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.

Pictures with artistic NSFW nudity below the cut.


Click here if this second video doesn’t come up.

NEW! Bumpersticker for sale at CafePress:

American Girl Place, one of the company stores in New York City, offers fun at a price.
American Girl Place, one of the company stores in New York City, offers fun at a price.

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.

In an informal discussion on Slate about American Girls, commenter Nina made the following astute observation:

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.]

This commercial I recently saw on Comedy Central for Progene male enhancement supplement warns men who are “not 20 anymore” that, without their product, they won’t be able to satisfy a woman.


Here’s a screenshot of a graph from the video which purports to show how men’s sexual performance declines with age:

Of course, we women “know it’s not your fault,” “it’s natural.”

Obviously you could could use this for a discussion of the increasing scrutiny men’s bodies are put under (much as women’s long have). But it’s also a good example of the way sex is often discussed; the implication here is that the only way to satisfy a woman sexually is to be able to have sex like a 20-year-old man, and the emphasis is clearly on penile-vaginal intercourse as the main source of sexual pleasure (though it does come with the handy DVD about the female orgasm). I might also use it when I talk about the ways we construct biology and treat some “natural” processes as inevitable and unalterable while attempting to change others.

For the unbelievers, I know this ad may very well look fake, but I swear to you I saw it on TV. Multiple times, because it was during a show I’d recorded, so I had the opportunity to rewatch it to my heart’s content.

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

I am writing a lecture about the social construction of race/ethnicity and wanted to show some pictures of people who are grouped into a single racial category in the U.S. but, in fact, show enormous variety in their skin tone, facial features, etc., so I quickly googled the phrase “African American skin tone.” And I found this flyer for a party at a club where light-skinned women would get in free ( found here):

My reactions, in order: “What the f**k???” “This is clearly made up.” [After finding this AP story about it]: “Son of a bitch! It’s real!” Due to the outcry, the event was canceled and the event planner expressed sorrow and dismay that he would have offended anyone. Because who could have guessed this would be problematic?

This image should be perfect for illustrating a number of topics, such as the way hierarchies often emerge within racial groups based on skin tone, facial features, etc., so that racial discrimination does not just occur between different groups, or the way that light skin is still prized in our society, even in racial/ethnic minority populations. You could also focus on the gender angle and compare it to photos of African American women who are often “whitened” or required to have light skin tone in order to be models, actresses, etc. (for example, see this post), or the whole issue of why clubs allow women, but not men, in for free.

I’m going to pair this image with Margaret Hunter’s article “Light, Bright, and Almost White: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Light Skin” (from Skin/Deep: How Race and Complexion Matter in the ‘Color-Blind’ Era, 2004).

A while back, Captain Crab sent me a link to Baby Couture Magazine (“We put the ‘coo’ in couture”):

It is, as far as I can tell, a magazine dedicated to how to raise a kid very stylishly. The magazine features fashion spreads of kids with information on where to get the clothes, just like women’s magazines such as Vogue or Glamour. There’s a section where you can send in pictures of your kids to see if the magazine might want to use them as a model or just “…show off your children (and their outfits!)…”

In the caption of a photo of Salma Hayek currently up on the site (posted on June 20, 2008), we learn about her daughter, “Valentina’s father, Francois-Henri Pinault, is reportedly the 3rd richest man in France, and owns and runs PPR (subisidiaries of which include Gucci, YSL, Balenciaga, etc).”

Here’s a playset highlighted in the Spring 2008 issue that costs $21,850 (image at

About the Nurtured by Nature line, we learn,

…it is a fabulous baby shower gift as well (you know, when they open your present at the shower and other parents look at you like that “momma who just knows her thang”). Anyway, they are not mass-produced so they may be on the pricey side (it says on their site that a Nature’s Dream gift set is $200.30).

Yes, that might be just a tad on the pricey side for most people. I went to the company’s website and found onesies running from $22 to $99. I’m all for non-mass-produced items made from local materials (in this case, New Zealand-grown merino wool), but…$200??? For a baby gift set??? I bought some of my friends’ babies’ presents at resale shops.

