Cross-posted at Caroline Heldman’s Blog.

Demand #8 from the Occupy Wall Street list of demands is a call for a “gender equal rights amendment,” a good sign that OWS is thinking about inequality in all its various forms.  This sentiment, though, seems to be lost on (supposedly) liberal filmmaker, Steven Greenstreet, whose past work  includes documentaries about the Mormon influence in passing Proposition 8 and the conservative backlash against Michael Moore.  Greenstreet is also the proud creator of the website, Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.  He was watching news coverage of the Occupy movement that inspired him to tell a friend,

Wow, seeing all those super smart hot chicks at the protest makes me want to be there… Hmmm… Yeah, let’s go with that.

We instantly went to Tumblr and made [Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street]. Our original ideas were admittedly sophomoric: Pics of hot chicks being all protesty, videos of hot chicks beating drums in slow-mo, etc. But when we arrived at Zuccotti Park in New York City, it evolved into something more.

There was a vibrant energy in the air, a warmth of community and family, and the voices we heard were so hopeful and passionate. Pretty faces were making signs, giving speeches, organizing crowds, handing out food, singing, dancing, debating, hugging and marching.

The evolution from “sophomoric” to “something more,” inspired by “community and family,” is not evident on the website.  Aside from the obvious reduction of activist women to sexual objects, this site is shockingly offensive in its inclusion of young women/girls, one with the caption “She is identified as being 18 years old.” [Hint: If you have to identify “her” as being of age, that’s a sign you probably shouldn’t be posting the photo.]

And these photos:

Greenstreet does not provide information about whether he gained permission from the girls/women featured, but since no names are provided, we can assume he did not systematically seek permission.

It is also unlikely that Greenstreet informed his subjects of his intention to post their photos on the Hot Chicks website.  With his accomplice, Brandon Bloch, Greenstreet shot a video with interviews of women in which it is clear they thought their words, not their bodies, would be the focus:

And in case the message that women are primarily sexual objects wasn’t clear, Greenstreet even includes photos of professional women in his voyeur collection:

Greenstreet has posted criticism on the Hot Chicks website like a badge of honor:

@JaeChick: Nothing like degrading women to get attention. You are a small, sorry excuse for a man.

@MeFunk: Whatsay you take down your sexist video, issue a formal apology to female protesters, and then I pour hot coffee on you?

He responded to critiques of sexism with the following statement:

Apparently a lot of controversy has erupted online from people passionately opining (among many things) that this is sexist, offensive, and dangerously objectifies women. It was not my intent to do that and I think the spirit of the video, and the voices within, are honorable and inspiring.

However, if you disagree with me, I encourage you to use that as an excuse to create constructive discussions about the issues you have. Because, to be honest, any excuse is a good excuse to bring up the topic of women’s rights.

Wow, what a humanitarian.  It appears that this fumbling display of overt sexism was really just a ploy to get us talking about women’s rights.  Thanks, Steven.

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Thanks to Katrin, Melanie L., Jessie W., and Nathan Jurgenson of Cyborgology for asking us to write about this topic!

Arlie Hochschild, in her book The Second Shift, discusses a modern tension in American households resulting from a “stalled gender revolution,” i.e., the fact that women and the social construction of femininity have changed and men and masculinity have not caught up with these changes.  These tensions erupt when assigning responsibilities in the second shift of household labor and childcare, which often fall upon wives’ shoulders.  Traditionally, the dominant construction of masculinity does not allow men to participate in housework, such as laundry, since it is threatening to their sense of masculinity.  In fact, as argued by Julie Brines, the economic model of dependency holds for women but not for men.  Men can essentially trade in their salaries for the domestic labor performed by their wife; however, when women out-earn their husbands, they cannot seem to strike a similar bargain.  In this case, since the man is not fulfilling his traditional role as provider, he essentially refuses to further damage his reputation by engaging in “woman’s work” in the home.

Enter Tide:

In this Tide commercial, we see this threatening element of housework, as the “Dad Mom” tries to justify his laundry proficiency by reasserting his masculinity.  At the end, he confirms that he is still a man as he declares that he will “go do pull ups and crunches,” one would assume in order to build up his manly muscles.  Beyond this direct statement of his attempts to embody masculinity, throughout the commercial, we see three themes — normative heterosexuality, competition among men, and the codification of laundry as feminine — used to excuse his role as homemaker.

