Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Never Ending Cycle

For my last entry this semester, I have decided to refer back to a discussion we had several weeks ago that dealt with Disney characters, specifically the princesses, who needed to be "saved" in most of the movies. I began thinking about the class as a whole and all of the topics we have discussed. I asked myself, "How has all of this impacted me?", "What impact does all this have on society as a whole?" But it occurred to me that gender stereotypes weave themselves into pretty much everything in our culture. We don't just receive these messages when were adults, we get them from the second were born and are continually exposed to them throughout our lives. Disney movies are just one outlet where kids are exposed to such stereotypes. I remember our discussion of these ideas and how ethnic background contributes to such behaviors.

For example, Jasmine from Aladdin and Pocahontas were the first ethnic princesses that came onto the scene. In these films, as in most others, the princesses had to be saved from some horrible fate. It is not simply these ethnic characters, however, that deal with such dilemmas and require a man's "saving ability." Most Disney women find themselves in situations where a man needs to rescue them. Let's recap some of these ever so popular films:

My favorite of all time is Beauty & the Beast. We have Belle, taking care of her old father and finding herself at a scary castle with an evil beast. Toward the end of the movie, all of the townspeople, including the oh so sweet Gaston, have to come rescue her from the evil beast. Who, by the way, turns out to be a pretty sweet human disguised as an evil monster. In the end, Belle falls in love with the beast and everyone lives happily ever after. Aren't you surprised? Another personal favorite is Rapunzel, a fairly new movie, where she is stuck in the highest tower of the castle and the prince has to save her. The funny thing about this movie is that it seems, from the previews anyway, that the prince is portrayed as kind of an idiot. Several times, Rapunzel's hair hits him in the face or knocks him over. We laugh at things like that. In reality, though, she is ultimately saved by him and we give the power back to the man. The same scenario goes for Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. What amazes me about all of these movies is that the villain is typically a woman, an evil witch of sorts.

So, are men just awesome beings that serve to save us from our own evil? Well, of course they are!!! We, as women, could not survive without them. They rule the world, always have, and always will. How could we live without them? I mean...I'm 24 years old and there is no way I could have survived this long without the help of a man. ..... I hope you feel my sarcasm. I was actually raised by my mother for most of my life. She did an awesome job raising me and my sister. Men are crucial in shaping women's lives in one way or another. But, relying on them for everything is just not realistic. As a young girl, I dreamed of being with a prince of sorts. A prince that would save me from life's trials and tribulations. What a let down...where is my prince? Do I need to be lonely, afraid, and locked away in some scary castle somewhere for him to appear? I think that Disney filmmakers, as well as other movie-makers targeting a young audience, have attempted in that last several years to really include characters of other ethnicities and move toward more realistic situations. I am sure it is difficult, however, to break the mold that easily without backlash.

Inherently, we all live in the same cycle of gender stereotypes. We dress, behave, and speak based on what we are taught and what we observe. Until some sort of crazy revolution happens to change all of this patriarchal influence, we will continue to live in the cycle.

I will leave you with my favorite lines from B&B:

Gaston: This is the day your dreams come true. Belle: What do you know about my dreams, Gaston? Gaston: Plenty! Here, picture this: A rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire, and my little wife massaging my feet, while the little ones play on the floor with the dogs. We'll have six or seven.

Doesn't that sound super?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

*The Power of MuSiC*

Have you ever wondered what your life would sound like to music? Have you ever created the soundtrack to your life? You might have said, "This is the perfect moment for this song to be playing. The music is awesome and the words are perfect to explain this very moment." Or, maybe, you just hear a song and it reminds you of something in your past. No matter how you look at it, music is powerful and evokes emotions in us that we may have otherwise never had without it. It occurred to me recently that some of the readings throughout the semester involved lyrics to certain songs, or just listening to the songs themselves. I, personally, can not imagine life without music. Sometimes, it just explains things that we can not put into words ourselves.

For purposes of this BLOG entry, I have decided to peruse my favorite music and discover music that represents topics we have discussed in class throughout the semester. Specifically, the week we discussed rape, and how it is constructed after the fact, as well as what determines that rape has occurred. Sometimes I think we take for granted and underestimate the power of music and lyrics. The emotions attached to music are unavoidable, in my opinion.

