Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sexualized Violence Against Women in Advertising

It might be easier to look at media advertising that depicts sexually violent scenes and simply place a label on it. In fact, we can stamp everything in the collective culture with some sort of label of moral approval or disapproval and believe this labeling is enough. Somehow by creating polarities in the society around “good” and “bad,” members of a society may feel that as long as they belong to the “good” category (which is debatable) all is well. With regard to sexualized violence portrayed in advertising, we would like to encourage members of the society to look passed morally biased value judgments of “good” and “bad” into the context and content of the ads. How do advertisements involving sexualized violence impact the culture? Or, are these advertisements merely the response to a culture in which violence and overt sexuality are normalized?

It would be impossible to understand the intent of each ad without engaging the creators and advertisers in an in-depth, sociologically analytical dialog. In an interview with the designers of the sexually violent Dolce & Gabbana ads, Diana Price reported that Stefano Gabbana claimed that in spite of being forced to retract the ads from print, he did not feel the ads were too extreme and instead stated that these ads, "[do] not represent rape or violence, but if one had to give an interpretation of the picture, it could recall an erotic dream, a sexual game" (Price, Young Feminist Programs, 2007). Mr. Gabbana’s point could seem quite empty of thought or could be echoing Wendy McElroy’s sentiments that fantasies that portray violence are not necessarily harmful but that that such violent sexual fantasies may be “benign and beneficial” (McElroy, XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography, p. 137). McElroy goes on further to say that “one of the most common fantasies reported by women [is] the fantasy of... being raped” (p. 137). In short, McElroy believes that sexual fantasies of any sort are liberating and empowering to the people (specifically women) who are able to act them out or, at the very least, are able to be visually stimulated through mediated portrayals of such fantasies.

The portrayal of the women in the poster for the film, Grindhouse, supports McElroy’s notion of creating fantasies for women that empower. The woman on the left side of the poster is wearing a short black skirt and a small black top, exposing her midriff, cleavage and most of her thighs. As well, the woman in the film poster has an automatic weapon for a limb, which represents her power through a very phallic object. Her stance is one of courage and self-assuredness which resonates with female audience members because, as McElroy suggests, all women fantasize about being in positions of power (citation). What is missing in McElroy’s examination of power-based fantasy are the reasons why power for women (based on this movie poster) can only be gained through sexual seductiveness and the use of phallic objects as the source of their ability to destroy an enemy and maintain a position of power.

Such an examination of the Grindhouse poster leads us into a perspective of sexualized violence that is in contrast with Gabbana and McElroy and that is one of cultural concern. Rather than the blanket judgment of weather an advertisement is “good” or “bad,” this perspective asks the artifact reader to analyze the content and context with a keen critical eye. It is through this critical lens that bell hooks views cultural controversies. hooks’ concern has to do with power, privilege, and oppression and how each member of the socio-political landscape is accountable for maintaining the power structure or the status quo. hook’s states that “the politics of domination inform the way the vast majority of images we consume are constructed and marketed” (get info from Jill R.) Looking at these sexualized violent advertisements it is not hard to question the deeper meaning behind them. Are these advertisements a reflection of the culture or is the culture a reflection of mass marketing?

The Grindhouse poster reflects much of the same messaging that the Charlie’s Angel film poster, examined by David Roger Coon, intends to say. With out the context of the film, a consumer looking at the poster sees, as we stated previously, the woman in the Grindhouse poster is wearing a short black skirt and a small black top, exposing her midriff, cleavage and most of her thighs and has an automatic weapon for a limb. Coon might say that, “with no existing narrative, the [woman is] presented... as pure spectacle” (Coon, The Selling of Charlie’s Angels and Alias, p. 5). Looking through a lens that aims to critique the social and cultural messaging from this image, we invite a contrary feminist viewpoint that challenges the ideas that in order for a woman to be powerful she must be dressed in a sexually provocative way (adhering to the societal norms of beauty) and present some aspect of herself that is male, such as a phallic automatic gun. This means to say, in essence, that women cannot be powerful if these two qualities are not present.

