Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I DON'T Want to Marry Someone if I Don't Have a Job First!

This child is my new hero.

"I don't care if I marry you, I don't care if I marry another man. I care if I do something that's special!"

She rocks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Role Model: Representative Jackie Speier

"But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous. To think that we are here tonight debating this issue when the American people, if they are listening, are scratching their heads and wondering what does this have to do with me getting a job? What does this have to do with reducing the deficit? And the answer is nothing at all," - Rep. Jackie Speier.

I am so glad that Representative Jackie Speier has told her story. Not all abortion procedures are sought out by teenagers or harlots, as the anti-choice movement would like you to think. The House of Representatives has just voted to stop government funding to Planned Parenthood and soon this vote will move to Congress. Planned Parenthood is famously divisive because some offices provide abortions or give information to women who want to find a place to get an abortion, but they do more than that. They also talk to women who are pregnant to help them look at their options and decide whether or not an abortion is right for them. They provide HIV testing, family planning, cancer screenings, and birth control. Does that sound like an evil place to you?

If your personal opinion is that you would never get an abortion? Fine. That's perfectly okay. You are entitled to your beliefs and may certainly keep them. However you cannot in good conscience force your beliefs upon others. What someone else does or does not do with their own body is none of your business. Allow them the freedom and respect to make those choices on their own.

Stand with Planned Parenthood and sign the petition to show Congress that they need to stop this ignorant and inconsiderate cut of funding at www.ppaction.org/IStandWithPP.

Sexism Alert!

Look at these two posters. One is a "Weight Training Flexibility" guide, while the other is for "Aerobic Flexibility." What is different about them?

Well, other than the title, really nothing other than the gender of cartoon person modeling the stretches. The stretches as well as the descriptions for them (sorry they're not legible, these are the biggest images I could find for these) are exactly the same.

Both these posters are hanging in the warm-up area of my university's gym. There is a specific weight room (which, admittedly, I have never stepped foot in), but in the section where these posters are, there are aerobic and weight training machines that both men and women use. So why the gender distinction?

There is a stereotype that women are more likely to do aerobic exercises rather than lift weights, and that lifting weights is a much more masculine form of exercise. I just thought it was striking that the posters made such a distinction, when in reality, I see men and women at the gym pretty evenly and they do pretty similar exercises.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Genuine Ken: Episode 5 ("Limited Edition Ken")

This episode actually turned out to be the most entertaining of all so far. The contest this week was to take an assigned Ken identity (Dream Date Ken, Superstar Ken, Disco Ken...) and construct an outfit for a fashion show. Like the contests on America's Next Top Model, where the contestants have to shop for an outfit for a specific context in a limited amount of time, this proved hilarious. Some people are not good at dressing themselves. And that is funny.

So the boys set off on their task with a pump-up "1, 2, 3, G-K!" (they started showing this in the previous episode as well... and it just cracked me up. It's so like, sports-y, and they're in a Barbie competition. This suggests that the guys feel like they have to amp up their masculinity in some ways.)

As I've said, Chris is really the only contestant I like. The rest of them are just so ridiculous. Derek has been a serious NOT favorite of mine for the entire series, but he is just so out there that I can't help but look forward to the times that his commentary is included because he is so un-self-aware. As soon as any challenge is assigned, Derek's commentary shows him saying something along the lines of, "Oh, fashion show? I have great style. I can't wait to rock this competition." His tone is so arrogant that it is laughable, especially because it is so clear to everyone that he's delusional.

Shopping proved a challenge to these guys, even the ones who thought they were good at it, but here I saw an increase in their comments about how unsuited they were to this task. Not outright saying that shopping was something they thought was "feminine" or "gay," but the implication of their indignant, "Oh, what could I possibly do with this?"-comments brought out those thoughts for me, so I'm sure that other viewers thought this as well, or at least subconsciously.

Pre-fashion show, there was a montage of clips in black and white of the guys getting ready. The shots showed muscled arms, panned up their bodies, showed them putting their shirts on, and really did a sort of gender reverse on how bodies are treated on camera. The "male gaze" is something that's pretty well documented (the Victoria's Secret fashion show is pretty much the definition), but the "female gaze" is something that does not get as much attention but is also not really used in the media as much. Constructing these shots to be for the benefit of the female (or gay male) gaze I thought was a really interesting aspect of this episode. (Ohmygod, I just said that I thought this show was interesting. I'm embarrassed by myself.) Also, it gave me really my first clue into who the producers think is watching.

