DirecTV Has No Strings Attached to Feminism

In the spring of 2014, DirecTV, a satellite television company, released a series of commercials on network television starring marionettes for the sake of advertising. The commercials, though eye-catching, did not garner much attention until one starred a white, sexualized female marionette wearing lingerie and standing in a bedroom.  The marionette, who exists as an object on screen, is placed in contrast to her human husband. She claims that ever since her husband signed up for DirecTV he keeps talking about how he doesn’t have to look at “those ugly wires”. The bashful marionette, who has her own set of wires, continually asks her husband, “do you still think I’m pretty?” to which her husband replies, “baby of course I do”. As a result, the marionette whips off her bathrobe exposing her lingerie beneath. She directs movements toward her husband while asking “do you like what you see?” as he lays on the bed and serves as a spectator. Not only does this commercial exemplify the male gaze and society’s limited acceptance of sexuality and outside the “norm”, but it also serves as a microcosm for women’s portrayal in media.

Through the actions of the marionette and her husband, this DirecTV commercial focuses on the concept of the male gaze. First coined by Laura Mulvey in 1975, it explains how society views women through a male’s perspective.  The marionette wife, dressed in a bathrobe, approaches her husband with concerns about her physical appearance.  When the husband squashes her insecurities surrounding her appearance she sexually takes off her bathrobe to uncover risqué, red lingerie hiding beneath. She proceeds to make movements and noises provoking sexual behavior in order to captivate her husband.  DirecTV plays into this concept of the male gaze by illustrating women as sexualized objects within a matrix of compulsive heterosexuality. The husband lurches up in bed once he lays eyes on his wife’s undergarments and scans her entire body up and down, further objectifying his string-puppet wife as a figure for show.  Once his wife asks a series of questions about her physical appearance, he quickly changes the tone of his voice to urge his wife to continue moving her body for him to see. This relationship portrayed on the screen is entirely based off of appearance with little focus on anything else—every dialogue between the couple pertains to her attempting to gain his approval and then showing him what she has to offer sexually. This theme of male gaze has been so prevalent throughout American history, especially in current day advertising, and the portrayal of the marionette continues to illustrate America as a “man’s world” with the wife’s only purpose to entertain the man.

Furthermore, although interventions into misogyny and patriarchy have been made, our society hasn’t been able to break beyond the heterosexual norm, which is illustrated through the interactions and stereotypes deployed in this commercial.  Katz examines heterosexuality, in The Invention of Heterosexuality, by exploring its changing definition throughout time. He explains how during World War II, the concept of the “cult of domesticity” prevailed. There was this “reassociation of women with the home”, which forced the “predominance of the hetero norm” and caused “an era of heterosexual hegemony” to ensue (Katz 237).  This DirecTV commercial is starkly similar to these concepts that emerged during the war, forcing us to question whether any progress for women in society has really been made throughout the years, as this commercial is covered in sexism and stereotypes which were hyper-prevelant throughout the 1950’s.  The marionette is placed in the bedroom, which alludes to women in the home.  Her blonde hair additionally plays into the stereotype that blondes are dumber than brunettes—thus this woman could not possibly be associated with work outside the home. Likewise, the husband is sitting, somewhat tired looking on the bed, as if he just endured a difficult day at his job. DirecTV is attempting to “play it safe” by staying within sexual norms that our society is comfortable with.

Moreover, the lack of intersectionality in this commercial is striking. Both the wife and husband are straight, Caucasian individuals in the upper-middle class due to the fact they can afford a cable plan in addition to an expensive TV and home. DirecTV wants to appeal to its viewers, and so we cannot only hold them accountable for this portrayal. They must think our society is additionally not ready to discontinue the heterosexual norm.

Women are repeatedly portrayed in media as sexual objects. This commercial is only one of the many times that women have been portrayed as “less intelligent”, “obedient”, “pleasing” beings compared to their male counterparts. The figure of the husband, moreover, helps to portray the wife as a being with the primary intent to serve her husband. Even beyond spectating his wife, the husband holds the remote with control of the channels to signify he additionally has control of the home. His wife is literally a puppet beyond the obvious—the husband holds the strings and decides what role she should play. The wife is not in control, she is at mercy of the husband, and strives to gain his approval, which is illustrated by her repeated questions concerning her appearance.

One journalist from Time magazine states, “our suggestion to the wired wife? Cut and run” (Time).  Using sex to sell is not a new concept in advertising.  Instead of evolving with the changing times, this method has persisted in current advertising. Even more shocking, this advertisement received more criticism about being “creepy” than it did about its sexist nature. The inhuman puppet-wife distracts the viewer from the sexist nature of the commercial—the viewer is unable to see the objectification of women as the problem in the advertisement. The sexualized wife embodies Sigmund Freud’s “uncanny” since she is strange, yet familiar to us because this type of advertising is ubiquitous in our culture (Freud 1). The wife should not have to gain affirmation from her husband about her looks nor should she have to be portrayed as a sexualized object in order to appease the male viewer.  Women should not have to be sexualized at the expense of a company trying to sell their product.  They are not synonymous with sex and it’s about time we cut the strings between this binary.

 

Works Cited

“DirecTV Marionettes Pretty.” YouTube. YouTube, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 9 Sept. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noFdLFMvh3Y>.

Dockterman, Eliana. “Selling Sexism: Why the Latest Commercials Are so Misogynist.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2016.

Freud, Sigmund. The “Uncanny” 1 (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Katz, Jonathan. The Invention of Heterosexuality. New York: Dutton, 1995. Print.

The Making of Man?

Advertisements should ideally be smart and catchy, leaving viewers with an immediate desire to purchase that product. In the United States, some see the Super Bowl, with its hefty fees for commercial time, as the pinnacle of advertising. In 2014, an ad for Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash appeared on screens across the country. The ad begins with a husband showering and using what he believes to be body wash while his wife brushes her teeth in the bathroom. When she realizes he is using the wash designed to douche, she explains the benefits of this brand to him – a quick sell of the product. The husband, however, ignores all the information his wife describes after she first mentions its intended use. His face sinks, as he feels his masculinity threatened, and proceeds to attempt an outrageous amount of tasks to assert his manliness, such as drumming like a true rock star and prepping for a boxing workout by eating raw eggs. He finishes these activities by jumping onto the couch next to his wife, crushing a beer can against his skull as she rolls her eyes, most likely intending to mirror the look on viewers’ faces as they watch this ridiculous sequence. Despite the silent, eye-rolling critique from the wife, this ad does not give a powerfully positive message about gender equality or inclusivity. Instead, on the largest stage in advertising, Summer’s Eve chose to display gender conventions. Specifically, while the creators of this ad intended to make the man look foolish and the woman look smart and realistic, a deeper analysis reveals this ad as more offensive than progressive.

