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Exploitative Advertising

3 Nov
Sexualization of women makes fantastic advertising.

Because, you know, Mystique from the live-action X-men films wasn't sexual enough.

Screen capture of an advertisement for a MMORPG at, picturing a thin, white, blond woman in a sexually suggestive pose. Bare-breasted except for something I know only to describe as gold-plated nipple shields conforming to the shape of the lower half of the breast (and which, based on my understanding of the human form, wouldn’t actually cover the nipples – yay Photoshop?), she also displays what appears to be a henna tattoo on the remainder of her torso, Celtic knot-style and suggestively pointing towards her groin. The groin itself is covered loosely by a cloth.

I’m not sure how this ad could be seen as anything other than exploitative. Using a sexual image of a woman to gain pageviews and site usage strikes me as really despicable, and I’m very much disappointed with the site that is being paid for displaying the ad. I’m not linking the site (I do my damnedest to avoid ever giving them pageviews and linkbacks – not exclusively for this ad, mind you), but it should be stated that this ad is being displayed on a large feminist blog. Isn’t feminism the movement that usually opposes objectification of women? And now our sites are being colonized by this sexist advertising, using women like a fisher uses bait. I don’t know [site’s] ad policy, but I think it’s fair to say that it needs a rather significant revision – why isn’t there some oversight to ensure that their readers aren’t subjected to images reminiscent of the chain-mail bikini?



14 Oct

So, there’s this fairly popular TV show called Nip/Tuck. As near as I can gather without having to watch an episode or do any research (in other words, my expert opinion is based on advertisements I saw 3-4 years ago with much less feminist theory informing my media consumption), it’s about a bunch of male plastic surgeons and the shallow, sex-driven women who are the surgeons’ patients.

This understanding of the show does not in any way clash with the following advertisement, seen on Youtube as I was looking up links of David Tennant-y goodness.


For those who may not be able to see the image, it is a picture of a mostly naked woman in a highly sexualized pose. She is wearing tight white underpants, and corset piercings running down from the nape of her neck to the top of her underwear. The string lacing is tied in a bow at her iliac, and the remainder of the thread wraps around her hand in a loosely immobilizing position while a man in semi-recumbent pose pulls it, as if controlling her by using reins. Both he and another man are staring at the woman in what strikes me to be a somewhat predatory fashion. It’s also worth noting that all three are white and conventionally attractive.

This is fairly classic male gaze operation (obligatory link to Dinosaur Comics). The men, both dressed in business attire (slacks and jacket) are ogling the woman, mostly nude and in a position suggestive of performance for the male gaze – right hand behind head, which widens the chest and shoulders, lifting the breasts and making them more prominent (while we the viewer don’t see the woman’s breasts, the shot makes it clear that the men in the picture do, so the movement breasts undergo in this position is significant), upper left arm held close to the body while the forearm stretches towards the semi-recumbent man, hips tilted at an angle uncomfortable to maintain for long periods of time, yet often used in what I’ve seen of mainstream porn photoshoots. The mens’ clothing indicates a certain social stature – rich, powerful, able to objectify and control women.

In certain ways, the ad reminds me of Le dejeuner sur l’herbes, a 19th century Manet (a precursor to impressionism) painting (description by Emile Zola at the Wikipedia article cited above).

The woman is nude among well-dressed men. It is worth noting that the woman is not sexualized, just naked. While there is, in this society, an automatic sexualization of nudity, Manet does not further objectify the woman. The men are also not staring at the woman in the skeevy, predatory way of the Nip/Tuck advertisement – instead, the woman is staring at the viewer (rare in compositions: usually, subjects of the composition are shown from a slight angle, so that the viewer is allowed to be a passive observer, rather than treated as an active participant (which is why it’s so jarring when actors look directly into the camera)).

There are also sharp contrasts to the famous Yoko Ono/John Lennon photo by Annie Liebovitz, where Lennon appears naked, cuddled around a fully clothed Ono.

Both John and Yoko look so vulnerable, so tender here that it’s quite touching. I don’t feel that the photo would be as powerful if Yoko weren’t dressed – the photo feels so intimate, like we’ve been allowed a gentle glimpse into the lives of two who loved each other so deeply it’s almost surreal, and as thought this love allows for a form of sexuality. It’s so drastically different from the sexuality of the Nip/Tuck ad – Nip/Tuck allows only for sexual enjoyment of the female form, while Liebovitz’ piece shows that nudity needn’t be about the male gaze, that it can give the viewer a powerfully intimate image of a couple where the woman is not treated as an object.

