Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cosmetics for men? Blasphemy!

Kirkham and Weller - "Cosmetics: A Clinique Study Case" (Pages 268-273 of Gender, Race, & Class in Media)

- Companies like Clinique are helping to break down gender barriers by offering formerly "feminine" products to men but they are also reinforcing gender stereotypes by using very gendered and stereotypical advertising for these products (Page 273).
- Color plays a large role in distinguishing between male and female products: male advertisements and products in general tend to be striking, black, white, gray, or very muted shades of blue or tan, while advertisements and products for women are pastel, creamy, and soft looking (Page 269).
- It is not just the language of the advertising industry that distinguishes between masculine and feminine but also the way this language is presented: when looking at a men's advertisement or product you are much more likely to see more information and short, sturdy and dark looking letters, as opposed to the totally devoid of info and scrawly and loose writing in a female ad (Page 272).
- Clinique is very careful to separate men's and women's products by naming them differently and by adding things like "skin supplies for men" to the spot underneath the Clinique name, a comparative addition of which cannot be found on any feminine product (Page 272).
- Not Stated: The authors never expressly say what they want, but since the piece is written to raise awareness of the problem, it is implied that the authors hope this differing treatment of men and women in the beauty product and advertising world will eventually end.
-Not Stated: Again, the authors seem to currently see raising awareness as the best first step to getting rid of the problem.

We need to work on that whole "Be about peace" idea...

Katz - "Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity: From Eminen to Clinique for Men" (Pages 349-358 of Gender, Race, & Class in Media)

- Violence is a pervasive aspect of western society, and recent study has raised attention to how much mass media and advertising help produce, reproduce, and legitimate this violent behavior, especially that perpetuated by men (Page 349).
- Masculinity is like whiteness in the fact that those who are part of it are blind to the privilege of it and all those outside of it are seen as "others" or different and therefore more ok to discriminate against (Page 350).
- Violence in the media has a strong pull for middle class men because it gives them an area in which to validate themselves and assert their power, since they are unable to do so in an economic or work oriented field (Page 351).
- There are several common themes in male advertising that helps reaffirm the idea of male dominance:
1. The idea of the angry, white, working-class male as an antiauthority rebel (ex: Eminem)
2. The idea that violence is genetically programmed male behavior
3. The use of military and sports symbolism to enhance the masculine identification and appeal of products
4. The association of muscularity with ideal masculinity
5. The equation of heroic masculinity with violent masculinity
(Page 352-357)
- The author hopes to develop a more sophisticated and thorough approach to understand cultural constructions of masculinity, much like the one feminists have established to explain feminine constructions (Page 357).
- The author says that it is important to study the construction of masculinity in mainstream magazine ads like he does, but at the same time we must look to the way these same ideals are constructed by things like comic books, toys, the sports culture, pro wrestling, comedy, video games, porn, and music videos to get a full picture and to hopefully then use this knowledge to start more effective anti-violence campaigns (Page 358).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I won't be the girl advertisers want me to be

Blog Assignment Number Two



When companies make products like clothing, hair supplies, makeup, and credit cards, they are working with a very specific buyer in mind: the tall, beautiful, wealthy female (or simply, the perfect consumer). This girl wants to own one of everything, dress in accordance to the latest fashions, be on top of the most popular things at any given moment, and look gorgeous while doing all of it. Although this girl is an advertisement companies dream, she is often very far from the reality of teen girls today. I, and I know many of my friends and fellow students, try to not be this image of perfection, simply because we know it isn't what is real and it isn't what will bring us happiness in the end. Unfortunatly, advertisers and companies keep catering to this ideal by "...filling girls full of fluff and garbage - under the pretense that this is their reality," a move that writer Anastasia Higginbotham claims is "patronizing, cowardly, and just plain laxy" in her piece "Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self-Esteem." This creation of an ideal, and the way the advertising community feeds it to young girls and forces them to conform to it, are both dangerous and depressing for my generation. It makes girls feel like they cannot be different lest they be shunned and makes them strive for an unreachable state of perfection. In "The Feminist News-Journal" author Tizzy Asher argues that "...we cannot improve the self-esteem of girls unless we attack the infrastructure that hurts them...they must understand that they too are part of this media-driven, abusive culture." A huge part of this infrastructure Asher speaks of is the advertising industry, and like she says it is not until girls become aware of the problem, and the conflicting messages sent forth by the industry, that we will be able to break free of the stereotypes and conformity and be whomever we want to be.


Anastasia Higginbotham, "Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Ppunds, and Lose Your Self-Esteem," in Women, Images and Reality: A Multicultural Anthology," Third Edition. Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair, and Nancy Schniedewind (New York: McGraw Hill, 2003), 96.

Tizzy Asher, "Girls, Sexuality, and Pop Culture," "The Feminist News-Journal," May-June 2002, 26.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Now let's be good little gendered boys and girls...

