Tag Archives: feminism

Rosie in the News: Swiffer Edition

Uh oh, Swiffer is getting some social media flak for choosing the parody the Rosie the Riveter image for a campaign for their Steam Boost product. Here’s the image:

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Sigh. Look, we’ve been through this before, right? Advertising is the way it is because people respond to it. No company the size of Swiffer launches a new campaign without focus group approval. So the question is not why does Swiffer butcher historical imagery in service of sexist divisions of housework. The answer to that one is easy (because focus groups said it would work…). The more interesting question is, why does it work so well? 

Having not sat on the other side of this particular one-way mirror and not being a homeowning 35-48 year-old mother of 2.3 children myself, I can only guess. To many of us, the Rosie image resonates because it symbolizes a defining moment in women’s history when work outside the home became significantly more accessible. It’s historically significant, and reminds of us of the complicated intersection of propaganda and progress.

But it’s not just that to everyone. It’s meaning has been boiled down (by advertising and pop culture) to a simple message of female strength and capability. It says “I get shit done” and “I don’t need help,” and “I am competent.” In that sense, it’s easy to see why women whose sphere of responsibility is their home would be attracted to an image that projects that confidence. They don’t care that, as one twitter commenter wrote, it “pisses on the legacy” of the original image.

Those were the women in the focus group. Not us. Do you buy things with “steam boost” in the title? Yeah, me neither.

Related Post: Rosie in the News: Alfred Palmer edition

Related Post: Rosie in the News: Rivets and Rosebuds

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Filed under Advertising, Gender, Media

Personal is Political

Wouldn’t it be cool to be the person who made up the phrase “The personal is political?” No one knows who came up with it, though it was popularized in 1970 by a Carol Hanisch essay. Gloria Steinem once said that trying to find the originator of the phrase would be like trying to figure out who first called it “World War II.” Oh Gloria, so witty!

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the relationship I see between personal decisions and political ramifications. Or, sometimes, between political action and the resulting personal choices. It goes both ways.

personal politicalRelated Post: Why are we, of all people, the right ones to question our socialization?

Related Post: Maslow and feminist privilege

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Filed under Gender, Politics, Republished!

So Say We All: Battlestar Galactica and Feminist TV

Super excited to share with you all a new partnership I’m embarking on with the Nashville Scene. A collection of writerly ladies, like the always-fabulous Kim Green, will collaborate on a weekly column called Vodka Yonic. We’ll be tackling a wide variety of topics, both serious and less so, that are hopefully of interest to readers such as yourselves!

My first contribution ran last week and I must confess that I’m really proud of it. I’ve been meaning to write about Battlestar Galactica through a feminist lens, and this gave me the perfect opportunity. More broadly, this is a piece about what I think feminist television really is, and what we should be looking for in our media to indicate that it treats female characters equally and with respect. Hint: that doesn’t mean that the women are always the good guys. I hope you like it too!

bsg nashville

Related Post: The Bechdel Test: 101

Related Post: Game of Thrones vs. The Wire

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“Trashing” and How We Haven’t Learned Much Since ’76

Did you read the obituary of Shulasmith Firestone by Susan Faludi last week? Did you cry? Yeah… me neither. Sniff, sniff. I was struck by how little seems to have changed; we still beat each other up over what is and isn’t feminist or feminist enough. Even within the ranks there’s a lot of disagreement and finger pointing and us vs. them and right way/wrong way, my way/highway chest beating. Firestone was slayed by this kind of criticism and it ultimately led to her isolation from the movement and contributed to the tragedy of her lonely death.

This week for Role/Reboot I was inspired by the Jo Freeman 1976 essay about “trashing” that Faludi referenced in the Firestone obituary. It just rang so familiar, echoing much of the Sandberg/Mayer controversies of the last few months. You’d think we would have gotten better about this by now…

Screenshot_4_15_13_1_50_PMRelated Post: On raunch humor and feminism

Related Post: Carrie, Kelly, Taylor, the week in feminism

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Sunday Scraps 100

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1. GAYS: In the 2010 census, one county in the US reported 0 gay people. None. Zilch. Nada. Explore Franklin County with CNN and find out if the census is true. Hint: Doubtful.

2. SCOTUS: A little late to the game on this one, but Courtney Milan’s concise play-by-play of the Prop 8 Supreme Court case is the first time I actually think I know what’s going on. Sample truncated piece of dialogue: COOPER: But these people were injured. They didn’t want gay people to marry, and now look! Gays. Lesbians. Able to marry at will. It’s very injurious. They’re injured just thinking about it.

3. FEMINISM: I dare you not to cry at this amazing obituary of feminist revolutionary Shulasmith Firestone. Written by the incomparable Susan Faludi, it’s just… a lot. Sniff.

4. POLITICS: To my surprise, I came out of Jonathan Van Meter’s NYT profile of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin feeling pretty sympathetic for Weiner. Maybe sympathetic’s not the word…

5. FOOTBALL: From Grantland, what would happen if an NFL player died on the field? 8 years ago, Al Lucas died during an Arena football game. Is that where we’re headed?