The horrified look on the husband’s face as his wife reveals the advertised nature of the product he is using re-emphasizes obsolete gender stereotypes, hinting that not only should women avoid talking about their bodies, but that men cannot even comprehend these conversations. As the wife begins discussing the benefits of her cleansing wash, the man immediately stops listening, more worried about his threatened identity, and, in the end, contributing to a woman’s lack of confidence in opening up a dialogue about her body. This ad, as many have before, manages to sell a product to women by shaming its key clients. In the Victorian Era, “True Women were defined by their distance from lust” and any sexual topics, and, in a way, this ad brings women back to that time period, suggesting many people, especially men, will not listen to a discussion as “inappropriate” as one about a woman’s bodily functions (Katz 232). In an attempt to deflect the conversation from a potentially uncomfortable topic, the husband physically leaves the scene and begins a new activity, leaving the wife appearing like a lecturer as opposed to a participant in a dialogue. While this ad is clearly targeted to women, portraying her husband as a child-like figure who ultimately discourages her discussion about her body, only further strengthens those dichotomous gender stereotypes.

The extremity of the activities the husband takes part in to recover his masculinity ignores any attempts to disrupt timeworn gender stereotypes, showing that any signs of femininity in a man must be eradicated. The husband karate chops wooden blocks, tows a car with his teeth, and even fashions himself a Spartan helmet, all in an effort to cleanse himself of any traces of femininity stemming from accidentally using the genital wash. While the man is clearly mocked in the ad for his excessive actions, this parody ultimately affirms the hegemonic structure that men are fundamentally different from women, and therefore need specific products. This ad exemplifies this facet of the marketing industry that “spend[s] massive amounts of time and money ratifying and supporting the versions of masculinity that we enjoy and trust,” (Halberstam 1). Validating a world in which men must be completely masculine, this ad “depend[s] absolutely on the subordination of alternative masculinities,” (Halberstam 1). The ad ignores the existence of men who can still enjoy playing sports while being the primary caregiver for their children or manicuring their appearance. Or even use a vaginal wash product manufactured for and advertised to women that, in fact, is basically just soap.

The characters in this commercial represent a white, seemingly upper class, heterosexual relationship, again omitting many other gender, sexual, and even race and class identities from the customer base of the product. Many ads today attempt to cast diverse actors, in order for their products to appeal to more people. This commercial not only displays traditional gender norms, but also portrays a stereotypical heterosexual relationship, which does not exist for many people, including those who might want to purchase the product. Even as scientists and sociologists alike release more information debunking previous assumptions about gender and sexuality, “a scientific fact, once established, may sometimes be disproved in one field, remain a “fact” in others, and have a future life in the popular mind” (Fausto-Sterling 169). While many more people today are realizing and accepting non-heterosexual and/or gender queer people, advertisements like these are still ignoring the emerging acceptance of these lifestyles. This ad, even while using younger actors who may be part of this tolerant generation, does not cater to those who identify outside of gender and sexuality norms.

Advertisements must balance between appealing to the masses and pioneering the portrayal of new societal trends, but this ad focuses much more on old and insulting conventions of gender roles as opposed to engaging people in the 21st century. The creators undoubtedly thought an ad, even one meant for a women’s product, playing during the Super Bowl, must connect with the typical audience of a football game, again making assumptions about the gender make-up of the audience. This targeting, however, not only excludes many people, but also makes gross stereotypes about those who enjoy sporting events. While not everyone today recognizes or accepts the changing discourse on gender and sexuality, advertisements have the ability to change public opinion. An ad created specifically for a women’s product, therefore, should best portray the shifting culture acceptance of previously undermined groups, like women and those who do not identify with traditional ideas of gender and sexuality.

 

Works Cited

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Halberstam, Judith. Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Katz, Jonathan N. The Invention of Heterosexuality. New York: Dutton, 1995.

Wilchina, Riki Anne. Quuer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2004.

The Gender Binary in Relation to Dance

The music video Sergei Polunin in “Take Me to Church” by Hozier is able to reveal assumptions commonly held in dance around gender.

The camera work is steady. The video starts with a shot of the ceiling and then descends down to Sergei Polunin. For most of the video the camera is a short ways away, however, it’s focus is on him intermittently adding to the intensity of emotion in certain moments. For some shots the camera is close up and filming from almost beneath Sergei Polunin, this interesting style adds a dimension into how he is presented.

The white wooden church like structure Sergei Polunin is dancing in is expansive. The space is simple, there is a loft in a small portion of the second story but beyond that the space is open. The walls are incomplete, the frames showing, and the windows appear to be large holes in the walls. The floor is solid stone tiles of a light gray color, slightly dirty. The light beaming in is bright and glows in white fog that is rolling over the floor.

Sergei Polunin is dressed plainly in tight skin tone shorts and dirtied ballet shoes. He is wearing less than is generally worn for classical ballet. Additionally he is showing a multitude of tattoos. The tattoos are bold and dark on his stomach and sides. Sergei Polunin also has tattoos on his arms, wrist, hand, foot and chest. His hair is dark strait and growing out to be a little shaggy.

The song Sergei Polunin is dancing to, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, has deep emotionality and is a great coupling with Sergei Polunin’s style of dance. Within the song there is variation of intensity that compliments the burst of action in the choreography.  

There is a dichotomy between his fully controlled spins and the moments where Sergei Polunin holds his head, his body seeming to break down. Sergei Polunin demonstrates an opposition and union of movement, one example of this is his ability to collapse all the way to the floor with grace. His movements are decisive and even as he is incorporating modern dance into ballet there is still form and structure to his movements. The motion of Sergei Polunin starts slow, tensioned and then unfurls into ballet spins and flashier choreography. Always returning back to ballet dance he is able to add emotionally charged moments that are almost theatrical in nature. There is an emotionality in his moves, particularly when there is a softer moment in the music.

In ballet there are many contrasts between classic female form and classic male form. The way Sergei Polunin holds his head is loose. He begins the piece with his hands on his hair bending his head down. His head is lifted but not tensioned. The way his head moves adds to the burst of motion he has and the emotionality. This contrasts greatly with the way female ballet dancers hold their heads which are generally very poised and tilted slightly up at the chin. The feminine head position is held with grace and firm ease.

The hands are important in ballet. In feminine form they are held softy with the second finger extended out just slightly. They remain smooth, slow changing and delicate. However in male classical ballet the hands are interrupted from delicacy often by lifting a women or focusing on quick burst of muscularity. Sergei Polunin has some form to his fingers during specific ballet moves but he also has flat hands for catching himself on the ground and curled finger pushing through his hair. He also at one point makes a fists with his hands which is something not often done by classically trained female ballerinas.  

The way Sergei Polunin expands his limbs through the space is mostly in quick fast points of movement where he is expanding and contracting often. There is a focus on concentrated muscular feats. He has a looseness of his limbs as certain points. Feminine classical ballet is different, the movements are generally supposed to be slow deliberate extensions that show off flexibility and endurance. The motion through space is graceful and full of very structured form.

