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Flashback Friday.

Toban B. sent in some photographs and a discussion of how energy drinks are gendered.

Energy drinks are already gendered to begin with in a couple of different ways at least: (1) they are marketed as hydration for athletes and sports is a masculine arena and (2) women aren’t usually encouraged to consume “extra” calories. But, in addition to being seen as somehow for men, Toban shows how a particularly violent and aggressive kind of masculinity is reproduced in the marketing, even across different companies.

Monster energy drinks include slashes on the packaging that look like a vicious scratch and what appears to be a crosshair and bullet holes (bad aim?):

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Notice that the “flavor” in the picture above is “Sniper.”  Toban notes that “Assault” and “M-80” are also flavors:

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The can for the Assault-flavored drink also features a camouflage design, invoking militarism.

They call their “shooters” “Hitman”:

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Both Monster and Guru link their product directly to (extreme) sports:

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Full Throttle and Amp (“Overdrive”) go for a connection to aggressive driving:

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Full Throttle energy drinks make it explicit with the tagline, “Let Your Man Out.”

Toban notes that it’s ironic that a lot of these products are marketed as health drinks when, in fact, internalizing an aggressive form of masculinity is associated with taking health risks (e.g., refusing to wear seat belts or hard hats, drinking hard). “In any case,” Toban concludes, “this marketing normalizes and makes light of a lot of aggression and danger that we should be opposing.” And which, I will add, isn’t good for men or women.

See also our post with hilarious fake commercials making fun of energy drinks and hypermasculinity.

Originally posted in 2009.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A new submission inspires me to re-post this great collection of public resistance to advertisements that objectify women.

Adding commentary to the ubiquitous images that surround us can help us to notice, even if just temporarily, that our environment is toxic to our ability to think of all people as full and complete humans.  Here are some inspiring examples.

1.  An unknown artist pastes the photoshop toolbar on H&M posters in Germany (thanks Dmitriy T.C. and Alison M.).

2.  Toban B. (a prolific SocImages contributor, by the way) sent us a set of photographs.  These were snapped in Seattle, Washington by Jonathan McIntosh:

3.  Commentary on a Special K. ad in Dublin, sent in by Tara C. (Broadsheet).

Text:

Hey there Special-K Lady.

I know you think I should diet
So I can be slim just like you.
thing is, I think I look pretty fabulous
Just the way I am
Also, Special-K tastes like cardboard

so piss off

4.  This one was written on by a teenage girl in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  It reads:  “I’m sick of sexually tinted images.”

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5.  Tricia V. sent us an example of this kind of resistance in Haiti.  The billboard below is in for a brand of beer called Prestige.  Tricia writes:  “The writing [along the bottom of] the billboard says “Ko O+ pa machandiz”  which translates as ‘Women’s bodies are not merchandise.'”  She was impressed at the effort exerted to climb up and write across a full-sized billboard.

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6.  Ang B. snapped this photo in Madison, Wisconsin:

7. Sasha Albert saw this comment written on a “please excuse our construction” sign at her gym. Someone else had already written: “WEIRD retouching. Give us a real, healthy, normal woman!” Read more at About Face.

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See also: my mom has a phd in math.   For a classic example, see “If it were a lady, it’d get its bottom pinched.”  For an example of backlash to public anti-sexist messages, see this post on defending privilege (trigger warning).

Cross-posted at Ms.  Sources:  herehere, and here.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, the Senate hearing on rape and harassment in the military, and the controversy at Occidental College.

Toban B. sent us two pairs of photographs showing feminist activism and backlash (images found here) at the University of Western Ontario.  These posters, and their defacement, nicely demonstrate how resistance to oppression is met with counter-resistance.  Until inequality is challenged, things often seem to be just fine; when groups stand up and demand equality, we suddenly see how fiercely people will defend their privilege.

Images after the jump (includes language about sexual violence):

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This is a re-post in response to a new submission by vmlojw.

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Toban B. sent us this photo he took in Cardiff, Wales, of Golliwog banks:

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While the sign indicates these particular ones were for display only, Toban says there were others clearly for sale.

The golliwog (also spelled golliwogg) is an old racist caricature, clearly similar to blackface minstrel-type or mammy figures in the U.S. It emerged in the 1800s but was popularized when James Robertson and Sons adopted a golliwog named Golly as the logo for their jam around 1910:

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Now, obviously you’ll often find these types of things for sale in antique stores, or on display at museums. They were very common in the U.S., Britain, and I’m sure many other countries, so it’s not surprising you’d come upon them.

