Brandon Reid Token: Campus Drag Show

On Saturday, April 9th, I attended the drag show at Rusk’s eating house in Patterson Court. This event was co-hosted by Queers and Allies and Rusk Eating House. During this event, there were many different drag performances. Some of the performances were done by professional drag performers, while others were performed by Davidson College students. The event was emceed by a member of Queers and Allies, who helped add context to the performances by introducing the performers and providing some narrative of what the performers would perform.

Before attending this event, I completed some personal reading on drag. Specifically, I sought to learn more about the history of drag. According to Wikipedia, the first known drag balls in the United States were in Harlem in the 1920s. The Wikipedia page also said that in this show and others that happened around that time, gays and lesbians impersonated members of the opposite sex and competed in fashion contests. Today, and then, drag shows are forms of entertainment, as they are skits that involve impersonating members of the opposite sex. These skits are filled with both serious stories and humorous ones.

This event was relevant to our class’s content, because it involved conversations and actions that push against heterosexual norms of our society. In class, we have become deeply aware of heterosexual norms and how they function in our society. As a student in GSS 101, I have become even more invested in working against homophobic norms, and supporting this event and engaging with the event’s content was a way of doing so. When it comes to course readings, this event most reminded me of our readings on intersectionality, as there were many intersecting identities in the performances.

Further reflecting on the event, I am glad that many students came to support the drag show. However, I still wish that there was more attendance from those on campus who are actively supporting homophobic trends.

Brandon Reid: Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean

In the book titled, Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean, Andil Gosine takes an interesting approach to demonstrate a global issue of homophobia and general exclusionary attitudes that societies have adopted towards marginalized communities. In this piece Gosine describes these global issues in a way that incorporates experiential storytelling on their experiences, and broader data, laws, and systemic forms of oppression. Before even diving into the book, Gosine’s book cover greets students with an intriguing image of a person blending into a jungle, while holding a rooster. By starting with this image, Gosine invites readers to pause and contemplate the message that is being conveyed, as it pairs beautifully with what is represented in the actual book. In this book report, I will share my perception of the work’s content.

Continue reading “Brandon Reid: Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean”

    Book Review: Legalizing Sex: Sexual Minorities, AIDS, and Citizenship in India 

  

“Legalizing sex” by Chaitanya  Lakkimsetti reflects the everyday struggle, difficulties, and discrimination faced by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Kothi Hijara (LGBTQKHI) Community, on the social, political, and economic level in India. It presents the conservative, discriminative and unwelcoming culture of the LGBTQKHI community in India. Lakkimsetti introduces a new term “LGBTQKHI “instead of the renowned term “LGBTQ” where she includes men who have sex with men, the Kothi, and the hijra (MSMKHI), marginalized sex workers neglected by the government. Lakkimsetti effectively portrays the reality and the constant struggles of the transgender, sex workers, and the gay community in fighting for their rights and class in society. 

Lakkimsetti questions the ghettoization of sexual minorities in India. She questions the position of sexual minorities in society by presenting the everyday struggles of the sexual minorities. She collaborates with the LGBTQKHI community, several organizations, and the government to promote equal protection, control the pandemic, and fight for the rights of the marginalized sexual minorities. She reflects on the unsupportive government, its sardonic anti-homophobic laws, and a discriminative society in marginalization and stigmatization of the LGBTQKHI community. Her research and surveys around various parts of India such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai gather the data on sexual minorities that reflects the reality of the discrimination in civil, political, social, and economic rights of LTBTQKHI people in India.  

She also reflects on the boorish nature of the government and how the pandemic shifted the position of sexual minorities in India. Sexual minorities once discriminated against and marginalized by the Indian government come to attention as “high risk “groups to combat HIV/AIDS to create an effective response in the mid-1980s. This book reflects on how unsupportive government, homophobic laws, and discriminative society have led to several social, political, and economic barriers to sexual minorities. Such barriers have left them with no choice but to fight for social, political, and basic civil and political rights demanded by the state government of India. It reflects the heterosexist perspective of society as demands and protests by the sexual minorities for their right results in shock to the government with how previously stigmatized and marginalized groups could stand up for themself and make demands.  

Chaitanya Lakkimsetti is a professor specializing in gender, sexuality, law, and citizenship. She is renowned for her studies in sexual and gender inequalities in a global context using transnational and intersectional approaches. Her expertise in the field of gender inequality has contributed to her book “Legalizing sex” where she successfully addresses the demand for political and legal change by the gender minorities in India. Her wider extended research on the sexual minorities in contemporary India has highlighted the contemporary struggle for social and political justice in relation to the anti-sodomy. She provides a social and political approach to ending the injustice and suppression of sexual minorities legally.  

The first chapter reflects on how sexual minorities are drawn into the category of “high-risk group” to develop a strategic approach to control the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. After the first detection of HIV/AIDS on sexual minorities, they are taken into serious consideration as a threat, blamed, hatred, and even punishment. The same marginalized group is later given a leadership position in combating the pandemic by the Indian government. The second chapter – “Challenging bare life” emphasizes abuse and incessant violence especially arbitrary police violence supported by the criminal laws against sexual minorities. It presents the ways in which sexual minorities negotiate for accountability and redirects the government’s attention towards the protection of the rights of marginalized groups.  

Chapter 3 “Empowered Criminals” focuses on the mechanism of resistance as a means for negotiations with the Government regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It addresses the success of sexual minorities as they become able to gain the support of several HIV/AIDS organizations and from the federal state ministry of health. This chapter elaborates on legal acts as important implications for the rights of the sexually marginalized group. Lakkimsetti successfully scrutinizes the everyday policing of the non-generated class and emphasizes the struggles of gay groups and transgender/ Hijara focusing on two judgments. Those two judgments include the Indian supreme court, the Koushal that declared section 377 constitutional, and NALSA(National legal services agency) that granted rights to transgender people. The closing chapter “Interconnected rights” presents the need for cooperation and active participation among the sexually marginalized groups for the transformation of goals of sexual minorities with a focus on a welfare discourse. It includes the success of the sexual minorities who have been protesting against section 377 for two decades and finally supreme court of India makes it unconstitutional in September 2018.  

