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.

Using Racism to Protect a Racist

With my social networks abuzz with the Zimmerman verdict, I find myself sitting here so taken aback by the injustices in this country right now. We are taught to be live we are living in a post-racist world, but I wish people would open their eyes. And what makes it even worse is that the defense used racism to protect Zimmerman. zimmerman

I saw a comment on Facebook that was supporting the not guilty verdict. It read: “That’s what happens when you attack an armed security guard. Dumb kid.” The way the news is twisted around so that people can believe these horrific racist thoughts without feeling guilty… Nobody wants to feel bad, so they allow themselves to believe things that are not true. As most of you I’m sure know, George Zimmerman was no security guard; rather, he was an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer who felt threatened when he saw a black kid in a hoodie. Who feels safe now?

Some people are saying things like, “we can never know what really happened,” and I’m sure they want to believe that. Let’s look, instead, at the hard evidence – the recording of the 911 call where police told Zimmerman to stay in the car. If Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy, was attacking Zimmerman, how would Zimmerman have even had the chance to stay in his car. And don’t forget what I believe to be clear racial slurs Zimmerman muttered under his breath as he gunned down a teenager.  If Trayvon was running away, in what world is chasing him down self defense?

I can’t of course speak to the acts that night or in the jury box, but how can anyone truly believe this was a fair outcome? How can you look at Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, and tell her that her son was gunned down because he “looked suspicious?”sybrina fulton

Think Progress wrote that part of the defense’s case was that if Zimmerman were black, this wouldn’t be a crime, which is exactly why I think we need to take a real, hard look at racism in this country. We are taught that black men are so violent that it should just be expected that they would attack anyone and everyone. If this were a case where two black men attacked each other, it would not have gotten the national attention it has. I find that so sad. It’s a travesty that a racist defendant was able to use racist logic to get acquitted from these charges.

Dude is so Wasted: Drinking to Reinforce Masculinity and Bro Culture

Bros Get Wasted; Girls Get Tipsy: Why Boozy Talk Matters, posted on NPR on July 10, 2013,  discusses a recent publication in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, picks apart the ways in which men and women in college are described while intoxicated. I was unable to access the full text of the article, so I am relying on NPR’s analysis and Alcoholism’s abstract for my insights.

A-little-TipsyNPR’s article begins by discussing the problem of students’ perceptions of other students’ drinking habits.  People tend to assume that everyone else is drinking more than they are – people tend to also assume the same about sex.  The article opens up for a discussion of the way people perceive levels of intoxication for men and women separately. The study in Alcoholism, “Gender Differences in Natural Language Factors of Subjective Intoxication in College Students: An Experimental Vignette Study” had 145 participants and examined the terms they used to describe the drunkenness of students.

Participants in the study read scenarios in which the characters were described in varying levels of intoxication. The student participants were asked to describe the character. Students overwhelmingly underestimated moderate drinking, quite possibly because students assume their peers are drinking much more than they are. Students also were far more likely to use words such as  “tipsy, buzzed, light-headed,” when describing even the most intoxicated woman. When describing men, on the other hand, students used, unsurprisingly, more harsh and strong words, such as “plastered” and “obliterated.”

Bro Party

The leader of the study, Ash Levitt, says that the “trashed and wasted” view of drinking men have leads to sometimes deadly consequences. When students assume everyone drinks more than them, and that men must drink significantly more than women, it creates a competition that inevitably ends badly.

The study concludes that college students are putting themselves at great risk, and highlights the threats to men. Studies such as these illustrate just one of many downsides to the singular view of masculinity we have. Men become much more likely to over-indulge if they feel their manhood, their sense of self, depends on them acting out and becoming belligerent. One commenter on NPR’s website mentioned the effect this has on consent for women – the commenter noted that if women are always described as “tipsy” than they can always be faulted for assault and rape.

I believe this is just another way that society perpetuates the dichotomy where men should not be held accountable for their actions but women are always in control. This viewpoint is an easy way to explain victim blaming and the “boys will be boys” attitude that gives men the freedom to avoid responsibility.

Bros Drinking

The type of behavior perpetuated by college drinking culture is a dangerous one for everyone. Students police each other to ensure their peers are in near-constant drinking contests, whether outright or implicitly. Creating this competition forces people to go far beyond their personal limits, and as the pressure is more intense for men to prove their masculinity, it makes them even more vulnerable to harm.  I took a screenshot of the google image search, “bros drinking,” and the first row of pictures shows men hypermasculinizing themselves and each other while drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

Quiz time! Are you Stepping on Enough Toes at Work?

are you too demanding

I found a quiz a few weeks back from a website that claims to promote women and fight for equality in the workplace.  The quiz, “Are you Too Demanding,” only serves to further promote the idea that women can only be successful if they act like men, at a detriment to their likability and womanhood.

