Monday, April 16, 2012

Video exhibition on race at the Wexner Center

The Wexner Center, the art museum at OSU, had a video exhibition that I went to a few weeks ago called "Same Difference and Other Meditations" by Una-Kariim Cross. I really liked the video and wanted to blog about it, but I did not get a chance to until now. This video presents footage of "real" every day events as well as interviews with people of the African Diaspora, challenging media stereotypes and asking viewers to think of race as more than simply identity.
In some of the video’s interview footage, people of the African Diaspora discuss how they conceive of their identity. Most of the people talked about how race was one of the primary aspects of their identity, but what was particularly interesting was the differences in the way these people conceived of their racial identity. For example, one woman said that she considered herself black and/or African (and American), but not African American. In class, we have discussed the intersectionality of race and gender, and we frequently talk about the need for a variety of media portrayals. However, this video raises an issue we have not talked a lot about yet: when we ask for more diverse portrayals of black women, we often do not consider (or at least do not talk about) the need to ask for a diversity in the way these women experience their racial identity. I think this is a really important issue, both for our class and for the feminist community as a whole, and this video, in my opinion, moves the conversation about race forward in really interesting ways.
Also, I found the artist’s website, so if you’re interested in learning more about the video/the artist, click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

After Class Thoughts

Soon after class started, I realized that I had interpreted the text in a different manner. I just wanted to post some thoughts that were floating around at lunch.

Why do men's magazines have in-depth articles that are not only well written but encompass politics, sports, race and anything gadget related? Whereas on Monday when we analyzed "women magazines," there were some articles but they seemed to leave the depth and breath of writing that the men's magazines had, despite most of the time being misogynistic .

Being coined sexist and/or an asshole for your misogynistic comments seem to be connote that the  person as an uneducated dumbass, but its automatically assumed as a joke with the ironic wink or nudge. I wonder if the "uneducated" association comes from the academic setting that pervades Denison's campus or is it an assumption that exists elsewhere in urban cities? 

My New Magazine Company: Playboy's Loaded Stuffed Nuts

I mean really how ridiculous can you make your magazine titles? However, in our day in age, magazines are a dying breed. Here is a link to Google trends, a website where you can type in any keyword and see the number of times that specific search has been requested. In this case, the word "porn" has an increasing number. I know that there are other ways to bypass the Google search which only adds to my argument that when men want to see scantily clad women or naked women, they no longer have to buy a magazine or leaf through the car section.

I would like to say that articles like "how to get your girlfriend to let you come in her face" (Gill 211) in FHM are now child's play in comparison to the themes and ideas that porn dictates. You may say, "How can porn be realistically influencing my daily decisions?" Just look at this article. A bit ridiculous but there was an article I was reading the other  day (I wish I could find it), but it delves into the idea that porn has shaped men's thinking into expecting absurd sex from women and shaping men's thinking where the first thought is the self (getting off) and then the woman as a whole. I am not saying that this theme hasn't been repeated in the past, rather it has been exasperated by porn and the ease of access that is not available to anyone with a smart phone or computer.

Men Please Themselves but Women Please Everyone Else

I would love to write a men's magazine through the lens of a women's magazine. Imagine the titles: How to Cook the Perfect, "I'm Sorry" dinner and avoid a Fight. The 10 Ways You Can Tell She's Faking It, and How to Make it Real. 5 Easy Ways to Get Fight Club Abs that Will Make Her Swoon. These titles are hilarious to write because there is no way they would ever happen. Men's magazines are not focuses on improving the way they relate to women or please women, men's magazines are fixated on how they can please themselves (which is not necessarily a bad thing) or they seem to be focused on fixing things instead of people. How to fix your car, your house etc. not on fixing themselves. Furthermore, look at this naked woman and feel happy. Or read this article about sports and get excited for the "big game." Essentially men's magazines are just as stereotypical as women's magazines but in a considerably less damaging way.

Moreover, men's magazine consistently have better and more useful content than women's magazines, especially in interviews. GQ for example, when they interview the celebrity on the cover  person they are hardly ever asked who they are currently dating, or how they stay in shape, or what they eat on a regular basis instead they are commonly asked what music they listen to or what they think of politics etc...real world topics because men's magazines consider their subjects to be real people, or at the very least adults. Women's magazines interviews literally sound like a parent grilling their teenager on what she's doing in her life right now, somewhat looking for a way to get her in trouble (because women are continually monitored by society, a post-feminist sensibility). Just once I want women's magazine to not ask Megan Fox what its like to be a sex symbol or how she stays so thin, and rather what her favorite song is or even better, what does she currently think of the global economy. Women are adults too people!

Barstool and the Lad/Bro

While reading about 'lad' culture, I was instantly reminded of our discussion earlier this semester surrounding "ironic" portrayals of racism, sexism, or whatever kind of dominant ideology 'ism.' We laugh at Tosh.O because his irony is so blatant and unavoidable, characters like Barney on How I Met Your Mother are funny because they're just so ridiculous, but there seems to be a flip-side to this kind of humor and it is highly noticeable in lad humor.

