Friday, March 30, 2007

Blog Post #4- The Conflict of Appearance In Women Through Commercials

“They’re always telling you to be the most natural girl in the world and you want to cooperate but, well, they ought to see you in your natural state. Pale, lashless, lusterless, bustless and occasionally, after a grinding day at the typewriter, almost fingernail-less!” (Ouellette, 121) This collage describes the many products that are advertised on television commercials to alter the appearance of women. After watching many commercials, I have noticed that many of the advertisements on television are for products such as those shown in the collage. Women often experience the conflict of society expecting them to be natural, but also expecting them to fit a certain mold. Examples of these products include tanning lotions, teeth whiteners, colored contacts, wrinkle release crèmes, and weight loss products such as slim fast and trim spa. Commercials such as that for Bally Total Fitness also encourage exercise for a slimmer waist and a thinner more “perfect” body. Ouellette then states, “Instead, ‘new looks’ created with wigs, false eyelashes, tinted contact lenses, fake beauty spots, false toenails, false fingernails, nose surgery, padded bras, false derrieres, and false jewelry were recommended.” (Ouellette, 121)
Ouellette, Laurie. “Inventing the Cosmo Girl”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Links to the photos:

Gender In Commercials Today

Television commercials are extremely popular in today’s society. Millions of commercials are seen everyday by television viewers, covering such topics as the newest movies coming to the big screen or the latest hair care products for men and women. Watching all of these commercials while analyzing gender in class has made me wonder what could actually be discovered when more attention was paid to these ads. These countless commercials are not just time wasted in between shows, but can actually be seen as a reflection of our society and pop culture today. While watching an episode of “Malcom in the Middle” recently, I noticed several commercials that seemed to attract my attention. These advertisements reflect gender ideas of pop culture today as well as the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic elements within them.

One of the commercials that I saw was an advertisement for a tanning lotion. In the commercial a young woman encourages the viewers to purchase the lotion in order to make their skin appear to look darker than its normal shade. The woman states that using this product will give women a “healthy glow.” This advertisement deals directly with the feminine concept of changing ones looks to fit into a certain mold of the “perfect woman.” However this message seems to conflict with some feminine ideas that women should be natural and not have to change their appearances to look like others. In Laurie Ouellete’s writing of “Inventing the Cosmo Girl” Ouellete mentions a column in Cosmopolitan titled “The Beautiful Phony” which discusses this conflict of appearance. The article states, “They’re always telling you to be the most natural girl in the world and you want to cooperate but, well, they just ought to see you in your natural state.” (Ouellette, 121) Ouellette then goes on to comment that the article recommended using products such as fake eyelashes, tinted contacts, and wigs to change their looks. (Ouellette, 121)

Another commercial with a similar topic to the tanning lotion advertisement was an ad for Bally Total Fitness. The commercial featured men and women at the gym working out and encouraged gym goers to get in shape to obtain a slimmer waist and get the “perfect body” for the summer. Like the tanning lotion commercial, this advertisement focuses on the appearance of men and women, encouraging them to be fit and thin. This commercial closely relates to the masculine ideal of being muscular and the feminine ideal of being skinny. This expectation begins at the adolescent age, causing people to diet and exercise in order to obtain this “perfect body.” In Jean Kilbourne’s article titled “The More You Subtract the More You Add” she writes, “Women are especially vulnerable because our bodies have been objectified and commodified for so long…Cultivating a thinner body offers some hope of control and success to a young woman with a poor self-image and overwhelming personal problems that have no easy solutions.” (Kilbourne, 260) This commercial also seems to have hegemonic elements because those fit and muscular men and women portrayed in the commercial seem to have power in that they are happy to have obtained the “perfect body.”

Yet another commercial that I saw was for the Visa credit card. The commercial features a young woman who seems to be upset over something and is very depressed. An older woman then approaches her and takes her to several different stores including a department store for dresses, a shoe store, and a hair salon in order to purchase items with her Visa credit card and make her feel better. This advertisement portrays the stereotype that women love to shop as well as demonstrates the consumer based society that Americans live in. In an article titled “The New Politics of Consumption” author Juliet Schor explains Americans fascination with spending. Schor states, “In contemporary American culture, consuming is as authentic as it gets. Advertisements, getting a bargain, garage sales, and credit cards are firmly entrenched pillars of our way of life. We shop on our lunch hours, patronize outlet malls on vacation, and satisfy our latest desires with a late night click of the mouse.” (Schor, 183) This commercial also contains elements of hegemony in that the woman in the commercial possesses the power to buy whatever she wants with no worries about how she will pay for these items.