Sergei Polunin’s movements come in explosive bursts, the focus on agility and strength. The motions are an embodiment of masculinity, protruding, angular and quick. This assertive action can easily tie into gender stereotypes in general and the conception that our contemporary society still holds about gender. In the gender binary men are noted for strength, assertive attitudes and loud demeanors. Differing from this, women are noted for grace, delicacy and consideration. Women have been expected to uphold this smooth action and water-like nature. Considering the role society has placed on women it is no surprise that femininity in dance is associated with smooth graceful movements. There is an emphasis on posture, detail, fluidity and rounding of the body.

Sergei Polunin’s movements, to “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, uncovers some of the gender bias and associations that are so deeply ingrained in our society, that are reflected in the form, movement and posture of dance.

#LikeALLGirls

Media Analysis: #LikeAGirl

If you watched the 2015 Super Bowl, it’s likely that you saw Always’ poignant advertisement endorsing a more nuanced definition for the colloquialism, “like a girl”. A teenage girl named Erin opens the advertisement with her interpretation of what it means to run like a girl, followed by a number of other similarly aged girls and a few boys. She takes her perfectly manicured hands and places them at her sides, with the palm outstretched perpendicularly to her legs. Like a clumsy doll, she proceeds to prance around the room, indicating that girls are unable to run in an athletic, masculine fashion. Immediately after, a set of young girls around the age of 8 introduce themselves and show their interpretation of what it means to run “like a girl”. Young and uncorrupted, these girls appear unfazed by the fact that “like a girl” functions as an insult in society, and they proceed to run “as fast as [they] can” (Always, 2015). Athletic, confident, and powerful, these young girls embody society’s future women, illustrating the uplifting possibility that today’s females may equate themselves to their male counterparts in adulthood if we continue to encourage their strength.

While this advertisement attempts to reclaim and resignify the colloquial phrase “like a girl” to imply strength and power instead of weakness, rocking the traditional gender binary that represses female power, its efforts are futile. Unfortunately, the language and images the campaign promotes alienates a multitude of women who don’t identify with the heteronormative actresses on screen while also encouraging the categorization of society into two neat boxes marked male and female. According to Always, what it means to be “like a girl” is no longer weak, but instead feminine, dress-wearing, and cis-gendered, as Erin and her counterparts flash whitened teeth and flip their freshly curled locks (Always 2015), which is limited at best. Since the 1990s, feminist and queer interventions, two by Anne Fausto-Sterling, have helped us to understand how the very categorical descriptors of “girl” and “boy” subject human-beings as a species to a rigid binary that demoralizes instead of empowers. Furthermore, Foucault’s The History of Sexuality provides insight into how the employment of language, which is productive in nature, results in the subjectification and confinement of humanity to the gender binary that oppresses us (1997). Thus, as Always proposes a newfound strength in girl-dom, one that praises traditional female gender norms such as dresses, makeup, and hair bows instead of condemning them, it fails to empower and speak for women who transcend these norms. In this way, Always helps the gender dichotomy strengthen its grasp on society, for it excludes the all people who don’t conform to one extreme or the other (girl or boy).

Language is both an expanding and restrictive tool, which can reflect and reproduce a narrow understanding of the world around us instead of a thorough one. Anne Fausto-Sterling speaks to this power in her piece, Sexing the Body, which investigates the origination of a commonly accepted philosophy that biological sex determines gender (2000). As Sterling (2000) postulates, the medicalization of the human body in the 20th century resulted in the categorization of the species into two subtypes based on physical genitalia, when, in fact, many intersex beings with combined sexual organs transcend this rigid dichotomy. Always, instead of exposing gender’s abstract nature, encourages the binary by distinguishing “females” from their polar opposite: males. When the producer asks how a cis-gendered, female teen feels when someone says she throws “like a girl”, the actress responds by characterizing women as “strong” even though the colloquialism portrays femininity as “weak” (Always, 2014). However, in doing so, she undermines the commercial’s attempt to rock the gender binary by enforcing a distinction between men and women to begin with. She doesn’t say that people are strong, but that women are strong. In doing so, her language alone separates her kind of woman, a dress-wearing, makeup-using, cis-gendered female from the infinite other genders that truly exist.

While language in and of itself restricts our understanding of gender, a complex topic, to a limited, binary perspective, the manner in which it is employed further reduces our insight. Not only does this Always ad encourage the usage of dichotomous phrases such as “girl”, “boy”, “strong”, and “weak”, but it also subconsciously endorses a singular kind of normative woman. In a later clip, a girl wearing an effeminate blue dress and bright red lipstick states that “[she] walks like a girl and wakes up like a girl because [she is] a girl, and that is not something to be ashamed of” (Always, 2014). Through the voice of the blue-dress-actress, Always fights for unity amongst women but instead alienates the myriad of girls (the asexual, transgendered, masculine, etc.) who don’t walk and talk like the heteronormative actress. In campaigning for pride amongst normative females like Erin and her friend in the blue dress, Always actually oppresses the non-normative women that choose to transcend the gender/sexuality binary, for no genderless women were featured amongst the actresses representing the types of girls society is not “ashamed of” (Always, 2015). This line raises the controversial question of whether or not girls who break the heteronormative mold in fact do have something to be ashamed of, for they don’t dress or express themselves exactly as the Always spokes-girls do. Similar to the way in which the Victorian’s obsession with talking about and medicalizing of sex resulted in the production of sex, men, and women as subjects, this commercial engenders a subcategory of women within the female realm: the ideal woman (Foucault, 1979). Everyone else simply does not fit the mold and is treated as such.

While Always attempts to reclaim the colloquialism “like a girl” and reshape it to express a woman’s power and equality to her male counterparts, the company solely fights on behalf of the heteronormative female population, resulting in a very limited pursuit of girl power that subjectifies many non-binary women through the dissemination and internalization of the #likagirl campaign. When asked once more how to run “like a girl”, an African American actress with straightened hair, winged eyeliner, and highwaisted jeans explains she will “run like herself”, implying that she, a cisgender, heteronormative female, represents all girls (Always, 2015). Clearly this poses a problem for Always’ mission, for it suggests that an acceptable woman is one who conforms absurd beauty standards to satiate the male gaze that has an ever-present hold on female lives. As Always encourages females to pursue heteronormative behaviors, girls and women across the nation will internalize these values (the dresses, makeup, and curled hair) and succumb to a Foucault-dian productive power that prevents them from rising up against the rigid gender symbols forced upon them by our patriarchal society (Foucault, 1997). This sort of “productivity” is more oppressive than it is beneficial. Instead of proposing the explosion of the binary altogether and the reassessment of what it really means to be a girl—whether you are heterosexual or genderless—#likeagirl subconsciously suggests that only heterosexual, cisgender women should explore their inner power within the boundaries of the beauty/behavioral standards that our unyielding society is already accustomed to. How can humankind expect to move past the binary if it only recognizes one kind of woman—the type that wears form-fitting dresses to hug their breasts and show off their traditionally feminine sex characteristics?

