January 6, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Playstation Is My Least Favorite Console

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 10:12 pm

Yesterday Sony announced their newest innovation on the Playstation 3 network: women in bikinis – in 3D!  Starting on February 15th, gamers can download the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition to their PS3.  As if the objectification of women in games themselves wasn’t bad enough already, now sexism is available as a 12 HOUR VIDEO DOWNLOAD.

Don’t female gamers already have to put up with enough crap between pink-cutesy-targeted-advertising, hiding our genders in gamer tags, harassment, the inability to chat in an online match, insulting training videos, and horrible portrayals as playable characters?  Well at least now I know some higher-up at Sony is a sexist asshole, pretty much guaranteeing I won’t be spending money on their products anytime soon.  If Playstation is flaunting their latest innovation as being the three dimensional objectification of women in skimpy clothing, I can’t say I’m a fan of the PS3 right now.

January 3, 2011

What Reality TV Taught Me About Sluts, Waifs, Douchebags and Angry Black Women

Originally posted at Ms. Magazine. Cross-posted at Adios Barbie.

Is every woman either desperate to get married (Bridezillas), a slut/bitch (Rock of Love) or a beauty-obsessed waif (America’s Next Top Model)? Is every man either a despicable douchebag (Tool Academy) or a thugged-out gangsta (again, Tool Academy)?

If we were to judge from the reality TV shows that have populated our cultural landscape over the last decade, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

Reality TV is replete with regressive portrayals of men and women–what Jennifer Pozner, author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV and director of Women in Media and News, dubs the “genre’s most overused, egregious, and cliched stock characters.”

Given the ever-increasing hordes of “reality” shows and their influence on our perceptions of what is “real,” I’d say it’s high time for some lessons in media literacy.

Media literacy education has been deemed essential preparation for children and adults alike in our 21st century environment, in which hardly a moment of our life goes unmediated. Media literacy advocates aren’t stumping for censorship, or discouraging popular media consumption entirely, but rather encouraging consumption with a critical eye. As Pozner recently said on AOL’s TV Squad:

If you enjoy reality television, I’m not here to tell you to dump ‘The Bachelor’…[Media literacy is] about learning to keep your critical faculties engaged, and that’s difficult because we turn on the television seeking entertainment, and we assume that entertainment means we don’t have to think.

Pozner has some creative ways to increase media literacy. She tells Bitch:

On the Reality Bites Back website there are Reality TV Mad Libs that are designed to increase media literacy. There is also a “Deconstruction Guide” with questions that people should keep in mind when they’re watching reality shows—or when they’re engaging with any other kind of media. There are tips for parents about how you can talk with your children about media literacy and how to let the kids guide that discussion. There are a lot of how-tos that make it fun to explore media literacy, so it’s not just medicine that you take.

My favorite of Pozner’s media literacy tools is her “Reality Rehab” web show, a hilarious, SNL-like spin on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” that borrows you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up dialogue and scenes from reality TV shows (“I would be a servant to you”). In each webisode, “Dr. Jenn” helps one of reality TV’s most persistent stock characters (“The Slutty Bitch,” “The Angry Black Woman,” “The Top Model,” “The Real Housewife”) break out of his or her stereotype. After completing a stint in Reality Rehab, which combines “media literacy therapy” with “confessional cam” monologues, the characters emerge fully-dimensional human beings once more. Here’s Douchebag Dude, webisode 6:

In the process, the characters share insights into the machinations of reality TV: how producers use casting, “Frankenbite” editing and various production tricks to turn fully dimensional beings into one-dimensional tropes. By revealing these mechanisms, Pozner aims “to get people to become more critical media consumers, especially in relation to the regressive gender, racial, class and sexuality tropes hawked within the reality TV genre.”

When I incorporated the webisodes into my own women’s studies curriculum this semester, they did just that, to judge by my students’ comments:

From explaining to the “top model” that she is never going to be a top model because she does not fit the extremely limited and one-dimensional mold that America’s Next Top Model makes their girls fit into, to telling “the bachelorette” that she should not waste her time settling for sloppy, egotistical men who have stuck their tongues down twenty-five girl’s throats, Jenn is definitely helping the “stars” and viewers make sense of this reality show world that has completely consumed them. – Andrea S., a 19 year-old Sociology major

As a reality television viewer, it is so easy to get sucked in and believe that what I am watching is real footage of people’s lives. Jennifer Pozner, and her websidodes, help to effectively use media literacy to expose how reality television warps the idea of “real” and alters it into something completely different. It was nice to get some reality rehab for myself! Chandler R., an 18 year-old Anthropology major

Indeed, everyone could use some “reality rehab.” To assume that we’re immune from the regressive tropes and values espoused by reality TV is to be ostriches with our heads buried in the sand. Whether we watch or not, everyone else does, and the lessons are insidious. It behooves all of us to sharpen our media literacy skills in order to challenge the toxic tales churned out by reality TV–and Pozner is leading the way.

