Consent is Sexy, and So is Your Mom

There are a lot of pervasive myths in our society about women and sexuality. If you were to take the bulk of film, TV, and advertising at face value, you would likely assume the following:

  1. Men are more interested in sex than women
  2. Women over the age of… let’s say 35… are not sexy
  3. Women who are mothers are not sexy (and should not be sexual)
  4. Women are either deviant sexpots or chaste asexual beings
    • Yes, the Madonna and the Whore dichotomy is alive and well
  5. When women are sexual it’s solely in the interest of pleasing men
  6. Female sexuality is only acceptable when presented by and for men

Unsurprisingly, I’m here to tell you that this is all a load of bullsh*t. Here’s the truth as I see it, based on my lifelong experience as a woman (who is also intimately close to a substantial number of other women).

1 – Oh My God do we love sex. Not all of us, of course, but an awful lot of us really really really love sex.* And – brace yourself – not every man does.

2 – Most women…

Can we sidebar with the disclaimer that yes, I am making generalizations and there are exceptions to every rule and so on and so forth? Agreed? Good. Back to it.

2 – Most women are at their sexiest once they reach their 30s and 40s, for no other reason than we are at our most confident. We are more comfortable in our skin than ever before, having shed the angst and neediness of our twenties. We also know what we want, what we like, and (hopefully) how to express those desires. (Seriously, I think we can all agree that right now, JLo is the sexiest she has ever been.) Speaking of sexy mamas…

3 – I know, I know… you don’t want to think of your mother as a person who has ever been sexual. But guess what? You exist, so. Your mother has had sex.** This inability to separate a woman’s individuality from her identity as A Mother is dangerous for many reasons, but right now we’re focusing on her sexual agency. To wit:

I am a mother. I can see 40 in my not-too-distant future. I am also sensual and alluring, and I love sex.

Not only do I love sex, but I am and always have been a fiercely sexual being. When I consider creating art / working on projects / writing posts like this that embrace and celebrate women’s sexuality, there is a part of me that questions that choice, because I am a mother and according to society… 

4 – I am not allowed to be Charlotte and Samantha at the same time. I am supposed to be one or the other. But the truth is, I am both of those women. I love being a mother and I love sex. And when I consider what I want my daughter to see and experience and know in her core to be true, it is this:

Sexual Expression vs. Objectification – There is An Enormous Difference

– Rape, harassment, sexism, etc… these are not byproducts of women expressing their sexuality. It’s when women are Sexually Objectified that things fall apart. Sexual Objectification diminishes women’s agency over our own bodies and our worth as human beings.

But guess what?

If I want to start an Instagram account celebrating my sexy ass body and my love of lingerie (which is real and profound), it is not an invitation to violate me.

This is what we need to teach our children. That women are allowed to be sexual creatures, and to express our sexuality however we choose, and in a better world we would be able to do so without fear of scorn or (at times horrifying) retribution. Which leads me to my final point:

– Yes, when I express myself in a sexual way, I enjoy and appreciate a positive response. (I’m a Leo, so. Duh.) However, my sexuality is mine and mine alone. If I want to express it privately or publicly, shyly or brazenly, coyly or salaciously, these are my choices. When it comes to my own personal sexual expression, you don’t get to tell me how to behave.***

The patriarchal approach to women’s sexuality is to appropriate it and manipulate it, because – frankly – a woman solid in her own sexual power is terrifying. Patriarchal society only thrives when women are repressed and oppressed, and if you think that isn’t the case today, that we’ve reached any kind of gender parity where sex is concerned, just ask the victims of the college athletes who’ve been in the news lately for sexually assaulting unconscious women. Ask those women if they feel valued. If they feel justice was served after they were robbed of their sexual agency.

For those of you who prefer visual aids, here are some examples of Sexual Expression vs. Sexual Objectification:

Boobs = burgers = boobs are food = Objectification

Proposal = she’ll let you bone her = Objectification

Everything about this = Objectification 

As for Sexual Expression, let’s include those images right here in the post, yes? Because who doesn’t love a little sassy, saucy, sexual agency?