Language has evolved since the dawn of time into an essential aspect of human relations necessary to converse, empathize, and understand one another. However, in the search for understanding we have limited ourselves by constructing rigid definitions for each word in our lexicon. Terms such as “boy” and “girl” meant to simplify and explain society subject it to a binary perspective with little wiggle room to explore the possibilities of a more abstract gender sphere. While Always pursued a female-empowering, binary-exploding campaign with its #likeagirl commercial, the language spoken throughout the advertisement (weak/strong, self-conscious/confident, boy/girl) not only encourages black and white binaries,  but also pits women against each other, as heteronormative, dress-wearing females are equated with “winning” while genderqueer women are not represented (Always, 2015) . While #likagirl successfully empowers heterosexual, cisgender females to embrace confidence and self-assurance through the use of heteronormative actresses wearing excessive makeup and traditional female sex symbols such as dresses and bright pink colors, it fails to empower all women. To take this campaign to the next level and fight for equality amongst all females and males, genderqueer women need a voice alongside their heteronormative counterparts. Redefining #likagirl as a more fluid, concept including feminine and masculine women alike will open the doors to exploding the gender binary and, ultimately, achieving a genderless society where #likaperson frames public discourse.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiL-v_G2ZrPAhVm2oMKHS8hADwQyCkIIDAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DXjJQBjWYDTs&usg=AFQjCNHXZLObKbGPG0DNeC8iHIsvRknCEw

Works Cited

Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000a). Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (Revised ed. edition). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000b). The Five Sexes, Revisited. The Sciences, 40(4), 18–23. http://doi.org/10.1002/j.2326-1951.2000.tb03504.x

Foucault, M. (2012). The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

Philosotoddler Questions Gender Stereotypes

“Do I wear blue because I’m a boy, or am I a boy because I wear blue?” asks a perplexed young toddler, dubbed the “philosotoddler,” in a meme on a Buzzfeed Pinterest post.  A seemingly simple question that, once pondered, actually conjures up all sorts of questions, conjectures, and arguments in today’s gender culture.  The post, originally intended to be nothing more than a joke about the confusing life of a toddler, has no philosophical meaning when looked at in its original context by an average viewer.  The intended audience for this post is the modern internet-user, in particular a Pinterest user, which means it is likely aimed more at younger audiences, especially teens and such who are frequently on Pinterest.  Because the post was originally meant to be simple entertainment, many people have surely seen this meme and have thought nothing of it.  Most peple who see this post have likely grown up in the heteronormative, gender stereotype-enforcing culture in which we live today, therefore they did not read deeper into the meaning of the picture and merely laughed at the “philosotoddler’s” deep inquiries about life.  However, when the post is viewed through the probing lens of gender and sexuality, the reader can truly realize a much deeper meaning hidden between the lines.

This perspective first reveals that, by merely making the assumption that blue is masculine, the post abides by the heteronormative trends that have consumed society for hundreds of years.  The meme addresses the role of gender stereotypes and the idea that certain qualities or accessories are so associated with a certain gender that they are seen as identifiers of that gender.  For example, a baby wearing blue is typically assumed to be a boy.  He is a boy because he has male genitalia, and he is expected to eventually exhibit the qualities that are typically seen as being masculine.  This progression is the logic most people use in society even today, because these are the ideas of heteronormativity.  The baby has already been assigned the gender “male” because of his biological sex.  Almost automatically, the baby, not even old enough to speak or express his/her own identity, already has expectations to fill and assumptions to meet because of gender stereotypes.  These concepts were not part of the original poster’s intentions in discerning meaning from the post, but these topics, heteronormativity and gender stereotypes, are the main focus of this meme when analyzed through the lens of gender and sexuality.

Looking at the original post makes it clear that Buzzfeed originally posted the meme as a joke; along with this meme, there are many others with the same picture, but with different captions: “How did she turn the spoon into an airplane?”  “How can you really know something if you haven’t put it in your mouth?”  The point of the other memes is merely to joke about the “deep questions” of being a toddler, yet this meme in particular means much more than that, and many Pinterest users have noticed this idea.  For example, another user pinned the meme, stating, “It’s a good question to ask.  Gender stereotypes are so big for young children.”  Because such basic assumptions are made about gender in this meme, it means much more than Buzzfeed originally intended, and has a greater significance than many of the other amusing memes with the confused toddler.

Looking deeper into the meaning of the post through analysis from the perspective of gender and sexuality, one can find meaning in the use of a baby as the one posing this meaningful question.  The baby has not yet had a chance to understand gender stereotypes, yet he is already being influenced and even defined by them.  The gender norms of society are being forced upon him and shaping his future, already affecting his learning of what gender is and what it means to be a boy.  The normative gender idea of dressing baby boys in blue is already affecting the baby, before he even has a say in what he wants. Because of the color blue, the baby already has expectations to be masculine and to fulfill the role of a boy in society.  Associations and assumptions such as these will only continue to happen and expand as he grows and begins to understand more about life.  Blue is a boy’s color.  Trucks and cars are toys boys play with.  Boys are tough and masculine.  It all begins with the color blue.

This tendency to enforce gender stereotypes also has a connection with following the heteronormative ideals of society.  For example, teaching young boys that they should be masculine goes along with the idea that they are not feminine.  Being feminine is for girls, and so is wearing pink, and being emotional and fragile.  Because of heteronormativity, one assumes that this boy, who will grow up to be masculine, will grow to like girls.  The baby is put in a categorical gender at a young age, and this gender gives him a natural, expected role in life.  He will follow the idea that girls have a feminine, even subordinate role in comparison to men, and he will grow up surrounded by the idea that romantic relations are most fitting for those of opposite sexes.  All of these assumptions and expectations are related to the heteronormative culture that begins at such a young age that it can affect the shaping of one’s future.

In conclusion, although this Pinterest meme was not originally intended to demonstrate such meaningful and controversial topics such as gender roles and heteronormativity, many users were able to see a deeper meaning in the post.  There is irony in the fact that the “philosotoddler,” meant to be nothing more than a joke, actually did end up posing more of a philosophical question about normative gender roles in today’s culture.  The meme can be seen as an implementation of our tendency to assume the roles of gender in society, and to make assumptions based on gender that cause expectations to be held throughout life.  Maybe a better question for the toddler to ask would be when will we stop adhering to gender roles and heteronormativity and allow kids to discover their own roles in life instead of having them assigned at birth?

Original Buzzfeed post: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jpmoore/the-philosotoddler-meme?utm_term=.mkMeWBl2l#.epMbEklKl

Post from user about gender roles: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/450360031460785367/

 

Moppa, Interrupted

 

The lives and experiences of trans* people are rapidly becoming more commonplace in conversations in mainstream media. I Am Cait, Orange is the New Black, and Katie Couric’s interview of Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera on Good Morning America (however problematic) are evidence that television is becoming more representative of cultural diversity in terms of race, sexuality and, more recently, gender. Jill Soloway’s critically acclaimed Amazon original series, Transparent, has gained traction and interest beyond the trans* community for its raw, honest portrayal of the confusion experienced by a family accepting that its patriarch has come out as transgender. The Pfefferman family does not take the announcement in stride, but battles grief and denial with regards to the loss of its father figure in order to make way for another mother. The show broaches the question of whether a series so uniquely diverse in its field ought to assume an educator’s role for its viewers. The show-runners faced the dilemma of whether or not to accept the didactic responsibility of representing the underrepresented. Does a series about topics newly introduced to public conversation have the luxury of serving their audiences’ basic need for entertainment? As evidenced by the second episode of season two, Transparent says yes. The series serves to entertain its audience with education, but is not a visual textbook. Ultimately, Transparent is not didactic and maintains the right to ambiguity.

