Monthly Archives: September 2013

Every Kiss Begins With Prejudice

every kiss w every kissaa

 

When you hear the jingle, you hear the music in your head, but do you realize what you are actually watching? Every couple that Kay advertises is a same-race couple but it’s never an interracial couple. If you dig a little deeper, you can see that they play certain races’ commercials in certain areas more than others according to advertisingdirected.com. Also, does it ever strike you that they play out this “romantic love” concept by the simplicity of a kiss between a two people? It is so played out that if you end up with a couple of the same race as you and you buy them this ring, then it will automatically work out! I personally feel that there are a lot more trials you must face in order to be a happy couple that they so easily display in their commercials. I also believe that the couples that they choose are very stereotypical, in that they are always dressed the part of a middle-to-upper-middle class lifestyle; and then when you look at it from a socioeconomic standpoint the advertisers take out more than half of the American population. I think that what Kay Jewelers and so many other advertising campaigns do well is show the cookie cutter couple. When you have the cookie cutter couple, you take out interracial couples, poor couples, same sex couples and so much more. Although it is so easy to remember their little jingle, you have to ask yourself what end goal do they have in mind?

The Kay Jeweler’s advertisements our group found remind me of the White Privilege article by Peggy McIntosh. Towards the end of the article, she writes about heterosexual privilege. From all of the advertisements that our group found, none of them featured a homosexual couple. They all featured the stereotypical heterosexual couple. This creates a very biased view about romantic love and what it’s supposed to be. Advertisements are seen by millions of people, so only showing heterosexual couples establishes that as the norm. Everything else will be seen as abnormal. These advertisements can be particularly damaging to children who are still developing their own view of society. If we are trying to build toward a more accepting and diverse society, only showing heterosexual couples on these advertisements is doing everyone a disservice.  Ending heterosexual privilege isn’t going to be an easy process, but by diversifying the types of couples featured in advertisements will help. If children begin seeing advertisements featuring homosexual couples, hopefully they will no longer see that as abnormal.

The images we see, the images built up and perpetuated by the media, help shape our perception of the world. These images can often work to disempower the lowest of the social strata, and can often have unintended consequences. Pauline, in The Bluest Eye, lapped up the fancy and happy world portrayed in movies. However, it worked to worsen her perception of her own life. Because she could not be “pretty” like Jean Harlow, who she imitated, and her family and marriage could not be the happy, relatively carefree life she admired, she gave up. She found it impossible to identify the beauty and positives in her life. Similarly, those who find themselves excluded in the media, or portrayed negatively, find it hard to accept themselves and their lives. Because mixed race or same sex couples are absent or often stigmatized, it promotes a lack of acceptance in society. Life becomes increasingly difficult for those breaking from “the norm.” More diverse and accepting images could help eliminate the narrow image of the “proper” and “normal” to better reflect reality. This would likely help broaden acceptance and alleviate some of the problems of self-hate plaguing society in this day and age.

 

I think it’s important that we look at this ad in a different way. When thinking specifically about wedding rings and the Kay commercials it is easy to forget that there are many forms of proposal across cultures and some cultures suggest that it’s a better idea to wait to kiss until after they’ve said their “I do’s” at the altar, or jump over the broom, or whatever other cultural norm they partake in at their wedding. In the piece “It’s Not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism” by Susan Muaddi Darraj, she makes a point of talking about the Arab rituals her and her husband went through in order to pay homage to the traditions her family practiced culturally. I think it’s important to remember that not all families, cultures, religions, sexualities will want to have a traditional Christian wedding that we’ve come to be so accustomed to in America. Even though I think it’s easy for Kay Jewelers to get their point across I think it’s important that as a jewelry company that they pay attention to the range in their demographic and how they will connect to their commercials. What kind of messages are they sending across cultures? Maybe not a good one.

Chelsea, Codie, Darshan, and Alex, Intro to Women’s Studies

Romantic Love

The topic of romantic love and marriage has been a focus in society and politics for decades. Whether it manifests in terms of interracial marriage or the question of same-sex marriage, people have very strong opinions on who should be allowed to married. Today, the biggest issue is same-sex marriage. Opposition comes strongest from various religions, and many feel that allowing gays to marry will “ruin the sanctity of marriage.” The concerns that society has about marriage now are no different than they were decades ago.

