Tag Archives: sexism

Family Breadwinner Finds Her Place: With The Men

My mom tells me stories like this a lot, about when she was trying to get a job in the warehouse of Procter and Gamble in the late seventies I believe.  She went in, hair long, sharply dressed, and was told that this wasn’t the place for her.

After waiting the probationary few months to reapply, she cut her hair short, wore all flannel and boots, and got the job.  Needless to say, the men in her department didn’t make it easy for her.  This was a “man’s world” and she would need to adapt, i.e. tolerate their sexually objectifying and sexist jokes.

Dee Dickson’s interview with NPR doesn’t sound a bad as my mother’s, and far better than Josey Aimes’ life in North Country.  It makes me wonder what newly-hired women experience at the shipyards today.

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Don’t feel like reading?  Listen to Dickson’s story here.

StoryCorps At StoryCorps in Biloxi, Miss., Dee Dickson, 59, told the story of how she got her first job at the shipyards.

In 1974, Dee Dickson was separated from her husband and raising two children by herself in Biloxi, Miss. Needing a job, she set her sights on becoming an electrician at a nearby shipyard. But she soon found out that it wasn’t an easy job to land.

“The guy that was interviewing told me I was too little; that I wouldn’t get along with the guys; that they would make life hard for me,” Dickson says.

“He didn’t think I needed to be doing it.”

Eventually, Dickson’s father stepped in to offer his help. His uncle Alf was a superintendent at the docks.

“Finally, at the end of that week, I let my dad take me to see Uncle Alf,” Dickson says.

They talked — and on the next Monday, Dickson reported to work at Ingalls Shipbuilding.

“The guy said, ‘Look, I got the word from the top. I don’t like it, but you’re hired.’ ”

When she went to work on her first ship, Dickson hit another obstacle. As an apprentice, she needed to learn on the job. And to do that, she needed to be paired with a “buddy.”

“But none of the guys would work with me,” Dickson says.

She recalls them telling her, “These are men’s jobs. You’re taking jobs away from men who have families.”

Her answer was simple: “I said, ‘I have a family and no man — and I need money.’ ”

Ingalls had employed women as shipbuilders before — but that was during World War II, when many male workers were serving in the military.

In Dickson’s case, “It took about two weeks before I started proving myself. And the guys were doing better with it. They would work with me.

“I had several guys who told me, ‘You need to slow down — you’re making us look bad,’ ” she says with a laugh. “You know? And I’m like, ‘I’m here to work!’ ”

And her hard work paid off.

“We had to go to school two nights a week. And I was the first apprentice who had ever become supervisor before graduation. And they were mad, because I got a raise. And I got a position they thought was theirs.

“I had a knack for getting stuff done on time, and getting it done right.”

Dickson had that knack, despite not being able to do everything most of her male co-workers could — or, at least, not in the same way.

For instance, she says, “I couldn’t lift an 80-pound transformer. But I found a way to do the same things they were doing. And it kind of made me better than I probably would’ve been if I was a guy.”

Dickson went on to work at the shipyard for a total of five years — her first stint lasted three years, and then she returned for another two after working at a nuclear power plant.

Now retired, Dickson is in the process of becoming a Methodist preacher.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.

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High-tech Rosies! From Sociological Images

by Lisa Wade

Many of us are familiar with the female blue-collar workers that took jobs in factories during World War II. It turns out, however, that women were also employed as mathematicians and computers (that’s “compute-ers”). In this photo, Jean Jennings Bartik and Frances Bilas Spence get ready to present an early computer to military officials in 1946:

Yes, these high-tech Rosie positions were off-limits to non-white women and most likely non-white men.  But, imagine these groups of white female mathematicians who become stay-at-home mothers shortly after the war, teaching their daughters to go to school for home economics or an MRS degree so as to not offend a potential suitor with her intellect. No wonder they were disgruntled and rejected American conformity in the postwar era.

