Miz Belle sent us a set of photos from the September issue (#106) of Numéro, a fashion magazine. The fashion spread, titled “Best Friends” (I found at least one post online saying the two models are, in fact, good friends) features a White woman in at least enough clothing to cover her lady bits posed next to a Black woman whose breasts are on display as she is either entirely or partially naked.
We’ve repeatedly posted about how PETA sexualizes women as a way to draw attention to animal rights issues (a Russian animal rights group has taken up the same tactic). And now we have Angry Green Girl, a website sent in by Andrea K. that applies the idea to environmental issues. The women claim to be “hot, green, and shameless.”
A hybrid-only car wash by women in bikinis:
A video that includes a fully-clothed man wearing a t-shirt labeled “Can’t Get Laid Guy”:
As we see, men are given at least the hope of sexual access to hot women if they make appropriate environmental choices.
From an article at treehugger, which seems to completely approve of this approach:
Angry feminists usually get the eye roll. But what about angry green girls? Seems like they’re getting plenty of attention – or at least this particular spokesperson for green issues. Basically, Angry Green Girl knows how to use her hotness for getting attention, but for a good green cause. From hybrid-only bikini car washes to nearly naked shower tips, check out how Angry Green Girl broadens the eco-issue umbrella through her sarcasm-laden eco-tips. Water issues have never looked quite like this.
These types of activism are based on the premise that a) sexualizing women is acceptable if it’s for a good cause (based on what the group cares about) and b) they actually get people to think about the issues and change their behaviors. Leaving aside the appropriateness of the first point for now (see Lisa’s post on the problems with this logic)–caution, not safe for work), the other question is…are these types of campaigns actually effective? Do people (presumably heterosexual males, that is) who wouldn’t otherwise care about environmental issues watch a video with a girl in a bikini and then rethink their driving habits or what kind of car they plan to purchase?
My first reaction is to be doubtful, but I dunno. What do you think, readers? Anybody have any direct (positive or negative) experience with something of this sort?
Flatworms are hermaphroditic. All flatworms can inseminate and be inseminated. These flatworms also have two penises each. Flatworms are sexual. That is, they reproduce sexually by finding a partner with which to trade genetic material. (Asexual creatures do not trade genetic material, they reproduce by making copies of themselves.)
A flatworm reveals its two penises (in white):
What is interesting about this clip sociologically (in case you’re not already intrigued enough) is how the narrator describes what the flatworms are doing.
Let’s first suppose that it makes little sense to attribute human emotions and motivations to flatworms. Let’s also suppose that narrations of animal behavior are often going to tell us a lot about how we think and only a little, if anything, about what’s going on with the social lives of invertebrates.
As you watch the clip below, notice that they explain the behavior not descriptively, but metaphorically. Flatworm mating behavior is like war and wars have winners and losers:
So the narrator explains that flatworm “sex is more like war than love.” Worms are “swordsmen” who are “penis fencing.” (Mix metaphors much?) They carry “double daggers” (penises). And “the first one to make a successful jab, delivers its sperm.”
Notice how the narrator genders the hermaphroditic flatworms. Because they have penises they are “swordsmen.” Apparently their equally functional capacity to be inseminated is eclipsed by their dangerous daggers!
And notice, too, how they describe the flatworm who becomes inseminated as the “loser.” The “losing flatworm,” the narrator explains, “bears the burden of motherhood, committing valuable resources to having offspring.”
Sperm on the “loser”:
Now it may be true that being the “mother” involves the use of resources. [Note: And this is a nod to the evolutionary logic involved.] But even so, we would never call the females of non-hermaphroditic sexual species “losers” would we? I mean, they both get to pass on their genetic material, and doesn’t that make them both winners from an evolutionary perspective?
No doubt it seems reasonable to call the functional female of the pair a loser in a sexist world in which childbearing is defined as a disability (according to the Americans with Disabilities Act) and childraising is defined as non-productive (it garners no wages or benefits and cannot be put on a resume). Gosh, being non-hermaphroditic, human females are losers by default. They don’t even get to play the game.
