Learning to Love Our Bodies Through Acknowledging Photoshop

[From Theory to Praxis Flyer–Alternative to Grant Proposal]

Rosie Molinary speaks to the collective you in her book, Beautiful You: “Yesterday you looked in the mirror, and, instead of your inherent greatness, you saw flaws. […] This morning, you walked into work, class, the grocery store, wherever and compared your body to someone else’s” (Molinary xiv). Molinary’s introduction to her book only serves to corroborates Jen Baker’s TED Talk on Total Body Love where she shares the shocking statistic that, “only 4% of women call themselves beautiful”.

From the time babies are just six months old they are able to recognize advertisements and logos as they are ubiquitous in our society (Kilbourne). Starting at a young age these images are retained in our subconscious and we learn to normalize these images and the actions that these images perpetrate. By the time we enter grade school we only understand one definition of beauty—thin—because this is the only definition we have ever been exposed to. As many of us strive to reach this “gold standard” it is not uncommon that low self esteem, depression, and eating disorders are developed along the way. We perpetuate Laura Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze by unknowingly objectifying ourselves through this lens set forth by the media.

However, even beyond size, women of color are subject to white-washing.  Their skin color is often lightened to resemble the “white ideal” our society has created and they are not just victims of one element of editing, but often multiple. Before taking GSS 101 I was only slightly familiar with the concept of “intersectionality” and I had no idea to the extent it plays into the mainstream portrayal of women of color in media.

The negative way we view ourselves is amplified through the widespread use of Photoshop. By college age most students are aware of the use of Photoshop, but few fully understand to what extent this application is used or how to recognize its use. By creating a flyer to hang up around campus—in Chambers and in several dorm buildings—I aim to have more woman be able to recognize the widespread use of Photoshop and in turn learn to call themselves beautiful. Although men are also victims of Photoshop, it is not to the extent that women are and so I am focusing on just woman for the sake of this project. The images on the left side of the flyer are all images before they underwent Photoshop and the images on the right are all the images after they have been extensively Photoshopped. Although these flyers would be more effective hanging up in a grade school, where 81% of ten year olds are more afraid of “being fat than having cancer”, these flyers are also pertinent at the college level because these issues transcend age (Baker). I wanted to also capture the affect of Photoshop on woman of color in my flyers because most people are unaware of the role intersectionality plays in women of color—they not only have to deal with the false beauty standards of size but also of color. For even mainstream celebrities like Beyoncé and Michelle Obama have been altered by Photoshop. By recognizing happiness is not defined by a size we can redefine the beauty standard together and move toward understanding that beauty and health are at every size and color.  Jen Baker explains in her TED Talk how we have to recognize that body hate is learned and so it can also be unlearned—and I hope my flyer will help to do this.

Work Cited:

Baker, Jen. “Complete and Total Body Love.” TED. 2014. Lecture.

Kilbourne, Jean. “Killing Us Softly IV: Advertising Images of Women.” TED. 2014. Lecture.

Molinary, Rosie. Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-acceptance. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2010. Print.

 

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.

Flirting with Danger

Every day, every single interaction, whether conscious or unconscious, shapes our identity and perception of the world. From the time we wake up in the morning until the time we go to bed at night, we are taking in information, processing it, and shifting our awareness of society based on the viewpoints we perceive. This impact of interactions and social cues has evolved over time into the hegemonic countercultures in different places around the globe. In her book Flirting with Danger, Lynn N. Phillips explores the ideology of power and choice within hetero-relationships formed by Western Culture through an in-depth analysis of the personal stories from young women.

Lynn N. Phillips coined the phrase “flirting with danger” in order to summarize women’s approach toward hetero-relations as established by previous interactions and media influence. In common situations of hetero-relations, the boundaries between “seduction and domination, pleasure and danger, responsibility and exploitation, agency and objectification, and consent and coercion” often become variable and murky (Phillips 3). However, women interpret this risky behavior as a “part of the ‘normal’ experience of their daily hetero-relational lives” (Phillips 3).  Through her research and analysis of women’s personal reflections of their relational experiences, Phillips successfully explores how women’s view of hetero-relations has evolved into the “need to flirt with danger” (Phillips 206).

Lynn N. Phillips draws on previous literature from feminist theorists in order to analyze her qualitative data. In doing so, she successfully creates a framework to guide our understanding of how society has shaped the subjectivity of power, choice, and desire within hetero-relations. In writing this book, Phillips aims to stimulate discourse regarding aspects of hetero-relations that are often excluded from feminist and social science literature. She specifically highlights the absence of conversation promoting “male accountability” and “female pleasure without penalties” (Phillips 77). While women do have the same sexual desires as men, “structural, ideological, and interpersonal barriers” created by Western Culture often prevent women from expressing these desires (Phillips 77).  Further, she hopes to gain a greater understanding of how women’s judgments, specifically regarding the meanings of male domination and sexualized power in their lives, have been shaped by personal experiences and outside influences. These subjectivities, formed from popular media and past hetero-relational experiences, are exemplified through four common themes of discourse: (1) “how to be a ‘good woman’,” (2) “what constitutes ‘normal’ male behavior,” (3) “what counts as ‘real victimization’,” and (4) “what should be expected from men and hetero-relationships” (Phillips 38, 52, 61, 69).  Through her comprehensive investigation of power and desire from personal narratives about hetero-sexual relations, Phillips successfully sets up a foundation for institutional change and further research surrounding “how issues of power and aggression might filter through same-sex relations” (Phillips 205).

