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 8, 2011

How To Celebrate International Women’s Day From Your Comfortable Suburban Home

Filed under: Gender,Politics — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 1:27 pm
Originally posted at Pigtail Pals by Melissa Wardy. Cross-posted with permission.
My view of a day spent in a Cape Town township, South Africa.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  A day to celebrate economic, political, and social gains by women worldwide. Today we honor achievements, and remember the women before us who brought us to this day. Today. A day to celebrate women.

Sisters, wives,  mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, friends, schoolmates, and coworkers.  The women of our world.
Yet in many places of the world, today will pass without celebration. Odds are good somewhere a woman will cradle a starving or sick child. Somewhere a woman will receive verbal threats or a physical blow from an intimate partner. Somewhere a girl will be raped as she walks to school. Somewhere a woman will walk miles for the clean water she needs to feed her family the one meal a day they can afford.
Somewhere a woman will be informed she has lost her job because she had taken time off to birth a child. Somewhere a woman will take home a paycheck that is nearly 1/3 less than that of the guy in the office next to her, although they do the same job. Somewhere a girl will sit in a classroom and be too timid to raise her hand. Somewhere a woman will give up on political ambitions.
All of those things have just happened in the time it took you to read those sentences.
None of these stories have changed in the 100 years we have celebrated women on this day. But still, we celebrate. Because for over 100 years the voices of women have not been silenced, their dreams have not been swept away despite often times incredible odds, their ambitions have been fulfilled despite being met with resistance. Women have always been strong. We have to be. We bear the weight of the world.
Women do 2/3 of the world’s work, earn 10% of the income, and own 1% of the land.
70 million girls are denied access to education in our world, and another 60 million will be sexually assaulted on their way to school.
That all seems far removed from me, as I sit in my comfortable home, typing on my laptop and fetching my son snacks while my daughter is playing at her preschool. It seems as far away as the photo above, that I took during a trip to South Africa in 2003. The children in the foreground danced around us as we unloaded treats from our pockets, and clung to our hands as we talked to the women gathered around those cement basins doing their wash. Do you see the women just right of center, in the white shirt and jean skirt? She was my age when I was on that trip – 25. She had a baby with her, which she later wrapped to her body as she carried her bundled wash on her head. She invited me to walk with her, calling me Tante Melissa. Auntie Melissa. Within minutes we had become sisters. We had nothing in common. Our worlds so different we could have been from separate planets. But still, she offered me smiles and we held hands while we walked. She was proud to show me around. I was honored she accepted me as her friend. When the combi drove away late in the afternoon, she was standing there, waving goodbye to me. I pressed my hand to the glass as I watched her get smaller and smaller.
That trip changed my life. Africa has a way of doing that to you. I have not been able to go back, as now I have my own two babes to carry around. I cannot leave them yet for several weeks at a time, so my return trip will wait. But my compassion does not have to.
Today I will celebrate the women in my world. I will send messages to the family members and colleagues who inspire me. I will thank the teachers at my daughters school. I will call a friend to say hello. I will inspire sisterhood in others. I strongly believe that sisterhood – the power of women coming together and working together – is the final untapped natural resource of our world. And it is continually renewed, with the birth of each new baby girl. We are all sisters.
There are only two IWD events in my entire state. But I won’t let that limit me. I do not believe in limitations. I will not let the comfort of my day-to-day routine in my predictable suburban neighborhood, in my cozy suburban home, make me blind to what we all need to be seeing.
So how can you change the world from where you are?
-Think globally, and donate to the amazing efforts of The Girl EffectCharity WaterKiva, and  Heifer International.
-Think locally and donate to a women’s shelter, food pantry,  Girls Inc, write a letter to a woman soldier, or offer assistance to a family you know that is in need.
-Write a letter and thank your mama.
-Give flowers to a friend or mentor with a hand written note telling her why you honor her.
-Over tip the waitress.
-Stand up and walk over to a nearby office or cubicle and tell a colleague you appreciate them.
-Cook a meal for a neighbor. Or get together with a neighbor and cook some meals for a single mom, a new mom, or a widow.
-Invite that single mom or widow into your home for dinner.
-Round up old toys and books and donate them to a crisis nursery.
-Send cards to your closest girlfriends, thanking them for having your back.
-Bake some cookies with the kids and take them to teachers or nurses on the maternity ward, thanking them for what they do for children.
-Sit down with your children and go through a book or website that shares the biographies of the intrepid women who brought us to this day.
-Draw self portraits with your girl, and help her write down her attributes that make her unique and wonderful.
-Send a note to a former teacher. Do you know how important teachers are?
-Make a commitment to offer more grace and kindness to other women.
-And finally, tonight, when all is quiet and you have your mind all your own, write a letter to yourself. Offer gratitude for everything you have in life. Write down those dreams you are too shy to say out loud, and acknowledge the dreams you’ve already made come true. Write down some happy memories from the last year, and new ones you hope to create. Take the chance to inspire yourself.
From me to you, Happy 100th International Women’s Day. Cheers to us, and let’s prepare to celebrate 100 more!

