Thorsten S. alerted us to a calendar illustrated with black-and-white nude photographs of Germans who have competed in the Paralympic Games. On the Web site of the photographers, Huenecken & Inselmann [link NSFW!], subjects include people in wheelchairs and people who use lower-limb prostheses.
Compare these portrayals of persons with disabilities to the portrayal of fetish model Viktoria, who was a Bizarre mag cover girl, apparently in part because she has a below-the-knee amputation. Do these calendar photos highlight the German athletes’ disabilities in the same way that the shoot of Viktoria fetishizes her disability? Alternatively, check out our earlier post about Disaboom, a community site whose ads for its dating service feature muscular and attractive people with disabilities. Do these calendar photos challenge the mainstream stereotype that people with disabilities can’t be sexy or strong?
By the way, how do gender expectations and stereotypes play out in these photos? If you go to the gallery linked early in this entry, you can see a man holding a gun in a position that clearly makes it analogous to his penis. You can also see an especially objectified [decapitated = identity erased] woman on horseback, as well as a woman in a stereotypical beach bunny/pinup pose. The tendency of the calendar to revert to dull assumptions of how men and women should be posed and photographed complicates any radical agenda of celebrating the bodies of people with disabilities.
Declare Yourself, “MTV’s official voter registration partner,” has a new series of print ads up featuring Jessica Alba. I think they’re selling electrical tape…or maybe violence against women. Possibly kinky bondage play? Oh wait…they just want us to vote. Click picture to view it larger. [Discussion of campaign found at Guanabee.]
NEW! Thanks to Marcello, who, in the comments, provided a link to the rest of the ad campaign, which contains more equally problematic images of celebrities with their mouths violently sealed by fish hooks, ribbon, staples, etc. Here’s another disturbing one of an African-American man with a ball gag made out of an eight ball:
African-American man in gag.
This particular image reminds me not only of kinky sex toys, but also of the harnesses, manacles and other devices designed to suppress and humiliate enslaved people.
Pleasant Company started off with three American Girl dolls in 1986. Kirsten was from 1854, Samantha from 1904 and Mollie from 1944. The dolls came with scads of historically accurate and really expensive accessories, as well as mediocrely written stories in which they demonstrated how caring, assertive and morally sound they were. The Pleasant Company line soon exploded in popularity, resulting in its inevitable buyout by Mattel and the current proliferation of American Girls in all colors from all time periods.
Now a “premier lifestyle brand” containing books, magazines, movies [including the recent Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl], toys and clothing, American Girl the media machine markets not only products, but a host of problematic assumptions about race, class and gender. [See screencap above for expensive fun available at the New York City location of American Girl Place.] Not only were the first wave of American Girl dolls all Caucasian characters, but the entire American Girl enterprise promotes conspicuous consumption and an aspiration to upper bourgeois “gentility” composed of salon care for your doll and $33-a-head tea parties.
I like the idea of teaching kids that quality and craftsmanship matter and that investing in special items can be OK. But it doesn’t just stop at the dolls—there’s the outfits, and the furniture, and the tea parties. And that makes me a little uncomfortable. It feels too much like a patina of morality masks conspicuous consumption. It’s the kind of rationalization that makes it seem OK to spend thousands of dollars on, say, a mint-condition Eames chair.
If you have the time for an extended radio episode, you may be interested in the segment that This American Life did about the American Girl Places. [If you follow the link, you can stream this episode through your Internet connection for free.]
Seemingly just seconds after the news leaked this weekend that current Alaskan governor Sarah Palin was McCain’s pick for vice president, merchandise appeared to capitalize on her conformity to current white bourgeois beauty standards. [Thanks to Shakesville’s Sarah Palin Sexism Watch for alerting me to the existence of this stuff.]
For example, I found this bumper sticker on zazzle.com, a site where users can upload their own images for use on T-shirts, stickers, baseball caps, etc. The caption above the sticker says, “This year, vote for HOT!” See screengrab below.
“MILF” is a slang term for “Mother I’d Like to F**k.”
This [and the many other examples that I’m sure will be added to this post] would be useful in an ongoing discussion about the deployment of gender in this year’s presidential elections, especially comparing/contrasting the popular portrayals of Hillary Clinton with those of Sarah Palin.
The AFP disembodies Palin in a “news photo” published on September 1. When body parts of male candidates are shown, they are identified as, for example, “the hand of Candidate X was seen waving.” However, in this example, Palin is identified as her legs. [Again, hat tip to Shakesville for photo and commentary.]
Palin reduced to body parts by AFP
Caption accompanying photo reads:
Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin stands on stage during a campaign rally in O’Fallon, Missouri on August 31. Palin got comfortable in her new role as a vice presidential candidate as she made the Republican case to stay in power. (AFP/Robyn Beck)
Dubi K. sent us the following picture that has been making the round on the Internet [it is reportedly the icon for a Facebook group called “I’d Bang Sarah Palin!”]. It is a manipulation of a photo of a woman in a bikini with a gun. Palin’s head is superimposed on the woman’s body. Snopes, clearinghouse on Internet memes and urban legends, summarily debunks the picture’s supposed authenticity and supplies simiilar examples.
Photo manipulation of Sarah Palin
An opinion piece, “The Dominatrix,” by Gary Kamiya on Web magazine Salon is advertised on the front page [as of September 9, 2008] with the following poorly done Photoshop of Palin as a stereotypical dominatrix, bringing America [as moose?!] to heel:
Salon advertises editorial about Palin with image of her as a moose-dominating sex worker.
Note the equation of a powerful, assertive woman with non-heteronormative, kinky sexuality that some people find morally repugnant. My point is not to start a debate on bdsm, but to show that this picture and the accompanying article make the tired old connection between a powerful woman and “perverted” sex.
Laura C. sent in a link to this image (found at Carrion Bag) of Palin supporters:
Might be good for a discussion of the ways in which sexualization of Palin is coming from both opponents (see here) and supporters, and the ways that women may actively take part in sexualization that trivializes women as a group.
Thanks, Laura C.!
Finally, there are now action figures of Sarah Palin. The one below is the “Sarah Palin School Girl Action Figure.” Setting aside how I feel about Sarah Palin personally and politically, I hate to see a woman’s political power attributed to how sexy she might be. There are already dozens of groups on Facebook about how “sexy” or “hot” Palin is, and they have thousands of members.
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