Tuesday, January 31, 2012
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!
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.
Monday, January 30, 2012
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.
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.
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...
Sunday, January 29, 2012
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.
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 “perfect” feminine 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!
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.
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.
Friday, January 27, 2012
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.
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.