pie chart ssmarr romatic love cartoon

Interracial marriage was a legal issue in the United States up until the end of the 1960s. Through the end of the 1800s and the first half the 1900s, many states slowly started repealing laws that made interracial marriage illegal. Before 1967, all but 14 states in the U.S. had either repealed or never passed laws that outlawed mixed marriage. However, in 1967, the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, making mixed marriage legal in all 50 states. However, at that point, only less than half of one percent of all marriages in the United States were mixed. Despite the legalization of interracial marriage, the stigma that existed kept the number of those marriages down. Today, same sex marriage is in a similar place. Many states still ban same-sex marriage, and supporters of the ban worry about how allowing gays to marry will affect the state of families and marriage in America. This worries existed during the debates of interracial marriages as well. However, every year, more and more states legalization same sex marriage. However, the stigma that, to an extent, still follows interracial marriage now follows same-sex marriage as well. This attempt to control the institution of marriage mirrors the way that media changes the viewpoint of romantic love in general, and how we, as a society should analyze romantic love, and what our expectations in that area should be.

Romantic love is often referred to as a destructive concept in The Bluest Eye, and readers can see how it affects Pauline’s life. Because she is very influenced by the stories she sees in movies, she creates inner narratives about how her life will go that become self-fulfilling prophecies. Based on the love she sees in the media, Pauline thinks that love has a lot to do with possession and physical beauty, and that idea is reflected in how she allows her husband to treat her. She hoped that one day a stranger would meet her and accept what she sees as her ugliest part—her bad foot. When she meets Cholly, the fulfillment of that fantasy blinds her to the fact that he may not be the best man for her, and eventually leads to unhappiness. Pauline had spent a lot of time watching movies and began to compare herself to others on the idea of an “absolute beauty scale.” Pauline believed that if her beauty could compare to that of the white women around her, Cholly would come back and take care of her like the media portrayed romantic man should.

The way that Pauline envisions finding love is not uncommon from the way many young girls think they will find a husband. Many of the images we subject girls to from very young age depict love as destiny—something that you wait to happen to you. Most Disney movies show the lead woman as helpless, fragile, and beautiful, waiting for a strong, powerful man to rescue her from whatever problems she is involved in. Romantic love is also shown as something that happens instantly, with one kiss or one chance meeting. The “prince charming” image can create unrealistic expectations among young girls when it comes to finding love, and for how the relationship will function, similar to how Pauline relies on her daydreams rather than reality.

Foucault’s “knowledge is power” idea states that what society knows and understands as normal is socially constructed rather than an absolute truth.  He also says that what is established as normal is only done so by society’s experts who study the abnormal.  Only once we are able to see what individuals in society are the outcasts are we able to determine what the “norm” is.  This claim can be seen when observing society’s standards of romantic love.

For example, in the United States there is a general understanding of how loving relationships should work.  When an individual is usually in his or her mid-twenties they are expected to find another individual around the same age with whom they plan to enter into a monogamous relationship with each other for the rest of their lives.  Deferring from this plan is seen in general as abnormal.  Some aspects of what is considered right changes over time.  Many years ago marrying outside one’s class would be something considered abnormal.  Also it would be looked at as odd if the man in the relationship was younger than the woman.

There are other aspects of a relationship that are considered abnormal that would cause others to not believe there could be true romantic love. For example, society has implemented the idea that long term relationships must be monogamous. Polygamist relationships are rejected by society because our knowledge tells us that you can’t be in love with more than one person, and if you are it is usually considered an act of sexual perversion. And according to Foucault, people who are in polygamous relationships do not have the opportunity to speak about the legitimacy of their relationships because their opinions are immediately dismissed since they have already been labeled as abnormal.

Only until recent years, homosexuality has been seen in the same light.  Because homosexual couples are “abnormal,” other aspects of the loving relationship are questioned such as whether or not a homosexual couple can raise a family with the same “quality” that the normal heterosexual couple can.

Finally, age gaps also determine the legitimacy of romantic love in a relationship.  If a couple is seen out to dinner and the man looks like he has twenty years on the lady, then it is assumed that she is marrying him for his money and that he is her “sugar daddy.”  And if there were to be a couple that consisted of a thirty year old and a seventy-five year old, then that is just seen as some kind of sexual fetish.

The knowledge is power statement would state that the reason these abnormalities stay the way they do is because this is how we are teaching ourselves.  In other words, generation after generation our youth are gaining the knowledge of what is normal in society and continue to perpetuate these societal norms.  This knowledge of these norms is the power that fuels this continuation, and what is considered “abnormal” is very hard to change.