6. LOOKS: Why does it matter that the President called Kamala Harris good-looking? Amanda Hess at Slate knows why, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

Related Post: Sunday 99: Megan Mullally and Ron Swanson, Tavi Gevinson, Rolling Rock history and more

Related Post: Sunday 98: Chinese marriage market, George Saunders, Lena in Playboy and more

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Want to know what I sound like?

vocaloThat’s kind of weird title for this post. I know with some people I follow on the interwebs, I’m always surprised to find out what they actually look or sound like. Sometimes they’re a different gender than I thought (ahem, Nico Lang) and I’m all like…whoa…I’ve got biases too!

Anyway, if you’ve been wondering what sound like when I talk (hint: I have a bit of a Joplin rasp at the moment), tune in tomorrow at vocalo.org around 8:30am CT to me hear me talk some feminism, Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In etc. If you’re in Chicagoland, you can listen at 90.7 or 89.5.

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Sunday Scraps 99

sunday99

1. TAVI: 16-year-olds have no right to be so cool and self-assured. This kid says everything I figured out ten years later about media, feminism, stereotypes, yada yada yada.

2. HEALTH: This American Life is on a roll. Killer piece about the huge upward trend in Americans filing for disability. Why? When? How did this happen? Better question, what do we do it about?

3. ADVERTISING: Sociological Images uses the interesting case of Rolling Rock beer to discuss the appropriation of working class iconography by upper class cohorts for the purposes of “seeming real.”

4. ROMANCE: Nick Offerman + Megan Mullally = Forever. THEY ARE THE BEST, and lucky us, NYMag compiled a history of their love.

5. POLITICS: Just for kicks, cats that look like politicians. Or politicians that look like cats?

6. LGBTQ: Really thought-provoking essay for BuzzFeed about the importance of gay porn, by gay porn performer Connor Habib.

Related Post: Sunday 98 - Marriage in China, mean girls, George Saunders and his editor, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 97 – Writing with a gender neutral name, Cindy Gallop, Anita Sarkeesian, etc.

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Gender, Hollywood, Politics, Sex

The Re-education Project (aka How Have I Never Seen Thelma and Louise?)

I would like to attempt something. Consider it a belated New Year’s Resolution, or an ongoing project in self-improvement and continuing education. I’m a feminist. Duh. You’d have to have been skipping the content of this blog and only looking at the dazzling photos to have missed that (Unrelatedly: Sorry for all the stock photography, that’s not really my thing).

I took a bazillion gender studies classes in college. I’ve read a lot, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Ariel Levy, Betty Friedan to Andrea Dworkin, Alix Kates Shulman to Adrienne Rich. I am well versed in the theories of the various waves, and I know where I stand on most of the issues, give or take a few of the finer points. And, of course, I’m always looking to broaden/deepen/complicate my own understanding.

But if you’re going to publicly comment on media and gender, as I do, reading is not enough. Watching and listening has to be part of the education process, and this is where I’ve started to find some serious holes in my own mental map of gender studies and women’s history. While my formal education required that I go back and read the sacred texts, I don’t feel like I truly have a handle on other forms of influential media.

thelma

How have I never seen Thelma and Louise?

I recently watched an excellent documentary on the evolution of Wonder Woman (if it’s in your city, go see it), and how her character changed in both comic books and on screen to match the flavors of feminism (or backlash to feminism) over the decades. One reference included Thelma and Louise, and I realized that I’d never seen it. A few weeks ago, I watch the PBS documentary Makers about the history of the women’s movement (streaming online, go watch it right this second). It also featured clips from other television shows and movies that I’d missed along the way, like Murphy Brown and The Mary Tyler Moore show. Obviously, most of this content was before my time, but given that I take great pride in being media literate and well-versed in this particular history, it seems I have some catching up to do.

I spend a serious amount of time keeping up on what we’re talking about now, but I want to contextualize the present by rounding out my knowledge of the past. If Girls wouldn’t have been possible without Sex and the City, and Sex and the City wouldn’t have been possible without Golden Girls, then I need to have seen Golden Girls to really understand how far we’ve come? How does the groundwork laid by Murphy Brown add depth to the current conversation we’re having about Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy? How does Tina Fey follow in the tradition of Mary Tyler Moore, or not? 

So, I need your help. If my goal were to fill out my understanding of “women in the media” over the last few decades, especially as it pertains to gender roles, feminism, sexism, etc., what do I need to go back and watch? I can’t watch everything, so what are the moments in media history that are influential, pot-stirring, game-changing? Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Thelma and Louise 

Golden Girls

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Murphy Brown 

Nine to Five 

Maude 

What else? Post in the comments or tweet at me, @rosiesaysblog!

Related Post: The week in feminism

Related Post: Bechdel 101

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media

Fox News’ Big Whoops + Suzanne Venker’s Latest

If this doesn’t make your Saturday, I don’t know what will. In the latest insufferable piece by Suzanne Venker (more on that in a moment), Fox News accidentally selected a photo of a same-sex couple to illustrate an article about the value in traditional gender roles. They’ve since changed the photo to, literally, the boy/girl stick figures that adorn bathroom doors (if that’s all you’ve got left, I think it means we’re winning), but luckily Jessica Valenti nabbed a screen shot before they figured out their awesome error.