Photo of The Apprentice’s Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth by Glenn Francis. Reused under Wikimedia Commons.

December 15, 2010

Hey Girl, Bet You Didn’t Know I’m A Feminist

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rachel @ 7:00 pm

The above image/title is reference to a very popular Ryan Gosling meme.  For more on that, see here or here.

Appeals for film ratings are not uncommon.  Filmmakers frequently protest when the MPAA dishes out a verdict they feel is undeserved.  So when Blue Valentine was rated NC-17, it wasn’t surprising when the producers filed for an appeal.  (An NC-17 rated film won’t be carried at most major theater chains, can not be attended by anyone 17 and under, and television networks and newspapers won’t run ads.)

As part of the appeal, the films stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams each composed letters defending the film, which ended up receiving a lot of press on a variety of blogs.  In his letter, Gosling stated:

“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.”

He also stated in an interview with E!

“The MPAA really needs to…There is something very distorted about this reality that they’ve created, which is that it is OK to torture women on screen…Any kind of violence towards women in a sexual scenario is fine. But give a woman pleasure, no way. Not a chance. That’s pornography.”

It’s surprising to hear anyone in Hollywood discussing the patriarchy and repression of women, even more so to hear a male movie star do so. The Notebook may be bad for you, but Ryan Gosling is good for feminism.  The filmmakers won their appeal, and Blue Valentine was issued an R-rating.  The film will open in limited release in the U.S. on December 31st, 2010.

December 6, 2010

How Jessica Coen Pulled A Maura Kelly

In 2007, when Jezebel first launched, and I started reading it, I never imagined it would be deleted from my “Bookmarks” folder.  They’ve had their share of controversies over the years, but I honestly can’t remember any of them being as bad as the one that took place in the last two weeks.

November 24th, an article titled “American Guy In Paris Freed From The Idea of Consent” was cross-posted on the front page of Jezebel.  Typically when Jezebel does cross-posts or re-posts, they include a lead-in or follow-up at the bottom of the post with information on the original website, author, and possibly why it was chosen to be included.

For example, when my “10 Commandments Of Pop Culture Feminism” piece was re-posted on Jezebel in May, the following information was included:

“By Rachel O’Connor

This post originally appeared on the site Feminist Fatale. Republished with permission.

The author of this post can be contacted at tips@jezebel.com

Simple referencing – who wrote the piece and where it came from.  “American Guy In Paris…” had none of the above mentioned links or explanations.  Instead, Edward Pasteck’s essay on how French women feel empowered by being street harrassed and assaulted and how consent is overrated only included a link to an email address.

If you’ve read the post, you likely already know that it was in very bad need of a lead-in or wrap-up with some sort of explanation for why Jezebel felt this was worthy to give space to.  The title, all on it’s own, is completely disgusting.  Honestly, when I finished reading it, I wondered for a few minutes if the website had been hacked – ‘surely the editors will delete this and post some sort of explanation for what the hell is going on’ I thought.  Needless to say, I was wrong.

Commenters were obviously, and justifiably furious.  (As of my writing, the post has over 75,000 views and over 2,000 comments.)  Why the hell was an essay that disputed consent being posted?  Had the editors taken into account how triggering and upsetting this would be for assault or rape survivors to read?  Apparently they hadn’t.

Now, this is where the Marie Claire/Maura Kelly comparison comes in.  The new editor-in-chief of Jezebel, Jessica Coen, offered a non-apology-apology in the comments of the original post over the Thanksgiving weekend.  She told readers that it wasn’t posted for traffic-baiting purposes, because that has no bearing on their success or paycheck (untrue – see here.)  She told those concerned about the triggering aspects of the post, that Jezebel never claimed to be a “safe space”, and that Edward Pastek may have bullshit views, but he’s articulate, thoughtful, and earnest! Attention Jessica Coen: “His misogynistic beliefs are really well articulated” isn’t a valid reason to give that type of shit space on one of the most popular feminist-leaning sites on the web.

