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the gasping-for-air, about-to-faint depictions of women and images of proactive, strong, protective, masculine men are outdated and boring.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.

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.

[Read more...]

Oh, Brother! Jane Romney Speaks

Jane Romney could have lived out the rest of her brother Mitt’s presidential campaign in relative anonymity—at least among me and my uppity abortion rights-demanding, birth control-loving friends. But then like many a big sister before her, Jane had to go and open up her mouth and get all newsworthy …

Mitt Romney would never make abortions illegal as president, Jane Romney said when National Journal asked her about the subject after a “Women for Mitt” event.” He’s not going to be touching any of that,” she said. “It’s not his focus.”

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Women don’t do housework and men work too much?

Flipping through a local newspaper the other day, two short articles really stood out. These two articles confirm how we feel about inequality in Sweden; that it is often assumed an issue that has already successfully been dealt with. Many Swedes appear to think that as a country, we have reached equality or even passed to the point in which men are now considered the “second sex”. It is often reiterated that Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world, if not the most equal country. To us, this overconfidence is very troubling because it leads to the denial of male privilege and the persistent influence and power of patriarchy.

The first article that seriously annoyed us discussed the historical origin of Mother’s Day, explaining that from 1920 and on, Mother’s Day was celebrated with breakfast in bed and a day off from cleaning the house and doing chores. The article stated that it was probably a more important day in the past when most women were responsible for taking care of the household. Say what? But most women are responsible for taking care of the household! They are also responsible for taking care of the children while often working on top of that. Are Swedish women really so lucky as to be free from household chores? Research on the topic says no. [Read more...]

Can a Feminist Change Her Name?

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Lindsay Marie McAllister. Lindsay works for an anti-poverty non-profit agency as the Program Coordinator. Lindsay currently lives in a small town in Northern Ontario in Canada with her two dogs and partner. You can follow her on Twitter @LindzMcAllister.

Some of you may have read my first guest post on my attempt at planning a feminist wedding. Although some of you may remember it being posted under a different name, my maiden name. I got married approximately a month ago and since that time have heard quite a few comments and questions regarding the change that followed. That’s right; I made the choice to take my husband’s last name.

I use the word choice here because I think that is exactly what it should be, a choice for each individual and couple to make on their own. There are many options; couples are regularly choosing to hyphenate their names, often with both people in the couple making the change, sometimes only one person does so. A less common option in heterosexual relationships, at least in my experience, is for the man to take the woman’s last name, which is still a viable option. [Read more...]

Planning a Feminist Wedding

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Lindsay Marie MacAllister. Lindsay Marie works for an anti-poverty non-profit agency as the Program Coordinator. She attended the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counselor and Advocate program at George Brown College as well as school for Psychology at Queen’s University. Lindsay currently lives in a small town in Northern Ontario in Canada with her two dogs and partner. You can follow her on Twitter @LindzMcAllister.

Since I am getting married in two weeks, and at this point, can barely go a few minutes without thinking of something I still need to do, it would be the most appropriate topic for me to write on. When my partner and I decided to get engaged, I knew I would need to incorporate my feminist beliefs into the ceremony and planning process. As I mentioned we decided to get married together, there was no pressure for a huge proposal on my male partner or expectation that I wait quietly and patiently for him to propose when I was not willing to do so. We knew we wanted to spend forever together and that was all that mattered to us. We both got each other an engagement ring, only fair really, and went about sharing the news with our friends and family, together.

Planning a wedding involves a lot of compromise between the bride and groom; it is a big day for both people, not just the Bride. In our case, my partner cared about one thing beyond the two of us spending the rest of our lives together, that his parents and siblings be there at the ceremony. Through discussion we decided that if I gave up my dream wedding in Jamaica on the beach and had it locally, the rest of the details could be my choice. We chose to go with a toned down Scottish themed wedding, a rustic outdoors affair, with brown as the main color, a favorite for both of us. [Read more...]

President Obama Finally Steps Up to the Plate on the Defense of Marriage Act

The LGBTQ community has been criticizing President Obama for his position on the Defense of Marriage Act for quite some time now, and it looks like the pressure may have finally gotten to him. President Obama told the Department of Justice that the Defense of Marriage Act, as applies to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the fifth amendment, and should no longer be defended by the DOJ.