Why is critical analysis of sexualized violent messaging in advertisements relevant? Critical analysis is not only relevant, it is vital, because without it dominant ideologies manifest exponentially. This is not to say that all dominant ideologies are inherently bad, it is, however, meant to say that dominant ideologies are the result of power, and that those in power positions control what is moral and what is not. By analyzing the sexual and violent content of a Dolce & Gabbana ad or a Jimmy Choo ad critically, we spark an imperative conversation about the health and well-being of a society. Again, we strive to refrain from morally biased judgments and rather talk in terms of how these types of advertisements serve the community. Moral judgments result in shame and shame rarely transforms into anything remotely positive.

bell hooks explains that critique (of anything essentially) must, “interrogate, challenge, and confront” (Littlejohn and Foss, 2008). Critique should not leave anyone out of the loop, but rather invite anyone and everyone into the process, especially those who are upholding the status quo by participating or remaining silent to that which is controversial. Controversy is also not a “bad” thing; it is merely a break from the norm. By its very nature, controversial topics, such as sexualized violence in advertising, should automatically invite critique. What does a reader of the Jimmy Choo ad feel as an immediate response to its portrayal of a murderer and his victim? For some, the ad might ignite shock and awe but more importantly, what does this type of messaging do to the society that absorbs it without question? And, maybe even more painful a question – what does this ad say about the culture that inspired it?

Dolce & Gabbana received immediate feedback from members of the National Organization of Women when designers released an ad essentially depicting a gang rape of a woman. As Diana Price reports, repulsion to the ad was international in nature. She writes, “Spain's response was uniquely with-it. The D&G ad made its debut just as Spain was dealing with a rise in violence against women—ten women had been murdered in the months of January and February, one on the same day the ad hit headlines” (Price, Young Feminist Programs, 2007). As a response to this situation, “The Spanish government introduced a law protecting women from violence, as well as a law against sexist advertisements” as inspired by the United Nations and the World Health Organization (Price, 2007).

Is the Spanish government saying that advertising depicting sexualized violence towards women is liable for sexual assaults and female-focused violence and therefore, should be banned? The answer is no. What the Spanish government recognizes is that if advertising is powerful enough to get someone to buy something as insignificant as a shoe, then there is a high likelihood that the same advertisement could inspire reenactment of the message within the ad itself. And when ads depicting sexualized violence similar to Jimmy Choo and Dolce & Cabbana become the norm, the readers of such media artifacts will take in those messages with out critical analysis and be desensitized to the severity of the ads’ contextual messaging.

Critically analyzing the movie poster for Black Snake Moan, again without the context of the movie itself, the message sent is one of sexualized violence towards women. The poster places an older black male towering over a frail, sexualized young, white woman, who sits on her knees wrapped in a chain. This image alone sets the man in a position of power and control over the woman. In part because he takes a dominate standing position in the poster and because he is the keeper of the chain, which is tied around the captive girl. The message of the poster, less the captions, is one of the taboo (often used in pornography) of a white woman being “taken” by a black man. Adding the captions back into the poster, “Black Snake Moan” and “Everything is hotter down south,” the consumer is given the idea that the girl in the poster is the man’s sex slave.

Why should the sexualized and violent message of the Black Snake Moan poster matter? Isn’t it “just” a movie? Similar to the Grindhouse poster and the ads from Jimmy Choo and Dolce & Gabbana, this movie poster is both a reflection of the society and an influence on the society. It would seem for many that sex and violence are opposing concepts. Sex, biologically speaking, creates life, while violence seeks to destroy life. What does it say about a culture when sex, the act that is seemingly most sacred and intimate, is infiltrated with violence merely for the sake of entertainment? For proponents of free speech at any cost and for those who try to remain unbiased and critical, it could mean that the culture is undergoing a shift and is in the process of crossed wires and chaos, which is neither bad nor wrong. On the other hand, for the victims of sexual crimes and interpersonal violence, the cultural issues that create and arise from sexualized violence in media are a matter of self-preservation and psychic survival.

