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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Dress codes, slut-shaming, and the male gaze

A friend sent me Ms. Magazine’s article on dress codes and their influence on girls, and ultimately our culture’s respect for women’s bodies. “What Do Dress Codes Say starts an important conversation we need to be having about policing girls’ and women’s bodies.Female Dresscode

The author writes about various middle schools and high schools that keep popping up in the news with stories of new additions to their dress codes for girls. The argument for most of the restrictions is that girls’ bodies are distracting to the boys. The problems with this argument are manifold; we are teaching girls to live their lives based on the male gaze, that they are objects. We are also teaching girls that the way they dress determines their character, and any deviation leaves them vulnerable to slut-shaming.

Not the role model I'd pick...

When we tell young girls that their clothes are distracting the boys, we are telling them that their thoughts and emotions come second to their male peers. When schools tell girls that their clothes are causing problems for boys, they learn that boys’ behavior is more important than they are. By telling girls their clothing is more representative of their selves than their actions and thoughts, we are telling them that they, as people, are lesser.

We accept these rules because they fit neatly into the system of patriarchy, specifically that which allows boys and men to reject responsibility for their actions.

-TW – discussion of sexual violence – When we tell twelve-year-old boys that getting distracted by girls’ clothes is an acceptable excuse for doing poorly in school or harassing students, we are laying the groundwork for telling men that it isn’t their fault if they sexually assault a woman depending on how she’s dressed. It perpetuates the “boys will be boys” argument that allows boys and men to get away with violence.  slutshame–End TW –

Beyond the external harm, the argument tells boys and men that they are stupid and unable to control themselves or act rationally when women are in their presence. I don’t know why we can’t see this idea as incredibly insulting to men’s intelligence; We are consistently telling boys that nothing is their fault because they couldn’t possibly know better. I think it’s time we start talking about accountability.

We need to teach girls that decisions about their bodies are theirs to make so that they can grow up feeling empowered instead of objectified.  We need to teach boys that a person’s outfit does not excuse their behavior in any context. Girls need to grow up learning that their clothes do not necessarily mean something sexual, and if that is their intention, they should not feel shamed for it, nor should it dictate others’ actions. We are suppressing women’s sexuality, and creating tight confines around men’s, so that they are uncontrolled monsters.

Middle school girls should not worry about being harassed or causing someone else’s academics to suffer based on whether or not their dress has straps. The whole idea is absurd, and we need to stop recreating these situations where we constantly police women’s bodies.

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.

Teaching Rape: Bro Culture 101

TW discussions of rape.

An email has been circulating from a fraternity at Georgia Tech about how to “lure your rapebait” at parties. The author is giving advice to the fraternity pledges to ensure they “succeed” at parties because “some bros need a little help.” Before we even get into the really disgusting part, the idea of success for men (especially those in fraternities) is to have sex with as many women as possible, and this goal includes raping them.

The author tells the subjects that if anything goes wrong, get more alcohol. If the woman does not want to have sex, give her more to drink. She says no, changes her mind, never says yes, doesn’t comply with all of your wished, get more alcohol. It’s sickening the language used and accepted within bro culture these days. This expected behavior is a major part of what masculinity means, though it is especially obvious within the bro and frat culture.

Read more of my writings on why bro culture is problematic!

Pledges are always supposed to dance with the women; dancing is step one to bedding them, but only if they’re drinking. If one woman rejects you, move on to the next, because women are interchangeable and who they are is irrelevant to your fraternity brothers. The woman (object) of your story is not important.alcoholic frat boy

The author then tells his pledges that when a woman moves her hair behind her hair, she wants a kiss. ALWAYS. This idea is incredibly problematic because it is incredibly widespread. Teenage girls are taught to move their hair behind their ears to signal attraction. It’s subtle and does not involve any direct action, like a good woman. So now when a man see a woman doing this, he interprets it as an invitation, no matter the other circumstances or what she verbalizes.

Since women are taught to play hard-to-get, when they say “no” it’s also irrelevant. Boys learn from an early age to not take no for an answer, but instead they should interpret benign signals as meaning they should keep trying.

After the pledge decides the woman wants a kiss, he is to kiss her but not rape her (yet), because the kissing will inevitably lead to sex anyway.  “ALWAYS START WITH THE MAKING OUT!!!! NO RAPING.” Because an unwanted kiss is fine, and kissing will always lead to sex because once someone agrees to a kiss, they agree to sex.

The email talks more about alcohol and using it to lure the women, so they are incapacitated enough to agree to have sex. The email also assumes the single standard of masculinity where a man has to always want sex, be ready, and take what is owed to him. It forces men into a box where they have to act a certain way and if they don’t “succeed,” they might as well be women.

Trophy Wife: Worst Parenting Handbook Ever

Just when you thought Trophy Wife couldn’t get any more racist or sexist, episode two of opens with some pretty offensive material.

