The Flip Side: Women as Commodities

This is the second of a two-part series about the short film The Flip Side: Dating.

In the first post we discussed how The Flip Side: Dating portrays women as hysterical, illogical, and irrational. In the film, the “gender roles” (or “gender rules,” depending on how you view it) are switched: men act like women and women like men, in a variety of scenes that depict stereotypical gender behavior. This post focuses on one scenario that we found both interesting and disturbing.

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The Flip Side: Women as Hysterical

This is the first of a two-part series about the short film The Flip Side: Dating.

The Flip Side is series of short movies that “flip” the way we believe women and men act. In these scenarios, men supposedly act like women, and women like men. In the short movie about dating, the scenes are more likely to portray women as hysterical and overly sensitive and men as dirty brutes, even though these scenarios are played out by the opposite gender.

When women are portrayed as unable to control their emotions, there is almost always a hint to the underlying role of biology when explaining the way “women act.” Women are inherently unstable, emotional, needy and hysterical, and men are viewed as distracted, unavailable, emotionless and unfeeling. Just look at the scenarios played out where women act out male stereotypes: they pee on toilet seats, fart in bed, play videogames, are on their phones constantly, and look at other men. But emotional unavailability is not deemed as “embarrassing” as being emotional or sensitive; and, as many find potty humor extremely amusing, these “male traits” are really not portrayed in an unflattering way (just look at the funny commercial depicting Mandles, “candles for manly men”), as the stereotypical “female traits” are.

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Halo Reach, Sexual Violence and Rape Culture

This post contains explicit language and profanities.

I like to play video games and Halo has been my favorite for many years. Halo 4 came out earlier this month and it made me reflect on Halo Reach, what I liked about the game, and what I did not like. One thing I found very off-putting was the constant bantering and aggressive verbal behavior displayed during matchmaking. That was one reason why I rarely used a microphone while playing.

Here at Feminists for Choice we often discuss the concept of rape culture, which is the notion that sexual violence is in many ways condoned. We often hear or experience the normalization of rape, which often leads to blaming the survivor rather than the perpetrator. This normalization of rape and the use of threats of sexual violence are very common in Halo Reach as players communicate with one another. Interestingly enough, I have never witnessed any females partake in such a discussion, or in the one-sided arguments where putdowns and remarks are constantly made. When it comes to discussions and remarks about rape the message is one of power, domination and subjugation. The verbal threat or use of the word rape is therefore used to display the threat of subjugation and the power and domination certain players hold over others.  [Read more...]

George Carlin – Pro-Life is Anti-Woman

The featured clip includes some profanities and may be triggering.

For many of us abortion is a very serious issue. We are clearly pro-choice and therefore focus on women’s reproductive rights, choices and agency. Pro-lifers on the other hand focus on preserving the fetus, often believing that those who are pro-choice are murderers, or baby killers. Just read the book (which is suppose to be objective, but is clearly pro-life biased) Understanding Abortion: From Mixed Feelings to Rational Thought by Stephen D. Schwarz with Kiki Latimer.

Even though this video is a few years old, it is just as relevant and relatable to today. Comedian George Carlin discusses how pro-life is anti-woman, while giving some hilarious examples along the way:

“Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus, from conception to nine months. After that they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no daycare, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you are pre-born, you’re fine, if you are pre-school, you’re f#*ked”.

After dealing with the views of Todd Akin, Mitt Romney, and Norma McCorvey among others it is nice to laugh a little.

Gendered Sexualization in the Young!

In many ways gender construction begins very early in life, often even before a child is born. Many parents tend to design the space around their child in ways that indicate gender belonging. Whether or not we agree with the notion that pink is for girls and blue is for boys (it did not used to be that way), we are likely to follow “accepted” norms and performances of gender, which are further built upon with the use of toys, clothes, and other items for young children and infants.

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At Least Someone Gets to See You Naked!

We have been writing quite extensively about advertisements that we find sexist, stereotypical, or in other ways bothersome. Whether overt or covert, all advertisements send a message about not only the product they are selling, but also society as a whole. Gender battles are typically played out in advertisements, pitting men and women against each other in a biologically driven battle (because it is so much easier to view gender from a strictly biological perspective) where drinking beer and watching sports is strictly “manly,” while shopping for the latest Glade product and worrying about residue on dishes is strictly “feminine.” This is exactly the way gender works, right, both on and off the screen?

One specific advertisement has been bothering us for a while now because of its play on gender and sexual behavior. The advertisement, from Direct TV, wants consumers to switch from cable to their services.

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When it Comes to Politics, Don’t Listen to Sex and the City

For many women, Sex and the City signifies the sexually adventurous and independent woman, one who does not take any crap and knows what she wants. For others, the show is the complete opposite of independence and instead showcases very materialistic women endlessly looking for the right man to marry while discussing shoes, drinks, and parties. Sex and the City falls in the same category as Madonna, you either love her or cannot stand her.

