June 14, 2012

What’s Wrong With The Women of AMC?

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Rachel @ 10:46 am

clockwise from top left: Lori Grimes (The Walking Dead), Betty Francis (Mad Men), Sarah Linden (The Killing), and Skyler White (Breaking Bad)

 

This post contains spoilers for the four AMC shows being discussed.  All spoilers are contained behind the jump.

As a fan of AMC’s original series, I’ve begun to notice a strange trend when it comes to the way people have reacted to the women on these shows, specifically:

The Walking Dead’s Lori Grimes, Zombie Apocalypse Survivor

Mad Men’s Betty Francis, Homemaker

The Killing’s Sarah Linden, Homicide Detective

and

Breaking Bad’s Skyler White, Homemaker

This is how these women have been described by various recaps and reviews:

Sarah Linden is: “a bad mother” and “the worst police officer on earth”.

Lori Grimes is: “incredibly stupid”, “irritating, self-righteous, hypocritical”, and “annoying.”

Betty Francis is: “selfish”, a “vicious, terrible mother”, and “the least sympathetic character” on the show.

and the actress who portrays Skyler White, Anna Gunn, discussed that she is found to be an “annoyance” on the show, in an interview with Vulture.

If you haven’t watched some or any of these shows, you might be wondering what awful behaviors and actions have lead to such strong hate among viewers.  To very briefly recap the storylines of each of the women listed and pictured above: (SPOILERS Within)

 

(more…)

April 9, 2012

There’s Way Too Many Women On Television…Or Not

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Rachel @ 12:11 pm

 

 

You know what’s really been lacking on television lately?  White, straight men.  At least according to the co-creator of Two and a Half Men, Lee Aronsohn.  In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Aronsohn had this to say about the recent uprise in female centered sitcoms:

“Enough, ladies. I get it. You have periods,”

and

“…we’re approaching peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation,”

 

After all, there’s so few male main characters on current sitcoms.  There’s only: Wilfred, Louie, The League, Archer, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Unsupervised, American Dad, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, The Cleveland Show, Napoleon Dynamite, Raising Hope, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound and Down, Californication, Shameless, The Office, Community, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and of course, Two And A Half Men.

Women, meanwhile are taking over television with: New Girl, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Girls, Weeds, Are You There Chelsea, Whitney, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23, Cougar Town, and 2 Broke Girls.

For those of you keeping track, that brings the grand total to men: 21, women: 11.  So despite the fact that women are half the population, but helm a third of sitcoms, we’re reaching “labia saturation” on television.  Riiiiight.

Hollywood seems to consistently struggle with the inclusion of women in films and television shows.  And it’s important to remember, that even when women are the main focus of shows and movies, it’s not always a good thing.  ABC’s newest comedy calls the main character a “Bitch” right in the title of the sitcom.  2 Broke Girls hasn’t been without plenty of controversy30 Rock, Whitney and plenty of other sitcoms have recently attempted to make rape hilarious.

Aronsohn has since apologized for his comments on twitter.  Considering how he regularly (and I’m sure will continue to) treat women as second class citizens on his show, I can’t say I take his apology too seriously.  According to Aronsohn: “What makes men damaged?  Sorry, it’s women.”

November 24, 2010

Toy Ads and Learning Gender

Originally posted at Feminist Frequency. Cross-posted with permission. Created for Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium.


I recently watched afternoon cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I was shocked to find a flood of highly gendered toy commercials. These ads not only market toys to children but it also promotes and encourages gender specific values that are very limiting to boys and girls in different ways.  The values and skills promoted in these commercials can play a critical role in the socalization of youth and their development of emotional expression, conflict resolution, the confidence to pursue various careers and the ability to maintain healthy relationships as adults.

Related Links and Articles:

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you.  Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subtitles and click TRANSLATE to get started.

NOTE from Melanie Klein on additional articles related to gender socialization in childhood:


September 24, 2010

Top 5 Problems with Glee: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Season 2 Premiere

Filed under: Television — Tags: , , , , — anita @ 6:00 am

by Anita Sarkeesian
Crossposted from Feminist Frequency

Tuesday night’s season premiere of Glee may have been one of the most offensive hours of television I’ve watched in a long time. It seemed like every minute or two they would make another sexist, racist or homophobic joke. I was afraid Glee was going in a bad direction after the first few episodes of season one but none-the-less I kept watching. I understand the popularity surrounding Glee because it’s a fun show with silly over the top characters, and I’m kind of a sucker for musicals, however the offensive stereotypes masked in humour as well as continuous tokenizing has taken it’s toll. The season two premiere had me enraged.