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The Good Men Project

The Good Men Project – a website about men that’s not sexist and heterosexist, for single men and fathers.  Check it out.  Here’s their about:

First, we’re try­ing to make the world a bet­ter place. Seri­ously. In that pur­suit, we give 25 per­cent of our prof­its to orga­ni­za­tions that help at-risk boys.

Sec­ond, we’re try­ing to rede­fine what a men’s mag­a­zine can be. Sure, we write about sports. Yes, we write about sex (although we do it with­out sell­ing sex). But unlike so many other men’s mag­a­zines, we don’t patron­ize or car­i­ca­tur­ize our audi­ence. We try to bring out the best in men, and we do that by pro­duc­ing con­tent that chal­lenges men to think deeply—and to talk about the things they don’t usu­ally talk about.

With a name like the Good Men Project, some folks assume that we’re going to tell men how to be good. This assump­tion has led at least one media critic to sug­gest that we might be a “con­ser­v­a­tive culty thing.” Oth­ers have called us “fem­i­nists” because, we sus­pect, we cel­e­brate, pub­lish, and appear to be very pop­u­lar with women. (Ms. Mag­a­zine said we are “what enlight­ened mas­culin­ity might look like in the 20th century.”)

We sup­pose we are a dif­fi­cult mag­a­zine to cat­e­go­rize, and that’s exactly how we like it. We’re not inter­ested in telling men how they should go about liv­ing their lives, nor are we intent on pro­mot­ing a cer­tain “image” of mas­culin­ity. We’re inter­ested instead in cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity where men (and the women who love us) can talk openly and hon­estly about their lives.

 

And here’s one of the many great articles from the website about Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

Men and the Sexualization of Young Girls by Hugo Schwyzer

Encour­ag­ing princess culture—however innocently—contributes to the sex­u­al­iza­tion of girls. Men can be part of the solu­tion to the ‘princess prob­lem.’

This may sur­prise the read­ers of the Good Men Project Mag­a­zine, but we’re part of a prob­lem: the princess problem.

More and more experts rec­og­nize that “princess cul­ture” does great harm to girls. I don’t know how many GMPM read­ers also read Red­book, but it’s worth check­ing out this story: “Lit­tle Girls Gone Wild: Why Daugh­ters Are Act­ing Too Sexy, Too Soon.” In it, Peggy Oren­stein (the author of the new and impor­tant Cin­derella Ate My Daugh­ter: Dis­patches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Cul­ture), makes the case that a lot of the pre­ma­turely sexy behav­ior and dress we’ve all noticed is actu­ally rooted in some­thing we think is very inno­cent: the world of princesses.

You may balk—what’s sexy about a lit­tle girl in a pink princess cos­tume? But sexy, as it turns out, is not the same thing as sex­u­al­ized. Sex­u­al­iza­tion is not just impos­ing sex­u­al­ity on chil­dren before they’re ready and view­ing girls as sex­ual objects, but also valu­ing a girl for her appear­ance over her other attrib­utes. “Princesses are just a phase,” Oren­stein writes, but they mark a girl’s “first foray into the main­stream cul­ture. … And what was the first thing that cul­ture told her about being a girl? Not that she was com­pe­tent, strong, cre­ative, or smart, but that every lit­tle girl wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.”

This may be true, but how is it our prob­lem as men? Many—maybe even most of you who are read­ing this—don’t have daugh­ters. A lot of you aren’t dads at all. Whether you think lit­tle girls dressed up as Snow White are cute or not, what does the prob­lem Oren­stein describes have to do with you?

Well, for starters almost every man has—or will have—a lit­tle girl in his life. If not a daugh­ter then a niece, a lit­tle cousin, your buddy’s kid, your son’s friend from play­group. And if you care about the well-being of these girls, this issue of princess cul­ture and sex­u­al­iza­tion mat­ters to you. The bad news is, you may be part of the prob­lem; the good news is, you can be part of the solution.