The words "lad" and "bro" seem inextricably tied in my mind and while men on campuses across the country don't deem there sexist jokes harmful, they can be. What's even more disturbing is that some females have actually begun to take part in this type of humor. Barstool has received a great deal of criticism within the past few months, especially as their Barstool Blackout Tour went across the nation, indirectly encouraging date rape and promiscuity on numerous campuses. Girls can't find Barstool to be despicable simply because "it's so funny, "the stories are so ridiculous," "it's all just one big joke." But is it really a joke?

Barstool's reactions to many feminist groups against the site (or hell, probably just a bunch of girls who are sick of reading rape jokes, watching girls get finger banged in the front row of some dubstep concert, and constantly having to see guys looking at links like "Guess Whose Ass" and "Smokeshow") has been to continually throw more sexist crap onto the web and specifically directing these posts at their haters. This certainly is crossing a line -- if you're undergoing criticism, if citizens are outraged and hurt by the content that is being posted, isn't it time to take it down a notch? There comes a point in time where the "lad" or the "bro" need to realize that while women understand that these are jokes and that they are ironic, that doesn't necessarily make them funny. They still derive from some place that can in fact be truthful in one's mind, and thus hurtful to another.

Today's New Lad Mag

Being a male, college athlete I am surrounded by what Gill dubs as “new laddism” each and every day. Therefore, I feel I was really able to understand what she was getting at in breaking down male identities through magazines and what it is these lad mags say about masculinity. She notes that in order for a magazine to be appealing to men, it cannot be threatened by the “lavender whiff” of homosexuality. She states that there has never been one single hegemonic masculinity yet the new lad has proved to be a dominant form in which racism, homophobia, and misogynistic attitudes towards women are prevalent.

As technology progresses and the Internet continues to take over the world, magazines are losing some steam. Yet I would say the new lad is stronger than ever and has found an environment in which he thrives in… online blogging. Buying magazines is a waste of money when you can get everything you desire for free online. When reading this chapter a blogging site called came to mind right away when describing this new lad. This website, which I cannot say I have never read nor know people that love it, is a modern day Loaded. It is centered around sports, drinking, and viewing women merely as sexual figures. Every day there is a “local smokeshow” which is a gallery of pictures dedicated to one girl that someone sends in. There are entries about sports and throughout it all maintains a very racist, homophobic, and misogynist message. Below is the link to the website. It nails to a T everything Gill had to say about how the “new lad” has shaped identities of masculinity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell

Lad magazines today have two distinct features according to Gill. The journalist addresses the readers as good friends sharing stories over drinks, and these stories and the pictures are filled with women's bodies and heterosexual sex. These magazines came about as a retaliation to the idea of the "new man" that other magazines were trying to promote. The "new man" was one who was conflicted about his masculinity, and these magazines made it very clear that the men who read their magazines were not. What I found incredibly interesting was that women seemed to prefer guys who read lad mags to the "new man". Even though lad magazines represented "a defensive assertion of masculinity, male power, and men's rights against feminist challenges". This is still more appealing than the "new man" who was the toxic waste of feminism who "is so busy trying to be supportive he has probably forgotten what an erection is for". However, when analyzing the "new man" one can see that he is almost two-faced because of the conflict within him, so I can see why he would not be appealing.

When reading this section I immediately thought of Tucker Max and his book I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell. He seems to be the new form of lad mags. I say this because he has created a website to share his stories and new media is taking over for magazines. Why pay for something when you can get it for free online? His stories are the exact type of thing that you would expect to find in a lad mag. So the question becomes is it anti-feminist? The stories definitely don't present women in a positive light. However, the title of the book suggests that he understands that they don't so he's going to hell for it. So are the stories being ironic because of the knowingness? Personally I find the stories to be hilarious and I can't see myself ever doing anything that he talks about so I don't see a problem with them. However, I also know people idolize Tucker Max so I don't think the irony is fully understood, then it becomes anti-feminist.

What is a "lad" anyway?

Going back to the ever troubling issue of irony, "lad magazines" and "lad culture" online seem to be a big joke.  Literally, the purpose of these media sources is for the cultivation and sharing of 'funny' material by men all under the quirky title of LAD.  The problem with this is that the material is so hard to critique without being accused of being too serious, or not getting the joke.  However, as we discussed in previous classes, just because a misogynist view is swathed in humor doesn't mean that the author doesn't perpetuate those same views genuinely.  On the other hand, Gill describes the theme of laddism to be against the 'new man', to show honesty instead the apparent duplicity of the new man image.  So is lad honest? Or is it a joke?  Is it honesty masked as a joke?

