Feminine and Masculine Ideals of Venus Embrace

Every once in a while, if I find the time, I’ll flip through a Seventeen magazine to relax and see what’s new in the world of fashion and pop culture. The last time I did this I stumbled upon an advertisement for Venus Embrace razors that caught my attention. It displays a man and a woman in an embrace with the phrase, “Goddess of he’s mine”. This ad caught my attention because the people seemed very happy and simply loving their life, but also fairly sexualized. I chose this advertisement to analyze because it strongly reinforces the “typical” male and female roles and portrays them as something that is desirable to the readers of Seventeen magazines. However, I believe that the advertisement has aspects an inflected oppositional reading. The three main ways in which it does this is by reinforcing masculine hegemony along with the ideals of masculinity and femininity; reinforcing the stereotypical roles for men and women to follow; yet, the ad communicates a conflicting message about power between the characters. It conveys these messages through appearance of the characters, the behaviours of the characters, and finally the character position and “slogan” of the advertisement.

One important part of this ad to look at is the support of masculine hegemony and feminine ideals, through the appearance of the characters. The characters of the male and female are explicitly shown as models that the audience should be like, and the anti-models are implied to be the opposite of the presented characters. The woman is seen as a model because she is thin, pretty, happy, and very feminine. The man is seen as masculine, fit and handsome; he emphasizes masculine hegemony because he is a heterosexual male who fits into a specific category of masculinity. Furthermore, the feminine ideals are displayed through the woman’s little pink bikini, smooth legs, and pretty hairstyle. These ideals being reinforced isn’t good because they teach the audience of the ad (typically women ages 13-20) that all of these qualities are what you need to be happy in a relationship, like the people in this advertisement.

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Another aspect of the advertisement to consider is the portrayal of male and female roles through the behaviours of the characters. For example, the man staring at the woman’s legs is an instance of “male gaze” because he sees her as a sexual object to be stared at. This is especially detrimental to women since most of the viewers of this ad are women, who are supposed to identify with the female character. If they do this, they may see it as okay for men to appreciate them solely based on their physical attributes and their beauty.

Finally, the part of this advertisement that encourages me to categorize it as an inflected oppositional reading is the conflicting message that it sends about patriarchy and power within the relationship. It seems as though the woman is in power because she has “claimed” her man; this can be seen in the slogan “Goddess of he’s mine” displayed beside the couple, and the way that the woman is embracing the man. Both of these things contribute to the woman’s empowerment because, the possessive quality of the slogan leads the audience to believe that she has power over the man, and the embrace does the same, since the woman is in control in their positioning. Nonetheless, this is a mere bending of patriarchy because it appears that the woman only got her power through being attractive and being something that the man wanted. If she was less desirable to the man, she would likely not be in power. This is a negative message to women as it shows beauty as a necessity to gain power, which is not the case.

It is beneficial to think critically about these types of advertisements in order to question the messages that magazines are sending to young readers, specifically female readers. These messages of beauty and strict feminine and masculine roles are fairly dominant throughout Seventeen magazines, and it makes me wonder, is this really what the media should be teaching young women?

Images courtesy of Seventeen magazine.

Misogyny disguised as Female Empowerment – A Gleeful Analysis by Jessica S.

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Every episode of Glee has a theme; and in one of their most recent episodes, Sadie Hawkins, the theme is female empowerment. The episode starts off with Tina, a glee club member, complaining to the “Too Young to be Bitter Club”, a group of girls who complain about being treated unequally, but the name in itself is degrading. She questions “Why are the guys so empowered to ask us to a dance, when we just have to sit around and wait, wouldn’t it be great if we got to choose?” She then proceeds to organize a Sadie Hawkins dance, where the girls can ask the guys. The main hegemony of the episode is introduced, where it is abnormal for a girl to ask a guy to the dance and that they are not allowed to do it any other time otherwise it is abnormal.

The girls are portrayed as models, the viewers are supposed to agree with them. We are supposed to agree with Tina, it is desirable to want to feel empowered, but undesirable to go against societies rules to ask out boys.

