While it is all too easy to stumble across websites, magazines, shows and commercials which promote disempowering and stereotypical messages, there is hope yet! Chatham University students have developed a number of amazing and inspiring blogs and websites to provide forums to explore and redefine the media. Their work provides awesome alternatives to the same old and tired story. Check them out and spread the word!
The Kelly Strayhorn Theater held their annual dance festival May 10-12 in which they showcased creative works from a variety of dancers and choreographers. Each night of the show featured different pieces and included local companies and visiting companies (both national and international). The works really demonstrated empowerment through art. "if god left the lights on we could walk alone at night" explored themes around women's sexuality and sexual objectification. "Lines Between" was a moving representation of relationships between women; exploring boundaries between independence and connectedness. Every piece in the show was moving and demonstrated how women (and men) can use their bodies to convey emotion, challenge conventions and push boundaries. Such a important reminder of how individuals can use thier bodies to do
Just in case you have not seen it, Verizon has a new commercial that hit the airwaves and hulu plus with great fervor as marketers geared up for Mother's Day. The commercial showed a mother and daughter entering a Verizon store in order to buy the daughter a new phone. Both mother and daughter are crying and mumbling to each other in an incomprehensible manner (although apparently they can understand each other) but the audience is graced with subtitles to sort out what is happening. The daughter is moving out and her mother is worried that she will miss her daughter, won't get to see her or talk to her and is concerned that she will get lost because she is moving a whopping 4.2 miles away. The daughter explains how the new phone will solve all of their problems because they can video chat and the phone even has GPS. This original commercial was incredibly offensive to women and tapped into so many stereotypes it is hard to count (but let's try anyway!) Women were depicted as overly emotional, dependent upon each other, "speaking" their own language and so incompetent that they will get lost if they move 4 miles away from home. How this was supposed to convince anyone to buy the phone is beyond us.
Apparently a lot people agreed with us and verizon decided to tweak the commercial after receiving numerous complaints. In the new version the women are still crying but can be understood without subtitles and the daughter is moving 15 miles away (I guess that distance is supposed to make us feel better about the whole thing- seriously?!). Although relative to the original this version is slightly less offensive I wonder why they didn't just pull the add. It seems like they missed the boat on that one. If only they had a phone that could tell them how to not make offensive commercials.
While it almost goes without saying we are gonna say it anyway. We love Amy Poehler's character Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. Leslie shows the audience how quirky and smart go hand-in-hand as she moves between moments of being completely silly and running for political office. Poehler's character demonstrates what it means to have pride in yourself, your work and your town. She isn't afraid to be true to herself and while she cares about her relationships with other people, she doesn't live for their approval. In season four she decides she has to end her romantic relationship with a coworker so she can run for political office. Instead of portraying Leslie as selfish, power hungry and uncaring (as so many shows might do) we see the other characters supporting Leslie's decision and encouraging her campaign. This is brought home in the moment when her romantic interest (Ben) tells her he knows she is running for office (and they have to break up) and presents her with a campaign badge to show his support.
Keep it up, Parks and Recreation!
Lilli Carré is a zine-making, comic-writing, film-creating machine! I absolutely love her artwork and her ability to write fascinating stories. In a very much male-dominated medium-graphic novels and illustration-Lilli Carré has become known for h stories like Nine Ways to Disappear, Tales of Woodsman Pete, and The Lagoon. Not to mention her stories have been featured in multiple anthologies and magazines and her artwork has graced the front of many books.
Recently she did some animation work for Watershed, a documentary examining the politics of water, especially out West. I'm super excited to see it, as I remember talking with a professor about this very issue when I was in Arizona at the Hoover Dam.
I'm also excited because she is working on an anthology of previously published stories, Heads Or Tails! If you haven't checked out some of Lilli Carré's other work, you should visit her website at www.lillicarre.com.
Radiant. Stylish. Celebratory.