Glee is a show that stars mainly white characters with a secondary cast of token “minorities” which is illustrated by the fact that only the white cast members were featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. The show is notorious for tokenism. It does so by including a limited number of individuals from oppressed groups to make a TV show (or workplace) “feel” more inclusive while maintaining the status quo. In this case the status quo is white and heterosexual. Token characters are usually relegated to a secondary or sidekick role. In Glee, nearly all the secondary characters are tokenized even as the writers attempt to cover it up by “special episodes about –insert oppression here–”.

There were so many problems with the season premiere that it would take me pages and pages to write it all out so here are my top 5 issues.

#1 TRANSPHOBIA & HOMOPHOBIA

In this episode we are introduced to Sannon Beiste (pronounced Beast – I CANNOT believe they had the nerve to name her Beast), the new female football coach at McKinley High. Immediately Beiste is made ridiculous because of her name, her appearance, her gender and her profession. The writers used all this to make jokes at her expense playing up her perceived sexuality and gender identity without ever mentioning it. Although Beiste does not necessarily self identify as lesbian or transgendered the writers are clearly playing on transphobia. I’ve already seen posts on the internet inquiring about the actor’s “real” gender. They did attempt to add complexity to her character by bringing in a bit of a back story which I appreciate but it doesn’t make up for endless homophobic and sexist jokes. Also they consciously chose to name her Beiste, a “butch” and monstrous name to match their casting, costuming and writing of the character. They clearly did this to create a hyper stereotyped caricature of a masculine or ‘butch’ woman with endless possibilities of homophobic and sexist jokes. Characters on the show that have a non normative gender presentation and don’t fit neatly into traditional “male” or “female” identities are often ridiculed; this even happens with Sue, the villain that everyone loves. Beiste is initially made fun of by other characters and framed as an outsider. Later the audience develops more sympathy for her through Will as he begins to see that she is a “person” too despite her monstrous appearance and behaviour. Although we are supposed to have more tolerance and some measure of sympathy by the end of the episode, she is still an over the top stereotyped, caricatured “other”.


#2 “FAKE” SEXUAL ASSAULT & RAPE

I’m so tired of the fake rape plot point in TV shows. Writers often use it because it provides a seemingly unpredictable twist in the narrative, but in this episode it’s just played for comedy. It’s another case of writers having fictional women use the fake accusation of rape or assault to destroy an individual as a personal vendetta. Sue convinces Brittany to accuse Coach Beiste of sexual assualt in order to get her fired. Although it is clearly and obviously a plot point played for laughs, the pervasiveness of this trope creates an environment where real women are thought of as suspect when reporting rapes and assaults. In the real world these sorts of false accusations are extremely rare especially in contrast to the real world epidemic: 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Read the last 3 issues over at Feminist Frequency >>


July 25, 2010

American Apparel Still Sucks: Deep Inside the Brand

American Apparel sucks.

With hiring and firing practices that include only hiring “attractive” people; their pervy, porny ads featuring waifish, jail bait models some call reminiscent of kiddie porn; and the arrogant, sexist founder and CEO, Dov Charney, a guy who “masturbated in front of a reporter, sleeps with his employees, promotes hot 17-year-olds to replace veterans,” “sweat-shop free” or not, why would anyone shop or work there?

Well, for one thing, it’s a job in an economic climate that makes landing even a low-paying retail job harder and harder to come by. And, lots of young things are attracted to the very idea of working for a company that has such picky hiring standards. If you’re hired, well, that must mean you’re special and super hot.

In fact, that is exactly the reason a former employee started working for Dov’s retail porn palace and, in the end, the reason I received this letter chronicling the dirty details so many employees have come forth with lately. The details of the following letter aren’t a novelty (see letter after the jump). In fact, stories like these have become commonplace for American Apparel and Charney which is why this letter is worth posting.