The Defense of Marriage Act is a horrifying piece of legislation that completely undermines the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples in the United States. It’s about damn time that the President stepped up to the plate and argued against the constitutionality of DOMA.

On a different but similar note, I’m sure Speaker Boehner really enjoyed opening this letter from Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. this morning. [Read more...]

Virgins Last Longer! Where Has All the Science Gone?

You might have recently read about a study that concluded that couples who wait until they are married to have sex have longer, stronger marriages than those who fornicate before they get hitched. The study was originally published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology and has been picked up by Live Science, , WebMD , AOL Health, and U.S. News Health Report.

The findings of the study were based on results from an online marital assessment called “RELATE.” Researchers selected a sample of 2,035 married individuals from the database to match the demographics of the married American population. The press release does not indicate which demographic study results they used to match their sample to, nor does it detail whether the demographics of the married population included homosexual couples, common-law marriages or polygamous relationships.

The crux of the study results hinge on the assessment question: “When did you become sexual in this relationship?” Results of the study showed the relationship stability of the abstainers was 22 percent higher than those who had relations before marriage, the abstainers’ relationship satisfaction was rated 20 percent higher, the sexual quality of their relationship was rated 15 percent better, and their communication was rated as 12 percent better than those hussies who shamelessly rolled in the hay before the wedding.

Lead study author Dean Busby, professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life is quoted as saying: “There’s more to a relationship than sex, but we did find that those who waited longer were happier with the sexual aspect of their relationship.”

According to Brigham Young University’s press release: ‘because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.’ Busby also says: “Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction.”

The press release then goes on to quote sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved with the study, and just happens to be the author of “Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the lives of American Teenagers” and the forthcoming “Premarital Sex in America,” a study of the sexual lives of emerging heterosexual adults. Regnerus teaches courses like The Making of American Christianity and Introduction to Sociology, Judaism and Christianity in Sociological Perspective. Regnerus had this to say: “Couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy.”  What those qualities are, exactly, he does not share with the class. [Read more...]

Make Over the American Marriage

The big news from the release of The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2010 was that marriage is becoming a less important fact of American life. Worse, for the pro-marriage crowd that includes the groups behind the study, The Center for Marriage and Families and The National Marriage Project, it’s no longer just the left-leaning, latte-sipping cultural elite who are losing faith.

Class is no longer a reliable predictor of marital attitudes. Less educated Americans are now abandoning the institution of marriage at the same rate as their more educated brethren.

Conservatives, both fiscal and social, predictably see this as a sign of the apocalypse. If the good old Middle Class can’t embrace an institution as unapologetically bourgeois as marriage, what will become of the children? That is, after all, the biggest and best argument supporters of marriage have: American children do best growing up with two married parents living in the same household.

Fair enough. I’m not math-minded enough to argue with their statistics (though others are). The study has a much bigger problem: the decline in religious observance—also much lamented by the right—has left the National Marriage Project leaning harder on marriage’s secular and civic virtues. But they haven’t realized those virtues demand a different gospel. [Read more...]

Why Marriage Is Irrelevant (To Most Of Us)

I’m from the South. Weddings are part of our shtick. Daddy pays for a Barbie dreamland wedding, you go on a fabulous honeymoon to Jamaica, and return to your freshly-purchased-by-Daddy house where you live happily ever after.

Or not. In my reality, the nature of a wedding is entirely capitalist. Thousands of dollars are spent on dresses, venues, flowers, gifts, rings, food, and festivities, and a glamorous trip to some place in the tropics. For those that can afford it, of course.

For something that should be about love, mutual respect, and the connection of two people, it sure costs a lot of money. This is perhaps the reason why a study conducted by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and New York’s Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values raised such a stink.

According to this study, millions of Americans (especially those without college degrees, or the “moderately educated”) are choosing to not marry. Others who are married, report declining levels of satisfaction in their union. Also “shocking” were the numbers that suggested that people are no longer embarrassed about having children out of wedlock. [Read more...]