Why I’m Angry

7 Oct

You may have heard of Feministing’s recent refusal to acknowledge disability as a feminist issue.

You may have heard about the systematic othering of disabled people at Feministing.

You may have heard that Feministing commenters continue to engage in problematic behavior, in spite of being called out on TAB privilege.

You may have heard that Feministing moderators allow (and, by silence, encourage) the marginalization of trans people and denial of trans rights.

You may have heard that Feministing encourages multiple forms of kyriarchy, consistently and without apology.

You may have realized by now that I’m cosigning meloukhia’s letter.

Quick Hit: Roman Polanski

30 Sep

Agree or disagree: getting a thirteen-year old girl high and violating her multiple times, in spite of her dissent, is the same thing as being arrested for stealing a loaf of bread in 19th century France.

There is a correct answer. You will be judged based on your response. (via Feministe)

Edited because blogger was so angry about the comparison between Polanski and Jean Valjean she forgot to include the hyperlink to said comparison.

Humorless Feminist at the Movies

30 Sep

From the director of Something’s Gotta Give, the 1998 Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap, Father of the Bride I, II and the atrocious Mel Gibson film What Women Want, comes a new romantic comedy starring one of my favorite actors, Meryl Streep. Streep stars opposite Alec Baldwin (the ex-husband) and Steve Martin (random architect – the trailer indicates we don’t need to care about this loser character – he’s just there as a plot device, showing how sad and lonely Meryl Streep’s character is without a man), both of whose characters are vying for the affections of Jane, Streep’s character.

Here’s a link to the trailer for It’s Complicated, which I can’t embed. That’s okay, I’ll just discuss the parts I find relevant.

“Jo, you are so lucky Jerry is dead. You don’t have to bump into him!” – Jane

So, there’s no such thing as a congenial breakup. Either you’re sickeningly in love (as Jane is shown falling for Jake, Baldwin’s character in the trailer), or you can’t stand the sight of each other (the initial reaction Jane shows to Jake). This polarity is totally realistic, and I have no qualms whatsoever endorsing this dualistic point of view. None. Got it? </sarcasm>

And now, a scene with the architect, Adam:

“One tiny note: no ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ things.” – Jane

“And you don’t think in the future, you might want a ‘His?'” – Adam

“Oh my god, now we’re talking code about my life!” – Jane

Great stuff, folks. I mean, without this dialogue, how else would we know how empty Jane’s life is without a…a…man? Remember this now, readers with girly-parts (hoo-has and other accessories, or whatever): your lives don’t amount to a hill of beans in this fucking world if there isn’t a man in your life, using your spare sink and the second towel-rack.

*cut to Jane and Adam laughing, Jake staring in window stalker-like and mock-laughing with them*

Stalking is not sexy. It’s not funny or hot, and it doesn’t lead to perfect romance stories. It’s fucking creepy, and glorifying it in a romantic comedy screws up social notions about acceptable behavior even more. Stalking is an unacceptable behavior, that makes the culture in which we live even more viable for abusers and rapists (as if they need help), and playing it up for teh LOLs is repre-fucking-hensible. Well, now that I’ve got that off my chest, shall we continue unloading the bullshit from this trailer?

“OMG, I thought he’d never leave.” Jake, to Jane, about Adam

Alec Baldwin just used the Internet colloquialism “OMG” like a real word. I’m going to go cry now. (Okay, so that’s not a real objection. I’m just feeling ranty.)

“I’ve never really known how to live without you.” Jake, to Jane.

Warning! Warning! Unhealthy relationship patterns at twelve o’clock! Mayday!

But seriously though, that level of dependency is not something that should happen in healthy romantic relationships. It shows a lack of maturity and self-sufficiency that is highly dangerous to both parties, and reflects the character of Jane as a mother-figure to Jake, rather than a romantic figure. And considering that he’s pursuing her as a romantic figure, the mother-child dynamic that Jake’s neediness brings into the relationship is pretty squicky.