Lynn M. Phillips consults with organizations on issues of sexuality, education, and victimization. As a Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Eugene Lang College of the New School University, she has experience in teaching and working with young adults. She has also written several other books on the topic of gender, sexuality, and relationships. For example, she was commissioned by the National Council for Research on Women to write The Girls Report: What We Know and Need to Know About Growing Up Female, and she is the author of Planned Parenthood’s Unequal Partners: Exploring Power and Consent in Adult-Teen Relationships. Her research in the field of gender and sexuality studies has sparked further inquiry surrounding the formation of the beliefs and messages guiding hetero-relations.

Phillips wrote Flirting with Danger in order to investigate her three central research questions: (1) How do “young women conceptualize the distinctions between good relationships and bad ones, between consent and coercion, and between agency and victimization?”, (2) How do “young women make sense of the violence and manipulation that all too often invade their hetero-relationships?”, (3)  What do young women “tolerate,…resist,…or perceive as ‘normal’ or ‘inevitable’ in their own and other women’s hetero-relational encounters?” (Phillips 5). In addition to using previous literature from feminist theorists such as bell hooks, Butler, Bartky, Collins, and more, Phillips conducted her own research study by interviewing young women from a small, progressive liberal arts college in the northeastern United States (Phillips 6). She placed letters in the campus mailboxes of all female students, inviting them to be interviewed about “power and intimacy in various relationships” (Phillips 6). She had in-depth conversations with the thirty young women who responded regarding their own personal experiences within hetero-relations as well as the hetero-relations of those around them.  Surprisingly, of the thirty young women that responded, twenty-seven of them “described at least one encounter that fit legal definitions of rape, battering, or harassment” but “only two women ever used such terms to describe a personal experience” (Phillips 7). Though Phillips does not discuss the official legal reporting of rape, battering, or harassment, this fact demonstrates the challenges of under-reporting. Many women are aware of what constitutes sexual assault and abuse, but refuse to consider themselves a victim when placed in the exact context. When in this situation of victimization, women have a “tendency to downplay the severity of their experience and blame themselves for their own abuse” (Phillips 157).  However, Phillips uses this fact alone as well as the contexts in which these young women’s hetero-relational subjectivities were constructed to understand young women’s personal perceptions, decisions, and attributions within hetero-relations. By placing these perspectives within cultural contexts, Phillips is able to identify common themes which contributed to their formation.

Through exploring prevailing themes within popular discourse relating to hetero-relations, Phillips creates a structure for the contexts, formulation, and application of “flirting with danger.” She specifically outlines four dominant themes of discourse with two conflicting discourses within each. For example, one dominant theme throughout her discussions was “how to be a ‘good woman’,” which broke down into “the pleasing woman discourse” and “the together woman discourse” (Phillips 38-39, 47).  The “pleasing woman” encompasses “the desire and ability to be pleasant, feminine, and subordinate to men,” stressing “morality, sexual ‘purity,’ and service to men and children” (Phillips 39). The “together woman” is “free, sexually sophisticated, and entitled to accept nothing less than full equality and satisfaction in her sexual encounters and romantic relationships” (Phillips 47). As exemplified though “how to be a ‘good woman’ discourse,” the two discourses within each dominant theme are viewed as mutually exclusive, thus creating the need to “flirt with danger” in order to obtain a “normal” hetero-relational experience (Phillips 38). As Phillips discusses, however, these two discourses should be seen as a spectrum rather than mutually exclusive, as hetero-relations will vary within each discourse based on the situation. Through exploring, establishing, and breaking down the social constructions of these dominant discourses, Phillips hopes to stimulate discussion surrounding the promotion of young women as sexual subjects who can find pleasure and safety within their hetero-relations with the final goal being a society without a “need to flirt with danger” (Phillips 206).

Within feminist literature, Phillips specifically draws from bell hooks’s Feminist Theory from Margin to Center in order to build off of previous theories regarding sexuality. In a passage referenced by Phillips, bell hooks describes “naming and criticizing the negative aspects of sexuality” as a “simple task for women” (Phillips 190). Further, bell hooks discusses difficulty of changing the norms of sexuality for women due to cultural constraints. Though Phillips agrees with the difficult task of creating new sexual ideals, especially in the present culture, she argues that naming is not such as simple a task as bell hooks portrays. Referencing the stories of the young women she interviewed, Phillips argues that women have difficulty making “straightforward claims about their own victimization” (Phillips 190). Women were able to speak against male sexual aggression in general, but unable to identify male sexual domination as victimizing within their own experiences. Similar to the views of bell hooks, Phillips contributes the inability to identify personal experiences as victimizing and the failure to establish new sexual paradigms to the cultural constraints of society today. By analyzing and critiquing the work of bell hooks in the context of her research, Phillips contributes to the conversation regarding feminist literature, enabling further research in this field.

