Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"When Life Throws You Curves, Embrace Them"

In class we have discussed how the media doesn't single-handedly reflect society (like a mirror) but further distorts, exaggerates, and constantly redefines reality. Gill makes an important point when talking about how we classify images in the media as “positive” or “negative” and how complex these interpretations can be. He states, “The meaning of the image does not reside in the image itself but in its interaction or negotiation of the context in which it is produced and interpreted (34).  On page 39 Gill presents the reader with a picture and a following caption that states, “positive female sexual autonomy or sexual objectification?” Ads often give us only a fragment of the feminist discourses displayed in the media, and the reader plays an active roll in generating and filling in the rest of the story. 

Different interpretations of the ads can occur between different groups of people. Some might argue that diet pill ads for example, illustrate women in the 21st century to be individuals who uses their beauty to achieve power and independence. Because the woman in the ad below is the center focus of the ad, some would say that these diet pill ads are empowering and show women as being independent from their male counterpart and able to live a lifestyle of personal expression and happiness. In addition, because this female appears alone, some might use these women as examples to illustrate the importance of expression and how women don’t actually need men to make them feel “beautiful” or happy. On the contrary, I would argue these ads do something much different.  These ads send a powerful message to women — that only the thin will be successful, happy, and in charge of their life. 

      Organizations like NOW (National Organization for Women) play an important role in recognizing and publicizing “the unrealistic beauty standards and gender stereotypes promoted by the media, Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetic and diet industries.”  They have specifically done this by continuing to celebrate “Love Your Body Day.”  Below is an example of a poster submitted to NOW to promote Love Your Body Day.  Check out this link for more poster examples and information about Love Your Body Day!

Your body needs to be loved!

Self acceptance is the theme of the 14th annual Love Your Body Day. This is a special day that is spent by women of all different colors, sizes, and ages come together to enjoy oneself and each other. It is a typical feeling by people that they are not beautiful, pretty, or sexy when watching ads and pieces of media that display an image that is characterized as 'unattainable.' Love Your Body Day is a wonderful day and should be celebrated all over the world, especially in the United States where we are a melting pot of every type of person imaginable. Whether these women that participate in this event are considered feminist is up for debate. I argue that it should not matter. For this type of occasion, people need to stop judging and provide support to the cause. Your body needs to be loved! It is the only one you will ever have. It should be treated with the utmost respect by both its owner and everyone around it. Rosalind Gill poses a question to her readers regarding women's image in media ads: Is it the shape you are or is it the shape you are in (Gill, 86)? Gill believes that the media believes in one, but if society can help shift that belief to the other, then the world can be a more loving place for women.

Love Your Body Day occurs in result to the negative media that forgets what pretty actually is. It is a refreshing feeling seeing more ads that are trying to reverse the norm of how women's bodies should be viewed and judged. For example, Cover Girl is using more plus size models and celebrities for its line of fabulous cosmetics. Recently, Queen Latifah was in a commercial and on the magazine's cover promoting her beautiful and voluptuous body. In her eyes, she is beautiful, and everyone else in the world should start to consider the message that she and Cover Girl is trying to send. Love your body and celebrate your image! 

Love Your Body

On October 19, 2011 the NOW foundation celebrated its 14th annual Love Your Body Day. On this day, “women of all sizes, colors, ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image” (NOW.org). A major aim of the campaign is to challenge the unrealistic standards and stereotypes that are present in the media. Gill argues that it is “possession of a sexy body that is presented as women’s key (if not sole) source of identity” (Gill, 255). Particularly problematic is the notion that if this “sexy body” cannot be achieved it is considered a failure.  Additionally, the female body is “constructed as a window to the individual’s interior life…indicative of her emotional breakdown” (256). The Love Your Body Day emphasizes a valuing of women for their character not their outwardly appearance.

Dove has done much in the media to help promote positive body image. In an ad in which Dove asked women what they loved about themselves the women initially responded with a resounding “uhhh…?” The ad concludes with the statement “If we can see the beauty in others, shouldn’t we be able to see it in ourselves?” The media presents an unrealistic image of women that sets a standard of beauty that many women believe they do not live up to. Organization such as NOW and Dove that help dispel stereotypes of what is beautiful and promote positive body image should be more abundant in the media.

Are you there, feminism? It's us the media.