After multiple sexual harassment suits and similar exposes, what is striking about this letter is the fact that nothing has changed. Charney is so arrogant and confident in himself and his “politically progressive,” “hipster” brand image that the public masturbation, bedding of employees and controversial hiring, firing and at-work practices continue blatantly and without apology.

(more…)

July 20, 2010

'Take a Breath,' Honey. It's just Sexism.

Filed under: Sexuality — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:29 pm

My post, Sexist Meat Market:Pamela Anderson’s Newest Campaign for PETA, which was posted here and at Elephant Journal has garnered some interesting and thought-provoking feedback. Much of it has been insightful and extremely intelligent and some of it has been an affirmation of the reasons why we need to continue deconstructing images and creating dialogue.

The comments from the post at Elephant Journal, a journal catering to the “enlightened,” “conscious,” and “progressive,” proves that sexism is still en vogue, should not be taken seriously and enlightenment ends when it comes to women’s issues.

The list of comments below has been compiled from Elephant Journal’s facebook page and the post located on their blog. Critics accused me of being “too serious,” “too sensitive,” “selfish,” “whiny,” “prudish” and, get this, sexist.

(more…)

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 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 11, 2010

Gamer Girls Gone Wild

Filed under: Gaming,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Rachel @ 9:12 pm

If you’ve ever played an immensely popular online video game on Xbox Live, you know how annoying it can be.  It’s usually seconds before you end up pausing, going to the settings menu, and selecting an option to turn off the sound of the other players – screaming 13-year olds, racism, homophobia, and more swearing in a 15 minute Call of Duty match than at your average frat party.  Seriously, playing online can (and usually does) suck.  People cheat, players drop out, and internet connections go down.  Bummer!

Okay – so those are the problems faced by your average gamer playing online (read: male).  Being a girl introduces a new set of issues: sexual harassment and misogyny run amok.  Women won’t participate in the smack talk so their gender isn’t revealed, saving them the verbal abuse; they’ll avoid using feminine slanted usernames for the same reason.  A fellow female gamer I know, who has a feminine descriptor in her username, is frequently bombarded with pictures of male genitalia and sexually explicit messages.

A few weeks ago, a website was set up to appeal men who do want women involved in their games – GameCrush.com The site offers men the ability to play online with girls specifically.  Currently the site is down, “…due to the incredible user response.”  Interested parties can pay $6.60 for ten minutes of game play with the girl of their choice.  The trailer boasts “Thousands of Profiles” to choose from.

GameCrush’s press release positions the site as empowering for women, advertising that “PlayDates can make up to $30 or more per hour while having fun playing online games.  After a game session is completed, Players rate their gaming experience, and top-rated PlayDates are rewarded with enhanced site promotion and additional benefits.”

Now – I’m not one to throw around the word “prostitution” lightly, but the site feels it could be headed that way.  Alas, the site is down so it’s impossible to tell what the average profile pictures looks like, or what an average “chat” consists of.  But telling women that they can make money and reap the benefits by impressing the men who pay to play sounds like a fast way to promote a “Tits or GTFO” mentality in the interactions.

The site was built on a negative assumption – video game playing men are nerds who can’t get girls.  If a guy has girl-friends or a girlfriend who plays video games with him, what would the appeal of this website be?  There wouldn’t be any!

Sample screenshots of the website show conventionally attractive women, and the homepage preview displays a “Featured Player” pulling down her top.  This:

is GameCrush.com’s profile picture on Twitter.  They’re already using sex to sell, as evidenced by their promotional campaign.  GameCrush readily admits it “…does not monitor, moderate or otherwise control the interaction between its users.”  Sounds like a recipe for a creepy party.

For a supposedly overwhelmingly popular site, their Facebook fans are less than 500, and they haven’t even achieved 1000 followers on Twitter.  I’m certainly curious to see what the site actually has to offer once they go live.


March 31, 2010

Thinking Pink

Filed under: Gender — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 9:12 pm

Jezebel’s post, Pink Think: The Sexist Toys of Our Youth, is a response to Time’s online piece, Not So Pretty in Pink: Are Girls’ Toys Too Girly?, an article raising questions about the one-dimensional caricatures that girls’ toys offer.