Writing Assignment Number One

The word "toys" instantly conjures images of blocks and Legos, Barbie's dream house, and a few GI Joes into my head. This thought is instantly followed by one saying ToysRUs is a great place to get anything a child could want. And why wouldn't I think this? I was raised on products purchased from this mega store and in a gendered society that makes me understand very clearly what toys I "could" or "could not" play with. I figured that I could find everything Allen, my imaginary ten year old friend, would want, at ToysRUs. As an fan of football, matchbox cars, computer racing games, and baseball, he seemed to fit the bill pretty perfectly for your "normal" 10 year old boy growing up in New Jersey. This generalization on my part clearly fits right into the very thing we are trying to resist: there is a powerful and persuasive assumption that toys are supposed to be gendered because boys and girls like different things, act in different ways, and should be raised differently.

When I started my hunt on the ToysRUs website, I know I went in with a bias. From the way I have seen this toy store and others organized in the past, I know that there are often very clear divisions of the boy toys and the girl toys. When you see any thing heavy duty or even perhaps malicious, you can be pretty certain you have entered the world of boys toys, but when things start to turn pink, frilly, and delicate, you have entered the equally terrifying world of girls toys. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the first thing ToysRUs. com asked you as you narrowed your search was not gender related, but age oriented. I gladly clicked on the 8-11 year old section and the small bubble of hope I had built for the world was shot down again as I saw that it was indeed divided by gender. Still, I hold out hope, as this isn't the only category you can use to help you shop. You can search by category, brand, price, and so on, which makes me think, or perhaps just dream, that maybe people are at least trying to not make the world of toys such a gendered one.

The toys found on the site designated for boys were, for the most part, related to athletics, video games, cars, building, and action figures. Any of the "doll" like toys seen were not really like dolls at all, except in the characteristics that they perhaps stood up on their own or had human faces. They were all male, mostly based on comic book heroes or sports stars, and never soft or cuddly. These figures clearly state some of the most basic "principles" our society promotes regarding boys and their development. They are shown the people they are supposed to look up to, whether it be the wealthy and successful sports star or the almighty and invincible comic book hero. They are shown that male children can only play with dolls that are male, lest they be seen as girly and effeminate. The rough and tough exterior of each of these figurines reflects the rough and tough exterior real life little boys are taught to develop - one that does not let them cry or feel compassion or pain.

This creation of gender stereotypes for toys, and therefore for the kids that play with them, often goes under the radar, as people take it as "normal". The social ideology of hegemony as James Lull defines it fits in well with this normalization of gendered toys. Lull defines hegemony as "the power or dominance that one social group holds over others (Lull, 61). He explains that this power is presented as "normal", much in the way gendered toys are presented as normal, so that no one feels the need to challenge the stereotypes. Logging on to the ToysRUs website and seeing the choice of boy toys or girl toys is just one example of the way that our society puts forth it's ideologies of hegemony even for children to follow. Most boy toys are stronger, sturdier, and bigger than most girl toys, just as grown men are seen as stronger and therefore dominant over women. Toys are also made into symbols of societal beliefs, projecting on to children the ways they should behave and the gender they should fall into. David Newman explains that symbols, although arbitrary and wholly human created, have a very powerful impact on our thinking and emotions (Newman, 74). The fact that boy toys are so rough, meant to withstand harsher play and lacking in the ability to comfortably cuddle with them or treat them in a "feminine" and compassionate way, generates the perception that boys must act this way too. They are, in essence, expected to grow up to be like their toys. These "innocent" symbols that children and parents so callously toss around are actually very representative of the way society makes sure you will grow up gendered.

Since I was disappointed (although not surprised) by the choices of toys for boys, I went instead to the section labeled "both" to find a gender neutral toy that Allen might like. The toy choices here were mostly board games, computer games, or educational material. Very few correlated to a specific topic of interest, like sports or dolls. They were all very gender neutral, relating to TV shows and real life models that both boys and girls could look to without seeming odd or queer. None of the things our society generally correlates with little girls or little boys showed up on this page, promoting the idea that those toys must stay with their particular and predefined gender.

I wonder why I feel so upset with society after doing this project. It is not like I didn't expect to find toys to be gendered. Perhaps I had hoped that the stereotypical ideas of gendered toys were just that - stereotypes, meaning they didn't really exist as forcibly as we think and could be changed. Or maybe I was wishing that the world of toys had evolved some since the time when I was a child to reflect the fact that boys and girls in our society today may not want to be the "perfectly normal" boys and girls we imagine, and instead want to be themselves. Neither of these things turned out to be true. Children's toys are still a horribly gendered arena. Strides have been made since my childhood, but there is much more still to be done if we really want to be able to call ourselves an accepting society and raise our children in a world that lets them play with whatever they want and be whomever they want.


Lull, James. Hegemony. In Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text Reader, edited by Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez, 61-66. California: Sage Publications, 2003.

Newman, David. Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2007.

Transformers Action Figure:

Madden Football Game for Nintendo Wii: