” and “Somewhere” Star Girls but Fail Girlhood” didn’t see her in the same positive light.

In fact, Fiona Lowenstein describes Mattie as: one-dimensional, “caricature”, “annoying, impossible to relate to, and not at all believable”, “dislikable”, “a joke”, ” self-satisfied” “irritating”, “rude”, “arrogant”, “braided blowhard”, “grating”, “smug”, and “pushy”.

Even if Mattie does come across this way – let’s look at a few reasons why she might be such a “grating, pushy, blowhard.”  First, when the movie opens, her father has just been murdered by a handyman he had hired to help him.  Then she’s not taken seriously by the horse salesman who tries to screw her out of money that is rightfully hers because he sees her as some silly illiterate 14-year old girl.  She tries to hire Rooster Cogburn, but he also sees her as an idiotic adolescent.  The Texas Ranger La Boeuf informs her the only reason he’s not sexually assaulting her is because she’s so ugly.  Shortly thereafter Cogburn lies and leaves without her.  The La Bouef lies and says he’s taking Tom Chaney when they find him so he can get payout on a contract. Now what could possibly compel Mattie’s character to have a defensive, head-strong attitude?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she’s mistreated every step of the way.  Oh, and it’s not the guys who end up taking down Chaney and saving the day.  When Mattie confronts him, she shoots Chaney twice, on two separate occasions.

Additionally, Fiona places the entire blame for her view of the above characteristics of Mattie on the Coen Brothers.  Apparently before going on a completely uninformed rant, she couldn’t be bothered to google to find out any history whatsoever about the film.  Like, that it was originally a book published in 1968 by Charles Portis, or that it was made as a film in 1969, starring John Wayne.  To say that the Coen Brothers may have written Mattie (which they didn’t – Charles Portis did) as “a joke” is to have zero familiarity of the history of their work.  In fact, the Coen Brothers stuck more closely to the source material than the original film adaptation.  (In the John Wayne version, the men do ultimately kill Chaney and save the day.)

The unfortunate thing about Fiona’s post is that it has the potential to turn young women away from the movie, and the Coen Brothers other films, when her piece was neither constructive or researched in any way.  Furthermore, is this the type of post that belongs on the website of an author who uncovered girl-on-girl crime in adolescence?  Is calling a female character a blow-hard helping anyone?  I certainly don’t think so.  An uninformed voice is a potentially harmful one.

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