This could be interesting for several different kinds of class discussions–the class element is obvious, not just in terms of how much things cost or who the audience is, but also ideas of parenting and how they differ by social class (for instance, as far as I know my friends and family members aren’t offended if I buy nice used baby clothes at resale/consignment shops, but I suspect that if you gave such a gift to the type of women who read Baby Couture, you would be a permanent outcast–something to keep in mind if you’re trying to extract yourself from such a social network).

You could also discuss changes in parenting overall, though, not just among the wealthy. In the book Parenting, Inc: How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers–And What It Means for Our Children, Pamela Paul discusses how parents confront more and more products they are told any good parent must buy for their child (such as “educational” products that have no shown positive effects on learning), so that book might provide some interesting analysis about why we think we need these things. The whole topic brings up a number of interesting questions about parenting in general: what does this mean about how parents who can’t (or won’t) afford all these things are judged? Why do new parents increasingly look to the marketplace to tell them what they need–and how–to raise a child? How does middle-class fear of “falling behind” play into this whole trend? Why have we become so convinced that raising children requires huge amounts of “expert” advice and purchased products?

NOTE: Well, I have to say, I didn’t actually believe there were such things as $800 strollers–that just seemed exaggerated–but for fun I did a quick search before I posted this and behold:

The Boy Meets Girl Pink & Blue Limited Edition Valco Twin Trimode, for $825 (though there are several hundred dollars’ worth of upgrades available on top of that). Of course, it’s also good that it’s color-coded so you know which side to put the boy and girl in. Also, it’s described as an “all-terrain” stroller. All-terrain stroller??? Where exactly are people taking their kids these days? There are a lot more similarly bizarre products at Let’s Go Strolling.

So I learned something today: No matter how much the upper limit is that I can imagine for a baby product, I need to add many, many hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to it. And upper-middle-class parenting has become very, very strange.

And I owe it all to Captain Crab!

I don’t have an image for this post. What I have is a quote from Bill Napoli, a South Dakota state senator. He doesn’t believe that bills banning abortion should have an exception in cases of rape, because if the woman “really” deserved to get one, she could get it under the health-of-the-mother exception. Here is a direct quote:

A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

I came upon part of this quote in issue #40 of Bitch magazine (p. 17), but I found the full quote here (scroll down a little past halfway).

What’s interesting to me here isn’t about abortion per se, but the implication of who would and wouldn’t “really” suffer if they were impregnated from a rape. Apparently if you aren’t a virgin or religious, or ARE a virgin but weren’t necessarily planning on staying that way until marriage, then being raped and getting pregnant just wouldn’t be as traumatic as it would to “nice” girls.

It’s also creepy how we often like to think in rather fine detail about the ways good little virgins can be violated. I mean, he could have just said “she was raped,” but no, he decides to make it a bit more graphic. And how bad is “as bad as you can possibly make it”? Is there some measuring stick for how traumatizing different violations are, so you can be sure the girl has suffered enough to qualify as a deserving victim?

It reminds me of an article I read about the myth of the black rapist and the virginal white victim in the post-Reconstruction South (sorry, I don’t remember the article); the author said that detailed stories about how animalistic, savage black men had ravaged delicate white women served as a form of folk porn–people repeated the stories over and over, embellishing as they went. Telling rape stories provided a socially sanctioned outlet for people to talk about sex even in “nice” society, since you were only doing it to warn others of the danger, of course.

So even though there’s no image, I thought the quote might spark some interesting classroom discussion, either about abortion or about sexuality, victimization, and the enduring idea of the deserving and undeserving rape survivor. Or, hell, even a discussion of the social construction of porn–I mean, if you took Napoli’s exact words and put them in a different context and didn’t tell people he was a senator discussing a proposed bill, I bet a lot of people would think it was obscene but interpret it very differently since he was just talking about a hypothetical situation while discussing serious matters such as the law.

The “MANtage”:

The comedy troupe goes by “Barats and Bereta.” Enjoy their youtube site.

Thanks Kyle S.!

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.