 

–       Tinh Le Ngoc, Brian Kalina, Alexander Hilton, Lindsay Sulsa, Amanda Grout

Prude vs. Slut

 

Prude vs Slup

Prude vs. Slut

It seems that these two words would be considered on the opposite ends of a certain spectrum; however, society does not allow it to be this way. Society makes us feel like there is no in between. A woman can be either a slut, or a prude. But who defines these words? Societal views are mostly created from the views of men. Unfortunately, in regards to the words slut and prude, women tend to have a strong opinion as well. It is not just guys’ opinions of girls; it is girls’ opinions of other girls. As twenty-year-olds in the generation, it is not uncommon to hear girls commenting on the actions of other girls. “She won’t put out, that’s why he is going to leave her.” “Oh my gosh, she is so slutty. She has had sex with every guy on the football team.” The sad thing about these circumstances is that there is no happy medium. According to society, you are either a slut or a prude. Both are looked upon as derogatory terms.

Definition of prude according to Webster’s Dictionary – a person who is or claims to be easily shocked by matters relating to sex or nudity

Definition of prude according to Urban Dictionary – One who will not engage in any kind of sexual activity with a member of the opposite sex, usually used as a discriminatory word, can be used in a fashion as to bait someone into sexual activity.

Definition of slut according to Webster’s Dictionary – a promiscuous woman, prostitute, a saucy girl

Definition of slut according to Urban Dictionary – a woman with the morals of a man,           “Someone who provides a very needed service for the community and sleeps         with everyone, even the guy that has no shot at getting laid and everyone     knows it. She will give him sympathy sex either because someone asked her      to or she just has to have sex with everyone she knows. These are great         people, and without them sex crimes would definitely increase. Thank you  slut, wherever you are.”

 

How do men respond to these words? When hearing the word prude, some men will either stay far away or decide the girl isn’t worth the fight. Others will see it as a challenge. Some may even make bets to see if they can get a girl to hook up with them. When hearing the word slut, a guy sees an easy target. A definite cause. If the girl is intoxicated, she will definitely go home with the guy.

We have asked some men to tell us what they think “slut” and “prude” are and we got a few responses back:

“A slut is someone who can f*** the whole world and a prude is someone who won’t give it up”
“ A slut is a person, male or female, that starts into relationship with the intent of sexual action, sometimes with multiple people, has no intent of commitment but plays the part until becoming bored and leaving to the next, usually destroying not only their life but many others during the process”
“ Slut, just in it for the sex and with many partners”
“Prude = Boring”
“A prude is someone who puts themself above others, makes a point of others knowing it and has no sense of standard humor, everything around them wreaks of negativity and they don’t typically have many friends due to their attitude”
“A prude would be extremely uncomfortable with sexual contact, rather opposite of a slut, a prude would nearly seem gay but isn’t”
“Slut is a girl that will continually sleep with one or many men with no need or want of a relationship not caring who or what she’s with…prude is a women that will not give up even if the time is right and everything is going well but let’s not mistake prude for class cuz there all in a very fine line slut class prude”
When asked if there is an in-between or simply a girl is a prude or slut responses were:
“Those are the hard to find girls  (neither slut nor prude) most guys look for, they are considered “normal” but since, in some locations they can be quite hard to find, one usually has to settle for less. Normal people are much like old muscle cars. Fewer and fewer every day, as such, the value goes up”
“Yea like I said ur a slut or prude”
When asked if men can also be sluts responses were:
“We call them studs”

 

“Everyone just assumes slut to be the girl but a lot of dudes are too”

 

“They call us playas”

 

There are accepted societal norms when it comes to the attire of a woman. For a professional interview, a short jean skirt is probably not ideal. For a beach party, a long black pencil might get dirty and hot. The same woman may own both of these skirts. Does this mean when wearing the black pencil skirt she is a professional businesswoman who is prude and when wearing the jean skirt she wants sex and is a slut? A girl’s attire does not determine who she is. It definitely does not beg for anything.

 

How does femininity impact this?

A woman should be able to wear what she wants without fear of being labeled. The term “asking for it “should never be applied to a woman just because of how short her attire is. If a woman wants to wear dresses, skirts, heels, she should not have to stand in front of the mirror and ask herself if she is going to be thought of as a “slut”, or worry about men thinking she is “easy”.
1 supporting course reading

Oppression by Marilyn Frye

 