One of the strengths of Phillips’s book is that it is relatable to a wider audience, concerning race, socio-economic status, and religion, as she draws on stories from all of the women in order to form her analysis. She uses specific examples of situations women found themselves in or brought upon themselves through poor decisions or risky behavior as evidence for all of her claims, further aiding her argument. This detailed investigation, however, is limited only to heterosexual relations; though some of these women identify as bisexual or questioning, she limits her research to only their hetero-relational experiences, excluding all other relations since she believes that “all women regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity, are engaged in hetero-relations of some sort” (Phillips XI). Phillips did not take into account that these women’s same-sex relations could have made an impact on the formation of their ideas surrounding hetero-relations.  Therefore, in order to expand upon her study, Phillips suggests researchers should “explore how issues of power and aggression might filter through same-sex relationships as well,” building off of her framework and findings (Phillips 205).

Overall, in her book Flirting with Danger, Lynn M. Phillips successfully analyzes the hetero-relational experiences of thirty young women in order to create a structure for the formation of the beliefs behind their actions. Other feminist theorists as well as young women and men should read Phillips’s book in order to stimulate discourse and change the culture constructing these views and beliefs surrounding power, desire, and choice within hetero-relations.

 

Works Cited

Phillips, Lynn M. Flirting with Danger: Young Women’s Reflections on Sexuality and

Domination. New York: New York University Press, 2000. Print.

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.

Manly Men Drink Diet Soda

Although a rather recent tool, the media has been a crucial part of advertising for millions of companies worldwide. Major food and drink corporations have utilized the media to expose their products internationally, including one of the top companies in the world, Coca-Cola. Researchers have studied the effects that advertising can have on a person, specifically on how advertisements can subconsciously shape the way someone thinks or acts. This is often referred to as a subliminal message or a subliminal stimulus. With this in mind, it is important to explore some of the more explicitly gendered or sexist advertisements and what kind of effect they may have on an audience, whether that audience is cognizant of that effect or not.

Back in 2011, Dr. Pepper released an ad for their low-caloric soda. Right off the bat, it is easy to tell that the ad was made with a male audience in mind. In the past, companies have had a difficult time of selling diet sodas to men because it is stereotypically considered a “girly” drink. So, in order to appeal the drink to men, Dr. its-not-for-womenPepper plastered the words “Not For Women” across the print advertisement. The thirty-second commercial begins with a muscular man holding what appears to be a bazooka gun. There are explosions occurring around him, and jungle creatures seem to be chasing him. After shooting the gun a few times, he jumps off of a cliff into a jeep, where he then pulls out his Dr. Pepper TEN. “It’s only ten manly calories,” he yells over the roar of the motorcycles chasing behind him, with gunfire surrounding him. Then, he says, “So you can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks, we’re good.” as he gestures toward his Dr. Pepper can. There are several aspects of this ad that are important to analyze. Firstly, the print version states very explicitly that this drink is just not for women. This speaks to the fragile masculinity that society has conditioned men to have.

In order to get men to buy diet soda, Dr. Pepper felt the need to blatantly say that the drink was simply too manly for women. Looking at the commercial a bit more closely, stereotypes revolving around men are basically jumping out of the screen. Which begs the question, what makes a man a man?

According to this Dr. Pepper commercial, a man can simultaneously drink a low-caloric soda and shoot guns while escaping from a disguised motorcycle gang. A man does not need romantic comedies and lady drinks, for that would just be a hindrance to him. The way this specific statement is presented encourages viewers just to believe it and not even wonder what exactly a lady drink is. However, it does not seem to matter for the purpose of this commercial, as long as Dr. Pepper’s Big Ten drink makes men feel like men. These tongue-in-cheek jokes about romantic comedies and lady drinks feed into yet another series of stereotypes, yet this time alternatively surrounding what women are supposed to act like and have interest in. Therefore, it can be analyzed that Dr. Pepper’s construction of a man is based off of what a woman is and what a woman is not. Not only is this problematic for obvious sexist reasons, but it also reinforces the distinct gender binary. So two things are at play here: the stereotyping of both men and women, which is where what we typically think of as blatant sexism is most prominent, and the reaffirmation of society’s continuous preaching that there are strictly only two genders. Certain qualities are strictly associated with men and certain qualities are strictly associated with women. Throughout this commercial, there is no fluidity. The movie Three to Infinity: Beyond Two Genders explores this concept of gender as a spectrum, rather than two distinct categories. However, as exemplified by the Dr. Pepper commercial, the rest of society considers this idea of more than two genders, or a lack of gender in general, to be radical.