In a lot of ways Glee can be looked through an inflected oppositional reading just because the show itself tries to break away from the status quo. However, in Sadie Hawkins, the messages can be seen as preferred occluded reading because they are telling you what is normal and desirable under the blanket that the show is promoting feminist empowerment.

There is a scene where a couple of the glee club guys are walking down the school hallway, the girls are gawking at them, and they feel awkward. Artie and Ryder are having a conversation and Brittany interrupts.

Artie: “I feel totally powerless”                                                                                           Ryder: “This must be what the girls feel like all the time…”                                           Brittany (annoyed): “It is”

These few lines exemplify radical feminism. The ideology being that, women have less power than men. The males feel the difference between having power as a male, whereas feeling powerless when put in a situation a female is usually in. What is worse is that the female reinforces that feeling is accurate. It amplifies the patriarchal system and the masculine hegemony.

Even when asking out the guys, Kitty, one of the cheerleaders in the glee club encounters backlash because she is seen as obnoxious. To refute this she states “I’m a mean, hot, bitch, who likes to get what she wants”, deducing that in order to get what you want if you are female, you are labeled a “bitch”, and she accepts it, as it is what she calls herself.

The girls, in this episode, never actually display any “female empowering” qualities, other than asking out their dates, but instead the men just keep saying that they are “empowered”. The even sing a female empowered song titled “No Scrubs” by TLC. But, by having the men tell them this, they still have all the power, and only if they tell the women they are powerful it gratifies it. Essentially, after the Sadie Hawkins dance is over everything will return to “normal”. At the end of the episode, it seems the females have become empowered and feel good about themselves. The “Too Young to be Bitter Club” gets cancelled, and a bunch of the girls are seen celebrating their newfound empowerment.

When a show such as Glee heavily promotes and endorses acceptance and being different, misogyny tends to get overlooked. The main characters are part of a glee club, and are considered outcasts; they are multiracial, transgendered, gay, bisexual, lesbian, handicapped, and have mental illnesses. Their targeted audience is assumed to be more cultured and accepting, which in some ways makes it easier to accept what is normal on Glee, because the viewers expect them to go against the social norms of society and promote equality. Being a show that is both trying to break away from the social norms, and at the same time ratifying misogyny sends mixed messages. It can make the viewers agree with certain anti-feminist ideologies without thinking about the actual message the show is trying to express.

Girl Meets World

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w4NsIfC6mc&feature=player_detailpage#t=1s

Boy meets world is a television series that features Cory Matthews, a young boy in sixth grade and his struggles of growing up. The series also stars Cory’s two best friends, Shawn and Topanga. In season one – episode four, Cory must work on a group project with a partner that is assigned to him, thus Topanga is introduced.  Topanga is portrayed as the atypical girl, “weird” in the eyes of the other students. She typically goes against the norms of society, doing what she feels is right and not what society tells her she should do, however this leads her classmates to make fun of her and call her names. Moreover, she is a dominating female, often telling Cory what to do and taking the lead. This represents an occluded preferred reading because although Topanga is bending the stereotypical feminine behaviours, her actions are seen as unwanted and abnormal, therefore making her an anti-model.

In the first scene (2:30 – 3:15) Topanga and Cory are named partners and Topanga checks to see if their energies converge. Cory’s reaction to ask to switch partners reveals to the audience that Topanga’s actions are not the norm and one should not strive to be like her. This sets the background for the second scene (8:40 – 9:35), where Cory and Topanga are working on the project. Topanga performs an interpretive dance as a suggestion for their presentation. Cory is not willing to do this in front of his classmates because he think they will make fun of him, further solidifying the ideology of Topanga’s weirdness. Cory goes on to say “You’re gonna be one of those girls who doesn’t shave her legs, aren’t you?” This statement represents the idea that a girl must look presentable, which means shaving their legs and if a girl does not adhere to this idea, she is strange. Topanga’s response of “I haven’t decided yet,” proves that she does not go along with the norms of society.