The first song is: 'Boys Who Rape' by The Raveonettes

Boys who, (boys who) Rape should, (rape should)All be, (all be)Destroyed.
Boys who (boys who) Rape should (rape should)All be (all be)Destroyed.
Three-to-one girl How can you win One horrid ni-ight
You hope that it's a bad dream They rip you to shreds Make you feel useless
You'll never forget
Those fuckers stay in your head
Boys who, (boys who) Rape should, (rape should)All be, (all be)Destroyed
Boys who, (boys who) Rape should, (rape should)All be, (all be)Destroyed
They rip you to shreds Make you feel useless You'll never forget
Those fuckers stay in your head
Boys who, (boys who) Rape should, (rape should)All be, (all be)Destroyed
Boys who, (boys who) Rape should, (rape should)All be, (all be)Destroyed
Boys who, (boys who) Rape should, (rape should)All be, (all be)Destroyed
Boys who (boys who) Rape should (rape should)All be (all be)Destroyed
B-boys, b-boys who rape shouldB-be b-be be destroyed
B-boys, b-boys who rape shouldB-be b-be be destroyed
B-boys, b-boys who rape shouldB-be b-be destroyed
B-boys, b-boys who rape shouldB-be b-be be destroyed

**Now, if this song isn't direct, I don't know what song is. I remember the class when we discussed what rape looks like and what nonverbal cues are associated with it. We also discussed, by watching several movie clips, if the situation was indeed rape. Obviously, this song is loaded with anger and someone in this band, or someone they know, had to experience an awful event. I imagine that if someone listening to this song had a similar experience, it would bring up those memories instantly.

The next song is: 'Date Rape' by Sublime

"The next day she went to her drawer, looked up her local attorney at law, went to the phone and filed the police report and then she took the guy's ass to court. Well, the day he stood in front of the judge he screamed, " She lies that little slut!" The judge knew that he was full of shit and he gave him 25 years And now his heart is filled with tears. That night in jail it was getting late. He was butt-raped by a large inmate, and he screamed. But the guards paid no attention to his cries. That's when things got out of control. The moral of the date rape story, it does not pay to be drunk and horny. But that's the way it had to be. They locked him up and threw away the key. Well, I can't take pity on men of his kind, even though he now takes it in the behind."

**The song actually reads like a story. This is only the last half of the song. Most of Sublime's music is pretty fun to listen to, not typically slow or sad sounding. This song is no different, but it is very easy to hear the words accurately.
These are only 2 songs that address the issue of rape. I know there are TONS more out there. It is a very serious issue that, unfortunately, seems to linger in a gray area.
Below are the links to both music videos:


The Raveonettes

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Vision of Women on TV & in Pictures

Just the other day, I found myself watching the show 'Wife Swap'. I will leave it to the fact that I was bored and too lazy to get the remote control off of my coffee table. In case this is a show you have never seen, I will give a brief run down of how it operates. Two families, usually separated by a large distance across the country, agree to have their wives trade places and live with the other family for a week. For the first few days, the "new" wife must follow the rules of the household and the last few days the husband and children must follow her rules. As you can imagine, a hot mess is pretty much a guarantee. The producers typically choose very opposite types of families (based on lifestyle, religion, etc.) creating quite a dichotomy. The day I happened to be watching involved one family that was extremely religious, did not allow their two little girls to wear pants, the girls were home schooled, the mother stayed home and cleaned, cooked, etc. all day every day, and their idea of a good time involved pie and ice cream at a silent dinner table. On the other hand, the family from Texas no less, had quite the opposing lifestyle. The parents were members of a rock band, partied all night, cursed in the home, and left their little boy and girl to basically fend for themselves in getting ready for school and other daily routines. Ironically, the father of the "rock band" family was previously a pastor. Hhhmmm....

The wives swap and drama ensues. The Christian household is one that the "rock" mom can barely tolerate. She explains to the father that she and her husband have an equal relationship and share the responsibilities. His argument in return is that the way they do things is based on biblical rules and she should not be so disrespectful to degrade their way of life. This argument got me thinking of the week we discussed "Eve" and her "sinful" behavior and how that has transcended into the way we live today. Have women really been able to advance over thousands of years? Doesn't really seem like it. Is society going to perpetuate women in subservient positions? This particular show serves to perpetuate this idea. I mean...the name of the show is "Wife Swap" for goodness sake. It might as well be titled: "Ok husbands, want a new wife for a week to cook and clean for you and the kids? Well, here ya go!"