Coca-Cola dipped yet another toe in to the sexist pool when they published an ad campaign promoting Sprite in Ireland. These advertisements included sayings like “She’s seen more ceilings than Michelangelo” and “She’s a 2 at 10 and a 10 at 2”. gross-sprite-adThe ads were quickly slammed and Coco-Cola came out with a public apology. Once again, Sprite was clearly trying to appeal to a heterosexual male audience. So, much like the Dr. Pepper commercial, Sprite felt the need to make men feel as if they are more worthy than women in order to appeal to their masculinity, which is important even in choosing what soda to drink. Not only do these ads objectify women, but they also in turn perpetuate a frightening rape culture, which leads right back to the superiority/inferiority dynamic of the traditional gender binary, as mentioned before.

Although recently pop culture has begun to become accepting of the queer community and has also strayed away from dehumanizing women, it is clear that big name companies still find appealing to men’s sensitivity to being feminine as a good marketing strategy. Even Coca-Cola, which is often times considered a progressive company, has used humor to cover up their sexist and gender binary centric advertisements. However, the more often these types of subtle sexist remarks are talked about, the larger the discourse surrounding gender becomes. Discourse leads to solution.

My Anaconda Don’t Want None…of the Intersectional Norms

The famous pop and rap musical artist Nicki Minaj debuted the music video for her chart-topping single Anaconda in the summer of 2014 and it became an immediately viral sensation. With over 617 million views on YouTube, the video homage to female physicality has been met with a wide range of opinions, some honoring it for promoting sexual liberation and some abhorring it for vulgarity and objectification. The intended audience of this video was certainly young, probably those born mostly in the 1990s and perhaps the 1980s. This intention is evidenced by the millennial-aimed product placement, use of contemporary slang, and the song’s content reflecting the relaxation of societal norms around sex over the past few decades. However, the nature of the Internet and the immediate infamous reputation of Anaconda presumably made the audience much wider than just twentysomethings. The obvious superficial task of this video is to entertain, but Minaj herself claimed on Twitter that it was “impacting culture.”[1] The Anaconda video does present undisguised sexually imagery that reflects aspects of culture and the sexual, racial, and gender norms that pervade it. A closer look at the media, however, presents a challenging contradiction as to whether Minaj subverts these norms, or plays into them and encourages their prevalence within a societal framework.

The Anaconda video presents the viewer with four minutes and forty-nine seconds of hypersexual and choreographed cinematography to accompany the song. However, in just a twenty-second clip from 0:40-1:00 we see many of the images that Minaj repeats and that offer insight into the norms she is representing. Minaj presents the following scene: several individuals, all wearing little clothing, dancing in the jungle. Minaj herself, lip-syncing to the slang and double entendre filled lyrics of her single and adorned in gold, is the clear focus of the scene. She is surrounded by several other people, all dressed in black, appearing in various poses illustrating their flexibility on the wooden structure on which they all stand. The scene features copious amounts of twerking, a dance move closely associated with black hip-hop culture. Some people have argued that, with this scene, Minaj is “calling out society’s view of black women as exotic and animalistic,” adding to the argument made in her tweet that she is impacting culture.[2] Minaj is certainly presenting this norm, and, though she attempts to interrupt it, her broad audience may not pick up on her effort to push against this norm; consequently, the video may reinforce the hypersexual, exotic stereotype of black women for those individuals who do not realize that Minaj is trying to ironically undercut those very norms. The broader audience to which I refer includes the over 600 million viewers of the YouTube video, as well as many others who have heard the song in another context. Minaj attempts to undercut these norms by seemingly playing directly into them. That is, she blatantly plays the role of a hyper-sexual, exotic (literally set in a jungle) black woman to prove that she controls her sexuality and can ironically inhabit this stereotype as a way to push back against it. This is recognizable to someone who has studied gender and sexuality in a formal setting, or is simply exposed to GSS theory. However, with no contextual understanding of the stereotype Minaj is undercutting, and no knowledge of her intentions to “impact culture,” I imagine many viewers saw the video as reinforcement of the stereotype.

Within the twenty-second clip previously mentioned, Minaj and the other individuals in the jungle scene play into the existing paradigm within American culture of fetishizing lesbian eroticism. While the contemporary United States still very much exist within a strict heteronormative matrix, there has existed for many years an obsession with eroticism between women. Even while sex between two men has been considered taboo and unacceptable, sex between women has been labeled as hot and sexy, with hours upon hours of so-called lesbian fetish pornography readily available, for free, on a host of internet porn websites. Minaj’s Anaconda reinforces the paradigm of lesbian eroticism being connected to a fetishized sense of desire—male desire, as the paradigm exists in the modern United States. Within the twenty-second jungle clip, the audience witnesses several images reinforcing this norm: another woman mounts Minaj and twerks as Minaj caresses the other woman’s thigh, and the clip features several other moments on intensely intimate touching between all of the women, again within the framework of exotic, animalistic sexuality.