And of course, the guys' posturing during the fashion show was really hilarious and interesting. Some of them seemed very out-of-touch. Whitney Port actually said, "Oh my god. Oh my god oh my god," a couple times, which I thought was hilarious! There were a couple shots of her looking absolutely miserable and bored and made me realize that she probably really hates this job.

In comparison to past challenges, the inclusion of the fashion show challenge poses a really interesting question in respect to how this show was constructed. The challenges are talked about by the judges as something to help them determine who would make the best impression on their date (they do refer to the hypothetical date as a woman) in a certain context. Some of the contests, like the surfing contest, are implicitly treated as challenges of masculinity, saying that the masculinity of the men on the show is constructed through physical tasks that show skill and athletic prowess, a "traditional" aspect of masculinity. Other contests, like making an outfit for a fashion show or decorating a bachelor pad, are challenges to masculinity, in which they can succeed by impressing a hypothetical girlfriend with their command over activities that lie outside the masculine norm. While being a fashionista is not constructed as inherently male, the ability to overcome the non-masculine (whether it be thought of as feminine or homosexual) implies a heightened command of masculinity, and power over an identity that isn't an implicit part of them.

As Michael Kimmel says in "Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity" from Theorizing Masculinities,
Manhood is neither static nor timeless; it is historical. Manhood is not the manifestation of an inner essence; it is socially constructed. Manhood does not bubble up to consciousness from our biological makeup; it is created in culture. Manhood means different things at different times to different people. We come to know what it means to be a man in our culture by setting our definitions in opposition to a set of "others"--racial minorities, sexual minorities, and above all, women (120).
Although manhood/masculinity are viewed as static, unchanging, and inherit qualities of a "real" man, the things we perceive as masculine are actually highly constructed social markers that have to be performed, repeated, and recognized--mainly by other men. Gender is a performance, and the range of "gendered" identity markers that exist help us identify what "kind" of man (or woman, or any gender identity because it's a performance for everyone) someone is. Think about what you would assume about the manhood of the men pictured below:

How is gender being performed in these pictures?
How do these men rate on a (subjective) scale of American masculinity?
Could you rate these pictures on a scale of "most masculine" to "least masculine?"
Could you explain why one picture is more (or less) "masculine" than another?
What stereotypes do these pictures fit about men and masculinity?
What stereotypes do they break? How is gender being performed in these pictures?
Is there any picture (or pictures) that you would have difficulty talking about in respect to gender performance or masculinity?

These are difficult questions, but are definitely important and interesting when considering how masculinity is constructed and why. I welcome any comments with your input on any of those questions!

Genuine Ken: Episode 4 ("Ken He Cook?")

Well, apparently Mattel has solved the problem of why they are promoting Ken... even though he and Barbie broke up 7 years ago... they've gotten back together!

As one commenter on Hulu said, "I ran out of TV shows to watch and this was featured on the front page. Big mistake, I wish I could request a refund for my time."

Another commenter summed up my feelings by saying,
"ok honestly how is this even a competition. Chris is so obviously the best boyfriend material by far.... the rest of the guys are ridiculously dumb/ arrogant/ and just not that good looking. Chris is just so sweet AND cute.
Derek: can't even be for real- just so odd.
Kurtis: obnoxious
but mostly- all i can do is ask myself why i'm watching this crap when i have actual stuff to do.... guilty pleasure much?"
Yep, episode 4 and I'm still watching. In this episode, the contestants were charged with the task of planning and executing a meal for ladies who work for in the Barbie division of Mattel. Cue the jokes about cooking in microwaves... certain dishes always "working" on the ladies etc. Discussions about masculinity in this show are conspicuously absent. This is probably because of the editing process... Mattel wanting to construct a certain "Ken" image... whatever, but I can't help but wonder about what these guys are saying that doesn't get into the show. In a TV show sponsored by Barbie about equating men to a plastic doll (with no genitals) as the ideal of boyfriendhood... how are the contestants constructing their masculinity within this context?