“I’m having an affair…with…a married man.” Jane, to female friends

“You’re not saying?!” Female friend

“Yes, I am!” Jane

*exhuberant, elated screaming from group of friends*

“Turns out, I’m a bit of a slut!” Jane

This part of the trailer leaves a bad taste in my mouth (not to imply that the rest of the trailer doesn’t). Having sex makes you dirty? I do wish someone had told me, because I’ve been having pretty regular sex lately and I’m sure I’m just covered in the sex-filth now. *goes, scours skin* Okay, I’m back. Don’t know if I got it all off me, but that’s the best I can do for now. Anyway, having sex with a married man (Jake left her for the cliched younger woman) is slutty. Because “stealing a man” from someone else is super-evil. It’s, like, being Yoko Ono evil (so evil, you work for peace. Muahaha, my evil plan that we all stop killing each other is succeeding!). Because he was hers first. A person is not fucking property. You shouldn’t own them, sell them, manipulate them like puppets. If a person wants to have sex, it’s not fucking deviant! Sex is not deviant, and placing it as deviant turns sex and romance and all that shit into a fucking game, turns love into a catfight (see also Melissa McEwan). Which is bullshit. The biggest problem I have with the scenario of Jane having sex with Jake is that Jake’s wife probably doesn’t know and could get hurt (but the audience isn’t supposed to care about her, because Jake’s wife is flatter than Adam (Steve Martin’s character, since I haven’t mentioned him in half a post)). So, yeah. Jane is such a slut. For being female. And daring to have sex.

“What about the fact that I’m now the other woman? I’m the one we hate!” – Jane

“He was yours first.” – Jane’s female friend, consolingly

Same shit as above, different candy coating.

Ugh. If I watch this trailer any more, my head might explode, so I’ll wrap up here. Women who have sex are slutty, men who stalk are hawt, architects are nerdy losers, men are the most important things (there’s that word again) in a woman’s girl’s life, and if you don’t buy a ticket to this movie you’re going to die alone with a nonillion cats. And they lived happily ever after! *swoon*

Racism in Fable II

20 Jul

During my blog hiatus, I’ve been playing Fable II, a video game for the XBox 360. I’m not much of a gamer – I played Zelda: Link’s Awakening on my old Gameboy by using my sword to cut down grass and discover money instead of fighting the monsters like you were supposed to. But the person I’m dating made Fable II seem like fun, so I started messing around with it. This game has so many problems from a feminist, fat-accepting anti-racist  perspective (and many other parts of my soci0-political ideology) that I felt compelled to turn it into a series. And as the title of this post indicates, I’m beginning the series with a discussion of race and racism within the game.

You can’t play a non-white character. Let me repeat that: you cannot play a fucking non-white character. Hell, even the copy of Barbie: Nail Salon I had as a kid let you change the skin tone of the disembodied hand that was the feature of the game. And one of the quote-unquote features of Fable II is the customizable characters – you can play a woman, a man, a pure or corrupt character, a good or evil character. But you can’t play a non-white character. What the fuck?

Actually, that’s untrue. You can play a non-white character, but only if certain in-game requirements are met. I mentioned the good/evil and pure/corrupt choices, but I couched them rather vaguely. Let me explain further. Based on the choices you as your character makes – such as one of the initial decisions your character makes, whether to give either a town guard or an assumed criminal some arrest warrants – the physical appearance of the character changes, as does the opinion of the villagers the character encounters. By giving the assumed criminal your arrest warrants, you become evil (because the law is always good) and corrupt (because you are paid for your trouble (even though the guard would have paid you the same amount)). The more pronounced levels of corruption darken your character’s skin tone – so as long as you’re willing to play a corrupt character, right?!

I don’t really have words for how much of a fucked-up legacy that is. Essentially, Fable II is a morality play – by playing a corrupt character, the game punishes you. It’s harder to be liked by the citizens of Albion, and by making corrupt/evil choices, the character does not recieve profitable properties, such as the well-developed Westcliff, Bowerstone Old Town (if you give the guard the warrants, Old Town becomes one of the richest places in Albion, while giving them to the criminal turns Old Town into a slum – buying properties gives the player rent, and the more valuable the property, the higher the rent) and the farm in Brightwood. So the game is, more or less, telling the players that it’s a bad thing to play a darker-skinned character. Telling the players it’s wrong to play/be a person of color.

