Tag Archives: body politics

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 warofdragons.com, 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?

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On Anger and Insurance

24 Oct

When I was four months old, I had surgery. The bones in my head had grown together at an alarming rate, and my brain had no room to expand in my skull. If that surgery had not been performed, I’d be dead. If I had no insurance at 4 months old, that surgery would never have been performed. My dad was a teacher at a local university, and my mom was in grad school. There’s no damn way they could have afforded that surgery on their own.

So that’s why my blood boils when I hear about more pre-existing conditions that prevent those who need care from receiving it (I fully endorse amandaw’s post on the cruelty of pre-existing conditions). That’s why my heart breaks every time I realize how very broken the U.S. health care system is. That’s why, every fucking time I hear about some Congress-member stalling the healthcare bill, or rewording it to allow the corrupted system to continue, or not giving a shit that people are dying because of the system they are working to perpetuate, I can barely contain my grief and my rage. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I need to get good and goddamn angry, and direct that anger at people who are in a position to do something.

Headspace

20 Oct

My mental health lately: not so good.

Thursday, I went to some museums in Houston. It sounds like such a simple process, doesn’t it? I mean, I like art and going to museums. And I’d made plans with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while to meet up there, so a splendid time was guaranteed for all, right? So. I went to class that morning, and as leaving campus to go to the museum district, I got crowded by a bunch of people. It was my school’s club fundraiser day (there was a snowman on the gazebo, for some obscure reason) at lunchtime, so half the campus was in. my. space. And I started to get anxious – not too noticable, just about the level of anxiety I get when I’m grocery shopping at the beginning of my period. And then I had to deal with Houston traffic. And then there were schoolkids at the museum. And then I had to deal with more traffic. And then, because I was driving around an unfamiliar part of the city, I got lost. And I was thirsty. And the convenience store didn’t have much parking. Or plastic-bottle drinks. And the glass bottle wouldn’t open. And I started crying, badly parked in a convenience store parking lot, because I wanted a damn Sprite (which, once opened, was flat). And then, I figured out where I was. And then, I found the biggest art supply store I’d ever seen. And then, I headed home, in what for the most part appeared to be a pleasant mood. And then, the shit hit the fan.

A part of the way home, which should have taken me 15 minutes, took me an hour. And finally, I got home. And I saw the house, and I stopped lying to myself about what that house means to me, acknowledged how much I hate it for just a moment, and then I had an anxiety attack.

And then I went over to the lover’s (L) house, and tried to pretend everything was fine. And for a while, I got to a point where I believed it myself. And then L’s myoclonic jerks – twitches – started. They’ve been pretty bad lately, and I started crying. Again. And couldn’t stop. And I finally told L about the anxiety attack.

So then, it was Friday. Started out okay. Took L’s sister to buy Guitar Hero 5, so L and L’s mother could watch House together. And that worked out alright, except GH5 had to be in L’s room because it wouldn’t really fit anywhere else, so L and I couldn’t really be alone. Do that whole couple’s bonding thing. And then we went to a movie (Zombieland was fairly fluffy – a bit too “one true love and virginity is teh suxxors and LOL @ fatties” for my tastes). And the line to the ticket booth was long, and there were a lot of flashing lights (because, for whatever reason, the movie listings are surrounded by a Broadway-style marquis), and this creepy kid behind L and me started being creepy (as you can probably tell by my incredibly descriptive adjectives, thinking about it makes me all squicked) and I started shaking and I could feel the anxiety setting in again. I felt better as soon as I got out of the line, and was okay for most of the rest of the night, except for when I spilled a drink and nearly started crying again.

So, Saturday and Sunday kind of blended into each other in my memory. L’s sister played more GH5, and I decided to install the Sims on my computer to somewhat alleviate the general feeling of ennui. Except, it took almost an hour to install and I didn’t want to run any programs while installing it and once I installed the program I couldn’t find it in my directory and once I found the program and figured out how to run it I couldn’t figure out the controls because they were by no means intuitive and so I started crying and shaking again. And then L and L’s sister told me to calm down because it was just a game, so naturally I cried harder. Because telling me to calm down makes things worse, because it’s telling me to stop responding to things in the way I respond to things when I’m stressed and feel like I’m on the verge of an(other) anxiety attack, which isn’t possible because it’s how my brain fucking works and adds another layer of frustration over my current emotional response, because I’m trying to do the impossible to make other people happy (because one mustn’t allow others to feel like they have contributed to one’s poor mood). And I’m trying to process all that and avoid biting L and L’s sister’s heads off at the same time, so I went and hid (sat on the bed with the door wide open) in L’s sister’s room for a bit so I could avoid people. Once most of that frustration had bled off, I went back to L’s room and worked on learning the controls for The Sims. At some point, L told me that L’s parents think I’m gaining weight and should exercise more. And my face crumpled again, and I felt (once again) tears forming as I tried (once again) not to cry. Because of course I’m gaining weight – my bodyweight has a range of 20-30 pounds it cycles through. Because of course I’m gaining weight – I’m trying to make myself eat on a more healthy schedule, instead of not eating even though I’m hungry because I’d have to go to the kitchen which is all the way over there and I’d have to stand up to cook anything and it’s not like I have anything premade. Because of course I’m gaining weight – I’m stressed out, which means my body processes food differently than when I’m feeling well.

But I still feel like I shouldn’t be gaining weight. Because that’s bad, right? Even though I’m usually pretty sure that I don’t care about what I look like, even though I’m pretty sure that my weight won’t affect my health, even through all that, it still stings like hell that I might be gaining weight.