One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it successfully presents the reality of the constant struggles and fights for legal change by the sexual minorities in India. Through her experiments, research, interviews, and collaboration with several organizations is able to reflect on several homophobic laws, discrimination, and homophobic society resulting in discrimination, unfairness, and harassment of sexual minorities not only in India but in the entire world. She mostly emphasizes the homophobic laws in chapter two with how Such laws freely consigned sexual minorities to death by depriving resources and made it extremely harder for the sexual minorities to stand up for their right and place. She portrayed that such violence reveals the internal contradictions in the Indian government, the cusp of the juridical and biopower. She not only includes the difficulties and the suffocation of sexual minorities but also points out some success and positive changes that took place after the mid-1980s after the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a global issue. For example, in chapter one, she includes the repeal of section 377 in 2009, which marks a significant history for sexual minorities as a victory in a legal battle for their social, political, and economic rights.  

Despite some positive changes and success, she presents the reality of how the homophobic perspective of society remained the same, and they are still marginalized and stigmatized in today’s modern world. Although the author effectively communicates the struggle and reality and their oppression of LGBTQKHI people, it does not provide a fully comprehensive account of minorities such as lesbians and bisexual people. She emphasizes more on the Gay, transgender, hijra leaving behind bisexuals and lesbian community. Such has left a small room with not much understanding of the reality of bisexual and lesbian people and their struggle and class in society. It would be better if she had emphasized including all the sexual minorities in the category of the LGBTQKHI community and not just Gay, transgender, and sex workers. 

Overall, its intersectional nature provides the deep root stigma, discrimination, and struggles associated with the marginalized sections. The author does an excellent job as she helps us understand how activism can influence and change the different political discourses and the dominant politics in bringing positive legal change. She emphasizes how active cooperation, active participation, and fighting for a change play a vital role in achieving a goal. The book successfully presents the existence of discriminatory and biased laws against sexual minorities and encourages its views to thrive for a change and fight for rights and equality. I would highly recommend anyone interested in the field of sexuality read this book. 

Reference:

Legalizing Sex: Sexual Minorities, AIDS, and Citizenship in India, Chaitanya  Lakkimsetti , 2020

Intimate Eating: Racialized Spaces and Radical Futures: A Review

Crunch. Bits of crushed-up peanuts add an element of surprise as I chew. The chunky texture intertwined with the smooth layers of peanut butter creates a satisfying experience. Extra crunchy peanut butter. A treasured delicacy of mine. When the dining hall does not fill my grumbling stomach’s desires, I chow down in my dorm room alone on my favorite snack. A yummy snack? Yes. A snack that works as a form of resistance against the normative intimacies of eating in the public sphere? Well, that is an idea I had not even begun to consider until reading Anita Mannur’s 2022 monograph entitled Intimate Eating: Racialized Spaces and Radical Futures. 

Mannur, a self-proclaimed “professor, writer, thinker, recovering optimist,” works as an Associate Professor of English at Miami University. Mannur teaches interdisciplinary courses centered on race, class, gender, and sexuality. Additionally, she is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture and co-editor of Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader. Mannur received her BA in Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Mannur’s background and primary research in food studies as well as her interdisciplinary teaching approach qualify her to examine food in Intimate Eating. 

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A Review of “Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities”

If asked to define an ideal relationship, most people influenced by Western and European norms would describe monogamy. They would boast of a love that is “loyal,” a devoted union between two people—usually between a man and a woman. Yet, even within the LGBTQ+ community, monogamy is an expectation, and there is a heavy stigma around having a committed relationship with multiple people. Monogamy, in fact, has been so normalized that it is often seen as the only option, and any one who breaks this expectation is labeled as deviant, as inhuman, as criminal. Polyamorous Americans, unprotected under the law, can be fired from their jobs and discriminated against in housing, healthcare, and courts for simply loving too much and too many (McArdle). However, can polyamory potentially foster more loving relationships and a more loving society? And how can examining the origins of monogamy reveal all the ways in which the institution oppresses people of all gender, racial, and sexual orientations? The 2016 novel by Mimi Schippers, Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities, begins to answer these questions and sets up a theoretical framework for identifying how compulsory monogamy legitimizes the dominance of white heteromasculinity. 

Beyond Monogamy challenges the definition of monogamous couples as natural and inevitable, asserting this assumption has been used to maintain the dominance of masculinity and subordination of femininity. In fact, Schippers claims mononormativity to be the central pillar that upholds heteromasculine privilege and contemporary gender relations (Schippers 25). For instance, compulsory monogamy outcasts women who cheat or have relationships with multiple partners because they threaten expectations of feminine loyalty that uphold male possession. The same can be said for race relations, since monogamy was institutionalized alongside the “eugenic constructions of racial superiority” (8). When examining the sociohistorical construction of sexual normalcy, Schippers finds that mononormative rhetoric pathologizes black Americans to be incapable of marital monogamy and therefore inferior. The author cites the hypersexualization of black women and emasculation of black men who accept the “promiscuity” of wives as examples of the racist deployment of monogamy (41). As a consequence, black, feminist, and queer communities have historically adopted monogamy into their definitions of respectability in order to be deemed worthy in a society that already demonizes them to begin with. However, Mimi Schippers’ main argument provides some hope, that polyqueer sexualities offer an opportunity for the deconstruction of gender, racial, sexual, and class hierarchies, allowing for bonding and love across difference. For individual relationships and for the entirety of society, polyamory has the potential to revolutionize how humans relate with one another. 

As a Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies and Department Chair of the Sociology Department at Tulane University, Mimi Schippers is an expert on the sociology of polyamory. Embracing sociological and queer theorist perspectives, Schippers focuses the book around how the construction of sexual normalcy is central to social structure and interpersonal relations. While Schippers builds on the work of Adrienne Rich, Michel Foucault, Gayle Rubin, and other feminist writers, she notes how there are few theoretical interrogations of how monogamy in particular is implicated in production of gender, racism and sexual hierarchies. She reorients away from radical feminist theory that positions men as oppressors and towards queer theories of monogamy as central to “regimes of normalcy” (6). Schippers likewise critiques Foucault for the omission of race and emphasizes how white supremacy is central to regimes of sexual normalcy that compel individuals into exclusivity. 

Curious of how non-monogamous relations are portrayed in various media representations and take shape in everyday interactions, Mimi Schippers in Beyond Monogamy analyzes popular texts and film along with her own life experiences dealing with polyamorous relationships. Thus, she combines multiple methodologies of auto-ethnography and deconstructionist methods of discursively analyzing fictional representations of polyqueer sexualities. By including explicit descriptions of her own sexual experiences and short fictional vignettes about polyqueer sexual interactions, Schippers helps readers imagine a polyqueer future and collapse the binary between “the profane pornographic and sacred academic” (28). For each narrative discursivly analyzed, she attempts to demonstrate the feminist, anti-racist, queer potential of polysexuality.  