Also, by playing a good character (gives gifts to people, doesn’t slaughter the innocents, etc.), the character begins to appear more Aryan. My first character was positively blond , with a delightful (sarcasms galore) peaches & cream complexion, by the time I hit a game-ending glitch about 75% through the game. Practically all of the villagers were propositioning me for sex because the game reads “Good, Pure” as sexyhawt. Because the only desirable, attractive features are those that make you look Anglicized. Naturally

And then there’s the sole person of color in the game. A non-player character (NPC), Garth is the hero of Will(magic). He is literally playing the magical negro (sorry for the noise, that was just from banging my forehead into my desk. Where did I put that headache medicine?). Garth comes from the land of Samarkand, a place outside the game’s setting of Albion. Reaver, another of the heroes, mentions the “exotic substances” and “uninhibited people” of Samarkand with a sort of wistfulness. Because associating drugs and high sex drives with non-whites is never problematic. Aaargh.

Eloriane of Gender Goggles has a couple of posts up on Fable II, on sex and eating. I also intend to write on these topics.


15 May

Before I begin this post, some friendly advice. Do not try to balance on unstable things. If you disregard that little nugget o’ wisdom, I recommend not placing the corner of a desk where, should the inevitable happen and you fall, your ear will break the fall for you. ‘Cause that would fucking hurt. And there would probably be blood. Not that I know from experience or anything.

Oh, right! I was writing a post! I was driving along the freeway today, when I saw a billboard that so infuriated me I had to flip it off (which may not be the wisest of moves, given that other drivers tend to take offense when one raises the middle finger in their direction, whether or not it is intended for them). Dear reader, here is a Photoshopped facsimile (no camera while driving) of the billboard that delivered such an irritable and irresponsible response:

Would you like some recreation with your misogyny?

Would you like some recreation with your misogyny?

Nice rack. And other accessories.

Nice RACK, AND OTHER ACCESSORIES?!? *spews outrage*

Because breasts are detachable from the woman. Because women are there to be objectified. Because breasts make you look better. They coordinate with your outfit. They supplement your attractiveness. They make you more fuckable.

Remember, always. You, breasted ones, are members of the sex class – the group of people that owes beauty to the rest of society. And you’d damn well better be able to take a compliment, you bitchy harpy prude, or we can’t speak for how well you’ll manage out in the real world when you can’t even deal with commendation. After all, we were just trying to be nice. We respect you, and we respect the effort you put into your appearance each and every second you’re visible to another person. For the rest of your life. What do you mean, that sounds like a death sentence?

*Title and inspiration for this post taken from the Shakesville series of the same name.

Menstruation Conversation*

31 Mar

After responding to my latest blogaround, Eloriane wrote a great post on the way menstruation is discussed in the efforts to reclaim it from its “eww, women’s uterine lining. I can’t believe you expect me to listen to this” taboo.

It makes the whole process so filthy and uncomfortable, and impossible to talk about. The few places where feminists are trying to break the menstruation taboo are, half the time, uncomfortably period-positive for me– I have nothing nice to say, ever, about this process, and I don’t like the idea that I have to “embrace” menstruation or else I’m just a puppet of the patriarchy…How do we fight the truly stupid cultural perception as PMS as totally crazy-making while still having room for stories, like mine, in which that is a problem? I mean, it happened when I broke my hand, too; discomfort makes any person irritable.** But I’m not always sure that there’s space for me to say, in period conversations, that I am in discomfort, and it does make me irritable, even about things that I don’t really care about, without coming across as some kind of patriarchy-loving troll. But talking about it anywhere else would be laughable– I mean, if it’s unbearably “grooossss” to talk about a perfectly natural shedding of one’s uterine lining in non-feminist spheres, how much more unbearably gross is the same thing plus poop?…It’s not acceptable to say that periods are gross and terrible because eww, they come from women’s vaginas. But we need to leave the space for people to say that their periods are gross and terrible because eww, poop everywhere.

You really ought to read the whole thing. Here, have another link.

How do we make sure that the conversation allows people that have really shitty periods to have the same safe space to talk about this as people who have okay periods, or periods that are kinda crampy at the beginning then are barely noticeable? The idea of reclaiming it from the taboo is that women’s bodies and genitals aren’t vile, disgusting things on the whole (that whole “Don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die” trope), but by saying that, we shouldn’t say that our bodies are utterly incapable of emitting anything but rainbow-scented shit from our asses and adorable purple daisies from our vaginas.