This show only serves to keep women in a more submissive position. Why don't the husbands swap places? The title of the show itself objectifies women. Where is the change? Catherine Palczewski wrote a rhetorical piece entitled: The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards. She analyzes a set of postcards by highlighting their visual elements and the underlying messages within the images. The set of postcards show women in heels and wearing pants that reveal the ankle. They also emphasize the woman in a male role and the man in a female role (usually walking a dog or carrying a baby). This was done, Palczewski argues, to take a stab at women's rights. One postcard even states: "Where, oh where, is my wandering wife tonight?", and depicts a man holding the crying children and a woman behind a podium addressing a crowd. Excuse me...are men not able to care for children? Should we be feeling sorry for the women or is the poor sucker really the man who is incapable of taking care of children and household duties on his own? This takes me back to Wife Swap, where the man is usually not doing any sort of household duty, but instead leaves that to his wife. He also has no problem reminding her of what she needs to do if she doesn't do it in a timely fashion. I consider that the goal of the show is to emphasize extreme stereotypes and make them humorous. These anti-suffrage postcards served the same purpose. I think the problem lies in the fact that we don't stop and think that people really do still live this way. It would be interesting to see what kind of communication is negotiated in order to set such a standard of the wife in a subservient position.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The "Juno" Perspective

This past week, I had the privilege of traveling to San Francisco to attend the National Communication Association conference (NCA). This was my first NCA experience and it was an INCREDIBLE one. I met so many amazing people and attended many panels where young scholars were able to present their research. One panel in particular was in the Feminist Studies genre and focused on media portrayals of real experiences of women. Specifically, one paper focused on the experience of pregnancy and all the ideas and behaviors that it entails. I would love to share that analysis and then provide my own thoughts on the topic.

The main thesis behind the paper was that the way media, specifically in a set of movies (Juno, Citizen Ruth, and Precious) portrays pregnancy as being an experience that is either positive or negative based on socio-economic status. The final analysis showed that we frown upon pregnancy and treat is as though a woman of low economic status is incapable of successfully raising a child. Though she may work hard, be loving and caring, strive to be greater and a potentially great mother, she is not treated as such. Her options are to give up the child or terminate the pregnancy before it is "too late." For this BLOG, I will focus on Juno, as I am most familiar with this movie.

Juno, a 16 year old girl, from a low/middle class family finds out that she is pregnant with "Bleeker"'s baby, another 16 year old boy from a middle class home. Immediately upon becoming pregnant, Juno calls Planned Parenthood to schedule an abortion. There is no discussion or reference to alternatives at the start. The "best" thing to do in Juno's mind is to just "take care of it." As she heads toward the building to have her procedure, a friend of hers is protesting out front repeating "All babies want to get borned." Juno reluctantly continues to head toward the building. Finally, the young protester tells Juno that her baby already has finger nails. With this comment, Juno promptly decides that an abortion is not what she wants. Instead she consults with a friend and searches for a family looking for a baby.

After telling her parents about her pregnancy, they tell Juno that they will support her in any decision she makes. Although Juno's parents were surprisingly receptive to the news and gave their daughter the option to keep the baby, Juno still decides to give the baby up for adoption. This decision supports the idea that Juno is doing "the right thing" based on her current age and social class. This is what society will accept as the best thing for the baby. But, is it unnecessary? Could Juno and her family taken care of her baby? I would argue that they most certainly could have. At the end of the film, however, the baby is given to a wealthy, white woman who is "prepared" to take care of the baby. This provides us with an image of what a respectable household to raise a child in looks like. All is well that ends well. Juno returns to her life as a 16 year old, with no more responsibility than she had pre-pregnancy. Does it always work out this way?

Another film I will touch on briefly is Precious, a movie following the traumatic and disturbing life of a young black girl. She is abused by both of her parents and becomes pregnant with her father's child (for the second time). She has the baby and attempts to raise it herself, but the hardships continue. This highlights the message that it would have been a wise decision for Precious to have given the baby up for adoption. The plot eventually informs us that she has contracted HIV, only emphasizing the trials and tribulations of someone of her socio-economic status. Though these films are simply that, they are very impressionable and easily correlate with how we view reality.