Alright, excuse the academic crap, but in the past couple weeks of one of my classes we've been reading a lot about the social construct of masculinity and I think it's a really important topic to discuss because gender for men is largely seen as "invisible" (as one article put it). On Genuine Ken, masculinity is a much more implicit concept. It doesn't need to be talked about because as Americans, we recognize this group of dudes battling for the title of Greatest Boyfriend in America--assumedly so that they can be the boyfriend to a girlfriend, but like I've said, it is quite possible that some of the contestants could be gay and then would be boyfriend to a boyfriend--as masculine people doing what it takes to win a competition that is based on gender but constructed so that that gender is invisible. The whole idea of men competing in for a title that supposedly deems them the "ultimate" of boyfriendhood (and thus masculinity... so far there have been no contests in which they bake cookies or use a vacuum) is a very safe, insular, and patriarchal concept. One passage from one of my readings I think makes a really good point and I will share it with you all because I believe in spreading knowledge (and I can't find a link to the article online):

In this same way, men often think of themselves as genderless, as if gender did not matter in the daily experiences of our lives. Certainly, we can see the biological sex of individuals, but we rarely understand the ways in which gender--that complex of social meanings that is attached to biological sex--is enacted in our daily lives. For example, we treat male scientists as if their being men had nothing to do with the organization of their experiments, the logic of scientific inquiry, or the questions posed by science itself. We treat male political figures as if masculinity were not even remotely in their consciousness as they do battle in the political arena. (Micahel S. Kimmel and Michael Messner, "Men as 'Gendered Beings' from Men's Lives, 1989)

So essentially this passage is saying that we should be looking at masculinity and how it is constructed in society. And this is where I think a lot of men (and women) are surprised to learn that feminist theory can actually apply to men and masculinity. In thinking about women as the "second sex" (an idea introduced by Simone DeBeauvoir, in her work, The Second Sex), as people who are defined by what men aren't, we should be considering what in particular men are. If men are supposedly violent and impulsive, why do we think that? If men are thought to be stronger and more competitive, what is the root of this assumption? How is masculinity constructed, and how does that construction relate to biology, culture, society, and how femininity is constructed?

To give an example not from Genuine Ken, last year I went to my first concert with a woman-fronted headlining band (since I saw B*Witched at a music festival in 2000). From ages 13 through high school, when I was really developing my musical tastes and started going to the concerts of my favorite bands, I saw all male-fronted bands. However, I didn't go see the Dropkick Murphys thinking "Wow, I really like this band of all-men," I just went because I like the music. However, when I saw the Cranberries, it struck me that this was the first time that I had gone to a concert where the headlining band was lead by a woman. I was only conscious of the gender of the lead singer when the singer was a woman, and ergo, something different from the "masculine" norm. The invisibility of gender for men is really quite striking when you think about it.

... More to come with my review of episode 5, now online! I will get back to you on masculinity because it's something I'm glad that I'm thinking more critically about.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Uh ... STFU!

In my existence as a progressive, enlightendy-minded person, there are moments in my life when I hear spewage of ignorance in the form of racism/sexism/homophobia (etc) that makes me want to start yelling at people. Fortunately for the general public's eardrums and for my social skills, I don't usually act on this impulse. But I know that this feeling of shocked frustration at hearing bigoted and ignorant comments is not something that is unique to me.

In my university's chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, we started a system last year called the "STFU Card." We each made a credit-card sized thing to keep in our wallets upon which we kept a tally of the times that people around us (overheard conversations, class discussions, friends, enemies... etc) said stuff that was royally dumb and under crasser circumstances would warrant a "Shut the fuck up!" Then at meetings, we set aside a little time at the end to talk about these STFU-moments that have been gnawing at our souls. (Last year I wrote about two STFU-moments I had, click here for the link) This functions as a nice way to, in a socially acceptable way, vent out our frustrations with the stupid things we hear said in an environment that will support us and be shocked and frustrated along with us.

However, are there times when calling someone out is appropriate?

