Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jean Kilbourne Lecture

After attending Jean Kilbourne's lecture monday night, I just wanted to call up a bunch of advertising companies and scream into the phone. Don't worry, I didn't. But all the messages being sent are just incredibly frustrating. And while the campaign has come a long way, I don't feel like we're getting anywhere very fast. There are still far to many people struggling with eating disorders and just body image in general. But are we really surprised when models' bodies aren't even worthy of skipping photoshop? It kills me that messages are being sent out that women's skin retires after age fifteen, that their breasts will never be optimal, or that pretty faces must be "designed", and no one is doing anything about it. I was stunned that within just three years of TV coming to Fiji that eating disorders doubled, and that vast majorities of women were dieting and an even larger majority saw themselves as "too large." But I think what stuns me even more is that society takes it as normal. There still exists this terrible double standard. Proof for this is when an ad featuring a man's bare abs and thighs gains National media coverage. Of course, as Kilbourne underlined, I don't want men to be objectified either, but when a picture of a man's abs gains national attention over the epidemic of eating disorders or ads featuring men beating women, then there is definitely a serious problem. While I am glad that companies like Dove are beginning to take a stand and change, I wish that more companies would do the same.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Representation of Women's Body Types in the Media is Killing us Softly

Something that really stood out to me in many of the advertisements that Jean Kilbourne showed in her presentation last night is women's body image and how even the thinnest models are photo shopped, and not even those models could ever really look like the end-result photographs of themselves.  It is scary to think about the fact that the media affects us so much when it comes to body image, and especially affects young girls all around the world.  It is really interesting to me that when Jean Kilbourne started talking to people about the issues of the representations of women in advertisements, it was a very new topic that was not discussed by many others.  Today there are a many people who focus on this subject and she is no longer alone, yet the media continues to feed us images of unattainable body types and sexualized women seen as objects in advertisements.  It makes me question when the media will finally change the way that they represent women, and how this change will come about.  There are plenty of advertisement campaigns that go against negative representations of women in the media, such as the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which aims to change the definition of beauty by represent women in the media with realistic body types as beautiful, real women.  As Jean Kilbourne said, the campaign isn't perfect, but it definitely seems like a step in the right direction for the way that women are represented in the media.  Thin models have definitely gotten a lot of negative attention, especially in images that are photos hopped, such as the Ralph Lauren photoshop scandal, in which a woman who is 5'10" and 120 pounds is made to look even smaller than she already is.  Below, the model is pictured on the left and the photo shopped image of her is pictured on the right.  As Kilbourne pointed out, her waist is smaller than the size of her head which is anatomically impossible.  It is images like these, that show women's bodies that they don't even have themselves in reality, that make girls and women feel like their body types aren't good enough and that they are not attractive because they cannot achieve the bodies that the models they see have. 

Women in Hollywood...Not pretty enough?

      I enjoyed Jean Kilbourne’s lecture but would agree that it was very similar to Killing Us Softly 4. However, there was one part of her talk that stood out to me. Kilbourne showed us the cover of Pretty Woman and stated that Julia Roberts had a “body double” in this film. Julia Robert’s head was photoshopped into a body for the cover and this mysterious body was also used for many scenes during the movie. As Michael Loprete states, “Behind every Pretty Woman stands a prettier woman.” This clip does a nice job of illustrating the role of a “body double” and interviews the mysterious lady with nice legs and a flat stomach..the lady who I thought was Roberts all along. 
     I would love to ask the producer of the movie what was wrong with using Julia Robert’s figure? I mean she is “pretty woman.” I would argue that the use of a body double creates an illusion and suggests that there is something wrong with the original image. Kilbourne refers to this as “psychic pressure” and said that these artificially constructed images support the fact that 91% of cosmetic surgeries are for women. I would also be interested in doing different types of analysis on this movie. How many times was the body double used in Pretty Woman? Has the use of body doubles increased or decreased and what might this suggest about women in Hollywood...not pretty enough? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jean Kilbourne... Killing Us Softly 5?