I think it is wonderful that men's magazines are being produced, but why do they have to emphasis lad culture?  Is the masculine, heterosexual male consumer so skittish of homosexual undertones that magazine for men need to resort to crass humor in order to make connections with an audience?  Can we blame social roles?  In fact, laddist magazines and media can be categorized as a backlash of feminist movements because the whole basis of the work is "a place where men are free to be the men they are without making mistakes", or in another sense, making a 'safe' environment where they can be as pre-feminist as possible without the repercussions of being called anti-feminist.

Why Are Men's Magazines So Much Better Than Ours?

I've been reading and flipping through teen's and women's magazines like Cosmopolitan, Self, and Glamour for most of my life, but recently I picked up an issue of GQ and was a little surprised by what I saw.

As we have mentioned in class, women's magazines seem to feature the same types of stories and "advice" for EVERY. SINGLE. ISSUE. However, I couldn't put down this issue of GQ. First of all, it was full of smart, witty humor from cover to cover. Secondly, it featured stories that were actually interesting and relevant, including current event news and advice for the working world.

It's also interesting how men's magazines have evolved as opposed to women's magazines. When men's magazines were first introduced, they featured nude women and ultra-masculine themes. Although these magazines obviously still exist (i.e. Playboy and Maxim), some men's magazines - although far from perfect - have proven to be more mature.

Although women's magazines can be fun to read occasionally (even though we all know they have many flaws, as many of you mentioned in earlier posts), they often treat their readers as mere bodies, sexual objects, mindless, powerless women that require "constant vigilance, attention and self-surveillance" (Gill 217).

It's unfortunate that many women's magazines often perpetuate the gender stereotypes that women have been trying to disprove for decades. Magazine headlines or stories may seem like they are trying to empower us ("His Best Sex Ever;" "The Walk That Drives Men Wild"), they are actually degrading. Women's magazines have not seemed to (semi-)evolve the way men's magazines have. Although things may be worded differently, the basic themes are still the same.

Are lad mags funny?

The issue of “lad mags” is an interesting one to me because it seems that many issues that are debated in terms of men’s magazines seem to also be discussed in terms of women’s magazines in addition to various other topics that are relevant only to men’s magazines. Gill talks about how it is difficult to create a men’s magazine that caters to a general population that most readers will be interested in. This challenge is also present in women’s magazines as we saw from the various magazines that we analyzed in class which each catered to a certain type of woman.
                With the growing focus on masculinity and issues of masculinity in the arts, the topic of men’s magazines seems to be one that could heat up fast. As we have discussed, there is a perception of a “crisis of masculinity” in today’s society and the question of how magazine staff and editors may deal with this possible crisis could be a challenging one to tackle. While  there are similar issues at hand with men’s versus women’s magazines, there is a large distinction between the two in that women’s magazines tend to be more oriented toward the attainment and maintenance of “femininity” while men’s magazines are taking a turn towards a more playful approach encouraging pleasure, consumption, and irony.

Lad mags have sparked some controversy about whether they are genuinely funny or simply offensive and problematic. UniLad was forced to pull a "surprise" rape segment and other lad mags have been called out for offensive segments; however, it is argued that these segments are not intended to be taken seriously and that a unique sense of humor/irony is needed to fully understand them. However, while humor may be present, it may be more harmful than funny.

Lad Culture: funny or simply degrading?

Having previously analyzed women's and men's magazines in a Women's Studies course, I am sadly aware of the sexist differences between the two genres. Why is it that men's magazines are all about images of sexy women and improving their bodies for themselves whereas women's magazines are constantly telling women to alter their appearances and learn new ways to please men?

After reading about the 20th century rise in masculinity present in men's magazines this question makes a little more sense to me. Clearly men became aware of the recent rise in empowered women, in the workplace and at school, and felt they needed to regain some of the control they used to acquire. By objectifying women and portraying them as unimportant sexual objects, I can see how men might've felt they were regaining this lost power.

How they choose to reclaim this superiority, however, is truly appalling. It's unfortunate that women can rise in power through academics and hard work, but men must laugh and degrade women in order to feel more like "real, powerful man."

Monday, April 9, 2012

The "Right Kind" of Readers and Repetitive Messages

So coincidentally before reading this article, I had just purchased a SELF magazine to read over the weekend. I hadn't purchased a magazine in a long time, what with all the reading I had to do for school and reading all three of the Hunger Game trilogies in a week (ya I was a little obsessed) I just didn't have the time, nor the desire to sit down and read through a Cosmo, or Vogue getting the same content and images about sex, how to "perfect your perfect self," organizing your life, etc. But for some reason, last week I decided to buy a Self and it actually allowed for me to read it in a different way after reading Gills article on "Gender in Magazines." 