The high majority of victims of sexual crimes and interpersonal violence are women. And it could very much seem as if advertisers and producers of content depicting sexualized violence (towards women) are mocking the serious nature of sexual brutality and interpersonal violence towards women. By discounting one’s design as erotic, rather than a gang rape with no further thought, such producers of this media are saying that the safety and health of women is significantly less valued in society than are designer shoes. As a result of this dominant ideology, women must constantly be aware that at any moment they could become the victim of a sexual assault or interpersonal injury. Andrea Dworkin states, “[P]ornography functions to perpetuate male supremacy and crimes of violence against women because it conditions, trains, educates, and inspires men to despise women, to use women, to hurt women” (Dworkin, Pornography and Grief, p. 42). This idea can be applied to sexualized and violent media as well. And as a result, it could seem that such advertising is being thumbed at women and intends to belittle the female experience of sexual violence as insignificant in comparison to capitol gain.

Important to note is that the fashion ads of Jimmy Choo and Dolce & Gabbana are being marketed to women, not men. Short of evaluating designers of such ads for psychiatric imbalance, critical analysis of the women reading these ads is imperative. Is McElroy correct in her claim that these ads might rouse the female consumers’ desires to be raped or murdered? For each consumer the cause of attraction to these types of ads is different. We imagine that much of the draw has little to do with the message and everything to do with the sensation that results from owning designer products. The ads may be lost on most consumers all together as weird art, but unworthy of critical analysis.

Continuing to refrain from judgment and shame, the most important elements in the discussion about sexualized violence in advertising are the effects it has on the culture, what it says about the culture and, what it says about those who are being victimized within the culture. If it is true that a culture often imitates media, then are women buying products from designers that advertise the abuse and objectivity of women? It is important to ask consumers of these designers and films as well as the models and actresses to spend some time critically reviewing the messages they are supporting with their silence. “The recognition that representations of violence against women in the media are inextricably tied to how women and men perceive, accept, internalize, and otherwise relate to actual violence against women is unquestioned by the international community of development and human rights organizations and experts” (Price, Young Feminist Programs, 2007). So whether an individual finds such images “good” or “bad” is less relevant to the possible harms such messaging may be sending. It is vital a community examine impacts and effects of sexualized violence in advertising on its members and not disregard anything as “just” an ad.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sex in the Digital World (Extra Credit Blog)

Adult Friend Finder


Grand Theft Auto IV

PlayStation 2: Playboy the Mansion

PlayStation 2: The Guy Game

Tomb Raider video game

The digital world has sex all throughout it. Video games, blogs, video and social networking sites, advertisements, and dating services (just to name a few places). It is pretty difficult to go on the internet or play a video game without being bombarded with sexualized images.

Artifact #1 and artifact #2 are both ads for adult “dating” sites. I say “dating” because that is the mild way of putting it when in reality the people using these websites are not looking to date but rather to find someone to have sex with. Adult Friend Finder and LuvStreet are places where adults, single or married, can go to meet other adults that are looking to add a little something new into their sex life. These sites are set up similar to dating websites in that the user creates a profile, posts pictures of themselves (most often sexual pictures), explain what they have to offer and what they are looking for in exchange. These digital hookups turn into real life hookups once the individuals or couples exchange information and decide to meet in real life.

One of the most popular aspects of the digital world is video and computer games. More often than not these games are filled with sexually explicit images and themes and all the rest of the artifacts in this blog revolve around this. Artifact #3 is an ad more the game Grand Theft Auto IV and this is a game that has been under some controversy over the years. Some argue that this game depicts women as sexual objects and that there is a large amount of violence towards them in the game that has been carried out into the real world of violence against women. Artifacts #4-6 are images from the PlayStation 2 game Playboy: The Mansion. In the game the player can choose to have their relationships with the playmates be casual, business, or romantic. The player also plays the part of the photographer of the Playboy photo shoots and he/she chooses what the playmate will wear and how she will pose for the photo shoot. The images in the game are of scantily clad women, partial nudity, and sex acts are performed in the expanded version of the game. Artifacts #7-8 are of the PlayStation 2 game titled The Guy Game. The game is described as a “topless trivia game” and it is modeled after the series “Girls Gone Wild” where the audience is typically drunken college aged males and the women in the game are drunk or semi-drunk college age girls described by some users as “spring break sluts”. Artifact #9 is an image from the Tomb Raider video game. The main character is an Indiana Jones type archaeologist named Lara Croft who goes in search of ancient treasures. Lara is sexualized in that she has a very curvaceous body and is dressed in extremely form fitting clothing however this game differs from the others in that Lara is not the victim of physical or sexual violence, she is not set on display as a sex object as the Playboy girls are, and she is not describes as a “spring break slut”. Instead Lara, even with her hyper sexualized body and clothing, is the action adventure seeker and she is portrayed as the heroine and main character of the game.