The list of products that pigeonhole girls in the clothes and makeup category goes on and on. Disney sells pink vanity tables for girls as young as 3, for example, and the European retailer Primark stocks a T-shirt in a 2-year-old size that’s emblazoned with the motto “S is for Super, Shopaholic, Soon-to-be-Supermodel.” Even old classics now offer girls’ versions, such as an all-pink Monopoly game in which the houses and hotels have been replaced by boutiques and malls, and a “Designer’s Edition” Scrabble that has letters on the front of the box spelling out fashion. It wasn’t always this way. A couple of decades ago, children’s clothing mostly came in primary colors and princesses were confined to the occasional film or Halloween costume. But as marketing to children has burgeoned into a multibillion-dollar industry, and our consumerist ethos has saddled kids with mountains of stuff, the gender divide has grown wider.

There are serious ramifications to all this marketing, the Moores say. The tidal wave of pink toys and clothes suggests there’s only one way to be a girl — pretty, princessy and fashion-minded. And this segues disturbingly quickly into often sexualized images of tween girls a few years older, says Lyn Mikel Brown, an education professor at Colby College in Maine and co-author of the book Packaging Girlhood. The not-so-subtle pressures of this marketing can damage self-esteem and feed worries about body image and appearance later in life, the sisters say. They also link it to a celebrity-obsessed culture that undermines adult women by glorifying glamour figures like Paris Hilton while neglecting those women engaged in more serious pursuits.

The Jezebel article questions the long-term effects of these toys that promote what Lynn Peril terms “pink think.

Yet here we are, studiously deployed in the combat of such messages to girls and women. We somehow emerged intact — not immune to internalized sexism, of course, but able to think clearly and beyond it. Was my love of Perfect Wedding a form of Stockholm Syndrome, its effective antidote parents who expected me to be more than a future wife and an internship at Ms.? Or was it just a really, evilly fun game and not much more?

To answer the question posed above, I say no. My students analyze children’s toys and clothing utilizing a critical gendered lens every semester (in fact, I graded this semester’s papers this afternoon). In many ways, toys created and marketed to children today are more sexist and confining than those from my childhood. To say that the writers at a critical and conscious blog emerged unscathed from the messages promoting beauty and domesticity as the sources of happiness for girls and women is not a conclusion that is representative of the mass population. Those Jezebel writers are sassy, smart and conscious. They can sniff out things like misogyny, sexism and sexist stereotypes quickly and easily.

Like the writers at Jezebel, I consider myself conscious and equipped with the ability to detect double-standards, sexist stereotypes and gender expectations. And, like the writers and individuals commenting at Jezebel, I liked my girl toys. I owned over 40 Barbies, the vacation home and the 3-story townhouse with elevator. I had the pink corvette and bags full of clothes and accessories. I loved grooming and dressing my Barbies, getting them ready for parties and dates (and engaging them in naughty behavior with Ken). Given a choice, I would have played with and had my Barbies proudly on display well into my teens. My mother eventually convinced me that it was time to put them away when I got my first boyfriend at 14.

Clearly, I loved Barbie and all the pink paraphernalia associated with Barbie. But I also remember the scale that was perpetually fixed on 110 pounds. 110. The last time I weighed 110 was when I was 5′ 2″ and in 6th grade. But that number, Barbie’s impossible measurements and “perfect” body were stuck in my mind as examples of what a woman should weigh and look like. I am not blaming Barbie and her pink scale as the sole variables that impacted my distorted and negative body image through most of my life. But I do recognize Barbie as one toy and one aspect of gender socialization that is part of a larger cultural onslaught (see here and here) that encourages girls and women to focus on beauty and relationships (the former as a way to nab the latter).

I agree with Irin Carmon’s statement “We somehow emerged intact — not immune to internalized sexism, of course, but able to think clearly and beyond it” only because I spent years deconstructing and decoding the messages reinforcing these gendered themes my entire life. I don’t blame my toys alone and I don’t pretend that these toys didn’t bring me hours of immense satisfaction and fun. But I also don’t discount these toys as agents of gender socialization that helped frame my expectations of my self, my place in the world, my relationships and possibilities. I recognize my ability to transcend these messages and “think clearly and beyond” them thanks to Sociology and Women’s Studies courses and becoming media literate.

girl-toys

Older Posts »