It's "impossible to agree on which images [are] positive." (p.34)
This statement could not be more true and it is one that stood out to me in this reading. It is rare for people to admit that their way is the wrong way, or the way they view the world is not the only way to view the world. When it comes to representations of females and femininity in the media, how do we know what's a good image and what's bad? Much like the disabled people who fight against being equals to abled people, women fight for their choice to say what a positive image of a woman looks like in the media. It comes down to individual beliefs. The media has tried to incorporate a positive image of a modern woman in multiple ways but the portrayal is always contested, even if it is labeled as "pro-feminist." The character of Chelsea in Are you there, Chelsea? plays the role of the lady who chills with the dudes. She maintains femininity and sex appeal but can stand her own ground and isn't afraid to say what she thinks. So basically women are being told that in order to be seen as equal to men, you have to flaunt your sex life. On the other end of the spectrum we see magazines that teach women how to balance work and home life, because the modern woman does both. And since apparently a spouse isn't in this picture... women are expected to be the bread-winners AND the care-takers. Now, how is that fair? While the media can attempt to be more and more conscious of female image, we can expect that someone somewhere will disagree with what a positive image of a woman truly is. This fact is extremely important when analyzing mediated gender studies because there is no ideal image. Every image has flaws, just like every human has flaws. Until we understand that it is truly impossible to agree on a positive image, we cannot move forward as a culture that eliminates sexism in media. Which leaves me with one question- is it possible to have actual feminist media?

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Trouble with the Media

            Advertisements in the media play such an influential role on the ideas of feminism in today’s society.  However, no matter how these advertisements portray feminism, it all depends on the way the public interprets the situation. 
            The reading from Gill focused on cultural politics and feminist media activism.  This feminist media activism took many different forms including sticker campaigns, guerrilla interventions, positive images, calls for more women working in the media, etcetera.  The sticker campaign dealt with posting stickers to advertisements that were degrading to women and shown in public venues.  Similar to this were the guerilla interventions, which was people writing graffiti on demeaning billboards.  Both of these were ways in which feminists used advertisements to promote for a greater diversity of women in the media and as an attempt to get people to accept themselves and others, especially women. 
            Love Your Body Day is a day in which women of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and abilities celebrate self.  When I read about the “Love Your Body Day” from the NOW website it reminded me of the positive images section in Gill.  In Gill’s reading, campaigning with positive images was the idea that since “ . . .women were trivialized, condemned and symbolically annihilated in the media” (Gill, 34), we need to show more positive images of women in order to show a greater diversity and add a strong, optimistic touch to the campaign.  These positive images would make women feel more confident in who they actually are contrary to what the media says, which is exactly what Love Your Body Day is about.  However, the campaign ran into problems because there was trouble in what exactly a positive image of a women was.  Many women see models as positive and attractive, however many feminists see attractiveness in images of women with wrinkles and no makeup. 
            When I read the “Love Your Body Day” article, I agreed with the women of NOW.  I thought to myself that the way people feel about themself should not be affected by these either positive images or negative images that the media shows in magazines and in advertisements.  The media is affecting so many women into thinking that they are not “normal” and that they have so many problems, which is in turn causing a lot of women to be unhealthy.  People have to love themself before anyone else will accept them for who they are, therefore they cannot pay attention to the false messages the media is sending about beauty.  If women do this and disregard the media, they will become more confident in their own eyes and with their own body. 
The picture I added is very true and reminded me of the NOW article, as it is from the Love Your Body campaign, and Gill’s reading.  Because of what the media says, women are so concerned about what they look like to others that they are forgetting the most important thing in life which is to be happy with oneself.

Postfeminist Media Culture

In Gill's chapter titled "Postfeminist Media Culture," Gill explains the emergence of postfeminism as a period following second-wave feminism. He discusses how earlier feminist concerns shifted, putting a larger concern on the differences between gender. One of the topics postfeminism focuses on is the obsession of women’s bodily images. As Gill states on page 255, “surveillance of women’s bodies (but not men’s) constitutes perhaps the largest type of media content across all genres and media forms.” One can clearly see this in today’s women’s magazines. Although society is attempting to change the image of the “stick-thin, tall, flawless” woman and incorporating more normal-sized/plus-sized models into the media, it will take more than a few new photos to create a new idea of how women’s appearance should be. Another idea postfeminist culture examines is the sexualization of culture. Men are still admired for their sexual accomplishments while women are demoralized and criticized for it. Last year in my Issues in Feminism class, I had to do a group project comparing and contrasting women’s and men’s magazines. I remember looking at Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health. Cosmopolitan described women as sexual pleasures; giving females tips on how to look better and be better in bed for their man while Men’s Health focused on improving men’s diets and appearances for themselves. The fact that women were being told how to improve for their man angered me and only further emphasized the powerful role men have in society.  “What is striking is the degree fit between autonomous postfeminist subject and the psychological subject demanded by neoliberalism” (260). This quote shows how although women have begun to shift away from their previously submissive roles toward men and move toward accomplishing individualism and empowerment, women’s attempts at fitting in with societal pressures are still present. Since these representations are socially constructed and highly emphasized by the media, these beauty ideals become their own. Women must look past the edited versions of inexistent beauty they see in magazines and the media and gain the strength to create their own identity of beautiful. 