Whether one is entering the digital world in search of adult sex friends, playing computer games, or simply checking email, chances are they are going to run into some sort of sexualized image along the way.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sexual Health in the Media

Durex XXL Condom ad

Talk Sex with Sue Johansen

Trojan Condom commercial

Men's Health magazine
online quiz.

Test Your Condom I.Q.
What you don't know--could hurt you

1. Latex condoms should be stored?
*In the refrigerator
*In your wallet
*In a dry, cool place
*In a bedside drawer
2. Packaged condoms that are coated with a spermicide are good for approximately?
*12 months
*3 years
*5 years
*6 sex partners
3. Packaged condoms are good for approximately?
*12 months
*3 years
*5 years
*2 weeks at Club Med
4. The condoms that provide the most protection are made from?
*Natural animal membranes
*Latex rubber
*Silicone-coated linen
5. The best way to put on a condom is?
*Place it on the head of the penis and unroll it all the way to the base
*Remove it from the package, unroll it and pull it over the penis
*Remove it from package, inflate it and pull over the penis like a sock
*Without even removing it from the packaging
6. The proper way to remove a latex condom from its package is?
*By tearing the packaging in half down the middle
*By opening it before you need it and placing it on a bedside table just in case
*By tearing off just the top of the foil package, being careful not to rip the condom
*By using your teeth
7. Next to abstinence, the most effective protection against sexually transmitted diseases is *proper condom use. Yet, some people still won't use condoms because?
*They're too embarrassed to buy them
*They trust their partner's health and assurances
*They do not take the risks seriously
*It's too much effort
8. Carrying condoms in your wallet may?
*Keep you prepared
*Damage the condoms and the packaging
*Wear off the expiration date
*Make you feel really cool
9. The following should never be used as a lubricant with latex condoms?
*K-Y Jelly
*Silicone gel

The Onion News: America's Finest News Source

Antipsychotics Reduce Sex Drive
A study of people taking antipsychotic drugs for treatment of schizophrenia shows reveals that diminished sexual function is an unwanted side effect. What do you think?
Old Man

Lyndon Fitzpatrick,
Scuba Instructor
"Where can I get some of those drugs? I'm sick of sex."

Old Woman

Molly Prescott,
"My God. That means virtually everyone on Craigslist is off their meds."

Young Man

Ty Jackson,
Systems Analyst
"That's it, no more medication for me. I sure hope I get laid a lot in the lucid moments from my nightmarish paranoid delusions and horrifying hallucinations."

The ways in which sexual health is portrayed in the media is mostly in a humorous form. Even when the message is serious it seems to take on a lighter or humorous tone. I wonder if this lighthearted way of looking at sexual health is because it is a difficult subject for our culture to talk about or if the humor just makes it easier for us to pay attention to it.

Artifact #1 is an ad for Durex brand XXL condoms. This simple image shows a woman’s mouth with bandages on each side which implies that her sexual partner was so well endowed that he ripped her mouth through oral sex, hence the need for the Durex XXL size condoms. Although the ad could be portrayed as cruel towards the woman and egotistically saying that the man’s penis was so huge that it ripped the woman’s mouth, it is also promoting safe oral (and possibly other) sex through the use of condoms. The ad may be seen as cruel but it could also be viewed as a humorous way to get the message out to use condoms, more importantly for this company, to use Durex condoms.

Artifact #2 is a video clip about the show “Talk Sex with Sue Johansen”. Sue Johansen is a sex educator and nurse who in her own humorous and quirky way encourages her audience to ask questions, get informed, and experiment with sex. Johansen has a television show, website, and gives lectures on the subject of sex and sexual health. She isn’t afraid to talk about typically taboo or ignored sexual topics and she uses her humorous, matter of fact attitude to get her message across to her audience. Her approach isn’t the typical stuffy sex ed type but rather the laid back and open to anything approach.

