Did anyone else notice the bizarre sexism during the commercial breaks on last night's episode of Mad Men? I can accept that a healthy dose of douchiness comes with the territory when I decide to watch currently airing episodes of a show instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD, but I honestly felt creeped out by how skewed all of last night's ads were toward a male (and sexist) audience. Could it be that, because the show itself portrays a stylized hypermasculinity, advertisers are missing the context and coming up with campaigns to try and match Mad Men's outdated sexism?
I saw ads for (and this is just what I can remember): Lipitor, Viagra, NFL Sunday Ticket, and more, all aimed at middle-aged men who I didn't think were following Peggy Olsen's rise to the top all that closely. Oh, and let us not forget this gem, from Clorox:
Because, you know, sometimes even MEN do the laundry! And Clorox apparently dragged that ad out of its archives (here is a Feministing post on it from two years ago) just for Mad Men. WTF?
I opened a big can of feminist worms on Thursday with my post I Blame Porn, In which I talked about how the mainstreaming of mass-produced hetero porn is starting to influence—negatively—the cultural perceptions of what's sexy, particularly among teenagers. I was stunned by the number of Bitch readers who shouted me down, proclaiming that bald-vadge, facial-cumshot studio-produced porn isn't misogynist and doesn't have any effect at all on sexual behavior. The most common reason it couldn't be bad or misogynist? Because they like it and imitate it and they choose their choice! Free will FTW!
Guess what, folks? You can choose your choice, but you do not live—or fuck—in a vacuum. No matter how liberated you think you are, the truth is, your sexual development did not just happen spontaneously. We are having different sex than our mothers did. They had different sex than their mothers did. Why? The changes in their sex lives reflected the huge changes in the culture that they lived in. When society shifts the way it regards sex—and women—our sex lives change. Whether those cultural changes are due to birth control, women's lib, the destigmatizing of gay and premarital sex, greater access to written erotica or internet porn, there's no doubt that when it comes to our sexual behavior CULTURE MATTERS. If you think your sexual desires and behavior just sprang up sui generis because you are a unique individual with free will who's completely uninfluenced by society, you are kidding yourself.
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature musician and singer-songwriter Joan Wasser, of Joan as Police Woman, on Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, by bell hooks.
Outlaw Culture taught me to change the way I thought about everything. I first read it when it was released in 1994 because it had a chapter about Madonna and how she turned her back on her original, daring woman image and ultimately gave into the little-girl, sex-kitten status quo.
I had written essays on Madonna when I was in high school, horrified because my ideas of empowered women were Siouxsie Sioux and Exene Cervenka. I was already a massive music fan and felt confused by Madonna's brazenly sexual image (and unshaven underarms) in combination with her music, which I considered, at the time, totally useless fluff. I was thrilled to find someone else who shared my distaste for her, like hooks did, albeit in a completely different way.
The Washington Post article linked above, for example, is pretty straightforward. It explains that scientists in Britain tested 17 male and female financial traders for their testosterone levels and then had them play a money game involving risky or safe investments. The people with high testosterone, regardless of gender, chose the riskier investments. But the article makes the mistake right off the bat of saying the study is about "male hormone testosterone." A study whose results should break down gender differences instead is framed as reinforcing them: only women who have high testosterone (which is not a male hormone. It's found in both men and women) act like men. Smaller news sources riff on the same mistake , framing finance as a career for men and viewing women who become bankers as therefore acting like men.
Science journal Nature wins the award for best coverage. They refer to the phenomena as simply "traders' testosterone"—a refreshingly ungendered term.
But whatever, the WaPo's faulty framing is small potatoes compared to this headline from The Economist: "Hormones, not sexism, explain why fewer women than men work in banks." Uh... WTF Economist? This study did not look at reasons women work in banks, it doesn't examine social norms or widespread career statistics. Extrapolating that the presence of one hormone can explain away decades of female career choices is totally unfounded and provides dangerous fodder to folks who want to believe we live in a post-sexism society.
And on the far fringe of poor reporting lies the Press Association who conjured up this bizarre headline from the study: "Risky women are 'hungry for sex.'" I'm not even going to get started on that one.
I can't add much to Annalee's farewell
to Brill Building great Ellie Greenwich, who died this week at age 68.
(Ann Powers of the L.A. Times also has an excellent appreciation of
Greenwich's life and legacy here.)
But as a devotee of the girl-group sound and the history of the
songwriting women behind it (seriously, rent Allison Anders's film Grace of My Heart,
whose fictional central songwriter, Denise Waverly—neé Edna Buxton—was
based on Brill Building women like Greenwich, Carole King, and Cynthia
Weill), I've spent the past few days revisiting her classics. Here are
Somebody should probably call these people up and inform them that actually, there is already a modern adaptation of Heathers on the air and it’s called Gossip Girl. Oh yes, of course, Gossip Girl isn’t actually witty or smart or anything but Serena did kill that one guy and dates the modern version of Christian Slater’s character if said character had poured his dreams into modern Brooklyn “writer” “soulful” soullessness. So please, for the love of God, don't try to remake it these days. We'll end up with a poor substitute for Winona Ryder, I tell you what.
Look, like everyone, I liked Heathers back in the day. I just need to amend the proposition that I think that television is nice to women, somewhat, to say I think it's nice to women over the age of 18. In fact, if anything, there is one archetype on television I think we have all had enough of in the last year: high-school bitchy. (Lest you forget, in Tina Fey's famous words, this was Sarah Palin's most annoying personality trait.) I am utterly and totally bored by the limited interpretation of the lives of teenage girls on television today. Not a one of them seems to have the least bit of a problem with the world of consumerism and hot purses, and if they have academic or professional (read: fashion) ambition at all (read: Blair Waldorf), it is because such ambition would confer on them social status they would like to have. Genuine intellectual curiosity, in a teenage girl on television today? Pshaw. You can't tear those ladies away from their Manolos! And it's the reality too! Have a look at The Hills sometime if you're looking for reasons to commit suicide, ladies!
In this, the second part of my email interview with directors Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Dawn Valadez, the collaborators talk about breaking the rules of documentary filmmaking, getting the girls to open up on camera, how their film can be used in classrooms, and their future projects.