Nudity on the Cover

kelly-rowland-talk-a-good-game-artworkMost female musicians, no matter how talented they are, tend to become more sexualized over time from when their career starts to when they “peak.” This sexualization is especially noticeable in photo shoots, magazine spreads, music videos and on album covers. It is therefore interesting to think about how these musicians got started. Many were young when they began singing, such as Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Taylor Swift. In the beginning, these artists are often less overtly “sexy,” but after a while, they all start looking the same, and nudity becomes a very common element in their performances.

Since CD sales are dwindling, nudity or partial nudity on the covers may be one way to bump up sales, even though you do not see many male musicians nude on the covers. At the same time one can make the argument that showing of ones body is an act of empowerment, self-confidence and originality, one that comes with maturity and self-awareness. In fact, this statement is often made, pointing to women’s sexuality as a tool to be used to gain power. However, it seems as if nudity and “sexiness” are now so routine that all women are expected to embrace these standards.

The female body is beautiful, but does it have to be on display at all times? The trend of sexiness seems to be here to stay, but I often find it tiresome. The saying goes, “sex sells,” and that seems to be true, but the underlying message of that catchphrase is that women constantly need to be sexy, because their talent comes second to their appearance, no matter how successful they are or how hard they work.  [Read more...]

Masterchef Australia’s New ‘Boys vs Girls’ Season is Cheap Sexism for Ratings

I don’t mind tucking into cooking reality television shows with my dinner every night. After a long day, it’s sometimes comforting to watch people sweat over stoves, bicker about biscuits and quake with fear at a mean judge’s raised eyebrow. So I rapidly became incensed as I watched the trailer for Masterchef Australia’s new season, where teams will be split into Men vs. Women.

As a cultural trope, it as old as time. Masterchef itself, as a franchise ever in pursuit of ratings, has to change constantly in order to maintain viewer interest. There’s the Juniors series, where children who look too small to handle knives whip up complicated dishes. There has also been a Professionals series, solely designed to break the spirits of people who already cook for a living. Celebrity Masterchef is a yearly opportunity for the washed-up to invigorate their careers.

So it’s almost not surprising that the brain boxes at Shine Australia have cooked up this fresh hell.
But what’s next? Masterchef Cats vs. Dogs?

Splitting teams along gender lines is bad enough, but Masterchef Boys vs. Girls is here to perpetuate gender stereotypes. The trailer linked above is blatant – pastel pink and powder blue dominate the set and the male and female contestants taunt each other with sex-specific insults.
Man: “Physically, we’re better in the kitchen.”

Woman: “Women are better at presentation; we’re used to grooming ourselves.”

All that was missing was a ‘Get back in the kitchen!’ or ‘Make me a sammich, bitch!’ I assume that eventually someone will actually say those things. And we’re meant to take it as a joke, because jokes are meant to be funny, and gosh, lighten up!   [Read more...]

Melissa Etheridge Critiques Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Decision

melissaetheridgeLast month I lauded Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy in order to prevent breast cancer. Jolie has an 87% for breast cancer and 50% for ovarian cancer due to her genetics. There has been controversy about Angelina’s decision. But now singer Melissa Etheridge, a breast cancer survivor herself, says that Angeline’s pre-emptive surgery is because of fear, not bravery.

Here’s what Etheridge told the Washington Blade:

I have to say I feel a little differently. I have that gene mutation too and it’s not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn’t call it the brave choice. I actually think it’s the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer . . . I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion.

CNN had an interesting discussion yesterday with another breast cancer survivor who admires Angelina Jolie’s choice. According to E.D.Hill, Angelina Jolie made her decision because she wants to be a good mother. Here’s the full video so you don’t have to click over. ;) [Read more...]

Angelina Jolie Receives Preventative Cancer Treatment

Angelina-Jolie-13Film star Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about her decision to receive preventative surgery to decrease her risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Jolie has a high risk of developing both forms of cancer because of her genetics: 87% for breast cancer and 50% for ovarian cancer. Jolie says:

I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. . . I hope that other women can benefit from my experience . . . and then take action.

I admire Angelina Jolie for her decision. Her risk of developing breast cancer has dropped from 87% to 5%. I think Jolie makes a very important point in the op-ed when she says: “I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

Film stars like Angelina Jolie are often sexualized by their fan base, as are musicians like Beyonce. Women’s breasts are viewed as a commodity, rather than a part of the body. Jolie did not get a “boob job.” She took preventative measures to protect her health and continue to continue her role as a mother. And yet “fans” have been posting comments on Twitter that show the sexism that is so prevalent in popular culture (and American culture in general).

Jolie is lucky that her partner Brad Pitt has been 100% supportive throughout the surgery process. He has publicly called her a hero. I say thumbs up to Brad.
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Is Beyonce a Feminist?

beyonce_super_bowl_2013_halftime_performance_show_new_orleans_main_18gueij-18guek9 A recent article in Salon.com features several pop culture icons who have said, “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” The list includes musicians such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. One female artist that this list does not include in Beyonce, who has very clearly stated that she is a feminist.

Beyonce’s performance at the 2013 Superbowl that literally blew out the stadium’s lights is clear evidence that Beyonce is a feminist. Her band consisted entirely of female musicians. The bulk of them are women of color. Many women in the music industry will tell you that this is very rare. Giving so many female musicians that kind of exposure is something I would classify as a feminist act. Moreover, Beyonce has stated over and over again that she believes in equality and helping girls realize their potential.

However, some people argue that Beyonce isn’t a feminist because she has taken her husband Jay-Z’s last name.
Beyonce had her baby Blue Ivy in January 2012.

“I feel like Mrs. Carter is who I am, but more bold and more fearless than I’ve ever been,” she said. “It comes from knowing my purpose and really meeting myself once I saw my child.

