Search results for high heels

The Sexual Politics of Meat is a scathing, powerful analysis of the relationship between the oppression of women and the farming of animals for food.  Written by Carol J. Adams and published in 1990, it inspired many a feminist to choose vegetarianism and made many more take pause.

In the six-and-a-half minute video below, she discusses the sexualization and feminization of chicken specifically.  She shows lots of examples of the ways in which chicken carcasses are objectified as women: put in high heels, bikinis, sexual positions, etc.  We feature many examples of this at our Pinterest board collecting gendered and sexualized food, some of which we’ve borrowed from Adams.


Adams then argues that this is a way to distract us from the fact that we are eating the flesh of an animal that has been killed for us. She writes:

By sexualizing animals, we trigger another thing, that uneasiness becomes sexual energy… and everybody knows what to do about sexual energy.  You can laugh at it, you can talk about it, it reduces whoever is presented to an object.  And so it makes it okay again.

So the sexualization of animals enters into and participates in the wider issue of “Why are we doing this to animals?”  Oh yeah, because it’s funny, because it’s fun, because we can have fun with it. And it takes the ethical out.

Moreover, presenting chicken as dressing up for the male gaze suggests that the animal wants to be consumed.  The animal appears to desire to inspire (culinary) lust and, accordingly, it’s okay if you eat her.  This works best alongside feminization, as it is women who are typically presented as objects of a lustful male gaze.


Bonus: Fifty Shades of Grey makes an appearance, and not incidentally.   In response to its popularity, a book was published called Fifty Shades of Chicken.  Here’s the book trailer:

Adams call Grey a “regressive book that implied that despite all the advances feminism has made, women really just wanted to be in bondage.”  In both books, she argues, we’re seeing the “packaging and sexualizing [of] dominance over another being.”

Hear it straight from Adams, via Uncooped:

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

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.

Fashion designer Vera Wang is known world-wide for her bridal gowns, costing from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.  She opened her first store — in New York City — in 1990.  In 2011, her gowns started appearing at the discount David’s Bridal, for as little as $600.  Today she has a line at Kohl’s.

Why would someone who can sell a $25,000 wedding dress turn around and sell their name to a low-end department store?  The answer has to do with money, of course, but it also tells a story about class and distinction.  Typically trends start at “the top” with wealthy and high-profile elites.  Elites embrace an expensive new look, designer, or product (e.g., men and high heels) in order to distinguish themselves from the rest of the population.  The rest then imitate the trend-setters, such that the trend diffuses down throughout the population one class strata at a time.  That’s why Wang’s David’s Bridal and Kohl’s collections are called “diffusion lines.”

Vera Wang is hanging in there, but lots of trends die when they diffuse down to the working class.  If the working class can take part in the trend, the rich can’t use it to show that they’re special (which is why they sometimes defend their exclusive rights).  So it gets dropped.  Once the elites move onto something new, the process begins again.

Interestingly, Whitney Erin Boesel, writing for Cyborgology, applies this process to cell phones, or what are better described as “mobile devices.”  It applies, of course, to the never-ending stream of newer, faster, shinier devices, but also to the very idea of a cell phone/mobile device.  As much as we make fun of the clunky cell phones of the 1980s and ’90s, very few people had them, so having one suggested that you were a Very Important Person. She writes:

When you picture someone using one of those cumbersome early cell phones, whom do you picture? Is it a white guy in a suit, maybe wearing a Rolex and 1980s sunglasses? Yeah, I thought so. When they first came out, cell phones — like pretty much every brand new, expensive technology — were status markers. A cell phone said, “I am wealthy, I am powerful, and I am so important that people must be able to reach me even when I am away from my home or office.”

1Today, of course, though certain models do a little to distinguish one user from another, the possession of a mobile device doesn’t signify elite status.  As Boesel points out, more people have cell phones than toilets.

Enter Google glass.

Slate reports that Google co-founder Sergey Brin is arguing that smart phones are “emasculating.”  Using masculinity is a metaphor for power, he is appealing to the elite to move on to the next technology.  A smart phone, in other words, “no longer signifies [that is a person is] a member of the power elite.”  It’s a pretty snappy — and downright Bourdieuian — way of marketing a new technology to the very people who will drive its success.

Brin starts his discussion about this at 4 minutes, 25 seconds:

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

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.


