As I read discussions about pop culture and see responses to female characters, I see a lot of hate for female characters, but not a lot of basis for that hate. Take Tara on True Blood. People say she's 'whiny' and 'boring.' These aren't really criticisms that add in a meaningful way to discussions about Tara; what exactly does it mean to be 'whiny'? What makes Tara 'boring'? Are these not criticisms that are weaponized against real women in the real world on a pretty regular basis? Should we not, perhaps, question why we are carrying that over into pop culture discussions, and talk about what that means?
I'm not one to guilt anyone for caring for lowbrow culture, not least because for so many years my bookish university friends made fun of me for watching television at all. (I've felt no small degree of satisfaction that The Sopranos, The Wire, and now Mad Men have had them eating their words more recently.) But every time I've tuned into any version of Bravo's Real Housewives franchise this year, I've had to fend off a sinking feeling that I've hit the rock bottom of my guilty pleasures.
From PBR to Pampers, Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp of the blog Sociological Images look at the cultural significance of the graphs, cartoons, and advertisements we usually take for granted. I spoke with Lisa and Gwen for our Mad World podcast about how the blog got started, how to "pull back the curtain" on advertisers, and why exactly the "mediocre male" is such a prevalent trope found today.
Jean Kilbourne made the first Killing Us Softly film in 1979. Now with several books under her belt and Killing Us Softly 4 out this spring, Kilbourne obviously hasn't stopped her activism in media criticism--whether it's following the increased sexualization of children in ads or calling out the alcohol and tobacco industry. Kelsey Wallace spoke to Kilbourne, a member of Bitch Media's National Advisory Board, on the phone about trends in advertising and gender, the state of media criticism today, and Kilbourne's future plans. You can order Killing Us Softly 4 at the Media Education Foundation. This interview is part of our Mad World podcast on gender, advertising, and identity in a mediated world.
Subscribe on iTunes. Download at archive.org. Transcription available here (.doc).
Size discrimination is an unfortunate fact of life for many fat people working in a corporate environment. Fat workers are often passed over for promotions, denied raises, and told outright to their faces that they are undesirable to clients. Not only that, fat employees on average earn 1 to 6 percent less than employees whose weight is considered "normal." Fat people are also often the scapegoats for rising corporate health care costs. What protections are there for those facing size discrimination? Being classified as "overweight" generally does not entitle you to protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act or the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, however, under the ADAAA being classified as "morbidly obese" or having health problems considered "weight-related" does. The larger you are, the more likely you are to experience size discrimination, and the more protections you have under the law. But those who are not considered "morbidly obese" also need to be protected, and unfortunately there are no laws that prohibit discrimination based on weight.
As if size discrimination wasn't enough to deal with, many workplaces are instituting weight loss incentive programs, which further marginalizes fat employees. Incentive programs that include rewards for departments or teams that lose the most weight create a hostile atmosphere in which fat people are shamed for not being able to lose significant amounts of weight.
Do you know what today is? It's Personal Life release day! If you're a Thermals fan (and you know I am), you've been excited for this day for a while now. And you won't be disappointed, because Personal Life delivers all of the energy, catchy hooks, and sing-along lyrics you've come to expect from these cuties. Check out their latest video if you need proof:
Pssst... You can also preview the new album at NPR First Listen, and if you live in PDX you can see The Thermals live this week at MusicFestNW (oh, and you can see us there too!).
I feel like people watching the show who haven't really been exposed to feminism were internalizing some feminist messages until they got to the actual feminists, at which point they learned that feminists are bad. What's more important, the delivery of the message, or naming the ideology that goes with it? I'd rather that people be doing feminist things and not recognizing them as feminist than doing nothing at all, or doing actively anti-feminist things (and sometimes calling them feminist), but I also wish that depictions of feminists in pop culture were not uniformly awful. Few shows are even willing to call characters feminist at all and positive depictions of feminists and feminism are thin on the ground.
I don't know if Thomas really thinks that this is what feminists are like, or was trying to make a commentary with the caricatures that just didn't resolve itself, but it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Surely, a criterion for considering a show feminist is that if it contains feminists, they shouldn't be caricatures.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that women have had a significant impact on the history of American labor politics. From the Atlanta Washerwomen Strike in 1881 to Jane Addams' Hull House, women have always kicked ass and taken names in the name of workers' rights. However, this is a pop culture blog and I am a self-proclaimed pop culture addict, so I say we celebrate Labor Day 2010 with an awesome pop cultural representation of women and labor politics: Norma
I'd be remiss to begin a blog on the intersection of race, gender and pop culture without mentioning that, in reading various other blogs on all three topics, I've kept happening upon the same complaint: that pop culture and many feminist publications often exclude or oversee the unique perspectives offered by women who aren't white. So this blog, then, is a group effort, with your comments and experiences forming an integral part in fostering a thoughtful and inclusive discussion on feminism.