He first makes the claim that he is at home “being awesome,” and proceeds to explain how.  He stresses his unique (and alluring) mixture of masculinity and nurturing.  By describing himself in this way for the sake of the “Mom Moms,” he alludes to his heterosexuality, a basic element of hegemonic masculinity, in an attempt to establish some sex appeal.

Second, there is a competitive element to his dialogue as he boasts to other dads about his ability to dress a four-year-old and skills at folding a “frilly dress with complete accuracy.”  By making it a competition, he rationalizes his participation in housework. Boom!

Finally, this “dad mom” uses the “brute strength of dad” in combination with the “nurturing abilities of my laundry detergent” to complete this basis household task.  The task of doing laundry and the detergent, itself, is codified as feminine.  This combination is a “smart” one because this is exactly what women need: more men doing the laundry.

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Amanda M. Czerniawski is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Temple University. She specializes in bodies and culture, gender and sexuality, and medical sociology.  Her past research projects involved the development of height and weight tables and the role of plus-size models in constructions of beauty.  Her current research focuses on the contested role of the body in contemporary feminist discourse.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.

(source)

In this post I’m happy to feature two short clips of sociologists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas talking about the sex industry in Las Vegas.

First, in this two-minute clip, Barb Brents discusses the way that the sex industry in Las Vegas is set up in ways that protect “referral services” (the organizations that arrange for what often includes sex work), while exposing sex workers to policing and criminalization:

Second, Crystal Jackson, takes two minutes to explain that the stereotype of sex workers — women who have sex with men — makes male sex workers invisible and transgender sex workers seem deviant. This has consequences. It means that men in the sex industry are more able to evade the police (who aren’t looking for them), while transgender sex workers are even more likely than women to experience abuse from both the police and clients. This means that patriarchy is an insufficient theory with which to theorize sex work.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

In this ten-minute video, Feminist Frequency‘s Anita Sarkeesian does a great job of discussing the problem with “straw feminists,” overtly feminist characters who are made to look bitchy, ridiculous, or just plain wrong… even when they’re describing forms of gender inequality that really exist.  More, they’re used to suggest that feminism places men and women in opposition when, in fact, gendered expectations and institutions are oppressive to men as well.

By demonizing these characters, Sarkeesian concludes, the straw feminist leads real women to disassociate from feminism, even when they believe in the equal rights of men and women.

Transcript after the jump:

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Sociology PhD candidate Kjerstin Gruys recently guest posted about her effort to shun mirrors for one year in the hopes of improving her body image.  As any really interesting and challenging project should, it’s begun to get some major media coverage, including a story at Yahoo News.  When a political project starts getting mass media attention, though, it risks being contextualized and even co-opted by the status quo.  This is a case in point.

Interspersed among the article about Gruys’ project are links, an effort on the part of the website to get readers to spend more time on its pages and the pages of its advertisers.  These are probably randomly generated according to the content of the article.  So, since Gruys’ project is about her feelings about her body and avoiding mirrors for six months before and after her wedding day, the links center around beauty and weddings.  The first two links nestled in among the first few paragraphs read “Are you Satisfied with Your Face?” and “A Wedding Dress to Fit Your Body Shape.”

By publicizing her project, Kjerstin is trying to make the personal political.  But one of the only means of drawing awareness to her work includes losing control of how it’s talked about and delivered.  While she wants women to feel better about themselves, and some may be inspired by her project, in some ways this is also another instance of the mass media reminding women to think about the appearance of their face and body. The inserted links, further, can be read as upholding the very standards that Gruys is trying to combat.  And in at least some cases, they do. The “Are you Satisfied with Your Face?” link, in this vein, goes to a site sponsored by super-beauty project corporation L’Oreal.

Thanks to my student, Kirsten Easton, for sending along this link!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The title question haunts me.  I’m a feminist, a recovered anorexic and, yes, I’m on a diet.

Because of my experience with anorexia, I know how horrible things can get when one starts obsessing about “bad foods” and setting (and re-setting) weight-loss goals.  My eating disorder made me miserable, and I have lasting health issues that could eventually shorten or lessen the quality of my life.

That said, recovering from anorexia made me a feminist.  While battling for my sanity and health, I became increasingly pissed off at the THIN=BEAUTIFUL*GOOD environment we live in.  Our culture’s valorization of thinness caused well-meaning friends to compliment me on my rapid weight-loss, literally up until the weeks that I entered treatment. Even after entering treatment, some people didn’t think I was skinny enough to be “really” anorexic.  Worse, my awful then-boyfriend hinted that it would be great if I could recover without gaining any weight, “since you’re not, like, scary-thin.”

