Advertising

PETA vs. Men’s Health Magazine

There has been much discussion in blogs about the PETA advertising campaigns. Most of the blogs and comments say that the campaigns are sexist and objectify women. For example, see Feministe, Womanist Musings, and Feministing.   I can’t say that I disagree, but I want to see how people feel about the article I discuss below. One of the objectionable PETA ads that has been mentioned is this one of Holly Madison, a former Playboy model (and past contestant on Dancing with the Stars), which is included in a post on Feminists for Choice.  (The blog also contains a letter to PETA and PETA’s very interesting response.) But my question for this blog is what do people who believe PETA’s ads are sexist think about an article in the most recent issue of Men’s Health Magazine.  I have been reading Men’s Health for at least 15 years.  It claims that it sells more magazine issues world-wide than any other magazine about men’s health topics.  Each issue contains many topics and has at least some photos in each issue of semi-clothed models. The article is titled “Walk Like a Man But Work Like a Woman: What the ‘weaker sex’ can teach you about real strength.”  Its message is that men need to learn how to think more like women in order to succeed in the workplace.  (I realize that that is stereotyping, but let’s take it on face value for now.)  After introducing the article by giving examples of what some consider a typical male act of thinking of business ...
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CNN’s Biased Poll About the New York Mosque

President Obama did the right thing at first by essentially saying that he supported (or at least was not opposed) to the building of a mosque a few blocks away from “Ground Zero.”  But then, unfortunately, he attempted to distance himself from his remarks by saying that he had only meant to voice his support for freedom of religion and was not taking any stance on whether building a mosque there was the right thing to do.  This led CNN to publish an article titled “Critics say Obama’s message becoming ‘incoherent’.”  And, then, Senator Harry Reid took the political stance of saying that he does not think a mosque should be built there, thereby starting a probable trend of other Democrats distancing themselves from Obama’s first remarks.  (Can anyone imagine a time when politicians do what they think is right rather than do what they think will get them reelected?) All of the people who are against the mosque are doing so without adequate facts to back them up.  The following facts paint a different story than the sound bites voiced by opponents of the mosque.  First, the mosque is blocks away from Ground Zero.  Second, there is an existing mosque that is about the same distance away.  Third, the proposed mosque is more than a mosque; it is planned to include a fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, bookstore, performing arts center and food court.  And, according to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, most importantly, the mosque’s organizers have “made clear that the whole point of the ...
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The Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Survey

I have written a number of posts about the attempt to eliminate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  In my view, President Obama and Congress should simply have defunded enforcement of the policy and, thus, effectively ended it while the far more more difficult elimination of the law unfolded slowly though Congress.  That, of course, did not happen.  Obama was perfectly happy to drag out the process.  And, therefore, Obama allowed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to announce a one-year “ thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change.”  In my view, this was an obvious delaying tactic.  If there was truly a need for the Pentagon to have a review before implementing changes, it would have been far better to pass legislation that would go into effect immediately but mandate a one-year review before the actual changes went into effect. On the other hand, the cynical side of me thought that these delaying tactics were just a smoke screen and that Gate and the Pentagon were trying to find a way to keep the policy in place.  Yesterday’s reports of the questionnaire sent to 400,000 service members makes this seem more likely. Of course the questionnaire is biased.  With all of its resources and time, the Pentagon should have been able to create an unbiased one.  The answer to why it didn’t could be confirmation that the Pentagon doesn’t want the policy to change.  In other words, Gates’ “assessment of the impact of such a policy change” could be that the change would have ...
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Top 10 Feminist Songs

Well, it’s that time of year: finals time! I have been in the thick of it for the past week or so, which is why my posts have been scarce. While my head’s been buried in multiple regression and policy books, I’ve been listening to certain playlists of mine on repeat, to help get me in the zone. This got me thinking…I should remove my head from the books for a bit to do a post of my top 10 favorite feminist songs. This was a hard list to compile. I tried to select from different genres, and choose ones that were my personal favorite jams, but I’m sure I missed some important ones. Anyway, here’s my top 10, in no particular order: 10. “Not A Pretty Girl,” Ani DiFranco This was one of the first really strongly feminist songs I encountered when I was a teenager. Ani sings, “I am not a pretty girl / that is not what I do / I ain’t no damsel in distress / and I don’t need to be rescued.” Pretty girl, in this context, isn’t so much about physical appearance as it is a performance of the stereotype of, as she puts it, a maiden fair. 9. “Sisters Are Doin‘ It For Themselves,” Aretha Franklin and Eurythmics This is basically the quintessential feminist anthem of the ’80s. It’s nice to watch two powerful women in different musical genres perform this classic. The ‘inferior’ sex / Has got a new exterior, yeah/ We got doctors, lawyers / Politicians too. 8. “Black Girl Pain,” Talib Kweli and Jean Grae I’m a huge Jean Grae ...
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Henry Morgentaler on “The Moral Case for Abortion”