Her section on contradiction versus coherence was particularly very intriguing and I set out to look at the content that was contradictory in the magazine. While Self is all about the empowerment of the individual woman, of being free and active to do what she pleases, the advertising and content of the magazine seems to mold her and engulf her into more barriers and ideals of beauty than seems possible. While there are images of women, who are active and outside doing and accomplishing things that are fulfilling, the advertisements on every page send the message that you need to be conscientious of your weight (diet pills and protein shakes had full page spreads), that you need to maintain great nails, hair and skin, even if you are doing things that are active like running and working out, and that the clothes you wear will help you perform better. This myriad of images in hard to achieve, but we are greatly influenced by it. While I like Self because it is not as repetitive with its sex stories, fashion, and content, like Cosmo is, it still maintains a structure of blurring the advertising and content that all of these magazines do to create contradictory messages (Ten pages in, Jose Cuervo had an advert for "light Margarita" mix that was only 95 calories...since when does drinking helping you get six-pack abs like they say you can achieve on page 85?). 

I've noticed overtime that I have stopped purchasing these magazines because they all seem to be sending the same message and images about women. Yes, I will indulge occasionally like I did this weekend, but now it just seems to be a waste of time to try and replicate these images of femininity that our culture puts out month after month for us. It doesnt seem to be changing anytime soon, and I'm quite frankly tired of getting the same message every month. 

Magazines and Identity

Gill's chapter begins with an exploration of the multiple ideologies found in women's magazines. In preparation for this class, I went through my room's magazine collection only to find that we have almost every month of Cosmopolitan but no magazines of true "substance". Personally, I can say that I have no distinct reason for purchasing these types of magazines other than out of boredom but after reading Gill's chapter, I began thinking of what I was actually purchasing, in terms of ideology. As Gill mentioned on pg. 182, "magazine publishers sell the friendly and intimate relationship they have established with their readers"--I have most certainly been influenced by this trusting relationship with a magazine and the ideology it presents to me. There are constant suggestions on how to improve appearances, behaviors, how to portray yourself in a certain way, etc. What bothers me, however, is the sneaky tactics taken to convey those messages. I do not think of myself as a naive person or one who relies heavily on the media to control my looks/actions, but as this class has done in the past, my eyes have been opened to the "subliminal" messages of media. The "sympathetic environment" of magazines helps to contour the content and advertisements to create a relationship of trust among readers and publications; we regard the magazines as somewhat of a friend who we can turn to for monthly advice. Additionally, the women's magazines come in multiple feminist discourses so, just as you can choose your friends based on personality integration, one may choose one's magazine based on her particular opinion and her ideas can be justified and "listened to" by the magazine.
The teen magazine section of the chapter presents images to vulnerable teenage girls who are in constant tension with their own bodies and minds. The magazines subtly express how these girls should look and act so that they may "win over" the males who are presented in the magazines. This is problematic for feminism because it places males as the socially superior which, as Gill mentions, is just as bad as the objectification of women in men's magazines. The content "tricks" teenagers into thinking that the changes they should make to their appearances are done so because they are "super fun!" This idea makes me question the integrity of the magazine publishers because it is almost like they are taking their trusting relationships with readers for granted. While I understand that magazines are in the market for profit, I feel that they manipulate readers to the point of almost brainwashing.
The messages of men's and women's magazines are extremely different and Gill's interpretation of each ideology is that the "representations are designed to naturalize gender difference and male power" (217). Because each magazine has such a niche audience, or at least a gendered audience (typically), these representations are accepted. The magazine publishers know their readers and know what they want/do not want to read about and that "insider knowledge" translates into extreme success, whether we like it or not. There will always be an audience who accept the message of male power but it is the messages within the claims of ideology that we must pick up on.

What do we want? Let the magazines tell us!!

What particularly intrigued me in Gill’s section on gender and magazines was how as women the smallest details of our lives are shaped by what we read in popular magazines. The amount we spend on beauty products is positively correlated to those advertisements in magazines that promise us an enhancement of a feature that we dislike about our bodies. The way we deal with fitness in our lives is also tied to the latest diets that are promoted in magazines. Even the way we define ourselves is tied to magazines. The magazines tell us what to wear, what to eat, how to flirt and even how to act in the bedroom. “ A girl’s agency is then defined in terms of buying things” (187)

They sell this ideal fantasy, where if you eat what they say and flirt with the tips they have provided that you will gain this perfect life. They seem to categorize woman into boxes of wanting to be thin, wanting to be in a relationship (if not married) and wanting to be the trendiest person and as also wanting to be successful at her career. Is that all a woman really wants? ( for eg, how should you wear your hair today?) . Popular magazines for a large part are also clearly heterosexist and cater to the white upper middle class population. They also tend to suggest that all women have the same kind of problems. However, we know this is not true, women often find themselves struggling with more serious issues.Gill addresses how magazines often do not deal with systems of inequality or complexities of sexuality but often provide answers for more immediate and trivial problems.

.If we look at magazines that do look at issues of privilege and oppression and the more serious matters, we will often find that they are not as mainstream as magazines such as cosmopolitan or marie claire. Is it necessary then for us to divide magazines up into categories such as advice on sex and relationship and shopping : cosmopolitan, real issues :salon , bitch magazine etc. Would it be too much to ask for one magazine to have everything?

