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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Knowing cultural view of virginity, Chinese women try surgical restoration

Having just been to China and spent numerous hours discussing transnational gender issues, I found this article fascinating.  For Chinese women these unrealistic expectations of virginity are a real problem, and result in Lolita-like fashions, baby-doll pornography and a booming child sex-trafficking trade.  This also trickles down into personal relationships as women are prevented from feeling sexually liberated due to the double standard.

As much as I would like to agree with Zhou Hong, the doctor performing these surgical restorations, in saying that this is a liberating act, these surgeries avoid the consciousness raising that could come from direct communication.  Read about the stir this caused in Egpt, here.

We could also learn something here, Americans, that virginity before marriage isn’t all that important and it’s far from immoral.  But safety first!

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By Keith B. Richburg in Beijing, The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 17, 2010; A06

China has long been known as the land of fakes — Rolexes, DVDs, handbags and designer clothes.

Add a new one to the list: fake virgins.

A growing number of Chinese women — mostly in their 20s and about to get married — are opting for a surgical procedure called “hymen restoration,” which returns the hymen to its condition before it was ruptured, which typically occurs during first sexual contact but can also happen while playing sports or doing other strenuous activities.

Even as China has flung open its doors to the West and modernized, a deeply conservative and chauvinistic attitude persists. Many men, including white-collar professionals, say they want to marry a virgin. And increasingly liberated Chinese women have found a way to oblige them.

“We can fix it so everything is perfect, so the men can believe they are marrying virgins,” said Zhou Hong, a physician and director of gynecology at the Beijing Wuzhou Women’s Hospital. “We don’t advertise it; we don’t publicize it.”

Zhou, 44, said most of her patients are sexually active young women who are about to marry and have told their future husbands they are virgins. She said a smaller number want to forget a bad relationship and “start over,” and a few have been victims of rape.

Zhou is one of many Chinese doctors performing the procedure, which is also done in other countries. She said she restores as many as 20 hymens a month, and the number is increasing. For as little as 5,000 renminbi, or about $737, for a 20-to-30-minute procedure, Zhou is giving women a second chance at having a first time.

Does she worry that she is encouraging people to start their marriages with a lie? “It’s just a white lie,” Zhou said. And she blames men for having unrealistic expectations.

“I don’t agree with this value” placed on virginity, Zhou said. “It’s unfair to the women. The men are not virgins. But we can’t change this male-privileged society.”

The surgery, known as hymenoplasty, has been around for years, although it is considered rare and is illegal in some countries. It is performed primarily in Muslim countries, where the traditionalists place a high value on a woman’s virginity. It also has become common in France among French Muslims, usually for young women about to enter a traditional marriage. There are no statistics available in China on how often the surgery is performed. But sociologists and other experts, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggest it has gained in popularity.

For women who do not want to have surgery, a cheaper, faster path to “revirgination” is available in most sex novelty shops: a Chinese-made artificial hymen that purports to create a physical sensation for the man and emit fake blood when ruptured.

Good luck trying to buy a kit online! I was going to post a link for everyone but they're all but imaginary.

A 25-year-old woman from Guiyang recently bought several online, intending to resell them to young women in her circle. Some of her friends, she said, were worried that their boyfriends might leave if the truth about their virginity was known.

“It’s really worthless for couples to break up over this small issue,” said the woman, who asked not to be quoted by name.

Some sociologists and others have criticized the virginity obsession as emblematic of a male-dominated society in which women are viewed as sex objects. And they are equally critical of women undergoing potentially dangerous or painful medical procedures to conform.

“I think it is really stupid for women to do this kind of surgery and buying fake hymens,” said Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the country’s preeminent sexologist. “It’s self-deception.”

The virginity topic has surfaced in recent newspaper columns and Internet debates. Several men posting comments on a popular Web site blamed women for what they called modern women’s materialism when seeking a mate.

“Women demand men have houses and cars, why can’t men demand women be virgins?” asked one man on the Tianya site. “So, greedy women, remember, you have to protect your hymens, because those are big dowries for you to exchange for money.”