I happened to be reading today a 1996 article by Henry Morgentaler titled The Moral Case for Abortion.  Mogentaler is a physician who survived Auschwitz, moved to Canada, opened Canada’s first abortion clinic in 1968 even though the law at the time was that abortions could only be performed to save the life of a pregnant woman, was arrested on multiple occasions for performing abortions, received multiple death threats, had his clinic firebombed, and has been a prominent abortion rights advocate for the entire time.  In large part because of him, Canada changed its laws in 1969 to permit abortions if performed in a hospital after being approved by a government committee.  In 1988, the 1969 law was ruled unconstitutional and Canada has not had any law prohibiting abortion since then. The timing of my reading the article was interesting considering today’s horrible anti-abortion rights law passage in Nebraska.  There were a few things about Morgentaler’s article that particularly struck me. One was that not much seems to have changed since 1996.  The battles were the same then—and as brutal—as they are today.  Abortion rights opponents think only of the “rights” of the “unborn child.”  Abortion rights supporters think about the rights of the pregnant woman and the impact on society, not just about the “unborn child.” Abortion rights opponents are always inflamed about abortion, but aren’t bothered much at all about miscarriages. I learned a new word: “homunculus.”  According to many people in the 16th and 17th centuries, a homunculus was, at the time of conception, a fully ...
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Bristol Palin’s New Ad

I found this new PSA, featuring Bristol Palin on Feministing this morning. The PSA’s message is brief: What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support? What if I didn’t have all these opportunities? Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty. Pause before you play. Feministing posted a scathing review of it, writing that the commercial’s message is: “Apparently you should keep your legs crossed if you’re poor, don’t have family support, or are not a celebrity. What a despicable, classist approach.” I’m not so sure I agree. It seems to be a bold move for Palin to highlight her own privilege in the scenario. Since news came of her pregnancy, the media circuit has helped glorify this affluent, famous white woman for “choosing life.” I even wrote a few months ago that Palin’s life circumstances made her choice much easier than for many women, and she had no right to use her experiences to speak to all unplanned pregnancies. I think it’s pretty wrong to assume the message of this ad is to go ahead and have unprotected sex if you’re rich. I don’t think this ad applauds Palin’s behavior while shaming poorer women– at least that’s not its point. What I think it means to do is break down the privilege Bristol has that has contributed to the cheery depiction of her teenage motherhood. Strip all the sunny media coverage away, and the reality of being a teenage mother, especially with fewer resources and support, is much different. And ...
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International

International Women’s Day Posters

Everyone knows that today is the 100th International Women’s Day.  (Well, maybe everyone does not know it, since the day is not recognized by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada.) I’ve seen some of the posters that have been used over the years and they’re great.  The L Magazine has a set of 10 of them.  Here’s one of them from last year. And here’s one from the Guardian that I really like....
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Using Male Practice Players for Women’s Basketball Teams

I’ve always had mixed feelings about this.  For a long time, many women’s college basketball teams have used men as “practice players.”  The University of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt (the most successful coach ever in college basketball—women or men) is generally considered as the originator, and biggest proponent, of using male practice players.  Many other famous women coaches are also big proponents, including Hall of Famers C. Vivian Stringer, Margaret Wade, and Jody Conradt.  Stringer went so far as to say that “It’s the male practice players that allow us to get better. … Male practice players are the most important element to the continued growth of women’s basketball players.” The typical male practice player would be someone who was a good player in high school, but not good enough to play at the college level.  Being a practice player would allow them to continue playing at a higher level than pickup and intramural games, and would allow them to contribute to the success of the women’s team.  (I remember well a 1999 Sports Illustrated article about male practice players.)  The thinking behind using male practice players is that, because the males are typically bigger and stronger, having them practice against the women will make the women more physical and better overall.  Former Maryland star, and current WNBA player, Laura Harper said “When you’re going against 6-4, 200-pound guys, you have to be aggressive.  It just makes the level of practice higher, more exciting, more physical. When you get in a game, it’s second nature to take the contact. Our guys make ...
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Is President Barbie A Feminist Ideal?

Two weeks ago, Mike wrote about the latest from Mattel’s Barbie collection: Computer Engineering Barbie. He lamented, rightfully so, the head-to-toe pink accessories, including a hot pink laptop. (Because, let’s be honest, girls can only write in C++ with a fuchsia computer). Today, I read that the White House Project, who had teamed up with Mattel in 2000 to launch President Barbie, has once again partnered with the company to promote Computer Engineering Barbie, while simultaneously advocating for national recognition of women’s issues. On the White House Project’s website, President Marie Wilson writes: “Through Barbie, and its ‘I Can Be’ President Barbie, little girls have had the opportunity to lead the country from their living rooms and bedrooms, or get out their Barbie and Ken dolls and call a joint session of Congress.  We at The White House Project are thrilled to be partnering with Barbie as she celebrates her 125th career and continues to inspire girls of all ages to follow their dreams.” Is this partnership problematic? Barbie is never popular among feminist circles, due to unrealistic body expectations, race issues, and stereotypes of girls’ activities. And let’s not forget that while Barbie first ran for president in 2000, eight years earlier she was skipping math class to go to the mall. (“Math class is tough,” TeenTalking Barbierepeated. “Let’s go shopping!”) And furthermore, what sort of mixed messages is President Barbie sending? Girls can run for office, provided they fit a mainstream patriarchal view of beauty, and spent their formative years gossiping on pink cell phones about Ken dolls? And who among us can really say, as Marie Wilson writes, ...
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Computer Engineer Barbie

Well, I guess everyone can stop worrying about the stereotype of women not being as proficient as men with computer technology and games.  There can’t be any more stereotyping since Mattel has now come out with its “Computer Engineer Barbie,” the 125th version.  It’s hard to believe, but, supposedly, the Barbie designers worked with the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineers to “ensure that all of Barbie’s clothing and accessories were well designed to represent a realistic female computer engineer.”  It must be true–you can tell she’s a computer engineer by the glasses and the pink she is wearing.  No stereotyping there. No stereotyping from the 126th version (“News Anchor Barbie”) either, is there?...
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