My voice, your voice and Teen Voices matter!

Gill does a great job discussing the very controversial topics of how gender in magazines is defined. She introduces the topic of contradiction versus coherence where she pulls out the illogical messages mainstream magazines send to their targeted audiences. These assorted messages are in magazines targeting teenagers, children, heterosexual women and men. She studies the magazine discourse with emphasizing on the political economy perspective in understanding magazines. She highlights the ideologies of romance, consumption, celebrity and boy watching, that teenage girls have consumed in the different magazines. One of the main contradicting messages teenage girls had to receive was to correctly display themselves as attractive, with keeping up with the hottest trends and knowing how to attract a boy while also receiving the message that being themselves was essential. The question in play is then, how can a girl be themselves when society has already defined who she should be?

Another controversial topic is sex. There are structuring discourses where magazines like Cosmo emphasize on how women must please their man and how women should get out of their comfort zone.

There is a perception that there is a feminist or post feminist discussion on sex relating to women needing to take charge of their sexually and being comfortable with their partner. With the example Gill mentions, Macdonald (1995) discusses an article in 19 and advises how women should give a perfect blow job although women do not enjoy giving oral sex, they should still perform because men enjoy it. And later states that sexual acts should be mutually enjoyable and women should not feel under pressure. All of these “juggling acts” lead targeted audiences on a wild goose hunt in attempt of defining their sex lives, interest and who they are as individuals.

There are great magazine companies that do not bring such contradiction to this genre. One of my favorites is Teen Voices

“Teen Voices supports and educates teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media.” The magazine is based in Boston and I remember as a teenager reading Teen Voices with confidence. I felt empowered, inspired and excited to take on the world with my voice. Discussion of appearance, consumption and attracting boys were irrelevant. Teen Voices is great and should be in every teenager’s possession but reality is that it is not a mainstream magazine like Cosmo. How do feminist change this? Why is the media shaping our society? My voice, your voice and Teen Voices matter!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Every Cosmo: SEX SEX SEX

In Gill's discussion of women's magazine she focuses in on the different trends of the material in magazines and the contradictions that they create. She gives a discussion on how there is now more of a focus on sex and beauty. Magazines are now mostly places to advertise for these two industries and they are meant to tell women how to be feminine. One of the main contradictions that Gill focuses in on is the contradictory messages regarding sex. The three include pleasing your man, being adventurous in your sex life, and taking charge of your sexuality (Gill 192). These messages overlap and contradict each other. They say to try new things even if it makes you uncomfortable and then to take charge of your sexuality by asking for what you want. They also say to please the man you are with but then to focus on pleasing yourself.
This relates to a Cosmo that I read the other day. It was a Q&A article that was answered by men. All the answers were how better to please men and to make it exciting in the bed room. Not once was it mentioned on how women should work to please themselves. The questions were all given to men so there was also no female perspective. This relates to Gill's mixed messages. You have to find new ways to please your man but by only listening to the men talk about it, it is failing to take in the women's view on her own sexual experiences.
These contradictions relate to our discussions on postfeminism. Women are constantly given images and advice for how to show femininity. The cultural expectation has become women self-policing themselves into the masculine idea of an ideal woman. Women now choose to become this image and feel empowered by it, but how empowering can it be when most of the discourse excludes the feminine voice? There is a lot of power in taking hold of female sexuality but without looking at the contradictory messages in magazines and only taking in the masculine discourse, women are failing to take their own power.

Beautification of Self-Identity

What I found interesting in the Gill chapter on magazines is the significance of the teen market to magazines. Because magazines cultivate a certain identity for a certain group of people, teenagers, specifically girls, become the target for products that relate to beautification in creating the female teen identity today. Over the years there has been and increase in girls concern for how they look. Magazines, like the conduct books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, have become an avenue, which dictate appropriate behaviors and acceptable appearance for teenage girls through purchase power.
This ability to buy beautification increases significantly during this time of a person’s life as the period of adolescence is linked to the identity vs. role confusion stage of development. During this time teenagers are concerned with determining and establishing their identities and magazines contribute to this by suggesting to the consumer how they could be and look if they adhere to what the magazine is saying and promoting. With the focus on exploring identity comes the willingness to try different things out making teenage girls likely to consume products, furthering their identity search, aiding teenage girls in formulating a concept of what it means to be feminine. Teenage girls become easy targets for the beautification products as they generally have freedom because of their age and lack of responsibilities in life and because of the link to their parents who endow them with the power to purchase. Magazines like Cosmo Girl, Seventeen, Teen Vogue fill the minds of teenage girls with the suggestions of how to be a woman; magazines have become n influential factor contributing to the American culture as it relates to the teenage population.

Seventeen Magazine: Virtue or Vice?