Dita von Teese = Burlesque = Sexual Expression

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http://www.dita.net/femme-fatale/gallery

Beyoncé = Boss = Sexual Expression

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http://www.beyonce.com/vault/?type=editorial

Gina Rodriguez = Self-Love, Acceptance, and Celebration = Sexual Expression

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https://www.instagram.com/hereisgina/

The moral of these musings, my darling rabble rousers, is simple:

Celebrating women’s sexuality and sexual expression = GOOD!
Turning women into sexual objects = BAD

Also, I may just have to start that Instagram account, because there shouldn’t be anything shocking or scandalous about a mother who can see 40 in her not-too-distant future, who is also sensual and alluring, and loves sex.

 

*We possess the only organ in the human anatomy that exists solely for pleasure, for cryin’ out loud!
**She maybe even enjoyed herself. Deal with it.
***Unless of course we have an explicit agreement to that effect, because consent is sexy.

Amy Schumer Feminist Funtimes

Perhaps it was her “Milk Milk Lemonade” video or some of her stand up, or last Friday’s Feminist Funtimes when we discussed the charming notion of what makes a woman f*ckable… or perhaps you still haven’t paid witness to Amy Schumer. Whatever your first exposure to this crass lady of comedy, odds are good that you had a strong reaction to her and her raunchy brand of humor.

Full disclosure: it’s pretty easy to make me laugh. If you’re at all clever, odds are good that I will laugh at your jokes. That being said, I do tend to roll my eyes when I feel like there’s too much Try. If something that’s meant to be funny is also GROSS or CRASS or SHOCKING, then I feel like you’re Trying Really Hard to make me laugh, and instead all you get is this:

eyroll

That was more or less how I felt about Amy Schumer, at first. So much Try. Her comedy reminded me of the diarrhea scene in Bridesmaids – it was funny for a minute, but quickly (for me) became overkill.

But as I’ve seen more and more of what Ms. Schumer is bringing to the table, the more I’m into it. Her comedy is still raunchy (and I would never want her to change that; it’s who she is), and as it turns out, she is also smart as hell and using the fame and attention she’s generating to make funny about some really serious sh*t. Cases in point:

As far as I’m concerned, rape has never been this funny.

Everything about this.

And the latest: this week’s episode of Inside Amy Schumer is a 20-minute remake of the 1950s film 12 Angry Men. Except it isn’t jurors in a room debating the fate of an accused murderer. In this version, the 12 angry (and sweaty) men are debating whether or not Amy Schumer is hot enough to have her own TV show. They also briefly mention the movie she has coming out, which b.t.dubs, looks hilarious.

The full episode, 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer (heh) is available on Comedy Central’s website (you have to log in with FB or Twitter), and I highly recommend watching the whole thing. It is absolutely worth 20 minutes of your life. Not only because it’s funny, but because of why it’s funny. (For more on the why of it, read Duana’s post over at Lainey Gossip; she sums it up quite nicely.)

On that note, while we can’t all produce brilliant comedic sketches around them, we should join the Amy crusade and eschew the beauty standard by hashtagging our so-called faults, or something to that effect. Mine would definitely be #clusterteeth and #stonereyes (and since I’ve been breastfeeding for six months, odds are good I can join the #muppettits club).

Thank you, Amy Schumer, for being funny, for being yourself, and for calling attention to all this bullshit that women are inundated with every single day. I am officially a fan. #loveyourcabbagepatchface

amy-schumer-gq-magazine-may-2014-comedy-women-comedian-funny-01

image copyright GQ magazine

Boss Cake

It was last Friday afternoon, and I was leaving work early in order to make a doctor’s appointment with my new primary care physician. The organization that I work for has just changed insurance carriers, and I was randomly assigned to a new doctor within the network. As I rushed out of the Brooklyn middle school where I run the after-school program, students and teachers alike asked me where I was going. It was just as school was letting out, the time when I would normally be downstairs getting ready to start program.