This article has a passage in it that goes along very well with our topic of prude vs. slut.  In the article it states:
“It is common in the United states that women, especially younger women, are in a bind where neither sexual activity nor sexual inactivity is all right. If she is heterosexually active, a woman is open to censure and punishment for being loose, unprincipled or a whore. The “punishment” comes in the form of criticism, snide and embarrassing remarks, being treated as an easy lay by men, scorn from her more restrained female friends. She may have to lie to hide her behavior from her parents. She must juggle the risks of unwanted pregnancy and dangerous contraceptives. On the other hand, if she refrains from heterosexual activity, she is fairly constantly harassed by men who try to persuade her into it and pressure her into it and pressure her to “relax” and “let her hair down”; she is threatened with labels like “frigid,” “uptight,” “man-hater,” “bitch,” and “cocktease.” The same parents who would be disapproving of her sexual activity may be worried by her inactivity because it suggests she is not or will not be popular, or is not sexually normal. She may be charged with lesbianism. If a woman is raped, then if she has been heterosexually active she is subject to the presumption that she liked it (since her activity is presumed to show that she likes sex), and if she has not been heterosexually active, she is subject to the presumption that she liked it (since she is supposedly “repressed and frustrated”). Both heterosexual activity and heterosexual nonactivity are likely to be taken as proof that you wanted to be raped, and hence, of course, weren’t really raped at all. You can’t win. You are caught in a bind, caught between systematically related pressures.”
I totally agree with this passage and believe the author got it spot on.  There is constantly pressure for a woman when it comes to sex.
2nd supporting course reading
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
“Everybody in the world was in a position to give them orders. White women said, “Do this.” White children said, “Give me that.” White men said, “Come here.” Black men said, “Lay down.” The only people they need not take orders from were black children and each other. But they took all of that and re-created it in their own image. They ran the houses of white people, and knew it. When white men beat their men, they cleaned up the blood and went home to receive abuse from the victim. They beat their children with one hand and stole from them with the other. The hands that felled trees also cut umbilical cords; the hands that wrung the necks of chickens and butchered hogs also nudged African violets into bloom; the arms that loaded sheaves, bales, and sacks rocked babies into sleep. They patted biscuits into flaky ovals of innocence- and shrouded the dead. They plowed all day and came home to nestle like plums under the limbs of their men. The legs that straddled a mule’s back were the same ones that straddled their men’s hips. And the difference was all the difference there was (Morrison 138).”

 

This passage relates to femininity, sex, and race. It really shows how women, particularly black women, were treated the worst. They were at the hands of their white masters wants and orders, and then came home to also get the abuse from their husband. White men had the power, although it is not as bad as it was, this unfair advantage still exists today.

Femininity – Sarah Sitzmann, Alexandra Kahtava, Victoria Grissom, Sarah Kehm

“Real” beauty

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litXW91UauE

I will be the first to admit that I cried while watching the “Real Beauty” commercial by Dove (Source 1).  I got all teary and sniffly, and felt happy. Or maybe hopeful is the correct term.  Then I read this blog (Source 2), and had to stop and reexamine this hopeful feeling.  The truth is, I initially felt hopeful because it made me believe I am not as hideous as I think I am.  It was telling me that I had more value than I thought I did.  However, upon closer inspection, we see this “Real Beauty” video is merely enforcing a dominant ideology that defines a woman’s worth solely by her looks.  Dove even enforces the typical current standards of beauty.  Descriptors such as “thin, young, and blue-eyed” were considered beautiful, while  “fat, old, or crows feet” were shown in a negative light.  The featured women were all white, and ranged only from young to middle age, which is, in itself, a misrepresentation.  The people of color that were shown in the video all had lighter skin, playing into the “lighter is better” theme that we see in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  This notion reinforces the young Caucasian standard of beauty that this country has been supporting since its founding.  Additionally, the blogger points out, “Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.” (Little Drops). That is a startlingly low percentage.  Not only does it emphasize race issues associated with beauty but also draws attention to the problems with society in general.  It looks as if the editors thought to themselves “Well, we threw some black people and an Asian in there, so it won’t be racist.”  Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the blogger’s message; women are to too harsh with themselves, but clearly there is still a value system in play that determines how beautiful women are, thus what their worth is.

The Bluest Eye provides page after page of examples of society’s definition of beauty and how it affects black women.  Morrison often describes the differences of beauty within in one race to draw attention to larger issues in our culture.  These descriptions reveal to the reader the system of oppression embedded in a culture that judges and awards value based on the degree of whiteness an individual possesses.  The introduction of Maureen Peal is a perfect example. When Claudia and Frieda recognize the amount of attention Maureen Peal receives, merely because she has a lighter complexion and a high socioeconomic status, they cannot associate with her, believing they are not like her.  “Meringue Pie” does not even seem to be of the same background because she is so much better: “A high-yellow dream child…she was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls” (Morrison, 62).  Her light complexion helped her to cast a spell on the entire school, white and black students and teachers alike (61).  This is an example of how Frieda and Claudia, as well as all young women, learn to associate skin color with value; they use Maureen’s apparent beauty through her light-skin to prove to themselves they are not beautiful because they have a darker complexion. Initially, Claudia alludes Maureen has no interest in them, so I was shocked when Maureen, even for a minute, associates with them on their partial walk home. When Maureen turned on them and made it clear what she really thinks about the darker-skinned girls, my shock subsided.  “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute!” (73).  Though I’m still not completely sure what “black e mos” means, I know it has something to do with Frieda, Pecola and Claudia’s darker skin tone. It may also have to do with the relationship between beauty and class, which is interesting and troubling because it is at such a young age they are realizing these furtive systems of oppression.  Further, the idea that a person of color is using the “blackness” they too possess to insult another person of color shines a light on the unsettling reality of the racial-self loathing, as Morrison calls it, the young women are learning during childhood (210).

