objectification

A Response to “In Praise of Large-Breasted Women”: The Pitfalls of Satire

by Jasmine Peterson

A few days ago on the Good Men Project, a couple of articles were published that praised women of a particular bust size. The first was a(n incredibly offensive) diatribe on the ‘perks’ of small breasts. In response to this, Josh Bowman replied with his tongue-in-cheek piece praising the qualities of large-breasted women.

While his satirical response is really very witty and clever, it is not immediately clear that it is satirical. And, while I love satire, I do think that satire in and of itself can be extremely problematic.

Satire, although I fully appreciate it, is a tricky thing. It requires its audience to be capable of discerning that it is, in fact, a satirical statement that is being made. And, had I not known ahead of time that this was satire, I may not have picked up on it immediately and would have instead been rather offended.

When satire is too subtle (or even when it’s not so subtle, but its audience isn’t able to discern that that is what it is), people believe it, buy into it, and then the satire is just reinforcing that which it is intending to ridicule or expose. I think this is one of the biggest dangers of this literary form, because too many people interpret these statements at face value, without realizing the author’s true intentions.

A perfect example of this was an article posted at The Onion about a year ago; it was an article lampooning the attack on women’s reproductive rights and on Planned Parenthood in the United States. It was so obviously over the top that I couldn’t imagine anyone taking it seriously – but they did. So, while I love this literary technique, I also recognize that often it only does what it is meant to do for those who already ‘get it’. Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Feminism, Pop Culture 2 Comments

Women Are Not Like Cats

Portrait de jeune femme tenant un chat by Bacchiaccaby Jessica Critcher

The Good Men Project has been heralded as “a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century,” and “a cerebral, new media alternative” to glossy men’s magazines. That’s great. Masculinity needs to be talked about differently. Men need to do this. A good deal of feminism’s work can and should be undertaken by men and boys. But the premise of The Good Men Project still bothers me.

The idea of being good men is actually nothing special. Not raping, not beating, not oppressing, not objectifying, is not some phenomenal feat deserving of praise. That should be every man’s basic commitment to humanity. Anything further should not be done for applause, but as an effort to offset vast inequality.

Saying you’re one of the good guys doesn’t mean you’re exempt from male privilege, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you feel. It also doesn’t mean you’re immune from misogyny or making sexist statements.

So there’s that. I generally try to ignore The Good Men Project. Neutral is a fine place to be in my book. Continue about your business, I would say, if I thought about them. Continue to not actively oppress us, and I shall leave you in peace. But recently they managed to capture my attention and enrage me. And the behavior that caused it was definitely what I’d think of as “good men” behavior.

The article was titled Women Are Like Cats. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism, Pop Culture 6 Comments

Oddee Tries to Make a Sideshow out of Trans People

I logged into Facebook yesterday and saw a link re-post by one of my favourite blogs, Neatorama. The link they were sharing was to a story called “10 Handsome Men (Who Were Born Female)” (they rate it NSFW). Being that Gender Focus tries to cover trans rights issues as much as possible, I clicked on the link, thinking I would find an empowering piece that would help give some examples of semi-famous trans people who are living in their chosen gender.

Then I saw the site that was hosting the article: Oddee. Oddee’s “About” page tells you almost all you need to know:

Oddee™ is an entertainment blog on oddities, attracting well over two million unique visitors each month. Focused on the odd, bizarre and strange things of our world, its daily articles and sections explore subjects from Science to Advertising and Technology; over 15 million pages are read at Oddee™ every month.

The idea to profile some prominent trans people isn’t a problem, and it’s great that Oddee pointed out that they’re all successful individuals. But for a site to do it whose purpose is cataloging the “odd, bizarre and strange things of our world” is offensive and out-of-touch. Trans people are people, not “strange things”. The thing I question is whether this type of article helps cis people gain any understanding and acceptance of what it means to be trans. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in LGBT, Pop Culture 4 Comments

2011 in BC Women’s Sports

Olympic gold medallist Maelle Ricker is currently competing in the snowboard World Cup

The Georgia Straight published an article entitled “Vancouver and BC Sports Teams Make History in 2011″. The article provided pretty solid coverage of major men’s sporting events, but left out the key achievements of Vancouver women athletes. It also failed to mention achivements at the 2011 North America Outgames, which Vancouver hosted this year, as well as the lowlights of 2011 for women in sport.

Here’s my attempt to bring a bit more balance to the discussion, starting with the 2011 highlights. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you know of any more BC women athletes’ achievements over the past year, please comment below.