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Thank­fully, most men aren’t sex­u­ally attracted to pre­pu­bes­cent girls. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a very strong response when we see a 6-year-old dressed up as cute as can be. For men, com­pli­ment­ing older girls and women for their looks is often sex­u­ally charged and likely to get you in trou­ble. But as fathers, uncles, and oth­ers notice, lit­tle girls of princess age rarely have the same cau­tion and sus­pi­cion about older men as their older sis­ters. Often trans­par­ent in their eager­ness for atten­tion and val­i­da­tion, they light up at praise. And no com­pli­ment is eas­ier to give than “You’re so pretty.”

Five-year-olds in princess cos­tumes are cute. But the prob­lem is that the com­pli­ments we give as fathers, uncles, and coaches have an impact on the self-esteem of lit­tle girls. As they grow up, they real­ize quickly (cer­tainly by age 8 or 9) that Cin­derella cos­tumes won’t cut it any­more. If they want to sus­tain the same level of atten­tion that they had when they were adorable first-graders, they’re going to need to employ a dif­fer­ent strat­egy: sex­i­ness. And that sex­i­ness gets our atten­tion all over again.

Wait a minute, you’re think­ing. I don’t leer at 10-year-olds in miniskirts. I don’t tell my niece that she’s hot. I wish girls would wait longer to be sexy! How am I part of this problem?

As Oren­stein and oth­ers point out, lit­tle girls take their cues about what is desir­able by look­ing at how boys and men respond to older girls and women. The father who lav­ishes ado­ra­tion on “Daddy’s lit­tle princess” but ogles high school cheer­lead­ers is send­ing his daugh­ter a clear mes­sage. The mes­sage is that the princess phase won’t last much longer, and if you want to grasp and hold adult male atten­tion, you need to be sexy.

This sex­i­ness has very lit­tle to do with sex, and every­thing to do with the crav­ing for val­i­da­tion and atten­tion. While all chil­dren want affir­ma­tion, princess cul­ture teaches lit­tle girls to get that approval through their looks. Lit­tle girls learn quickly what “works” to elicit ado­ra­tion from mom and dad, as well as from teach­ers, uncles, aunts, and other adults. Soon—much too soon—they notice that older girls and women get val­i­da­tion for a par­tic­u­lar kind of dress, a par­tic­u­lar kind of behav­ior. They watch their fathers’ eyes, they fol­low their uncles’ gaze. They lis­ten to what these men they love say when they see “hot” young women on tele­vi­sion or on the street. And they learn how to be from what they hear and see.

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This doesn’t mean that good dads shouldn’t let their daugh­ters dress up as princesses. It doesn’t mean that good dads, good big broth­ers, and good uncles should never, ever tell a lit­tle girl that she looks “cute” or “beau­ti­ful.” It does mean that those good grown men need to make sure that they’re also giv­ing her plenty of com­pli­ments that focus on her other qual­i­ties, like her intel­li­gence, her kind­ness, or her ath­leti­cism. But some­thing else mat­ters just as much: how we look at and talk about other girls and women.

Too many men do every­thing they can to pro­tect adored daugh­ters, nieces, and lit­tle sisters—while mak­ing lit­tle attempt to dis­guise their long­ing for other young women who aren’t all that much older than the child they cher­ish. Girls who are raised to see com­pli­ments as cur­rency quickly learn that if they want to keep their praise flow­ing in, they’ll need to do more to “earn” it. And too often, they learn exactly how to earn it from by lis­ten­ing to the words and fol­low­ing the eyes of the men they love and trust most.

 

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Sex and Sexism and “Skins”

Sex, Sexism, and “Skins” by Mia Fontaine at the Ms. blog

MTV, you’ve come a long way baby.

In six short years you’ve gone from pimpin’ rides to pimpin’ girls, starting with the recent premiere of Skins, a remake of the hit British program by the same name. Immediately labeled “the most dangerous show for teens,” by the Parents Television Counsel and lambasted for gratuitous sex and drug use, what was seen as most controversial was the employment of underage actors. Given that the show includes implied fellatio and sexual assault, simulated masturbation and half-naked teens having sex, MTV potentially violated child-pornography laws.