In the first chapter, Schippers explores cultural narratives around “love triangles” and how these narratives dictate correct masculine behavior and establish the white monogamous couple as evolutionarily superior. In the classic erotic triangulation between two men and one women, the men are pitted against each other as rivals, fighting each other for the woman. Schippers uses the example of her own erotic triangle with her lover and his best friend to exemplify how having two male partners would conflict with hegemonic masculinity. The hegemonic assumption that men are naturally jealous and predisposed to control women’s sexuality, forces her lovers to have to determine a winner and a loser. This sprouts from the assumption that humans evolved to be monogamous in order to protect genetic investments and ensure offspring survival (54). However, not only are unions between one woman and multiple men found in every part of the world, they can be highly beneficial. Rather than taking ownership of women, many communities are better served by cooperation and resource sharing. For example, in North Alaskan Inuit societies, men who share spouses form strong bonds of friendship and protection that last a lifetime, due the nonexistence of jealousy and male possessiveness (55). Schippers examined this in her own life when her lover Ben and their friend Matthew were able to reconfigure their heteromasculinity and bond with each other through their love and desire for Mimi. They were able to release control over her and her sexuality through embracing the erotic triangulation. 

In the second chapter, Mimi Shippers focuses on the novel by E. Lynn Harris, Invisible Life, which through the narrative of a black man on “down low,” critiques compulsory monogamy and imagines a world in which bisexual black men have the freedom to express their sexuality. The “down low” refers to African American men who identity as heterosexual, but secretrly have sex with men as well as women (73). Media representations of men on the DL categorize them as dishonest, unfair to women, and selfish. In Invisible Life, compulsory monogamy forces the protagonist into secrecy, since as a black man in the 1990s he cannot be economically successful, and involved in his community and church while simultaneously exploring his sexuality with women and men. Schippers attributes this to the politics of black respectability, in which black activists and churches embraced the inherent morality of monogamy so that they could earn a place in society and defy racist stereotypes of black promiscuity (77). This suffocating construction of the monogamous “respectable” black man, forces men to hide their love of black women and men and desire to be intimate with both. The values of the gay community likewise constrained the protagonist, as gay men in the 90s adopted “politics of normalcy” emphasizing monogamy to resist negative images of gay men during HIV epidemic (78). Yet, Schippers displays the potential for polyqueer narratives to reconfigure racialized sexualities and challenge the politics of respectability and homonormalcy that uphold compulsory monogamy. Reimagining queer black men—not as confused, promiscuous, or dangerous, but as human desiring intimacy and respect—the analysis proposes a future in which polyamours people of all races, genders, and orientations can lead prosperous lives in society and openly experience fulfilling relationships. 

In the final chapter, Schippers deep dives into cultural narratives around erotic threesomes—their inherent mononormativity and heteromasculine assumptions—and how diversified sexual interactions offer an opportunity to work against racial and gender hierachies. Through her own encounters with hetersexual men and popular media representations, Schippers analyzes the common fantasy of sex between one man and two women—aka “every man’s dream.” In this hegemonic threesome, imaginary traditional Western gender structures are upheld as the women are solely objects of desire for the male gaze, not desiring subjects themselves, able to form deep, romantic connections with each other. The man is also able to maintain a sense of status since penile penetration is symbolic of power, while being penetrated is symbolic of passivity (154). Not only does the dominance of this fantasy depend on and perpetuate heterosexual expectations, but monogamous ones as well. Threesomes tend to only be considered acceptable when framed as momentary suspension of normalcy to “spice things up” in an otherwise monogamous partnership. The sexual preference for threesomes or sex among polyamorous triads are highly demonized, as are intimate interactions with two men and one woman—referred to as “devils threesomes.” However, the monograph asserts that threesomes with all men are actually the most common, yet do not dominate discourse because controlling images of what is “sexy” and “normal” embed into individuals’ subconscious (143). Schippers suggests that this erotic habitus, structed by race, class, and gender, can be dissolved through polyamorous touch and pleasure. For instance, if two straight men of differing races are engaged in a threesome with a woman, they are forced to reconfigure the meaning of racialized genders and their own heteromasculine subjectivity. Brought together by her desire for them and their desire for her, the men have the space to explore cross-racial, same-gender intimacy through the pleasure of orgasm.       

One shortcoming of this analysis however is that Mimi Schippers never addresses the logistics of how this potential could be realized. What will allow for such a dramatic shift in sexual norms that dominate every part of Western culture? With still unquestionable levels of fear and shame around polyamory in comtemporary life, how can polyamorous lovers be protected and truly accepted? Barely acknowledging the legal repercussions of polyamory in the United States, Schippers neglects to offer a feasible route for starting to reconfigure gender, race, sexual relations through non-monogamy. If Schipper’s theory proves true that polyamory can dismantle white patriarchal supremacy, the real question is: what can dismantle the oppressive system of compulsory monogamy?  

Though as a polyamorous and pansexual person myself, I applaud the attempt to prove the enormous potential of plural loving. Providing a framework that embraces the intersectionality of gender, class, and race, the monograph gives an accurate depiction of the sexist and racist origins of monogamy as a route to social control. Any audience member that takes monogamy for granted as common sense would benefit from reading the historical construction of the practice and perhaps reconsider how they truly want to relate to their partners—as possessions or free human beings? Perhaps the revolution to create a non-monogamous society starts with each polyqueer interaction at a time, one reader at a time reconfiguring their hegemonic assumptions until polyamory becomes the new norm.

Works Cited 

McArdle, Elaine. “Polyamory and the Law.” Harvard Law Today, 3 Aug. 2021, today.law.harvard.edu/polyamory-and-the-law/.   

Schippers, Mimi. Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities. New York University Press, 2016. 

Read Beyond Monogamy at https://web.p.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook?sid=606bfe9c-f627-42a0-b272-bf2918a35ee5%40redis&ppid=pp_169&vid=0&format=EB

Book Review: The Tragedy of Heterosexuality

Is being queer so tragic? Clearly, there is a common narrative that idealises straight over queer relationships: “No one would choose to be queer” or “being straight is so much easier.” While there is much privilege in being straight in a heteronormative society, this “tragedy of queerness” has gone unexamined. In fact, this narrative conflicts with simple, observable situations in our society: Why do women not benefit from straight relationships as much as men do? Why are queer people proud of their queerness if it is such a tragic thing? Jane Ward takes on the challenge of examining this narrative —the tragedy of queerness— and proposes that, even more worrisome is The Tragedy of Heterosexuality.

