Category Archives: Media Criticism

Why “Anti-Rape Underwear” isn’t the Solution

Possibly you’ve heard about the new anti-rape underwear, and while the idea behind the product is a cause we can all get behind, here is an article explaining the faults in this product.

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/11/05/2889411/anti-rape-underwear-sexual-assault/

Equality or GTFO!!!!

Tomorrow Night at Boston University:

“The Boston University Feminist Collective and Video Game Society invite you to join us for a discussion about the gendered minefield that is the online world. We are fortunate enough to have feminist and media critic, Anita Sarkeesian, join us to facilitate the discussion and speak to her own experiences of how gender intersects with online spaces.

Anita is the author of the video blog “Feminist Frequencies” and the video series “Tropes vs. Women” where she explores the tropes of the depiction of women in pop culture. In 2012 she started a Kickstarter campaign to help her create a new series entitled “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” and experienced harsh online harassment from some members of the gaming community. This backlash furthered her message to include an exploration of the overwhelming amounts of online sexual harassment of female identifying gamers. In 2012 Anita was a speaker at the TEDxWomen conference where she discussed online sexual harassment and how influential it is in the online world. You can see that talk here: – [X]

Thursday November 7th, 7-9:30pm

Have you heard one?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Astrophysicist, Am. Museum of Natural History. Author: Space Chronicles, Pluto Files, Inexplicable Universe [Video], Host: StarTalk Radio http://StarTalkRadio.net

Down With Cosmo!

Everyday Feminism published “10 Things Cosmo Doesn’t Teach Women About Great Sex”. Attention readers, Cosmopolitan magazine is not the sex manual!

Cosmo

The articles and advice that Cosmo features regarding sex are heteronormative (a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the norm or preferred sexual orientation), sexist, and cissexist (“a cis person is one for whom assigned sex, internal sense of sex, and assigned gender and internal sense of gender all match up”, so cissexism is the discrimination or prejudice of individuals who do not fall into the “cis” category).

Cosmo promulgates advice and “crazy hot sex tips” that are disadvantageous for readers. Articles and tips almost always discuss pleasing “your guy” (ugh), but give no mention to pleasing yourself – not to mention, you would have to change your body to experience true pleasure. The sexual experience illustrated by Cosmo is laced with harmful power dynamics and fails to give their primarily female reader-base factual, unbiased, and inclusive information about anatomy, sexual psychology and the factors that influence it, sexually transmitted infections, and safer sex measures including consent. Next time you’re tempted to crack open a fresh issue of Cosmo with a retouched celebrity on the cover alongside a headline such as “75 Sex Moves Men Crave”, consider the personal implications and read it through a critical lens.

Additional reading:

Everday Feminism
Bitch Magazine
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health
Definitions of cissexism and binarism
10 Reasons Why I Hate Cosmopolitan Magainze

Film screening: “Miss Representation”

Hey Hoochies; mark your calendars. A screening of the film Miss Representation is being sponsored by The ManKind Project of New England on November 14, 2013, at 7 pm at  Kendall Square Cinema, One Kendall Square (at 355 Binney Street) in Cambridge. However:

A minimum of 122 tickets need to be sold in order for this event to happen! Please buy yours now and also help spread the word.

The film, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

Tickets are available at: https://www.tugg.com/go/vcjy0d for $15.00. There will be an opportunity to gather to meet and discuss the film immediately after the show. Tickets will go on sale a midnight, October 11th.

You can view the Official Trailer at YouTube or below.

More about the film:

Miss Representation debuted in the documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival where it caught the eye of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. It made its television premier as part of the OWN documentary film club in October 2011, with over 1.3 million people tuning in to multiple airings. More than two years later over 40 countries have screened the film in corporations, non-profits, religious groups, government organizations and communities are happening every day all over the world.

Miss Representation includes stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics like Condoleezza Rice, Lisa Ling, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Rosario Dawson, Jackson Katz, Jean Kilbourne, and Gloria Steinem. The film offers startling facts and statistics that will leave audiences shaken and armed with a new perspective.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality — and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made strides in leadership over the past few decades, the U.S. is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures, women hold only 3 % of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating.

