“Why is she naked? What has that got to do with the [ad?!]”

While Jada Pinkett Smith was talking about a girl in a horror movie, I feel this quote is applicable to the portrayal of women in the media, specifically advertisements. Julia Wood (2005) states in Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, & Culture that “media present us with images of what women and men are and should be … both sexes are portrayed primarily in stereotypical ways that reflect and reproduce conventional views of gender (p. 266). The first thing that may come to mind when thinking of advertisements with stereotypical gender norms, we may remember the Old Spice parody commercials.

Yes, we all laughed at the randomness and the comical nature of these commercials but, think about it, why? Because while it may seem inane and frankly, dumb, these are the typical gender norms we hold in high esteem in our culture.  Men are stereotypically seen as “hard, tough … sexually aggressive … [and] violent” (p. 267). Women are typically shown “shopping, grooming, being emotional, and engaging in domestic activities,” but the most traditional stereotype is “women as sex objects, and that continues to dominate media” (p. 269).

In our world today there is a very commonly accepted phrase: sex sells.  Is this phrase becoming too common and to accepted?  Almost all the ad campaigns, it seems, has a sex angle to it.  From high fashion to food, to cologne to (even) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), even if it is not blatantly thrown in your face, there is at least a hint of sex. For example, here is an American Apparel advertisement for their  2011-2012 Fall/Winter line:

Now, both this man and woman have all their clothes on, but the woman is still sexualized because of the context of her position: on her back, legs spread, and a man over top of her. These highly “sexualized portrayals of women have let some media commentators to refer to the pornification of mainstream media” (Woods, 2005, p. 270). But by the “pornification” of our culture’s “mainstream media”, we are also condoning, though obliviously, another, more prevalent issue: sexual abuse and assault.

As countless others, like Dr. Naomi, have said, we need to stop portraying men in an aggressive way and women as merely the victims in media. If we continue to show men and women in this light we encourage “a rape-prone society,” as Nancy Scwartzman stated in her documentary, The Line. If our culture shows that it is okay, in an advertisement, for a man to overpower a women because “it’s sexy” and “sex sells” then what are we telling men who actually overpower women or other men? We’re telling them that it is okay and acceptable, when that is not the case. It is never okay for another human being to take something from another that is not theirs. Abuse and assault is never okay, nor is it right, so why are we putting it in our media?

Why are we portraying women as sexual objects? Why are the majority of men in advertisements in a domineering position? Why are women depicted as helpless victims? If “media present us with images of what women and men are and should be,” we are absent-mindedly condoning violence against women (p. 266). We need to hold these companies responsible for these ads, while not purposefully condoning violence against women; I’d really like to know what Dolce & Gabbana were trying to portray with their advertisement above. If we, as a whole society, want to stop violence against men and women, we need to start with the little things. I propose one of these steps is taking the sexualization of women OUT of our advertisements.

Sources

Craven, W. (Director& Producer). (1997). Scream 2 [Film]. Hollywood: Craven-Maddalena Films

Google Images

Scwartzmann, N. (Director& Producer). (2009). The Line [Documentary]. Northhampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.

Wood, J. T. (2005). Gender lives: Communication, gender, & culture. Belmont, California: Holly J. Allen

“You can’t marry a man you just met!” | Disney Does Gender

Elsa & Anna from Frozen (Google Images)

If you are between the ages of 18 and 29, then you were raised during the “Disney Renaissance” which is deemed the golden era of Disney beginning in the late 1980s and ending around 2000. This was also the time period of Disney’s biggest comeback and the princesses we 18-29 year olds loved during our childhood. Some of them were from classic bedtime stories – like Cinderella and Snow White – but others like Jasmine and Tiana, was a breath of fresh air. I am one of these children who would plop in front of the television (equipped with a VCR) and all the Disney Princess movies. My childhood favorite was Belle, the protagonist of Beauty and the Beast, and the reason she was my favorite was quite simply that she liked to read and especially because she did not let the boys (Gaston or The Beast) bully her. In my young eyes, she was a strong princess and I liked that about her.

Now that I am 21 years old, I still love Disney movies and watch them periodically. I make sure that I go see the new animated Disney movies in theaters. Yes, this included The Princess and the Frog, Brave, and Frozen. After Frozen came out in theaters I began to see more and more articles about Disney’s progression of gender norms within their animated films. Since this is a gender and communication class, I began to think about this more and more. Who were the Disney role models that I had as a child? Should they have been a role model? Should the Disney princesses of today be role models? Finally, has Disney’s really progressed in the gender norm department?

In Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, & Culture, author Julia T. Wood discusses, in chapter 7, the themes of masculinity and femininity. The themes of femininity, a few of which are “being sensitive and caring,” “appearance still counts,” and “negative treatment of others,” are clearly embodied in the female protagonists of old, like Cinderella and

Well I Guess They’re Out of a Husband (Google Images)

Snow White (p. 179-183).  For example, Cinderella teaches us the importance of appearance and how the right outfit and shoes will have Prince Charming send a search party out for us. Cinderella also taught us that even if your family is extremely rude to you and forces you into slavery, we should just whistle while we work. Or was that Snow White … hmmm. All joking aside, Frozen, with one line seemed to challenge these gender norms of old. Jennifer Lee, the co-director for Frozen, purposefully makes fun of the Disney princesses of old. Lee set up the movie so that it would fake out the audience into thinking that it was a stereotypical Disney movie, and then turned in on its head. For example, the scene where young Anna meets the handsome prince, Hans, and they decide to get married. Sound familiar? This is the same Disney storyline of Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Girl meets handsome prince, it is love at first sight, and they live happily ever after. Not in Frozen. Elsa, Anna’s older sister, simply looks at her sister and replies, “You can’t marry a man you just met!” This is the line that feminists, mothers and fathers, and women everywhere have been screaming at Disney princesses for years. Finally, there is an argument made for getting to know someone a little better before marrying them. This is not the first movie where Disney has made their protagonists strong females. There is Merida from Brave, the fiery, red-headed, athletic, bow wielding princess. There is also Mulan, the girl who became a soldier to save her father and ended up saving her entire country.

In a Huffington Post article, Lee stated that the two female protagonists from Frozen seemed “ground breaking [because here is] a story where the women are actually in control [of their destiny]”. This idea fits into Julia Wood’s fifth theme of femininity which states that “there is no single meaning of feminine anymore” (p. 184). Meaning that we can have Disney princess’s who are sensitive and caring, is intelligent, and wields a bow and arrows. Disney princesses now longer need to have a man next to them, but its okay if they do.

 

Sources:

Google Images

Hill, J. (2014, Jan 16). ‘Frozen’ directors credit crew with film’s Academy Award nomination. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-hill/frozen-disney-animation-studios-academy_b_4612505.html

Pickett, L. (2013, June 7). How growing up disney shapes gender roles. Retrieved from http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-06/how-growing-disney-shapes-gender-roles-107575

Wood, J. T. (2005). Gender lives: Communication, gender, & culture. Belmont, California: Holly J. Allen

Wacky-Doodle-Dana

My boyfriend and I at my first hockey game in NC

Hey everyone!

My name is Dana Wallace, I am a senior at Longwood University with a major in Communication Studies (my concentration is in Organizational Communication and Public Relations) and a minor in Theatre. After school, I would like to pursue a career in sports marketing or advertising since my life seems to revolve around them and I love any and all of them. I spend most of my time at school in the classroom and even more on the soccer pitch with my teammates.

Two areas I notice that I use my communication skills are on the soccer field and at my job. I am a goalkeeper and in the game of soccer, I am the only one who can see the entire field. In order to be a successful team and win matches, I have to quickly and clearly be able to communicate with my defense and midfielders. I, also, have to be decisive and think quickly on my feet.

A second area I use my communication skills is at my everyday job at Barnes and Noble. I work everywhere in the store (cashier, bookseller, barista, etc.), but one place I enjoy working the most is with our district manager, organizing events for the local store – such as book signings, story time for kids, NOOK tutorials, etc. This causes me to be in constant communication with authors, readers, and customers. This is sometimes stressful but extremely rewarding at the end of the day because I know in the future this will relate to the job I want after college.

My experience with gender is through my family. I grew up with my older brother and multiple male cousins on a farm in rural Kentucky with my grandparents. From the crack of dawn till the darkness of dusk, we were out there with the animals or in the fields, sweating and playing in the dirt. I grew very muscular from a young age, simply from working on

After my brother and I had a push up competition and my back muscles bunched into a knot from exertion

the farm. I did not think about this because, normally, I loved working hard and knowing I had done something meaningful at the end of the day. But when I got to middle school this all changed. All the girls in my classes would dress in summer dresses, wore pearls, and had ribbons in there hair. I, very much a tomboy at the time, wore soccer shorts and a ratty t-shirts. I was teased by a lot of the girls because I was not “normal” and was deemed “strange” and “weird”. I hung out with my older brother and his friends a lot because I was good at sports and I did not feel comfortable in my skin around the other girls. This judgment has not changed since I have gotten older. Sometimes, I still feel a little awkward in my skin around my female friends. When we dress up in dress and tight jeans, I countdown the hours until I am back in  my sweatpants and t-shirts because I feel that my muscles are better suited for these types of clothing. But then I remember that I have worked hard for these muscles (for years actually) so I won’t be ashamed of them. I don’t care if I don’t fit the mold of a typical girl in someone else’s point of view, because I know that I am a beautiful woman in my mind.