Gender in Advertising: Objectification and Violence

I know that gender roles in advertising gets talked about a lot but I wanted to share this video anyway.  It is done by a group of students at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.  I especially appreciated the role reversals towards the end.  Enjoy and don’t forget to think about what your mind consumes on a daily basis.

Representations of Gender in Advertising

Fox News and “The War on Men”

Oh Fox News, always a great source of entertainment (frustration), if not news.  Yesterday Suzanne Venker, niece of Phyllis Schlafly (who denies the existence of marital rape and endorsed Todd Akin), wrote an article for Fox called “The War on Men.”  In it she states that the battle of the sexes is indeed very alive, but not for the reasons that we all think.  In fact not even in favor of the gender we assume.  That’s right, according to Ms. Venker the battle of the sexes is being won by women all because “women aren’t women anymore.”  Women have messed up the natural order of things and have become too powerful, therefore emasculating men and driving them away.  I’d love to go further but I can’t stop banging my head against the wall.

Instead read these awesome responses:

And as a bonus the real reason men and women aren’t getting married (had me in stitches!): The War On Men AND Women

Need Help Little Lady?

I spent a decent amount of my morning under the hood of my car.  The engine was overheating.  Awesome.  Lucky for me I have amazing powers of deduction and a father who used to drive this car.  Between the two I figure out the problem and am in the process of rectifying it when a random man walks by.  This man is not my neighbor.  I know this because I only have 12 neighbors.  He proceeds to ask me, “Need help little lady?”  He’s stopped walking and has his hands on his hips and gives me the look.  You know, the one that says I know better than you and what are you doing trying to fix a car?  I get it often.  The thing is I’m from the country.  I may not know everything about cars but I do know my car pretty well.  And after today I know even more about it.

This is not my car. I wish it were that awesome.

First of all do not call me a “little lady.”  I do not even let people I know well call me this.  Maybe if you were John Wayne and I was a child and we were in a Western this would be okay.  But you are not John Wayne and I am not a child.  There is nothing little about me.  I am a grown woman and you look to be about the same age as me.  If you were old I might give you a little more leeway.  Maybe.  The term little lady is meant to be demeaning to me and to showcase your (percieved) power and knowlege.  It is supposed to intimidate me, to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing, and that you of course do.  While you may be a little bit right you don’t actually know that.  See, here’s the thing.  You don’t know me.  I may be a mechanic or a goddamn race car driver but you don’t know that.  You assume that because I am a woman I know nothing about cars.

Here’s another little tip about me.  If I wanted help I would ask for it.  I’m the kind of person who blunders around a bit trying to figure it out on my own, because let’s face it, I’m a bit stubborn.  But I also admit when I can’t do something or don’t know how.  I am not the type of person to shy away from asking for help.  Again, you wouldn’t know that because you don’t know me.

Of course, none of this came out of my mouth in such an articulate manner when the man was standing there.  I do pride myself on the fact that I remained calm, level-headed, and managed to say no thanks through my forced smile.  The fact that he continued to stand there and watch after I’d already dismissed him sent me over the edge.  “Can I help YOU?” I ask in a voice laced with sarcasm and a touch of fuck off.  He looks at me, smirks and walks away.  I breathe, count to ten, and continue fixing my car.

Here’s how the conversation could have gone:

A neighbor walks up, “Car trouble?”

I look up, smile cause I know him and he’s a nice guy, “Yeah, but I got it covered.”

He says, “Alright, well if you need help with anything I’ll be home all day.”  Then he leaves.

I say thanks and we both continue about our business.

Being a woman is not synonymous with being a child.  It does not mean that I am ignorant, clueless, and in need of rescuing all the time.  I don’t even think this guy wanted to rescue me.  He wanted to be able to flaunt his knowlegde, not teach me.  Arrogance does not sit well with me and treating a woman like she is stupid is not a turn on.

In all fairness I have seen this happen the other way around.  I have seen a woman take a crying baby from a man assuming that he is overwhelmed or doesn’t know what to do.  I have seen women take over in the kitchen because “men don’t know how to cook.”  We live and embody these stereotypes on a daily basis, both men and women.  Maybe it is time we start recognizing each others strengths individually rather than our percieved, gendered weaknesses.