     I thought that the Jean Kilbourne Lecture was interesting and enjoyable, however, her presentation was almost identical to the lecture she gives in her film Killing Us Softly 4 which I saw before attending the lecture. One topic that she addressed a little differently in this presentation was the comparison of the objectification and sexualization of men and women in advertisements. She stated that women are always altered before appearing in magazines or advertisements, usually by way of Photoshop or even a body-double. Even the actresses that people feel are very attractive must still be altered which creates this idea that nobody can fit these beauty guidelines in advertisements, yet these standards are still what women should strive for. On the other side, men are Photoshopped to be bigger and bulkier. Some say this is an attempt to display the power of a man while women are altered to be thinner and take up less space which consequently enforces the gender stereotypes that already exist in our society.
     Another important point that Dr. Kilbourne makes is that in numerous ads, women are displayed as transforming into objects like cars or beer bottles. By doing so we are taking personalities away from these people and labeling them as just bodies. This process is referred to as dehumanization and inevitably leads to violence against those being dehumanized because we no longer see them as people but merely objects.
     Overall I thought that Dr. Kilbourne made some intriguing and thought-provoking claims that should be further discussed among groups and communities. If you missed it I would strongly encourage you to watch Killing Us Softly 4, it's on Youtube.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"That was all ball!": Tomboys in the Media Today

In the article “Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film”, hatch discusses the qualities and transformations of tomboys in the media over time. Hatch references movies from the last several decades, including Gidget, Bad News Bears, and Annie Get Your Gun. In most tomboy texts, the tomboy undergoes a transformation from masculinity to femininity and heteronormativity. While the transformation usually involves physical appearance, it more often stresses changes in behavior and relationships towards men. It is almost never a question of gender, as the audience can always tell that the character is female (through music cues, fitted “boyish” clothes, undergarments, and other “markings”). These transformations almost always end in the female becoming submissive in one way or another to a man, thus reinforcing the woman’s “place” in heteronormative society.

While reading this article, I couldn’t help but connect the “tomboy” to the show “Whitney!” currently on NBC. In “Whitney!” the main character Whitney is dating a man named Alex. While Whitney is attractive and clearly female/straight, her character is far from heteronormative. She has a low voice, very masculine tendencies, does not believe in marriage, references same-sex relationships/encounters in her past, is very opinionated, is not very emotional… Alex and the other males are feminine and relatively submissive to the three women on the show; the women are all very attractive and currently in straight relationships, but all three exhibit most of the masculine characteristics that Whitney possesses. In this clip, Whitney is challenged to a basketball game with Alex:

This clip is reminiscent of the article we read for today, but also shows many differences in the tomboy model Hatch discussed. In contrast to the "musical cues" hatch references of sweet music, pay attention to the music played when Whitney enters the court. Whitney is clearly feminine, but her attire is baggy, not form fitting, and her demeanor is incredibly masculine. She does not back off to let Alex win or become submissive in any way; she trash talks, insults, and totally schools him on the court. Whitney shows that the woman can dominate, be incredibly masculine, and be athletic without shoving the heteronormative ideals of women down our throats.

My Time as a Tomboy

So, after reading "Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film", I got to thinking about my own Tomboy phase which occurred through the second and third grades.

Hatch discusses a few possibilities in which the Tomboy phase was used in film through the 50s and the 70s. It seems to me that Tomboys were mostly used as a means of symbolizing prepubescence and girlhood innocence as well as a face for feminism.

Personally, my phase was a little different. I clearly remember wearing black turtle necks with my short haircut (similar to my style now) and playing cops and robbers with the boys in my class on the jungle gym along side my girlfriends. But the moment that any of the boys paid more attention to one of my girlfriends, I was super duper jealous. This means that my Tomboy phase was simply a means of meeting boys and flirting with them without seeming like I actually like-liked them (cause we all know that was icky).

This made me think further.