Miss Representation was selected from the Sundance line-up to be part of the OWN Documentary Film Club. “Through personal stories and provocative interviews, Jennifer crystallizes the relevance of the media and its portrayal of women in today’s society,” said Lisa Erspamer, Chief Creative Officer for OWN. In addition, ro*co films will distribute Miss Representation to educational institutions (K-12 institutions, universities and libraries) located in the United States and Canada.

MissRepresentation.org is igniting a cross-generational movement to shift the cultural mindset of communities, interrupt and stop patterns of sexism, change the way women and girls are represented in the media and ensure a tipping point that will lead to gender parity in leadership throughout the United States. Join the campaign at www.missrepresentation.org.

Please feel free to direct questions to MissRep.mlh@gmail.com

More than meets the eye, perhaps

As is noted in the comments section of the original post at Crates and Ribbons, the identity of those pictured is contested. But even so — imagine even if the photo was staged — that the image is so productive of interpretations that fail to take into account the possibility that something untoward is going on, is an object lesson in the way that a rape culture works upon the collective consciousness.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker… DON’T make me a match!

Hoochies, I really don’t want to admit this, but I will. I watch The Millionaire Matchmaker.  Now, on many counts, this show is pretty despicable. The premise is addictive: Patti Stanger, a 3rd generation matchmaker in LA, sets up rich men through her Millionaire’s Club, the website of which looks like an advertisement for a brothel. These millionaires are allowed to handpick women who are usually a) way too nice or b) way too young.  Criticizing this show is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I’ll give you the highlights:

1)  If you want to marry a millionaire, and you’re above a size 6, good luck. Patti reserves “bigger” (i.e. a size 10) women for her “chubby chasing” clients. Now, I take offense at this on a couple of levels. First, the idea that a woman should be telling other women that they are fat and unworthy to compete for male attention is disgraceful. This kind of attitude teaches men that only the slimmest of women are worthy of love, and it teaches women that in the competition for rich men, their bodies are the greatest weapons.  Insidious female on female attack is destructive and demeaning.  If we tell men that they should only be attracted to certain body types and that the rest are undesirable, it feeds right back into a damaging sizist cycle that we need to end.

2) I guess money trumps idiot? These men are often rude, strange, misogynistic, witless and boring. And yes, many of them are pretty ugly. But millions of dollars seems to give them a free pass on many qualities one might look for in a mate. However, the few woman millionaires on the show have no such luck. They are still judged for their looks and admonished to let the man take control. It would appear that money only makes things harder for women because they have to prove that they are still “feminine.” Hoochies, I ask you: why does “feminine” have to mean docile and simpering? Unfortunately, in the Millionaire’s Club, women do not have power unless expressly allowed. In her 10 Dating Rules for Single Ladies, Stanger writes, “do not offer to outright pay for something: once a woman touches money/credit card in front of a male she becomes masculine energy, which is undesirable.” Basically, according to this line of thought, men are not attracted to women who are remotely self-sufficient – in Patti’s words, the penis will definitely not get off the couch.

3) Patti Stanger gives matchmaking a bad name. The whole point of matchmaking should be to make a match, but these women are never asked what they want in a man. Granted, it’s their choice to turn up for the vomit inducing “casting sessions” (really an appropriate name when you think about it, eh?), but the only criteria on their lists is “loaded.”  The Millionaire’s Club does not take into account what both sides are looking for, or even considers that a woman might want more than a rich husband. It is merely a vehicle for spoiled, rich and awkward men to sample the never-ending bounty of the LA babe buffet, and perpetuates the ever gaping gender divide.

A Lot of Big Boobs

Sheyla Hershey believes bigger breasts will reveal her inner beauty, just as a bigger telescope reveals deeper secrets of the cosmos. What drives her to pump more and more silicone into her chest? Well, she’s “got a dream inside” — a dream “to look better each day, every day,” and “it’s good when you can make your dream come true.” To that end, she’s just completed her eighth breast augmentation surgery, and now carries two record-breaking, seam-busting liters of boob goo in each exaggerated mammary.