There is something so off putting about Sex and the City to me. The constant discussion of fashion and appearance, the neverending hunt for relationships, and the often shallow discussions of anything that is not fashion or relationships, along with Carrie’s constant shrieking (when she sees a mouse, when she looses a shoe, gets picked up by a man, encounters dogs, when it rains, basically all the time). Besides, how can all these women have so much money to spend when they actually never work? While browsing for anything good on TV I found an episode that depicted the women sitting around a table outside at a restaurant discussing politics and Carrie’s new politician boyfriend. Just before the lunch conversation, Carrie’s voiceover stated that she and her partner were compatible since he knows about politics and she knows about fashion, and both are very similar. During lunch, one of the women noted the irony of Carrie dating a politician, since she was not even registered to vote. Samantha then said that she would vote for whomever was the best-looking man running for office, or for president. Carrie’s voiceover said something like “Here we were, four girls talking politics.”

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Don’t Be a Woman

We know that advertising is big business, really big business, and that advertisements often provoke, evoke feelings, make us laugh, anger us, but also that they much too often reinforce old and tired stereotypes based on gender. So here we are again with an advertisement that denigrates women while it simultaneously informs men that they should be the complete opposite of anything associated with women. The ECHL’s Florida Everblades have allowed the company Boost Creative to place an advertisement depicting women’s lower bodies (dressed in skirts) on the opposite team’s bench, so that the men’s upper body is showing, while the lower bodies are that of women. And apparently it is hilarious.

Chris Palin, the Everblades’ vice president (of sales and marketing) feels that the advertisement is fine, stating;

“You want to evoke emotion, that’s OK. As long as you don’t get a ton of complaints, that’s what it supposed to do.” The team has had a few complaints, but according to Palin ”…that’s the nature of advertising on the edge”.

On the edge? Really? This advertisement is not on the edge since every other advertisement out there is predicated on using women to try to emasculate men, or making other men feel like a woman if they do not commit to a narrow definition of masculinity. This type of advertisement is not new, nor is it edgy. It is the complete opposite of edgy, it is old, tired and outdated.
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When Women are Made Invisible

The Swedish newspaper Metro was the first to report the removal of all women from IKEA’s 2013 Saudi Arabian catalogue. Metro reports that IKEA have taken the strict Saudi rules concerning women’s freedom one step further by completely removing any evidence of women in the catalogue. The only female designer representing the PS collection, Clara Gausch, was also removed. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to vote, drive cars, or leave their home without male company. According to Metro, it is common that IKEA catalogues are adapted to “fit” cultural traditions in certain countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia the name wineglass has been changed to “partyglass” since the consumption and distribution of alcohol is prohibited.

IKEA is however not the only company removing images of women when targeting the Saudi Arabian consumers. When Starbucks opened their doors in Saudi Arabia the woman in the logo was completely removed, only her crown remained.

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I Want to Be a Princess

I feel that everywhere I turn I see young girls dressed in pink from top to bottom, sporting tutus and idolizing Disney princesses. Walk into any department store and you find clothes targeting the princess frenzy. One minute I hear surprised adults marvel over their child’s fascination with princesses while the next they refer to their daughter as a princess and buying her every pastel colored item with a princess face on it. As “pretty” as princesses might be, they are typically not very independent. And how can they be? They are expected to wear ridiculous dresses, tiaras and glass shoes while waiting in patience for Prince Charming to rescue them. Once professing their love, they marry the next day, have children (approximately) nine months later and live happily ever after. My parents never referred to me as a princess and I never thought I was one either, so I never dressed like one, or acted “like a princess”. So is the fascination with being a princess inherent in female biology or are little girls encouraged to be princesses? Personally, I believe the latter. I also believe that we have a tendency to displace our wants, needs and beliefs onto our children, ignoring the influence we have over them, while stating that they have the free will to do as they please.

What are the consequences when we treat, dress and expect little girls to be princesses? We teach them to act like a princess should. When I worked with children aged 3 to 5, I regularly noticed the limitations of the princess-child. First, we have limitation of movement. As girls came to school in skirts, dresses, heels (yes heels) and flip-flops, they were unable to play, move and do other things that the boys regularly could. The girls wanted to, but they often got hurt. One girl kept tripping in her heels, so she was sent inside to play. Another girl kept falling and getting hurt because she could not run in her flip-flops. She was also encouraged to be inactive and to go inside.

Second, we have the policing of girl’s bodies. Young girls tend to be unaware that they often show their underwear when wearing skirts and dresses (especially during circle time). They are constantly told to not “spread their legs” but instead cross their legs, or fold their legs while they sit. Not only are we telling young girls that they need to be aware of how they portray their bodies in ways that we are not policing boys. The girls is told that she is “so cute” and that her dress “is adorable”, but at the same time, she is told that she needs to hide her body, be aware of how she portrays herself and inadvertently, “take up less space”. Remember to be feminine and small.

Girls who do not dress like princesses often have to endure policing of their clothing and accessories by other girls. Even though none of the girls I worked with were older than five, they were very knowledgeable about certain brands, and what acceptable clothing looked like. I doubt this is knowledge innate to being a little girl. I understand that our consumer culture and societal pressures of fitting in also influence what girls’ want to wear, and what they feel they “need” in order to fit in. At the same time, parents are the mediators between young children and society, and children cannot acquire items without the help of parents.


Photo uploaded by Flickr user John-Morgan and is shared under a creative commons license.