My favorite quote from this reading is this: "gender is not a product of clothing and hair style alone but is predicated on a set of behaviors that bolsters a system of male dominance and female submission" (79). Which got me thinking about my Tomboy phase in general. Could the Tomboy phase be a normal, socially constructed part of femininity? It seems like it definitely could be.

Here are my reasons. We discussed gender as a social construct, an act that is performed based on our desire to be normal. Yes, the Tomboy phase, according to Hatch, is a part of growing up for young girls before they understand sexual desire, but that wasn't the case for me or my girlfriends in elementary school. No, we didn't understand what sex was yet but the reason we played cops and robbers with the boys was because we inherently wanted their attention. We had crushes. So for me and my friends, and I understand that it wasn't the case for everyone else, our Tomboy phase was the beginning of our desire.

Does this make the Tomboy phase a necessary part of our performed femininity? Let's Discuss.

Also....I understand my experience in terms of Hatch's theory that the Tomboy phase was simply a phase before young women discover heterosexual desire but I do not understand its connection to masculine domesticity. That is something that I would like to discuss further with the class.

Jenna Marbles Tomboy?

Hatch presents a lot of really good information in her article "Little Butches" However I found myself constantly searching for some current movie or T.V. show examples and I constantly found myself coming up short. Maybe it's because I'm usually watching Romantic Comedies or my definition of Tomboy is incredibly skewed...but the more I thought about it. The more I became frustrated.

Then it hit me! While trying to come up with an idea for a new YouTube video for my weekly channel, my mind thought WWJMD aka What Would Jenna Marbles Do? Now if you don't know who Jenna Marbles is you should basically go find a rock and live under it because that's where you've been for the past 6 months of your life. Anyways I'm posting a video so watch it fall in love, subscribe all that fun stuff.
So back to my main point. Jenna Marbles is basically a tomboy. She is well represented in mainstream media. She's vulgar, hilarious, doesn't give a crap about what people say about her and she totally gives off that forever young vibe that Hatch talked about that was such a big theme for tomboys in the 70's. Even though it's obvious that Jenna is a woman and looks totally smoking hot in like almost every video she makes. She is able to connect with both the male and female audiences because of her unusual tomboy attitude towards life and her "understanding" of both male and female culture.

Ok I'm going to stop now because I'm probably rambling. What do you guys think?

p.s. I realize that this post almost has to do with nothing we read...but I just had to get it out. Sorry Erin!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Contemporary Tomboy: breaking the binds of heteronormativity

The article "Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film" discusses the way the role of the tomboy in Hollywood movies (and its relation to femininity) has changed. While the tomboy is character to almost always undergo a transformation of sorts, it has typically been a transformation towards heternormativity.  This is particularly seen in the “postwar tomboy” who exhibits the fact that “gender is not a product of clothing and hair style alone but is predicated on a set of behaviors that bolsters a system of male dominance and females submission” (79).  In other words the postwar tomboy did not complete her transformation to a more feminine subject by simply changing her appearance, she also had to augment her behavior so that she better fits the heteronormative model that puts men in power.

Hatch then goes on to discuss the ways the role of the tomboy has continued to change since the conforming postwar tomboy.  She cites two movies, Bad News Bears and Little Darlings, as examples of the modern tomboy. Both of these movies present a tomboy character that undergoes a transformation that moves her away from the model discussed above.

An additional contemporary example of this new tomboy can be found in Suzanne Collins best-selling Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss Everdeen, the main character of the series, presents as a strong woman who specifically works against the oppressive forces in her life, all of which are led by men.  Her character not only presents as a physical tomboy (particularly seen in her preference for a simple outfit and understated braid than a formal gown and makeup), Katniss also represents a strong female character that moves beyond the heteronormative model.  While she is a heterosexual character, she finds her true strength only when she abandons the highly feminized persona that has been forced on her by others. Like Amanda in Bad News Bears, Katniss moves from bring a more feminine (and submissive) girl to someone who is empowered and fiercely independent.  Suzanne Collins has created an admirable tomboy character whose power will be further carried out as the books are made into films, the first being released in spring of 2012.