In The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, Ward argues that “under the weight of heteronormativity […] people have come to understand heterosexuality as the most instinctive and fulfilling form of sexual relating.” While she recognises the difficulties of queer relations, she questions whether straight relations bring such ease and fulfillment. For Ward, heterosexuality is the tragedy because of the patriarchal and misogynistic nature of heterosexual relations that, paradoxically, teaches men to desire and hate women while also romanticises violence. For queer people, this means that actually, heterosexual relations are nothing to wish for. But for straight people, this clearly fleshes out the problem of misogyny, to put it mildly. Thus, Ward advocates for a reconstruction of heterosexuality: “a future in which straight men like women so much that they actually like women.” This is a straight relationship that does not perpetuate misogyny.

This deep analysis of heterosexual relations is presented in a digestible and extremely engaging way. The book is written masterfully: it combines the different aspects of an academic analysis, with stories, quotes and interviews that make it easier for the reader to make the argument personal, and includes the insights of the author as a queer and Feminist scholar. She is also the author of Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men (2015) and Respectability Queer: Diversity Culture in LGTB Activist Organizations (2008). She received her PhD in Sociology by the University of California Santa Barbara in 2003. Currently, Dr. Jane Ward is a professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California Riverside, where she teaches courses on feminist, queer and heterosexuality studies. Her experience is clearly reflected in her book, The Tragedy of Heterosexuality (2020). 

Continue reading “Book Review: The Tragedy of Heterosexuality”

“I Kissed A Girl”- Analysis

I recently watched Katy Perry’s music video for her 2008 hit song, “I Kissed A Girl,” on YouTube, and was intrigued by some assumptions about sexuality that were sometimes not so subtle in the video. In this blog post, I will explain those assumptions and how they were presented in Perry’s production.  

It is not completely clear who Perry’s intended audience is for this music video, however, I can infer that it was intended for pop music fans. With that said, the video likely targets young Americans, since that demographic tends to be more interested in American pop music. Continuing to discuss intention, it seems that Perry’s music video’s intended purpose is to share an experience that she had when she kissed a girl for the first time.

“I Kissed A Girl” is a song that was sang and released in 2008 by Katy Perry, a 37-year-old female pop star from Santa Barbara, California. Before diving into my evaluation of the music video itself, I want to provide a brief biography of Katy Perry. For context, Katy Perry is an American singer and celebrity who was born in Santa Barbara, California to parents who were Pentecostal (a form of protestant Christianity) pastors. Growing up, Katy Perry’s family moved homes often to different places in the western United States. Perry’s family was strictly religious, and she left home at fifteen to pursue a music career in Nashville, Tennessee. Perry’s music breakthrough took place during the early 2000s. “I Kissed A Girl” remains one of Perry’s most popular songs.

To accompany Perry’s hit song, a music video for “I Kissed A Girl” was uploaded to YouTube in 2008. In this music video, Katy Perry sings her song “I Kissed A Girl,” while flirting with other female friends in a bedroom setting. Throughout the video, Katy Perry and her friends are all wearing lingerie, and at one point during the music video, Katy Perry has a pillow fight with some of her female friends in the scene. This pillow fight is an example of a scene here that has a flirtatious undertone.

While acting in a flirtatious way throughout the video, Katy Perry sings along to her song “I Kissed A Girl,” which overall communicates a regret for kissing a girl.

For instance, in the first few lines of her song as she approaches the chorus, Perry makes the following statements: “this was not the way I planned,” “not my intention,” “lost my discretion,” and “it’s not what I’m used to.” When I first clicked on the music video on YouTube, I was aware of the title, “I Kissed A Girl,” so when I heard the first few lines of Perry’s song, I interpreted her as trying to explain to the audience that she did not want to kiss the girl. The idea that presented in my mind as I was watching was “is she apologizing or trying to plead some sort of innocence because she kissed a girl?” When making these statements, Perry is alone with a devious smile in the video.

During the chorus part of her song, Perry makes these statements: “I kissed a girl and I liked it,” “I kissed a girl just to try it,” “I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it,” “it felt so wrong,” “it felt so right,” and “don’t mean I’m in love tonight.” When making these statements in the video, Perry displays a more genuine smile, while surrounded by other women.

Two key feelings are conveyed in these statements. First, it seems clear that Perry enjoyed kissing the girl. Second, it is suggested that Perry might regret kissing the girl, but it is clear that she feels that her kissing the girl was unacceptable. By saying that “it felt so wrong” and “just to try it,” and “I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it,” Perry is suggesting that her behavior was in some way potentially unacceptable by her, her boyfriend, or greater society.

All the statements mentioned up to this point only make up the first minute of the music video, which altogether is three minutes. Pausing here, an observer of the video up to this point can assume some norms of society that are represented. More specifically, the first minute of this video is enough for one to correctly assume that American society views homosexuality as something that does not fit with the societal norm (heterosexuality).

Perry’s music video takes an interesting approach to homosexuality not being the norm. While the words being sang in the music video are apologetic for kissing a girl, Perry’s behavior on screen challenges the norm. If a homophobic person were to watch Perry’s video, their comfort would be directly challenged. Perhaps this impact was Perry’s intention through her music video. Maybe she wanted her words to acknowledge that two girls kissing is not the norm, and her behavior to challenge society’s conception of this norm.

The earlier mentioned statements persist throughout the remainder of Perry’s music video, along with others that are consistent with Perry’s regretful and apologetic attitude. For instance, Perry says “it’s not what good girls do,” “my head gets so confused,” and “hard to obey.” These statements are consistent with the ones made in the first minute of Perry’s music video.

Later, towards the end of Perry’s video, she makes the statement “ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent” when singing more about kissing the girl. This statement towards the end of the music video suggests that Perry has come to accept that there is nothing wrong with her kissing a girl. Instead, she asserts that society is guilty of making homophobia an unfortunately powerful norm that American systems promote and protect.

Sister Cindy’s Shaming: Funny or Harmful?