Highlights:

  1. Women’s ski jumping was finally approved for the 2014 Olympics, after the hard work of Canadian women ski jumpers who had hoped to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
  2. The Winter X Games were good to Canadians, especially women. Whistler resident Sarah Burke took home gold in the women’s superpipe, and Kelownatonian Kelsey Serwa won gold in Women’s Skier X. Serwa also won her second consecutive World Cup ski cross gold medal just last week. Vancouver sports fans should also keep an eye out for Squamish resident and Olympic gold medallist Maelle Ricker, who’s competing in the snowboard World Cup this week.
  3. Vancouver hosted thousands of GLBT athletes (as well as friends and allies) for the 2011 North America Outgames this past July. In addition to sporting events – which included conventional summer events as well as some with more local flavour, such as dragon boating – OutGames also put on a human rights conference and cultural events.

Lowlights:

Ad for the Vancouver Whitecaps

  1. The Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off their first season as a Major League (men’s) soccer team with a sexist and objectifying ad campaign featuring a model in a body-painted Whitecaps jersey.
  2. The Amateur International Boxing Association announced they are considering regulation changes which would force women boxers to wear miniskirts in competition. This isn’t BC-specific but may effect women athletes from BC in the future.
  3. The Lingerie Football League announced they were bringing a league to Vancouver in 2012. This wouldn’t necessarily bother me except there’s no real choice for women to choose to play fully-clothed in another league and still get the same amount of attention. Then, to top it off, the league makes money off objectifying the women but doesn’t even pay them. Here’s a description from Global News:

The play is full-contact and players are outfitted in shoulder and elbow pads, knee pads, and hockey-style helmets with visors, along with skimpy panties and garters.

Players are not paid, but their travel costs are covered by the organization.

But it’s safe, right? Maybe not. After the Toronto Triumph Lingerie Football Club played its first game earlier this year, four players walked out, citing poor management, shoddy equipment, and safety concerns: “Sprained ankles, concussions and pulled hamstrings were among the injuries sustained by Triumph players in their first game against the Tampa Breeze in September, Dalla Giustina said, adding their team had no medical staff.”

And in case you think there’s a chance the LFL is interested in athletes who don’t meet beauty ideals, let LFL representative Mitchell Mortaza dispel that notion:

Mortaza, who flew in from Los Angeles to get the Toronto Triumph started, said the women are assessed on their skill as well as their appearance.

“It’s primarily athletics,” he said. “And then they have to be marketable, they have to be in shape, they have to have an element of beauty. And more important than anything they have to be confident.”

And so another year goes by and women athletes continue working hard, achieving within a society that puts tremendous pressure on them to conform to gender norms and prove their femininity by playing football in bras or posing in swimsuits. When conventional beauty and sex appeal become a pre-requisite of athletic fame, that’s a problem.

Women athletes frequently get left out of the year-end sports highlight lists like the one the Georgia Straight did or the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. Women athletes should be recognized for their wins just like men are, and so too should the issues they face be considered when evaluating how good a year it was for sport.

-Jarrah

(Lingerie Football photo by John via Wikimedia Commons, photo of Maelle Ricker also via Wikimedia commons, by Tyler.)

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT Leave a comment

Sexy Grandmas Sell Canadian Molasses

Canadian molasses company Crosby’s has a new ad campaign that’s sure to get some attention. Their “Bake it Like Grandma” campaign features print ads (example pictured at left) of older women with innuendo-laced phrases like: “All the men in town would do anything to get into grandma’s pantry”. You can see most of them at The Mary Sue.

Some people might be concerned that they used legitimate old photos and didn’t get the consent of those pictured, but The Mary Sue reassures us they likely didn’t use grandmothers’ pictures without permission. In fact they’ve also got a series of videos featuring “Grandma Fancy”, which makes it clear this was part of an overall campaign:

I found the ads funny but I was curious as to why. The only answer I could come up with is that they go against the idea we have in our society that seniors are asexual and that particularly our grandmothers are people who don’t like to talk about sex. This fits with my grandma, but many have rightly pointed point out that it’s incorrect to treat seniors as asexual beings and that the assumption inhibits seniors’ sexual health.

Has anyone seen these ads around? The videos are too long to be televised so I’m thinking they’re just getting those out virally, but does anyone know if the print ads are running anywhere? What are your thoughts? Do you think the campaign is funny? Do you find it offensive? What do you think they’re trying to say?

-Jarrah

 

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

H&M Must Stop Irresponsible Advertising

Photoshopped H&M Modelsby E. Cain

There are certain stores I don’t shop at on principle, and I am adding H&M to the list. It’s unfortunate because as far as I can tell, H&M does well when it comes to upholding workers’ rights.

The company openly publicizes that it supports workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. In Canada, UFCW Local 500 recently applied to represent workers at H&M in Joliette, Quebec, making it the second H&M in Canada to become unionized. UFCW International also represents H&M workers at 16 stores in the New York City area. Thousands of H&M workers are also unionized at H&M locations across Europe.

But much like American Apparel – another clothing chain I have written about, H&M corporate social responsibility stops short when it comes to depictions of women in company advertising.