In the final scene (19:54 – 21), Topanga and Cory are in the school hallway and Topanga is about to kiss Cory. As a sixth grade boy, he is reluctant, yet Topanga points out that it would be interesting if his first kiss was when he thought he looked “weird.” This notion represents the idea that people should not like you when you are weird looking and that it is looks that matter more than personality. Topanga furthers her thoughts by saying “it’s not what you look like on the outside that matters, it’s what kind of person you are.” In today’s society with plastic surgery and the media so readily available, people are always striving to look their best, her statement goes against the norm of looks being the dominant method of judging a person. Furthermore, the scene concluded by Topanga pushing Cory up against a locker and kissing him. This is rarely seen in a typical chick flick or romance movie, because it is usually the women who want the men to make the first move.  Topanga’s dominance over Cory is stereotypically seen as unwanted because a woman is supposed to be submissive to the man and allow him to take the lead.

The messages in this episode of Boy Meets World reveal an occluded preferred reading because the ideologies of feminism are hidden behind the negative reactions to Topanga’s behaviour. The audience is taught that Topanga is an anti-model, and to strive to be like her is to be abnormal. While most young girls are interested in fitting in, looking pretty and boys chasing them, whereas Topanga is only interested in being herself. The idea of being yourself is also seen as atypical because one should do all they can to fit the dominant hegemony.

Cory’s Alternative Friends. Boy Meets World. ABC. 15 Oct. 1993. Television

Being Brave

Pixar’s animation movie Brave is a story about a princess named Merida who is “destined” to be betrothed. Though her mother, the Queen, expects her to be patient, compassionate, elegant and strive for perfection, Merida is not a stereotypical princess. Princess Merida does not follow the stereotype by being an independent, tough, and strong-willed person (not to mention she uses weapons). She is expected to fulfill her responsibilities and has her life set out by her mother, however that is not what she wants. Merida wants to be free and live out her own fate. The movie Brave bends hegemony through actions of the Queen, it challenges stereotypical gender roles through Princess Merida deciding her own fate and the movie can be perceived from a liberal feminist perspective.

Through a feminist perspective, Princess Merida is conveyed with “inappropriate” and “undesirable” gender role and rules. Instead of being the stereotypical princess who is sweet, gentle, elegant and perfect, Merida is strong, independent and perfectly imperfect. Her image is not like the typical princess look of having luxury clothes and straight hair. Merida is rowdy with big curly red hair. She twists the stereotypical gender roles by taking charge of her own fate and not having the “fairy tale ending” with a prince by her side. In a typical fairy tale, the Prince choses the Princess to live happily ever after, but Merida decides that she is not ready and does not want to get married, so then she takes action and behaves in an “inappropriate” way for a princess to fulfill her desire and defies custom tradition.

In the movie, viewers can look at the story through inflected oppositional reading. Brave can be read with inflected oppositional reading because through the structuring of the family there is a bend of patriarchy to suit ones needs. Though the King is to be the ruler of the land, the Queen is portrayed to have more power over the King. The King is supposed to be the mighty and level-headed leader, but in Brave, the Queen is the one who is in higher power and have more responsibilities than the King. For example; in the scene where King gets into a rough dispute with the other Lords and the Queen just steps in and stops it all in an elegant manner. Whereas in other stereotypical scenarios; it would have been settled with the King defeating all the other Lords.

The movie can be studied through a liberal feminist perspective. Liberal feminist perspective focuses on inclusion of women in traditional male dominant areas. This ideology is reinforced within Brave portrayed through Merida and her use of weapons. In the setting of Brave, it is in an era where the men are in active and women are passive. Merida breaks the traditional custom by choosing to take a part in archery. Her passion leads her into a situation where her family choses for her to decide her own destiny. She is the first princess who is able to decide her own fate and not be betrothed through parents’ wishes.

Overall, even though the movie Brave conveys “inappropriate” and “undesirable” roles and rules for women, it teaches the viewers that one does not have to reinforce the hegemony ideology; one can bend or reject patriarchy, break traditional customs, and the alternative worldview can be beneficial to all. Princess Merida shows this moral by being an independent woman and choosing her own fate, which ends in her happiness as well as peace within the kingdom.