Cindy Smock, or “Sister Cindy” as she calls herself, is an Evangelical campus preacher turned Tik Tok user. She first gained attention when college students posted clips of her speeches on Tik Tok, inspiring her to make her own account. She currently has over 370,000 followers, and #sistercindy has over 194 million views (Fowler). The main subject of her Tik Tok content is encouraging college students, particularly women, to turn to Christianity and be a “ho no mo.” In many of the videos she uploads, she welcomes viewers to “Sister Cindy’s Slut-Shaming Show.” While many of Sister Cindy’s followers regard her as a comical figure, the shock factor she employs in her preaching through homophobic and misogynistic comments is harmful. 

Through a glance at Sister Cindy’s Tik Tok account, it is evident that her content is misogynistic and demeaning towards women. In nearly every video she uploads, she casually uses the words “slut,” “hoe,” or “thot,” as insults towards women. For example, when visiting college campuses, she often changes the names of the universities to incorporate the word “slut.” At the Louisiana State University campus, she renamed the institution, “Louisiana Slut University.” By insinuating that college students are sluts, Sister Cindy is weaponizing the word to be used against women and normalizing the slut-shaming that is common in society, particularly on college campuses. However, Sister Cindy is proud of her slut-shaming tendencies and makes it a common theme in her posts. In a different post filmed by a college student, she exclaims, “You are princesses made in the image of God. Yet, you’ve traded your crown to be a cock-sucker.” This is quite the opposite of sex positivity and guilts women into practicing abstinence. Sister Cindy, or anyone for that matter, should never use guilt tactics to influence other people’s lives. Furthermore, why is this hateful comment only directed towards “princesses,” or women? Why is it that women should feel guilty for engaging in consensual oral sex and men should not? Last I checked, oral sex is an act requiring at least two people. 

Another example of sexism in her uploads is found in a Tik Tok filmed by a student at the University of Florida. In this clip, Sister Cindy shouts, “Men, if you buy her one margarita, she will spread her legs.” This statement is incredibly insulting towards women. Not only does it perpetuate the view that women are sexual objects, but it also furthers the entitled belief held by some men that women are sexually indebted to them after buying them a drink. In addition, this comment is heteronormative and leads straight men to assume that all women are attracted to them and want to have sex with them, which is simply not the case. Finally, similar harmful views were expressed in a Tik Tok clip of Sister Cindy telling a college student that she is “an accessory to the rape crime on campus” because she is causing boys to get their “passions stirred up” (Fowler). This belief is so inherently false, that it should not require any explanation. The blatant disregard for holding men accountable in situations of sexual assault is destructive to anyone who views this post. It reminds me of the common argument in society that someone is “asking for it” based on the clothes they are wearing. Placing blame and guilt upon women seems to be a common theme in the media posted by Sister Cindy. Again, why is it that sexual assault victims should feel guilty for something that is out of their control and not their fault? 

If you thought her content could not get any worse, we have not even analyzed the blatant display of homophobia present in countless Tik Toks. For example, in one clip while preaching to college students, she orders, “Don’t do it. Don’t kiss a girl and like it.” In defiance of her hate speech, two women make their way through the crowd to kiss in front of Sister Cindy’s platform. Apparently, the act of two women kissing is a difficult sight for Sister Cindy, because she has to cover her eyes. In a second Tik Tok, Sister Cindy, with no shame, shouts to a young man walking past her, “Are you a homo? You kinda act a little effeminate there. You need to repent!” There are so many problems with this statement, it is a challenge to decide what to unpack first. To begin, a straight, cisgender person should never use the term “homo” to describe someone of the LGBTQ+ community. Second, Sister Cindy is reinforcing the societal gender expectations that men cannot be feminine and women cannot be masculine. And if that is the case, then that person must be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, telling someone that they need to repent because of their sexuality, something that is out of their control, is unacceptable. Religion should never be manipulated to discriminate against groups of people. People’s sex lives and sexuality are an intimate part of their lives and should never be a subject of criticism. Therefore, someone who posts homophobic content, like Sister Cindy, should not have a platform to project those hateful beliefs. 

To reflect, one’s values and beliefs should never be used as a weapon or a way of guilting others into adopting those practices. While Sister Cindy’s intention may be to educate college students, her comments are misogynistic, heteronormative, homophobic, and may even be classified as hate speech. Sister Cindy even admits that she expects to be removed from social media for her problematic comments (Fowler). If that is the case, what is Tik Tok waiting for?

Works Cited

Fowler, Kate. “Who is Sister Cindy? Evangelist Christian Preacher Turned Tik Tok Star.” Newsweek, 6 June 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/who-sister-cindy-evangelist-preacher-tiktok-star-1597651. 

I love this post and how it highlights the way that people will oftentimes use comedy to hide rhetoric that is actually very harmful. Although Sister Cindy is oftentimes funny, she’s still promoting a toxic culture that prevents women from embracing their sexuality. This is a super important topic and I’m glad that you’re shedding light on it!

Theory of Praxis Assignment

After taking GSS 101, a theme that stood out to me was understanding gender as a social construct. Growing up I had a very limited mindset about gender and sexuality and accepted many of the ideas as they were presented to me. However, over the years I have understood more about the complexities and many identities within gender and sexuality. With this in mind, it led to me thinking about how I can use these ideas to influence an art piece for campus to spread awareness and normalize identities that aren’t ‘cis-gender heterosexual’. While there are already many sculptures, especially of bodies, around campus I wanted to propose a new sculpture of a body that implements the ideas of the diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations. My piece is inspired by the metal sculpture on campus by Jaume Plensa, titled Waves III. This piece is made up of letters from all different languages to signify unity and diversity. It is based upon cultural identity and the way that one individual holds a connection to a greater culture.

My idea is to create a sculpture on Davidson’s campus that intersects the ideas of gender as socially constructed as well as show the variety of identities among individuals. The sculpture would be made out of glass and would depict a human form, without genitalia, to represent an individual not tied to a gender. The position of the body would be arranged so that the arms were extended outward to signify openness of the individual. The idea is to show the complexities of humans and the many identities, both genders and sexual orientations that exist. The form of the body would be composed of words carved into the glass form of sexual identities, such as: “queer, bisexual, lesbian” and words associated with gender identities: “she, they, him, non-binary, trans.” And instead of the exterior of the form being perfectly smooth, shards of glass would poke out in all different directions to create an ambiguous body shape.The words would be repeated all over and done in different fonts to completely cover the entire form. The sculpture would symbolize the many identities that don’t receive recognition in a heteronormative society. This sculpture would work towards normalizing those identities that are not cis-gender heterosexuals, but also serve as a reminder of the hardships of LGTBQ+ individuals. The title of this piece would be “Complexities of Intersectionality” and would capture the chaotic and diverse nature of the gender and sexuality spectrum. While this sculpture wouldn’t explicitly touch upon identities within class and race that also affect an individuals experience, this would be the starting point to begin examining identities and start the conversation about other impacts on an individuals’ experience.