How readily her case demands to be explained by the simplesboobst explanation: a conspiracy between superficial media culture (whose distortions of the healthy female form pollute even the youngest minds) and unscrupulous plastic surgeons(ever ready to ignore the Hippocratic oath in favor of that more fitting Greek icon, Pluto, captain of wealth and death). Whatever reasons led her to first consider chest enhancement, her motivations since have been corrupted, co-opted, by a self-image disorder. However, instead of working through the moral and medical background of Hershey’s situation, let’s instead look at the responses to her situation left by Internet users at two different but predictably similiar articles: one from ABC News and the other from the Australian paper The Daily Telegraph. First, the comments left by the largely American readers of ABC’s hard-hitting news piece:

  • “Natural is better. Scientific devices cannot make a woman more attractive. A romantic figure is defined, sleek, and smooth.”
  • “Natural of any size are great. 😉 Certainly if they’re too large a woman should consider a reduction if they’re affecting her health.”
  • “I love how this article brings out the comments from all of the large breasted readers, “I have a 36 H naturally, I am naturally a 44 DD, my size G breasts, a natural 44 DDD, and I’m a 34 G”. I love it. How do I meet you women!?!?! I love large breasted women!!!”
  • “I don’t care to see the freak show’s implant canisters, but the stock photo for this story caused me to click 🙂 niiiice” [This photo is pictured above -Eds.]
  • “I would rather see a fine looking set of long legs.”
  • “I am a male who loves breasts of any size but I don’t advocate implants and recommend that women who are too large get reductions. They should not ruin your health. All of them are fabulous in my book”
  • “If that is her in this picture then why change them. They are very nice already.”

What did Australian readers have to say?

  • “Does being fake, false and fraudulent make her a “real” woman?”
  • “Well, you’ve given her her 5mins of fame. Maybe that’s what she wanted. Maybe the best help that we can give her is to not report it.”
  • “Ridiculous. What makes her think they look better? Most people would laugh and stare, not think they look good.”
  • “What will she do and how will she cope in another 10 years or so, when her breasts flatten out and droop down to her knees ? Or maybe she doesn’t have the brains to see that far ahead?”
  • “Why would a healthy young woman push her limits on her health by enlarging her breasts to such a size. Its ugly and just plain stupid!”
  • “Well she will get into the limelight with no talent . She will need steel supports on wheels to transports these puppies”
  • “my natural E’s are plenty big enough and give me enough back pain. i couldn’t imagine having to drag something that size around – i could also think of better things to spend my money on! it is hard enough to buy a pretty E cup bra let alone FFF! what a fool!”

Don’t trust my editorial selection — follow the links above, go to the sites yourselves, and tell me if you agree with the characterization I’ve indicated here, that American readers are grotesquely pro-tit, showing little regard for the person behind the flesh, while Australians show a laudable skepticism towards both her decision to Go Big, and the media’s decision to devote attention to the topic. None of this is sufficient data from which extrapolate sweeping cultural generalizations. Instead, I’ll just close out the discussion with two observations.

One: it is better to be silent and not leave online comments, and let people wonderif you are a boob, than to leave thoughtless, misogynistic comments that prove it.

Two: while the foundational principle of liberal society is the freedom to do with our bodies what we please, regardless of how the exercise thereof may displease, discomfort, or disgust our neighbors, Sheyla Hershey is not actually exercising her freedom with this surgical obsession. No — she is powerless, clearly, to resist the compulsion to her enlarge her breast size, even so far past the point of safety. Compelled by what? By psychological and societal factors, in the absence of which, she certainly would make different decisions regarding the body it is her right to control.  This powerlessness, this debasement, is what we need to keep in mind as we consider her situation, not whether she is more attractive with or without the sacs of silicone beneath the overstretched tissues of her chest.

Oh it’s sooo serious.

When asked about his involvement with super-sexy-super-witty-super-model-super-singer Carla Bruni, President Sarkozy responded: “It’s serious”, according to a CNN sound byte during NH primary coverage.