So sexism is one way to explain the wildly offensive characterization of the inseminated flatworm as a “loser.” But it also may just be that, in choosing a war/sports metaphor to describe flatworm behavior, they inevitably had to characterize one or the other as a loser. This is a great example of the folly of metaphor. Metaphors can be used to make something unfamiliar make sense by comparing it to something familiar, but it also runs the risk of forcing the thing being explained to mirror the thing you use to explain it with.
It’s simply sloppy. And, all too often, it results in projecting ugly realities with which we are all too familiar onto those things we don’t really understand.
Ever since it occurred to me a few years ago, I’ve been deeply disturbed the two meanings that the word “fuck” has in U.S. culture. We use the word when we want to hurt someone really, really bad; and we use it to describe what may be the most physically intimate thing two people can do together. The fact that the word has that double meaning, I think, speaks volumes about our fucked up relationship with sex.
Illustrating this, Caroline H. pointed me to a June 2009 Playboy slideshow of politically conservative women that readers want to “hate fuck.” After protests, Playboy took the slideshow down, but RedState captured screen shots. You can see them all here. I post a selection below.
I borrowed this commercial from the Mongoose Chronicles, where Mar offers both a hilarious and a serious interpretation. First, the commercial:
Now, the interpretation: More than just another example of a product being marketed with hypermasculinity, this ad sends “…the message… that women’s sexuality is owned by the men with whom they interact…” The “hero” must erase all signs that he transgressed on the father’s property. Her “daddy” must not know. Clean and showered, the woman can greet her father in all innocence.
As Mar says it:
…with all traces of sex duly washed away, she’s free to greet her father while pretending to be a virgin. Because for women, virginity: good; sex: bad. But if you’re a man: sticking around to meet the parents: bleah; sex: rawr; Coke Zero: arooooo.
I have nothing new to add to our previous analyses–it’s another example of sort of dead-looking women in sexualized positions. But this time they add cats, which actually look at the camera and definitely appear to be alive, giving them more subjectivity than the women have.
My professional, well-reasoned, deeply-pondered sociological insight: ick.
NEW! (Oct. ’09) Anna W. sent in a link to a set of images at Glossed Over. The images come from the September 2009 issues of W magazine. Many of the images present women in very passive poses, many of which make them appear dead:
NEW! (Mar. ’10): Martha sent in some images from the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer? A Collection of Photographic Evidence, a collaboration between the singer Amanda Palmer and writer Neil Gaiman. The photos in the book show Palmer posed as though she’s been murdered, often in ways that are sexualized as well. Some examples:
I’m putting the next one after the jump because it’s a very realistic-looking image of her nearly naked, bloodied, and folded up into a shopping cart; it may be upsetting and/or somewhat NSFW, so be warned.
Here’s another collection of images about gender and marketing of various techy things, particularly video games. You can see my other jumbled post of such images here (check out the links at the bottom of that post–I’m not going to reproduce them here).
Danielle F. found a post at bitmob that includes this old ad for Game Boy:
Notice that the presumed user is either a heterosexual male (or, I suppose, a lesbian…but I doubt it). And as we see, the Game Boy is so awesome it’s better than having sex with a woman tied up waiting for you. I hope the unhappy look on her face is because her partner is distracted and not because she doesn’t really want to be tied up.
Morgan C. alerted us to an ad for DirecTV that features Peyton Manning and the following dialogue:
Manning begins “…why you need to watch football in HD: for the one handed grabs” (cue shot of scantily cheerleader’s chest as she is jumping around), “the most naked bootlegs” (kicking line semi-crotch shots), “and all the punishing hits” (don’t forget the chest and abs shots!). It’s a pretty shameless marketing scheme when you hire a professional athlete and project images of women and their body parts behind him.