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-03-11-pm

Discussions of identifying beyond the traditional gender binary necessitate the destruction of the perceived notion of “realness” or legitimacy associated with being a man or a woman. Thus, the International Bill of Gender Rights as adopted in 1995 asserted each individual’s right to define or change his or her own gender. According to Riki Wilchins in Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer, there is a “fascism of meaning” behind the association with certain physical or personality traits with femininity or masculinity; it is “an assault of meaning that forces people to live as gendered impossibilities” (38). Maura Pfefferman, known affectionately as “Moppa” (an amalgamation of “mom” and “poppa”) by her children, is depicted in the arc of each episode of Transparent as attempting to liberate herself from those “gendered impossibilities.” By the second season, she has succeeded, to a vast degree, by identifying as a woman to her family and to strangers. She proudly presents and lives as female.

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-8-42-14-pmIn episode 202, “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump,” Maura is forced to confront the emotional implications her ability to fulfill her sense of self has on her interpersonal relationships while engaging in digital penetration with her friend and ex-wife, Shelly. The scene is set in the bathroom of Shelly’s retirement condo, where the two once again live together. Shelly relaxes in the bathtub while Maura scrutinizes her image in the mirror, wearing a black bathing suit with synthetic breasts. Their conversation derails from Maura’s body image to a reflection on their previous life as husband and wife. While Shelly is enthusiastic to reflect on their sexual experiences together, Maura resists. Her expression shifts from the frown of a perfectionist, searching for physical flaws to one marred by pain and resentment. Even as she engages Shelly, Maura is emotionally disengaged from the experience. She glowers down at Shelly, ignorant to this in her ecstasy. While Maura can dress, walk, dine, and sleep as a woman, Shelly displays one pleasure Maura cannot know. Shelly, as per usual, is oblivious to her ignorance of Maura’s emotional needs. Afterward, Maura shakes off her feelings by wrapping herself in a kimono, checking her hair and replying to Shelly’s offers of reciprocation with a curt, “I’m good.” The sumptuous nature of the kimono’s material, for Maura, must patch the divide between giving and receiving pleasure and emotional fulfillment.

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-8-42-52-pm

Despite the groundbreaking nature of a sex scene between two older women, one of whom has a penis, the continuously muddied waters of the relationship between Maura and Shelly are the focus of the scene rather than the mechanics of their sex. In an article for The New York Times Magazine, Emily Bobrow describes the Pfeffermans as a “loving family in which everyone seems uncomfortable in their skin.” Her observation, while not subversive, is true. The Pfeffermans’ discomfort with their evolving family dynamic is at the heart of the series’ intrigue. Thus, in order to propel a dynamic and engaging plot, Maura’s discomfort, physical and emotional, cannot be shied away from. The silent tension at the conclusion of the pivotal scene in “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump” exists solely because the writers chose to reject conversation of Maura’s genitals. The richness and depth of the tension, both emotional and sexual, stems from the decades of imbalance in Maura and Shelly’s former marriage. Maura’s actions are indicative of her weariness of giving all of herself to Shelly’s demands without the emotional reciprocation or attention she deserves. The episode’s power lies in its illustration of Maura’s life as complicated because of the typical strain of interpersonal relationships, not because of her transition.

However, that the scene includes Maura’s hesitance to fully engage sexually with Shelly rather than allowing Shelly to reciprocate confronts some feminists’ argument to exclude trans-women. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists’ essentialist notion of womanhood excludes trans-women because of their genitals. While the voices of these feminists may not be the majority, their opinions are relevant in the modern conversation of trans* experiences’ place in a culture only beginning to accept that life exists beyond the gender binary. Michelle Goldberg encapsulates this in her article “What is a Woman?” for The New Yorker, when she addresses the seemingly anachronistic perspective of these women, “at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.” Thus, addressing what would have happened if Maura had decided to stay in the bathroom with Shelly becomes relevant. According to trans-exclusionary radical feminists, Maura is not a woman at all. However, her womanhood is the driving force for the inception of the series’ intrigue.

The writers ignore all of this. In the context of the greater conversation between the show-runners and the audience, the focus on the emotional side of Maura’s transition rather than the physical aspect is representative of their choice not to fully engage in questions of gender politics. The position is a strange one to take by those at the helm of a show with content that can be so easily politicized. The episode effectively introduces the audience to conversations of what Leila Rupp calls “different-status sex” in Toward a Global History of Same-Sex Sexuality in order to address the correlation between transgressions of gender norms and transgressions of the norms of sexuality. However, the show is simply that, it is entertainment. The intrigue of “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump” signifies Transparent’s acceptance of the right to function as entertainment as any other series with less subversive subject matter. Ultimately, Transparent exists to expand perception of trans* lives, not educate on trans* bodies.

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-8-44-00-pm

Works Cited

Bobrow, Emily. “How Two Producers of ‘Transparent’ Made Their Own Trans Lives More Visible.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

Goldberg, Michelle. “What Is a Woman?” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 28 July 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

Rupp, Leila J. “Toward a Global History of Same-Sex Sexuality.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10.2 (2001): 287-302. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

Wilchins, Riki Anne. Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2004. Print.

 

 

Kellogg’s: They’re Grrreat!

Kellogg’s, a multibillion dollar company and American icon, produced two images one year apart for distinct advertising purposes. The first featuring Tony the Tiger was originally published in the 2014 Atlanta Pride Guide, whereas the second was posted on the official Kellogg’s Twitter account the day that the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage. The two images have distinctly different audiences and purposes, reflecting a break in time and culture surrounding the legalization of same-sex marriage and their corporate motives.

Tony the Tiger accompanied by the rainbow “PRIDE” are both iconic and eye-catching, which draw the reader into a more involved advertisement for the reader. The choice of publication for this image in the Atlanta Pride Guide makes it clear who the intended audience is: people attending the Atlanta Pride celebration. To break this down further, it can be reasonably assumed that the majority of the audience is members of the LGBTQ community, with members of the allied community supplementing the target population. The primary caption encouraging readers to “Wear your stripes with pride” refers to the fact that the “gay pride flag” is a series of rainbow stripes, which obviously appeals to the LGBTQ community who use the rainbow flag as a banner, particularly at pride events. Therefore, the use of the word “pride” plays right into the event at hand, but the association of Tony the Tiger relies on years of prior advertising to appeal to emotions of the viewer. Tony, the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, is know for being a strong, encouraging character with the slogan “They’re Great!” This slogan could easily refer to the “stripes” that are being worn with pride. Even without being explicitly noted, the point of Tony is to bring that slogan to mind. In addition, Tony himself is covered in stripes since he is a Tiger, so the idea of “wear[ing] your stripes with pride” also encourages the reader to embrace who they naturally are.