References:

https://www.davidsoncollegeartgalleries.org/uncategorized/seen-on-campus-jaume-plensas-waves-iii/

Theory to Praxis: Reimagining Greek Life at Davidson

As a school that was founded by white genteel slave owners and remained segregated until the 60s and all-male until the 70s, Davidson has a long history of elitism. Unfortunately, the college has done a poor job of repealing exclusive traditions and making the school as welcoming and safe as possible to people of all walks of life. One particularly glaring area of inequality is the social structure of Greek life on campus.

There are many things wrong with the status of Greek life at Davidson. Racial disparities are perhaps the most visible problem. My friend Michaela Gibbons is working on a project called Stories Yet To Be Told, conducting research on the history of Patterson Court Council (PCC) – the governing body of Greek life at Davidson. We have had many conversations about PCC this semester, and a lot of them have centered around PCC’s dominating whiteness. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality and Lorde’s “There are No Hierarchies of Oppression” (1983) emphasize that racial equality (and other equalities) are necessary to realize gender equality. All of the nine predominantly white PCC organizations have individual houses on campus, while the six PCC organizations for students of color must share space at the BSC (Black Student Coalition) house. This is clearly a problem for feminism, although solutions are somewhat difficult to propose. In this case, the simplest method to reduce white special power on campus may be to disband PCC or consolidate the predominantly white organizations.

Aside from racial inequality, another issue with Greek life at Davidson is its relationship to the gender binary. As a collection of organizations with membership based on male or female gender identification, PCC reinforces ideas that there are only two genders, which is clearly false when one understands Lorber’s perspective that gender is constructed. Since humans have made up the concept of gender, there is no reason to believe in all-or-nothing gender rules. And yet, PCC membership is exclusive to men and women. (Turner House, one of the eating houses, does allow anyone who is not a straight cis male to join, but this introduces the problematic circumstance of requiring people to out themselves). Furthermore, the predominance of “bristerhoods” (fraternity-eating house mixers) perpetuates heteronormativity. Requiring all PCC organizations to be open to all genders would be the easiest solution to make Davidson more feminist, although that would require converting some fraternal organizations to eating houses.

A final, and particularly glaring problem with PCC at Davidson is rape culture. We briefly talked in class about how society conditions males to violate and disrespect female bodies, and there is a prevailing willingness to let this slide. Society reinforces hegemonic sexual scripts, an orgasm gap, and poor understandings of consent, all of which lead to unequal sexual citizenship. This means that women have less power than men to make the choice to have sex. This is obviously problematic for feminism. At Davidson, PCC hopelessly perpetuates rape culture. For liability reasons, the school has strict rules about alcohol for parties at PCC houses. Because PCC organizations are too lazy or busy to plan detailed weekly parties and want to avoid strict scrutiny from the school, weekly parties are predominantly hosted at Armfield, the only residential space on campus where open consumption is permitted. Currently, Armfield apartments which host parties are exclusively rented by predominately white men with strong fraternity ties. This leads to constant sexual misconduct and a lack of safety at parties. Once again, it is not simple to find a solution to male ownership of party space at Davidson. However, some viable options would be disbanding PCC, creating more school-sponsored social events, and preventing Armfield apartments from having five male residents.

PCC is rife with inequalities, much of them a byproduct of Davidson’s elitist traditions. Thus, disbanding PCC and ending Greek life at Davidson is probably the most feminist solution. This would introduce a social vacuum for some time, but it couldn’t be any worse that the forced quarantine of the 2020-21 academic year.

Theory to Praxis: A Program that Teaches GSS Concepts to Parents

Growing up, we are taught by society that gender dictates our roles in society. However, societal pressure is enforced by the people around us, our groups, and our cultures. Using the concepts taught in GSS, parents could raise their children in a healthy, judgment-free space. Also, occupations that work with children should employ the ideas taught in GSS as well. This includes teachers, child psychologists, counselors, pediatricians, coaches, and daycare workers. By employing GSS concepts, children will not be separated into boys and girls during gym class, children will not feel pressured to act a certain way to fit their societal role, and children will not be bullied for being fat if HAES is taught and the BMI index is reconstructed or removed.

I believe the most notable impact would come from parents teaching their children. Thus, I propose that a program or intervention should be created that teaches parents about GSS concepts; this way we can prepare parents to not enforce gender roles and allow their children to grow and to discover themselves and their identities without the influence of social constructs. Deconstructing Society would be a program that focuses on talking about GSS concepts to parents or future parents to provide them with information that will be helpful while they are raising a child. Deconstructing Society will create conversations around heteronormativity, gender roles, and sexuality. The purpose of this program would be to inform parents of the social construction of concepts and to help parents learn these concepts to properly educate their children on similar topics and to provide a healthy environment for their children to thrive.

However, Deconstructing Society could also be used to reach other audiences. Although aiding parents with GSS concepts would help parents provide a judgment-free zone for their children, Deconstructing Society could be used in colleges to discuss topics, such as rape culture, hookup culture, and similar topics discussed with parents. This program’s focus would be with parents. There are certain occupations available that could employ this program. For example, a family therapist could use this program to inform parents on how they can be supportive towards their gay child. Ultimately, Deconstructing Society would help parents create a safe and healthy environment for their children to thrive without being restricted by societal views due to heteronormativity and gender roles.

Feminist Mixtape: God is a Woman by Ariana Grande

by Chase Waldner

Ariana Grande Goes Heavy-Handed and Provocative in "God Is a Woman" | GQ

Pop icon Ariana Grande blessed us with a feminist masterpiece titled, “God is a Woman.” The title alone challenged many gendered stereotypes and the lyrics are a wonderful dive into female sexuality. Grande created something equally empowering as it is catchy. She reverses the patriarchal norm of male domination over women with lyrics like, “I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it,” and “And boy, if you confess, you might get blessed // See if you deserve what comes next.” Here, Grande is expressing the power she has over this man and how she is the one in control; something rare in heterosexual relationships. For most of history men have had all the power. They were the ones who owned property, and that sometimes included women. Nowadays, in the states at least, you can’t own a person but that power dynamic is still a festering pandemic lingering in our society. Women are supposed to be a submissive, pretty face. They are supposed to look good to attract a man and then stay home to raise their children. This translates to the bedroom as well. The expectation for heterosexual sex is male pleasure and fantasy, women are merely the vessel to achieve it. This is where Grande steps in to challenge the sexist norm and flip the script. She sings about female domination and pleasure; about women being the controlling force in both the bedroom and in life. She sings about the power she, along with all other women, have to take their deserved, rivaling spot in the fight for gender equality.