In the end, I got better, got angrier, and ultimately re-arranged my life so that I could stay healthy and continue fighting-the-good-fight as my career.

We feminists typically view dieting — and, particularly, the diet industry — as an expression of patriarchy that is bad for women.  As a scholar who studies the harmful effects of our culture’s beauty standards, I agree with this.  Diets (which FAIL 95% of the time) drain women’s energy, happiness, and wallets – often while risking our health.  Hence, “RIOTS, NOT DIETS!” has become a well-known rallying cheer for many feminists.

Dieting can also be understood as a type of “patriarchal bargain” (an individual woman’s decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women-as-a-group, in exchange for whatever power she can wrest from the system).  By strategically losing weight, we accept the THIN=BEAUTIFUL*GOOD equation (which implies FAT=UGLY*BAD), and propel ourselves into positions of greater social advantage.  On an individual level, having “thin privilege” feels empowering.  (Recall, Oprah Winfrey — arguably the MOST powerful woman in the world — has described “going to the gym when I really prefer wine and chips” as her greatest accomplishment!)  Yet, these THIN powered feelings depend upon a system of inequality in which power/privilege/respect are denied to others on the basis of these standards.

Frustratingly, given the patriarchal bargain of weight-loss, being radically anti-diet as a political stance doesn’t always fit comfortably as a personal stance. Because we live in a society that punishes women for being “fat,” even the most dedicated feminists report struggles with body image.  The threat of becoming a martyr for this cause (i.e., by voluntarily giving up ”thin-privilege,” if we’ve got it) can be terrifying.   Add to this the personal fact that I’ve gained an (subjectively) uncomfortable amount of weight in the past year by neglecting to care for my body, and suddenly I’m facing a conundrum.

So what’s a good feminist to do?  Here’s how I’ve proceeded.

 

Step 1: Shun Mirrors for 1 Year

I was saying mean things to my reflection in the mirror and wanted to lose weight, urgently.  My body insecurities were reaching a dangerous peak, and it scared me.  Was I on the verge of a relapse? 10 years ago, I’d probably have gone on an extreme diet, but this time something blissfully self-protective kicked in.  I still did something extreme, but in a vastly more body-positive direction: I decided to shun mirrors for a year.  Yep, you read that correctly.  I’ve embarked on a quest to go without mirrors for 365 days.

Thus far it’s been enlightening (and challenging), but hasn’t completely resolved my body image issues.

 

Step 2: Revamp Eating and Exercise Habits to be Healthfully Moderate

So, in addition to shunning mirrors, I’ve decided to monitor my food and exercise until I’m back on track. As an advocate of the “Health at Every Size” movement (which stresses the importance of healthful behaviors but rejects the idea that there is a universal “healthy weight”), I’m going to try to judge my “success” based on my behaviors, instead of my weight.  My goal is to consciously re-engage in healthful eating habits and joyful activity, and then accept my body size and shape wherever it settles.  As much as I’m still tempted to “get skinny,” I know I can live with this, and (more importantly) I know my body can live through it.

But I still hope I lose some weight.

 

So, what do you think? If “fat is a feminist issue,” can a feminist diet?

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Kjerstin Gruys is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Sociology Department at UCLA where she’s writing her dissertation on clothing size standards in the fashion industry. At her blog, A Year Without Mirrors, she’s chronicling her commitment to avoid her reflection for 365 days.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

I have criticized sloppy statistical work by some international feminist organizations, so I’m glad to have a chance to point out a useful new report and website.

The Progress of the World’s Women is from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The full-blown site has an executive summary, a long report, and a statistics index page with a download of the complete spreadsheet. I selected a few of the interesting graphics.

Skewed sex ratios (which I’ve written about here and here) are in the news, with the publication of Unnatural Selection, by Mara Hvistendahl. The report shows some of the countries with the most skewed sex ratios, reflecting the practice of parents aborting female fetuses (Vietnam and Taiwan should  be in there, too). With the exception of Korea, they’ve all gotten more skewed since the 1990s, when ultrasounds became more widely available, allowing parents to find out the sex of the fetus early in the pregnancy.

The most egregious inequality between women of the world is probably in maternal mortality. This chart shows, for example, that the chance of a woman dying during pregnancy or birth is about 100- 39-times higher in Africa than Europe. The chart also shows how many of those deaths are from unsafe abortions.