This Gill reading was really interesting, but more so than that, it really put into light the "natural" acceptance a lot of readers have come to find with these women's magazines. Many of the points Gill mentions are all factual, such as contradictory stories in magazines as well as the unquestioning embrace of heterosexuality, but many viewers are so accustomed to them it isn't seen as abnormal. Most striking is the section on teen magazines. Growing up, I had subscriptions to Teen People and Seventeen, and nothing was better than getting that monthly magazine in the mail. As an avid reader of these magazines, they offered a relationship, created a trust as well as a bonding element with other readers spanning across America. It was especially helpful that these magazines targeted teens, girls just like me. Which is why as I was reading Gill's facts, supported by other scholars and historical evidence, I was shocked to find how true it was. It's always been obvious that these magazines are biased, focusing on very "girlie" material without much variation, and on stories about guys and how to perfect your appearance. What wasn't as obvious before was how these magazines twisted material into seeming it as though the girls wanted to wear this makeup for "fun." That they simultaneously were doing this for themselves as well as to achieve the ultimate goal, scoring a guy. Also, whenever magazines mention guys it is surrounded in the context of what girls can do to make their guys happen, never vice versa. As much as I enjoyed these magazines when I was younger, I felt a little dubbed when reading this section of Gill's. Although Gill points out not to feel guilty for guilty pleasures, I felt like I had played right into advertisers' and editors' hands.
Regardless though to whatever Gill says, I still find many positives to teen magazines. Not only do they create a common bond between readers, it also has a good mixture of stories, and had that much needed element, of "you're not alone" in your thinking, emotions, etc. They are especially needed in those awkward stages of early teen years. They can also help in immersing yourself in outside culture and news, especially when a lot of young girls aren't flipping through the New York Times or Time magazine. All in all, even though there is much merit in Gill's section on teen mags, it still doesn't account for the many positives there can be for young girls that need these teen magazines.

Reading Response for April 9th

The reading in Gill is quite disturbing in how accurate it seems to identify the problem with women’s magazines. Mainly, that there is a constant need for improvement underlined by contradictory messages about sex, beauty, liberty and so forth. Discussing a literary analysis, Gill suggests that, “It could be argued that the magazine as a whole is organized around interpreting boys to girls” (185). The idea that girls must learn about boys is problematic firstly because it suggests that boys must be learned about. It implies that girls need to be with, approach, and focus on boys and that it can only be accomplished by learning about them. It insinuates that a distinct part of who they should improve to be should set aside a pedestal for boys as objects of importance in their life. This is unfortunate. Secondly, it assumes that the information they provide accurately captures sound information while ignoring the whole realm of complexity that arises when considering relationships between boys and girls and that the best way to understand each other is to read a magazine rather than simply communicate. And that is just the beginning. For example, in one of the magazine Q and A sections that was discussed, a girl writes in asking what to do after walking in on her boyfriend masturbating, at which point immediately sends her away and seems to be the source of the communication breakdown. However, the editor responds with suggestions about everything the girl can do to mend the problem so that “Responsibility is placed upon the girl to first understand and then mend the relationship with her boyfriend” (191). I think a more feminist answer would go along the lines of “tell him to explain himself or dump his difficult arse”. But no; while the boy is the one creating the tension it is all on the girl to mend the issue. This is an unhealthy way to go about solving an intimate sexual topic, yet these tips are provided as periodically as the magazine itself is printed. Another topic of concern is telling girls and women that they have the freedom to say no to a sexual act while also telling them that committing to it can be a sign of love: “If you are really averse to one of these activities then ‘skip it’, but remember that doing this is an indicator of how much you care for your partner – with the implication that if you love him, you should do it, no matter how you feel about it” (195). This virtually leaves a girl in the same dilemma they were probably trying to solve. A dilemma maybe along the lines of wanting to show your partner your commitment while not letting that commitment be defined by doing sexually uncomfortable things. Another aspect I can specifically relate to is the amalgam of contradictory advice these magazines give on beauty, specifically skin care. Gill provides an example of how in the same magazine, “A complicated regime of cleansing, exfoliating, toning, moisturizing” with a “myriad of products” can be offered to solve the issue while another page will reveal that “drinking lots of water, staying out of the sun and getting plenty of sleep is ‘the only beauty treatment you need’” (192). As I can get quite caught up on appearances myself, I have always dealt with these contradictory remedies for skin care at it just leaves me feeling more depressed and confused before and after the fact of buying some product that may or likely may not work. In sum, while there is nothing wrong with self-improvement, there is something wrong with continually making girls and women feel like they must improve and providing advice to do so by lacing together contradictory and patriarchal-backed information.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Empowering or Sex Slaves?

Many of our class discussions have revolved around how post feminism has encouraged sexual freedom. Post feminism and the '90s was all about women like the promiscuous Samantha, or the wild spirit Carrie from "Sex and the City".  Who says women can't go be powerful in the business world and be sexually free and proud in the private sphere?  For women who watch "Sex and the City" and for the women who read women's magazines, we realize that these characters and this material is seen as empowerment, but how much of this material is empowering before it becomes unmanageable?  Before it starts sending a message that it is no longer about using your sexual freedom as a tool for empowerment, but instead for a tool to please your man?