This political cartoon from the 2008 presidential election is just one of a multitude of examples I could give about sexist jokes. The t-shirts the dudes in the comic are wearing are actually shirts that were sold during the 2008 election and oft-worn by men making fun of Hillary Clinton's transgression of the stereotypical gender norms that say that only women do domestic work or bake cookies. (I'm reading a really interesting book right now called Big Girls Don't Cry by Rebecca Traister about women and the 2008 election. She lists many other "joke" products about Hillary Clinton that both men and women made and purchased.) One of the problems with saying "Iron my shirt, Hillary" and stuff of that ilk, besides the obvious, is that gender is being used as a credential instead of ... actual credentials. While I was not a Hillary supporter in 2008, I do know that she is a highly qualified person who deserves to be recognized for her professional accomplishments--which are impressive for any person.

So when some troglodyte, or even one of your friends, trots out a dumb joke about women or says something homophobic, how should you react?

My friend Caitlin and I talked about this predicament yesterday. I ran into this problem this past weekend, when an acquaintance said something along the lines of, "Yeah, well, there always has to be like a boy and a girl in a lesbian relationship."
... What?
"That's not true," I said, my mind immediately flashing to talking about how heterosexual language is used to talk about homosexual relationships in my women's studies classes. (I had actually recently talked about this in both my Gender Theory and Gay & Lesbian Lives classes.) "I'm pretty sure that usually the point of being in a lesbian relationship is that there is no man."
Another acquaintance piped up, "Yeah, well with dudes there always has to be one giver and one receiver."
"Um... also not true," I said, holding myself back from using the phrase "heterosexual binary" on this freshman. Nothing says party-killer like using gender theory vocab, right?
"Well, I just watched Chuck and Larry yesterday," he began sarcastically, and I said, "RIGHT! Because that's a bastion of LGBT acceptance right there." And I just left it at that because I didn't want to get into a heated conversation in the middle of hanging out with a bunch of people I didn't know very well. Caitlin about how she recently called out a male student in one of her classes after he made sexist assumptions about a character in a film they had watched. The entire class, including the male-TA, jumped in to say, "Whooa! No one said anything sexist!"

"No one wants to be the bitch," we agreed. There is a definite double standard in what kinds of jokes men and women are "allowed" to make. As soon as a woman voices her disapproval about men making jokes about rape, molestation, or sexist stereotypes, she gets labeled the humorless bitch who can't take a joke. Conversely, women who make jokes about castration or penis size get labeled as man-hating feminazis. I'm not really into castration jokes and I'm not trying to say that they're women's "in" to the comedy world, but it definitely makes a point in showing how men and women are granted different access to offensive jokes.

I think, under the right circumstances (which turn out to be one of those tricky judgement calls... ah, nothing is simple), calling people out on their BS is absolutely necessary. This is awkward among peers, I know. And there are circumstances when a joke is just a joke. For instance, I have several great, feminist, male friends. And it is a running joke for them to make sexist or stereotypical comments about my feminism or gender. And usually these jokes are quite funny and I go along with them or make fun of them for something right back, but you bet I call them out if they go too far, and there are never hard feelings. This is trickier in classes, where I have to express my dissent in a generally more refined way, or don't get the opportunity at all to call someone out. (I'm taking a class called Gender in America with around 100 students, and I have heard some pretty horrifying statements come up in class discussion.) The best way to stop people from continuing to say stupid stuff is pointing out in a calm, rational, and respectful way why their comments are offensive and shouldn't be said. There are of course people who will ignore this, but you can't expect people to change their evil ways if you never tell them that the things they are saying because they're a part of "slang" or "they're just jokes" are in actuality, terrible, offensive, and frustrating. And for the situations when you can't, I suggest you make a STFU tally card.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Get Pumped Up

One day, as I was doing my homework for my Gender Theory class, waiting for cookies to bake, and listening to my "workout" playlist on my ipod (it was a rare day... I had gone to the gym that morning), I realized that my playlist had a lot of really misogynistic music on it. I realized this as I was humming along to "Shake That" by Eminem (featuring Nate Dogg). With the homework and the baking and the Eminem, there were too many stereotypes happening simultaneously. Upon this realization, I laughed, but felt very conflicted. My workout playlist has changed very little over the past few years, and is dominated by a lot of male rap artists. Not all of them are bad rap songs, but listening to it the other day made me realize how much misogynistic music I have on my ipod and listen to on a normal basis without thinking about it. Perhaps I should make a new, better, less misogynistic work out playlist? (Yes)

So I revamped my playlist to eliminate sexist music and prevent further moral dilemmas. Now the only problem is making sure no one ever knows what I'm listening to because there's some serious guilty-pleasure songs on here. This is what I got (featuring male and female artists in awesome and gender-neutral songs) to get pumped up for some exercise:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feminist Reading

The Bitch Magazine blog has awesomely posted this list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader. When I saw this post it immediately jumped out at me because I am a book fiend and also wished that I had known about a list such as this one when I was reading YA fiction.