The following Monday, Ms. Coen posted her “official” response, explaining that “Edward Pasteck” is a pseudonym, and he’ll remain anonymous.  Like Maura Kelly, Jessica only apologized for people being upset, and explained that she was just trying to start a discussion.  Apologies if this is starting to sound a lot like the Maura Kelly piece I wrote, but there are some “debates” that aren’t really debates at all – like, “Should fat people be treated like human beings?”, or now, “Why is consent a big deal?”.  Newsflash: people who think they don’t need another persons consent to touch/grope/have sex with them are criminals.

As if all of that wasn’t offensive enough, the same day Jessica Coen posted her official apology, she also posted a “Counterpoint” to the original piece.  An anonymous French woman was given space to dispute Edward Pasteck’s piece, although there was no deconstruction of any of the horribly offensive drivel he had written.  Instead the counterpoint can be summed up thusly – French women don’t really like to be street harassed.  Way to go Jezebel – you missed the point of the outrage entirely.  Soon the French woman’s post filled up with comments saying so.  Obviously the issue wasn’t “Hey! Women don’t like to be street harassed!”  Rather, thousands of readers were outraged by the “consent is for puritans and prudes” aspect of the original essay.

Apparently Jezebel isn’t concerned with keeping their reputation.  One as a blog that is feminist, forward-thinking, and progressive.  A website that doesn’t tolerate comments wherein people try to make excuses for street harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  I’ve felt the website has been in decline ever since the new editor-in-chief came on board – posts about feminist issues are more few and far between, the pages now being filled with more snap judgments and silly celebrity articles.  And as long as Jessica Coen is in charge, and the above mentioned policies are cast by the wayside, I won’t be reading.

November 9, 2010

Media Democracy: The Photobooth of Change v3.0

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:15 pm

If you could talk back to mainstream media, what would you say?

This Photo Booth of Change was created in WS30: Women and Pop Culture @Santa Monica College, Fall 2010 and compiled and edited by Carla Ohrendorff of ImMEDIAte Justice.

For v1.0 and v2.0 click on the following links:

Photo Booth of Change at WAM! Los Angeles, March 2010

Photo Booth of Change, WS30 @ Santa Monica College, Spring 2010

November 6, 2010

Maura Kelly: I Don’t Hate Fat People, They Just Disgust Me

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 2:49 pm

The above image is a collage of cover lines from various issues of Marie Claire.

Who the hell assigned a piece about an overweight TV couple to the same writer who admits she has struggled with an eating disorder and has a warped view of weight and body image?

Maura Kelly admits in her blog post for Marie Claire, “Should Fatties Get A Room? (Even On TV?)” that she never bothered to watch the show she was assigned to write about.  Now, I haven’t seen an episode of Mike and Molly either, but I don’t need to watch the CBS sitcom to know her post is disgusting, hateful, and ignorant.

Ms. Kelly attempts to defend her position by saying, “I have a few friends who could be called plump.”  See guys, she’s not hateful and fatphobic – her best friend is fat!  Kelly writes, “…obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.”  She’s obviously just worried about the health of all those fat people.  Which apparently makes her an expert on the matter.  It’s funny, I don’t remember seeing a credit at the bottom of the post that Maura Kelly is a physician who treats every overweight person in the country, including the stars of Mike and Molly.  This faux I’M-JUST-CONCERNED-FOR-YOUR-HEALTH bullshit has got to stop.

The post wasn’t up long before everyone took notice, and the backlash began.  Maura Kelly’s article now has over 3500 responses, and Marie Claire’s Facebook Page is now almost exclusively composed of comments criticizing the magazine for the original piece and their reaction that followed (more on that below.)

Maura Kelly edited her post to include an apology, but unfortunately it’s of the “I’m sorry you were all offended” variety.  She writes, “I would like to reiterate that I think it’s great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows — and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese.” Way to nullify the rest of your so-called-apology.

What I find interesting is that in her apology Maura Kelly offered up the personal admission that she has struggled with an eating disorder, which has likely warped her viewpoints on weight and body image.  I don’t disagree, and good for her for being a little self-aware but I’m confused about two things.  First, why someone with this kind of history would want to and end up writing for a magazine that promotes the distorted thinking, behavior, and imagery that leads to this type of illness.  Secondly why she’s using that as an apology in a post that uses such hateful language that it furthers a worth-is-weight-based thinking to their female readership.

The magazine’s official response has only made things worse.  The editors are now offering posts to bloggers who disagree, under the guise of “CounterPoints” which just continues the “We’re so ignorant it’s offensive” roll they seem to be on.  Trying to “debate” or have opposing “points” about whether overweight people should be treated like human beings is beyond nonsensical.  As if they had some valid “point” to begin with.