Every question was problematic in at least one way; the title itself suggests that women who have achieved recognition in their field and have advanced their careers are probably stepping on other people’s toes. They are getting in the way of other’s success.  When the author of this quiz says, “A powerful woman knows what she wants, but standards have their limits,” they are saying that women should not try too hard to achieve. And of course, since this quiz is directed at women, implies that men do not have this problem; men’s achievements do not negatively affect them or those around them.

The seven-question quiz begins by asking women how they handle an opportunity to put down another woman. The assumption made in this quiz is that all of your coworkers are also women. This is another problematic assumption because it pushes women into careers that are traditionally feminine, not that their coworkers would be men. The first question asks how you handle when your coworker makes a mistake during a presentation. Your options are to sigh and correct the mistake, politely interject, or ignore it because she was just nervous.

correct her

Choice A is clearly the worst choice because you would be too out-for-yourself and undermining other women. I am personally bothered by the ever-present trope that women are “naturally” going to fight with other women, as if this is not a construction reinforced by media and men who want to put women down. I have heard way too many women tell people that they don’t like women because they are catty or putting each other down. I’m bothered by how pervasive this is because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, choice B gives you a chance to not be aggressive when you politely correct your coworker, which I assume to mean using uptalk as to not sound too knowledgeable. Choice C is probably the best way to preserve your femininity, but it doesn’t give you a chance to succeed.

I’m going to skip ahead to question six now and let you read through the others on your own. This question is too good not to address.

Screen Shot mama bear

This question gives you a pretty simple choice between being and overbearing bitch, a good, nurturing woman,  or someone who isn’t qualified to be in a position of leadership.

 Womenworking.com presents itself as a website that serves women’s needs and helps them to learn how to succeed in the working world, which has never been kind to women. Instead, the quiz only perpetuates stereotypes about successful women and how they push other women down to get ahead.

 

The Twitterverse Responds to Sexism

Last month,  #thingspeopledontsayaboutmen was trending on Twitter. I feel like I’m constantly biting my tongue when I think about the frequency with which I hear things like, “lady doctor,” “female doctor,”  “woman CEO,” “male nurse,” “lady contractor,” etc.

What is particularly frustrating is that the same people will tell you that all of these occupation titles are gender neutral. Each of these assumed gender-neutral titles conjure up images of who should be in that job – who would be the ideal person. A “male secretary” is someone whose masculinity is in question because he is in a lesser-respected job, long-held for women. A “lady scientist” is subversive to the hierarchy of professions.

 

As women outnumber men in colleges, some feel this is a threat to the status quo. It is in some way, but looking deeper at the outcomes of these scenarios will show you that women continue to be at a disadvantage when it comes to position in the corporate ladder.  When a woman gains even marginal success, she is either too masculine, or she used her femininity to dupe men to promote her. It’s something I notice on TV a lot – women are gaining some recognition as potentially successful in their careers – but it always comes at the price of their family or love life.

sleepingto the top

 

 

When men succeed, they are often viewed positively, but when women succeed, they are hated for it.

vindictive

Women are hated when they try to break out of the role of nurturer; suppressed time and time again. I like how this hashtag looked at how people question a woman’s decision to work outside the home, but never consider that men are making a choice to be away from their families, same as women.

career men

Issues of success and careers are only the tip of the iceberg when you think about the way we view men and women.  Victim blaming was another major topic on #thingspeopledontsayaboutmen.

 

trousers

 

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The saddest part of these instances, to me, is that these are some of the most mild examples of victim blaming I’ve encountered.

 

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Unfortunately there are enough examples here that I could write books on, so I’m going to leave it here. I’m glad to see that a hashtag like #thingspeopledontsayaboutmen could gain some fame, though it really is not enough.

The more we begin to catch ourselves when we tell our friends about a “lady engineer” or a “male social worker,” the closer we can get to accepting that one’s gender does not create an intrinsic need or ability to do one particular job over another.  And hopefully we can soon stop teaching boys and men that women’s bodies are property that men effectively own.

Are You Sisters? Or Just Queer?

rainbow-question-markI’ve been thinking lately about the times when queer women are mistaken for sisters, cousins, or other relatives. I’ve also noticed people on the internet talking about this phenomenon here and there, but I haven’t found any research or even conjecture about it.