The Swan

The section that I found most interesting in Gill’s work was the section titled “The Makeover Paradigm”. Even though I am looking at these shows and movies from a male perspective I still agree with everything that she is saying. I don’t watch these shows often (notice how I slide that in there so people don’t doubt my masculinity), but the one that came to mind that fit the most into the idea that has bothered both Gill and me was the 2004 Fox show called The Swan. It is interesting to note the differences between the movie that Gill points out, Hitch, and The Swan. In Hitch where there is a male protagonist, the over arching theme is that even though he is unattractive by standard definitions, he can still get the girl by being himself. The message is not that he should change himself in order to get the girl, it is in fact the exact opposite, trying to change is what is turning her away. For guys, change is bad. Where as, in The Swan, the entire point of the show is that you cannot be happy without changing yourself to the standard definitions of beauty. The Swan takes women who are considered ugly and has them undergo intense plastic surgery in order to become attractive. They then featured each woman and showed how their lives improved before competing in a pageant at the end of the show. The media through this movie and show are giving two completely different ideas on how to be happy. For males, you need to be yourself. For females, you can’t be yourself.

Post-Feminism as Hegemonic Construct

This chapter from Gill is a popular topic in all women's studies classes: the idea that we are in a post-feminist world in which women are still oppressed.  As Gill discusses the different depictions of women in the media throughout the 80's and 90's as well as the prevalence of women's magazines it remains to be seen where the feminism ever was in these areas of media.  What is most alarming is that women are embracing the Ally Mcbeal, Spice Girls, and Porn Stars as the new way to female empowerment and freedom.  This ideas harkens back to the first chapters of Feminist Media Studies and its depiction of the porn industry.  This male centric media form has crossed over into the "real world" of media and because of its creation by white, first class, heterosexual males, it has been presented as the new norm instead of a plasticized depiction of reality.

What Gill seems to be attempting to say is that the hegemonic oppressive forces has picked up on the most opportunistic portions of the feminist movements.  Women wanted sexual freedom? Well why not take a pole dancing class and show the world just how free you are.  Furthermore, show the media you don't care what they think of your body by wearing that really short skirt and skin tight shirt.  That will definitely show the oppressive media forces that you won't take it from them.  And the worst part is that I buy into this too.  No woman is safe from the ways in which the media has seeped into our lives and socially constructed the ways in which women view their bodies and their sexualities.  Furthermore, Gill points out the politicization of the female body as well as the media's seeming ownership over it as an object to project ideas and marketing schemas on.  Its as though the hegemonic discourse took feminists cry that we wanted choices and then twisted them to their own ends.  See ladies, you can choose which crash diet to go on. What kind of work out will give you the best results? Look at all the choices you have at the makeup counter.  And if thats not enough you now have the choice to permanently alter your body through expensive plastic surgery so that you can gain control of your life and feel better. Post-feminism is alive and well in our society but I would argue that the "post" means no longer "by and for women" but more so "by and for men."

As Gill points out, the most horrifying aspect of the post-feminist movement is how it is all based around choice and how in reality women really have no choice at all.  Through the influx of pornography into main stream media women can no longer choose to identify our own sexuality but are instead forced to exist within a literal virgin/whore dichotomy.  Do we own our sexuality and go to pole dancing classes, or do we remain chaste until marriage? And the entire thing is so muddied that we really don't even have the ability to find the middle ground.  Furthermore, wanting a healthy physique is a good thing but do we want "rock hard abs" because they are better for our overall health or for purely cosmetic reasons? Women now have plenty of options but really no true choice for ourselves. Because of the media's view of the post-feminist world and the discourses crafted by the hegemonic majority it has become almost impossible for women to craft a real true, "feminist," opinion or any real opinion at all.  We no longer have a pro-woman option, but rather multiple options that masquerade as pro-woman but are actually pro-hegemonic male.