Without minimizing the above accusations, what shocked me, however–and should shock everyone–was the show’s flagrant and unaddressed sexism. And I’m not talking garden-variety sexism, I’m talking a show that’s glaringly sexist in truly alarming ways.

Episode One, for instance, centers around Tony’s efforts to get his best friend, the virgin Stanley, laid. His brilliant plan? Borderline date rape. In MTV teen lingo, “get some girl ‘recaucusly spliffed. In her confused state she comes to believe how–momentarily of course–you’re [Stanley] attractive and then … she bangs your brains out!” For the lucky girl, Tony’s girlfriend Michelle nominates Cadie, recently released from a psych ward and described on the Skins’ website as “the most dysfunctional girl ever to attend a high school.”

Not that Cadie minds. Using sex like wampum, she accepts the plan for Stanley to, “dope me into outer space and then bang my brains out.” Is it me, or does this smack of prostitution? Sleeping with someone for drugs cuts the cash out of the equation but not the principle. And if Cadie plays the prostitute, Tony and Michelle play her pimps. Worse, because Michelle is another girl, MTV promotes sexism by all genders. By treating Cadie in a stereotypically male way–a sex object–the message is sent to girls to objectify other girls for male gratification.

Perhaps Michelle’s willingness to devalue Cadie as a human being shouldn’t surprise us, given her utter subservience to Tony. Despite his belittling nicknaming for her–Nips, because of her “funny nipples”–she continues to see him, and when she does weakly protest the name he patronizingly tells her to “get used to it kid.” As if someone appointed him both nipple expert and sage, able to predict a lifetime of nipple shame. Forget worrying over breast size: Now girls are being taught to scrutinize their nipples as well. (It’s worth noting that the Skins website describes Michelle as gorgeous and clever. Note to self: MTV defines clever as someone who sleeps with a partner who continuously degrades her).

Another example of the show commodifying young women and encouraging them to use sex to curry favors comes in the second episode, in which the character Tea is asked by her father to go on a date with the son of a prospective business partner.

What is this, the Middle Ages? Aren’t we beyond children-as-chattel eras in which daughters do their father’s bidding? True, he asks her twice if she’s comfortable with it, and reminds her she doesn’t have to fool around with the boy (albeit saying “have to” implies the possibility for it). Nonetheless, he tells her not to mention the date to her mother, possibly because Mom would have found it problematic that he used their daughter like a pawn to facilitate a business transaction.

I doubt many people took note of this, however, because Tea’s father is the only remotely sympathetic parent on the show. Tony and Stanley’s fathers are crass and irate, and the show’s mothers, aside from serving food and babysitting, are without real roles or voices. Had Tea’s father been a jerk, his request might have raised eyebrows; instead, his affability disguised the fact that, like Cadie being used for Stanley’s sexual gain, Tea was used for Daddy’s professional gain.

If MTV’s looking for edgy, edgy can be done responsibly and respectably. Pierced, tattooed and chain-smoking, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander is as edgy and sexual as they come, yet she’s subservient to no one and stands up for her beliefs. Given Lisbeth’s propensity for justice, I’d love to see what she’d do to the brains behind a show like Skins.

If you want to see this show, be quick about it: Skins might not be around for long. The New York Post reported that it’s in danger of cancellation because of low ratings and fleeing advertisers. I just hope the fleeing viewers are as disturbed about the sexism as the underage sex.

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Dude, You’re A Fag: Compulsory Heterosexuality in the Making of Masculinity

This was taken from a paper submitted in my Sociology of Gender class.  Hope it breeds some interesting discussions!  Check out this fantastic article by Michael Kimmel, sociologist and historian of masculinity, for his analysis of the recent gay suicides.

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Zach Harrington

On October 10, 2010, National Coming Out Day, another homosexual teenager, Zach Harrington, took his life after a night of repeated bullying.  Harrington’s tragic death is part of a larger trend of recently publicized homosexual teen suicides as the result of bullying.  Publicity surrounding their deaths has helped spread awareness about the issue of violence in schools and has given hope to thousands of homosexual teenagers through such aid organizations as the It Gets Better Project and The Trevor Project.