I regularly buy Glamour magazine and look at their website.  I mostly read about the latest beauty trends or what the celebrities are wearing to get fashion inspiration, but I decided to click on the 'Sex and Love' icon (Notice it is not 'Love and Sex').  Before even clicking on the icon, it gives you subcategories, I am guessing in order of importance or what readers read most, but I was shocked to find that the first things it suggest you click on are: 1. sex tips 2. what men want, with romance later down the list.  Once you click on this tab, the first three articles  are about, "10 Things Guys Think Make Every Woman Hot", "Sex Challenge: Try These Boyfriend-Approved Kinky Things this Weekend", and "Birth Control is Wreaking Havoc on my Sex Life".  The first articles suggested to read are exactly the type of discourses Gill talks about when it comes to women's magazines emphasizing pleasing your man, sexual frontierism, and taking charge sexually (192).  The studies and refrences that Gill refers to are from over 10 years ago, yet today, we can find the same type of articles recycled for women to read.  I especially find it interesting that while these articles suggest that they are about empowering the reader to look sexier and gain confidence, or take charge in the bedroom, they are ultimately all about pleasing your man in the bedroom: "Yet rather than simply coexisting it could be argued that the discourses work together purposively to privilege men's sexual pleasure" (195).  Perhaps none of these articles are about postfeminist ideas and are simply about living up to an expectation.  How much of this material can be used to empower women and how much of it is used to make us feel as if we have to improve in order to please our male partner?

Maybe magazines need to tell us to be more like Alana, grab your belly fat and own it...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Connotation Vs. Denotation

Representations of queerness are solely dependent on the time and place that they occur. Interpretations of queerness also depend on the individuals experiences with different cultures, people, and information that correspond to a "queer" situation. Thus encoding and decoding queerness is culturally and individually unique. Therefore, in order to analyze media with queer theory we need to focus on indication rather than inclination (denotation rather than connotation). This approach focuses more on the the direct meaning associated with words or actions portrayed rather then their potential secondary personally contrived meaning. Denotation is  more like relating moving air with wind instead of linking a more abstract idea like childlike and innocence.  Raymond's article is attempting to separate the two analytical tools so that we can focus on a more telling meaning of the idea of queerness. This way of analyzing can be used to explicate the kinds of representations that we see in media that involves homosexual relationships. Raymond argues that the homosexual relationships that we see in media have a connotation of queerness, but denote a more hetero-normative relationship. This is to say that we get a secondary almost "metaphorical" idea about queerness from the basic fact that there are two same sex people in a relationship, but the situations and iterations that happen in the relationship don't directly portray queerness. Raymond talks about how media reinforces norms by associating pleasure with normative actions and situations. "All function to produce pleasure as they disguise the ways that they reinforce norms relating to sexuality and, less obviously race, age, and class"(104 Raymond). This offers a good perspective on how Raymond views a media consumer's decoding of representations. She suggests that representation is a two way street, but since we have been raised into a culture with norms, it is difficult to break free from the idea of queerness instill in us by our surrounding. "Like the fish that does not fell the weight of the water, human beings live in a world of social games embodied and turned into second nature"(104 Raymond). This idea of viewer interpretation gives us insight into the problem of denotation vs. connotation. Homosexuality is represented in a way that contrasts it from heterosexuality (connotation) instead of preference of personal identity(denotation). The homosexual is always represented in a way that allows a predominantly heterosexual audience to gain particular associations with homosexuality. The tropes of attention to "high fashion, weight, career, and popular media"(105 Raymond) cause viewer's to connotativly  associate homosexuality as a contrasting lifestyle instead of an individual that just has different sexual preferences. This causes the audience to feel like they can to visit the world of homosexuals and understand them through these tropes. This way of looking at gay representation ignores queer theory and reinforces a dichotomy sexual orientation. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crooners and Countertenors: Then and Now

     McCracken discusses the roles of the Crooner and the Countertenor in her posts. She defines the Crooner as a well dressed, attractive man that sings in a soft, gentle voice. The Countertenor is described as a high pitched singer that was popular for performing from the 1890's to the 1920's. This fad went away after the 1920's and we are finally seeing these roles coming back into popular culture through the characters Kurt and Blaine. Kurt embraces the role of a countertenor with his falsetto voice that has a range more commonly sang by a woman. He is also known for being very well dressed and polished much like the attributes of a Crooner.
     These posts lead me to thinking about other celebrities today that embody these gender-queer roles. We see more and more high pitched singers becoming famous by way of their unique voices. The Dream's single "Falsetto" was the first that came to mind. Although the falsetto meaning is a little different in this example, we still see a Top 40 song with a high pitched male lead. Another artist who is popular for his falsetto voice is singer/rapper Trey Songz who has made countless singles featuring his range.
     However, there is a major difference between these artists and the Glee cast. These R&B examples feature the countertenor singer, yet make it very clear that these artists are straight, and that the music is being sung to women. Most of these songs are highly sexualized; perhaps in an attempt to counter balance the stereotypically feminine pitches. It seems that any radio song you hear with a countertenor male is focused toward obtaining admiration from women. This is where Glee establishes itself as its own program. The songs that are performed by the males tend to use gender neutral language. Although "Teenage Dream" has sexual lyrics, it does not reveal a specific gender. I feel that this is a step toward achieving the ideas of queer theory and is an example that we cannot find in very many other media outlets.