The thing about the golliwogs Toban saw, though, is that they don’t appear to be antiques. The same ones can be found on ebay, and here’s the box they come in, which looks quite new (as do the dolls themselves):

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The ebay listing for that one lists it as “brand new,” though theoretically that could refer to an antique that had never been taken out of the box, I suppose. But the listing doesn’t say anything about it being an antique. And Toban says,

…the items on the table around them — at Cardiff Market — generally weren’t antiques.  Since there were newly mass produced tourist/nationalism industry products around them, people passing by generally wouldn’t view the Golliwogg dolls as antiques.  The dolls weren’t somehow distinguished from the newer products.

vmlojw, who is in Sydney, Australia, emailed in to tell us that her 1-year-old daughter received one as a gift and she later “found a local charity stall full of knitted golliwogs.”  vmlojw figured this couldn’t happen in North America; I’m not so sure.

It’s one thing to find antique racist caricatures for sale. I still don’t know why you’d want to buy one, but I can certainly see why they’d be appropriate for museum displays. But I find it both bizarre and disturbing when new versions of such things are produced and put on sale as a “cutesy” souvenir. Do people think we’re so “post-racial” now that these are completely disconnected from their origins in a racist culture that viewed non-Whites as less human, less intelligent, and less civilized? Why would someone think this is an adorable reminder of their time in Cardiff? I really don’t get it.

Also see: vintage Jezebel products, mammy souvenirs for sale in Savannah, modern reproductions of old racist images, and patterns for making mammy-type dolls.

The 2010 Olympics logo is an altered version of traditional Arctic Inuit sculptures. This quasi-indigenous logo has been displayed in a barrage of Olympics branding. You can see two examples of this marketing in photos — from the summer of 2009 – shown below.

With this Olympics logo, and other Olympics promotional messages, marketers have been portraying the 2010 Games as ‘indigenous’ Olympics. Indigenous references are foregrounded in mass produced Olympics marketing.  The online Olympics store even sells “Authentic Aboriginal Products” (such as t-shirts and silk ties).

Some people who encounter this Olympics branding are bound to come away with the impression that natives (that is, individuals with a significant enough amount of native ancestry or culture) are respected, empowered, and well-integrated here in Canada. In other words, some viewers will view this marketing as a sign of harmonious bonds between natives and mainstream Canadian society.

Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, conveyed a much different view of Olympics marketing when he asserted that,

We’re deeply concerned about the concerted and aggressive marketing campaign advanced by Vanoc [the 2010 Olympics organization committee] which suggests the indigenous people of [British Columbia] and Canada enjoy a very comfortable and high standard of living. The Disneyesque promotional materials suggests a cosy relationship between aboriginal people of the province with all levels of government and it completely ignores the horrific levels of poverty our people endure on a daily basis.

 

Arctic indigenous branding on a McDonald’s cup in a
Wal-Mart store, in a city in Ontario, Canada

In British Columbia, and elsewhere in present-day Canada, natives have communicated conflicting views about how the 2010 Olympics relate to their lives, lands, and traditions. Indigenous Environmental Network campaigners have been among the more vocal critics who have opposed the 2010 Games.

Some have found the cartoonish Olympic marketing imagery to be a mockery of native traditions.  For example, critics have argued that the 2010 Olympics committee has edited and re-packaged native culture — which also has been ripped out of its traditional contexts. The Committee is highlighting Arctic indigenous imagery — yet Vancouver, the centre of the Games, is a temperate city.  Arctic indigenous peoples did not live there — or on the nearby Whistler and Cypress mountains, where some Olympic events will be held. Other indigenous populations who did live in that area of British Columbia also are not represented in the marketing iconography.

The Olympics branding denies noteworthy differences among native groups spread across these areas. Passing theatrical gestures to native peoples during the open ceremonies could be considered to be more respectful, but Olympics marketers otherwise have been mixing up North American native traditions into a soup-like caricature. Natives have been consistently oppressed, but the various peoples who are considered to be native (in some way, or to some degree) certainly are not ‘all the same.’ Tacking Arctic imagery on to Vancouver-area Games implies that there is only one native essence (in North America, if not beyond this continent).

What else is going on here? What does this superficially ‘indigenous’ rhetoric and imagery have to do with the rest of the 2010 Olympics? In other words, are indigenous populations benefiting from the 2010 Olympics in a way that might explain or justify the appropriation of Arctic imagery?

I pose these questions:

– What proportion of the profits from Olympics sales and tourism will natives groups receive?

– To what extent have native groups actively participated in Olympics organizing?

