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Final Analysis

After looking through all my media artifacts, it becomes clear that females are currently overwhelmingly marginalized in our current culture. I believe it to be the fear of women’s liberation that led to the wish to depict women as lesser in popular media. This lead to not only how thin women are “supposed” to be, so that they take up less space, but also to accepted depictions of violence against women in advertising.

By giving females such limited roles to fill, roles that the magazine covers made quite clear, we cannot fully be our complex selves. We are instead supposed to be pretty, smart, perfect hair, face, skin, and bodies. We are supposed to be concerned fully with the way we look, and the way others (especially men) perceive us. I believe to defer us from being concerned about where we stand in society.

As difficult as it was to find texts that go against our limited roles, I hope that they will end up doing some good for feminism. It was interesting looking back at my post about the Dove girls after discussing how neat capitalism related to the Gay, Lesbian, Trans gender argument. Because social struggles tend to become “cool” and “hip”, I see Dove as using neat capitalism in this campaign. By hitching a ride on the social struggles women are having being marginalized in popular media, they themselves are hoping to become “hip” and “cool”. Although I noted the criticism that they weren’t using the ads for the right reasons, only profit, it was interesting to look at it from another perspective.

It was both very interesting and very disgusting looking into why eating disorders exist in young women, and why violence against women is committed.  Looking into how normalized the ads that depicted only parts of women had become (they are everywhere) really put into perspective how media can sneak into your subconscious. It was such a sneaky way of dehumanizing; it did not just come out with it and show women as animals (although there are advertisements like that out there) or say they are less than human. That slow process of dehumanization through showing just pieces of a woman’s body, let alone nothing of her mind or personality, led to the greater acceptance of violence towards them. It reminded me a lot of earlier documentaries we watched in the class where we were convinced that war and the killing of Iraqi’s was alright because they were not human.

It was also very interesting to look into the stereotypes of African American’s that media has created for them. Minorities are so slimly represented in popular culture, and the small amount that they are is usually a very stereotypical view. The three women role models I chose that would be good representations and good women for young black females to identify themselves which all had flaws. What is important to note, is that ALL women have flaws. All people for that matter. This humanizes these women. Whereas models and women in magazines are supposed to keep their mouths shut and look flawless, these women spend their lives hoping to empower others. I hope that in the future we have more role models, of many races, like these for young girls to look up to.

All in all, I think that our popular media has marginalized women, creating standards by which they are to abide by. These standards are put in place to minimize the amount of agency women feel, minimizing the chances that they will act out against the gender oppression they face. I hope that the future holds more strong female role models showing themselves in popular media, and more acknowledgement to women of all different kinds, not just one form of femininity or one way of looking. That way, women can begin to re-imagine the possibilities for themselves, and begin to embrace who they are. This would, theoretically, but a huge dent, if not stop, eating disorders in young women. Then it would be up to the women who now share a sense of agency to fight against the dehumanization of themselves in popular media, hopefully stopping the violence against women at the source. Ohh in a perfect world 🙂 But with more analysis like these, hopefully someday we will get there.

 

So what kind of role models do young African America girls have to look up to and identify with?

First, there is Oprah. While Oprah shows young girls that they can care for others and be charitable, Oprah does talk a lot about weight issues. Every time she fluctuates it makes news across the country. Also, some of her top-rate programs are her give-away shows. This makes Oprah come of as materialistic. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Oprah, but she is not the ideal role model. Not to mention she is ridiculously rich, making identifying with her even harder.

Personally, If I were to have a young girl look up to a talk show host, Id rather it be Tyra Banks. Instead of discussing her weight gain, Tyra embraces it. She works to improve girl’s body image and self esteem on her talk show, and even on America’s Next Top Model, where she is the host, she constantly mentions she finds beauty in the weird and the awkward. The negative: anywhere you look you could see her flaunting her curvy body in lingerie or a skimpy bathing suit. She also was gorgeous enough to imitate Barbie in the Disney movie “Life size”. She may also not be one to identify yourself with. Maybe the current years.

Ironically enough, although Beyonce fits into a black stereotype, I think she may also be a great role model. She sings about female empowerment, and conducts herself as a lady. When was the last time you saw something about Beyonce in a tabloid? She is always professional, and treats her personal relationship as just that-personal. I give her two thumbs up as a role model. The only down side? She is mixed, so black girls may not be able to fully relate to her.

Without good, constructive representations of what black females can live up to being presented in media, the stereotypes below may never go away. Those reoccurring images have been taken as true stereotypes, and are solidified in our minds. Without true representations that show the complexities of black females, they may never be broken.

Although the Cosby Show was said to  break stereotypes of black women in TV and movie popular media, not many shows since have followed suit.

Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s new hit series based during the times of Prohibition, depicts a perfect example of one black stereotype. The “mammy” it is sometimes called, is the constantly repeated representation of adult black females. The “mammy” is overweight, in a caretaker role, and usually wears something in or to cover her hair. This is Louanne, a characters maid and caretaker in Boardwalk Empire, being paid to leave town after poisoning her employer. We also see the “mammy” in products such as:

The Mrs. Butterworth container. This is an obvious silhouette of a “mammy” character. Ironically she also shows up as Aunt Jemima’s Pancakes representative.

Another stereotype, called the “Sapphire” stereotype, is of loud mouthed black women who are always calling out black men’s stupidity. This is Harriet Winslow from the comedy show “Family Matters”. As you can see her catch phrase was “mmmm hmmmm” showing her distaste and sort of “in your face” attitude.

Another pop culture example of a “Sapphire” would be New York, a VH1 reality star made popular by her stint on Flava Flave’s dating show. She is loud and opinionated and is constantly getting into fights and attempting to belittle others.

The last stereotype I will discuss is the “Jezzebel”. This stereotype is of a mixed mulatta or fair skinned African American who uses sexuality to get her way. An example of this stereotype could be Beyonce

Beyonce is not my favorite example as she sings about women’s independence, but she fits the mold. Lets look into more real-life examples African American girls have to look to.

After hearing how the songs effect people, how they stick in your head and replay messages over and over again in your mind, I decided it would be important to look into current popular music.

Number 4 on the current Billboard Top 100 is Bruno Mars, “Just The Way You Are” 

The song seems very positive, it is a man singing about how a woman is perfect just the way she is. I was impressed with the positivity, until I saw the music video. The video would have been a great opportunity to show that all women, of all sizes and races, and show that every woman is beautiful just the way she is. Instead, they chose a tall, thin, white, and societies version of “beautiful” model type. Hopefully young girls wont watch the video, and instead internalize the great message of the song 🙂 one can hope

Another genre, techno, features a different story. David Guetta featuring Akon made a song that has been on the charts for a few months, called “Sexy Bitch”

In the song, they call the woman a “diva” a “sexy bitch” (which is supposed to be respectful) and say that every girl wants to be her. I find this incredibly degrading and I believe it sends a terrible message to young girls. It tells them that they need to want to be like the girl described, a sexual being. This message could potentially go round and round in their heads, formulating that idea in their heads.

A surprise feminist television show? Roseanne. Roseanne was said to put a face to working-class feminism. In opposition to stick thin actresses playing secondary parts, Roseanne looks like the average woman. She is in obvious control of her household, a role model for her children, she works hard. She is a devoted wife, without being obsessed with her husband. It is a before-its-time look into working-class suburbia.

According to Wikipedia, Roseanne won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Kids Choice Award, and three American Comedy Awards for her part in the show.

Roseanne’s show had a lot of controversy, including an episode where she shares a lesbian kiss. Roseanne also struggled to keep control of the show, wishing to keep its roots just as they were: a low-income working class family working to get by. This was every woman’s feminism- not just the educated and wealthy.

One amazing aspect of Roseanne was her fearlessness to have an opinion. She told her boss, her husband, anyone that would listen what she thought. Being a loud-mouth as a women is frowned upon in popular culture, yet her show won awards. She was at constant struggle with production, but pushed to have her show her way. It saddens me that after Roseanne went off the air, there have not been more shows like it. We could use more real-life feminist icons in popular media.

Sex and the City

So, since we have looked in to multiple genres of film, and my last post discussed advertising to women, I decided to look at Sex and The City. I must admit right off, it is one of my favorite shows. I enjoy watching the women live out a fantasy world, doing things I feel I could never, or would never do. And this is precisely the goal of the show: as no woman COULD do what they do. This show is seen as a feminist show: depicting its characters being successful and independent women, that actually use men sexually.

Lets take Carrie Bradshaw’s character for example, played by Sarah Jessica Parker:

Carrie is a writer, who writes the column “Sex and the City” for a newspaper while living in New York City. She lives alone (through the majority of the series) in a large apartment with a walk-through closet, kitchen, living area, and bathroom. Lets face it girls, Carrie would never be able to afford this place, New York City apartments are RIDICULOUSLY expensive (even if it was rent-controlled). Next on the list, her shoe collection. Carrie supposedly has hundreds of pairs of designer shoes, most notably Manolo Blahniks which run just shy of a grand a pair. In one episode, Carrie admits to having around 400,000 dollars worth of shoes. Her salary must be pretty large for that column! Not to mention her bursting closet full of designers as well. Next, Carrie self admittingly cannot cook and NEVER uses her oven (instead uses it to store sweaters). She is seen instead eating out in every single episode, washing it all down with a few cocktails of course.  We also never see her exercise, yet she remains what appears to be a size zero. I could go on..