Artifact #3 is a video clip of a Trojan condom commercial. The humorous commercial follows an elderly couple on their first date and ends with them getting ready to get sexual as the women pulls out a bunch of Trojan condoms. The commercial ends with the text “You’re never too old to be safe” which is again a humorous way to inform the viewers to use condoms no matter what. By using humor the company can get their audience to pay more attention and not shy away from the subject.

Artifact #4 is a quiz from Men’s Health magazine testing the reader’s condom knowledge. This quiz is not in the humorous form but it still has a lighter tone attached to it. The quiz gives answers to some important and many times not known facts about condom use and care. It doesn’t talk to in depth about sexual health other than the implied message that condoms should be a part of the reader’s sexual health routine and it gives good information about how to make the use of condoms even more effective.

Artifact #5 is a news article from the fake news source The Onion and it is very much a joke revolving around sexual health. The article talks about how the use of antipsychotic drugs used for schizophrenia can decrease sex drive. It doesn’t teach the reader about sexual health issues but rather it brings attention in a humorous way to the fact that our society is so obsessed with the fear of decreased sex drive. It is saying that our society has gotten to the point when we would rather give up needed medicine (such as anti depressants and antipsychotics) in order to had an active sex life, and if that still doesn’t help then we can always take another medicine to increase sex drive or sexual performance (Viagra, etc.). This spoof article is a humorous way to bring to light the sexual health issues that our society does talk about rather than the real sexual health issues that we seem to ignore.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pornographic Mainstream Media

Rachael Ray
sexually posing for
FHM mens magazine.

Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef

Calvin Klein Advertisement

Scene from television

Flavor Flav: Interview on
Playboy's Dirty Dozen

Pornography can be found anywhere; in your bedroom, in your neighbors bedroom, in the Red Light district of Amsterdam, and in the mainstream media that we see everyday.

Artifacts #1 and #2 are both images of how the Food Network and other self proclaimed food connoisseurs incorporate sex and pornography into their content. Artifact #1 consists of images of Rachael Ray posing in pornographically yet playful poses for FHM men’s magazine. This famous cook and television personality is shown here in a much different way than she is usually shown. Artifact #2 is a book titled The Return of the Naked Chef by the sexy young Naked Chef himself, Jamie Oliver. Oliver’s nickname was originally referring to his recipes/food and had nothing to do with nudity but as time went on it was easy to see that calling this young hunk the Naked Chef sure brought in more viewers in hopes of getting a glimpse of sexy skin. According to Frederick Kaufman’s article Debbie Does Salad: The Food Network at the Frontiers of Pornography, there are two types of pornography: sex porn and gastroporn. Gastroporn refers to porn within food which similar to sex porn it “addresses the most basic human needs and functions, idealizing and degrading them at the same time.” The Food Network and other food driven media use gastroporn to entice and tease their audience without ever really teaching much about the food itself.

Artifact #3 is a Calvin Klein advertisement where the model is shown milking a cow by hand and as the milk squirts her face it resembles the classic “money shot” in pornography videos. It is not clear in the photo what the designer is trying to sell (shoes, handbag, jacket, lipstick, perfume, etc) but it is clear that this is an obvious representation of pornography placed in mainstream media magazines and internet ads. Not only is the money shot of milk hitting the models face, she is suggesting that she is enjoying it though her use of seductive facial expression and her use of her tongue to catch the squirting/dripping white substance (milk or semen).

Artifact #4 is a video clip from the television show “Weeds”. In this clip Andy is turned down then seduced by a sexy woman who uses him as her sex object. Her aggressive sexual acts towards Andy seem like something straight out of a pornography movie including sex toys and dominatrix innuendos. The show is shown on Showtime which is mainstream media and they do give a warning stating “ADULT CONTENT, GRAPHIC LANGUAGE, VIOLENCE, BRIEF NUDITY, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED”. This warning might be helpful for adults to know if this subject matter is appropriate for younger people yet it doesn’t exactly include “PORNOGRAPHIC MATERIAL” in their warning.