– How many of the athletes representing Canada at the Games have strong ties to native traditions and ancestors?

– Aside from the branding rhetoric and imagery discussed here, how much indigenous culture will be included in Olympic sports events and Olympics broadcasting?

– And how should we interpret the use of traditional imagery for product marketing purposes? What is the relationship between native peoples and chewing gum wrappers, sugary soda pop drink bottles, and other products which display Olympics brand logos?  Are indigenous peoples profitting from these product sales?  Are natives involved in the boardrooms of the corporations behind these sales?  And are there any other noteworthy connections between these products and any natives in present-day Canada?

Answers to those preceding questions are tied to the conditions that native peoples live under in present-day Canada. As I will explain, there are deep problems with the ‘indigenous’ Olympics rhetoric and imagery, which is very much at odds with Canadian realities.

 

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‘Indigenous’ marketing in a major commercial square in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 

Native issues can be complex — and yet brutally straightforward, at the same time. Here are some figures that convey the highly disproportionate impoverishment, vulnerabilities, marginalization, and disempowerment of natives in present-day Canada. (Here are additional child poverty statistics.) The worst racism in Canada is reserved for indigenous peoples who are trapped between assimilation and ghettoization. Native groups ultimately are disappearing — in a nation that was established on native lands.

No marketing imagery ever could erase these ongoing legacies of a history of colonial genocide in Canada (and elsewhere).

Frankly, the ‘indigenous’ Olympics rhetoric and imagery strikes me as yet another form of liberal tokenism, given how fundamental problems are glossed over with paltry gestures (rather than a more radical redistribution of resources — or other constructive societal change).

In fact, while the Olympics imagery implies some sort of harmony between natives and non-natives in Canada, there actually are various ongoing native land claim conflicts in this country. In Ontario, indigenous activists helped to wage a defensive campaign which was a relatively high-profile land claim conflict here in Ontario, during the summer of 2009.

Native land claims are at the forefront of the issues raised by anti-Olympic protestors in Canada (who occasionally have supported tactics that I do not agree with). The phrase “No Olympics on Stolen Land” has been a common protest slogan, and indigenous imagery has been foregrounded in messages from no2010 campaigners, and other anti-Olympic activists. Although these opponents of the Olympics have not carefully distinguished between imagery from different indigenous cultures, their campaign messages surely could not be considered a tokenist form of whitewashing or conservatism — since these anti-Olympic activists have been siding with native land claims.

Protesters also have been raising concerns about how the Olympics are tied to indigenous land conflicts around the tar sands in Alberta. A recent day of action call-out from the Indigenous Environmental Network is the best example of connections drawn between the tar sands and the 2010 Games. As in some other activist campaign messages, this day of action announcement highlights financial and energy-system ties between the Olympics and tar sands pollution in Alberta — beside native lands. These tar sands operations also are the world’s worst climate threat; and the Arctic indigenous peoples alluded to in Olympics marketing actually are on the front lines of global warming impacts, which are aggravated by Olympic environmental devastation (including deforestation, which releases carbon into the world-wide atmosphere). As in other areas of the world, the most disempowered and resource-poor Canadians tend to be much more vulnerable to climate impacts.

Given all of the aforementioned gaps between pro-indigenous rhetoric and actual indigenous realities, why have so many people tolerated the native branding around the 2010 Games? After all, the Olympic brand logo was selected in 2005, and the Olympics marketing blitz was well-underway by the summer of 2009, in Canada.

Aside from the sheer monetary force behind the Olympics, there also are important cultural factors at work here. The harmonious vision conveyed through ‘indigenous’ packaging around the Olympics is an extension of mainstream Canadian visions of an outright “multicultural” “mosaic” in this country — where some claim that there is a complete lack of systemic racism, as well as equally proportioned room for all ethnic groups. In spite of arguments and evidence from critics (including scholars who are affiliated with John Porter’s The Vertical Mosaic), rhetoric about ethnic equality in Canada persists in marketing, in policy documents, and in other mainstream rhetoric. ‘Native’ Olympics marketing celebrates the Canadian status quo, in the same way.

At the same time, the ‘indigenous’ Olympics imagery provides some ethnic spice to the 2010 Games — as well as associated merchandising, and mass media spectacle. In Canada, remnants of native cultures likewise are re-packaged as decorations and tourist industry products. In much the same way, Olympics marketers have sought to increase profits with shreds of de-contextualized indigenous culture which they have appropriated.

But how are indigenous traditions linked to capitalist consumption, mass advertising, mainstream media systems, or tourism? These systems are entrenched on former native lands, but are there any other noteworthy connections between native traditions and such mainstream systems?

