The final man frontier

For your man cave

Nothing same manly like neon!

The Man Cave has become a buzzword in the last few years, and it’s about time we start the conversation about it. The whole idea of a man cave is it acts as a final frontier for men to conquer in the home. Think back to the recent past, the early 1950s, or last week, where the world was divided into two spheres: the home, woman’s sphere, and man’s sphere, the rest of the world.mans world

Man caves serve to give men a place of their own in the space that deemed feminine. Just in case your wife makes you wash dishes or vacuum, make sure you have some man space to retreat to, like your beer can walled shed or loose car parts garage.been chandelier

Even though we say the home is women’s sphere, men still control it. Women are the overseers, ensuring that everything is “just right” for their husbands. A man’s home, after all, is his castle. He is the man of the house.

 

man cave beer fridgeliquor sinkSports, beer,liquor, hunting, cars, gambling – what else do you need?man gave kingdom

Bacon, maybe. I guess because it’s not manly for your heart to work past the age of 40.

bacon

Men have always owned the home, all man caves do is narrow the space that women can occupy. The man cave is yet another [something] attempt for people to say that men are “losing their edge,” or are being emasculated by women.

Let’s also mention how over-the-top some of them are. A recent Slate article included a photo series by Jasper White, where he took photos of elaborate man caves in Australia, where it is common to have a great deal more land than in the US. More land, more man.

The first page of results when searching “man cave” is full of sites marketing all their man cave products. The consumerism, as well as sexism, is rampant.

Now we’re left with a space that was call women’s, and is now, like the rest of the world, owned by men. It’s a reaction to a false threat that men are losing their power. Where are women’s spaces to get a break from their spouses and children? They aren’t allowed and men still are.

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What a Poser! Why popular gender-swap memes are a joke

pinupswap3These gender-swap images have been making the rounds lately, but I wanted to take a quick look at while they’re so funny to us. Showing women posed the way women often are doesn’t really showcase the problems with objectification because it seems like a joke. I see how this is a really accessible way to discuss objectification, but it, in many ways, reinforces the gender dichotomy and hierarchy by seeing how comical it is to see men displayed the way we pose women.

The eighteenth century saw a lot of masquerade balls where men and women would dress in drag, but because of the context, it strengthened gender roles instate of subverting them.

pinupswap4Of course men are objectified for their looks, but it’s not in the same way, and not with the same implications as when women are. For one, it’s not as threatening to men because society and media value them for things other than their looks. (It’s usually money and power, which is also problematic because it reinforces the singular idea of masculinity in which men are only useful to the extent that they can provide monetary gain).  And when men are objectified for their looks, mainstream media depictions will show men being strong and powerful – their legs are hardly ever in the frame. The way society looks at men’s and women’s bodies are very different, and when they are showed side-by-side like this, of course it’s a joke.

We don’t see women posed in ways we usually pose men – because that would show women in too serious and powerful a way, and isn’t as funny. It follows the same way children play games as a kid – a girl can play games with predominantly boys without losing status as a girl, but a boy playing with girls would cause a lot of ridicule. The hierarchy prevails in all facets of life.

It’s great that we’re starting to see the problems of how we objectify women, but it’s still important to consider the ways we’re displaying people. It’s a joke for a man to dress like a woman, and so this campaign can only go so far.

pinupswap2

Not All Visibility is Created Equal

Advisory: discussion of pornography

Eisner’s book, Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution, talks a lot about bisexual invisibility as one of the ways to maintain the power structure. She also writes about the ways that female bisexuality, specifically, is used within mainstream pornography and ultimately the general media to devalue any deviation from the single standard of masculinity.

“Instead of erasing female bisexuality per say…media representations – and society in general – neutralize the “sting” that it carries by appropriating it into the heterosexual cis male gaze. From being a potential threat, female bisexuality is converted and rewritten into something else, something that’s both palatable and convenient to patriarchy and the hetero cis male gaze, and which caters to its needs.”

I know that is a lot to read but basically the idea is that we take something that could threaten the power structure and use it to instead reinforce these ideas. Eisner uses mainstream pornography as a typifying example, but I’ll make sure to be less graphic here.  The gist of it is that “lesbian” is a sub-category under “straight’ since these videos are for a straight male audience. The scenes, moreover, involve women “preparing” one another for the man to enter the scene and thus, the real sex to occur.