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…)


March 1, 2011

The Princess and the (Downward-Facing) Dog

Originally posted at Elephant Journal.

Can Yoga Combat the Limitations of the Princess Brigade?

Yogini and New York Times best-selling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein, thinks so. In a recent addition to her growing resource  list on her book‘s website, she states:

Girls want to do ballet in preschool. And that can be fine. But most of them won’t want to do it anymore once it gets “real”–and given the body image concerns about ballet, most of us don’t want our daughters pursuing it anyway (I don’t mean to put a knock on ballet, which I respect, or certainly any other form of dance, I’m just saying the world of ballet can be very tough. I’ve seen “Black Swan….”). Anyway, in addition to, or instead of, ballet how about kids’ yoga? It’s graceful, you can wear a leotard if you want, and it’s something that can actually be the building block of a lifelong healthy practice that promotes POSITIVE body image, confidence, competence and inner strength. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The Pepto-Bismol pink and glitter strewn world of “princess culture,” one that has exploded in the last decade, is what has been referred to as a gateway drug. It is a gateway drug that leads to the narcissistic, ego-driven world of the diva. As Orenstein describes in one chapter of her book, Wholesome to Whoresome, and a point that is made in a recent interview, Cinderella and the growing pantheon of princesses aren’t inherently evil. The problem rests with the aggressive and highly sophisticated marketing tactics that have placed greater and greater emphasis on the hotness quotient and severely limited girls’ choices. It is the cradle-to-grave brand loyalty that is forced upon children at ever earlier ages. In fact, marketers have hyper-segmented to such a severe degree that not even infancy is off-limits. The hyper-girlie, overly marketed, painfully pink “princess industrial complex” has increased the pressure young girls feel, limited their measure of self-worth, and decreased self-esteem.

(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 24, 2011

Speaker promotes positive self image at CSUN’s eating disorder awareness event

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 3:15 pm

By Samantha Tata. Originally posted at CSUN’s Daily  Sundial. Cross-posted with permission.



Guest speaker Melanie Klein, spoke about eating disorders and how pop culture has influenced men and women. Photo Credit: Mariela Molina / Staff Photographer

CSUN adjunct sociology professor Melanie Klein advocated the understanding of media images and their effect on the self-esteem during a lecture held by CSUN’s Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating (JADE) Wednesday for national eating disorders awareness week.

“By being constantly plugged in and mediated to, our culture has lost the connection between mind and body,” said Klein, who also teaches women’s studies and sociology at Santa Monica College (SMC).

JADE’s theme for this year’s eating disorder awareness week focused on internal and external beauty, said Grace Wiesmann, JADE graduate coordinator.

“We wanted to promote a positive body image that wasn’t only based on what the media shows us,” Wiesmann said.  “We want to enjoy who we are and recognize what we enjoy about ourselves.”

Klein said students need to become aware of how much media they consume, whether it be through television, advertisements, internet or via smart phones, and learn how to deconstruct those images to cultivate and maintain a positive self-image.

Klein, who has personally experienced disordered eating and poor self-image, said reducing media consumption could help individuals feel better about themselves because they remove the temptation to compare themselves to others.

“Body images have fundamentally changed in the past 20 years,” Klein said.

Klein emphasized that the images with which people are inundated daily do not reflect reality although the ideals they represent are expected to be emulated.

Beauty icons from the 1950s and 60s were just that, icons, not images to replicate, she said.  Today, women are told they can and should look like modern beauty icons and are shamed when they cannot fit that mold.

For the past ten years, Klein assigned her students an exercise: they are to stand still, clothed, in front of a mirror for fifteen minutes followed by another fifteen minutes without clothes.  Klein said she receives similar feedback every semester.

“Students tell me that they noticed they started picking apart their entire bodies and identifying flaws,” she said.  “So I ask, how did you come up with the idea that these things were wrong?”

Klein said there is a correlation between the increasingly provocative images distributed through media and the rise in body loathing.  She cited Facebook as a portal through which people are seeing and scrutinizing themselves, in addition to films that emphasize beauty as the fundamental reflection of a person’s worth.