H&M is currently under fire for using computer-generated human figures to sell swimsuits on their website. I refer to them as robo-models. The body is designed on a computer, and then to make it look real a model’s head is edited on, skin colour and hair are also changed.

Yes, in a world where digital image manipulations are already prevalent in advertising, where women strive to meet impossibly high beauty standards, and where we have an entire generation of young girls dealing with serious self-esteem issues as a result, H&M has decided to push the envelope even further by promoting a body so perfect it isn’t even human.

In my opinion, this advertising is completely irresponsible – and I’m not alone on this. H&M has been getting slammed in all the papers and a national advertising watchdog was quick to denounce the company for “creating unrealistic physical ideals”. They demanded the company “find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”

H&M carries clothes for all ages and it makes me cringe to think of a young girl looking at their website, aspiring to look like one of their robo-models.

It’s past time for companies to take some responsibility for the messages they are sending with their advertising. Until H&M recognizes this, I’m taking my business elsewhere.

Posted on by E. Cain in Can-Con, Feminism 2 Comments

Steven Greenstreet Isn’t Sexist; He Just Loves Hot Chicks

This article was originally posted at the WAM! (Women, Action, & the Media) blog. Cross-posted with the permission of WAM! and the post author, Gender Focus’ own Jessica Critcher!

If you haven’t heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Since the movement started in September, similar protests have sprung up in over 100 American cities and 81 countries around the globe. There has even been a show of support from Antarctica.

While major news outlets have finally started to give the movement some coverage, the primary method for spreading news about the Occupy movement has been the internet. A tweet attributed to Keith Olbermann describes the situation saying, “For those asking ‘where is the media coverage of the police riot at #OccupyBoston’ – Twitter IS the media coverage.” Updates, photos and video can be posted instantly. People who can’t make it out to the protests can watch events unfold live on their computer screens. This is a major reason why the movement is able to have such a global reach.

But as always seems to be the case, where there is media coverage, there is exploitation. Documentary film maker Steven Greenstreet has created a video and matching Tumblr blog called Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street. Why? In his own words:

Our original ideas were admittedly sophomoric: Pics of hot chicks being all protesty, videos of hot chicks beating drums in slow-mo, etc. But when we arrived at Zuccotti Park in New York City, it evolved into something more.

Apparently, since Greenstreet is telling us that there is something more to his page than hot chicks, we can’t get mad. In response to negative backlash, he said:

Apparently a lot of controversy has erupted online from people passionately opining (among many things) that this is sexist, offensive, and dangerously objectifies women. It was not my intent to do that and I think the spirit of the video, and the voices within, are honorable and inspiring.

He has also been quoted by Salon saying, basically, that he only titled it “Hot Chicks” to get attention, so we shouldn’t be mad. So which is it? Did he start off with sophomoric intentions only to be persuaded by the movement’s integrity, or did he start the blog with noble intentions and a sexy title to get the word out?

Frankly the answer is not important. No matter how you look at it, this is still a creepy form of voyeuristic objectification that raises serious concerns. Media that objectifies and sexualizes women creates a space where violence against women is more easily tolerated. Labeling these women as hot chicks, even if he does lip service to their political beliefs by calling them “smart hot chicks” implies that their only contribution to the movement is through their appearance.

Greenstreet is perpetuating the message that this is a men’s movement and women are simply around for decoration. While he vehemently denies that what he is doing is sexist, that claim relies on telling feminists they don’t know what they’re talking about. Last I checked, women make up about half of the 99%. And of that 99%, women, especially women of color, are disproportionally affected by poverty and our current economic crisis.

Though there are several unifying factors behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is also just as easy to exclude people who are already marginalized and excluded by society at large. Greenstreet seems to forget his privileged position as a white male. As Collier Meyerson points out:

The call for the redistribution of wealth alone does not get at the root of the problem. We have to think about this more critically and we have to be more vigilant of those (like homeboys that made this video) that are trying to keep existing power structures steadily in place.

Thankfully, the irritating chauvinists do not speak for the women of Occupy Wall Street, as they are more than happy to speak for themselves. There is a petition on MomsRising.org to encourage local mayors to be supportive of OWS. There is a sub-category of the protest in Chicago specifically for feminist issues and concerns within the Occupy movement. And all over, individual women are speaking about ways to make the movement more inclusive of women.

Jill Filipovic has turned Greenstreet’s recent rape joke into a powerful criticism of his film and his contradicting stance on women’s rights. While there is opportunity for objectification by the media, we can also use the media to speak on our own behalf.

Angi Becker Stevens sums up the need for a feminist analysis of OWS, saying “As feminists, we need to seize the opportunity to plug into this movement and make our voices heard. In turn, those already in the movement must be willing to listen. That’s what real solidarity is all about.” Why couldn’t Greenstreet have made his film about that?

Photo credit: IIP State via Flickr

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture Leave a comment