Many have argued that, through Anaconda, Minaj has paid homage to female physicality and sexuality and, in turn, created some visual representation of sexual liberation. However, if we examine Anaconda more thoroughly, it may present an inaccurate representation of how power structures operate in society. If power is simply repressive, Minaj’s hypersexual ode to female bodies and sexualities would be seen as liberating and powerful as it pushes against the power that tells society not to talk about sex, particularly if you identify as a woman. However, the intersectional power dynamics explored in Minaj’s video are clearly more complicated than her simply pushing back against the power repressing her sexuality. Again, a wider audience not exposed to excepted thought and theory in gender and sexuality studies may not understand that she is attempting to make a statement about women—black women in particular—and the repressive stereotypes and norms under which they exist sexually and in general. Thus, the video may in fact reinforce those norms and stereotypes.

Minaj’s video as a whole presents a complex mixture of messages for the audience, especially an audience knowledgeable about Foucault’s understanding of how we internalize power. While Minaj may be attempting to subvert the norm of male sexuality and female submissiveness, her video for Anaconda nevertheless presents a host of images that reinforce certain intersectional stereotypes of race, gender, and sexuality, all the while operating within the male gaze. Though she displays acts of female homoeroticism, they are presented within the fetishized matrix of lesbian sexuality popular in the porn industry and mainstream media. Nicki Minaj’s video appears on the surface a strong step forward for female sexual liberation and I, personally, respect her attempt to impact culture and challenge norms by ironically embodying an exaggerated version of a commonly held stereotype. However, the Anaconda music video presents challenging contradictions as it plays into lesbian fetish norms, and may in turn simply reinforce the stereotype of the sexually liberated, exotic and erotic black woman.

[1] Nicki Minaj, Twitter post, 21 July, 2015, 3:23 P.M., https://twitter.com/NICKIMINAJ

[2] Mueller, Kate. “‘Aaconda’: Why You Should Watch Nicki’s Video Again.” The Huffington Post, November, 11, 2014. Web. September 16, 2016.

 

Pretty in Pink? A Media Analysis of a “Progressive” Toy

 

Pretty in Pink? Media Analysis of a “Progressive” Toy

Gender as a concept is a systemic structure that begins affecting children at a young age. The manipulation of gender and sex starts with advertisements for items such as toys, clothes, and furniture that mold the way children see themselves as soon as they are old enough to register what they see and hear on television and in print. Mass media and industry pushes the binary as a way to sell more items and this process requires children to pick a side: either the feminine side, where the toys are centered on appearance and homemaking, or the masculine, where the toys are more aggressive and active. The push towards a more inclusive toy industry is warped, and is seen through a recent advertisement for a toy called GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox is a set of building blocks and is focused on attracting a young, female audience. The commercial seems to reject the pink, princess-centric world of girls’ toys for a more scientific, active toy. What this commercial does not address, however, is the reinforcement that there are two types of girls: one that enjoys the norm and one that does not fit what we traditionally perceive as a girl’s toy. When the girl does not fit the norm, she is automatically placed in the other category, in which it is imperative that she maintains her femininity even though she rejects the traditional set of toys. In this way, the toy industry’s push to design more “inclusive” toys still remain solidly in the gender binary.

This GoldieBlox commercial, aptly named “The Princess Machine” begins by showing three girls sitting in front of the television, bored by the advertisement for a girly toy. The commercial proceeds when the girls don safety goggles and decide to construct an elaborate machine from their girly toys, such as baby carriages and tea sets. The girls work together to create a series of pulleys, levers, and ramps that extend throughout their whole house, creating a domino effect that moves a ball along the trail of toys. The girls run alongside the ball as it travels from room to room, eagerly awaiting the finale. The advertisement shows them enjoying their final product, which changes the television channel that originally showed the feminine toy commercial to an advertisement for this specific toy. The girls then cheer and celebrate their invention.

This advertisement is expertly crafted in order to appear to be advocating change in how toys are marketed to children, but only breaks down the feminine stereotype enough that it is comfortably available to the mainstream. An example of how it remains entwined in the binary is the toy’s pink packaging, showing a smiling blond girl on the box, plays directly into preconceived and accepted notions of what young girls should look like and how they should spend their time. This toy is no more evolutionary than a Barbie, and is a exemplary instance of Judith Halberstam’s argument in An Introduction to Female Masculinity that, “tomboyism may even be encouraged to the extent that it remains comfortably linked to a stable sense of a girl identity” (6). Girls are allowed to express themselves through traditionally masculine toys only until they hit puberty, when they are expected to become feminine, docile, and disinterested in masculine pursuits. Another interesting aspect of this commercial is its name: The Princess Machine. The name is not mentioned anywhere in the video, but can be found by searching it by name. The naming of this commercial is crucial to the argument that social norms can only be pushed so far, and not broken, as to create discomfort for the audience. The title of this commercial asserts that, although these girls do not want to be princesses, they can still create something feminine and acceptable to the gender binary. Notable, as well, is the race of the girl on the packaging. The use of a blond girl, though cartoon, asserts the argument that this toy is focused on maintaining what the media sells as acceptable for girls to be: white, “pretty”, and feminine. Not only is this toy selling the binary, its selling what society is groomed to think of as beautiful. The commercial, much like it does to the binary, pushes the idea of inclusivity just barely, by including one Caucasian and two girls of colors in it. The packaging tells the consumer that this is the ideal and is the first part of the toy little girls will see, which is no different than any other of the white centric, mainstream advertisements see across all industries. All these aspects of the commercial and packaging are, in a not so subtle way, asserting society’s views that being white, blond, and cis-gender is the ideal identity of a child.