♥Stepford Wives♥: True Perfection or a Frightening Ideology? – A Radical Feminist Perspective

Stepford Wives

Paramount Picture’s The Stepford Wives revolves around Joanna, a Manhattan career woman who, after being fired from her job, moves her family to the chic Connecticut town of Stepford. All of the women of Stepford are robotically blissful, tirelessly subservient, and impossibly flawless. Quite the opposite of Joanna’s independent, assertive nature and somewhat masculine appearance which goes against this dominant ideal. (Sellnow, 93) Neither the men nor the women work and the men’s expectations of their wives assume that they spend the day at home cooking, cleaning and awaiting their husbands’ return to feed and seduce them on demand. This suggests that being a ‘Stepford Wife’ is the normal, appropriate and desirable way for a woman to behave in society. Targeted towards a young female audience, this film depicts a subverted oppositional reading in it’s use of exaggerated forms of perceived female normalcy which outrightly mock and reject patriarchal hegemony. With a touch of horror, the female audience is forced to question whether these taken-for-granted beliefs are truly the perfect way things ought to be, or, if society is just adhering to frightening ideologies created by a patriarchal hegemonic system.

The clip begins with Joanna being driven through the perfectly groomed streets of Stepford by a well-known resident; Claire. Upon passing a secluded, sturdy, dark stone building up on a hill, Joanna soon finds out that this is the Stepford Men’s Association. As the women arrive at the Simply Stepford Day Spa for women (a street-level, white structure surrounded by an angel fountain and pink flowers) viewers are immediately reminded of the ideological belief that even the separate associations to which men belong are strong, powerful, and above the ‘pretty’, trivialized organizations of women. Subjects versus Objects.

As Joanna enters the spa to ‘work out’ in sweat clothes she is greeted, in perfect unison, by the ‘Stepford Wives’ ready to begin their aerobics class in dresses and stilettos with flawlessly coifed hair and impeccable make-up; seemingly appropriate exercise attire for women. Bewildered, Joanna questions Claire and is met with a response of equal surprise in reference to her: “…why imagine, if our husbands saw us in worn, dark, urban sweat clothes, with stringy hair and almost no make-up!” (The Stepford Wives, 2004) This reinforces the audience’s initial view of dowdy, outspoken Joanna as the undesirable anti-model compared to the desirable model(s) who follow the rule that women “are supposed to be objects who should look pretty and act only as supporters of male agents and male agendas”. (Sellnow, 94)

The ladies then engage in a series of exercises based on household tasks and appliances suggesting that this is the appropriate ladylike form of exercise and consistent with the created dominant ideology of a female’s single value; a homemaker. As the scene continues, viewers start to identify with Joanna as their views of the model and anti-model begin to reverse. They realize that something is not right about the behaviours of these women and see Joanna as a woman with a brain and a spine; the true model they want to be like.

At first glance, this film appears to portray the message that being a ‘Stepford Wife’ is the normal, appropriate and desirable way for a woman to behave in society. However, a deeper analysis uncovers the true message hidden in the subtext: the taken-for-granted beliefs of how a perfect woman should behave in society are, in reality, only ideologies created by a patriarchal hegemonic system by which we allow ourselves to comply.

Works Cited:

Sellnow, Deanna D. The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. Print.

“The Stepford Wives (2004)”. IMDb, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013

“The Stepford Wives (2004)”. YouTube, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013

The Stepford Wives (2/8) Movie CLIP – Clairobics (2004)”. YouTube MovieClips, 8 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

 

A Gender/Feminist Perspective Analysis – One Tree Hill Series

 

One Tree Hill is an American television drama that follows the lives of two half-brothers, Lucas Scott and Nathan Scott. Dan Scott, the father they both share, manages to keep his two sons far from each other but not until the past and present collide do they find out what relationship they have. Dan Scott is seen as the ultimate role model for both of his sons while in the meantime he plays the “mother role” for one of his sons, Nathan, since his mother was always occupied with work. The season series revolve around close family interrelationships and how the love between 2 half brothers evolves as the time goes by. The target audience for this show is people between the ages of 16-23 that enjoy watching American Drama series.  In the show bending of hegemony leads to playing around with the gender roles and violating the status quo in which gender normalities are altered and some things are seen to be more “normal” then the others. The bending of hegemony can be understood through the liberal feminist perspective, more specially the oppositional, preferred feminist reading.