The presenter's final analysis revealed that these films, and I venture to guess many others, send a message that certain factors must be present for women to have children. Typically, pregnancy is only seen as acceptable, happy, and joyous in situations where the woman is married, financially well off, surrounded by a good family, and is essentially an outstanding citizen. In my opinion, society essentially controls who can have children. At least, they control how we view pregnancy. If you take a minute to stop and think of situations where you have found out someone was pregnant and recall their age, marital status, economic class, etc. What did you think of it? Better yet, how did you discuss the situation with friends and others? In my experience, I know these factors have unknowingly made an impact on my opinions of having a child. How much agency do we have in these thought processes? Or, are these public portrayals so ingrained in us we do not even recognize their influence?

What came first - the Chicken or the Egg??

Well, isn't this the age old question!? I can't even tell you how many times this question has come up in research projects I have done over the past 2 years. In some situations it is simply a question that will never be answered. We will never truly know which came first. Last spring I conducted some research in my Instructional Communication class. Though popular instructional research lends itself to studying variables such as immediacy (physical and psychological closeness), clarity, responsiveness, student and teacher misbehaviors, behavior alteration techniques, etc., I was not too interested in focusing on any of these. Instead. I wanted to look at physical attraction and how that impacted student misbehaviors.

This semester in our class, we spent much time discussing how we find beauty in our society, as well as what the 'good' and 'bad' girl typically look like. Should they be blond and wear pearls to be attractive? Or should women be dark headed, sultry ladies with a red shade of lip color? Either way, these discussions brought me back to my research. I was interested in seeing if there was a direct correlation between perceived physical attractiveness and student misbehaviors. Little did I know, I was getting myself into quite a mess. As I continued reading on the topic, I found that physical attractiveness had been linked to increased credibility, immediacy behaviors (smiling, calling students by name, humor, etc.), student motives to communicate, etc. As an instructor myself, I thought it would be interesting to find out just how important attractiveness is.

Is this attractiveness based on simple human nature or did society create this apparent need to be attractive? Well, either way, I found it is VERY important, especially in the classroom. In the psychology research, studies have shown that perceived physical attraction increases perceived credibility. Findings also show that perceived credibility increases perceived attractiveness. So, we come back to the question of what came first. Research supports both. Using McCroskey's Source Credibility Scale, instructors have been rated by students on the three dimensions of competence, goodwill, and trustworthiness. To think, being good looking impacts all of these things! Can't you just be smart? If that was not enough to report on, I also found that physical attractiveness is impacted by instructor immediacy, clarity, and communicative style. At this point, there is no real scale to measure student misbehaviors, only a few categories such as not turning in work, showing up late to class, being absent, basically the things that instructors find disrespectful. I initially thought that maybe attractiveness was curvilinear, that at some point you could be so attractive it caused students to disrespect you more. Maybe future research will pinpoint an answer, but for now, the journey continues.

It is incredible the amount of importance our society places on beauty. As I go into job interviews, I find myself quickly thinking - Is my lipstick on? Am I wearing a flattering outfit? Is my hair looking fabulous? What does this person think of me? Even in my own classroom, I find myself wishing I could get a quick glance in the mirror to make sure my walk across campus didn't mess up my hair, because I know my students are examining my every move. I think it would be fascinating to research this further based on age group. I would predict findings would suggest that the older kids (high school and college) would place more emphasis on attractiveness as far as affect for the instructor is concerned. This would also be a fruitful study on the basis of gender. Just some food for thought.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Porn Industry's Portrayal of Women

After completing much research recently on the porn industry, I had to ask myself if women engaged in pornography because they have no self respect or if they believed their ability to partake in such an industry actually empowered them? Regardless of any public mention of morality in the industry, pornography has been, and remains to be, quite a money-maker. Just as Scamp magazine suggested back in the late 1970's, it is a "man's companion." Why is it OK for men to be in pornographic films and rarely ever brought up in moral discussion, unlike the women? Over the years it has become increasingly more commonplace for porn stars, women especially, to become more vocal about their careers. However, where are the men's voices that participate in this industry and why do they not receive flack like the women? Answer - because they are men...and men can be sexual. Women, on the other hand, are "bad" for involving themselves in such an immoral industry.