Marie Claire has reportedly received over 28,000 responses to the piece, which makes Ms. Kelly “excited.”  I’m not sure why someone would be “excited” about that many responses.  I’m confident a majority called Kelly out on her ignorance, stupidity, and I’ve seen more than a few requests to have her fired.  Readers have cancelled subscriptions, and are notifying the magazine they will never receive a dime from them ever again.  In an economy where magazines are crumbling left and right, I’m not sure that’s something to be too thrilled about.

I’m glad to see a majority of the responses to the piece and the follow-ups have been about how awful and terrible this piece is.  However, not everyone was disgusted by Maura Kelly’s writing:

Reading through Movieline’s (the website of the now defunct magazine) blog response to the original post and the shitstorm that followed, it’s obvious they missed the point entirely. Editor S.T. Vanairsdale writes about how Maura Kelly was just trying to start a conversation about how obesity is such a taboo subject.  I’m not sure how such gems as “I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room” adds anything worthwhile to the discussion, but I fail to see it.  Someone forgot to read the actual article before bitching about the “Whining Fat Mafia”.

Like with most things in the media, there’s no room for discussion, for talking about genetics, body types, diseases, or illnesses that can cause weight gain beyond the individuals control.  People like Maura Kelly and the media have this deluded view that if they just keep bombarding us with images of skinny models, diet tips, and terrifyingly unrealistic photoshopped pictures, that everyone will just slim down to a sample-size appropriate weight.

So congratulations Marie Claire, for making me think that Glamour’s Body-Size Acceptance Policy is revolutionary.  The magazine industry is crumbling, and I feel bad for any of the smart, non-hateful writers and workers who have jobs at the magazine, but I wouldn’t be sad to see the magazine that decided to stand behind this blogger come to a close.

Many commenters have called for a boycott of Marie Claire until Maura Kelly is fired.  That’s not enough for me.  The editor-in-chief has decided to stand behind Ms. Kelly and the piece she wrote.  I just don’t see a magazine that prides itself in being so ignorant and hateful being worthy of my dollars ever again.

October 22, 2010

LA EVENT: $hit My TV Says: Revealing Gender in Reality TV & Pop Culture

Why does pop culture culture reduce women and men to such limiting stereotypes? Why are reality TV’s stock characters (The Desperate Bachelorette, The Angry Black Woman, The Douchebag Dude) so regressive? Find out in the town that creates them at the L.A. book launch for Reality Bites Back! Expect critical media commentary, revealing insights about gender in pop culture — and lots of laughs.

The authors will read from and sign their books. And after: schmoozing. What could be better? Oh, it is free.

So far, 62 people have RSVP’d to the Nov. 17th LA Launch: $h*t My TV Says: Revealing Gender in Reality TV & Pop Culture. Are you coming, LA friends?

If so, RSVP at the Facebook page.

When: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 7:30PM- 9:30PM

Where: Stories Books and Cafe @ 1716 Sunset Blvd (in Echo Park)Los Angeles, CA

This is Jennifer L. Pozner’s  sole reading in L.A. on her book tour for Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV. It’s also going to be a ton of fun because she is sharing the mic with Shira Tarrant, who will be reading from her work on masculinity in pop culture, and with moderator Morgane Veronique Richardson, who will tie everything together!

Join us. And if you’re not in LA, here’s a calendar of all Jennifer Pozner’s tour November stops in NY, Philly, Denver, San Francisco, L.A., Boston and Washington, DC.

For Jennifer Pozner’s recent interview with Maclean’s, Canada’s biggest newsweekly, click here.

For a recent write-up on Shira Tarrant and links to her most recent articles and interviews, click here.

September 28, 2010

Mad Women: There’s No One To Talk To

Filed under: Gender,Mad Women,Media,Recaps — Tags: — Rachel @ 2:38 pm

While most recaps focus on the entire aspect of a show, this one’s going to be a little bit different.  As this is a feminist blog deconstructing images and portrayals of women in pop culture, why spend an entire post rambling on about the men of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price.  Instead, these recaps will focus on the women of Mad Men – the main ladies: Peggy, Joan, and Betty, and any new additions or guest stars – hence the title “Mad Women.”

Considering the amount of anger Betty has shown toward Don since the divorce, it was good to see her smiling; (I don’t think we’ve seen her smile all season, much less because of something that Don did.  It was really good to see him doing fun things for Sally.)  I was surprised to see Betty confronted with protecting Don’s identity and doing so.  It looked like it bothered him much more than her.  I think she’s becoming slightly wary of Henry, with him working long hours; hopefully a big difference between him and Don will be honesty.