Sociological Images founder and author and, more importantly, my Best Friend is now tenured!  Congratulations Gwen Sharp!  You are a genius, a damn good person, and you make people laugh.  Nevada State College is incredibly to have you.  Everyone else should follow you on Twitter!

SocImages News:

Tomorrow we’re launching a competition for a new logo.  The top five sketches will receive $50 each and the winner will be invited to work with us to design a polished logo for $500. We hope you can help us spread the invitation far and wide!

Someone liked our post on high heels as a marker of distinction among women enough to cross-post it at Alternet.  Us?  We’re just happy to spread the word of good ol’ Pierre Bourdieu.  In any case, we hope it’s the first of many!

I’m quoted, starting with the phrase “Let’s be frank,” in an article at Bitch about an administrative reluctance to take steps to improve the sexual assault policy at Occidental College and the ongoing efforts to make us a leader in this regard.

Speaking of sex at Oxy, a video recording of my talk on hook up culture at Occidental College is available here.  The sheer enthusiasm of our wonderful students makes up for the bad lighting.  You’re the greatest y’all!

Thanks to PolicyMic, the Huffington Post, and Jezebel for featuring our posts on everything from data on porn stars to vintage baby cages and our fight at Oxy.

Updates on Image Guides:

Sociology doctoral student Calvin Ho put together a set of his favorite SocImages posts about Asian and Asian America.  It’s a great collection and we’re hoping he’ll revise it into an Image Guide.

I organized our a selection of our vintage stuff for Women’s History month and have published it here.

If you are a graduate student or professor who would like to make an Image Guide, we would love to hear from you!  It requires picking a topic, browsing our archives, pulling out the most compelling posts, and arranging them in ways other instructors would find familiar and convenient.  The guides can cover entire courses or be designed to help illustrate a theory, article, or book.  Only the most fabulous sociologists do it.

Upcoming Lectures and Appearances:

The semester is starting to wind down and I enjoyed giving campus-wide talks at Harvard, Queen’s University, Pomona College, and my own lovely Occidental.  Just two more before the semester is up:

  • Apr. 2 — Citrus College — “The Promise and Peril of Hook Up ‘Culture’” (11:30am Handy Campus Center East Wing)
  • Apr. 19 — University of Akron — “Anatomy of an Outrage: Female Genital Cutting and the Politics of Acculturation”; AKD Induction Ceremony Speech

I go on sabbatical next year to write in earnest, but I’d love to use my flexible schedule to do lots of public speaking as well.  Visit my website if you’d be interested in having me.  I have great talks on the value of friendship, the biology of sex differencesthe politics of genital cutting and, of course, hook up culture.  For Akron this year I’m doing an AKD Induction Ceremony Speech.  Who can think of something nice to say about sociology? I can!!!

Tweets that Make Us Blush: 3Thanks Cassie!

Also, may we take a minute to have a giant nerd crush on Shankar Vedantam? He tweeted us twice this month!  TWICE!

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Social Media ‘n’ Stuff:

This is your monthly reminder that SocImages is on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and Pinterest.  Lisa is on Facebook and, sigh, Google+.  Most of the team is on Twitter: @lisawade@gwensharpnv@familyunequal@carolineheldman, and @jaylivingston.

In Other News…

Gwen Sharp has decided to use the new protection of tenure to start the Cockroach Liberation Front (CLF), dedicating to refurbishing the invertebrate’s image and fighting for their equal rights (recognition and redistribution).

The CLF’s first mission is to oppose the use of the cockroach in scientific experimentation. To that end, they staged a protest at the laboratory of a biologist at a local college, publicly exposing the senseless torture of these sensitive and complicated creatures.

CLF (1)

Sociological Images stands with the CLF. Anyone who likes TV shows and cake is a friend of ours… and they should be a friend of yours too.

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.

I just got home from a great visit to Ontario.  A huge “thank you” to the Health, Counseling, and Disability Services folks at Queen’s University. I had such fun sharing my research and learned a lot!

More Talks!

I’m looking forward to going back to Harvard in a couple weeks to give a lecture that’s close to my heart, “A Feminist Defense of Friendship.” It’s got a wonderful message and, equally importantly, it’s the cutest talk I have!  Really!

Then it’s Pomona College on March 27th, the Western Political Science Association the next two days, and the University of Akron for a special Sociology Department Keynote and Commencement Address.  What an honor!  I get to talk about my research on American discourses about “female genital mutilation” and what it can teach us about the future of progressive, multicultural democracies.

Next Year?