Television commercials can be directly related to pop culture today because all of the concepts, jokes, and messages within these advertisements are taken from pop culture. By paying close attention to the concept of gender within these commercials it is easy to find some information reflecting gender ideas and perceptions in American society today.

Ouellette, Laurie. “Inventing the Cosmo Girl”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, the More You Add”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Schor, Juliet. “The New Politics of Consumption”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Politics of Plan B

This post is not about gender in commercials but discusses another topic related to my gender studies class. On Wednesday March 7, I was able to attend a presentation by Susan Wood at The College of New Jersey. Susan Wood was a former assistant FDA commissioner for women’s health and was also the director of the Office of Women’s Health. The topic of the issue was Plan B, the emergency contraception and the many issues that were raised because of it. Susan Wood discussed her resignation from the FDA due to the lack of action in approving the pill. Much of the discussion focused on the political side of this issue and the political issues that were the cause of such a hesitation by the FDA.

Susan Wood mentioned that the Plan B was a perfectly safe pill, yet the FDA took months and months to approve it. For any other medicine the approval process would be much faster, however because it was related to birth control the FDA was much more hesitant. The age of teens that should be restricted access to Plan B was also changed several times, eventually raising the age limit to 18. The political aspects of this pill being passed were related to the idea that they did not want to look like they were encouraging promiscuity in young teens. I believe that this pill should be accessible to teens of all ages in order to help prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring. Politics should not be involved in the approval of Plan B because it is important for the safety of young teens. I am glad that I was able to attend this lecture because it I was able to learn new things about the Plan B contraception as well as insight into how complicated the process of its approval was. I was very impressed with Mrs. Wood’s resignation and how she stood up for what she believed in.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The TV gods are smarter than us. - Greg Stevens

Here is a short view of some of the topics mentioned in his blog:

Second: The gender gap. OK, so your watching TV, a commercial comes on, you start

surfing channels and you see more commercials, but you wonder whats on that channel

anyway. Well, what kind of commercial is on? I’m willing to go out on a limb and

say that if you see more than one commercial about feminine hygeine products, there

is a pretty good chance that there is no sports on that network right now.

Conversely, if you see a commercial about “Built Ford Tough”, followed by a Bud

Light commercial, it’s a pretty sure bet that the Oprah Winfrey show is not on that

network right now. You see the TV gods know who’s watching what, and when. But what

about when men and women are watching the same show you might ask? Well the TV gods

have that figured out as well. The harsh reality is, we live in a male dominated

society. Almost every major network is run by men. One exception is the Lifetime

channel. Since these networks are owned and run by mostly men they do things from a

male point of view. So while you and your signifigant other are watching American

Idol, you will see all the girlie commercials for women, but the women will be

really sexy so the guys will pay attention.

My response:

Hey, I like the comments you made regarding the gender gap on TV commercials. I am very interested in this topic as well and I have created a blog for my gender and pop culture class on the very same topic. ( Why is it that you can practically determine what show you are watching just by seeing the commercials? How can advertisements only focus on one or two similar ideas when there may be many different kinds of people watching a certain show? I believe these commercials do not necessarily reflect the entire spectrum of viewers but instead seem to be based upon the perceptions and ideas of gender.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

"The Girls Next Door" Part 1: An Analysis of Femininity

“The Girls Next Door”- What are the concepts of gender being shown?

“The Girls Next Door” may best be described as a reality show chronicling the lives of Playboy creator Hugh Hefner and the many playmates of the Playboy Mansion. Viewers see extensive footage behind the scenes of Hef’s everyday life as well as an invitation to the many extravagant parties that take place at his home. Although this show is found entertaining to many of its viewers, one must question the content of a reality television program such as this. What messages are being conveyed to its audience and what do these messages say about our pop culture environment today? What ideas does this show demonstrate about sex and gender in today’s society? Through an analysis of an episode titled, “80 Is the New 40” I will attempt to bring these underlying messages to the surface and discover the true significance of this popular reality television series.

One concept of femininity that can be seen throughout this show is the desire to be thin and sacrificing of ones self in order to obtain this goal. Two of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends Kendra and Bridget help to present this concept, each in their own way. While getting ready for Hef’s Casablanca party, Kendra realizes that her dress does not fit her right and that it is way too tight. A few weeks prior to the party Kendra had been sick and after losing a few pounds decided to get her dress taken in. However, after she discovers that her dress is too tight she chooses to squeeze herself into it instead of wearing a different dress. Throughout the party, Kendra complains of being unable to breathe as well as a discomfort and inability to walk while wearing her high heels. Her actions clearly demonstrate her desire to remain thin by forcing herself into a dress that no longer fits her. When discussing the issue of thinness in today’s society author Jean Kilbourne commented, “Even more destructively, they get the message that this is possible, that, with enough effort and self-sacrifice, they can achieve this ideal. Thus many girls spend enormous amounts of time and energy attempting to achieve something that is not only trivial but also completely unattainable.” (Kilbourne, 260)