These thoughts brought me back to the week when we discussed the "good" and "bad" girl images. We have not come very far in the last 60 years. The good girl is still polite, not openly sexual, dresses conservatively, avoids random sex and alcohol, and strives to make her man happy. This has been, and continues to be reinforced as an ideology we have adopted as an American culture. We perpetuate this ideology all of the time through our advertisements (when is a man going to be "swiffering" the kitchen, or cleaning the toilet?) and movies, TV shows, etc. Specifically, in the porn industry, we reinforce the "male gaze." We discussed this pretty thoroughly in class and examined some examples in photos. Not that I am a big pornographic film watcher or anything, but of the films I have seen, I have noticed a reoccurring theme. Typically the film begins with the woman by herself. The camera moves up and down her body, much like the way a man watching might look at her. Soon, a man enters the room. He walks in confidently and usually already nude. Almost always, the sex does not begin right away. Instead, the female begins to perform some sort pf pleasurable act on the man. We never really see her look to the camera, it always at the man.

So what? Why does any of this matter? For me, it is the irony that lies within these artifacts. Crystal and I showed the class a video of porn stars highlighting important events in women's history, something that we, as women, should be proud of, right? Personally, it offends me that these women, who probably know nothing about women's rights and are reading from a script, would even associate their "profession" to what historical female figures fought for. Do I think women have the right to be open about their sexuality and that fact that they enjoy sex? - of course! We are ALL human, after all. Despite my opinion, however, these women who specifically do porn because it empowers them, are actually perpetuating the vicious cycle of women's desires to only please her man. It is an ongoing contradiction of what some of us want to go against. It is a choice, just like many other things in our lives. It is the association, however, of pornography with empowerment that serves to discredit these women who speak of women's rights.

So...would you say my argument is reinforcing the idea of the "good girl"? Can there ever be a happy medium? Or are we doomed to constantly oppose this behavior with a new argument only to find we have once again reinforced it? Just some food for thought.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

that's wiggity wack

After reading the material for this week, one piece stuck out to me: Seduced by Violence No More by Bell Hooks that discusses "misogynist rap music."

In a general sense, addressing all the literature from this week, the idea of "victimization" of women in forced sexual situations caught my attention. The authors argue that there is almost a lack of respect for the self because of the way they have been brought up. Sometimes, young women are just told "it is the way it is." Unfortunately, this idea has led many women down a path where the expectation of respect from men is minimal. No author, however, approaches this issue objectively. When emotion is involved, there is no objective way to approach the subject. Specifically, talking about rape that was mentioned in a couple readings, there is no clear cut explanation of what rape looks or feels like because everyone constructs this idea differently. It is inherently connotative. Women who have had this type of experience will, of course, differ in their views and post-feelings regarding what happened to them. This is because we socially construct our pasts to view them in a way we choose - a way that works for us and serves to make meaning out of particular situations. As I read on, I recalled a documentary I had seen several years ago that highlighted the genre of rap music and the fierce competition among black women to be a part of rap music videos. Many women admitted to sleeping with the rappers or their friends in order to get more camera time than other women. At the end of the day, women were merely seen as objects in the music videos - sexual fantasies that surrounded the male rappers. Though I did not find the original documentary I had seen as a teenager, I came across a similar video that discussed the objectification of women in rap videos:

Rap has essentially become a is something to be sold. And in the process of selling it (in order to sell it), there seems to be a requirement that some sort of exploitation of women will grant that rapper status among his peers. Portraying women as "pieces of candy", if you will, proves to the hip hop culture that the rapper has "made it" or has been accepted and idolized. What, however, does this do for women? While the men are still moving up in the business and making tons of money, women are still fighting to simply prance around like objects for four minutes while men call them derogatory names in their own music. The problem that I see is that this particular culture - the rap/hip hop culture - limits women's success and creates this image that dancing half-naked next to Lil Wayne suggests that you have "made it" in the industry. The structure of the industry itself, is outweighing the agents within that structure. How do these women break through and change that expectation? Or, is it even possible?