This month I got word that I will be on sabbatical next year and I would love to do lots of traveling, so please feel free to consider bringing me out for a visit!  Among the others, I have a new talk I’m dying to work up titled “Hook Up Culture: A History.”  It’s a wild ride through some crazy and surprising American history and explains everything.

New Pinterest Page:

I was inspired by the response to our post on the male neutral — i.e., men and people and women are women (2,000 likes!) — to make it a Pinterest page.  Check out the 48 pins at our Women vs. People board.

In the News:

Speaking of…

On the heels of publishing our post calling out the sexualized insult — e.g., “you suck” — Bess S. sent us the following screenshot.  “Note the headline up top,” she wrote.

Screen Shot 2013-02-09 at 11.44.26 AM

Social Media ‘n’ Stuff:

Finally, this is your monthly reminder that SocImages is on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and Pinterest.  Lisa is on Facebook and most of the team is on Twitter: @lisawade@gwensharpnv@familyunequal@carolineheldman, and @jaylivingston.

Tweet of the Month:


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.

@bfwriter tweeted us a link to a college design student’s photograph that has gone viral.  Rosea Lake posted the image to her tumblr and it struck a chord.

What I like about the image is the way it very clearly illustrates two things.  First, it reveals that doing femininity doesn’t mean obeying a single, simple rule. Instead, it’s about occupying and traveling within a certain space.  In this case, usually between “proper” and “flirty.”  Women have to constantly figure out where in that space they’re supposed to be.  Too flirty at work mean’s you won’t be taken seriously; too proper at the bar and you’re invisible.  Under the right circumstances (e.g., Halloween, a funeral), you can do “cheeky” or “old fashioned.”

The second thing I like about this image is the way it shows that there is a significant price to pay for getting it wrong.  It’s not just a faux pas.  Once you’re “‘asking for it,” you could be a target. And, once you’re reached “prudish,” you’ve become socially irrelevant.  Both violence and social marginalization are serious consequences.

And, of course, all women are going to get it wrong sometimes because the boundaries are moving targets and in the eye of the beholder. What’s cheeky in one setting or to one person is flirty in or to another.  So women constantly risk getting it wrong, or getting it wrong to someone.  So the consequences are always floating out there, worrying us, and sending us to the mall.

Indeed, this is why women have so many clothes!  We need an all-purpose black skirt that does old fashioned, another one to do proper, and a third to do flirty… at the very least… and all in casual, business, and formal.   And we need heels to go with each (stilettos = provocative, high heels = flirty, low heels  = proper, etc, plus we need flats for the picnics and beach weddings etc).  And we need pants that are hemmed to the right length for each of these pairs of shoes.  You can’t wear black shoes with navy pants, so you’ll need to double up on all these things if you want any variety in your wardrobe. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Women’s closets are often mocked as a form of self-indulgence, shop-a-holicism, or narcissism.  But this isn’t fair.  Instead, if a woman is class-privileged enough, they reflect an (often unarticulated) understanding of just how complicated the rules are.  If they’re not class-privileged enough, they can’t follow the rules and are punished for being, for example, “trashy” or “unprofessional.”  It’s a difficult job that we impose on women and we’re all too often damned-if-we-do and damned-if-we-don’t.

Cross-posted at Business Insider and The Huffington Post.

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.

This is one of our favorite Christmas-themed posts from the archive.  We hope you don’t mind the re-post!

Stressing remarkable differences between the two, Rachel and Lucy sent in the music videos for the original Mariah Carey version of “All I Want for Christmas is You” (1994) and the re-make (2011).  They suggested that the comparison reveals two trends: the rising emphasis placed on consumption and the new hyper-sexualization.  I figured, “yeah, I’ll bet they’re onto something there.”  And boy were they.

The first video involves Mariah mostly bounding around in the snow in a snow suit. Often acting pretty darn goofy, with dogs and Santa.

She spends part of the video inside with kids, a Christmas tree, presents, and more animals.  She’s usually wearing a sweater.

She spends less than (I’m guessing) 10 seconds of the video in a sexy Mrs. Claus outfit and, when she’s wearing it, it looks like she’s got long johns on her legs.

The new video, featuring Justin Bieber, is wildly different. Instead of a snowy field or an intimate home, the video takes place in a shopping mall.  It centrally features a Nintendo product.

Likewise, instead of bounding around in the snow like a goof, she spends the entire video up against a wall in super high heels and the sexy Mrs. Claus outfit (except this one doesn’t have sleeves or a midriff).