Postfeminist Sensibility and Cosmopolitan Magazine

In Gill's chapter about postfeminist media culture, she discusses the ways in which the "third wave" of feminism is addressed as one of the following: postfeminism as epistemological rift, as historical change, or as backlash against feminism. Instead of categorizing post-feminism as one of these three conceptions, Gill instead makes the decision to regard postfeminism as a "sensibility" which she states "...does not require a static notion of authentic feminism as a comparison point, but instead is informed by postmodernist and constructionist perspectives and seeks to examine what is distinctive about contemporary articulations of gender in the media" (254-255). To highlight what exactly this means, Gill provides the reader with various examples of the ways in which this idea is construed throughout the media, making reference to issues such as sexualization of the body in advertisements, inappropriate targeting of girls as young as five-years-old in selling "sexy slogans" and G-strings, and lastly, the difference between boy and girl magazines.

On page 257, the discussion of "lad" magazines versus "straight women" magazines really caught my attention. To quote Gill: "...in magazines aimed at straight women, men are presented as complex, vulnerable human beings. But in magazines targeted at those same men women only ever discuss their underwear, sexual fantasies, 'filthiest moments' or body parts" (257). As I read this section, I envisioned a Cosmopolitan magazine cover, always emphasizing the articles about sex on the front cover. So, I went to Cosmopolitan's website to find this:


"The Perfect 'Do for a Bad Hair Day"
"Get Girl-Next-Door Hot"
"Blow His Mind Every Single Time"
"Naughtiest Sex Tips of the Year"

What part of Cosmopolitan could be constituted as post-feminist? While this magazine is consumed by girls as young as their early teens (perhaps even pre-teens), it negates its very purpose in presenting these stories to the public. Is Cosmo not intended to empower women? To make them more confident about their bodies, their personalities? It seems that instead, Cosmo is giving into the hegemonic structuring of gender-based society while masking these fallacies as gender empowering. I wonder what Gill would have to say about that...

The Dangers of the Postfeminist Media Culture

Gill’s final chapter centers around the idea that today’s media is driven by a postfeminist sensibility. What she means by this is that in response to second wave feminism of the 1960’s and 1970’s, postfeminism has emerged as a critique of such feminism in that it shifts away from the concern with gender equality to focus more on the debate between gender differences. This postfeminist sensibility has also realized that feminism must encompass all women, not just white, middle-class women. Yet while this sounds progressive and seems to be in sync with neoliberalism, what this sensibility uncovers are the serious problems society faces today with sexism through the postfeminist media culture. This culture is obsessed with the women’s body. A woman’s body has become their main source of identity because of how magazines and television portray women in today’s world. Gill discusses how women are always at a risk of “failing” when dealing with their body image. While men are rarely scrutinized through the media, whole magazines and shows are dedicated to evaluating the female body and deeming what is acceptable and what is not, with being “fat” serving as the death penalty to a woman’s image.
Not only is the body image issue a problem introduced by today’s postfeminist media, but there is now an uneven distribution of discourses of sex as well. Sex is presented to young girls as a discipline and emotional labor that girls must master to possess power in the real world. Advertisers have responded to feminist critiques by creating a new type of figure to sell, “the sexually autonomous, heterosexual, young woman who plays with her sexual power.” What I have seen emerge from this in the media is this notion of whether or not a girl is “DTF”, something promoted strongly in MTV’s Jersey Shore. This insinuates that a girl is either a prude (not socially ideal), or down to fudge* (something that everyone should be, according to society). Yet DTF never pertains to men, it is strictly used as a classification for women. Gill notes that in recent years, porno has become reality, that women are in fact down to have random sex with strangers on a whim. Thus, there are serious gender discourses applied to sex. I believe this is a slippery slope, with something that was once precious being turned into a necessary requirement on the female societal résumé. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thoughts on Miss Representation