Some of my favorite YA fiction books are on the list, here are a few:

All American Girl by Meg Cabot. I loved this and its sequel Ready or Not. I was a big Meg Cabot fan, and the heroine of AAG and RoN, Samantha Madison, is a lot less neurotic than Mia Thermopolis of The Princess Diaries (another favorite series). I would love to see this made into a movie (as long as Disney didn't take the helm, as they made a cute but watered down version of The Princess Diaries) because Samantha is a really great female character who's smart and funny and not hugely typical.

Uhhhhhh. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Bloom was my life in 6th grade. I read this book over and over. If you have not read anything by Judy Bloom, you are sorely missing out. She sort of defined the teen novel experience. And was really honest about puberty, masturbation, family problems (etc) in her books in a really great and honest way, instead of a hokey lame way. I'm actually thinking about re-reading this sometime soon because it's such a classic and I loved it so much when I was 12.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine was my favorite book from probably 1999 to 2003, which is a pretty long time. And it's still one of my favorite books and I do actually re-read it about once a year (I can read it in one sitting, as I am not 9 anymore). Ella is a fantastic character and the whole book is just great... and it's a really interesting take on the classic Cinderella story. Again, like the movie version of The Princess Diaries, the movie took huge creative liberties and really does not resemble the book very much, other than the basic concept. It's amusing, but the book is a lot better. When I was a counselor to 10-11 year old girls a couple years ago I read to them from Ella Enchanted every night and they all agreed that the book was a lot better. (Side note: hard to read aloud. There are a lot of made-up languages.)

Great New PSAs from Reacciona Ecuador

English transcription:
Lucia, 6 years old: raped by a family member
Awak, 29 years old: raped by coyoteros (people who are hired to bring people across the border illegally--they often take advantage of their clients, and sexual abuse is one of the things they do)
Cecilia, 73 years old: Assaulted and raped in her home
Maria, 22 years old: Harassed and raped at her university
Jacinta, 13 years old: Pregnant from her rape
Rape leaves permanent marks. If you are a victim or know of a case, report it to 101 (9-11 in Ecuador).
Narrator: Ecuador Reacts: Male chauvinism is violence.

Woman speaking: We're going to give you 30 seconds for you to give us 1 reason why you think, as women, we are inferior to men. (30 seconds of multicultural women not coming up with a reason.) There does not exist any reason. However, 80% of Ecuadorian women have experienced the violence of male chauvinism. No more.
Narrator: Ecuador Reacts: Male chauvinism is violence.

Man speaking: We're going to give you 30 seconds for you to come up with one reason for why we, as men, are superior to women. (30 seconds of multicultural men not coming up with a reason.) There is not even one reason. Why then have 80% of Ecuadorian women been victims of violence from male chauvinism? No more!
Narrator: Ecuador Reacts: Male chauvinism is violence.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Movie Review: The Pajama Game

I do enjoy a good musical--especially one about union organizing (NEWSIES!)-- so when I found out the plot of The Pajama Game (1957) (union gal and superintendent fall in love in the midst of a fight for higher wages at a pajama factory, spunky white employees sing a lot of songs about love and then a couple about getting better pay) I was obviously interested.

So let's look at what gender relations looked like in 1957:

Doris Day tells the ladies why she's not in love, addresses the silliness of rumors, but it's also pretty obvious that she's going to fall in love with him in a minute. (This is a trend in musicals that I don't like, because I get all hopeful about the "empowering" songs that the "feisty" female lead sings, and then it turns out that in the next scene all those words have gone down the drain. Ughhh. But they're still fun while they last.)

Vernon Hines gets a lesson on trusting his hottie girlfriend and policing her sexuality? Sort of.