Tomboys in Media Through the Decades

The way that tomboys are represented in Hollywood films has changed over time, just as this article brings up.  In the 1950's, the tomboy narrative involved a young, immature girl who would eventually make the transformation into a woman not through her clothes are style, but through her behavior when it comes to men.  During this time, the tomboy narrative demonstrated that the most important way for a tomboy to become a woman was by pursuing a love interest in a man and by being submissive to men.  Just as is seen in the movie Gidget where a young girl disappoints her friends with her tomboy actions because they think it ruins their chances of attracting men.  Eventually, the tomboy transforms into a more feminine character by falling in love with a surfer man who rescues her multiple times.
When I thought of Hatch's idea that the 1950's tomboy narrative "demonstrates that gender is not a product of clothing an hairstyle alone but is predicated on a set of behaviors that bolsters a system of male dominance and female submission...", a few films in which I remember seeing tomboys represented came to mind.  A good example of a modern day 'tomboy' film that challenges this 1950's ideal is the movie Miss Congeniality, in which a woman who has been more 'masculine' and a tomboy all of her life enters a beauty pageant in order to complete a secret FBI mission.  The main character is transformed into a feminine woman by being taught certain 'lady-like' behavior, but the transformation into a woman mainly involves her physical makeover--she has makeup put on her, has her hair done, has a lot of waxing done and finally puts on a short sexy dress and a pair of heels to top off the look.  Her tomboy character at the beginning of the film is seen as negative and her transformation into a more typically feminine woman is meant to be a positive thing.  She also ends up having a romantic interest in one of her co-workers, who now finds her irresistible because of her sexy new look.
I think that the representation of tomboys in films today is much more complex, and there isn't one specific 'tomboy narrative', though I would argue that the tomboy narrative still almost always includes the tomboy having a romantic interest in a male character.  An example I thought of in which a tomboy is portrayed in a very positive light is the Disney movie Mulan.  Mulan wants to be able to fight in her father's place, so she runs away from home and portrays herself as a man so that she can fight.  Mulan's character is very story and independent, yet of course toward the middle of the film, her character falls in love with a strong, masculine man, and her femininity is brought out through her actions toward this man as well as the way she appears physically at the end of the movie. 

Tomboys Can Bend It Like Beckham

    In Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film Kristen Hatch shows how the elements that define the tomboy narrative have changed over time. After reading the article I proceeded to ask my roommate what first came to mind when she heard the word "tomboy narrative." She said, “ when I hear the word tomboy I picture a girl dressed in baggy clothes, who plays sports, and might questions her sexuality.” After reading the article and thinking about my roommates response I was reminded of the movie Bend It Like Beckham.
    What is the definition of tomboy anyway? Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as “a girl who behaves in a manner usually considered boyish.” According to dictionary the two main characters in Bend it Like Beckham would be classified as tomboys. Both adolescent girls love soccer, dress comfortably, and their sexuality is questioned by their parents. The girls struggle to rebel against cultural and parental expectations of gender roles which are clearly defined by their mothers. The mothers don't think it is proper for girls to play football and are upset because their daughters are not ‘feminine’.  The girls don’t want to cook, wear make-up or sexy underwear. This struggle can be seen in this clip. Hatcher comments on one aspect of the tomboy narrative and states, “these films suggest that social stability is reliant on girls giving up the pleasures of childhood masculinity and assuming a feminine role"(80).  I would argue that Bend it Like Beckham challenges this notion because the girls refuse to give up their “childhood masculinity” and quit soccer in order to be accepted and viewed as ‘feminine.’ 