News articles and websites repeat their names and stories: Justin Aeberg, Billy Lucas, Cody Barker, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi…yet, despite the obvious pattern of predominantly male aggressors and victims, discussions have focused on homophobia as the root of the attacks.

By examining the homophobic harassment these young men endured at t

he hands of mostly white heterosexual men, it becomes apparent that heterosexuality, masculinity, and power are linked.  The use of homophobic epithets, physical violence, and sexist remarks by white heterosexual boys serve as a form of gender policing to reinforce masculine dominance.

While the main goal of these projects is to prevent suicidal teenagers from taking their lives, dialogue about their harassment has revealed how commonplace homophobic bullying actually is.  After spending a year at a California high school, C. J. Pascoe, in her book Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School argues that in using such homophobic epithets as “gay” and “fag” towards other heterosexual males, straight boys “repudiate the specter of failed masculinity” and reinforce their masculinity and power over other men, homosexuals, and women.

By interviewing male and female students, along with teachers and school officials, Pascoe shows how this process of masculinity is not only harmful to homosexuals, but all members of the social order, as it prevents the development of multiple masculinities, genders, and sexualities.

Although these hypermasculine actions have been identified as virulent homophobia or dismissed as “boys being boys,” Pascoe’s work reveals how institutions are integral in influencing young adults to embrace these traditional gender norms and heterosexism, as this praxis of masculinity is reinforced through school rituals, pedagogy, discipline, and the ignorance of the damaging effects of bullying.

Chapter 3: Adolescent Male Homophobia

In this chapter Pascoe shows how the fag trope is used as a temporary identity to police heterosexual masculinity.

Its fluidity is powerful enough that boys police their behaviors “out of fear of having the fag identity permanently adhere and definitive enough so that boys recognize a fag behavior and strive to avoid it” (Pascoe 54).  Students responses to the use of “fag” clearly demonstrate the performance and accomplishment of gender, as boys “performed” male effimancy for laughs but quickly reinforced their own “correct” masculinity (Pascoe 61).

When called a fag, a boy immediately thrust the fag “hot potato” onto another boy to reaffirm his own masculinity.  Pascoe states that “gay” is gender-neutral and regularly deployed by both girls and boys against both people and inanimate objects.  The use of “fag,” on the other hand, demonstrates a gendered homophobia which equates effeminacy with powerlessness.

Racialized Contexts of “Fagness”

Although male students were quick to define faggotry and label others as faggots, Pascoe reveals how its definition was racially-specific depending on its context.  According to white boys, “fags cared about the style of their clothes, wore tighter clothes, cared about cleanliness,” and danced (Pascoe 60-61).

Although African American boys privileged stylistic dress and were renowned for their excellent dance skills, the fag epithet did not apply to them.  Pascoe interestingly compares the treatment of the openly white, gay dancer Ricky to the African American dancer K. J.  While both were very talented and both carefully crafted their dancing outfits, K. J. was lauded by the crowd for his obvious connection to hip hop, while Ricky was ostracized for his “faggness” (Pascoe 76).

Pascoe insightfully notes, “Precisely because African American men are so hypersexualized in the United States, white men are, by default, feminized, so white was a stand-in for fag among many of the African American boys at River High” (Pascoe 71).  Despite blacks’ limited use of the term “fag,” Pascoe states that African American boys were punished more frequently for engaging in fag discourse (Pascoe 76).

Chapter 4: Compulsive Heterosexuality

Pascoe argues that when boys sexually objectify, sexualize, or simply flirt with girls, they are reinforcing their own heterosexuality and protecting themselves from the fag hot potato.

By discussing how they could manipulate girls’ bodies, to “break their walls,” make them fart, orgasm, or defecate, as well as their actual physical manipulation of girls bodies through teasing or flirting, boys demonstrated dominance over the world around them (Pascoe 86).  These stories bolstered gender stereotypes of women’s bodies as out of control and reinforced men’s objectification and master over women.