     I enjoyed the documentary Miss Representation because I thought that it brought up some issues that we have been discussing in class and took them to a much deeper level. Yes we are aware of gender stereotypes in movies and television but why does it matter? Miss Representation discusses the affects of these pressures that are placed on children. Multiple interviews with high school children reveal that themselves along with their fellow classmates are constantly aware of the importance of their appearance. So much so that it takes away from the effectiveness of schools because a girl has to "go to the bathroom between classes and put on like 10 pounds of makeup."
     Although the documentary brings up these very convincing points, I still have to remember one of the fundamental rules of research: correlation does not equal causation. Yes gender stereotypes in media have increased and perhaps weight or appearance issue have increased for younger kids, but we must remember that we can't assume that one caused the other. That might've been the only part of the documentary that I didn't quite agree with. It seemed that the movie made a few assumptions of the effects of media on viewers. I agree that there is a problem with the stresses on young children but I don't know that you can solely credit that to media, whether or not it has played a role in the lives of children.
     Another critique that I had was the mentioning of women super heroes in movies being overly sexualized. This is obviously true, however I don't know that it is solely women that are being objectified in these super hero roles. Take some of the more recent super hero films, Thor and Captain America. Each casts a young attractive male who is ridiculously muscular that coincidentally has his shirt off for portions of the movie. The outfits for these male super heroes have to be at least close to the same level of sexuality as those of the female super heroes. Perhaps it's simply the genre of movie that sexually exploits all genders.

What Not to Wear & Postfeminism

In Rosalind Gill’s chapter on postfeminist media culture, she presents a variety of different ways to interpret postfeminism. In short, postfeminism is a response to Second Wave feminism, stating that even though women are equal to men on paper (equal rights, equal opportunities, etc.), we are still oppressed in society. We are not truly equals, and this is what postfeminists are aiming to bring into discourse. No matter what lens you are looking through (Gill offers a theoretical-based approach, a historical approach, and an antithetical approach), it is clear that postfeminist themes of “continuing inequalities and exclusions” are showing up everywhere across different forms of media (Gill 255).

One theme from the reading that many women could probably relate to is that of self-surveillance and discipline. Women are constantly being told how to look and how to act, especially in the company of men. Even when there are not men present, women still feel the need to monitor themselves and project themselves as the “perfectfeminine woman.

If women do not adhere to this norm, they feel (or are supposed to feel) shame through humiliation (Gill 263). The TLC show "What Not to Wear" is the perfect embodiment of this theme. If you aren’t that familiar with the show, here is a clip, “Best Makeovers of 2011”, to give you a taste of the format. When you watch, pay attention to how hosts Stacy and Clinton point out the "problem" that the women have, and how a makeover is the solution.

"Frumpy,” self-conscious and insecure women are humiliated through secretly recorded footage, taught how to dress “appropriately,” made “better” through professional wardrobe, hair and makeup makeovers, and finally accepted by Stacy, Clinton, the woman’s friends and boyfriend/husband, and ultimately the rest of society. Stacy and Clinton help the women “discover” the happy, confident, ‘more successful’ versions of themselves.

This show, like other makeover programs, is a constant reminder of how women – consciously or subconsciously – are monitoring and regulating themselves to adhere to the “requirements of the performance of successful femininity” (Gill 261). If you have trouble self-monitoring, self-regulating, and adhering to societal standards, however, don't worry - Stacy and Clinton may be right around the corner ready to help put you back in your place!

Conceptions of "Woman"

Reading Gill's interpretations of postfeminist media culture highlighted several key points of interest for me.  The first is the realization that the concept of "woman" in media has experienced a shift since the onset of postfeminist ideology.  The onset of media representations of women that "do it all" has created a perfectionist view of the postfeminist heroine, someone who does not have to worry about balancing professional ambitions with social happiness.  Comparatively, previous depictions of women showcased their abilities in the home, within the strict boundaries of feminine propriety and desires.  While this is a positive step towards cultural recognition of postfeminist goals there is still a lot of pressure on women to mold themselves into a societal "ideal".
Gill points out that it is not a psychological aspect or attitude that defines media's portrayal of femininity, but a focus on a physical body that simultaneously serves as a sexual power and a source of continual upkeep.  It is no wonder that female eating disorders are on the rise considering the main, if not sole, measure of women's femininity is physical appeal and beauty in contemporary media.  The reciprocal relationship media representations hold with cultural norms ensures that continued emphasis on the "sexy female body" will result in increased female insecurity and lack of social power.  Magazines like Cosmopolitan frequently have multiple articles to 'help' the ordinary reader become sexier, have a more tone and fit physique, and/or become a knowledgeable fashionista.  Most other articles focus on relationships with men, mostly physical, that further enforce the cultural expectation that women's actions and appearances are for the benefit of men.
Staying optimistic, a third point that Gill makes highlights postfeminism as a dynamic, accommodating view of feminist ideals that is juxtaposed with race, class and sexuality.  While not anti-feminism, post feminism acts as a modified and more world-concious frame to view the differences in gender.  Though harder to define in strict parameters, postfeminism reminds us that the same ideologies cannot remain static in an ever-changing environment.