Artifact #5 is a video clip of rap artist Flavor Flav being interviewed on Playboy’s Dirty Dozen which is an interview show which they identify as their “12-question celebrity sexamination”. Although these interviews are posted on Playboy’s website and there is a warning about sexual content there is no stopping minors form accessing these interviews on the site. Along with getting access to these sexual interviews on Playboy’s website these interviews are easily found on sites such as YouTube which anyone can gain access to. Playboy’s celebrity sexamination’s are filled with pornographic material (language) that can be found in our mainstream media.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sexualized Minorities and Heterosexism in Media

"Six Feet Under" couple
David Fisher and Keith Charles

Yogi Bear and Boo Boo
Hanna-Barbera Studios

Tylenol PM advertisement
featuring a homosexual couple.

Madonna kissing
Britney Spears and
Christina Aguilera
at the 2003 MTV
Video Music Awards.

There is such a thing as sexualized minorities in the media and often times they are portrayed in ways that make is easier for heterosexuals to accept which is how our media gets filled with heterosexism.

Artifact #1 and #2 are pictures of the gay couple David Fisher and Keith Charles from the television show “Six Feet Under”. This couple is one of the more positive depictions of homosexuality in the media and the men are shown to have more depth to them individually and as a couple than just the one aspect of being gay. Keith and David are portrayed as having a “normal” relationship with the same strengths and weaknesses as heterosexual couples have. The couple has their ups and downs but they stay strong in the end and stay dedicated to the relationship. They even buy a house together and start a family through adoption. It would be easy to say that the portrayal of this couple battles heterosexism but I believe that along with showing the men as having very similar relationship issues as heterosexuals they are also shown to deal with issues exclusive to them being homosexual. There is a good balance in how David and Keith are shown and their relationship has many complex levels to it and not just the surface stuff that we are often shown in the media. This couple is definitely a sexualized minority as they are one of the few gay couples that are shown in such depth and honesty.

Artifact #3 is a drawing of Yogi Bear and his pal Boo Boo. According to Jeffrey P. Dennis in his article Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons, Yogi and Boo Boo could be read as being in a homosexual relationship. The pair are inseparable, share a bed and cave, and Boo Boo often sabotages any chance for Yogi to get closer to his gal friend. Who can say for certain if Hanna-Barbera meant to have their bear characters be read as being a homosexual couple but it can be said that this pair is a sexualized minority in the media. Whether the bears are gay or straight they still differ from other cartoon friends in that they share a bed and their sexuality is pretty ambiguous for the most part.

Artifact #4 is a Tylenol advertisement that shows a homosexual couple rather than a heterosexual couple. This ad is a sexualized minority because it stands alone (or almost alone) among an endless crowd of heterosexual advertisements.

Artifacts #5 and #6 are pictures of musician Madonna kissing musicians Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. These photos and this act is a classic example of heterosexism in the media. None of the women are proclaimed lesbians yet there they stood locking lips for the viewers shock and pleasure. They aren’t showing a positive or true view of homosexuality but instead they are showing that “lesbian sexuality is hot” as Tricia Jenkins talks about in her article “Potential lesbians at Two O’Clock”: The Heterosexualization of Lesbianism in the Recent Teen Film. Jenkins explains our cultures obsession with hot lesbian sex and girl on girl action where in reality the girls shown are usually heterosexual and attractive to a heterosexual audience which is the exact case with these musicians.

Sexual minorities are being shown a little more as the years go by but they are still that, minorities in a culture of heterosexism.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sexualized Masculinity & Sexualized Femininity

Jaime Paetz
Maxim's Hometown Hotties

Audrina Patridge
Maxim's Hometown Hotties

Pierce Brosnan
James Bond

Nintendo DS
Good Girl/Bad Girl Ad

Nike Advertisement

Mark Wahlberg
Calvin Klein Ad

It isn’t difficult to find examples of sexualized masculinity and sexualized femininity in the media and these six images are prime examples of this. Maxim magazine is chalk full of images of nearly nude women so that magazine would be an obvious place to look when looking for any type of sexualized image but the two I chose were particularly pointing out Maxim’s idea of what femininity is or at least what it should be. Both artifacts #1 and #2 come from the online form of Maxim in the section titled “Hometown Hotties” where they feature everyday women (non-celebrities).