Relationships with the opposite sex have also been affected by this media influence.  Klein said studies show that young men have difficulty achieving and maintaining erections because they are more aroused by altered images of women.

“When (men) get women’s clothes off, they’re not as turned on,” she said.  “Real women have stretch marks, moles and dimples.”

Klein said men and women must shift these perceptions to maintain perspective.

“Instead of complaining that my legs are jiggly, why am I not grateful that I have two legs?  Some people don’t have two legs,” she said.  “But that’s not enough, we’re pissed that the legs that allow us to walk do not look like those on the magazine.”

This creation of an unattainable reality has permeated modern society.  Klein said no demographic has been spared from this criticism, including pregnant women, men and children.

Junior Dinia Sepulveda, 21, said she attended the lecture to educate herself in order to help family members who have eating disorders, one of whom started dieting at 4-years-old.

“It opened my eyes to the (importance) of not staying quiet,” the sociology major said.  “(My cousin) is a teenager now and I want to take the responsibility to say something.”

When a friend or loved one asks the dreaded question, ‘Does this make me look fat?’ rather than assume they are seeking validation, Klein said to consider they may be unaware of what they look like.

An impulse to compare bodies and engage in self-deprecating behavior may alter the way people physically see themselves.

“You do not go from pretty to ugly or from thin to fat in five minutes,” she said.  “There has been no change in your actual body but a shift in your body image.”

Although the mental reflex to compare oneself to others is natural due to the way modern media socializes its audience, Klein said a daily exercise could change that habit.

“Rather than pick out what is wrong with you, find what you like about yourself or what you are grateful for,” she said.  “The way we are treating ourselves now is a waste of time.”

Klein said that taking two minutes to have a positive conversation with oneself could effectively shift negative body images and bridge the gap between mind and body.

“It’s a waste of energy to put ourselves down,” she said.  “We’ve lost the magic and miracle of our bodies.”


February 21, 2011

WAM! It Yourself, Los Angeles: 2011 Conference

Originally posted at Women, Action & the Media.

Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26

Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Humanities and Social Sciences 263 (see campus map)

Part of WAM! It Yourself 2011, a multi-city event by Women, Action & the Media. For more information about events happening in LA and all over the world, check back here or email Rachel.

RSVP HERE: Facebook Event Page. Seating is based on first come basis.

Friday, March 25th

2:00-3:00 p.m.

Video presentation and discussion on the representation of Women of Color in academia with Morgane Richardson, founder of Refuse the Silence

3:15-4:15 p.m.

Lecture on strong female characters in science fiction and fantasy television shows with Anita Sarkeesian.

4:30-5:30 p.m.

Presentation on the possibility of social change through social media with Pia Guerrero, co-founder of Adios Barbie.

5:45-6:45pm

Video clips from the Kick It Up! project and discussion on women in new media with Amie Williams and Kamala Lopez of Global Girl Media.

7:00-8:00 p.m.

Workshop on ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer program that empowers young women from Los Angeles to share their experience of reproductive justice through film, featuring Jacqueline Sun and Carla Ohrendorff.

8:15-9:15 p.m.

Discussion with Daena Title on her recent “DROWN the DOLLS” series and the work of feminist art.

Saturday, March 26th

11:00-12:00 p.m.

Poetry slam and video presentation with Cleo Anderson.

12:15-1:15 p.m.

Presentation on “Beauty Activism: How media messes with our body image and what we can do about it,” with Claire Mysko.

1:30-2:30 p.m.

Discussion on social media and media literacy as tools of activism in the classroom with Melanie Klein and Rachel O’Connor.

2:45-3:45 p.m.

Presentation of LoveSTRUCK, a discussion about the Twilight phenomenon and its glamorization of unhealthy relationship behaviors, with Elin Waldal.

4:00-5:00 p.m.

Presentation on “Revolution of Real Women: Infiltrating Media, Normalizing Authentic Beauty and How to Spark Your Own Revolution!” with Briane Widaman.

5:15-6:15 p.m.

Discussion of the role and state of feminist online media and reflections on the first year of the Ms. Magazine blog with Michele Kort and Jessica Stites.

RSVP HERE: Facebook Event Page. Seating is based on first come basis.

Saturday Night Mixer

7:30-10:30 p.m., at private residence in Culver City, CA

Sarit Rogers, a local feminist photographer, will be hosting a social networking event in her home in Culver City, CA. More information forthcoming!

*Registration for Saturday night mixer required.  Contact: melmelklein@cs.com

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