While Bridget also conveys the desire to be thin, she has a different method of staying skinny. In preparation for Hefner’s party, Bridget prepares a striptease routine to perform for his birthday. In order to remain thin and look good for the performance, she creates a diet for herself to follow. During this episode Bridget is seen eating only carrots for lunch while her parents are eating chicken caesar salad. The radical diet that she uses demonstrates the same concept of femininity presented throughout the show. She is using an unrealistic method to reach an unattainable goal. Demonstrating dieting such as this through the media influences others to diet in a similar fashion and causes viewers to compare themselves to the thin characters that they see. “Before television was available, there was little talk of dieting in Fiji…In 1995 television came to the island. Within three years, the number of teenagers at risk for eating disorders more than doubled, 74 percent of the teens in the study said they felt ‘too big or too fat’ and 62 percent said they had dieted in the past month.” (Kilbourne, 262)

Bridget also presents different concepts of femininity related to sexuality and fashion. While practicing her strip tease she makes a comment that pasties and a g string are practically dressed to her. She also practices her performance in front of her parents, who seem very approving of what she is doing. These ideas demonstrate the over sexualized concept of femininity. Through this concept, the media is sending the message that it is ok for women and girls to wear little clothing and to be over sexualized in today’s society.

One characteristic that seems to be omitted in the portrayal of women and femininity on “The Girls Next Door” is intelligence. None of the girls featured are ever shown reading, or doing anything that would make them appear smart or clever. In fact, Bridget mentioned that her striptease was one of her favorite things to do and jokes that she may want it as a new career goal. This statement does not make her appear any smarter. It also helps to show the over sexualized concept of femininity in that she wants to make a career out of stripping.

These ideas of femininity presented in “The Girls Next Door” can be closely related to Jean Kilbourne’s article “The More You Subtract, the More You Add.” In this article Kilbourne discusses that young adolescent girls are prime targets to market products towards and often follow closely what they see in pop culture. These girls feel the pressure to be thin as well as the desire to look like those they see in the media. By watching television shows such as that of “The Girls Next Door,” young girls will continue to follow and be strongly influenced by these concepts of femininity that are presented by Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. (Kilbourne)

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, the More You Add". Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

"The Girls Next Door" Part 2: An Analysis of Masculinity

Hugh Hefner is the major male character throughout the show. Hugh Hefner is the owner of the Playboy mansion and creator of the Playboy magazine. Hefner, at the age of 80 has three different girlfriends that all live with him in his home. In this episode the three girls struggle to find birthday presents for him because they feel he already has everything. Hugh Hefner illustrates male dominance as a concept of masculinity. Hefner appears to act more like a fatherly figure around the girls, while the girls appear to be more childlike during their conversations with him. Hugh Hefner is also significantly older than the three girlfriends and possesses control of the money he provides for the girls as well.

Hugh Hefner’s display of the concept of masculinity may be closely related to the article “Real Men Don’t Cry…And Other ‘Uncool’ Myths” by Phil W. Petrie. In this article Petrie describes the inability for men to express their feelings and the need for men to be in control of their emotions. It also discusses the ideas of control when Petrie believes that men should be in control of women. “Wasn’t that what she really wanted from me as head of the household- control? Wasn’t Freud correct when he proclaimed that our anatomy was our destiny (that is our genitals determine our behavior)?” (Petrie, 222) Hugh Hefner seems almost emotionless in this episode of the “Girls Next Door.” He seems to be in control of his three girlfriends in terms of his age, power, and money.

“The Girls Next Door” is a reality show that exhibits many different concepts of both femininity and masculinity. When these concepts are presented on television and through the media they may send messages to young viewers about how they should act or what they should look like. The girls featured on the show demonstrate many of the same qualities of remaining thin, dieting, and being over sexualized while the men of the show present characteristics of control and power. Overall, the show seems to poke fun of these concepts while also making them some of the main focuses of the program.

Petrie, Phil W. "Real Men Don’t Cry...and Other "Uncool" Myths." Essence (1982): 221-226.

New Links

Here are the new and updated links. Most of them are the same as last just one slight change.

American squirm: At home in a crowd

Salon Arts & Entertainment: Don't call it a comeback

Home Depot Taps the Weepy Part of Reality TV

Television and Gender Roles- General Advertisements

Male Bashing on TV

There is also a gender analysis of "The Girls Next Door" on the way after i figure out how to paste things into the new post box. Hopefully it will be up soon..