Artifact #1 is an image of a woman named Jaime Paetz who is posed nearly nude with only a large leaf to use as cover. She is looking away from the camera and seems withdrawn from the situation in what Nicole Krassas calls “licensed withdrawal” in her article titled Master Your Johnson: Sexual Rhetoric in Maxim and Stuff Magazines. Licensed withdrawal makes the model seem disoriented in the situation and dependent on the protectiveness of others. This photo shows Paetz as the Eve character of Adam and Eve and she is pure, innocent, and vulnerable to the wicked ways of the world and therefore needs protection from Adam. Maxim shows this to be the perfect image of woman because not only is the woman, Eve, beautiful and innocent, but she is also vulnerable and disoriented and needs help and guidance from the man, Adam.

Artifact #2 is an image of a woman named Audrina Patridge who is posed in a playful yet cliché setting of everything girly. She is wearing ruffled pink lingerie and surrounded by pink shoes which according to Maxim is what defines femininity. Feona Attwood’s article Fashion and Passion: Marketing Sex to Women talked about how women are shown to be and need pretty packaging and accessories. Women are not shown or told that they can want sex or that they can be seen doing instead of being and the self fashioning shown in this photo is a way in which a woman can “better” herself physically. The model is making eye contact with the camera but is also displaying what Krassas calls the “feminine touch” where she is holding or touching an object but not putting it to use as she is kneeling on a bed with a stiletto in her hand. This photo says that Maxim portrays femininity as being pretty pink accessories and fashion and that women are and should be “being” and not “doing”.

Artifact #3 is an image of Pierce Brosnan as the character James Bond. Often media portrays masculinity as being tough, handsome, and heroic. According to this idea, what could be more masculine than a sexy man holding a gun, fighting bad guys, all the while surrounded by beautiful, helpless women? Gary Brooks article The Centerfold Syndrome gives a theory as to why men have to act in prescribed ways when it comes to the subjects of sex, love, and intimacy. When boys are young they are yearning for the affection and intimacy of their mothers yet they are pressured to distance themselves from the female body and to take their social place next to other males. This affects the boys from growing into men who are comfortable with intimacy and sensuality in connection to a woman’s body. I think the Centerfold Syndrome also feeds into the need for men to be tough and heroic and have beautiful women but only as trophies at their side and of course as James Bond does, never sticks around one woman long enough to form intimacy outside of sex.

Artifact #4 is an advertisement for Nintendo DS and it is the image of the good girl/ bad girl that men are taught is what they need in a woman (or in this case a video game). Often the type of femininity that men are programmed to look for is the good girl/bad girl. A socially constructed trait of masculinity is the thought that men should be having lots of sex with many partners and very often and this is where they need the bad girl that “likes to play around” as this advertisement says. When men are done playing with the good girl then of course she is seen as used goods and they can’t settle down with her so they then need to find the good girl who “likes to play nice” as this advertisement says. The ideal version of femininity would be this good girl/bad girl in which the woman can both be sexy but can also be brought home to meet the parents. Since it is impossible for a woman to be both a slut and a virgin then the idea of the perfect woman and what femininity should look like is often skewed.

Artifact #5 and #6 are both examples of what masculinity looks like in media where there is often a competition on who has the biggest balls, penis, muscles, and etcetera in order to prove who is the most “man”. Artifact #5 is a Nike advertisement where the winning athlete is shown naked with only a shoe held up by an erect penis. The athlete is the winner of the athletic event but he is also the winner of the competition for masculinity as he proves he has the biggest or most powerful penis and is therefore the most masculine. Artifact #6 is a Calvin Klein advertisement featuring singer/model/actor Mark Wahlberg where he isn’t only selling underwear but he is selling masculinity. From top to bottom the image is portraying the idea of masculinity from the models rebellious backwards baseball cap to his tough guy facial expression to his bare muscular chest to the way he grabs his crotch. All of this proves his part in the competition for masculinity and by having him grab his crotch proves to others that he is a “real man” and he has the parts to prove it.