“Yo, miss, there’s no after-school today?”

“No, there is, go on down!” I waved one of my students down the stairs, pulled on my heavy winter coat, and pushed through the door into the clear, cold afternoon.

On the sidewalk, I quickened my pace as I hurried for the subway.  I hadn’t left as early as I had intended to. There was a parent on the phone for me, and then I remembered I needed the principal to sign something that needed to be faxed before the end of the day. Then, I realized that I hadn’t–

“Just go!” My assistant had to tell me. “You’re late!”

As I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, filling out paperwork, I managed to relax a bit. I had prepared my staff well enough to handle an afternoon without me. I can get pretty focused on work, and I often have to remind myself that it’s important to take care of my personal stuff, and make time to do grown-up things like scheduling doctor’s appointments.

This feeling of pride at accomplishing the small task of scheduling and keeping a personal appointment was still with me as I started the conversation with my new doctor, who I will call Dr. Alan. Middle-aged and glasses-wearing, my first impression of Dr. Alan was that he seemed normal enough. While looking over my paperwork and clicking his pen, he asked me all the usual questions that doctors ask, like do you smoke (nope), and so forth.

The trouble began when he asked what at first seemed like an innocuous question.

“Are you married?”

“Nope.”

“Boyfriend?”

“Yep.”

“And what does he do?”

Now, I know this is just small talk territory here. However, this question came before asking me what I do. I should have seen where the conversation was headed, but like so many of the tiny slights that women suffer on any given day, I hadn’t yet recognized this one.

“He’s a lawyer.”

“Wow, good for you!”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. So this guy is from a generation who still considers it cute to make jokes about how women are all just trying to bag doctors and lawyers for husbands. Whatever.

Dr. Alan proceeded to ask me how old my boyfriend was and how long we’d been together. When I explained we’d been living together for several years in several different cities, he took the opportunity to drop some knowledge on me about my generation.

“The young men of your generation have brainwashed you young girls. They have! They’ve brainwashed you into thinking that you don’t need to get married.”

He pressed a cold stethoscope to my back as I chewed on that little gem and inhaled deeply.

“And what do you do?”

Finally. “Well, I work a for a non-profit, I’m the director of an after-school program.”

He looked inside my ears. “Ah, working with the kiddies. And what’s the game plan there? Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The kiddies? The game plan?

“You should get a master’s degree. Did you know you have an ear infection?”

I opened and closed my mouth several times and readjusted my paper robe. “Uh. No. Really?”

“I’ll write you a prescription for some antibiotics.” He poked and prodded my stomach and my lower back. “Your muscle tone is not where it should be. Are we exercising?”

I felt a flush creep up my neck, and a laugh escape my throat. “Not particularly! But I do live on the third floor of a walk-up, ha, ha.”

He didn’t laugh. This was a serious matter. “You need to start thinking about getting in shape now before you start raising your family, because once you do, it’s going to be too difficult to catch back up. You’re going to be busy and you’re not going to have the time.”

Well. “Right.”

“You remind me of my wife when she was young,” he said, beaming at me and shaking my hand. “She was also a pretty brunette, like you.”

I smiled thinly, wondering why this man thought it was supposed to make me feel special that he had just described me the same way you could describe 3/4 of the human population. When he left, I dressed quickly. Feeling small. Within twenty minutes of meeting this man, he had criticized just about every aspect of my life: my job, my relationship, my body.

On my way home, I tried to get my thoughts in order by sending several cursory texts to E. Her reaction confirmed everything that I was feeling:

image1

After the initial supportive outrage, she also posed a very astute question that succinctly illustrates everything I was feeling: Has my boyfriend’s doctor ever told him that his muscle tone is not where it “should” be? Asked him why he wasn’t married? Told him to “get in shape” in preparation for having a family (which he has never mentioned he has any plans to have)??