The binary further asserts itself in the sub context of this commercial, narrowing the entire female gender to one of two categories: those who enjoy baby dolls and tea sets, and another, which rejects these items. The commercial seems to, at first glance, break down the stigma that girls enjoy playing solely with baby dolls and tea sets, but the makers have only given females one other option. By discussing femininity by only giving an alternative, this commercial’s message is very similar to the mainstream, exclusive message of the gender binary. This message is reminiscent of Wilchins’ Queer Theory, Gender Theory and her idea that, “Woman could do anything men could do and still retain their femininity” (8). Wilchins is discussing how, instead of completely breaking down and eradicating gender norms, it is popular now to offer an alternative to the “girly girl” while still remaining what is commonly thought of as feminine and therefore comfortable for the general population. Wilchins’ assertion is related to an image seen at the end of the commercial, with the three girls standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, wearing their construction belts and safety goggles. Although this would be considered a common frame if it were little boys, the girls have to remain feminine by wearing girly clothes as to not disrupt the binary. Another pertinent topic discussed by Wilchins is the idea of gender expression, which she defines as, “the manifestation of an individual’s fundamental sense of being masculine or feminine through clothing, behavior, grooming, etc.” As long as the toy user’s gender expression is one that has been seen before and accepted by society, she is allowed to freely enjoy her blocks or dolls. If she were to start acting like or identifying as more masculine, Wilchins says, “[people] will probably be shocked, disgusted, or at least turned off” (9). GoldieBlox is an excellent example of the cunningness of advertisers, who play to their consumer to sell more products.

GoldieBlox is a toy marketed towards an apparent shift in commercial industry towards a more inclusive, neutral business. When analyzed, however, GoldieBlox and its corresponding advertisement do nothing to break down stereotypes and expectations placed on children and the activities they enjoy doing. The resulting advertisement is a misrepresentation of what is it to be a girl with interests that do not include traditional girly toys and fails to acknowledge that feminine ideals are ever present and still being embedded in the minds of the girls watching these commercials.

Works Cited

GoldieBlox & Rube Goldberg. YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Aug.

  1. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIGyVa5Xftw>.

Halberstam, Judith. “An Introduction to Female Masculinity.”

Introduction. Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke UP, 1998. N.

pag. Print.

Wilchins, Riki Anne. Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant

Primer. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2004. Print.

 

Orange is the New Black: An Analysis of Female Sexuality

 

Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original TV show that details life in Litchfield Correctional Facility, a prison. Based off of the popular memoir by the same name, the show follows the main character Piper Chapman as she goes through the process of being sent to prison and her life before and after. While Piper is a young, educated, white woman, many of the other characters are people of color or are of various ages and backgrounds. The show has been praised for its portrayal of LGBTQ characters as well. While the show’s main purpose is to entertain, seen in the humor that is always present, it also aims to teach lessons and showcase different aspects of life that the inmates often face. This can be seen through the moral dilemmas that the inmates often face and the things that they learn about themselves and those around them.

As a whole, this show tackles many issues including race relations, power struggles, religion, love, and, as portrayed in the scenes provided, female sexuality. Often in the show, there is a division among the races; all the black inmates live near each other, the white inmates eat lunch together, and the Latina inmates work with each other. This speaks to the intersectionality of the show and how it addresses the struggles that various women go through. The variety of the characters, due to its portrayal of a racially diverse cast with various sexualities, along with the topics covered, appeal to a wide audience range. The characters all have different backgrounds and backstories that certain episodes delve into. All of the women are from varying classes and each is convicted for something specific to them. The audience members can easily find characters to relate to or at least empathize with. This increases the effectiveness of the show at causing social change or at least garnering views.