Once Tony has the attention of the reader, there are a series of more nuanced aspects of the ad to be considered. The logos at the bottom include a multicolored “pride & allies” tag that features the traditional Kellogg’s “K,” the full “Kellogg’s” name, and an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. The “pride & allies” tag serves as a self-proclamation of the fact that the company is composed of both allies members of the LGBTQ community. An endorsement from the HRC justifies that proclamation by providing a third-party perspective. The HRC as the largest LGBTQ rights organization in the country has a lot of influence and is a well known symbol on its own. So, to have a huge organization mark Kellogg’s as a top place to work for LGBTQ equality is a noteworthy accomplishment. It also works in conjunction with the rest of the text in the ad which discusses the company’s culture with regard to gender and sexuality acceptance for its employees. The explicit message from Kellogg’s in this ad is not “buy our product” but instead “work for us” which is an interesting tactic to take from a corporation. However, it is significant because of the turmoil regarding workplace discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. In many places there still are not universal non-discrimination clauses, so for a company to outwardly advertise that it does not discriminate is pretty significant. The sense of security and acceptance appeals to the audience, and even if readers do not choose to work for Kellogg’s, they may still choose to buy their products because of that acceptance.

 One year later, the second image was posted on the Kellogg’s Twitter account the day that same-sex marriage was legalized. Some features are the same as the Pride Guide ad, such as the HRC endorsement and “pride & allies” tag. However, there are also some notable distinctions. The only explicit reference to the LGBT community is in the HRC endorsement for Kellogg’s as a top place to work. The other tags from DiversityInc and the NGLCC are not obviously referencing support of the LGBT community, unless the reader is familiar with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Anyone unfamiliar would likely not recognize the acronym and may not understand the endorsement. Similarly, the rest of the text and symbolism of the image may not be obviously pro-LGBT to someone who was not familiar with the rainbow flag. The flag is used as a subtle placemat for a bowl of cereal, which could be easily overlooked while reading the caption “LOVE: the same at every table” for which the bowl of cornflakes serves as the “O.” The smaller caption under the company name reads, “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.” Both of these captions are generic enough that they could reference any given family without specifically referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

By posting this image on the official Kellogg’s Twitter, the company obviously is reaching out to a different audience than that of the Pride Guide. Instead of a primarily LGBT and ally audience at a specific pride event, the image could be seen by anyone who follows the Kellogg’s account, as well as by the followers of anyone who shared the image. Presumably this larger audience is exactly the reason for less explicit support of the LGBT community. The use of the rainbow flag makes its support clear to the community and to its allies, but it is subtle enough to potentially go unnoticed by opponents of LGBT rights. This ad is a way for Kellogg’s to make its stance known without offending and potentially losing the sales of less accepting Americans. It is interesting that the company appears to strategically walk a line by gaining LGBT and allied customers while not losing their opponents. The approach of referring generally to “love” and “families” plays into the idea that Riki Wilchins presented that for the LGBT cause to be successful, there has been a focus on portraying LGBT people to be the same as straight people, just with different sexual interests. This image implies that “love” is same no matter what and that any version of that love can constitute a family that Kellogg’s can nourish. This focus on sameness has evidently been successful since at the time of publication of this image, marriage equality had been achieved.

The difference in audience and message between these two images before and after the landmark legalization of marriage equality indicates a difference in the degree of publicity that Kellogg’s is willing to accept in supporting the LGBT community. Advertising in a printed Pride Guide assures that the first ad will reach a more specific audience, and because of that, Kellogg’s can explicitly try and recruit LGBT employees and customers. While this ad could have been put on social media, to do so more than a year before the Supreme Court ruling would have been very progressive, and the company likely would have faced more backlash. However, distributing a more generic love-based ad on social media after the ruling serves to publicly support the newly granted rights as opposed to advocating for a controversial cause as it would have been before the ruling. This timing implies that even though Kellogg’s was willing to announce a pro-LGBT stance to a small audience, they stayed out of the broader public eye before the ruling so as not to be seen as too progressive and lose opposing customers. These two images are good examples of how corporations get involved in social and political issues while still maintaining a capitalist agenda.

The Intersection of Sex and Power in Afghanistan

The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan is a documentary by Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi about the tradition of bacha bazi in Afghanistan. Bacha bazi, which means, “playing with boys” in Persian, is a long-standing tradition of child prostitution and sexual slavery in Afghanistan. Many times, these boys have to dress in women’s clothing, dancing and sing at parties for men, and then are sold to the highest bidder for the night. These are young boys no older than 15 years old (usually poor and/or orphans) that are sold to rich and influential men who keep them for prestige and as status symbols. The practice is illegal under Afghan law. However, the corrupt law enforcement does not implement it, and many times they do it themselves. In this documentary, Najibullah Quraishi researches bacha bazi first-hand by talking with the boys and their owners. At the same time, Quraishi is detailing and recording how authorities in Afghanistan are accountable for preventing these crimes, but are occasionally culpable in the practice. This documentary was created because he practice of bacha bazi is largely overlooked in the West. This short film is a way to shed light on a horrible and ancient tradition and to expose it to the West.

This documentary not only sheds the light on the boys who are prostituted, it also exposes the men who participate in it and the culture surrounding the practice. In the first few scenes of the documentary, Quraishi meets Dastager, a prominent leader in the bacha bazi business in the Takhar province of Afghanistan. Dastager introduces Quraishi to “one of his favorite dancing boys,” 15-year old Imam. Dastager continues on to dress Imam himself and say, “You’ll really make me want to lose control.” After Imam dances and sings for the other men, Quraishi sits down and talks with Dastager. With no shame, Dastager admits that he has had 2,000-3,000 boys work with him over the years. Quraishi precedes to ask Dastager if he has ever had sex with this boys; Dastager answers by saying no but immediately smiles afterward, indicating that he actually does. This scene shows how this practice is somewhat of an open secret in Afghanistan. Even when this practice is denied, everyone knows it is happening, but it is ignored. In many situations, people will not look at Dastager and think that he is doing something wrong. Instead, they would look at the boys he has raped, and say that they are the lowly and powerful ones. These boys are then looked down on and ostracized by their communities. This attitude in Afghanistan shows why the practice of bacha bazi has persisted for this long. People look down on these young boys (because they are looked at as poor and dishonored because they let the rape happen), and the men are not punished for their abuse, so they know they can continue doing it. These little boys are victim shamed and the blame is put on them.

Furthermore, a common thread throughout this documentary is class. Many of the boys who are sold into this sexual slavery are poor and/or orphans. About 13 minutes into the documentary, Dastagar tells Quraishi the kinds of boys he is looking for. Dastagar explains that he wants an attractive boy that is around 12 or 13 years old who is poor and has nothing. The practice of bacha bazi is perpetuated by poor families who sell their sons and by men who exploit the weaknesses of the poor in their communities. Many of the young boys who enter this world do not know anything about it, and the men who buy them take advantage of that.