No thoughts on Peggy this week, she was completely absent from this episode.

After the episode earlier this season where Joan visits her doctor, I was surprised to see the topic of abortion come up again this season.  (Its not the first time the topic has been addressed on the show, Betty considered and discussed it with Francine when she became pregnant with Gene at the end of the second season.)  It was curious how Roger wanted Joan to keep the child, but didn’t discuss or consider how she would support herself or the baby, with her husband off at war.  I wondered if she was so calm about the situation because she’s been through it before, and if he caught on to that.  The contrast of how abortion was treated then versus now wasn’t very big.  It is still a very taboo subject, despite the fact that it’s been legal for over thirty years.

Toni, Faye, Sally
I don’t know why, but I never took Lane for being socially progressive in his dating life.  The scene where Lane introduced Toni to his father was a bit awkward to say the least.  While he tried to play it off like it was nothing, I think she understood the racist undertones in his fathers excuses.  I’m curious whether he’ll do what his father says going forward, or stay with Toni, and continue his life in New York.

I wasn’t surprised to see that Faye was not upset by finding out that Don Draper isn’t who he pretends to be.  She was completely supportive and comforting of him while he fell apart and revealed his secrets.  Additionally she doesn’t care who he wants to say he is, it doesn’t matter if he still wants to be Don Draper or would like to start being Dick Whitman.  It was a really big moment for him, considering only Anna (who’s now gone) and Betty know.  I think Faye will be incredibly good for Don – she’s strong, independent, and speaks her mind without hesitation.

Leave your thoughts on Faye’s reaction to Dick Whitman, Joan and Roger’s future, and anything else from this episode in the comments.

September 27, 2010

Scholastic Books Encourages Girls to Seek Glamour and Boys to Seek Adventure

What year is this? 1880? 1922? 1957? 1963? 1978? 1982? 1997? 2010?

Well, according to the titles, it could be any of those years because not much has changed. Gender socialization is alive and well, folks. My former student, Jessie, wrote this after coming across more of the same:

As I was browsing Costco’s book section, I came upon the following: The Boys’ Book of Adventure: Are You Ready To Face The Challenge? & The Boys’ Book of Greatness: Even More Ways To Be The Best at Everything followed by The Girls’ Book of Glamour: A Guide To Being a Goddess & The Girls’ Book of Friendship: How To Be The Best Friend Ever.

Isn’t it lovely how Scholastic Books is publishing books that enforce gender-segregation (complete with “girl” and “boy” colors) which essentially maintain: little girls should be solely concerned with physical appearance and maintaining a relationships. Is adventure and greatness not suitable for little girls? I flipped through each of the books and found sections on “How to dress like a celebrity even if you’re not one” and “How to tie knots”. Guess which one was for little girls.

We often begin projecting socially constructed gender expectations on children before they’re even born, decorating the nursery in a specific color scheme. As soon as that child enters the world, the color codes, pierced ears, head bands on nearly bald heads and other clothing items designed for infants erect the gendered foundation that will provide the template for much of their lives. Add in toys, books, cartoons and video games and that foundation sprouts a framework for their identity, their relationships with others and  their world view. Throughout this process of gender socialization, beauty (with a disturbing increasing emphasis on “sexiness“) and relationships are emphasized for girls while independence and adventure are emphasized for boys.This trend continues well into adulthood through various agents of socialization, primarily the mass media which advertises normative masculinity and femininity.

Boys and men could learn a thing or two about cultivating and nurturing relationships. Enough with the lone adventurer- lets raise sensitive, strong and emotionally attuned boys and men. Simultaneously, beauty and relationships aren’t enough for girls and women. We need to redfine girly, offering our girls intellectual and physical challenges beyond the vanity and devalued emotional work.

We have much to gain from offering a full range of choices to boys and girls and valuing them equally.

For a fantastic video that re-imagines the Bronte sisters, see Step Aside Princesses, Here Come the Boomerang-Throwing Bronte Sisters.

Photograph courtesy of Jessie T.

September 24, 2010

George Clooney Is a Bachelor, Kim Kardashian Is a Spinster

Originally posted at Ms. Magazine.

It’s official. As Kim Kardashian approaches her 30th birthday in October, she is joining the ranks of women such as Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson: modern-day spinsters. There’s no comparable expression for men, such as 49-year-old unmarried George Clooney, who has traipsed around the globe parading a rotating bevvy of babes. Oh wait, he’s a bachelor.


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