At one point she runs her hand down her body, touching her breast and moving down to her crotch; at another she just leans against the wall with her back to us and swings her butt back and forth.

So there’s one data point, for what it’s worth, but in line with emerging research on and plenty of anecdotal evidence of the “pornification” of American culture.

“All I Want for Christmas is You” (1994):

“All I Want for Christmas is You” (2011):

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.

Elizabeth sent in a link to a long and judicious New York Times article about biologically-male, gender-variant children, written by Ruth Padawer.  It’s well done, laying out the struggles even liberal-minded parents go through, including the mixed messages they get from “experts.”  It also briefly addresses the hormonal and genetic research, but acknowledges that the measures of femininity and masculinity used in these studies — and in daily life — are socially constructed.  That is, what is considered masculine or feminine is different across cultures and changes over time.

The picture of three boys at a camp for gender-variant children, waiting for their turn in a fashion show, was particularly interesting (photo by Lindsay Morris). I was struck by not just the emphasis on the dress/skirt, but the nail polish, jewelry, and high heels (on at least two of the children).  Their poses are also striking, for their portrayal of not just femininity, but sexualized femininity. It’s hard to say, but these boys look pretty young to me, and yet their (or their camp counselors?) idea of what it means to be a girl seems very specific to an adult hyperfemininity.  (After all, even most biological girls don’t dress/act this way most of the time and lots of girls explicitly reject femininity; Padawer comments that 77% of women in Generation X say they were tomboys as kids.)

In contrast, girls, when they enact a tomboy role — and now I’m off into speculation-land — don’t seem to go so far into the weeds.  We don’t see girls dressing up like lumberjacks or business men in suits and ties.  They don’t do tomman, they do tomboy.  There’s something more woman about how some of these boys perform femininity.

Some research on tomboys shows that girls who adopt it are sometimes, in part, trying to put off the sexual attention that comes with growing up.  So perhaps tomboyism is a way of rejecting one’s maturing body.  In contrast, perhaps femininity appeals to some boys because we adultify and sexualize young girls; it’s a form of grown up play as well as gender deviance?

Who knows.  The truth is — and the article does a good job of communicating this — we have no idea what’s going on 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.

Cross-posted at Ms.

Paul (an Irish grad student), Carys G., Zeynep A., Marjan vdW., and one other reader all sent in a link to a new video released by the European Commission. The video, “Science: It’s a Girl Thing!”, is meant to encourage girls to consider careers in the natural and physical sciences, presenting science, as the title suggests, as an area compatible with femininity and other “girl things” — make-up, high heels, and fashion:

The video has been roundly criticized (check out the Twitter feed for #sciencegirlthing), both for presenting a stereotyped image of girls and for misrepresenting the scientific workplace (one female scientist Tweeted wondering what will happen to any girls possibly drawn in by this campaign when they learn that in many labs, open-toed heels violate safety codes).

I suspect the makers of the video believe they are doing that first thing — trying to push back against the idea that science is unfeminine. Indeed, the video is part of the larger Science: It’s a Girl Thing! campaign, and the website also contains 12 profiles of female European scientists, which provide more realistic depictions of women working in a range of scientific fields. But many viewers, including a lot of scientists (both women and men), see it as the second thing — another example of what I described in my original post of the cartoon as “superficial attempts to overcome the often structural constraints that keep women out of masculinized arenas of social life.”

Indeed, girls don’t just need to be told “you can do science and look cute too!” In fact, a post at New Scientist discusses the results of a recently-published article by Diana Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa, “My Fair Physicist? Feminine Math and Science Role Models Demotivate Young Girls”. Betz and Sekaquaptewa found that images of conventionally feminine women in science fields actually demotivated female middle school students and decreased their perceptions of their likelihood of success in science and math. Girls appeared to see these images and, instead of thinking “Oh, I can like makeup and clothes but still do science!”, they thought, not unreasonably, “Oh, great, so I have to be smart and still meet all the demands of conventional femininity, too?” Instead of inspiring girls, the images were threatening, making them feel less likely to succeed in science and math. This effect was most pronounced for those girls who weren’t already interested in such fields — presumably the exact group campaigns such as Science: It’s a Girl Thing! are meant to attract. As the authors conclude (p. 7), “Submitting STEM role models to Pygmalian-style makeovers…may do more harm than good.”

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.