In the scenes presented, the main issue that is dealt with is female sexuality. Orange is the New Black deals with this issue is by addressing the lack of education and knowledge about female sexuality. Two scenes from the second season show some of the inmates discussing female anatomy. While the conversation starts out playfully, it soon turns into a discussion about clarifying a confusion about their own genitalia and how everything works below the belt. Eager to discover the true location of the urethra, the women head to the restroom and begin their search. Noticing their confusion, another inmate, Sophia offers her advice. The perspective that Sophia offers is interesting because she is a transwoman. Sophia basically had the opportunity to design her anatomy the way she wanted. These women all have vaginas. To the viewer, especially male viewers, not knowing one’s own anatomy may seem a foreign concept. The fact that these women are so openly talking about their genitalia on a television show is something that would be considered to be out of the ordinary, meanwhile jokes about male genitalia are made fairly often. Perhaps the lack of knowledge about female sexuality stems from the fears towards women as sexual beings. These fears have existed for quite some time. For example, in his 1880 novel Nana, Émile Zola essentially blamed a female prostitute for the downfall of France. Even in today’s society, we still have these fears towards female sexuality and the female body. This can be seen in the backlash that young girls face for their clothing choices at school. Female bodies are constantly being policed by society, similar to the way that Anne Balay writes on how LGBT steelworkers had to be careful of the way that they presented themselves in order to remain in the closet and therefore, safe from harm. This policing of female bodies is detrimental to their education, and this is mirrored in the scene provided; these women essentially do not know themselves, or at least do not know a huge aspect of who they identify to be. However, as the women in the scene are further educated about their bodies, they become happily surprised with what they learn. In the second clip provided, Sophia goes even further in depth with explaining female anatomy. Then Sophia brings up something basically unheard of, female pleasure when it comes to sexuality. As one Huffington Post writer said, “No one taught me about masturbation. Sure my mom gave me the rundown on where babies come from, but she certainly didn’t mention anything about orgasms” (Lumpkin). Sex education often discusses reproduction, but glosses over pleasure and rarely discusses the concepts of various sexualities and gender identities.

Furthermore, Orange is the New Black  tackles the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation. For these scenes in particular, it is important to note that these aspects of identity are highlighted. One of the women in the scene, Poussey, explicitly confirms her lesbian identity in her comment about familiarity with female anatomy, but also Sophia, a transwomen, is the one who takes on the task of explaining female anatomy to the other inmates. This decision to use Sophia as the character to enlighten the other inmates about female genitalia brings attention to the fact that she is Trans. Although she is not in the scenes provided, the main character of the show, Piper Chapman, also falls somewhere along the lesbian continuum mentioned by Adrienne Rich; Piper identifies as a bisexual woman and is in prison due to a complications with her drug-dealing ex-girlfriend. The fact that some of the characters shown in the scene along with many of the other characters fall somewhere along the lesbian continuum shows how this program interrupts the norm of compulsory heterosexuality, another term presented by Adrienne Rich. It is notable that the women in the prison are all complex characters. More often than not, women in movies are written to be bland and one-sided. These three-dimensional women have backstories, wants, and desires. The characters are realistic. Their presentation breaks the norm in movies that women are mainly used as a prop or crutch for the scene. These women carry the scene on their backs and propel the show forward with strong acting.

Overall, Orange is the New Black mainly focuses on the different points of  intersectionality and female sexuality. The portrayal of racially diverse characters shows the experiences that women of different races and backgrounds go through.  Differences in gender identity, and sexual orientation help to break down the concept of compulsory heterosexuality and expose viewers to the lesbian continuum. Rich’s use of these terms Lesbian Continuum and Compulsory Heterosexuality give the show something to not only showcase, but also something to change. In the aspect of female sexuality, the fact that the women on the show are able to talk about sex so openly and their anatomy proves yet again how the show can appeal to many, while also breaking norms; the idea that it is fine for males to talk about and make jokes about sex.

While Orange is the New Black may have amassed a strong fan base over its past three seasons, there are aspects of the show that could have rubbed some the wrong way. For example, the fact that many of the women in the show identify along the LGBTQ spectrum may have alienated some viewers who buy into the notion of compulsory heterosexuality. The fact that there are very few male characters may have received cries of “sexism” as well. No matter how strong the backlash is towards the show, it is still going strong, having recently been renewed for an additional three seasons (Cooper).

 

Citations

Cooper, Mariah. “‘Orange Is the New Black’ Renewed for Three More Seasons.” Washington Blade Gay News Politics LGBT Rights ICal. Washington Blade, 2016. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

Lumpkin, Jincey. “Masturbation Is Not a Dirty Word.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 Feb. 13. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

“Orange Is the New Black – Laverne Cox Gives a Lesson in Female Anatomy – S2 Ep4.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 June 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

“Orange Is the New Black S02E04 Poussey and Taystee Pee Hole.” YouTube. YouTube, 11 July 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

 

Defining Mom

Proctor and Gamble’s (P & G) “Thank you Mom” commercial appeared in 2012 as part of the campaign that ran during and put narrative focus on the 2012 London Olympic Games. The commercial depicts the progress of athletes as they move from young children to Olympic competitors, supported along the way by their mothers. Five or six different mothers are depicted waking their young athletes early, making them different (assumedly culturally appropriate) breakfasts, and then delivering the children to various athletic practices. The mothers do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. The athletes are shown in different stages of life and after trial and tribulation each arrives at his or her specific Olympic event. The mothers look on with tears of pride.

