gender: violence

These displays, featuring mannequins posed as if they are being attacked by an invisible assailant, could be seen in the windows at Barneys New York this week:

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They were disassembled when shoppers complained.

Daily News, via.

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

Various journalists and scholars have pointed out over the years that movies and TV shows often portray as romantic behavior that is fairly indistinguishable from stalking. A good example of this is There’s Something about Mary, in which three men engage in some really sketchy behavior–in one case literally spying on her with binoculars. And while we’re supposed to find them crazy and obsessed, this doesn’t preclude her from getting together with one of them. This type of thing shows up often–one character (usually a guy, though not always) follows another character (who has rejected previous advances) around or sleeps on her lawn or declares he’s in love at first sight or does something else that is supposed to be evidence of deep and abiding love.

But of course, there’s a more disturbing way to interpret that behavior. I once had to contact security and have a man removed from campus when one of my female students anxiously told me that a man she had a restraining order against for stalking (and who wasn’t a student) was outside the classroom. She thought she had escaped him when she moved to college and was very scared that he’d shown up, hours away from their hometown. She didn’t find the behavior romantic or cute; it didn’t make her eventually think she should give him a chance in return for his persistence. It made her feel truly frightened.

Anyway, that’s an overly-long introduction to a video (found here) sent in by Matt W. The creator, Jonathan McIntosh of Rebellious Pixels, edited together scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer with scenes of Edward Cullen from the movie Twilight to show how behavior that is depicted as protective and romantic in the film (and book) could also be seen as disturbing:

McIntosh says,

Seen through Buffy’s eyes, some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed in hilarious ways. Ultimately this remix is about more than a decisive showdown between the slayer and the sparkly vampire. It also doubles as a metaphor for the ongoing battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21st century.

I think it’s a great conversation starter (and I’m always happy for an excuse to talk about Buffy).

 

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

Animals Awake, a Dutch organization for animals akin to PETA in the U.S., “takes a page from [their] playbook,” according to David at Adfreak.   This commercial, in which a stripper is brutally murdered in front of a live audience, is so shocking that my first I thought was that it was a parody. It’s not.

Major major major trigger warning:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/5323112[/vimeo]

The critique, of course, is that Animals Awake is contributing to an atmosphere in which violence against women is ubiquitous (see Jezebel, for example).  But I actually think that this commercial works in that we are (I hope) genuinely horrified by the murder at the end.  I don’t think it normalizes violence against women like so many other ads/media/products do (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples).

BUT it does normalize the connection between violence and sex.  There is absolutely no reason why the person murdered in this ad had to a stripper.  There is no reason to spend the first half of the commercial titillating us, only to have it suddenly turned into a horror show.  There’s absolutely no connection.  But because sex and violence are so frequently linked in the American imagination, it actually took me a few minutes of thinking about it to remember that.  And I’m kind of horrified that, in my mind, sex and violence go together like peas and carrots.  This ad only reinforces that connection.

Sorry I made you watch it.

More images of sexualized violence here, here, here, here, here, here, here here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Here’s another PSA, this one from the U.K., with exactly the same idea.

UPDATE: In the comments, jeffliveshere points out that the commercial is based on a pun:

I agree that the sex and violence connection is unnecessary–but, to be clear, there is wordplay involved–“stripping fish” is apparently a technical term for removing the guts of fish…

Okay, so maybe there isn’t “absolutely no connection.” Even so?

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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 an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Andrea G. sent us a link to this five-minute peek into Sut Jhally and Jackson Katz’s documentary Wrestling with Manhood, about masculinity and professional wrestling.

Jackson Katz has an earlier documentary, Tough Guise, about masculinity and violence. Here are seven-minutes of excerpts:

See also Gwen’s post on changing ideals of masculinity (measured in guns and cars) inspired by Tough Guise.

For more on masculinity and violence, see our posts about how men’s violence is naturalized or made invisible (here and here), our posts on finding humor in men’s violence (here, here, here and here), and some I’m not sure how to characterize (here, here, here, here, and here).

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


In the documentary Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex, and Power in Music Video, Sut Jhally investigates how images of sex and violence, and sexualized violence against women, are used in music videos, and how music videos help shape ideas of what is sexy. Here’s a clip:

The entire, unabridged version of the film is available here.

Elle sent in a link to the video for Lady Gaga’s song “Paparazzi,” which features one extended scene of sexualized violence (starting at about 1:45) and several other glimpses of women throughout the video who appear to be dead (it’s really worth watching the entire video–it’s something else):

Of course, Lady Gaga would probably argue that this video is in fact opposing violence against women, since in the end the evil paparazzi boyfriend gets killed. But there’s the same imagery Sut Jhally discusses: the mixture of sexuality with violence and hints of brutality, and of injured or dead women in glamorous, sexy clothing. Notice that in the opening sequence, the “normal” sex doesn’t look too much different than the violence that follows.