I knew the answer. There are plenty of ways to frame the issue of exercise without the words “raising a family”. If a doctor ever told my boyfriend (or E’s husband, or any guy) to hit the gym, I’m sure it was framed as a simple matter of health. Just like if my boyfriend runs into our building’s super in the laundry room, he’s not going to get questioned about what he chooses to do with his life, but when I run into our building’s super in the laundry room, he encourages me to quit my job in order to become a plus-size model**. When my boyfriend grabs a coffee from the corner store, they call him “boss” and they call me “princess”.  When you know what? I’m the boss. THIS WAS THE BIRTHDAY CAKE THAT MY STAFF GOT FOR ME:

BOSS CAKE

I wish I could say that what Dr. Alan said to me didn’t hurt me, but it did. It hurts to be belittled and undermined, even by complete strangers. Even if you know it’s garbage, it still hurts when people try to tell you that the only thing you have to offer as a woman is your body, whether that be as something nice for men to look at, or as a baby making machine, or both.

Just take a deep breath. Text your best friend. Call your insurance company. Change your doctor. Eat your boss cake.

-S

**Actual thing a person said to me, in complete earnestness

Why You Are A Feminist

Happy Friday Feminist Funtimes, Beauty Coup ruffians!

For starters, I want to acknowledge some late submissions to our Beauty Coup 100 – Celebrating You! post. If y’all keep sending us these great selfies and reasons why you’re awesome, we will keep posting them. It’s always a good time to revel in your fabulousness, you beautiful starfishes.

Angela
“I am beautiful because… I live life with only positive intentions and because I love.” – Angela M.

Lauren
“I am beautiful because there is light. Light is love, light is trust, light is beautiful.” – Lauren M.


***There’s a late submission that I’m saving for our next FFF post, because Liz D. had a lot to say, and I want to address some of her thoughts more fully.

Now on to our FFF topic!

How many of you have ever heard these words uttered (from your own mouth or someone else’s): “I’m not a feminist, but…” ?? Chances are most of us know someone who uses this phrase or its equivalent. For today’s edition of FFF, we’re going to talk about why it’s a bunch of hogwash.

It’s quite simple, really, because the words that often come after the disclaimer are almost always one hundred percent in line with feminist ideology. In nearly every instance where someone proclaims “I’m not a feminist, but…”, what he/she might as well be saying is “I’m a feminist because…”

Let’s look at some prime examples:

“I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women.” – Katy Perry

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.29.53 AM

“I’m not a feminist or anything but I definitely think that it is unfair to allow a woman’s sexual history to be used against her in a trial.” – random student quoted on the interwebs

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.34.32 AM

“I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I’m down for my first opportunity to say something to the world to be so meaningful. If you asked me, ‘What do you want to say?’ it would be, ‘Love yourself more.” – Meghan Trainor

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.34.32 AM

Q: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

A: “No because I love men, and… I’m very in touch with my masculine side… I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are… We have to have a fine balance.” – Shailene Woodley

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.47.10 AM

Q: Are you a feminist?

“Absolutely not… I’m a 24-year-old woman that lives in the United States and feels like I should be treated the same as anyone else.” – Katherine Fenton

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.55.28 AM

“…women are just as capable… I believe in equal rights…” – Marissa Mayer (‘not’ a feminist)

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.59.09 AM

As a brief reminder, here is the actual definition of feminism, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:

fem·i·nism

noun \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

PLEASE NOTE: Nowhere in this definition does it say that feminists believe that women are superior to men. Women who believe that they (we) are superior to men are not feminists, they’re sexists. (Are we fighting now? I’d love to hear from those who disagree; tell me why I’m wrong!)

So really, what all of these women are expressing are Feminist Values. What they’re also saying is that while they believe in such values, they’re also afraid of/don’t like/have stigmatized ideas about the word Feminist. It’s the very root of our patriarchal society that presents Feminist as a dirty, extremist, man-hating, pinko commie, witchy, lesbionic word. Which, as we’ve just covered, it isn’t.

***To be clear, a feminist can Also be dirty, extreme, a communist, a witch, and/or a lesbian. But a feminist cannot hate men based on their gender alone, because that is the definition of sexism. (Seriously, we can totally fight about this. I’d love to hear your arguments.)