Some men who were interviewed agreed about the importance of finding a virgin. “I really care about virginity,” said Xia Yang, product manager for a technology company. “If you go to buy a cellphone, of course you’d want to buy a new cellphone. Who would spend the same amount of money to buy an old cellphone that’s been used for two years?”

The virginity debate also underscores a contradiction in modern China: As the nation becomes more freewheeling, there remains a deeply conservative core.

“Since the reforms began 30 years ago, sexual relations in China are actually quite chaotic,” said Chen Lan, a novelist and social commentator. “One-night stands, extramarital affairs, prostitution. . . . All this means Chinese women have more frequent sexual activity, and at a younger and younger age. And this makes men feel women’s bodies are not as clean as before. In these circumstances, men care even more about a woman’s virginity.”

Zhou, the gynecologist, is unruffled by the controversy.

She said that she hears from satisfied clients after they are married, women who text-message her to say that the wedding night was a success.

“That’s the happiest thing for us,” she said.

Researcher Liu Liu in Beijing contributed to this report.

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The End of Men – The Atlantic

Men in ancient Greece tied off their left testicle in an effort to produce male heirs; women have killed themselves (or been killed) for failing to bear sons.

That’s messed up, right?

In this article, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin states that gender inequality is changing at rapid speeds in America (this tune would sound a lot differently in China): Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. More than ever before parents want girls.  Is the modern postindustrial economy simply more congenial to women?

Over the course of this incredibly wonderful, long-ass, thought-provoking article, Rosin shows, through the workforce, economy, and education, how the virile macho man is becoming obsolete.  Here is the final portion of her essay, on how this shift is being reflected in pop culture, although I encourage you to take 20 minutes and absorb the entire piece.  Do it.  It’s fascinating.

__________________________________________

“The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin,  The Atlantic

American pop culture keeps producing endless variations on the omega male, who ranks even below the beta in the wolf pack. This often-unemployed, romantically challenged loser can show up as a perpetual adolescent (in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin), or a charmless misanthrope (in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg), or a happy couch potato (in a Bud Light commercial). He can be sweet, bitter, nostalgic, or cynical, but he cannot figure out how to be a man. “We call each other ‘man,’” says Ben Stiller’s character in Greenberg, “but it’s a joke. It’s like imitating other people.” The American male novelist, meanwhile, has lost his mojo and entirely given up on sex as a way for his characters to assert macho dominance, Katie Roiphe explains in her essay “The Naked and the Conflicted.” Instead, she writes, “the current sexual style is more childlike; innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex.”

At the same time, a new kind of alpha female has appeared, stirring up anxiety and, occasionally, fear. The cougar trope started out as a joke about desperate older women. Now it’s gone mainstream, even in Hollywood, home to the 50-something producer with a starlet on his arm. Susan Sarandon and Demi Moore have boy toys, and Aaron Johnson, the 19-year-old star of Kick-Ass, is a proud boy toy for a woman 24 years his senior. The New York Times columnist Gail Collins recently wrote that the cougar phenomenon is beginning to look like it’s not about desperate women at all but about “desperate young American men who are latching on to an older woman who’s a good earner.” Up in the Air, a movie set against the backdrop of recession-era layoffs, hammers home its point about the shattered ego of the American man. A character played by George Clooney is called too old to be attractive by his younger female colleague and is later rejected by an older woman whom he falls in love with after she sleeps with him—and who turns out to be married. George Clooney! If the sexiest man alive can get twice rejected (and sexually played) in a movie, what hope is there for anyone else? The message to American men is summarized by the title of a recent offering from the romantic-comedy mill: She’s Out of My League.

In fact, the more women dominate, the more they behave, fittingly, like the dominant sex. Rates of violence committed by middle-aged women have skyrocketed since the 1980s, and no one knows why. High-profile female killers have been showing up regularly in the news: Amy Bishop, the homicidal Alabama professor; Jihad Jane and her sidekick, Jihad Jamie; the latest generation of Black Widows, responsible for suicide bombings in Russia. In Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, the traditional political wife is rewritten as a cold-blooded killer at the heart of an evil conspiracy. In her recent video Telephone, Lady Gaga, with her infallible radar for the cultural edge, rewrites Thelma and Louise as a story not about elusive female empowerment but about sheer, ruthless power. Instead of killing themselves, she and her girlfriend (played by Beyoncé) kill a bad boyfriend and random others in a homicidal spree and then escape in their yellow pickup truck, Gaga bragging, “We did it, Honey B.”