My menstrual blood is pink and smells like flowers? Doesnt yours?

My "menstrual solution" makes me bleed hot pink and smells like flowers. Why the fuck doesn't yours?

We still need to be honest about what our periods do to our bodies. We still need to be able to say things like “PMS does X to my body” without feeling like we perpetuate the patriarchal stereotypes about women. In my first period blogaround, I linked Bitch, PhD’s M. Leblanc, who said,

“I’m twenty-five, for god’s sake. Most of the men I know are pretty comfortable with The Woman Thing and not inclined to act like twelve-year-olds and giggle. But it’s still awkward. It still feels strange to disclose to a male friend that I am grumpy as fuck because I have awful, awful cramps.”

I think some of the trouble we have in discussing our periods is that we’re still trying to be the Angel in the House.*** We still struggle with killing the idea that women should be these demure, perfect creatures that don’t complain. But when we do speak up about our periods, it’s just “harpy shrills” or something nobody wants to hear because it’s “too much information.” We need to “quit our bitchin'” or nobody will take us seriously. How the fuck is that not patriarchy in action? I feel like the need we have to not talk about how our periods affect us negatively, while ostensibly telling the patriarchy “Hey! It’s blood! Get the fuck over yourselves!” (a sentiment I fully agree with) is almost an extension of the idea that women’s bodies are unimportant. Stories like Eloriane’s are so seldom told, and so seldom welcome, because they present menstruation in a less-than beneficial light. Because they are stories of how a woman’s body can be less than perfect. Because they give the lie to the cultural myth that reproduction is good, that menstruation, while sort-of sucky (I mean, eww! Blood! Out of a va-jay-jay!), is ultimately for the greater good, something to be suffered through.

So how do we deal with this? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m inclined to defer to Liss’ suggestion: that “[p]ersonal narratives are an extremely powerful bit of teaspooning” and that you tell your story, and I’ll do what I can to spread it as far as I have influence. But I’m also worried that that’s not enough. How can it be, when you’re fighting the fucking hydra of patriarchy, and eleventy-billion heads grow back once you cut any of them off?****

And a general note: if you don’t have horrifying, painful problems with your period, tell your story too! As many people fighting this hydra as possible makes it a hell of a lot easier to kill.

  • “You have a great gift for rhyme.” “Yes, yes, some of the time.”
  • *This reminds me of a joke that’s always made me wince from my favorite play, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Professional asshole Roy Cohn is dying in the hospital of AIDS, one of the complications of which are horrible abdominal cramps. Cohn’s line (paraphrased because I am too lazy to go look for the quote in in my copy of the play in the next room): “Holy shit this hurts! No wonder women are such evil harpy bitchez once a month!”
  • **Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” is a good place to continue from Wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with this metaphor, and the way I am using it.
  • ***That’s not to say that the fight isn’t worth it, it’s just to say that it’s fucking hard.
  • ****Can anybody tell me how to get WordPress to not format my asterisks as bullet-points? Because I kept fixing the formatting every few minutes, and it kept reverting to bullets. And I do not like bullets in my foot-note section.

Bye-bye, boys! Have fun storming the castle! Part 1

4 Mar

*taps mic* This thing on? Guess I should post something, since my Les Mis blogging project of unusual size (L.M.B.P.U.S.  for short. Actually, that sounds like limbpuss in my head. Limbpuss 2000, anyone? </Harry Potter nerdery>) won’t begin until I can reread the book.

As I said in my last post, I’m computer-less at the moment. I’m working to earn money to replace it, but until I can afford to do so, I have way more time on my hands than I’m used to, because my classes are annoyingly brainless this semester. I’ve been using some of this extra time to watch movies, like The Princess Bride.

This is one of my all-time favorite movies, so it makes what I need to say now kind of…painful. This movie and I have a lot of history together – when my parents started dating, this movie was the first one they saw together (Yes, they got divorced later. Ah, twu wove!). I’ve pretty much crushed on Mandy Patinkin since my mom drilled the Evita soundtrack into my head as a child (one of the Evita film’s major failing points, besides Madonna, was the tragic lack of Mandy Patinkin.). I can quote certain scenes of this film by heart. So, without further ado, I present criticisms! Spoilers will most definitely be below the fold, so if you haven’t seen it

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