Other examples of sexualized or glamorized violence: strangling a woman with your necktie, suffering women as a turn-on, murder in a Wrangler’s ad, photo shoot with Rene Russo, t-shirts trivialize violence against women, is it a passionate embrace or an attack?, condom ads, ad for “The Tudors,” women’s discomfort is fashionable, Hunting for Bambi, the infamous Dolce & Gabbana ad, and “American’s Next Top Model.”

Objections to a BuzzFreeProm ad has led the organization to pull it and apologize.  The ad reads: “Go from prom king to queen in three shots or less.”7

Lisa Derrick at La Figa had the following exchange with the talent behind the ad:

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I will go further.  I think that being a “queen,” in the jail sense, is about being, both literally and figuratively, on the bottom.  The imprisoned, gay men and, for that matter, women, are all on the bottom in this sense.   (The corsage on the prison uniform is a hint that it’s not just about being gay, but about being female.)  The problem with this ad, for me, is that it conflates sex and power.  That the conflation can span so many different categories suggests that it resonates strongly.  And that is what is disappointing to me.  I would prefer to live in a world in which sex and power could be disentangled, as opposed to one that affirmed their entanglement.  Let’s try to keep kids safe some other way, eh?

BuzzFreeProm has since put up an apology:

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Other anti-drug and anti-drinking ads: an anti-meth campaign reminiscent of reefer madness, a vintage hanna-barbara anti-drug commercial, bizarre anti-drinking and driving messages, and threatening women with unattractiveness.

Something I read in another blog sent me digging into the statistics on homicide between husbands and wives or other “intimates.” I remembered from my days in the crim biz that the US was unique in that wives here killed their husbands almost as frequently as husbands killed wives. This statistic, the “spousal rate of killing” (SROK), was introduced in a now-classic 1992 article by Margo Wilson and Martin Daly. In most countries, that rate is 25-30%. In the US, Wilson and Daly pointed out, it was about 75%.

But something has happened, over the last thirty years or so (data here). And as far as I can tell from a quick search on the Internet, nobody seems to have noticed.

(Click on the graph for a larger view.)


Between 1976 and 2005, the number of women killed by their male partners decreased by about 25%, less than the decrease in all homicides nationwide. But the number of men killed by women dropped dramatically, from 1300 to 330, a 75% decrease (since the population increased in those three decades, the change in rates is probably even greater. The SROK fell from 82% to 28%.

My Internet search for explanations was cursory at best, but it turned up nothing. I have only two ideas:

1. Men Behaving Better. Men have stopped doing those things that made women want to kill them.

I offered this explanation to two women in the Justice Studies department here. They rejected it out of hand and without comment. (Maybe they didn’t like the blaming-the-victim assumption: if women kill men, it’s because of what men do. Or maybe they were using a convenience sample of anecdotal data on men’s behavior.). One of these women, Lisa Anne Zilney, offered a counter-explanation . . .

2. Women Having Options. Women’s shelters and other facilities have given women an alternative. Without these, the only way to escape an intolerable situation at home was to get rid of the cause. Providing abused and desperate women a safe place to go saves lives – and apparently not just the lives of women.

I’m not wild about either of these explanations for the steep decline in the SROK (and as I recall, Wilson and Daly weren’t wild about any of their explanations of why it was so high).

Any ideas?

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Thanks Jay!  Read his other guest post: When grown men loved teddy bears.

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

When Rihanna was beaten by Chris Brown, many people blamed Rihanna for enraging him.   Laura McDe sent in another example of victim-blaming in a case of domestic violence.  This time a man killed his five children, and then himself, after discovering that his wife had left him for another man.  Many headlines placed the blame on his wife (via Shakesville):

The Seattle Times:

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Yahoo News:

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Kansas City.com:

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Google News:

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Instead of focusing on the husband’s abusive and frightening behavior, his mental instability, and his horrific decision to kill five children, the headlines focus on his wife’s behavior and how it “ignited” his own.  To complete the metaphor, if you are flammable, when you burst into flame, it is the match striker’s fault.

NEW! Shakesville highlighted another example of the excusing men’s violence against women:

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That’s right.  Poisoning your wife is an act of love.  You see, they were estranged and he wanted to make her ill so that he could nurse her back to health and have-her-no-she-can’t-get-away-I’ll-make-sure-of-it.  Story here.

Also in blaming the victim: mothers are responsible for their children’s addiction, renters are responsible for lead poisonous apartments, girls are responsible for internet predators, and women are responsible for preventing sexual harassment.