The Marlboro Man, meanwhile, master of wild beast and wild country, seems too far-fetched and preposterous even for advertising. His modern equivalents are the stunted men in the Dodge Charger ad that ran during this year’s Super Bowl in February. Of all the days in the year, one might think, Super Bowl Sunday should be the one most dedicated to the cinematic celebration of macho. The men in Super Bowl ads should be throwing balls and racing motorcycles and doing whatever it is men imagine they could do all day if only women were not around to restrain them.

Instead, four men stare into the camera, unsmiling, not moving except for tiny blinks and sways. They look like they’ve been tranquilized, like they can barely hold themselves up against the breeze. Their lips do not move, but a voice-over explains their predicament—how they’ve been beaten silent by the demands of tedious employers and enviro-fascists and women. Especially women. “I will put the seat down, I will separate the recycling, I will carry your lip balm.” This last one—lip balm—is expressed with the mildest spit of emotion, the only hint of the suppressed rage against the dominatrix. Then the commercial abruptly cuts to the fantasy, a Dodge Charger vrooming toward the camera punctuated by bold all caps: MAN’S LAST STAND. But the motto is unconvincing. After that display of muteness and passivity, you can only imagine a woman—one with shiny lips—steering the beast.

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Women of The Daily Show

I recently shared an article from Jezebel.com on The Daily Show‘s Woman Problem.  Author Irin Carmon had interviewed past female Daily Show workers who felt they and many other women at the show had been treated unfairly due to their gender.

Click to see the press release on The Daily Show website.

I was so glad to hear that the women of The Daily Show responded for themselves about these allegations of sexism.  Here is the following statement they released; you can find it at The Daily Show website here.

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A partial list of things Jon has supported us through
  • 9/11
  • Anthrax
  • The writers’ strike
  • Blackout
  • Death
  • Marriages
  • Divorces
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Family emergencies
  • Babies
  • Office food poisoning
  • Staff restructuring
  • Pet emergencies
  • The re-election of George Bush
  • Inadequately researched blog posts that cling to a predetermined narrative about sexism at The Daily Show

Dear People Who Don’t Work Here,

Recently, certain media outlets have attempted to tell us what it’s like to be a woman at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We must admit it is entertaining to be the subjects of such a vivid and dramatic narrative. However, while rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make something very clear: the place you may have read about is not our office.

The Daily Show isn’t a place where women quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary: just like the men here, we’re indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show’s creative content and the fact is, it wouldn’t be the show that you love without us.

So, who are the women of The Daily Show?

If you think the only women who help create this show are a couple of female writers and correspondents, you’re dismissing the vast majority of us. Actually, we make up 40% of the staff, and we’re not all shoved into the party-planning department (although we do run that, and we throw some kick-ass parties). We are co-executive producers, supervising producers, senior producers, segment producers, coordinating field producers, associate producers, editors, writers, correspondents, talent coordinators, production coordinators, researchers, makeup artists, the entire accounting and audience departments, production assistants, crew members, and much more. We were each hired because of our creative ability, our intelligence, and above all, our ability to work our asses off to make a great show.

Is it hard to work at The Daily Show?

Absolutely. When it comes to what makes it onto the show, competing ideas aren’t just hashed out between the faces you see on camera or the names that roll under the “writers” credits. Jokes and concepts come from our studio department, our field department, our graphics department, our production department, our intern department, and our control room. Jon’s rule is: the strongest idea and the funniest joke win every single time, no matter who pitches it–woman or man, executive producer or production assistant. And of course none of these jokes and ideas would get to air without the layers of production talent working behind the scenes. The fairness of our workplace makes competition tough and makes the show better.