Postfeminism as Epistemological Break

Postfeminism as Epistemological Break
 “Postfeminism marks a shift away from a focus on equality to a focus on debates about differences, a shift away from structural analysis and meta-theorizing toward a more ‘pluralistic conception of the application of feminism’ that ‘addresses the demands of marginalized, diasporic and colonized cultures for a non-hegemonic feminism capable of giving voice to local, indigenous and postcolonial feminisms” (Gill 250). In my humble opinion, I believe that postfeminism on the internet has had a large impact on how many people view the media, revealing the absurd sexism in women’s role in the media. One of my favorite blog websites is Jezebel.com which concentrates in distributing celebrity, sex and fashion news to women. Since following this blog a year ago, I can easily check off Gill’s entire requirement for a postfeminist text such as the need for “narratives that explore women’s diverse relationships to power; depictions of varied feminist solutions; attempts to deconstruct the binaries of gender and sexuality; and illustrations of contemporary struggles” (251). A perfect example of a great article by Jezebel was published a few days ago.     
            The article is called “It’s Still Not Okay for Ladies to Get Angry.” In the article, Michelle Obama, Marianne Gingrich and Elizabeth Warren – all women of powerful influence – are used as recent examples of media’s portrayal of “bitter” women. It explains the dichotomy between men who apparently can get away with being flustered or angry and being seen as passionate whereas women are seen as an “angry bitch.”
            If postfeminism blogs continue to be well written and covered, I believe there is soon to be an age of more public awareness of social media influence on how we perceive and treat women. I think one example of progressive postfeminist change is the Photoshop disclaimer that France and the UK are trying to pass through legislation that would require companies to add a disclaimer if a person’s image has been enhanced through photo manipulation.


In the readings from Gill and Projasnky in “Postfeminist Context” they analyze the initial achievements of feminism, the backlash, and several aspects that lead to postfeminism. What I found was rather interesting is this idea of Postfeminism. I was surprised to find out that we are in this stage, because “post” as pointed out by Projasnky means “after.” This terminology suggests that feminism is over and that we have reached equality, to someone who might hear it on the street. Projansky elaborates that, “the concept of postfeminism perpetuates feminism in the very process of insisting that it is now over” (p.66).  This does not seem to be necessarily true, this I think is because of the broad range the definition of feminism now has.  Feminism was transformed to include aspects of class, race, and equal rights/depictions in several aspects of our social world. In both of these readings, we find that in media this is not true. In Gills chapter concerning postfeminism, we find that there is an obsession with body image of women in our culture. It is also still predominantly white women with body types that only a few percent of the population can actually achieve. It is a source of our self-identity, that if we don’t have a sexy body, then we are unappealing. This reminded me of the Dove campaign called, “Campaign for real beauty” This movement started in 2004 and focuses on starting a debate about what is a “real” body in the media and challenge stereotypical norms. The success for this movement has lead to another creation called “The movement for self-esteem” which tries to reduce women’s anxiety about their body image. Dove found that only 4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful. I found this to be a startling claim seeing that they only interviewed 1,200 women from around the world. Still, to have such a small percent from a large group consider themselves to be beautiful is still alarming. From the Gill and Projansky reading paired with multiple campaigns by Dove, feminism is occurring. It may not be as overt as in the 1960’s but feminism is still calling upon social change.