Lucas Scott is the shows primary protagonist. Lucas is a sensitive, talented street-side basketball player, but his skills are appreciated only by his friends at the river court. Throughout the series, Lucas learns to despise his half brother especially because he was his competition. In the meantime, Lucas was raised by a single parent, his mother, Karen. In many episodes Karen tries to play a role of a father but she fails to get her point across. In these instances she is seen as being “odd, unsuccessful and unhappy”. This demonstrated that Lucas’ mother was not suited for the position of being the “father” of the family. Therefore a site of struggle was identified. Moreover, when Lucas had finally been introduced to his half brother Nathan, he was called a “sensitive girl” by his friends. Lucas struggled to comprehend that he had a half brother and that he had finally met him. He had gotten emotional and he had portrayed this “ladylike” gesture that his friends thought wasn’t entirely masculine of him to do. Lucas never had a father by his side to teach him “not to cry” or “to take it like a man”. That portion of his life he had missed on had been depicted in that specific moment.

Furthermore, Nathan Scott known as the primary character in the series, is a popular, affluent basketball player who is also the star of his high school team. Nathan portrays this dynamic role where is the best looking high school student and he is the type that doesn’t take loosing for an answer. This role for him was seen as “normal” until his half brother came along and distorted his “image” and the way people perceived him as.  Nathan had taken his popular role as granted and had seen it as being “normal” and “desirable” by his colleagues at school. In the meantime, Nathan was also struggling to take on the pressure his Father, Dan Scott, was putting him through when it came to sports and family life. He had realized Dan was taking on the “mother” role since his mother was absent but yet refused to come to his senses. Nathan at one point had gotten fed up with his dad ordering him around all the time and had said: “you’re like a woman dad, being my dad is good enough, so stop please”, Nathan had realized how much it was agitating him that his dad was taking on the “mother” role and that he couldn’t handle his father undertaking all the duties a mother would.

Lastly, Dan Scott is seen as the primary antagonist who was a former college ball player and a owner of a car dealership. He ended up abandoning his ex-wife Karen and his son Lucas in order to marry Deb and to have his other son Nathan shortly after. Throughout Lucas’s life Dan was never present to fulfill the “father” duties since he had left him at a young age. Until later on does he find out that both of his sons are in the same town, and are competing to be on their high schools basketball team. In the meantime, Dan’s wife Deb was preoccupied with work and never had time to spend with the family. Dan had decided to take over the “mother” and “father” role for his son Nathan. Bending of hegemony is seen when Dan takes on the role as the mother of the house where he cooks, cleans, and coaches Nathan basketball. When looking at Dan’s role of attempting to portray both of the idealistic genders is it seen to be “normal” for him to be doing all of the duties but it isn’t seen as being “very ladylike” and it contradicts the gender identities. Dan’s role taking of being a mother as well had shown to Nathan how much of role model he was for him since he was capable of doing all of the “normal” parent jobs.

The Tree hill series challenges Hegemony and can be acknowledged as a liberal feminist perspective. Both of the brothers were lacking one of their parents as they were growing up causing the remaining parent to be dependent on to play both of the parent roles. As the two half brothers evolve from being enemies to loving brother they start sharing this incredible bond that was unbreakable. The Tree hill series demonstrated well the bending of hegemony and how the characters portrayed gender roles that were seen as “normal” or “desirable” in this American drama. Moreover, Dan was involved in role-taking where the ideals of the gender identities were undertaken and were altered to suit the characters lifestyle.