Beyond interactions with peers, these vulnerable young women are faced with many images that insist on what is beautiful, adored and desired.  Like the deeply rooted oppression caused by white hegemony in our culture, exemplified through Maureen Peal instance above, images such as Shirley Temple were sent through the media to perpetuate this white order.  “Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs–all the world agreed that blue-eyed, yellow haired, pink-skinned” was beautiful and normal (20).  This constant bombardment with images of whiteness is especially harmful to young women of color because our society’s ideas of normal or beautiful do not match what these girls see in the mirror, and serve as constant reminders that they will never measure up, never be white enough to be beautiful.  Additionally, how does a child learn to accept who they are and strive for greatness when they are not given decent role models?

Shirley Temple complements the messages sent to young people by the “Dick and Jane” passages at the beginning of each chapter.  They remind us that part of learning to read, part of learning language, includes learning value assignments and social norms.  It is a process of socialization and domestication.  These Dick and Jane beginner books that are referenced and sprinkled throughout the novel are cultural markers or indexes that show what the youngest, most malleable minds of our society are being taught.  These books were all that was available to Americans in the Forties.  From birth, people naturally begin to look for their place in a culture.  When they do not see themselves represented in the media, in books, movies, magazine, etc., they face what the documentary Missrepresentation referrers to as “symbolic annihilation.”  When a child of color reads these books or is repeatedly given a white baby doll or is asked to adore Shirley Temple (our culture’s living definition of “cu-ute”), they receive the message that they are not only ugly in comparison to whites, but there is no place for them in this society (Morrison, 19).  This American narrative does not include them.  Further, these examples remind us of how we can only pursue options we are given and only speak the specific language we learn.  If the language is that of the ruling class, the marginalized groups are forever doomed to use the language of their oppressors, and therefore, only pursue the options they are presented with.  “Black,” unfortunately, is not a word the oppressor associates with beauty.

Works Cited

Source 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litXW91UauE

Source 2: “Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes me Uncomfortable…and Kind of Makes Me Angry” http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me

Source 3: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Source 4: Missrepresentation documentary

Students in Intro to Women’s Studies)

Controlling Images of Women

-Cosmopolitan-Magazine-Cover-ashley-greene-17404533-1173-1600 This photo is seen as a controlling image to women alike. This is a photo of a famous actress, Ashley Greene, and it is incredibly suggestive. The topics in bold are suggesting that she is sexual and concerned about her imagine, when her article (noted in a small, white font) talks about how “ballsy” she is. This is inviting people to see how demure she is as a woman, yet they’re talking about her being an empowered woman. It’s incredibly demeaning to women. We think that the article is not only a contemporary way of showing sexual discrimination, but also functions as an image that we as woman should admire.  (The Feminist group, Intro to Women’s Studies)

normal

What would our world be like if “normal” were defined differently?  What would it be like if the things we valued the most weren’t things, but relationships and experiences?

I created this video at a Digital Storytelling Workshop for K-12 Educators at the Center for Digital Storytelling, Berkeley, California, June 2013, through a grant from the Olson Fund for Global Service Learning.

This semester students in FYS 15:  Diversity in the U.S. will create digital stories collaboratively with 4th graders at Walnut Street International Baccalaureate Elementary School.  Stay tuned for our project updates.

Students in my Introduction to Women’s Studies course will make digital stories in conjunction with their service learning projects at various local organizations.

First Year Seminar 15: Diversity in the U.S. syllabus

2013 FYS syl

Students in Drake University First Year Seminar:  Diversity in the U.S.  are engaging in a service learning project with 4th grade students at Walnut Street International Baccalaureate Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa.  They are collaboratively conducting research and making digital videos.  The videos will be screened in Sussman Theatre in Olmstead Student Union on Drake Univesity’s campus on December 4th, 2013.  For more information contact sandra.patton-imani@drake.edu.