So if it’s so challenging, why have we stayed for two, five, ten, fourteen years? Because it’s challenging. We feel lucky to work in a meritocracy where someone with talent can join us as an intern and work her way up to wherever her strengths take her. But also because it’s an environment that supports our being more than just our jobs. The Daily Show (to an extent few of us have seen elsewhere) allows us the flexibility to care for our families, pursue our own projects, cope with unexpected crises, and have lives outside the show.

Also… are you kidding? It’s The Daily Show for Christ’s sake. You ask some stupid questions, imaginary interlocutor.

What’s Jon Stewart really like?

Jon’s not just a guy in a suit reading a prompter. His voice and vision shape every aspect of the show from concept to execution. The idea that he would risk compromising his show’s quality by hiring or firing someone based on anything but ability, or by booking guests based on anything but subject matter, is simply ludicrous.

But what’s he really like? Well, for a sexist prick, he can be quite charming. He’s also generous, humble, genuine, compassionate, fair, supportive, exacting, stubborn, goofy, hands-on, driven, occasionally infuriating, ethical, down-to-earth and–a lot of people don’t know this–surprisingly funny (for a guy brimming with “joyless rage”). How else to describe him? What’s the word that means the opposite of sexist? That one.

In any organization, the tone is set from the top. Since taking over the show, Jon has worked hard to create an environment where people feel respected and valued regardless of their gender or position. If that’s not your scene, you probably wouldn’t like it here. We happen to love it.

And so…

And so, while it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to Jon, it’s not fair to our wonderful male colleagues, and it’s especially not fair to the young women who want to have a career in comedy but are scared they may get swallowed up in what people label as a “boy’s club.”

The truth is, when it comes down to it, The Daily Show isn’t a boy’s club or a girl’s club, it’s a family – a highly functioning if sometimes dysfunctional family. And we’re not thinking about how to maximize our gender roles in the workplace on a daily basis. We’re thinking about how to punch up a joke about Glenn Beck’s latest diatribe, where to find a Michael Steele puppet on an hour’s notice, which chocolate looks most like an oil spill, and how to get a gospel choir to sing the immortal words, “Go f@#k yourself!”

Love,

Teri Abrams-Maidenberg, Department Supervisor, 11 years

Jill Baum, Writers’ Assistant, 4 years

Samantha Bee, Correspondent, 7 years

Alison Camillo, Coordinating Field Producer, 12 years

Vilma Cardenas, Production Accountant, 14 years

Lauren Cohen, Production Assistant, 1 year

Jocelyn Conn, Executive Assistant, 4 years

Kahane Cooperman, Co-Executive Producer, 14 years

Pam DePace, Line Producer, 14 years

Tonya Dreher, Avid Editor, 4 years

Kristen Everman, Production Assistant, 2 years

Christy Fiero, Production Controller, 13 years

Jen Flanz, Supervising Producer, 13 years

Hallie Haglund, Writer, 5 years

Kira Hopf, Senior Producer, 14 years

Jenna Jones, Production Assistant, 2 years

Jessie Kanevsky, Department Coordinator, 5 years

Jill Katz, Producer/Executive in Charge of Production, 4 years

Hillary Kun, Supervising Producer, 9 years

Christina Kyriazis, TelePrompter Operator, 14 years

Jo Miller, Writer, 1 year

Jody Morlock, Hair & Make-Up Artist, 14 years

Olivia Munn, Correspondent, 1 month

Lauren Sarver, Associate Segment Producer, 5 years

Kristen Schaal, Correspondent, 2 years

April Smith, Utility, 14 years

Patty Ido Smith, Electronic Graphics, 12 years

Sara Taksler, Segment Producer, 5 years

Elise Terrell, Production Coordinator, 6 years

Adriane Truex, Facility Manager, 12 years

Juliet Werner, Researcher, 1 year

Kaela Wohl, Wardrobe Stylist/Costumer, 2 years

PS. Thanks for the list of funny women. Our Nanas send us a ton of suggestions about “what would make a great skit for The John Daley Show.” We’ll file it right next to those.

PPS. Thanks to the male writers who penned this for us.

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