(I don’t mean to imply that people with native ancestors will be or should be forever trapped in a receding past. Vibrant, living traditions are flexible. Yet, I do not see how native heritage could be considered to be largely optional in any conception of indigenous-ness.)

Outside of Canada, it probably is not so apparent that the disputes over the Olympics have been national-scale tensions. Anti-Olympic protests (hyper-marginalized though they may be) actually have been organized in various other areas of Canada — well beyond British Columbia. (Here is one example of anti-Olympic campaigning in a city in Ontario.) I also find it telling that, in the face of an anti-Olympic protest in the city that I live in here in southern Ontario, some people conveyed their support for the Olympics by chanting “Canada… Canada… Canada.”

In sum, mainstream Canada claims and re-packages imagery from natives to sell a vision of a present-day Canada that is a tolerant country, with a rich and interesting history; such visions have been produced for the 2010 Games – as well as other tourism and merchandising, and wider nationalism. Then, ironically, when pro-indigenous groups challenge the use of this appropriated iconography to represent ‘Canada,’ majority groups dismiss their protests by claiming a more authentic Canadian-ness. Of course, the refusal to take indigenous protests seriously is just another manifestation of disinterest in the welfare of living indigenous peoples. Even as gestures are made toward native culture, actual natives generally are ignored.

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Toban Black is a Sociology PhD student specializing in environmental sociology, theory, inequality, and media.  He is also an activist, a blogger, and an amateur photographer.  He considers this guest post to be a blend of each of those four forms of communication.  Black is a frequent contributor to Sociological Images and the many posts inspired by his material can be viewed here.

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


Elizabeth M. and Toban B. sent in a clip from the British TV show “That Mitchell and Webb Look” that has a humorous take on how advertisers target men and women:

The two maps below are part of a series of maps that warp the size and shape of countries according to various international disproportions (see lots more here).

These two warp countries according to how much they are contributing to global warming and how much they are likely to suffer from global warming respectively.

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Ezra Klein interprets:

The first shows the world in terms of carbon emissions. America, for instance, is huge. So is China. And Europe. Africa is hardly visible. The second map shows the world in terms of increased mortality — that is to say, deaths — from climate change. Suddenly, America virtually disappears. So does Europe. Africa, however, is grotesquely distended. South Asia inflates.

Kevin Drum summarizes:

Long story short, we spit out the carbon, but it’s people in Africa and South Asia who are mostly going to die because of it.

Thanks to Toban B. who linked to these maps in a comments thread.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Feminist scholars argue that patriarchy relies not just on a hierarchy that places men above women, but a hierarchy of men that punishes men who don’t obey rules of masculinity.

An advertising campaign for Oberto Beef Jerky, sent in by Kate S., nicely illustrates the threat to men if they don’t comply with patriarchy.

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The threat is: If you’re not an “Alpha,” then you’re a “Sidekick.”

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The Alpha is first; the Sidekick is second. The Alpha gets served; the Sidekick serves. The Alpha gets the hot chick; the Sidekick gets the “ugly friend.” The Alpha makes the decisions; the Sidekick takes them.

In one part of the website, it actually encourages you to “establish your dominance.”   It features taunting emails and cards that you can send to your friends to trick them into looking like idiots/being your sidekick.

UPDATE: In the comments thread, Toban B. (T B) had a really nice observation:

As Murray Bookchin has written, language about ‘alpha males’ naturalizes hierarchy.

Bookchin highlights how people have conflated animal and insect interactions (e.g. ‘queen’ bees) with societal structures created by humans — as opposed to the far more instinctual of relations of non-human creatures.  (For Bookchin, there is a continuum between humans and other life forms, so these distinctions aren’t binaries.)  Basically, the point here is that if human hierarchies are the same as instinctual hierarchies (e.g. interactions with a lion ‘king’), then the human hierarchies must be just as natural and inevitable — which just isn’t the case.

Joanne suggests, further, that humans, invested in patriarchy and hierarchy, actually project it onto the natural world:

Using the terms “alpha” and “dominance” just reinforces the belief that nature exists within a patriarchal, hierarchical model.  It actually doesn’t.  I do a lot of work with horses, researching and observing the horse-human relationship, and this whole idea of “dominance” is one that has started with and is kept alive by the patriarchal worldview of Western culture.  Many observers of animal behavior are brought up in and continue to live in that worldview, so they impose it on animals and the natural world.  If you step outside of that worldview, what you find in the natural world is something entirely different.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.