The question was 'How is the representation of gender constructed in this extract?'
Friday, 18 April 2014
|Awful sub-editing (ie headline). Is Fogg's point fair?|
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.|
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."