    Jule’s mother also assumes the two girls are in a lesbian relationship.  Hatch comments on different films from the 1980's that featured tomboy movie stars. She states how these films were “often identified as lesbian films” (76). I would like to think that Bend it Like Beckham is working to challenge these stereotypes but I’m not entirely convinced. The movie takes a comical approach to addressing homosexuality and at times seems to be enforcing stereotypes. I would be interested to hear what others think!

Tomboy... No More

Kristen Hatch's piece, Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film, discusses the evolution of the traditional tomboy image in Hollywood movies. According to the writer, the image of tomboys in Hollywood has evolved from a representation of immaturity in young women to a reaffirmation of heteronomativity in our society. Hatch argues that the image of tomboys in Hollywood was used as a representation of sexual immaturity and childhood. The author also discusses the gradual transformation of Hollywood's tomboy into a 'woman' who embraces femininity and heteronormativity is so assured that it serves as as a symbol of the "disciplining of gender and desire" (70).

As I was reading this piece, I found myself relating to the metamorphic process of some of the characters Hatch discusses. I was definitely a tomboy when I was younger. The age gap between myself and my sisters made it almost impossible for us to relate to each other. Instead, I hung out with my male cousins and I adopted their mannerisms over time. I even began to wear my cousin's clothes because it just didn't seem practical to me to try and play with the boys in my 'girl clothes.' Although I do not remember ever having a desire to actually be a boy, I do remember always feeling a lot more comfortable wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts, putting my hair into a ponytail and playing soccer with my male cousins. I was not a big fan of the dolls my parents bought me, but I loved my SEGA and I loved playing Sonic and Mortal Combat video games. I loved running around and climbing trees and I absolutely hated it when my mom would make me play with my girl cousins because I thought sitting around playing with dolls was boring. At the time, I didn't see anything wrong with this. I didn't want to be a boy and I loved the Powderpuff girls.

As I got older, however, my feminine side became more noticeable. I went through a phase when I was about 14 when I wore pink every single day of the week. I didn't do it as a way to declare my femininity, I just became obsessed with the color for some reason. I started fixing my hair a lot more often and wearing a lot more skirts as opposed to pants. Although my outward appearance became more feminine, I still retained a lot of the masculine mannerisms I had adopted from my male cousins. I still played/watched a lot of soccer, I still played video games, I still hung out with the boys, and my mom always commented on my 'boyish-mindset.' Although I have gradually become increasingly feminine, in the traditional sense of the word, it is apparent that I still retain a lot of the more traditional male characteristics in my mannerism, my tendency to cuss like a sailor, my assertiveness, my loudness, etc. I still love to watch sports, I'm still highly competitive and a part of one of the most aggressive women's flag football teams at Denison as an offensive line-woman (and I proudly rock my pink cleats on the field!). All of these things still mark me as a tomboy in my family's eyes, but to me they're simply a part of my personality and I fully accept and embrace that about myself.

Transforming Times and Gender Identification

I haven’t ever seen any of the films discussed in the article, but it made me think of the sexualization of children, and how it could be applied as a counter to the tomboyish girl. If we identify the problem as children being to sexual, the tomboy character works as a sign of childhood. This identification plays perfectly into a plot that aims at showing how a girl becomes a woman. It reminds me of how powerful representation is. If we dressed the evil person in white and they had a gentle voice, it would be harder for us to follow the plot. Boyishness in young female characters is just another cheat so that audiences can identify characters easier. This kind of shortcut also works negatively in narrowing the scope of representation for young girls. We see that this representation is prevalent because of the feminist movement in the 70’s.
It seems as if Hollywood took the issue of equal treatment for women and girls in school and warped it into a problem with maturity.  This transition is obviously created in the confines of a cultural construct. The white collar movement as it related to masculinity in men was a driving force in the plots of these films. Men wanted to reassure other men that they can be less physically strong and still be masculine. But it seems like in order for this to work, the identity of women and femininity needed to be more clearly identified.  In times where the identification of men is transforming, I think that media works harder to outline what it is to be ladylike (just a guess).
Like other readings, this article makes me want to make a film that goes against these media generated norms. It would be interesting to bring the boyish female character back today to see how our present culture and male/female gender identity would view such a character.