If you’re still confused, or know someone who is, here’s a handy chart that should clear things up once and for all:

feminist-diagram

Anyone feeling uppity about “And you probably suck as a person”? If so, riddle me this: If a person doesn’t believe in equal rights and opportunities for men and women, then that person believes in the inherent superiority of one gender over another, right? (i.e., that person is sexist) …Is that someone you want to hang out with, or do they probably suck?

So, once more, with gifs!

Believing in the inherent superiority of one gender over another:
sexism

Believing in the inherent equality of all people, regardless of their gender:

rulesoffeminism

xoxo,
E

Real Beauty in Advertising

By now most of you are probably aware of the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” videos that have been making their internet rounds. This is the video that I first saw. It’s a segment from the full version.

While the majority of reactions that I’ve seen involve words like “moving” and “so important” or “tears” and “thank you”, as with everything on the world wide web, there are naysayers as well.

Here’s my initial disclaimer: Yes, Obviously, this is an ad. It’s an ad that aims for the end result of you buying Dove products. And YES, Dove is owned by Unilever, the company that also owns hyper-sexist, patently absurd Axe body spray. Here’s what I have to say about those two things:

  • Almost everything we see and experience these days is some form of marketing, with the end goal being ‘buy this product, see this movie, read this book after you buy this fancy e-reader, etc. etc. etc.’ If you have a problem with marketing, you should probably move to Mongolia. Seriously. That documentary that followed babies for a year made it look like a really peaceful, uninfluenced place to live.
  • Dove Unilever Axe… If you really want to get up in arms about who owns what, then prepare to give up A Lot of your favorite things because guess what. There are about ten companies that own damn near everything, and when it comes to the people who control the money in those companies, that number gets even smaller.
  • Now let’s look at the number of women who have influence over what kind of media we see (including film, tv, radio, newspapers, books, magazines, communications jobs, video games, and the internet). For the 21st century, the numbers are still quite abysmal. The Women’s Media Center report, The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013, points out the finding that “At its current pace, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in government/politics, business, entrepreneurship and nonprofits.”

What does all of this mean? It means that every step counts. It means that there is nothing wrong with getting excited about a company choosing this:

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.34.20 AM

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.33.26 AM Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.34.06 AM

Over this:

Kate-Upton-Guess-Ad-Campaign-Photo-Shoot-2011-Photos-6
Of all the naysaying, there is a key issue that is very elegantly addressed on this tumblr, and that (unsurprisingly) is the issue of race. I am in complete agreement that the Dove ‘real beauty’ ads consistently do not reflect the true diversity of the population. This video in particular features women of color for about 10 seconds in a video that is over 6 minutes long. The man drawing the women appears to be Hispanic, but he is not the target of the ad, he merely plays a role in it. I was hoping to see more from the women of color in the full version of the video, and I was disappointed to see that it was in fact more women who were white, most of whom were blonde.

I then read a comment on FB from my friend Anne who said she was on board with the video until her daughter, who is nearly seven, asked what she was watching. At that point Anne realized, “…as I explained it to her, it became clear to me that the video’s very narrow definition of what beauty looks like, as well as the idea of its supreme importance to a woman’s life, are actually antithetical to what I try so hard to pass on to her.”

Again, I agree. The idea of beauty’s ‘supreme importance’ must be turned on its head before women will be taken seriously as complex individuals with a great deal to offer the world beyond their looks. The unfortunate reality is that there is currently an intense amount of emphasis placed on a woman’s beauty, and this emphasis is Everywhere. Any instance of encouraging women to feel beautiful in their own skin should be built upon to challenge the current ideals even further. Celebrate and promote instances where you think media is doing it right, and call out the instances that aren’t. Go ahead and contact Dove and say “Your real beauty sketches ad had great intent behind it, but it’s a shame you didn’t see fit to be truer to your own message and feature a more diverse group of women. I’ll consider buying your products when I see genuine diversity in your ads.” Or something to that effect.