Really? If someone takes on their partner’s name they’re not a feminist? That’s the strongest argument you’ve got? What about Hillary Clinton? Hillary Clinton in an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. She took her husband’s last name. Hillary is the reason I claimed the feminist label in high school. I voted for both times that she ran for President, and I will always consider her a role model. If your only argument about claiming the feminist label has to do with changing your last name, you need to get a clue about what feminism means. [Read more...]

Are You the “Better” Feminist?

We both really enjoy the British feminist website The F-Word, and have written several guest posts for them. The site employs an intersectional outlook that focuses on all types of feminists while incorporating variables such as race, sexualities, ethnicity, and disabilities to the pieces that they post.

One thing got us going, though–a discussion in the comments section of a post that discussed a “song of the day.” The discussion centered on the singer India.Arie and the lyrics to her song “Video,” and the author of the piece appreciated Arie’s refusal to be defined by traditional beauty regimes.

What caught our attention were the comments posted by readers. One person wrote, “I just get a little tired with this trend for women who are basically hot preaching (or being used to preach) self-acceptance … It would be easy for us all to love ourselves unconditionally if we only departed from patriarchal beauty standards as much as India.Arie does.”

Another reader agreed and said that “it’s similar with that TLC song ‘Unpretty’; the message is great but you feel slightly aware of how gorgeous the women singing about how what’s inside is more important than looks.” [Read more...]

What to give a woman!

This quote has been circling Facebook with people liking and commenting on it. Because of sharing, reposting, and those other tricky Facebook features, we do not know for certain where it originated from, but it seems as if attribution is to be given to Erick S. Gray. The quote points to women and domesticity in a way that is a little off-putting to us even though this might not be the intent of the writer.

“Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!”

“If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby” – given that all women want children and are able to conceive. Statistically speaking, a woman might “give you a baby”, but she is usually the one to take on most of the responsibility of childcare.

“If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home” – because the assumption is that women are the homemakers, the domestic ones who always enjoy cleaning, doing laundry and fiddling with home décor. Just give her a house, and she will make it a home.

“If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal” – why not make your own dinner?

“If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart” – often times it takes much more than a smile.

Interestingly, the quote says nothing about respect, equality, or teamwork when in a relationship. The last part of the quote points to women’s “vindictive” and “sly” nature. “So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!” Perhaps women are tired of being given “crap” since they are so busy raising children, being homemakers, making dinner and in return only receiving a smile!

Mr. CEO and the Female Secretary

Gender stereotypes are everywhere, and they are enforced on children perhaps more often than adults. In many ways, this notion is biologically driven and assumes that boys and girls are different, and that this distinction has little to do with child-rearing and cultural assumptions about gender. Boys are often viewed as more driven, aggressive, and dominant, whereas girls are deemed more passive, nurturing, and sensitive.

Emily Kane, author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls, found that depending on the anticipations parents had about gender (gender being biologically driven or socially constructed, as well as views in between), they either reinforced or contested traditional gender beliefs. Some parents who stated that their daughter was naturally more calm and passive reinforced such behavior more in girls than boys, by telling their daughter to either be still or be quiet. Girls were also more likely than boys to be reprimanded for being rowdy. Therefore, many girls were told at a young age to be calmer, quieter, and passive, even though parents attributed these traits to biological differences between girls and boys. At the same time, many boys indicated to their parents that they wanted to wear colors more commonly associated with girls, or play with Barbie dolls. Depending on the parent’s views about gender, these activities were either prohibited or encouraged. Therefore, parents’ cultural and biological beliefs about gender help maintain or challenge current gender roles. Kane concludes, “With concerted effort, we can reduce the force of the gender trap and open up the possibility of a better, less constrained, and more equitable world for our children and for ourselves.”

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Buying and Selling on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so for the past couple of months we’ve been bombarded with advertisements (mostly targeting the male buyer) for chocolate, roses, and, more than anything, jewelry.

What is frustrating and perhaps even ignorant about such advertisements is their direct link between gift giving and getting something back. That something is most often physical contact, such as kissing, or hopefully intercourse. Kay Jewelers is a prime example of such messages; their ads feature not only Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day gift giving, but marriage proposals and Christmas gifts as well. Not only are these advertisements extremely stereotypical–they most often portray women and men in the exact same roles, one passive and one active–but they endorse the notion that women are very likely to use their sexuality as a resource to attain material things, such as expensive jewelry.

Men, on the other hand, are depicted as being very likely to pay large sums of money to attain sexual “favors” from women. Overall, the roles depicting men as the buyer (of jewelry, to start out with) and women as the providers of sexual favors, echoes the notions of prostitution. Not only is it annoying that Kay Jewelers’s slogan is “Every kiss begins with Kay,” but the gasping-for-air, about-to-faint depictions of women and images of proactive, strong, protective, masculine men are outdated and boring. Remember the ad depicting a woman who is afraid of lighting and throws herself into the arm of her partner?

These advertisements most often feature adults, but a commercial for Kay’s Open Hearts Collection (by Jane Seymour) shows a man giving his fiancee’s daughter the same necklace that he gave her mother. Not only does the child mirror the adult female response by gasping, but the underlying message is similar: that it is possible to buy sex and love–or in this case, acceptance and even admiration. And all the commercials end the same way, with the giver receiving a “reward” as a result of spending money.

It’s (Still) Good To Be King

The other day we found some Christmas ornaments that reinforce the notion that the home is the man’s castle, the couch is his throne, and other examples that likens a man to being a king for no apparent reason. The ornaments are shaped like ties, for the male breadwinner of the family, and say “King of the Remote,” “It’s Good to be King,” and “CEO of this House.”

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