I’m going to schedule an appointment with a doctor this week, so hopefully having this shit documented will help me explain what’s been going on and why I think I need some anti-depressants.

Oglers

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.

niptuck

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.

Quick Hit: FWD/Forward

12 Oct

Apropos of my last post concerning the Feministing debacle, a bunch of awesome feminist writers have teamed up (including friend to Foxtrot Chally *waves*) and started a group blog discussing disablism, accessibility, marginalizing language and lots of other cool goodies.

It looks like a useful resource. It’s new, so reading the extent of the archives is easier than older blogs (in other words, go! Read!).

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.

Seen*

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.

A Modest Critique of Shallow Waters

28 Apr

I maintain a Google Alert in my RSS feed (which I’ve been neglecting, thanks to school and my demanding home life – I’ll read all your fantabulous posts later) for Les Miserables. This has led to an uptick in my subscription in recent weeks, as the kick-ass Susan Boyle sweeps the internet. So, in an effort to reduce my unread counts, I skimmed through the Les Mis posts, and found something infuriating.

The University of Texas’ online newspaper ran a piece recently entitled, “A modest defense of shallowness.” I had hopes on reading that title – perhaps the article is satire, and the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to one of my favorite satirists? Very quickly, my hopes were dashed to the floor by Friedenthal’s piece.

“[Her] looks are more akin to your friend’s aging mother (and not the neighborhood MILF, either) and certainly are not up to the exacting standards that we rightfully set for our celebrities…Were Susan Boyle a man, the standards we would hold him or her to would not be nearly as extreme, and a homely appearance would be much more acceptable to us. However, for a woman with a beautiful voice to not have an equally beautiful body seems to be a malicious quirk of fate, a bit of cognitive dissonance that we, the American public, more so than the British public, cannot seem to get around.

Inherent in the “mom I’d like to fuck” concept is the idea that the body (specifically, the female body) is designed to fall under the male gaze, and be lusted for by men. This seems to be the framework Friedenthal is using, as zie puts forth the argument that this gaze is desirable for celebrities.  Celebrities, famous people, those with beautiful voices, they all have an obligation to remain fuckable and sexyhawt. That seems like a problem to me, because if you can’t be beautiful all the time, what happens? If beauty is the standard for value, aren’t we just saying that people women are Pygmalion’s ivory? It becomes a malicious twist of fate to allow into our worldview a woman who can do shit – and do it well – without also being conventionally physically attractive. Women are, after all, purely put on this earth to look nice so teh menz can take care of everything else. *head meets desk in an epic battle. desk wins.*

The rest of the article is a pseudo-scientific justification of the status quo, where the “creeping danger” of Susan Boyle’s lack of conventional beauty is a stab in the eyes to all who believe merit is useless, citing Annie Hall and Casablanca as evidence of the pure worth of appearance. I haven’t seen Annie Hall, but the understanding I gleaned from a nonillion viewings of Casablanca is that Ilsa leaves Rick for reasons other than his lack of beauty, so I’m not even sure how that supports Friedenthal’s arguments for the cultural valuation of attractiveness.

Okay, that’s enough blogging for today. I’m going to go hide in an obscure corner of the internet again!

Hair

4 Apr

H/T and inspiration for this post to Amanda Fucking Palmer and Shakesville.

As I’ve implied here before, I don’t shave. I haven’t owned a razor in over a year, and I don’t plan to own one ever again. Among other reasons, I stopped depilating because I was incredibly tired of the way advertising campaigns hit me over the head with my unwomanlyness if I didn’t painstakingly remove every single hair from my body. I realized that I wouldn’t become less of a woman if I stopped paying these companies copious amounts of money to lower my appreciation for the natural state of my body. Plus, I was curious what my armpit hair looked like grown out – as soon as I began growing it at 11-12, my mom freaked out and insisted I shave (which now seems odd, as she has always been fairly lax about her leg hair). So, now I don’t wear sleeveless shirts without feeling like I’m telling the status quo to go fuck itself (whether the status quo is listening is another matter entirely).

When I see advertisements like this, I wish the status quo would listen to me.

And if that was too subtle for you, here’s another ad from the same campaign.

This shit – this culturally enforced hairlessness in the name of “freeing your skin” – makes me want to scream and cry and pull my hair out (oh, teh irony). Why the fuck isn’t it okay for anybody to do what they like to their own body? Maybe it’s what Crowfoot said (couldn’t find a permalink: if in Linux/Windows, CTRL-F “Crowfoot”) in response to Eloriane and my conversation about including all stories in the stories that are told about menstruation:

After all, we are a culture that has a long history of being disgusted
with our physical bodies, thinking them as base and dirty, indicative
of the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. And it’s probably likely
that the idea of the body as base heavily feeds into misogyny: bodies
are base, icky and leaky and women’s bodies are the basest, ickiest and
leakiest of all!

That probably has a lot to do with it. I’m not really in the mood to get into the history of shaving or body politics right now, but suffice it to say that bodies, particularly women’s bodies, have been policed and censored because they fall too close to the natural form.

Run in terror, for the hairy-bodied women are coming for you! They will devour your soul, because they can! They follow Chef Cthulhudee’s recipe for spaghetti and soulballs (the secret – a dash of Atheist salt)!

Mua-ha-ha! Behold, my weapons of fear and manipulation!

Mua-ha-ha! Behold, my weapons of fear and manipulation!