Countertenors and historical popularity of the higher voice range

As I read the articles about the Glee characters Kurt and Blaine, I realized that I could not think of a grown male singer that still contained the high Countertenor voice of Kurt. It reminded me of the Italian castrati that were popular in opera for years up until the late 19th century. I looked up the history of the castrati and found that their popularity diminished greatly in the 1700s and it was actually made illegal in Italy in 1870. The popularity of the countertenor singing voice actually developed in response to the decline of male castrati in music. Today, countertenor voices are used in opera to fill roles originally written for castrati characters.

I found it interesting that voices and musical acts similar to Kurt and Blaine’s were popular in the 1920s, a time when pop culture was more open differences than many are today. One could argue that the 1920s was the most accepting time for artists in American history. Additionally, I find it interesting that the voice roles that Kurt most closely falls under had been popular in different cultures for centuries until the Great Depression in America.

Kurt and Blaine are the only openly gay teenage characters that I can think of in pop culture today. Many shows whose primary audiences are teenagers do not address issues of gender as openly as Glee. The popularity of the show, Kurt and Blaine’s relationship, and Kurt’s historically popular voice role shows that today’s culture is ready to be more accepting and ready for the change in pop culture television for teens.

Glee's popularity and controversial story lines allows it to break the gender norms surrounding male popular music. McCracken discusses the current stereotypes that surround what she describes as the crooner, embodied in the character of Kurt. The crooner, once idealized by the media, is now condemned for being feminine in its characteristics. However, McCracken believes that Glee and the character of Kurt breaks the stereotypes of the crooner and does so by championing it. McCracken states, "Glee celebrates the crooner for the very qualities that masculinist America does not: his alignment with the cultural feminine through his preference for romantic songs and commercial pop, his status as an erotic object for male and female audiences, his beauty and sensitivity, his emotional openness and transparency."

Kurt's character also breaks the sexuality norms by being in a relationship with Blaine. In the first segment of the McCkracken's Glee blogs she acknowledges the success that the show has had in, "recognition and critique of dominant cultural constructions of performance and identity." This is also seen in the relationship that developed in the most recent season between Brittany and Santana. They are a lesbian couple who tackle very contemporary issues surrounding queer couples. For example in the Valentine's Day episode Santana request for the God Squad, a christian singing group, to sing to Brittany, her girlfriend. This not only is controversial because they are a lesbian couple, but it becomes more complicated because it is a Christian. In the end, however, the show once again defies the norms and the CHhistian group sings to Brittany. I was hoping to find a clip of this on youtube, but was unable so I'm including a clip from the last seen of this episode where Blaine and Kurt sing "Love Shack". "LOVE SHACK"

Pushing Boundaries

The relationship between Kurt and Blaine, in my opinion, is one of the ways in which Glee is breaking boundaries on TV today. As an avid Gleek, there has been a noticeable change in Kurt from the beginning of the show until now that he is hot and heavy with Blaine. The relationship the two have on the show has noticeably changed the way Kurt carries himself. Before Blaine, Kurt struggled with his sexual identity and was overwhelmed with trying to make his father proud and fitting in at school. But with the implementation of Blaine's character, Kurt has obviously thrived as a young man in high school no longer stuggling to identify himself. In my opinion, the two are great role models for the young homosexual community who may at times struggle with their identity. The two have an extremely stable relationship, friends, and lives of their own all while deep in the throws of love. I completely agree with the author when she says "The show’s recognition and critique of dominant cultural constructions of performance and identity has always been one of the its great strengths." Glee is pushing the boundaries that need to be pushed on television today and they are most certainly getting away with it. Glee continues to redefine the norms on television today.

One of the most memorable and boundary pushing moments with Kurt and Blaine was their first kiss. This is the first time, based on my memory, that I have seen two young males kissing on primetime television. In this clip the cast and creators of the show discuss the infamous kiss and the large impact it had on the audience. People had fallen in love with Kurt and Blaine and therefore happiness was in their future. It was interesting to see how comfortable the two characters were with the kiss in the interview. I think that Glee is only doing positive things for television today. Glee is so unique in its portrayal of modern day issues today faced by the youth and I think that it is only with time that more shows will push boundaries without thinking twice. In my opinion, every character on glee is defying some sort of social norm: from the pregnant cheerleader to the asian boy who does not want to be a doctor, Glee continues to poke fun at discrepancies in society and to bring awareness to these stereotypes.