Proctor and Gamble is the parent company of over 60 brands that comprise mostly of household cleaning and beauty products. Dawn dish soap, Brawny paper towels, and Tide detergent are just a few of the company’s most-recognizable assets. Because of the company’s brands, we can assume the advertisement’s target audience is people who work in the home performing domestic tasks: whoever uses dish soap, paper towels, and laundry detergent most often will likely be the buyer of such products. The first (and most important) assumption the ad makes is that the Mother is the keeper of the home. The campaign called “Thank You Mom,” and the text at the end of the ad specifically addresses mothers. By targeting mothers with their ad, P & G assumes they are the primary users of P & G products.

The argument P & G addresses to its viewers runs along these lines: Domestic work leads to greatness; washing uniforms, and cooking meals allow children to become Olympic athletes. P & G ties greatness to working in the home. At this point in the commercial, it appears that P & G has made the assumption that all primary caregivers are women: no male caretakers appear in these video sequences, unless you could the fuzzy half-outline of a dad at a gymnastics meet.

The ad furthers this assumption when the words “Thank you, Mom” appear on the screen. All caretakers are women, and all Mothers are caretakers. The ad also assumes that the same member of the family is responsible for both the housework and taking care of children, a situation that does not hold for every family structure. One interesting consequence of the lack of male caretakers in the ad is the resulting lack of comment on caretakers’ relationship status. Are the mothers of the commercial straight, lesbian, or trans? Are the mothers perhaps single mothers? No assumptions are made in regards to this element of family life.

The ad assumes all caretakers are women, all Mothers are caretakers, and the caretaker performs all the housework. The argument is simple: domestic work (the kind facilitated by P & G products) leads to greatness. Just as mothers work tirelessly to support their children, P & G supports Moms (and so moms should buy their products).

Proctor and Gamble’s ad is an attempted intervention into the myth of the happy fifties housewife: yes, taking care of a child and taking care of housework is hard, says the ad; The text at the end of the video reads “The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world.” By acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining a household and raising children, the ad disrupts the image of the smiling mother who has lots of time for book-club and social gatherings. (Maybe my own image of junior-leaguers and country club cocktails is shaping my view of this commercial a little too much here.)

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan enters into Proctor and Gamble’s chosen world of the happy housewifeFriedan argues (contrary to P&G’s ad) that mothers and wives must stop searching for happiness among their husbands and children: happiness lies in fulfilling the dreams that are frustrated when intelligent women give up education and careers to stay at home with children. Friedan contradicts P&G’s message of motherly fulfillment through self-sacrifice, yet both Friedan’s and P&G’s arguments have the same oversights: both ads entirely ignore differences of race and class. (Though, admittedly, P&G does attempt to address the race issue by showing athletes and mothers of all nationalities).

bell hooks’ criticisms of Friedan in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, hold for the P&G commercial. hook argues that Friedan’s narrative of the troubled 50’s housewife is the narrative only of the white, upper-middle class housewife; Friedan’s dilemma in no way parallels the experiences of lower class white women, or of women of color (from any class). Friedan assumes that all women (her assumed audience) are mothers with husbands and no careers. Similarly, Proctor and Gamble assumes that all mothers are stay-at-home moms, who take care of cooking and cleaning. The ad leaves no space for mothers who have to work (usually a class issue), or for mothers who choose to work, or for fathers who are the primary caregivers for their families.

According to the Proctor and Gamble, children who achieve great things have mothers that sacrifice; sacrifice to wake up early, sacrifice to drive children to practice, and sacrifice to do all the housework that allows their children to be great. Don’t worry, says the narrative of the ad, being a mother is the “best job in the world.” Plus, you’ll get thanked and acknowledged for all your hard work… if you sacrifice. How do career moms feel when they view this advertisement? Do they feel that they are being thanked for all their hard work? P & G’s “Thank you mom” ad supports existing stereotypical norms of American family structure (white, mother and father, 2.5 kids).

BUT WAIT. What if these are real athletes and these are their real mothers? Are we to fault companies for reflecting real-life realities? Or perhaps the commercial is not based upon real Olympic athletes, and is rather a strategic attempt to sell product to P & G’s target demographic. Is it wrong to assume that the large majority of P & G’s buyers are mothers who are also primary caregivers and housewives? The ad is undeniably touching, and on some level appeals to nearly everyone. Everyone, at some point, had a mother. Most people have had a caretaker who cared for them with the maternal affection demonstrated by P&G’s mothers. The analysis of a commercial is tricky business: do we evaluate commercials based on their effectiveness as advertisements, or based on their representation of the society to whom they are selling? The morality of the advertising world is a topic that will have to wait for another post…

This post, by the way, is dedicated to my own mother. Mom: sorry I haven’t done anything as impressive as win a gold medal. Nonetheless, #thankyoumom.

Works Cited

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan, 1963

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, bell hooks, 1984