A “Got to see this video” that you actually have to see

I’m usually pretty skeptical of these videos that claim to be so awe-inspiring or life changing, but this one this one worth a watch. We need to change the way we think about engineering, among other professions. This seems like a good jumping off point. Let’s use the momentum to start breaking down some of these gender barriers.

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.

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.

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.