Here’s the delightful ad:
A reader who prefers to remain anonymous sent in this image he was forwarded that someone created equating different browsers with women. Again we see that the assumed user is male:
The reader says,
…notice how all the women are described primarily or entirely in terms of sexual attributes, and criticized for whatever ways they fail to be ideal sex partners…Unquestioned assumptions here…that “women” means “people whose purpose in life is to provide you with sex”. Male gaze much?
I find the Chrome image particularly icky. The equating of IE with “easy” women, who are of course the “first woman [users] tried” (because she’s not relationship material, just for getting started), and the connection to STDs is also classy.
The sender-inner continues,
Like most software companies, mine has an extremely imbalanced male-to-female ratio, maybe something around 90% male, and most of the women are in the marketing and HR departments so the balance is even further skewed among the people who engineer the software. (Full disclosure: I’m a man.) I have no way of knowing how prevalent e-mail forwards like this one are among engineers in the software industry, since most of them get passed around under the table. It makes me wonder what role they might play in perpetuating or reinforcing a “boys-only-club” kind of culture that makes women feel unwelcome, or whether that has an influence on the extreme gender imbalance of my industry.
On that note, Sabriel pointed out a post at Feministing in which the author, Cat Marshall, a female animation student, expresses dismay at a video used to encourage submissions to the International Erotic Animation Festival. The video reinforces the sexualized female image and also brings up interesting questions about what is considered erotic. Although, for the record, the sexualized women do appear to be zombies:
And we got several more submissions of gendered marketing of techy items. Stephanie G. sent us a link to her post at Mother Jones about Sony Ericsson’s attempt to market cell phones to women by making them “diamond” shaped:
The company claims that “structured forms, intricate corners, hidden depths” are trendy. Stephanie points out,
The phone has some features that clearly illustrate stereotypes about what women (should) care about:
“The two inch screen’s clever design means that at the touch of a button the screen becomes a mirror, offering a discreet way to make sure you look as good as your mobile phone. It is also the first Sony Ericsson to feature Walk Mate step counter, to help you stay in shape wherever you go. It also has an exclusive fashion interface which automatically updates with zodiac signs and special events throughout the year.”
Liz noted the following about Ubisoft’s series of Nintendo games aimed at girls:
…includes stuff like ‘Imagine Makeup Artist’ and ‘Imagine Wedding Planner.’ Without exception every game is about physical appearance, performance for the purpose of looking pretty, or nurturing/childrearing.
If you haven’t gotten enough yet, Kate M. sent in these examples of “time management games” (what?!?) at Shockwave:
I don’t know what to make of this one:
UPDATE: Reader Shodan says, about Virtual Families and Virtual Villagers,
…in those games, male and female characters can take on dozens of roles, with males able to take on tasks that have been often portrayed as the role of women traditionally (house cleaning, child rearing) and women taking on tasks that are often portrayed as masculine masculine (research, construction).
If you want (once things are progressing and you’ve got a steady food-supply, a hut or two built, and you’re working on unplugging the lagoon) you can task a couple villagers to be “Breeders”. Be advised that this is only a good idea for females. This was another accidental-discovery. I had everybody but “The Runner” set to Breeder (to get the population moving) and shut the game down for a while. I came back to discover that one of the males had decided that Runner would be a good mate — food-production had halted. Needless to say, the two men in the village were immediately tasked with Runner’s duties while the females nursed the infants.
So maybe I’m totally offbase on those two. Or maybe not.
You can also play Create a Mall, Posh Boutique 2, Diaper Dash, or a variety of games about diners, salons, and boutiques. Kate says,
Even the ones that involve you having a successful career (and saving the community! What a hero! Nurturing all of us!) don’t start off with you wanting a career – you fall into it by accident, on account of your love for your family/community/cooking/fashion.
NEW! (July ’10): Bri A. sent in another example of gendering technology. This is an image from TeamViewer, a program that lets people remotely access your computer. Notice what it says under Info: “This number identifies you. Tell your partner so he can connect to you.” Because only guys would be using this, obviously.