However, a little YouTube digging revealed his ACTUAL answer: a five-minute response that ranged widely through the historical precedents for asking a president such a question, the difficulties of human relationships in general, and the ludicrousness of the media caring so much about the personal life of a man who is fundamentally like any other… which goes hand-in-hand with the contemporary media misconception that being covert about one’s private life somehow corresponds to corrupt and nontransparent leadership (COUGH Bill Clinton).

I wish the current U.S. Presidential candidates could give this kind of response to media badgering. It was bitingly sarcastic, well-informed, and evinced a level of sophisticated contemplation beyond mere pre-press-conference maneuvering (“Being the President of the Republic doesn’t guarantee one the right to happiness–no more happiness than anyone else has. But no less, either”), and it certainly wasn’t cut into slogans meant for endless replay in news commercials. He reminisced about the days when “A chacun sa vie” (“to each his own”) was the reigning philosophy when it came to personal presidential matters, and it made me miss those days, too.

Ironically, carrying on about this for so long–even though he was criticizing the nature of the question–actually lowered his approval ratings, since citizens complained he was spending too much time talking about his relationship and not about real politics… imagine THAT public response in OUR country…

Sarkozy’s tone and perspective remind me of Hillary’s sarcastic response to the fact that people don’t find her “likable”: “That hurts my feelings! …but… I guess I’ll just have to carry on, somehow…” And, to reference the over-played Hillary-tears-up tape, her message that behind the rehearsed responses to debate questions, beyond the stark polling numbers, she is deeply and personally invested in making our country a better place and in pointing it away from what she sees as a darkening future is… refreshing (and sounds a little like that guy who just won the peace prize). As much as I don’t like Sarkozy, and though I am reluctant to vote for Hilary, that kind of meta-level perspective is what we’ve been sorely missing in the presidency lately; without it America has gotten into serious trouble.

These little glimpses of politicos’ evolution States-side and abroad give me at least a little hope. But if I have to go through a whole election year watching CNN cut rich, challenging rhetoric down to “It’s serious,” and furthermore have to watch candidates cater to that simple-minded standard, I’ll have trouble believing my vote is in any way ‘informed,’ or that our election process is anything more than a tabloid-triggered shot in the dark.


[This cutting diagnosis of media’s preference for sound bites over reasoned responses — and for sexual gossip rather than political intelligence — comes from Julie Johnson, editor of Clarion at Boston University. When she told me how CNN had chopped President Sarkozy’s responses, I shook my head first not at the infantilitzation of our public discourse, but rather at the sad fact that media outlets find it profitable to fix their cameras on the face and body of politicians’ partners like Carla Bruni or Camilla Parker Bowles. How offensive that mascara should play any role in a campaign plan; that it can and does speaks to the pervasive view of female companions as possessions owned by men in power. Are the male companions of female candidates subjected to this scrutiny? I don’t believe they are, since that deep-rooted tradition of political dimorphism lodged in our media psyche favors men, demeans women, and altogether ignores those outside the heteronormative groove. –CivilizeMe ]

Mammalian misogyny in mammoth movie?

Over at The Hathor Legacy,  C. L. Hanson lays out a case for the unexamined misogyny of the Pixar film “Ice Age,” in which the adventures of the protagonist mammals is launched by the death of a mother for the sake of her child. Does this mean that the filmmakers consider female characters disposable, or that they failed to realize that they treat female characters in this disposable fashion? I happen to think that the mother died of natural causes, and rather than being abandoning her to an unaided demise, Manny the Morose Mammoth was watching her last act before exhaustion and injury closed inevitably upon her.

Not the most imaginative plotting; the lazy device of the mother’s death in this film does not set female characters back a few millennia; but it does reflect a gender imbalance, a lack of concern for that imbalance, and is an amplification — albeit a quiet one — of the role of mother mere vessel, fulfilling her noble duty: bear the baby, birth the baby, save the baby, expire.

Whether you agree with the author or not, the question is a fair one, and a smart one, the sort of discerning interrogation of culture that is bound to expose even the most firmly rooted gender preferences.