Citations:
CW Television Network. One Tree Hill. February 6, 2012, Retrieved from: http://www.google.ca/imgres?q=lucas,+nathan+and+dan+scott&um=1&hl=en&bi

Feminism/ Gender Analysis – Internet Memes

Recently there has been memes circulating over the Internet on popular social media websites. Memes are short phrases or words that represents a certain cultural/ popular idea or symbol. These are used to spread the popular idea across the Internet, usually to draw attention or make a particular statement. I have chosen to do a feminist analysis on popular and constantly circulating meme’s. Currently on various websites such as, Reddit.com, and 9gag.com, memes that have the basic ideology that all women belongs in the kitchen and should be doing everything that involved cooking and housework. Such ideology is spread across North American websites and is seen by the general public, specifically the people who visit such websites. However, memes are also starting to be posted by adults, young adults, and teenagers on social media websites, such as Facebook. The messages of these memes enforces the idea of women should be stay-at-home mothers, and obeying the orders of men. This ideal women, is portrayed as desirable for men and women should act like this in society. It challenges the idea that women now are able and is acceptable to accomplish tasks outside the kitchen and home.

Behaviours and beliefs of these texts reinforces the idea of a women’s role is in the kitchen is normal, appropriate and should be desired. Where as the role of the men should be ordering the women to cook for them in the kitchen while they go out work, and/or have fun. In the first meme, “NO… you make me a sandwich”, it challenges the masculine hegemony in the form of the woman rebelling against the man’s order of making him a sandwich (being the most common form of food in memes that reinforces the role of the woman), and also using violence to ultimately make a statement. In this meme the woman’s role can be presented depending on how the audience’s view is. If viewed from a cultural feminist perspective both the man and the woman are capable in making “the sandwich”, and why should the woman be the only one making it. It offers a blatant, preferred reading as women are stereotyped with the feminine skills of cooking and cleaning in particularly at home. In this meme the woman is portrayed as the model and other women should want to be like this and rebel against the idea of making a sandwich for the men.

In a second meme, “WOMEN, know your place”, it is presented as normal, appropriate, and should be desirable for the women to always be in the kitchen. Here the woman, including the daughter, is portrayed as being happy while washing the dishes and watching her husband/father and son/brother play games and resting, and while the woman and the daughter is present in the kitchen. Also this included an occluded preferred reading, as there is not a direct message that women should look like this in the kitchen. The message, when viewed with a radical feminist perspective, emphasizes that women should not only be in the kitchen, but should look “happy” while being in their supposed place. It should be normal for a woman to look like this and act like this, which will create the “Perfect woman” for men. It demonstrates that the female audience should want to be like the woman on the game box, and a happy family would result from such roles. Also this enforces the hegemony that women are cookers, cleaners, and caregivers, while the men of the household is allowed time to relax.

With further research on the game box design and year of release, it is found that it was, and still is, the popular board game Battleship. This particular version of it was released in 1967, advertised “for all ages 8 to adult” (Isreal, 2011). During this period it was the third wave feminism, and during this time it was argued and had been focused on providing equal rights for both men and women. Also for the women to break out of the stereotype of being oppressed into their supposed roles. The audiences for this game would mostly likely be for the “white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual people” (Sellnow, 92). This cover for the game reinforces the idea that this is a family game, but with the underlying message of women should enjoy watching from the sidelines.

Therefore in the first meme, the role of the women is reversed and rebelled against. The message that both the male and female audience may receive is that, cooking should and could be done by men and women. The ideology of women cooking for men is portrayed as undesirable and it challenges the status quo of women in society. Where as in the second meme the message is perceived that it should be normal for women to be in the kitchen, and also desirable to look “happy” while being in the kitchen. She is portrayed as taking the traditional role for women. The potential implication on society from this meme may be women are to act in this role and belong in the kitchen. As opposed to the first meme where the implication may be that women should rebel against the stereotype. Feminism has been a struggle for many years. Memes like the second one would only create a larger barrier, as it only enforces the ideology of the traditional women. With memes like the second one it breaks down some of the barrier as it provides a message that women can rebel against the society’s stereotype.

David K. Isreal “10 Awesome Paintings of Old Board Games” Mental_Floss. Mental_Floss, 1 Sept. 2011. Web. 6 Feb. 2012.

Sellnow, Deanna.The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. California: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. Print.