Next, for the “Sex” part of  Sex and the City, lets look at Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall):

Samantha Jones is by far the most promiscuous of the 4 girls. She sleeps with a different man almost every episode, aside from short relationships. Now, the assumption is that she has full control over her sexuality and is a strong, powerful woman. My critique is that they express her strength and power through her sexuality, making it seem as if in order for women to have power, they must use their sexuality. This is a message too many viewers are taking in without realizing, which terrifies me. Also, although the plot is  surrounding 4 women, our main character is always talking about men.

On top of all of these facts, I should also point out that in production for  the film Sex and the City and the sequel, the cameras were fixed with a softened lens to mask the aging of the characters (Kim Cattrall is now into her mid 50’s). Imperfections are so frowned upon, actors now are not allowed to age! Im sure they’ll keep that in mind 🙂

While I was going to now focus on feminist movements, I felt it necessary after stumbling upon this ad to bring it to attention (run in Singapore):

This one advertisement manages to be sexist and racist all in one. The tagline “I swallow”- referring to sexual acts, as well as the product being a skin-whitening tool and using an Asian woman for its ad. The sexual objectification of this ad is horrific, making me wonder who the consumer is? I am aware skin lightening products are hugely popular in Asian countries, but what woman would be interested in a product using that tagline?

Dove recently have come out with a new campaign: the dove girls. Under the photograph the label says “Real Women Have Curves”. Although scrutinized for just caring about soap sales, this ad shows real hope for the future of advertising, a hope for a women with curves (not a skeleton). Dove says the ad campaign is to promote healthy teen body image, stating that 92% of girls want to change at least one aspect of their appearance. Personally, I’m wondering who the other 8% were. The Dove movement for self-esteem website asks us to “Imagine, a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety” and displays this ad (Though this longer version is from Youtube):

This video depicts a model, who first comes on to set with no makeup on. Then, in fast pace, we see makeup be put on her and her hair done, then afterwards the photo editing done on her, distorting her face entirely. The video’s purpose is to do precisely what I am doing on this blog: show the process taking place surrounding advertisements. It is showing young girls, or any unaware spectator, the grueling process a model goes through (which is later just animated) in order to look the way they do in the magazines. This shows them the impossibility of the standards of beauty being presented to them, with the goal of boosting their self-esteem.

I am really proud of a company for standing up this way, whether their motives are selfish or not. Higher self esteem for our youth will benefit everyone. Someone who is more comfortable with themselves and believes in themselves seemingly would be a more productive member of society. I hope that Dove’s message gets across, and that others follow suit.

Normalization of rape

The same way violence against women becomes normalized, through constant exposure, rape of women does as well. It is no secret that women are overly sexualized in our culture. Turn on the television, open a magazine, turn on the radio and you will see or hear an overly-sexualized image of a woman. With these overly-sexual images comes the glamorized images of rape.

Dolce and Gabbana pulled this ad after critics claimed it glamorized rape and violence against women. Songs such as “Rape Me” by Nirvana, “Stan” by Eminem, “Date Rape” by Sublime and many, many others depict rape. Now these ads and these songs may not make a person go out and commit violence against women, but repeated exposure creates an environment where there is a greater acceptance of this violence.

It is important for us to analyze these images, and not just turn a blind eye. Although these images do not have an obvious immediate effect on how you see the world, over time they will shape how you feel about violence, it will desensitize you.

Violence against women- Films

It was reported that in 2010, Actress Jessica Alba left a screening of her new film, The Killer Inside Me, in disgust while viewing a scene where her character is badly beaten. In the film, her character takes sexual pleasure out of being beaten. What message does this send to viewers?

But violence is not only seen in rated R films, it is seen in Disney Films such as Beauty and the Beast. In this children’s film, a girl is captured by an angry ghastly beast who violently throws her father out. She is told she may never leave, and the Beast constantly tells her what she can  and cant do. In the end, Beauty see’s “the good” in the Beast, she sticks it out and falls in love with him. It is no wonder that women everywhere put up with domestic abuse, attempting to “find the good”  inside their husbands, we have such a great example set for us from childhood! (sarcasm). Below is a clip demonstrating his violent temper.

 

Violence against women unfortunately presents its self across genres of film. With domestic violence and violence against women becoming all too common, it is the normalization of this violence that allows it to continue. Part of this violence that is occurring is rape of women. Lets look into how rape becomes normalized in popular culture.