Pete and Kate going through Bert’s bedtime routine, though Kate is just watching; she has no active role in the process. Bert wants a foot rub, and his clothes laid out for the entire week. Pete says “no judgment,” and it’s not a big part of the episode, but I found that to be racist towards Asian people, stereotyping them to be overly methodical. Why, again, did Slate say this show was good?Soccer Coach

Pete complies with most of his eight-year-old’s ridiculous requests, no doubt to show his dedication as a father. When Pete and Kate leave Bert’s room, Kate says, “Sweetie, he’s made you his bitch.” Men aren’t allowed to do too much emotional bonding with their sons.

Click here to see last week’s episode in all its offensive glory.

Bert and Kate sneak away from Bert’s room as he falls asleep, and Kate challenges Pete to a race to the living room. She tricks him and wins, just like all women being deceitful to get ahead.

The intro to this show is a slideshow of pictures, all of the women characterized only as “First wife,” “Second wife,” and then as the pictures fade we see the title, “Trophy Wife.”

What your teenage son doesn’t need to know about your thong

The next morning, Pete is getting the kids ready for school. Kate makes a few offers to help, but nobody pays much attention. Kate is folding laundry when Warren pulls a red lace thong out of the laundry hamper and says, “Oh, whose fancy headband is this?” Kate smiles, takes them away and says, “Those are mine,” to which, Hillary adds, “Classy.”

Bert then asks, “What’s a thong?” Kate answers, “Underwear for people who don’t want panty lines.” Warren chimes in with a very chipper, “Why wouldn’t you want panty lines?” “Because it’s not sexy,” Kate responds. Warren then shouts, “Wooo! Sexy time! Because you guys like to have se-“ Pete cuts them off, but does not address how incredibly inappropriate for a fifteen-year-old to be handling their stepmother’s underwear, and mocking her for it. Nobody talks to the teens about safe sex or personal boundaries, because the whole thing is a joke. And it’s okay for the 8 year old to hear all of this?

The show’s sexualization of children and teenagers is already disgusting, and I’m only on the second episode.  And there were no consequences to this behavior.

At least she’s good for something

Kate walks out of the room, clearly feeling dejected, going into the bathroom while Pete is in the shower. Pete makes comments and jokes about sex, and when Kate turns him down, he says, “You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,” as if he is supposed to be constantly firing off attempts for sex with his (trophy) wife.Family tree

Kate says she isn’t feeling needed and it takes him a while to accept that she’s serious. She says she wants to feel more like a parent, and it’s clear that nobody takes her seriously.  Pete continues to take it lightly and ultimately agrees to give her some of the “crap” he gets.

Kate is then seen struggling to carry a cooler onto a field while Pete is being Bert’s soccer coach. Again we see Pete having no difficulty juggling his family/work/life balance.

It’s a co-ed team, and half of the members don’t have uniforms. He tells them not to sit down, and the assistant coach says that his wife is having an affair. Even though Pete tells him not to share, it’s still a joke. TV shows are constantly talking about their sex lives in front of children.

Jackie and Pete are discussing their busy schedule and Kate tries to help by caring for Bert for the night. That night, Kate struggles to put Bert to bed, ultimately failing at her duty. Bert ends up watching TV he shouldn’t, since Kate falls asleep first. She’s so unreliable.

Bert is tired when Kate wakes him up the next morning, and worries that a doctor will steal his uterus, since he saw something on TV that he shouldn’t have.  Kate’s dressed like a teenager, probably to make it harder to distinguish her from one. Kate gives Bert a sip of coffee to hide her error. He drinks all of it.

Allergies, Racism, and Pedophilia Jokes

On the soccer field, Pete makes Kate an assistant coach. Kate and Jackie talk about Bert, and Jackie shares her past failings as a coach.  Kate tries to introduce herself to the team, including, “I love playing with little boys,” and Pete just tells them to start playing. Pedophilia is a joke now? We need to stop sexualizing children and making it commonplace to make jokes about abusing them.

Kate kicks a soccer ball and hits Bert in the groin. They are all in the hospital waiting, and Jackie berates Kate. They struggle to say the words testicle or groin, but Jackie already worries about grandchildren. Pete tells Jackie to cool it because she’s “acting like Diane.”  A doctor approaches an Asian couple in the waiting room and tells them that they can see their son. “We don’t have a son.”  They don’t address this mistake.

At the hospital, Jackie tries to commiserate with Kate about being a new stepmom. Kate is fun with Bert in the hospital and all is well. Bert realizes he doesn’t have a uterus but asks about what is in his butt. Pete says, “butt stuff” and the scene ends. The final scene has Kate and Pete in the shower, but Bert interrupts.  Kate finally feels needed but Pete is left high and dry.

Isn’t it Ironic?

I’m going to follow a new show and provide commentary about the episodes. I’m going to deconstruct the issues of race, class, and gender as I see them. The new show I’ve picked is Trophy Wife, which has the tagline, “The third time’s the charm.” This post will is a bit long since I need to introduce the characters so bear with me.