All of these images are socially constructed ideas that the media uses to tell us what femininity and masculinity is. Since these ideas and messages are socially constructed then as Brooks said, “like all socially constructed realities, it can be deconstructed.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

How Class is Presented in Sexualized Media

Anna Nicole Smith on the cover
of New York Magazine

Kevin Federline Portraying
the Working Class

Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie
Experiencing the Working Class
in "The Simple Life"

Jerry Springer & his
Tabloid Talk Show

Geneva & Kyle from the
Country Music Television show
"My Big Redneck Wedding"

Class is presented in sexualized media and many times it is the lower class that is exposed and in many cases purposely constructed for sell ability. Media artifact #1 is the cover of a past issue of New York magazine which headline says “White Trash Nation” and features model and Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith. The article was obviously about “white trash” celebrities and celebrity stories as it advertised to feature “Tonya. Lisa Marie. John & Lorena. Roseanne & Tom. Paula & Gennifer & Bill. They’re everywhere. Lock up your Twinkies.” but Anna Nicole claimed that the magazine told her the photo shoot was for the ‘All-American-woman look’. The model was upset when she later saw that they had featured this photo that was apparently taken as a “just-for-fun outtake” and it portrayed her as white trash. Magazine stories such as these lend support to Constance Penley’s point in her article Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn. Penley states that “white trash” is more than a low economic status but that it is a “never-ending labor of distinguishing yourself, of decoding your behavior”. She also makes the point that white trash is sometimes purposely constructed in sexualized (and sometimes non-sexualized) media such as Howard Stern, Hustler magazine, porn, America’s Funniest Home Videos, WWF wrestling, and Mad Magazine. Penley says, “…you do not have to be white trash to use white trash sensibilities as a weapon of cultural war…,” so it makes sense to believe that “white trash” is constructed for media but in the case of New York magazine (and many other cases), real white trash is just as sellable.

Media artifact #2 is a picture of celebrity Kevin Federline acting as “man of the house” or more appropriately, doing household chores of the common class, not of the celebrity class. Minette Hillyer questions in her article Sex in the Suburban: Porn, Home Movies, and the Live Action Performance of Love in Pam and Tommy Lee: Hardcore and Uncensored if what is done in the private can be considered public and what is done in the public can be considered private. Although Hillyer’s article is based around porn versus home movies, I think the same question can be applied to this picture of Federline. Is it the fact that a man is posing as “man of the house” or is it the fact that it is a celebrity that is posing that is news worthy? By showing an average Joe posing as himself doing household chores wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as showing a rich celebrity posing as the working class.

Media artifact #3 is that of celebrities Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in their reality television show ‘The Simple Life’. This show takes these upper class socialites and places them in lower class situations where they have to work low-paying, manual labor jobs. This show is another example of Hillyer’s argument of the public and the private and class. If this show was about regular people (non-rich, non-celebrities) doing their everyday jobs and chores then there would be no appeal but because the show is about these two wealthy ladies who know nothing about the lower class and manual labor then the show is appealing. The show feels like getting a private snapshot into the lives of these upper class celebrities as they do the work that their lower class viewers have to do daily. Is the work or the working class private or public? When it is done by celebrities on camera then it becomes public and it becomes entertainment.

Media artifact #4 is that of Jerry Springer’s tabloid talk show ‘The Jerry Springer Show’. This show is a mess of white trash and often sexualized themes as it exploits the guests’ personal lives. Sex sells and as Penley’s article suggested, white trash sex sells even more. ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ seems like real life home grown white trash but a lot of work also goes into the creating and framing of the show to create that magical white trash feel that we all know and love from jerry Springer. As Penley suggested, could this be another way that white trash is used as a weapon of cultural war?

Media artifact #5 is a picture of the couple Geneva and Kyle from Country Music Television’s reality show ‘My Big Redneck Wedding’. This show finds “redneck” couples and follows them through their country styled weddings including all the must haves of camouflage, beer can canopies, mud wrestling, horses, ex-cons, shot guns, roasted squirrel, and baked beans. The shows host and narrator is the white trash icon Tom Arnold which only lends to the fact that this show may be titled “redneck” but it is all about white trash. To these couples they may be fulfilling their dream weddings but to the audiences watching they are giving us great white trash entertainment in the form of love and marriage. Viewers get a glimpse into the lower class lives of these couples or at least a glimpse of what Penley calls the labor intensive work of distinguishing themselves as white trash despite their economic class.