I figured this would be a good place to start the conversation. Numerous times I’ve been out with my partner and been asked if we were sisters. Once this even happened with former senator, Scott Brown (R-MA). To me, it seems like a way for someone to recognize that there is a relationship there, but dismissing the legitimacy, whether intentional or not.  I have been thinking over this phenomenon for a while now, though only recently did I notice that nobody is talking about it.

Scott Brown - He doesn't get it

Scott Brown – He doesn’t get it

I tried researching the idea, and I was able to find a comment on a thread occasionally, but it seems that most people dismiss it after it happens. Even worse, it causes queer women, whether they are part of a couple or not, to take a step back and examine themselves and their friend or partner, assuming that the clothes they’re wearing or mannerisms are somehow creating a meshed persona.

In effect, queer women are blaming themselves for others’ perceptions.  Perhaps women are internalizing the fault as they are taught throughout their lives. I may be taking this a bit too far, but I believe the point has some foundation.

By recognizing a relationship between women as one of sisters or other relatives, the relationship is less threatening than a romantic or sexual relationship. Since this phenomenon most often seems to happen when men are asking, I think it might be that men do not see relationships between women as having the same status as relationships between men and women, or among men. I would love to find some research on this topic but until I can start, I’ll have to rely on my own speculation.  I suppose I’ve been thinking of this as a dismissal of sorts; a way of devaluing the relationship.

The other issue I’ve noticed with this phenomenon ties into the fetishizing lesbian twins in pornography.  Can this idea be so prevalent that it spills over into real life? I’m not sure how to understand how this applies to everyday life, but these pornographic scenes ultimately involve men being the protagonist of the story. Without men, the women’s relationship is invalid and unfulfilling.  tegan and sara

I’m not sure how exactly to connect these ideas without further research, but I am hoping to get some more insight into this phenomenon of queer women being mistaken for sisters. I would love to talk to anyone who has something to say about this and I’d love to hear feedback!

A Sign of the Times: Race and Motherhood in the Laundromat

The other day I noticed some new signs in the Laundromat I use. Most of the signs are these:

laundro1

It all seemed pretty standard; they are not responsible if you don’t pay attention to your laundry.  The new signs that were up were in Spanish. I took two years of high school Spanish and consequently can only decipher if someone is talking about their pencil or notebook, but I was able to piece together that this sign was telling patrons not to leave their children unattended. laundro2

 

 

At first I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed there were no similar posts in English.

My first thought was about how racist this was – I don’t think it was malicious, but is that excusable? It isn’t, but at the same time, it makes me think about our cultural expectations.  The assumption is that women are there with their children to do laundry and perhaps their socioeconomic status means they are lesser and going to be negligent of their mothers.  The reality is that there are children running around the Laundromat all the time, but not all of them are Spanish-speaking.

Signs in a Laundromat, however benign, do reflect the cultural expectations within a community. I wonder how aware people are when they make these signs, and how aware others are when reading them.

She knows the answer? Jeopardy! and Uptalk

Oops my success is showing!

I’ve spent many frustrated minutes looking for episodes of Jeopardy! online, but really, who hasn’t? When I noticed this article popping up on my Twitter feed, I knew it would be a perfect way to get my new blog started. It’s the intersection of two of my favorite things: gender and Jeopardy!

The article, “Gender in Jeopardy! Intonation Variation on a Television Game Show,” was first published in Gender and Society in February 2013 by Thomas J Linneman, and has been picked up by a few news outlets.

Linneman’s article is about uptalk and its prevalence and variation in Jeopardy! Uptalk is a speech pattern that generally conveys uncertainty in speech by adding a rising inflection at the end of a sentence, suggesting a question. The use of uptalk, although debated, is more often used by those in subordinate positions.

Linneman found that men used uptalk 27% of the time when they had a correct response, and 57% when they had an incorrect response. For women, the numbers were 48% and 76%, respectively.

Success in Jeopardy! Is tied to either being a returning champion, or simply being ahead at a particular moment during the show.  Linneman found that women with greater Jeopardy! success used uptalk more than their less successful female counterparts. For men, the opposite was true.

Linneman’s findings reinforce the gender performance expectations that discourage women’s success. Women, when they are successful, are viewed as unfeminine, and this research suggests that uptalk is a way to downplay the disparity between femininity and success.  By creating a persona of uncertainty, women are able to gain success with a lower risk of tarnishing their gender performance.

Next time you watch Jeopardy!, pay attention to how women and men handle their success differently.