Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Every man, woman in 6 month's Sun...

'What does a collage of every person pictured in the Sun over six months look like?'
That's the question posed by a campaigner, Kate Hardie, linked to the NoMorePage; a team put together a display of every single man or woman featured, and concluded that most men appeared in active poses in stark contrast to the women who appeared mostly in passive poses, as objects. The Sun tweeted a reply: "too much time on their hands".

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Summer 2009 exam Dr Who gender

The question was 'How is the representation of gender constructed in this extract?'


Friday, 18 April 2014

Female Gaze: Zac Efron's Best Shirtless Award

Awful sub-editing (ie headline). Is Fogg's point fair?
Are we seeing a rise in the objectification of male performers, a negative equalising with that so typically applied to female performers rather than a retreat of the approach overall? Guardian columnist (therefore seen by some as belonging to the politically correct/PC brigade) Ally Fogg certainly thinks so.
As a teacher I've spoken before to students about screensavers on iPads and Mac desktops using topless males, asking what the response might be if we did a commutation test and replaced these with female equivalents (even scantily clad if not topless).
To argue whether a topless male should be considered a sexual image is one thing, but it is clearly well established that many do perceive it in this light.
Excerpt from Fogg's article:
I would suggest you look at footage from the MTV Awards on Sunday, where Zac Efron was handed an award (and I'm not making this up) for "best shirtless performance". He began a thank-you speech against a chorus of lusting adolescent screams demanding he strip off. He had barely said two words before Rita Ora obliged the mob, sneaking up behind him and ripping open his shirt. With a resigned shake of the head, Efron finished the job, stripping topless to trigger 10,000 adoring screams and a million shares on Tumblr.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the incident sparked a minor debate about the acceptable limits of objectification. It should be noted that Efron had teased his fans beforehand about collecting the award topless and appeared to have turned up in a denim stripper shirt with spring-loaded pop-fasteners instead of buttons. It is by no means far-fetched to imagine that Ora's role may have been planned. Nonetheless, I would argue that the performance was unhealthy.
Ora's actions bypassed Efron's consent and he was no longer in control of his body, and how it was used for the entertainment or titillation of others. If the actor wishes to strip to the waist and bare his (admittedly rather glorious) physique to the world, then I offer him my blessing and my gratitude. The problem here was not with the overt display of flesh, but the overt display of exploitation. I have no problem with any man off for the entertainment of others but that must be his choice and, more importantly, seen to be his choice.
In many ways the incident was reminiscent of the deeply discomfiting and cringeworthy scene at the recent American Music Awards where Justin Bieber was publicly pawed and practically eaten alive by a woman. In both cases, a young man's sexuality was considered fair game, his consent thought irrelevant. It is my view that the word "objectification" is thrown around too easily, and with too little thought to its meaning. Not this time. The feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum once set out seven features of sexual objectification, including denying the subject autonomy, agency and boundary integrity. I'm pretty sure both Bieber and Efron were violated on every score.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Cropped gender-flip example; see original article.
A neologism (new term/concept) for you: gender-flipping, the practice of exposing sexist (usually patriarchal and/or misogynistic) practices by re-creating media texts with the opposite gender to that originally shown.
Here's an example from a Guardian piece on this - the men's mag GQ had its cover gender-flipped; click on the article link to see the resulting image (containing a degree of nudity).
Sometimes the best way to make a point about sexism is also the simplest. Australian comedians the Bondi Hipsters parodied this month's British GQ by showing heavily bearded Dom Nader mimicking the naked poses struck by model Miranda Kerr. Their shoot went viral. Christiaan Van Vuuren, Nader's real-life alter ego, told the Huffington Post that the idea was a response to "the over-sexualisation of the female body in the high-fashion world. For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there … it's an entirely different thing that we aren't used to seeing."
Gender-flips used to challenge sexist stereotypes are having a moment. Last week, in a Guardian video, Leah Green went undercover, acting out scenarios reported by women to the Everyday Sexism website. She asked a barman if he'd give her a lapdance, for example, prompting obvious bemusement.
Last month, Jennifer Lopez's video for the single I Luh Ya Papi, began with one of her female dancers asking: "Why do men always objectify the women in every single video?" and proceeded to show Lopez, fully dressed, surrounded by half-naked men in a bed, a pool and sponging down a car. This followed the viral hit , Oppressed Majority, released by French filmmaker Eléonore Pourriat in 2010, which depicts a man struggling with routine chores and childcare, before being attacked by a group of women in the street and poorly treated at a female-dominated police station. The video became a sensation when Pourriat added English subtitles in February this year, and has now been viewed almost 9m times.
But the gender-flip certainly isn't a new way to make a political point. In early 1908, illustrator Harry Grant Dart used it to show the fearful possibilities if the campaign for women's suffrage proved successful. His image of "Mrs PJ Gilligan's saloon", a shocking dystopia where women smoked, drank and partook of free fudge, now just looks like an excellent night out. In 1978, Gloria Steinem turned the technique to feminist advantage, with her famous essay, If Men Could Menstruate, in which she wrote that periods would, in this case, "become an enviable, worthy, masculine event: men would brag about how long and how much."

Friday, 21 March 2014

Male Gaze: Stop leering at Scarlett Johansson!

That's the plea from Bronwen Clune, a feminist critic writing in The Guardian, fed up with encountering profiles of female celebrities which linger on their bodies, and describe them in excessive detail. She specifically name-checks the male gaze theory:
We’re all familiar with the concept of the “male gaze”, particularly when it comes to Hollywood film – the lens lingering on the curves of leading ladies’ derrieres (Lane talks of Johansson’s “contours” of reputation) – a scopophilic guilty pleasure. And, let’s face it, women’s bodies are delightful things to look at, one of the reasons media executives conveniently argue that the economics of the industry make it impossible to avoid stereotypes of women.
But when respected male writers profile powerful women, is it wrong that we should expect more than lengthy, voyeuristic wet dreams? In the cases of both Hardy and Johansson, the writers of their profiles are accomplished and well-regarded. Their audiences, a “new intelligentsia”, are likely to congratulate themselves on their progressive values. Their subjects are powerful and sexually subversive women. Yet in both cases the women are reduced to something resembling not much more than titillating, slightly fearsome, but ultimately decorative objects.
She notes how one actress was described as having "nice tits" - something the male writer even went as far as to confirm with her housemate - and goes on to note:
I’m reading a profile of Scarlett Johansson by Anthony Lane where she appears as if “made from champagne”, her laugh “dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was [sic] to play a Martini” and her backside, “barely veiled in peach-colored underwear”. As Slate points out this is not the first time Johansson has inspired “culture writers to do horrible things with words”
Does this chime with your experience? Do you think seemingly respectable highbrow media (as opposed to tabloid press/TV) are just as guilty of needless objectification? Any examples you want to share?