Third time's the charm

Third time’s the charm

The premise of the show is Kate (Malin Akerman), a “reformed party girl,” meets Pete (Bradley Whitford), a –you guessed it – highly successful lawyer, while dancing at a bar where she literally falls into his lap.Kate

Trophy wife petePete has two ex-wives, both of whom are portrayed as less likable than Kate, who is, I suppose,  “the charm.” Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) is Pete’s first wife, with whom he had two children, Warren and Hillary, twin 15-year-olds. Diane is a surgeon as well as an Olympic medal-winning athlete, and her success must preclude her from being likable, as with all successful women portrayed on tv. She is a cold character who does not appear to like Kate all that much; I suppose we’re to interpret this as jealousy, since Kate has the real prize.

Pete’s second wife is much less scary and threatening, as she is portrayed as a flake and a hippie. Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and Pete have one son together, Bert, who they adopted. Jackie does not seem to have a profession, and her day is overloaded when she discovers a new food co-op, something that is more important that taking care of her child. Her character is there to make Kate seem more earnest and adult-like, though I think it’s a toss-up. Jackie is yet another character that is used to dismiss care about one’s health and spirituality outside of mainstream religion. She is a joke to be laughed at, not a real person.trohpy wife jackietrohpy wife diane 2013-09-30 at 10.55.57 AM

Suggesting that Kate is somehow reformed, one might expect that she had personal issues to deal with, but the show’s use of the word “reformed” is a stand in for “married,” or let’s say “kept.”

Trophy Wife shows us that being single and dancing at a bar is cause for concern, but not for the reasons you might expect.

Using the word reform might mean that she has a problem with alcohol abuse. If this is the case, the show does not seem to concern as Kate downs an entire water bottle of vodka to protect her stepdaughter, Hillary, from getting in trouble with her mother. Kate then must get a ride home with Diane, where we see Kate, drunk, in the back seat of her husband’s ex-wife’s car, looking as much like a teenager as the actual teenagers in the car. This scene reinforces the cold, adult role that Diane plays, in extreme contrast to Kate’s fun and likable one. When Kate’s drunkenness is discovered, Hillary’s mother, Diane, understands Kate’s actions and the family considers what she did to have been a noble effort. The only way Kate can be a mother figure is to drink?

None of the show’s characters are very well developed, and it’s just another show where the only thing the man brings to the table is money and stability, and the woman only brings looks.

The show’s producers are calling the title ironic, but I guess I’m still waiting for the punch line.

Chick Beer: Sexism Goes to the Liquor Store

chick beer (rev)

Sexism in advertising is nothing new, yet I still find myself taken aback every time I see “Skinny Girl” alcohol. Lately, I have seen many different manifestations of sexist alcohol branding, and it’s  pretty difficult to stomach… and I’m not just talking about the hangover.

Chick Beer was the one that inspired the search, though it wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this labeling. Chick Beer was found at a gas station somewhere in Wisconsin. It’s labeled as “premium light beer,” and we’re instructed to, “Witness the chickness.”

I’m not sure what the company meant by this slogan, and I have to wonder if the copy is written for the potential consumers or for people who are buying this beer for women. I’m curious as to the demographic who most often purchases this beer, but I have a hunch that a lot of men buy this for women, and probably many who are not old enough to purchase it themselves. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I can’t imagine what sort of “chickness” I would be witnessing as I consume premium light beer.

Mad Housewife

Chick Beer seems to be reclaiming beer, but I have trouble seeing how making something pink and degrading does much for equality.  Their first line says, “the world of beer is dominated by men.” I see that perhaps this campaign is trying to take back this particular realm of drinking; maybe it gives some women an opportunity to expand their horizons, but overwhelmingly, it creates another dichotomy to show that women are lesser than men. The intentions here might have been good, but the results are tired.

Then we have Mad Housewife wine, which is a fun one. Are we supposed to assume that this is mother’s new little helper? Women need this wine to keep their uteruses from making them do something crazy, like having their own thoughts.

Their website is fun, and full of confusing pictures; is she from the American Dream 1950s or is she a modern, cook-from-scratch hipster? It’s hard to tell. We know for sure that she loves cooking with her Kitchen Aid (okay, who doesn’t?) and when she stands in front of that school bus in her sensible chic outfit you know she’s being a good mom. But what does this have to do with drinking? Boy, I hope this wine keeps me from getting too hysterical!

Mad Housewife websiteI am going to continue to document this branding whenever I see it.  Of course, I cannot capture all of it, and I have so far just starting with the names that stand out the most, not to say there aren’t many other forms of this branding that I’m neglecting. For now, I won’t touch the advertising campaigns and I’ll instead stick with the labels themselves.  I’ve also made a point to not search for these images because there is a lot of potential here for future posts.

Keep an eye out for more sexist alcohol branding!

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.