"Have It Both Ways" -Gill 249-271

            One of the themes I picked up on throughout this chapter was the idea of 'having it both ways' and I think this topic is a very important one to discuss and dissect. Why can't we be both a male fantasy and an established professional? I believe that we can in fact be both, as long as we understand the deeper constraints. Gill talks on page 251 about Ally McBeal possessing what it takes to be both "what men want" as well as a successful woman. She is sometimes considered a postfeminist heroine because she is not "observing arbitrary boundaries." But I wouldn't be so sure this is always the case.
            We talked a lot last semester in Issues In Feminism about the importance of understanding the restrictions and expectations society has placed on women and how they may or may not effect your decisions and desires. Often, the issue comes up of whether or not women taking part in certain activities such as cosmetic surgery or simply getting a wax is empowering or oppressive. This issue comes up on page 260 in which Gill discusses how women are targeted as having the free will to make over their bodies in order to 'please themselves' not anyone else, especially men, and how women can 'use beauty' to empower themselves. However, this notion assumes a lot of things such as all women are heterosexual and obsessed with men (260). Also, the image that women are adhering to is for the most part, all the same which does not seem to represent something you are doing for your individual self.
            While I do believe that these acts can be extremely empowering, for that to happen, one must be informed and aware of why they want these alterations and why they make them feel good. I believe that a large majority of the reason can be given to the media. We are constantly told that the most successful women fit a certain, narrow standard. We see it in movies, television, advertising and the rest of the entertainment industry.
            So, are women becoming more empowered by taking their 'beauty' into their own hands and 'having it all'? Maybe, but in order to do so, they must realize why they feel the need to do so. And that reason is the media. They have placed unachievable standards on the vast majority of women.

Representing Women in the Political World

When I first walked into the viewing of MissRepresentation I expected the documentary to follow along the same lines as videos such as Jean Kilbourne's Still Killing Us Softly and Slim Hopes, both documentaries on the portrayal of women in advertising and other media. Instead, the focus on the image of women in politics was a refreshing change. The documentary points out that not only are there a lack of women in politics, but that when compared to men in politics women are held at a much more difficult standard and not taken as seriously as men.Their outfits and personal lives, something that doesn’t happen to men as much, overshadow women’s political achievements. It would be highly doubtful that newscasters would mention if Obama's tie didn't match his suit, but more so if Hillary Clinton's hem line was "too short." One of the most disappointing facts the movie points out is that when Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House, she wasn't on a single magazine cover, but when her male equal was elected, he was on five covers. This documentary made me realize how underrepresented women are in politics, and that even when represented are done in a demeaning manner, such as when just their outfits are critiqued or their style is considered "mothering." Instead of recognizing women's achievements or contributions as women, we should instead focus on women's achievements as just achievements, not coming from a gendered outlook. Instead of weighing men and women against each other, we should only see how they contribute to bettering America, which would cancel out any prejudices. Media's portrayal of the political lives of men and women prevents this, but as more and more women enter the political world, it gives hopes to new generations and the their representation as a whole.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gill and van Zoonen

In Gill's discussion, the first she points out is the historical problems with the beginning of feminism as it relates/ doesn't relate to black women and their historical oppression from both races and genders. She find that there was a failure in white feminism that alienated black women from the same disccussion of equal rights. In order to reconfigure the framework of feminism, we needed to reexamine the processing of classes and racialization. A new focus  came into effect in developing a transition into a global focus in order to "acknowledge differences in gender, race, class and other forms of oppression." (Gill 29)
The second disscussion she pointed out was the 'crisis' on masculinity and its portrayal and evolution in media and its effects it had on shaping how men see themselves.

In van Zoonen 3rd chapter, her main focus is on two elements of critique which are 'distortion' and 'socialization'. van Zoonen sees a disconnection between how media portrays women and the actual reality in which women play a role in the real world. The media as she says is lagging behind in portraying the correct realization that women work and hold higher jobs than just being a stay at home mother with no problems. I found interesting was the fact that those "stereotypes are actually not images of ourselves but radicalized expressions of a common social practice of identifying and  categorizing  events, experiences, objects or persons." (van Zoonen 30)
The second critique was on the socialization in which we are taught our values by way of symbolic rewards and punishments for different kinds of behaviour. These create what we know as what our role and status is in society. Within that the media carries multiple meanings and are open to a range of interpretations, that we decode through our socialization within our society.

Van Zoonen ch. 2 and 3

While reading chapters 2 and 3 in van Zoonen, I was reminded a lot of the content from a class I'd taken this past fall called, "The Trouble With Normal". We discussed the sex/gender dichotomy a lot, as well as the role society plays in the construction and maintenance of gender norms. Van Zoonen brings up significant points such as the idea that, "television symbolically annihilates women and tells society women are not very important by showing an overwhelming majority of men in almost all kinds of television output" (16). Because of the lack of female figures in television media, women either are unaware or unable to model their behaviors on positive female images. This only serves to perpetuate the inferior status that media has created.