Finally, I made this one myself, showing women as a percentage of parliament in most of the world’s rich countries (the spreadsheet has the whole list). The USA, with 90 women out of 535 members of Congress, comes in at 17%.

The report focuses on law and justice issues, including rape and violence against women, as well as reparations, property rights, and judicial reform. They boil down their conclusions to: “Ten proven approaches to make justice systems work for women“:

1. Support women’s legal organizations

2. Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain [that refers to rape cases, for example, not making their way from charge to conviction -pnc]

3. Implement gender-sensitive law reform

4. Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators

5. Put women on the front line of law enforcement

6. Train judges and monitor decisions

7. Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

8. Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes

9. Invest in women’s access to justice

10. Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals

Recently while reading the feminist magazine Bitch, I came across an interview with Leila Cohan-Miccio and Caitlin Tegart, creators of the web series Vag Magazine. The series focuses on three women who buy a fashion magazine and recreate it as a feminist magazine, a la Bitch or Bust. The young women, Bethany, Fennel, and Sylvie, are stereotypical third-wave feminists. The series pokes fun at them specifically and third-wave feminism in general, highlighting the differences between a vision of feminism as empowering women as a group (Meghan, the “normal” character used to ground the viewer, defines feminism as the idea that men and women should be equal) and the idea that empowerment means individual women are free to do “whatever they want” and “have fun”:

The series reveals some of the limitations of “catch-phrase feminism” (to use a term from Brittany Shoot’s Bitch article). These catchphrases echo throughout American culture: “You go girl!” “It’s about choice!” Vag Magazine’s theme song informs the audience, “A girl is a girl, because she is power. Power is power because it’s a girl.” Another prominent pop culture feminist, Lisa Simpson, sums up this vision of feminism: “Well, as a feminist, virtually anything a woman does is empowering” (“The Blue and the Gray,” originally aired February 13, 2011). A viewpoint like this is inclusive, but can also shut down meaningful conversation. For example, the young women have trouble getting anything done (Fennel hires an intern because “We don’t believe in hierarchies, but we also don’t have time to get our own coffee.”) In another instance, Bethany, Fennel, and Sylvie tell Meghan that the skirts she wants to write about aren’t feminist enough, but are unable to clearly articulate what a feminist skirt would be.

Third-wave feminism is sometimes viewed with disdain because it can seem empty: if any choice a woman makes can be construed as feminist, then perhaps no act can be truly called feminist. At the same time, third-wave feminists can be more inclusive than previous generations: stay-at-home moms, working mothers, sex workers, and scientists are all embraced. However, there can be less of an emphasis on organizing and fighting for equality (though recent efforts to support Planned Parenthood and organize Slut Walks shows that third-wave feminists are interested in more than mere slogans).

Various episodes also address the available media options for those looking for a feminist perspective. The main rival to Vag Magazine is Cunt, a magazine staffed by more stereotypically aggressive feminists. The series shows how often women can feel like they are stuck with only two images of feminism: New Age-y “I honor you as a woman” feminists who seem spacey and ineffectual, or the stereotype of the radical man-hater. Episode 4, “Feminist Sweepstakes,” delves into this dichotomy . The episode starts with Fennel wanting to read her poem; she is asked to wait until the designated poetry hour; these women feel so much that they must have an entire poetry hour. Later, the audience is introduced to Jaybird, the editor of Cunt. Jaybird and her followers wear leather vests and jeans, which contrasts with the dresses, pastel colors, and feathers favored by the Vag staff. Only Meghan, the audience stand-in, gets to be “normal” – that is, reasonable.  During the two magazines’ confrontation, Jaybird yells and talks about the patriarchy; Bethany and Fennel use poetry and talk about honoring Cunt’s place. Meghan is the only one who can speak clearly and without rhetoric, transcending common feminist stereotypes, doing so by being clever and critical.

But Vag Magazine is not about putting women down or just laughing at them or feminism. Indeed, there is a lot of love in this series, and a lot to celebrate. The cast is all-female, and all funny. The women are able to buy the magazine thanks to their efforts at selling crafts on Etsy.  They do publish an issue of their magazine: they are, ultimately, successful. Indeed, the women of Vag Magazine act out the inner turmoil about how to present themselves as feminists to the world. The series humorously highlights the bind modern feminists often find themselves in: how to be inclusive without embracing everything, how to be forthright and challenging of inequality but not bullying.

The rest of the series is after the jump. more...