And the next time you call me little lady expect to hear the words fuck off little man.  End rant.

Insensitivity and Ignorance Abound

There is such a plethora of anti-women crap to chose from right now I don’t even know where to begin.  I just have to turn on my computer to hear about some idiot saying something ignorant, misinformed, or just plain cruel.  There’s this guy for example, who thinks comedy consists of threatening to gang rape a woman, or publicly inducing shame by sneaking up on women and “lightly touching their stomachs.”  He makes sure that you know it should be non-consensual, unexpected, and as embarrassing as possible for the intended victim.  Then there’s always aspirin between the knees guy, or Rush Limbaugh’s comments towards Sandra Fluke.  And more recently there is Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape.”  By the way Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, pens a beautiful and very well written open letter to Mr. Akin.  I highly recommend that you check it out.

With all this potential blog fodder how do I even know where to start?  The more I think about it the more I just find myself exhausted.  I can’t live my whole life angry.  It is good to be angry, and righteously so, at injustice.  You cannot let it consume you though.  There will always be ignorant people who either do not understand what is like to be a woman, or what it is like to be raped, abused, controlled, and taken advantage of.  I can explain the cycles of abuse till I’m blue in the face.  I can say that no one is responsible for anyone else’s actions, or a woman should be able to dance naked on a table and not be raped or taken advantage of all I want.  There are always going to be people who don’t get it.  There are always going to be people who will argue with me and I’ve hit my limit.  I’ve hit my rape and abuse limit.  My bullshit meter is in overdrive and I’m not the only one.  So, as I temporarily put aside the idiots who do not understand the complexities of rape, abuse, and domestic violence let’s find something else to be indignant about.

Back in April, Anchorage Alaska rejected Proposition 5, a gay rights initiative that would have created a law protecting residents from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  This law and one’s like it are aimed mainly to protect the LGBTQ community.  This is a community that many people still fear.  They are misunderstood and have gross stereotypes still attached to them.  People who do not fit into gender norms are seen as predatory, threatening, and grotesque.  The following “vote no” ads focus on the transgender piece, portraying them as dangerous to be around children and as having ulterior motives:

These ads portray transgender people as laughable, unsightly, and in all honesty, stereotypically.  They are people to fear and keep our children away from.  This is historically true of people that are not like us.  People that are different are ostracized and demeaned.  In particular there is a fear that they will prey on children.

 “Ads that raise fears about transvestites teaching in the classroom have been used since the 1970s during ballot measure campaigns, and the Religious Right has been raising concerns about transgender women in women’s bathrooms since the late 1980s. These two ads from the Anchorage Proposition 5 campaign are among the newest additions to the long tradition of ads that rely on stereotypes of LGBT individuals as predatory, dangerous to have around children, and having ulterior motives.”  – Amy L. Stone

The conversation goes from being about rights of the LGBTQ community to the comfort of cisgendered and cissexual individuals.  Somehow every conversation becomes about making the “normal” people safe and comfortable.  This is what it means to be privileged.  Think about it.  I will never be second guessed if I walk into a daycare.  I may a sexual predator but because I look “normal” no one questions my motives.  I can take a child into the bathroom regardless of its gender.  People will not be wondering in the back of their heads if I’m a pervert.

Working in what is called a “low barrier” women’s shelter I see this all the time.  Anyone who identifies as a woman and is over the age of 18 can access the shelter’s services.  The number one question I get asked when I explain this is, “what about transgendered women?”  The related questions include things like, aren’t I worried that a man will dress up like a woman just to access services or to prey on the “real women”?  At first I found this an exciting opportunity to educate the people I talked to.  Now it just annoys me.  Let’s face it, discrimination and misunderstanding are alive and well.

**Something I’ve learned about blogging is that readers tend not to click on links.  I would encourage you to do so this time and check out some of the articles I’ve linked to in this entry.  It’s good stuff.  Read Ms. Ensler’s letter at the very least.