Another section of the reading that I found interesting was the 'Distortion' part in chapter 3. Media is a business that exists for profit. If they are able to make profit by distorting images of reality, they will do just that. It seems unfortunate that media and audiences alike buy into an exaggerated sense of reality to the point that it affects actual society. After all of the work that the women's rights movement did to accomplish equality among men and women, it is somewhat hypocritical that we are willing to watch television shows that degrade the female gender or emphasize the "happy housewife" rather than a powerful female CEO. Our continuous recognition and appeal to this type of media has constructed images that may not be what we stand for in our beliefs, however, our participation shows that we are entertained by this type of "reality", thereby contradicting previous efforts.

Censorship and Media

Having watched the Miss-representation movie, I was shocked to learn that media takes up about 10 hours and 45 minutes of our lives. That is an unrealistically large amount of time. Most of us don’t even sleep that much! I think that the amount of presence of media in our lives further makes concrete that Feminism in today’s day and age is no a lost cause. The documentary clearly showed the deplorable effects of media on today’s women. What’s even scarier than the eating disorder or the girls dealing depression is that media and what we internalize from the media is becoming a part of and is being rooted in our mass (collective) psyche.

I know that Van Zoomen critiques the feminist transmission model of communication. She asserts that “The idea that mass media ‘distort’ the reality of women’s lives gives a clue as to how in these models ‘reality’ is understood. Apparently a world of objects, events, situations and processes is assumed to exist independent of and prior to human perception.” To an extent I agree that yes we human beings are not simply mirrors that we accept everything we have been told and reflect it. I further agree that we are thinking beings and hence should be able to critically analyze the material that is being given to us. However after being bombarded with certain messages for over 10 hours and 45 minutes every day, how can we distinguish our thoughts from that which is being relayed to us by the media? In addition, Tuschman had stated the girls from a very young age are being influence by the media. While these young girls can be taught to critically think, it’s obvious that at 3 -5 years of age that they won’t be able to critically analyze what’s being presented to them on TV and distinguish what is right and wrong. How then can we create change in this society, if the vulnerable and innocent are not being thought about and are not being considered?

I think one of the greatest battles this society faces today in terms of exploitation at the hands of the media is the issue of censorship. The society we live in today is asking to what extent the government should be allowed to censor media. The might reason that if the government starts censoring violence and sexual images first, would they further go onto censor what they think is right and wrong (something the public might not agree with)? I think the only solution to this problem is to ask, to encourage the public who watches this content to think critically about what they are seeing and to not accept everything at face value. As far as young impressionable children are concerned parents should be able to monitor the content they are watching and encourage them to think about what’s being showed on Television.

Van Zoonen, the "New" Paradigm and the Symbolic Realm

I have to admit that it has been a little difficult to really start to get into this material and to be learning it from a feminist theorist standpoint and perspective. Yes, I am a women and I do value the ideologies and need for equal representation that feminism warrants but I just have never really thought about it from this perspective. Maybe I am a prime example of how hegemonic masculinity plays out in society, on men and women alike, but hey, I admit to that. I'm not saying I've never thought about equality for all, there's been plenty of times that I've argued a feminist viewpoint case, but, what I do know is that this course is allowing me to see the feminism perspective through a theoretical lens that maybe I have been missing over these past four years.  

In chapter 3,  of van Zoonen, I thought the section on "Distorition" was very intriguing. It is a pertinent concept in many feminist approaches to the media, and asserts that women are underrepresented in media content when in fact they make up 50% of the population and in reality many more women work then we get to see or read about in the media. This section made me think of my Critical Cultural Advertising class  and how PR and advertising are ways we tell a story and create this symbolic realm that each of us takes part in. We talked about how governments, corporation and all those in power (all hegemonically male dominated) understand that reality does not matter, what matters is the reality they can create! If you control the symbolic realm you have power. Likewise, if its the patriarchal society that is creating the symbolic realm that we all live in (via the media) then yes, the reality of women is going to be distorted. Van Zoonen argues that it is indisputable that the many aspects of women's lives and experiences are not properly reflected by the media and that the feminist viewpoint calls for more realistic images of women (p. 30). He also goes on to argue that stereotypes and the "reality" of gender is all socially and culturally constructed. Yes, of course it is, if the discursive construct for such things is created through this patriarchal lens. 

What I need to recognize now is that this dichotomy cannot be understood within in a few days, but I finally feel that I am starting to understand it a little more and can ground some of the causes and effects of this phenomenon in a more theoretical framework.