Tomboys in Media

The term “tomboy” has meaning for all of us-maybe we were one, or perhaps we just knew one. In Kristen Hatch’s discussion of tomboys she discusses how the persona is embraced because it is not threatening to traditional gender norms. She states “the tomboy functions as a means of regulating aberrant sexuality precisely because her transformation is taken to be guaranteed” (76). Perhaps the most interesting point from Hatch’s article is the idea that in media, the transformation from tomboy to women is not solely a change in one’s physical appearance. She writes “while appearance is no guarantee of femininity, what does signal the tomboy’s successful transformation into a feminine woman is her willingness to submit to male authority” (78).  

 I for one was definitely a tomboy. I played with horses not Barbie’s ; I wore shirts with wolves on them and Adidas not pink dresses. Being a tomboy was always something that suited me but only for a little while. Once it started becoming unacceptable for me to play out my tomboy persona (around middle school age) I quickly adopted norms that were typical of femininity. One of my favorite movies (I’m almost embarrassed to admit) is the 2006 gem She’s the Man starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. In this classic Shakespearean tale, Viola (Bynes) disguises herself as her brother so she can play on the boys soccer team. While Byne’s is our stereotypical tomboy she represents how the persona of the tomboy has changed since the 1950’s. Viola’s interest in her teammate Duke (Tatum) symbolizes a heterosexual relationship. Additionally, after Viola’s soccer team is cut her unwillingness to be benched illustrates how she will not accept her position within the gender hierarchy.

As an interesting aside, I stumbled upon this article which suggests that tomboys aren’t made but born. Researchers studied testosterone levels in pregnant women and how this correlates with masculine-typical behavior later on in life. From their records, they concluded that mothers with high testosterone levels during pregnancy were more likely to have girls who will be tomboys. What do you think of this nature vs. nurture debate and how it relates to tomboys?

Tommy Boy(s)-Without Chris Farley and David Spade

The discussion of tomboys have gone from being common topic to a sort of taboo. The transformation of how the tomboy image from the 1950s to 2012 is viewed by society is intriguing. Hatch describes how over time the views of tomboys changed from (post-war era) someone wanting to simply blend in with society to a lesbian outsider who wants to stick it to the people who don't support them. This is a direct result to how media has portrayed tomboys in their narratives. When tomboys were initially introduced in media to the public, they were seen as people who wanted to be a part of a group or activity that would not normally sanction their participation. Today, a tomboy is seen as nothing but a future lesbian or radical chick; even if most end up trading in their dirty, ripped blue jeans for a dress and heels at some point in their adolescence period.

We can owe this change of perception to specific media pieces such as the films: Bad News Bears, Paper Moon, and Freaky Friday because they pointed society towards believing that becoming a tomboy is not a fruitful endeavor. If the initial perception of a tomboy was carried over through the decades to our present time, then I believe that the topic of tomboys would not be a form of taboo. A girl who can throw harder than a guy should have the opportunity to pitch on the guys team even if she has to dress up like a guy. Believe it or not, but it happened back in the day-and I was afraid during the ages of 10-12 that one day I would maybe strike out swinging to one of these boy/girl pitchers. But, I'm glad that it is safe to say that those sorts of experiences are unheard of in 2012.

The gender inequalities such as men over women, straights over gays, and whites over other races that are apparent in our society have put a pressure on these types of touchy social subjects. They are the components that fuel the transformation of how the tomboy image is viewed by the public. The growing fear of these sort of queer topics will only worsen the acceptance of tomboys across the population and force the actual tomboys to choose their lifestyles at a quicker pace. People should not be influenced by media on their decision whether a certain type of personality should be judged as moral or immoral. And then again, I don't think that it is too important to worry about these types of things. It is probably just a phase that these people go through. By the time a solution can be drawn up, the person will have already turned in her boy clothes for women lingerie.