Additionally, about halfway through the documentary, Quraishi interviews a police chief in Takhar province. The chief precedes to say that anyone who is caught practicing bacha bazi is prosecuted no matter what class they are because it is illegal in Afghanistan. However, in the next scene, Quraishi’s cameras catch two high-ranking police officials in an illegal bacha bazi party. They were simply watching and chatting with their friends at the party. The corruption of the police is an enormous issue in the preventing of bacha bazi because these are the people that are supposed to be stopping it. Instead, many of them not only look the other way when they know bacha bazi is happening, they also participate in it and consciously commit sexual abuse.

The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan not only sheds light on what is happening to many young boys in Afghanistan, but it also portrays why this ancient practice has persisted for so long. Simply informing the West of what is happening is not going to change this practice. In Afghanistan, the society condones this form of sexual abuse and slavery of young boys. Not only do people turn a blind eye to this horrendous practice, but they also blame the boy who is being sexually abused. They look down on the abused and then praise and admire the abuser. Also, the men who own these businesses exploit poor families and orphaned children who feel like they have no other choice, and prostitute the young boys. This perpetuates the bacha bazi practice because in a way, the boys are “willingly” selling themselves. Moreover, there is no one to enforce anti-bacha bazi laws because the police themselves are overlooking it and even practicing bacha bazi themselves.

Getting rid of the tradition of bacha bazi is not going to be easy. There are certain societal changes that need to happen, like no more victim blaming, giving more choices and freedoms to the poor in the country, and changing the culture and attitude of the police. This is not something that can be done over night. It will take a lot of money, time, and progression. Bacha bazi is banned in Afghanistan; however, this step is not the only one that needed to happen. The first step is that the men who are committing these crimes need to be held accountable and most are never punished for what they do. I think that if they are, it will show other Afghans that this practice is not okay and it will start to be stigmatized (for the better).

Also, I think there needs to be a huge shift of attitude towards feminism, sex, power, and sexuality. In many situations in Afghanistan, sex is looked as another form of attaining power. This is why many women are abused, sheltered by their husbands, and raped (marital rape too), and why these young boys are raped. Women have another set of societal standards that they have to meet. However, we never talk about the set of standards that men have to meet in Afghan society, which I think contributes in large part to the vicious cycle of abuse. If a man is not married and does not have kids by a certain age, he is looked at as impotent and powerless. If he does not beat his wife when she talks back or does not do what he says, he is looked at as weak. These practices go back to the idea that women are lesser and inferior to men and that men always need to have the most power. If you look at bacha bazi, it makes sense then. These little boys are not seen as men yet, they are just another way for “actual men” to prove their power and superiority. These boys are almost seen as women: weak and inferior.

Which Buzzfeed Stereotype Are You?

Day by day interactions with the world lead to many an unanswered question in our minds. When it comes down to the hard ones – figuring out what type of domesticated animal you are or how much your relationship resembles Beyoncé’s, there is only one place to turn: Buzzfeed. This social media entertainment web-sphere creates everything from memes to movies for their readers, who are usually young adults. The most enticing thing about all of Buzzfeed’s posts and articles is the quick, easy to read and comprehend quality. Everything opened will be closed within 3 minutes, have plenty of visuals to grab attention, and language that is up to date with pop culture. When looking at a particular video created by Buzzfeed called “8 Types of Girls You’ve Danced with”, the question comes up: why is this video so easily entertaining to their target audience? While I may not be immune to the tempting articles on puppies, I aim to answer this question by pointing out the assumptions and stereotypes of gender, sexuality and race present in this Buzzfeed video.

The video is presented to us through first person. For a little more than 1 minute, the camera, representing ‘us’ as the dancer, dances with 8 different females that all have catchy nicknames and corresponding personalities. I say personalities and not dance behavior as there are actually no references to how that woman dances or their style. I will return to this later. Its purpose is to entertain and humorously relate to a person’s dance experiences.

The viewer of the video starts watching with this first person perspective and places themselves in the position of the one being danced with. This allows one to relate to the person being danced with, with the shaky camera movements and eye contact directly to the viewer. One feels as if they are truly the female’s dance partner. The dancing view of the camera and characters talking directly to you brings forth the humor of the video as well. However, 35 seconds into the video, a selfie reveals behind the camera. The picture shows the female being presented, ‘The Photographer’, and the person revealed is male. This reveal breaks open the effect of first person. Now the video has shown the viewer the person dancing with all of these females is most likely male, and has been all along. The first assumption has been brought into the video. There is now a heteronormative perspective to look through. This reveal has multiple effects. Firstly, the relatedness has been shattered. For some, there is no relating to the male’s gender. Further, since there is now a face and distinct person assigned to behind the camera, the video is no longer first person. It is as if a veil has been lifted. Although the veil may be placed back in front of one’s vision, they still know who is under the veil. This reveal does represent a societally comfortable lens of heteronormativity though; seeing a male and female dancing together is more comfortable in a person’s mind in this contemporary society and makes it easier to watch this video. This use of heteronormativity, while destroying one’s ability to relate to the video, does provide a space that is assumed typical in society for our brains to imagine.

Each dancer in the video is named with text that describes their personality. As I stated before, none of the descriptions of the females include any reference to their dancing moves or style. All are representative of the characteristics they display on screen. Further, almost every single one of the 8 female characteristics shown correspond with a typical female stereotype. Here are a few of the examples of the portrayal of the females in this video, and the underlying assumptions that each nickname and corresponding traits bring forth. The first female is ‘The Texter’ who only texts while dancing. This goes along with the stereotype of a female being vapid and unconcerned about important issues and life around her. ‘The Mess’ is a drunk woman who can’t control herself, an age old stereotype. This points to the idea of women being stupid and unable to take care of themselves. It also subtlety reinforces rape culture by placing the inability to care for oneself on the fault of the woman, and therefore leaves a space open to blame her for events to come. The ‘Leave Room for Jesus’ is taking jabs at the idea of a religious women that has a certain set of beliefs by representing her as someone who is fairly unwilling to dance. This character is countered and immediately followed by her opposite, ‘The Pro’, a seductive figure who is very willing to dance. This age old dichotomy of the ‘virgin and the seductress’ is a common theme when talking about women throughout history. Freud coined this phenomenon as the Madonna-whore complex. Women’s sexuality has been seen in these binary terms; it is pure or impure, suited for a man’s marriage or suited for his lust. This phenomenon is present throughout culture and appears specifically in visual history. Works of art spanning from 1400 by Carlo da Camerino with The Madonna of Humility with the Temptation of Eve (left image) to Edvard Munch’s Women in Three Stages from 1895 (right image) show this very dichotomy.olivuccio_di_ciccarello_da_camerino_-_the_madonna_of_humility_with_the_temptation_of_eve woman-in-three-stages It is interesting that in an entertainment video of today this same theme is brought forth. The last female character is ‘The Clinger’, a dance partner who won’t let the (male) partner escape. The stereotype brought forth is the female as a dependent only looking for and needing the attention of a man. Laid out in this fashion, these female personas make one cringe with the blatancy of the sexist stereotypes. However, Buzzfeed chose these because these assumptions make it easy to classify females in contemporary minds. These stereotypes and themes are still around, easy to understand, and easy to create.