Shannon Eastin: The NFL’s First Female Referee

I must admit I’m not a huge sports follower unless I know someone playing or it is sharpshooting.  I know the basic rules of most sports but the deeper nuances escape me.  Nevertheless I found myself being intrigued while watching the news on Wednesday.  The story was about Shannon Eastin, the first female to referee an NFL game.  Call me naive but I had no idea that there were no female referees on the professional level.

In researching a little more about what was going on I learned that not only were there no female officials but she was only there as a replacement while regular officials are locked out.  Some are saying that this is a great step forward for football and for women.  Seriously, how much pressure is that?  All of the sudden this woman is in a situation where she is representing all women, not just herself.  If she makes a bad call people won’t just be saying “Shannon is a bad ref,” they’ll be saying, “women are bad refs.”

“The pressure?” she said. “I think knowing I am a female in a man’s world, I always put more pressure on myself. I know what I signed up for, and that what I do is magnified.”

While the story itself is interesting, it is even more interesting to dig into the comments sections of the stories.  Some people are all for it and there is a lot of support for her.  On the other hand, you have people who are extremely disappointed and upset that she has been given this opportunity.  Some even feel violated.  Let me share some of my favorites:

This guy cracks me up because somehow he doesn’t think he’s being sexist:

“I don’t think a woman should be on the field at all.

There are just some things that are a man’s domain, and I’m not talking about the work environment… I’m talking about football. Not lingerie football, and not some all-female bush league, I’m talking about Professional Football, the NFL.

These men are at the pinnacle of the sports world. They all fought hard to get where they are, from Pop Warner and High School, through College and the Draft; through training camp and the final cut-down… These men are warriors in a very fast, brutally violent and unforgiving sport, sacrificing all to win that Lombardi trophy in a game where nobody remembers second place finishers. This is serious business and I can’t imagine a guy like Clay Matthews getting called for defensive holding by a woman with yellow flag that lacks the credibility to throw it…

I’m not saying that all male officials share the experience either, but I am suggesting that they understand the players, and the players, them… Because they’re all men. I also think that all officials in the NFL have had some playing time themselves, on some level…

No, I’m not a sexist. I’m a purist. And I don’t like what Goodell is doing to the game.”

This one is interesting to me because he somehow feels emasculated:

“A woman ref in basketball is understandable..because woman play basketball…A woman ref in soccer is understandable…because woman play soccer…But a woman ref in football? I don’t get it… Woman have no place in football other than cheerleading and giving birth to their athletic sons. Woman have not earned the right to step on the turf with grid-iron greats. The SAME way many men should not be out there as well. I believe any and all ref’s need to have playing experience. With this experience a thick skin can be developed  to understand the ebb and flow of a game. Of course we are all humans and can understand rules and techniques but woman don’t understand the pure emotion of the game. When you chase someone down or burst open down field with the ball in hand there is no other rush like it. No woman has experienced that. Not only do woman have no experience but it emasculates the sport and without a doubt will make current and former NFL players cry foul more often than not. Boo to the NFL. Until their is female football keep these girls in the lingerie league.”

“It’s very emasculating to have a woman make decisions in an etirely male sport.”

This one was posted by a woman:

“What next, female quarterbacks? I vote no to women ref’s!!!!”

This one just made me laugh.  I can’t tell if he’s being serious or not…

“A woman ref? They aint real people. They’re made of sugar! Now, can sugar make a call? Huh? Huh?”

Either way, no matter what people think, she did ref a game last night.  They say that the hat she wore will be put in the hall of fame.  I plan to follow this story and see what happens when the regular refs come back.  What do you think?  Will they keep her?  Maybe even hire more women?  Or will things go back to the way they were?

Sh*t Said on the Streets

Yesterday was not a good day for me.  I spent most the night bowing to the porcelain throne and had to call in sick for work.  About the middle of the day I dragged my sorry, sick self out of my house and headed to a coffee shop to check my email.  I had thrown on a sweatshirt, and sweatpants and one didn’t have to look very hard to see that I hadn’t spent much time on my hair.  When you don’t feel good looking good isn’t on the top of your priority list.