Is she playing hard to get, or is Sid trying to pressure her... ? Also, they started dating like, earlier that day, so it's weird that they're saying "I love you," even in Musical World. Props to Babe/Doris Day for sticking to her union-guns.

Love is a very heterosexual thing in the musicals of 1957.

Gladys takes lead in this song/dance number and cross-dresses. (Fun fact: the movie was choreographed by Bob Fosse, who was the inspiration for the choreography in Beyoncé's "Single Ladies," so some of the choreography looks very similar.)

Babe has an ideology crisis that is largely influenced by her romantic troubles. Y do boiz make eVeRyThInG so HARD?

Fortunately, Sid takes up union interests and investigates further because his "life depends on it." Not life as in his monetary life, but his love life. His investigation into the mystery of union raises involves getting a secretary drunk. (Side note: I went to a musical theater camp as a child and we did this song... it is not appropriate for middle schoolers! What were they thinking? Actually, this movie is sort of littered with inappropriate jokes about consent and sex and abuse.)

And they get their 7.5 cent raise! Surprise! Sid and Babe get married. Surprise! It's a silly movie, but amusing, and a 50s musical precursor to other, more serious movies about union struggles.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Congrats Green Bay Packers



Choice and Consent

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

As the Daily Show so wryly points out, this proposed legislation did not make sense. Fortunately, they have dropped this stupid language out of the bill, although they're still trying to limit abortion availability and the bodily autonomy of women. The GOP wanted to break down "rape" into categories, so that only women who have been "forcibly raped" are covered by their insurance. As in, you have only been forcibly raped if you fought back and have the bruises to prove it... What the fuck kind of dictionary was the Republican party using? As Jon Stewart points out, isn't all rape forcible? YES. That's is a whole bunch of BS. And while the language has changed so that "forcible" is out, the BS of trying to limit the freedom of women to choose what to do with their bodies is still going on.

After a huge public outcry, Republicans are back-pedaling from an outrageous attempt to redefine rape.

But the GOP is continuing to push anti-choice legislation that is terrible for women. Rep. Carolyn Maloney called one bill "the deepest attack on a woman's right to choose in my lifetime."

And a second bill would allow hospitals to turn away a woman seeking an abortion, even if she'll die without it.

It's reprehensible. And we need to act right away. Can you sign the petition telling Congress to oppose these attacks on the right to choose?

By the way, consent is sexy.

Friday, February 4, 2011


"I have forty years a slave and forty years free and would be here forty years more to have equal rights for all."
-Sojourner Truth (1867)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Genuine Ken: Episodes 2 & 3

In episodes 2 & 3 of Genuine Ken (I can't believe I'm still watching this... just kidding I totally believe I'm still watching this) the wannabe-Kens decorate a bachelor pad in teams and learn to surf. Whitney Port and her team of judges wanted to see how the contestants dealt with teamwork (some better than others) and then ... who was the best at surfing? This competition seemed really odd to me. They were actually judged on how well they could surf. A Malibu Ken sort of thing. None of them had surfed before (one guy had never been in the ocean before), and so it just was a really weird way to measure their Ken character. The contest of the episode was not explained until it was over, so I was surprised they didn't judge them based on their willingness to learn and try... In any case, I am sort of disturbed at how much I am thinking about how they could make the show better because it's really sort of hopeless.

I'm still kind of clueless as to who the audience of the show is supposed to be... Boys trying to learn what women want? 7 year old Barbie-buyers? Women who never outgrew their Barbie obsessions? Procrastinating feminist college students!? I'm really baffled. It is clearly a ploy from Mattel to try to drum up some attention (and they definitely could not hold a "Genuine Barbie" competition because that shit would get protested) for the brand, but I'm just not sure to whom they are trying to convince. I've watched all the episodes so far, but I really don't think I'm their target audience.