 The other way female bisexuality is made to be less threatening is with the phrase, “everyone is bisexual.” Of course there is a spectrum of sexuality and in many ways this may help to break down the binary, but more so it devalues bisexuality as part of one’s identity.  Freud used bisexuality (and clitoral orgasms) as a means of trivializing women and women’s pleasure. If everyone is bisexual, then it is easy to use the immaturity argument and wait for someone to “grow out of it,” or “make a decision,” instead of accepting it as a real identity.  This argument is a way that bisexuality is devalued while making it visible only insofar as it’s used to promote straight men.Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 10.42.50 AM

Eisner argues that bisexually threatens the fabric of the traditional male power role, because the existence of bisexuality makes it more difficult (for men, mostly) to “prove” one’s straightness.  Additionally, male bisexuality is pushed to the margins and made invisible because of the assumption that if someone has sex, or thinks about having sex with a man, they are no longer attracted to women. It is for men as well as women that our identities are so often decided by our relation to a penis. This presumption means that bisexual men are really gay, and bisexual women are really straight. Eisner describes these presumptions: “…Everyone is really into men – a phallocentric notion testifying to this stereotype’s basic reliance on sexism.”bisexual men

We need to break down these assumptions and stereotypes in order to move towards true visibility.  As I talked about in my last post, bisexual people are viewed as unreliable and traitorous, and therefore cannot fit into the mainstream without being marginalized and/or fetishized. We need to rethink the way we understand and normalize sexuality.

Bisexuality and the GGGG Movement

I finished reading Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution this week. The book by Shiri Eisner discusses the ways in which bisexuality is co-opted by patriarchy in order to maintain the status quo. It’s a fantastic read and I recommend it to anyone who wants an academic look at how biphobia and exclusion of most queer people allows power structures to maintain gender and race hierarchies within society.

Eiser’s book is excellent, but it can be very dense and requires a lot of focus to really get all of the points she makes. I read it with a pen and my margins are full of illegible scribbles. Since I want these ideas to be accessible, I’m going to do a couple of posts just to touch on things that stood out to me.

Eisner coined the term, the GGGG movement (The Gay Gay Gay Gay) movement to exemplify the singularity of issues within the mainstream LGBTQ movement (marriage).  The image we get from media is a white, middle-to-upper-class gay man as the voice of all queer equality. He is probably married (or engaged where marriage not legal) to another white middle-to-upper-class gay man and they have adopted a child, they have a lot of money. The image of the LGBTQ movement is Neil Patrick Harris. Ultimately, it’s about assimilation. It’s why my girlfriend’s grandmother ultimately “accepted” that she is gay, because “gay couples make more money.”Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 2.28.45 PM

Instead of working to deconstruct the systems that value some people over others, the GGGG movement, Eisner argues, only gives the system more fuel by assimilating into the narrow-minded lifestyle.

Marriage for the queer movement is racist and classist in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important issue. By being barred from marriage and other similar institutions, queer people are barred from entering into institutions that society deems necessary for adulthood. By banning gay marriage, we are infantilizing queer people.

The GGGG movement is much easier for the mainstream media to digest, and thus it remains the image for the LGBTQ movement. Eisner explains, “The promiscuous and traitorous image of bisexuals is likely to cause difficulties for the campaign (for same-sex marriage).”  Since bisexuals are seen as immature or unable to make up our minds, we are viewed as untrustworthy and therefore not a good image to assimilate into heteronormative marriage culture.

No Punch Line in Sexual Exploitation

A new study from the Parent-Television Council’s campaign, “4 Every Girl” shows that sexually exploitative scenes on television are overwhelmingly more likely to focus on underage girls than with women. Of course the countless sexually exploitive scenes with adult women are a problem, but the way television uses young girls and exploits their bodies, often for humor, is abominable.  Audience-Laughing

PTC conducted an analysis of 328 episodes of prime-time television to determine the level of sexual exploitation of women and girls. I didn’t get more than a paragraph into the study when I found these astounding results:

1). The appearance of an underage female character in a scene increased the likelihood that the scene would include sexual exploitation; and 2) the appearance of an underage female character in a sexually exploitative scene increased the probability that the scene would be presented as humorous.

I think the second part of those results especially bears repeating: Having an underage girl in a sexually exploitive scene makes the scene far more likely to be presented as humorous. So now prime-time shows are not only sexualizing, harassing, and exploiting children, but it’s a joke! The study analyzes how television shows promote and trivialize sexual exploitation. The article explains that humor reinforces stereotypes; this point is so important because when something becomes a joke, it means it’s harmless. People won’t view sexual exploitation as a problem if they’re taught to laugh about it. I see the parallels here to using period TV shows to incorporate racism and sexism (et al.) as major comedic plot points. If we’re laughing about it, the problem must be over. We solved the sexism problem.

tv productionAnother hugely important point that I cannot help but take away is to look at the way the media portrays grown women as infantile and young girls as hyper-sexualized creatures. So let’s make the connection. Women are infantilized while girls are sexualized – these seemingly contradictory issues serve to reinforce patriarchal notions that women aren’t to be taken seriously.

And what are the immediate consequences here? Beyond the atrocious way women are treated as sex objects to be thrown away after first use, these images are so harmful to girls and women. PTC’s study cites, “The average age for minors entering prostitution is 13,” and “80% of female victims who experienced their first rape before the age of 25, almost half experienced the first rape before age 18 (30% between 11 – 17 years old and 12% at or before the age of 10).”  I don’t mean to throw a ton of statistics at everyone but these numbers are staggering.

The bottom line is that we sexualized girls and we infantilize women, which reinforces notions of control and sexuality in which men control women. I can’t believe I have to write this sentence, but we need to stop looking at child sexual exploitation as a joke.