Those are hardly words I associate with my period. However, that is just what Tampax™ and Always™ would like young girls to buy into. According to THIS ARTICLE, the new Radiant collection of pads, tampons, and panty liners is designed to fit each girl's unique personality. Through what? The product itself is not terribly redesigned--there's only so much you can do with a tampon. But what's important is that the thin layer of paper covering your sanitary napkin is cute. What they should be doing is trying to find better product names than "pad" and "sanitary napkin." Come on.
Not that anybody should see these uniquely-you products. Because Tampax™ and Always™ are very clear to say that periods are nothing to be openly celebrated. According to the article, "the Radiant Collection offers everything a woman needs to help make her period invisible, allowing her to choose what makes her stand out."
Because if, by some catastrophe of nature, a leakage occurs and everybody knows that she is on her period (ew, gross!), nobody would be able to see all the things that make that girl smart, intelligent, and unique.
It's great that Tampax™ and Always™ are celebrating "real girls" in their ads (as opposed to all those fake ones they have been using for years?) But let's face it, this is just another marketing scheme to make money.
On the upside--unlike the latest fashion and newest gadgets--for ladies that can only afford the run-of-the-mill, plain white-packaged feminine products, the rest of your peers will be none the wiser. And if leakage does occur, I highly doubt the first question out of anybody's mouth will be, "You mean you don't have the newest Radiance pads?!"
We think it's great that 14-year-old Julia Bluhm has taken on the challenge of confronting Photoshopping and unrealistic images of girls in the media-starting with Seventeen Magazine. This Washington-Post Article is a great example of one girl who not only looked critically at what the media was telling her, but decided to do something about it.
Image from: amny.com
So Zooey Deschanel is not the first actress to go for the doe-eyed, so-naive-it's-adorable routine. Women have been undermining their own intelligence for decades. And for as many empowering images of strong, intelligent women, there are images that reinforce that to be beautiful, women also have to be just a little bit dumb.
When I was a kid, it was Chrissy from "Three's Company." She was kind, sweet, and, well, completely clueless. For anybody who has seen the show, there was no limit to her naivete. In one episode, she talks about how difficult it is for her to think--so much so that she can't be expected to think and walk at the same time! Her smart (and brunette) friend and roommate is a nice contrast to Chrissy, but let's not be fooled regarding who is the more desirable in the household--Janet is the smart one, and Chrissy is the sexy one.
In an interview, Suzanne describes playing her character as being able to relive her childhood. A little odd considering Chrissy was an adult. "What I found in her was the opportunity to be the child that I never had the opportunity to be...I think that's what endeared her to the public, that she wasn't threatening. She might have worn those little shorts and things, but she had no idea that she looked good and she was just not threatening to anybody."
There are two troubling thoughts in that description. The first is that to be non-threatening, a woman has to be dumb or naive. The second troubling thought is that part of that non-threatening behavior is to be oblivious to one's sexual agency. That is a dangerous combination. A woman who is naive and innocent, and simultaneously unaware of her sexuality, is vulnerable to a range of objectification.
However, the "dumb blonde" schtick has been so overplayed, we'd like to think that we have overcome those stereotypes. Unfortunately, the dumb-but-adorable typecast seems to be going strong.
Deschanel's character Jess in "The New Girl" may not be as sexualized as Chrissy, but her overall cluelessness is really what people mean when they say "quirky." Because without her wide-eyed innocence (literally), Zooey's character is just another beautiful girl who sings well and wears glasses at her convenience. Zooey may not be baring as much skin as Chrissy, but she is gorgeous. And yet, her character is sexually very naive. As a grown adult woman, she can't even say the word "Penis." And for young women watching, that's problematic.
When both these actresses speak about their character, they talk about how virtuous and unique they are. I'm sure neither of them intend or even believe their characters to be playing into the same old stereotypes. And it's true, there are great and wonderful things about these women. What is important to distinguish is that these characters are not problematic because they are overly feminine. The problem is that, for some reason, feminine and dumb seem to go hand-in-hand. Where are the very feminine, intelligent women in television? We have images of strong, intelligent women-but who are not very feminine. And then we have this other polar opposite.
At least Deschanel is breaking stereotypes in one regard; It's not the same old "dumb-blonde" routine, it's an equal playing field.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.