Conclusion

More than ever, Dude, You’re a Fag proves deeply relevant to our current dialogue of homophobic bullying and the resulting teen suicides.  Less than two weeks before Harrington committed suicide he had spoken at a public hearing to declare October his city’s gay history month.

Although Harrington imagined more acceptance from the hearing’s adult attendees after years of being bullied by young boys, the council meeting quickly became “a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.”[4] Nikki, Zach’s older sister who also attended the meeting, stated:

“‘When we talk about our feelings in a hypothetical way and we send our toxic thoughts out in a public setting that way, they will affect people in a negative way…People need to think about the things they are saying and ask themselves, ‘Is this right?’”[5]

Harrington’s case reveals the ultimate consequences of allowing such heteronormative and sexist performances of masculinity to continue in high school—after receiving years of positive feedback from other males and having their sexism and homophobia ignored or reinforced by school officials, young continue this toxic cycle of masculinity on into adulthood.

**If you have an encouraging message you would like to share with teenagers via the It Gets Better Project, click here.**

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The Harms of Reebok’s Butt-toning Shoes

**This post picks on Reebok not because they sexually objectify women less than Nike in their ads or because Sketchers didn’t market butt-toning shoes first, but because Reebok currently making a killllliiinnnggg on these shoes.  We’re talking billions.**

Ever since I saw the first advertisement for Reebok’s butt-toning shoes on tv I was so angry for several reasons.

1) These shoes take advantage of women with poor self esteem, or women that feel guilty for not having time to work out, who think that wearing shoes can work out your butt.  Face it – Reebok hires women with already great butts and legs to model these shoes.  Even Nike admits that the health benefits Reebok promises are unfounded and a just “quick fix” solution.

Note: "The shoes work if you do."

Reebok states: “Discover a 28% more of a workout for your butt, up to 11% more of your hamstrings and calves. So 88% of men will be speechless, 76% of women will be jealous, and 0% will know the real reason is all in your feet.” 28% more of a workout than what?  Wearing normal tennis shoes?

How does the shoe even “work” at all?  Two balance pods under the heel and forefoot create instability when the wearer walks, forcing the muscles to work harder.  This is the same instability you would experience when walking in high heels.  In fact, some sources say that these shoes can actually do more harm than good.

Natural Bias says that Reebok Easytones prioritize appearance over optimal function:

Although unstable surfaces can be beneficial for rehabilitation and injury prevention, this doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea to be regularly walking on “balance pods” that are embedded in rigid soles.

Furthermore, the toes provide support and neuromuscular feedback which is important for balance and is likely to play a role in promoting proper walking mechanics. It seems that the “balance pods” in Reebok’s EasyTone sneakers would reduce toe function even more so than a normal sneaker.

Another concern is that the slight instability created by the EasyTone sneakers likely makes them inappropriate for certain activities, especially sports. Any activity that demands additional strength, balance, and agility, which can be something as simple as running on a bumpy sidewalk to catch a bus, will increase the need for stability.

Because Reebok’s EasyTone sneakers are intentionally designed create slight instability, they oppose this need and can potentially increase the risk of injury in such situations. Although most people might consider this to be a matter of common sense, I’m sure there are some who would assume that the EasyTone sneakers are safe to use for any activity that regular sneakers could be used for.

2) The ads used to sell these shoes sexually objectify women.  In nearly all of the ads women’s asses become the defining characteristic of women’s bodies.  Literally, women are a sum of their parts, and most of the time their faces aren’t even shown (as in the ads above and below).

Here’s one of Reebok’s ads which characterizes boobs as bickering women competing for male attention.  Kjerstin Johnson for Bitch Magazine also points out that their advertisements assume a heterosexual audience as noted by Reebok’s own percentages and their advertisements which refer to men’s attraction.

These ads also sexualize women with full-on nudity.  Keep in mind – shoes can’t make you beautiful.  But Photoshop, great lighting, self esteem, and good genes can!  And most assuredly, no shoes can make you curvy or give you beautiful breasts.

Kelly Brook in front of her own Reebok Easytone billboard.

Helena Christensen selling sex, not shoes.

Women!  Are we buying sex, self esteem, or shoes?  Can’t we work out to be powerful?  To be healthy?  Do we need sports bras that accent our workout shorts and waterproof makeup for the gym?  (The answer’s no.)

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Ms. Magazine’s “No Comment” and Jean Kielborne’s “Killing Us Softly”

Every year since Ms. Magazine hit newsstands as part of the roaring Women’s Liberation Movement in 1972, the magazine has always included a “No Comment” section on its last page.  This page featured advertisements, submitted by readers, that were insulting or degrading to women, but always in the vein of political or social action.  Ms. Magazine: “Some make us roll our eyes. Others inspire us to write letters or to boycott products.”

And you know what?  Ads over the past forty years haven’t gotten all that better.  For example, here’s a classy product for suitcase stickers from July 2010:

Here’s what Stephanie Hallett from the Ms. Magazine blog had to say about this:

Identifying your ubiquitous black suitcase on a baggage carousel can be challenging, it’s true. But is it really challenging enough to warrant this violent suitcase sticker from thecheeky.com? We think not. Canadian entrepreneur Colin Hart, who runs thecheeky.com, said the stickers are meant to personalize and spice up your travel bags. His collection of large stickers features old leather luggage torn open to reveal illicit contents. What’s “inside” the bags? Stacks of cash, bags of cocaine, sex toys–and a bound-and-gagged flight attendant.

Jean Kielborne in her film series “Killing Us Softly” (now in it’s fourth edition) provides an in-depth examination of the sexual objectification and degradation of women in advertisements.  Watch a snippet from her latest, “Killing Us Softly 4” below:

So what do we do with this?  Get involved!  One privilege of living in a capitalistic consumer-driven country is the power to put our money where our mouth is.  You can submit your images to Ms. Magazine via letterstotheeditor@msmagazine.com, join this Flickr “No Comment” group or start one in another online community.  Check out some of the “No Comment” archives for inspiration here.

I’ll begin with Urban Outfitters.  Can their models get any younger or any skinnier?  Or paler?

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Where are the butch intellectuals?

Adrienne ‘AJ’ Davis illuminates the intersectionality of gender, sexual orientation, and class in butch stereotypes.  The limiting perceptions that butch women only mimic ‘real’ non-emotional, hard-working men reveals our continual struggles with sexism and classism.

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Re-post from The Scavenger.

Predominant stereotypes of butch women are that we work with our hands, have callouses, and wear steel-toe boots. But there’s an image of butchness that is rarely seen or even recognized: the butch intellectual, writes Adrienne ‘Aj’ Davis.

It took me a long time to decide what to say about being a black butch woman. A great deal has already been said, rivers of ink have flowed and countless electrons sent whizzing around the internet, in the name of defining and illustrating what it is to be butch.

However, there’s an image of butchness that is rarely seen or even recognized: What of the butch intellectual?

The TV host, Rachel Maddow, is really the first acknowledged butch intellectual I’ve ever seen. Leslie Feinberg, whatever other appellations might crown her [sic] in glory, isn’t referred to as an intellectual.

Butches are known to be many things; we all carry an image of a butch in all her glory but among those images, I’d wager that very few of them are of a woman sitting at a desk eagerly figuring out some arcana of Linux or Apple Script or lying on a couch, some copious tome on evolutionary biology or string theory in her hands. Yet, we do exist.

I know we do because I am one.

(A quick note on pronouns: I am a woman-identified butch and so will use the pronouns I feel comfortable with. These should not be taken as any commentary on how others identify).

I am black, I am butch, and I am an intellectual. I use the latter term in the classical sense of one who lives for the life of the mind and for ideas. I am happiest when I am either reading something that makes my brain hurt or engaging in a fast-paced discussion about politics or some arcane subject.