Book Review: *Her Stories: Daytime Soap Opera and Television History*

Soap operas are entertaining, attention-grabbing daytime shows full of drama and emotion. They are shown in the middle of the day, originally meant for housewives completing housework, waiting for their husband to come home from work. Soap operas may seem like a corny, somewhat outdated genre of television show, but Her Stories: Daytime Soap Opera and US Television History by Elana Levine describes how their impact on the development of society has been essential. Since they no longer have the impact they once did, people may be surprised by the power they held for decades, but soap operas are a monumental phenomenon in television history, and have contributed so much to the advancement of not only broadcast television, but women’s culture as well. 

Levine’s central argument is that “the history of the US daytime TV soap opera is a history of a media form, but it is also a history of a prominent cultural construction of femininity and its imbrication within the institutional and artistic evolution of the primary mass medium in American society for nearly three-quarters of a century” (6-7). The power and influence soap operas have had on American broadcast television and women’s culture in general may be largely unknown by many, but is essential to understanding many aspects of the development of society.

Elana Levine is a soap opera enthusiast, enthralled by the unique daytime television they have provided since the 1940s. She earned an undergraduate degree in English and Telecommunications from Indiana University, and graduate degrees in Media and Cultural Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Levine is a professor of media, cinema, and digital studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the English department, with areas of teaching and research in television studies/history, gender, sexuality, and media, as well as cultural/production studies and feminized popular culture. She has several publications related mostly to television and media history, with a focus on women’s studies. 

Levine’s uses mainly qualitative methodology, but includes others as well. Much of her research includes archival research of countless scenes from different soap operas, interviews, articles, and other monographs to reference important examples of the impact on women’s culture. Though few, Levine also includes some quantitative research and visuals, such as a graph used to represent the cost per minute of network daytime television ad time (85). She also incorporates some text analysis and close reading from works by prominent feminist writers. For example, Levine analyzes Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique, including critiques that “spaces included varied expressions of the dissatisfactions of the white, middle-class, patriarchal ideal, and did not simply parrot the dominant ideology” (45), and comparing this to the world of Hollywood and gender and femininity altogether. The use of many different methods of research give different and interesting sources of support that all work together to emphasize the impact soaps had on the development of network television and women’s culture.

Part 1 of 3 in Her Stories includes chapters 1 and 2 from early the early 1940s to late 1960s. It describes soaps’ transition from radio to television, specifically its economic and creative contributions to television. While transitioning to television, soaps were some of the first broadcasts to pay close attention to visuals and sound, focusing closely on the details of production and set design such as how to maximize emotion through “face-to-face cutting,” or creating minimalistic sets for more emphasis on “working out of emotional conflicts” (24). By 1954, sponsors, networks, creators, and audiences proclaimed that soaps were here to stay. Soaps became more and more popular, and were becoming so lucrative that CBS was encouraging other networks to invest in them. It also describes the “social construction of gendered identities… offering up understandings of the struggles of postwar American life, shaping notions of gender, marriage, and family desperately in need of therapeutic intervention” (43). In this chapter, Levine brings in examples from popular texts, such as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Though Friedan does not specifically mention television or soap operas, it explains that “the focus of soap opera on the very matters of femininity, masculinity, marriage, and family life so central to the feminine mystique make it a crucial space for considering popular culture as a site for constructions of gender identity” (45). This was important to understanding how soap operas became helpful for viewers, particularly women, after the war and served as a sort of escape and relaxation from stress postwar. Many elements were used to define women as housewives, such as advertisements for items like kitchen appliances, or even the time of day at which they run, reinforcing women’s role as such. 

Part 2 includes chapter 3, 4, and 5, focusing on the mid 1960s to late 1980s. Levine that the soap opera was the foundation of the network era business model. Sponsors, audience members, and many others were extremely invested in soaps, and the relatively low production costs allowed for a fair amount of profit. Overall, soap operas were becoming even bigger and influential in business and television, and the narrative later “turns to relevance” and focuses on the social changes made in soaps. There began to be more pushback on the “white, middle-class, reproductive femininity” that put women into a box (11). Levine argues that soaps implemented more liberal-leaning views on relevant issues at the time such as racism, abortion, sexuality, and expectations of gender. Culture changed as soaps changed, and with such a wide viewership, soaps had tons of influence on what it meant to be a woman at the time.

Part 3 includes chapter 6, 7, and 8, from the late 1980s to the 2010s, focusing primarily on soaps’ downfall. The feminine “housewife” viewership that was often the main audience no longer needed soaps to relate to or define themselves because the concept of femininity and what it meant to be a woman was much broader than what it once was. Femininity in soaps was expanding, but they were not able to maintain viewership because of how quickly and widely women’s culture was growing. This part highlights struggles not only to keep up culturally, but economically since the decline in viewership. In order to maintain their audience and keep people coming back for more, production tried switching things up, doing their best to be as inclusive as possible, or completely rejecting the formula of soaps in hopes of staying afloat. These attempts did more harm than good, and the demise of soaps seemed inevitable. 

One noticeable strength in this monograph is the immense detail Levine uses to describe the many different aspects that contributed to the culture and creation of soap operas and how it impacted viewers. Within every chapter, there are several subsections that highlight different aspects of the time and topic. For example, Chapter 4: “Turning to Relevance” focuses primarily on soaps beginning to include relevant politics and culture into their shows. Just a few subsections of this chapter include soaps’ “generational conflict” (110), “racial and ethnic difference” (115), and “stories of pregnancy and abortion” (120). Each of these subsections contribute to the overarching idea of soaps’ incorporation of relevant information at the time, but with specific focuses on different aspects that contributed to the shows and relevant culture outside of it. While they mainly focus on gender and femininity, they also include important elements that had a prominent impact on culture at the time, adding nuance to the chapters and the monograph as a whole.