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From Jessica Valenti

Whoops!

The article this excellent photo used to sit atop is classic Venker. If you’re not familiar with her work, imagine all of the least logical things you’ve ever heard anyone say about gender roles, all the worst mischaracterizations of feminsim past and present, all of the broadest stereotypes about men and women, and give that lumpy ball of icky ideas a pulpit.

Her piece is called, “To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal.’” A few key ideas, though please, by all means, read the whole gd mess.

The complementary nature of marriage—in which two people work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the qualities each gender brings to the table—has been obliterated. Today, husbands and wives are locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front and how they’re going to get everything done. That’s not a marriage. That’s war.

Feminism didn’t result in equality between the sexes – it resulted in mass confusion. Today, men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what.

Prior to the 1970s, people viewed gender roles as as equally valuable. Many would argue women had the better end of the deal! It’s hard to claim women were oppressed in a nation in which men were expected to stand up when a lady enters the room or to lay down their lives to spare women life

That’s enough of that, I think.

A few notes in response:

  • Replace “Gender” with “Person” and You Have My Attention: She writes about appreciating each gender for what they bring to the partnership table. If we swap that out for “person,” you might get me on board. I’m not saying there are not statistical differences in skill sets and preferences between genders, but I’m arguing that the variation between Man 1 and Man 2 is probably just as great as between Man 1 and Woman 1. In other words, bucketing ourselves by gender in order to make a partnership work is pretty likely to fail. So she wants to stay home with kids, great! But what if he’s the one who cooks? Oh no! How will we ever bring our best gendered selves to this marriage! Instead, bucket yourselves by, oh I don’t know, what you’re good at, what you prefer, what your logistical and emotional bandwidth can bear, what you compromise on, etc. All of that requires more communication than assuming she of the ovaries will be the nurturer and he of the big muscles will be the provider.
  • Protectionism and Pedastalism Are Not Equality. We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth remembering. If your primary argument is that ladies were treated more delicately back in the day, and that more of them survived the sinking Titanic (yes, this is actually in her essay), don’t you think that’s pretty weak? I do not want men to stand for me when I enter a room. I want them to listen to me when I talk. I want to be part of the conversation. I want to be an equal player in decision-making. They can keep sitting, that’s just fine. As for holding doors open, I have no strong feelings about who should enter buildings first, all I know is that if I’m carrying something heavy, help me out, you know?
  • Mass Confusion Isn’t the Worst Thing – I will give Venker this; I think there is a lot of confusion out there about what it means to be “manly” or “womanly” in this day and age. I write about gender on the internet and much of the feedback I get is about “not knowing the rules.” Should a guy pay for a date? Should a girl let him? If she offers to split should he accept? How do you flirt with objectifying? Is a little objectifying okay, especially if we all do it? This shit is confusing! And it should be! The change I want to see is for the conversation to reorient from how do I treat this person because they have XX or XY chromosomes to how do I treat this person like a human, i.e. with respect for their agency, their preferences, and their stated desires.
  • Every Partnership Isn’t Going to Look the Same - And this is also a good thing. In most of her writing, Venker consistently ignores non-hetero couples. It kind of makes sense; if you’re whole money-making MO is to be the voice of reason on traditional gender roles, you kind of have to cross your fingers and hope no one asks you about all those other couples that don’t have the parts that help you know what they’re “supposed” to do. But by ignoring same-sex couples (or any other non-Cleaver family arrangement), Venker is taking the rhetorical easy way out. Plenty of people have to negotiate the “mass confusion” she speaks of because there are no existing structures for who should do the laundry and who should pay the bill. These people have figured out ways around this horror show of a rules- free existence, and I think we heteros can take some lessons.

Okay, so I’m done with that. She gets me a little riled up, you know? Can we go back to making fun of Fox?

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny

Related Post: Can we get some historical context please?

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Raunch Humor and Feminism

Today’s Role/Reboot piece was inspired by my dissatisfaction with Bachelorette, the Lizzy Caplan/Kirsten Dunst/Isla Fisher/Rebel Wilson wedding comedy that I was so looking forward to.

I watched it by myself, which might be why it made me so sad, but I just couldn’t find the heart under the coke, vomit, and mean-girl one-liners. On the one hand, I want women to be allowed to behave “badly” on screen–I think it’s humanizing compared to the many one-dimensional, shellacked, lingerie-sporting sidekicks we often see,–on the other hand, what’s the difference between this and Real Housewives? Women treat each other like crap, friendship is mostly a platform to act out your envy, and filling the gaps in your happiness with drugs and sex is normal.

I think Bachelorette was supposed to have more substance, but it felt told instead of shown. You drove your friend to the abortion clinic? That must mean you care about each other. Too bad nothing you do reflects that you like each other, much less any deep wells of emotion.

Anyway, I was thinking about the relationship between potty humor, raunch culture, and feminist media, which is what inspired this, which is mostly about Bridesmaids and not Bachelorette, but whatever…

Related Post: Why this Emmy season rocked for women.

Related Post: Does The Good Wife out-feminist Parks and Rec?

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media, Republished!