It took me a long time – over a decade – to become truly comfortable with this fact about myself. In part this is because there were (and still are) precious few depictions of butch intellectuals in lesbian literature or film.

We work with our hands, we shower after work, we have callouses and steel-toe boots. What we don’t have are jobs where we sit and do mental work all day. For some odd reason, that is supposed to be the province of femmes.

Yet, here I sit, at a desk where I don’t ever touch anything other than my keyboard and mouse. My tools are all electronic. The muscles I use are mostly in my head and hands. That I am a black butch means that I am even more of a strange attractor.

Regardless of what we might think of it, much of being ‘butch’ gets framed within the context of embracing masculinity.

Unfortunately for some of us, this embrace comes along with the baggage ‘real men’ aren’t thinkers. For whatever reasons, we have internalized the idea that to be a ‘real butch’ means that one is a body-person not a head-person.

Yet, here is something we embrace for no good reason that I see. Since we butches already transgress gender rules, we have purchased the freedom to embrace or reject whatever typical gender traits we wish. Why, then, should we reject one of the more pernicious myths of masculinity – namely that to be strong is to be a doer not a thinker.

Now, some of this is obviously class-based and, of course, class is a mine-field at least as fraught with peril as race.

I am not working-class nor do I come from a working-class background. The times I have been poor in my life, it has been because of youth or bad decision-making, not because it was the way I grew up.

The image of butchness that most lesbians would recognize as such is working-class. One could make a fair argument that being an intellectual or an academic is a luxury for the middle-class and that’s okay as far as it goes.

However, the truth of the statement does not change, in any substantive way, that middle-class butches do exist. We are doctors, professors, lawyers, accountants and so on. I cannot make an even half-decent approximation of a working-class butch and I would not insult my sisters and brothers who genuinely are from the working class by trying to appropriate something that does not belong to me.

This leaves me with the task of being my own role model, carving out my own space. That task can be difficult and frustrating at times but I have also experienced it as liberating.

The frustration has come from the friction of other lesbians’ expectations of me as a black butch and my own; I am not supposed to be from where I am from, not supposed to love the things I do nor am I supposed to aspire to be a black, butch, Carl Sagan.

Yet, here I am, with a background that I not only cannot change but wouldn’t change. Here I stand, wanting to fill the void left when Sagan shuffled off this mortal coil.

In writing this, I am reminded of Sojourner Truth’s speech ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ In closing, and with apologies to the sister’s memory, my question isn’t ‘Ain’t I a woman?. Bathroom incidents notwithstanding, that question is settled.

Rather, the question is ‘Ain’t I a butch?’

Ain’t I a butch? I can get out there and work with the best of them. Work myself until my bones hurt. Yet, in my work-a-day life all of my heavy lifting is done with my brain. My hands are for typing or gesturing or fidgeting while I digest the contours of whatever knotty problem I am hacking on. Ain’t I a butch?

I can put on my butch cock and give my lady exactly what she needs to sing for me. Yet I don’t identify as a guy, a Daddy, or a fella. Ain’t I a butch?

My cycle is pedal powered, not motorized. Ain’t I a butch?

You’re more likely to find me in the library than on the softball field. Ain’t I a butch?

I cry whenever I see The Color Purple and it gets to the point where Shug reconciles with her father. I weep during that scene. Ain’t I a butch?

I live for the life of the mind. Ain’t I a butch?

I’m as comfortable in a Brooks Brothers suit as I am in jeans and a tee-shirt. Ain’t I a butch?

Adrienne ‘Aj’ Davis is a middle-aged, African-American butch living in the great Pacific Northwest. In her two decades out of the closet, she has been an HIV/AIDS educator, a science reporter, a system administrator and a technology educator. She is now pursuing a degree in bioinformatics/computational biology with aspirations of a life spent in academia.
Davis is the co-chair and board member of the Butch Voices conference held annually in the US. Regional conferences will be held in New York (25 September), Portland, Oregon (2 October), and Los Angeles (8-10 October). Visit the website for details or check them out on Facebook.

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