It's interesting to me how the show is sort of commodifying idealized masculinity, which is not something that we generally think about when the commodification of gender is brought up. Usually it's women. But men have gender too, don't you forget it. The challenges that get the guys to put together furniture and show off their athleticism are not surprising, nor are they particularly interesting, but these were carefully chosen activities for the show, and they are what Genuine Ken is promoting as the idealized masculine boyfriend... so in that respect... I guess they're mildly interesting. On the wall of their Barbie Dreamhouse there are all these pink phrases that look like those word magnets with stuff on them like, "Someday my Ken will come... he really is a doll!" and "You can take me home to mom!" which I thought were really interesting (I'm going to try to look closer and see more of them) because they were really explicitly relating men to... dolls. That's a new one! Everyone's a doll! Equality for men and women! I don't know if this is gender equality or a step in the wrong direction.

The guys' reality show identities are getting more solidified through their commentary, which is another mildly interesting aspect of the show...? Each of them are identified by a Ken nickname, "Compassionate Ken," "Dreamer Ken," "Artistic Ken" (etc) but what they all have in common is their seemingly unfailing confidence. I know it's a reality show (barely...) and these things get edited, but still, it's funny as well as irritating. How the heck did these guys find out about this show? Who thinks, seriously, "I want to be in a Barbie competiton!?" I'm not saying that in respect to gender, just in respect to sanity. HOWEVER, I know I said earlier that if "you want to start dating from this pool, you are insane," but I totally have a crush on Chris ("Compassionate Ken"). In the past two episodes, the judges started trying to force the guys to go against each other (drama! OMG!), and Chris totally did not play into that. Also, he took time out of surfing practice to help another guy. Good for him. Also he's the cutest one. Anyway, I don't want to date him, I'm just saying, that if I were a judge, I know who I'd be backing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Music, Race & Feminism

This Barbara Acklin track was recorded in 1968. It didn't get a large release and audience, and its catchy rhythms and soulful backing track were eclipsed by the success of Young Holt Unlimited's "Soulful Strut" (you should recognize this from The Parent Trap-1998) and Dusty Springfield's re-recording of the song a year later. The main difference between Acklin's track and Springfield's is that Acklin was a big-haired, big-boned Black woman, and Dusty Springfield was a big-blonde-haired, big boned white woman, and the dimwads in charge of track distribution thought that one would be more successful than the other.

It's not a big secret that white artists appropriated music from Black artists in the 50s and 60s and used it for their own commercial success. (Remember the "Cadillac Car" scene from Dreamgirls?) But it should be recognized that Black artists were the revolutionaries of the pop music scene in the 50s and 60s, especially black female artists and groups, and that pop music today wouldn't be what it is now without it.

For those of you with flashes of Ke$ha popping in your head, I don't mean it like that. I mean that y'all should brush up on your Motown and pre-Motown knowledge. This 2007 Smithsonian Magazine article on "The Real Dreamgirls" is a good start. The music mentioned in the article is some of the most recognized, sampled and influential in pop music. Girl groups like the Marvelettes, the Ronettes, the Crystals, Martha Reeve and the Vandellas, the Chiffons, the Shirelles and of course, the Supremes, opened up mainstream pop charts to black women and integrated pop music before many schools were integrated. Girl groups of the 50s and 60s formed a cultural mold for future girl-groups (the Spice Girls, Destiny's Child, TLC, Atomic Kitten, the Sugababes, Girls Aloud, the Saturdays) and created the basic stencil for hit songs on the pop charts. They also created an essential role for teenage girls in pop culture, one which has not disappeared. Female artists of all genres owe some of their success to these pioneering ladies who paved the way for not only female artists, but female artists of color.

Within this framework, in the next few months I'm going to try and look more into female rappers. I'm a big fan of Lauryn Hill, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, and Monie Love, and I'm trying to listen to more Lil Kim, Da Brat, Lady of Rage, Missy Elliot, MC Lyte, Bahamadia, and Nicki Minaj to try to look more closely at how feminism, femininity, and race play into their identities as artists in a male-dominated genre of music. (Note: if anyone has recommendations of other feminist and/or female rappers, let me know! I'd love to hear more.)

And is there a perfect way to start up this investigation with the ticket I bought this morning to see Salt-N-Pepa in 17 days??? I think not. My friend Sara and I are going and we are practically peeing ourselves in excitement. I shall clearly be writing about this more in the weeks to come.

In other news, I have another post up on The FBomb! I love reading all the posts on The FBomb and check it daily to see who's contributed and on what subject. It's a great website, and if you haven't before, you should check it out.