The last stereotype this Buzzfeed video utilizes happens when the female character ‘The Hair’ is shown. There is really no sugar coating this pretty flagrantly racist portrayal of the only female of color in the video. Her character’s face is never shown, instead an image of her hair is shown taking up the whole view of the camera for about 10 seconds. This is problematic for a couple reasons. First the woman’s face is never shown, meaning that not only has this character been narrowed down to one trait, but she is not even allowed the humanity of the face. Second, the only representation of a woman of color in the whole video is one where her face isn’t even shown. And last, the history of shame and prejudice against a woman of color in regards to her hair is as old and thorough as the history of racism. Women of color and their natural hair are underrepresented now and throughout media history. This background in our society means Buzzfeed’s choice to use black hair as their representation of a faceless woman who is hard to dance with is intentional and relatable to contemporary media. I cannot speak for anyone, but it seems with this choice Buzzfeed would pretty easily offend lots of people of color. Whether their audience truly is more white or they have just catered to their white audience’s historical media assumptions means the same thing, Buzzfeed’s target audience is white.

Almost more frightening than this video is the paired video Buzzfeed created called “6 Types of Guys You’ve Danced with”. The video begins right away with the heteronormative assumption: this time the camera view is in third person and the person dancing with all the males is a female. There is an underlying masculinity assumption underneath all the male personas that each needs to impress this female somehow through different means. As opposed to degrading stereotypes, there is an assumption of impressing and a focus on success. This paired video shows us that these videos are not anomalies in Buzzfeed’s collection. The video “8 Types of Girls You’ve Danced with” is focused on quick, relatable humor for Buzzfeed’s audience. It does this by incorporating a heteronormative lens, using age old categories to define different women, and stereotypes on black hair to ease their (white) audience in through assumptions that have been present throughout history. It’s easy to look back at all the subtleties present in this video and scoff, but the reason they make audiences feel comfortable is because they are not only society wide but present in many other contemporary forms of media. So when reading the news or scrolling through the internet, go forth and take that quiz on cheese Buzzfeed has made; but remember they too are victim to the contemporary conventions surrounding gender, sexuality, and race.

Kids Don’t Care About Their Genitals

One of the most engaging topics of the gender and sexuality field is the categorization of children into male and female genders when they are born. The idea that a doctor defines a child’s gender at birth is a socially constructed practice rooted in defining gender as male or female based on genitalia. This idea of gender identity will strengthen as children grow up, through media exposure and toys they are given to play with. Parents often reinforce these stereotypes and buy their children either “boy” or “girl” toys. These gender specific toys usually differ from each other in color and theme. Toys that are labeled as “girl toys” are often pink or purple. They are usually princess themed toys, horses, and replica home appliances. Toys that are supposedly meant for boys are action figures, cars, and LEGOs for example.

The meme I found challenges these stereotypes of gender specific toys by poking fun at them. It was originally created by Kristen Myers. The meme gives advice on “How to tell if a toy is for boys or girls?” It guides the viewers on how toys should only be categorized as adults’ toys and children’s toys by their intended use. If a toy is meant to be operated with your genitals, it is a toy for an adult and not supposed to be used by kids. If it is not intended to beused with your genitals it is a toy for kids of all genders. This attacks the gender stereotypes because it says that toys that are meant for kids are for all genders and not specifically for boys or girls. My other supporting piece of media exemplifies this gendering of kids toys. It is a toy commercial by the popular toy company Barbie. The company is advertising their new product, a pink toy kitchen. In this commercial a girl calls for her friend and asks if she wants to help her to make dinner on Friday. The commercial goes on and the girls cook imaginary dinner using the Barbie Gourmet Kitchen. The main focus in this commercial is to picture how much fun the girls are having while doing things that are “natural for girls.” It would be “unnatural” to have two boys or even one boy and one girl cooking food with this toy. It is noticeable that the girl who asks for her friend to come over is wearing pink dress, and her friend is wearing red and yellow outfit. This shows us how this toy is meant to be “girls toy” because of the stereotypic appearance from both of the girls in this commercial. This idea of selling replica home appliances to girls emphasizes the femininity associated with domestic work. Girls are taught to enjoy cooking and other tasks around the house.

Target audience and purposes of these two media pieces are very different. The meme is meant to entertain people who understand the idea of having non-gender specific toys, and that it is totally normal for children of all genders to play with any toys. For people, who believe that it is unnatural for boys to play with “girls toys” or vice versa, this meme is educating through its use of humor. When kids see this picture, they are encouraged to think of where their toys fall in this category and how all toys can be gender neutral regardless of color or other factors. For the Barbie Gourmet Kitchen commercial, the target audience is young girls ages 5-10. It is also targeted to the parents of these girls, who are buying the product for their daughters. The purpose of this commercial is to sell the product and that is why it is emphasizing the fun the girls are having. The joyful music and happy girls are intended to make parents think that this product is good for their daughters. This commercial is especially targeted to traditional families, where gender roles are emphasized and parents want their daughters grow up to become traditional feminine women.

Both of these pieces have multiple details that are trying to catch reader or viewer’s attention. The use of big font in the meme pops up and gives the meme a title. The title presents the idea that the meme is challenging gender norms. Like all memes, this one is easy and quick to read. The main purpose here is to be funny and educate the audience by using humor as a tool. Little details in this meme are important. The colors that are used play a significant role. The question “Do you operate the toy with your genitalia?” is in a blue circle because it represents the neutral part of this meme. The line that says yes leads to a red circle with a text “this toy is not for children” and the other line saying no leads to yellow circle with a text “it is for children of all genders.” It is important that the gender-neutral answer is in yellow circle because yellow is considered one of the gender-neutral colors. The adult toy answer is in a red circle because it can be considered “dirty” or “naughty.” The use of the word genitals increases the humor of this meme because talking openly about genitalia can be considered funny. In the TV commercial, the high tempo and joyful music, the girls with high-pitched voices, and the decorated room are details that draw the viewers’ attention. The commercial’s purpose is to attract people and create a happy feeling, and this commercial does it.

The Barbie Gourmet Kitchen TV commercial supports the stereotypes that the meme is trying to challenge. The femininity and masculinity that the kids’ toys represent are being challenged when kids are encouraged to think about these issues themselves. Memes like the one analyzed above try to make people understand that traditional gender roles are outdated and children of this generation should not be forced to accept the gender assigned by a doctor at birth.

Works Cited:

Michelle, B. (2014). How to tell if a toy’s for boys or girls…. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from https://secretlyfabulous.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/how-to-tell-if-a-toys-for-boys-or-girls

Toys Commercials Barbie gourment kitchen Kuchnia Barbie Mattel–. (2014) Retrieved September 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Opbg3lxserc