My time spent at the coffee shop did not improve my mood, nor my stomach.  I gave up after I spilled my drink everywhere.  I was nauseous and on the verge of tears by the time I headed back to my car.  As I was walking back some guy on a construction site whistled at me (way to live into the stereotype…).  I felt anything but flattered.  If I had been feeling better I would have had some choice words for him and most likely would have flipped him the bird.  Instead though I pulled my belongings closer and tried to walk quickly and inconspicuously to my car.  I pulled the door shut and burst into tears.

Not only did this mans attention not make me feel flattered it made me feel helpless.  It did not feel like a compliment.  It did not feel like I was being respected.  It felt like I was being judged.  It felt like I was being objectified.  I also felt like the butt of a joke considering how awful I looked.  So, thank you random man for making my bad day a little worse.  And if you are a man who has ever cat-called a woman, whistled at her, or in any other way contributed to street harassment then shame on you.

This video made me feel a little better.  Enjoy.

Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street

Fiat Car Commercials…Not Much Has Changed

I don’t usually watch television, mostly because I do not have one.  Recently though I have been staying with someone who has one.  These Fiat commercials caught my attention.

This one is from the 2012 Superbowl:

The other I’ve seen a lot has Charlie Sheen in them, who has a history of violence towards women.

After looking into Fiat’s advertising history they are repeatedly guilty of using sex to sell cars.  Granted they are not the only car company to do so.  Nor are they the only company to do so.  Sex and women’s bodies are constantly being used to sell products, no matter how unrelated the product is to women or their bodies.

Here are a couple advertisements from the 60’s and 70’s.

The best one though is a tv advertisement in Argentina created by the Leo Burnett agency.  What do you think, sexy or sexist?

Here’s to ending on a better note and the public showing resistance to the objectification of women in advertising.

Check Please

Last Sunday I went out to lunch with a few people.  Our group consisted of four women (including myself) and one man.  After we were done eating can you guess who the server brought the check to?  If you guessed the man you’d be correct.  The only problem was he wasn’t the one paying for the meal.  The woman who had asked us all to go out had an expense account she had planned on charging it to.  She said something to the server, who either didn’t hear her, or chose to ignore her.  After the meal was paid for the server brought the receipt and the card back but laid it down in front of the man again.  Guess she hadn’t been paying attention the first time.  So, once again the check was passed across the table.

This got me thinking about “check etiquette.”  If a heterosexual couple with children goes out the check will most likely be brought to the father.  Especially if the children are younger and/or female.  If the children are older it would still probably go to the father but they may be asked if they want to split it and that probably depends on where everyone is sitting.  If it is two men the check will most likely be automatically split unless there is an obvious older man, then it will probably be brought to him.  Two women who look the same age would be the same.  Mother and child it would be given to the mom.  Unless it is an older son, then probably to the son.  Grandparents are tricky.  I’ve noticed most of the time the check always goes to the oldest looking man unless something is said before the check is brought.  If a married couple goes out with a single friend I’ve noticed it is often given to the married man, unless otherwise specified.  Married/dating couple is the man hands down.

A couple of things are going on here.  First of all gender seems to trump everything else.  The check is brought to the man.  The next deciding factor is age.  It is brought to the oldest person.  I tend to find this practice sexist and ageist.  Let’s focus on the sexist piece since that’s what sparked this post.

Men are expected to take care of women.  They are expected to act “gentlemanly.”  And that can be everything from paying the check to opening the door for a woman.  This is better known as chivalry.  The problem with this is the assumptions it makes.  It is what is known as subtle sexism.  Whether you think about this way or not it is assuming the woman is not capable.  That she cannot take care of herself and needs to have things done for her.  She cannot be independent or have her own voice.  (More on chivalry, subtle sexism, and door opening later.)  This sounds awfully sexist to me.  Assuming that a woman cannot pay for her meal is sexist.  It is providing a double standard for men and women as well.  Men are expected to pay the check and it is seen as emasculating when they don’t (or if they can’t).  Why is it that paying for her meal makes him feel masculine?  Is it more gentlemanly to split the check if she asks or assert his ability (need?) to pay for it himself therefore ignoring her wishes?

Here is an article written by Abigail Collazo about an experience she had on a date and what it was like figuring out who would pay for the meal.  She is the editor of Fem2ptO.  Though I think she makes a few leaps in logic near the end (and in the middle), the first half at least is interesting.