Although there is plenty of detail and information on the many different topics and aspects of the history of soap opera, not until towards the end of the monograph do we see any sort of pushback or other-sided perspectives on the left-leaning stances soap operas often incorporated. Soaps often highlighted liberal views in their shows concerning abortion, rape, sexuality, even just giving women more freedom and breakaway from gender roles, and many more, but since these were newer views at the time portrayed on such a big scale, surely there must have been more pushback and implications than what is included in the monograph. Including all peoples’ perspectives at the time would create more depth to the already very nuanced history of soap operas, and would not only give readers a better view of America’s reaction to their favorite television shows, but also America’s social development as a country. 

Overall, Her Stories: Daytime Soap Opera and US Television History was an interesting and entertaining read. As someone who is a bit too young to have experienced soap operas’ peak, delving into the world of soaps provided an unexpected perspective into the progression of gender roles and norms, and other social issues. The format of the book made it concise and easier to read, working chronologically chapter by chapter through the history of soap operas while describing its influence on media and culture, as well its downfall and why that was. Throughout every section, there is a clear topic about how the phenomenon of soap operas influenced US broadcast network television or culture in general. Soap operas may not be what first come to mind when I think of the change in women’s culture and politics, but this was an eye-opening book on such a realization, and how it was a central part of the history of television and women’s culture.

Levine, Elana. Her Stories: Daytime Soap Opera & US Television History. Duke U.P., 2020. 

Book Review: *The Tragedy of Heterosexuality* by Jane Ward

For the dominant form of sexual orientation, heterosexuality sure looks disappointing. Consider the oft-referenced statistic that fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Another statistic, that one in six women in the U.S. experience rape, shows a troubling rate of violence within heterosexuality. Such troubling information indicates that received ideas that queerness is harder than straightness may be quite misguided (4). In The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, Jane Ward describes the contradictions inherent in straight culture, and provides a lesbian feminist perspective on how heterosexuality might become less problematic and more fulfilling for both women and men (4). Her book is a salient and strong argument for a reformation of straight culture to be more feminist.

Continue reading “Book Review: *The Tragedy of Heterosexuality* by Jane Ward”

Old Spice: Perpetuating Genderism Through Advertising

Written by Billy Schoel for Autostraddle

Who would’ve guessed?! We all know Old Spice: the pinnacle of male hygiene and every straight man’s best friend. The American-based men’s hygiene company has produced multitudes of popular commercials over the years, now laying claim to the largest share of the men’s grooming product industry. Even with the over-the-top, absurdist style of advertising that they’ve become known for, their commercials still perpetuate the heteronormative worldviews present in most contemporary advertising. In the recent commercial titled “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, Old Spice makes assumptions that support and perpetuate unrealistic expectations, heteronormative approaches to society, and the gender binary.

While this absolute gem of heteronormative marketing is only a mere thirty seconds, its featured fast-paced monologue is where the meat of this advertisement lies. For those who don’t have the pleasure of watching our knight in shining armor, I would be honored to transcribe: “Hello ladies. Look at your man. Now back at me. Now back at your man. Now back at me. Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped using lady scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me. Look down. Back up. Where are you? You’re on a boat with the man your man could smell like. What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it. It’s an oyster with two tickets to that thing you love. Look again. The tickets are now diamonds. Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady. I’m on a horse.” Visuals aside, see any problems? I sure do. Let’s talk about it.

Within the opening five seconds, the commercial establishes its audience and general premise. A well-defined, half-naked man nearly bursting with masculine energy exclaims “Hello ladies…look at your man…sadly, he isn’t me.” From the get-go, the commercial sets unrealistic expectations for men by comparing them to a representation of perfect masculinity. Despite the delivery’s fast-paced and absurdist nature, the commercial still establishes the inferiority of men who don’t meet the society’s standards of masculinity. The man continues, “if he stopped using lady-scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me.” Not only does this disparage identities outside heteronormative masculinity by implying the inferiority of “lady-scented” body washes, but it also enforces unrealistic expectations for men. Additionally, by stating “he could smell like he’s me” instead of “he could smell like me”, the commercial continues its degradation of imperfect masculinity by clearly defining the ideal man and the other, forcing their separation and inequality.

The public dragging of the “imperfect man” quickly proceeds with the progression of the scene, painting a beautiful, idyllic picture of the life of the “perfect man.” He states, “you’re on a boat with a man your man could smell like.” Of course, this broadens the disparity between the perfect and imperfect men, implying that the lady would prefer the more masculine alternative over other men, even if they represented normal men in society. The precedence given to overly-masculine men concludes with the final moments of the commercial, the man stating, “Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.” Not only does it appear that Old Spice doesn’t know “ladies” smell good, too, but the quote places direct preference towards the ideal of overly-masculine men smelling unquestionably overly-masculine (talk about a tongue-twister), perpetuating, and ultimately strengthening, heteronormative conventions such as the gender binary.

Speaking of the oh-so-popular topic, this post would be quite incomplete without mentioning the commercial’s shameless defense of society’s gender binary. For starters, let’s address the assumed heterosexual relationship that the commercial stamps down as its starting point. Old Spice confines the audience into normality. Who is being addressed? A woman! Who must she love? A man—of course! What else could it be?! You mean to tell me that people have non-heterosexual relationships?! Nope, not never. Moreover, Old Spice expands the binary’s gap by implying that girls not only want just men, but the most masculine men life can offer. Men should not be wearing Old Spice to be hygienic—why would they? Men should wear Old Spice to be masculine, to attract women, to be men. Duh! Why would any woman ever be attracted to anything but the most masculine of men?! Despite my flippancy, the assumptions that this commercial makes are significant. In a world where gender/identity equality was reality, the heteronormative structures of society that enable this commercial’s marketability and ultimate efficacy would be relics of the past. Truly, the marketing of deodorant as a way to enhance heteronormative validation for men, even among their own partners, is almost as absurd as a deodorant commercial abruptly ending with “I’m on a horse.”

Also—newsflash—Old Spice works on everyone! While I’ve yet to find a man who doesn’t like Old Spice, I know plenty of other people who wear Old Spice too. Just because it is marketed to men doesn’t mean that only men use it! It’s deodorant, not a walking beacon of unapologetic masculinity. No matter how hard Old Spice tries to be the lodestar of manliness, at the end of the day, it’s a hygiene company. I could go on—but the point is that they shouldn’t be the deciding factor on what’s masculine, what’s attractive, or even what’s normal in our society. Old Spice may be a great deodorant company, but their marketing clearly needs some tweaks. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the tone of the whole commercial is rather belittling—I have to save something to write about next week.