Anne then referenced a friend who questioned what the Dove ad means for women who “actually look like the photo on the left”…and honestly my first thought was, ‘but do you? Do you look like one of the photos on the left, or is that only your impression of yourself?’ I have to stand behind this campaign’s challenge to women to Be Aware of how you see yourself versus how others see you. This blog was started based on the frightening statistic that 97% of women, on average, have thirteen or more negative thoughts about themselves every day. Even more disturbing to me has been the number of women I know who hear that statistic and are entirely unfazed, because that sounds normal to them. It has become a personal ambition of mine to reverse that statistic, until 97% of women have an average of thirteen positive thoughts about themselves every day. In this endeavor, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Issues of gender and race are huge, complex, and deep-rooted. It is always important to question and challenge what we’re exposed to in this era of mass information, and to exercise our media literacy. When it comes to representations of women in the media that aim to be positive, I believe we need to acknowledge them and push for them to go even further. As I see it, the ultimate goal is to free women of the preoccupation with how we look. If in fact only 4% of the world’s women think they’re beautiful, and it’s certainly true that the vast majority of the world’s media is telling them that beautiful is what they should strive to be, that preoccupation is inevitable.

I’m compelled to quote the Contentious Ad Campaign here, because I think it’s a crucial point: Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. If we don’t even Begin to look deeper, to build confidence, to expand notions of a woman’s worth, we will never get to the point where girls and women value themselves beyond their beauty.

My final word is this – if nothing else, I am fucking thrilled that we are having these conversations. Any and all opinions are welcome here.

Now go forth, and be your amazing self.
Note: For above and beyond the messages of Dove, Beauty Redefined has a list of “doable strategies” to redefine and reclaim notions of beauty and health, encouraging all of us to push the boundaries and “promote real fitness, confidence, happiness and love for yourself and others.”

Women in Ads and Magazines: An RLB Chat

This morning S and I were chatting via gmail, as we are wont to do, and we decided that our conversation about how women are portrayed in magazines would make a pretty stellar blog post. Herein, a glimpse into the minds of the RLB creators…

(Note: Because I copied and pasted the chat, the “me” that appears is me, Elizabeth, and the “Sha” is S, because I have her listed in my email contacts as Sha Na Na Na. Naturally.)

me:  What I really want to do today is write a blog post about how this happened.

Sha: Hmm what do you think of it?

me: When I first read a quote from it I was pretty uppity, but then
1. I realized he was speaking at a Feminism in Media conference hosted by COSMOPOLITAN magazine and
2. He has some valid points. I won’t say, as many have, “at least he’s being honest” because being honest doesn’t equate integrity. If he followed up with “and I think this is a problem and we all need to work together to fix it,” well then sure. But he doesn’t. He’s all Shrug, this is the way the world works, which is the BS part for me.

Sha: I wouldn’t expect somebody in his position to recognize this as a problem

me: Right.

Sha: Because he sells these magazines

me:  mmhm

Sha: And they do sell. And I also agree with him that women’s magazines are much worse

me: See, I don’t know about Much Worse or The Root of the Problem. They are at fault, surely…

Sha: I see them as worse because they manipulate women directly

me: …but my Vogue doesn’t have ads of women in bikinis pouring milk on themselves. Or whatever.

Sha: Hahaha, unless it’s a new beauty treatment.

me: Haha.

Sha: Women’s magazines and men’s magazines are both guilty of objectifying women, totally. They just have different goals.

me: Exactly.

Sha: Women’s magazines want women to feel like shit so they buy stuff, and men’s magazines want to sell more magazines. And also stuff.

me: So they turn women into objects.

Sha: To sell objects

me: Yes.

Sha: So the images of women are presented differently in each. He’s right that the women in men’s magazines are more diverse, which is interesting, because a women’s magazine would have you think that all women look like 100 lb aliens with no pores, and that that’s what men want, lol.

me: Hahaha, right? When most men in fact prefer women who are human, and even (gasp) a little “flawed.” And he’s also generalizing, about women’s magazines. Glamour has taken leaps and bounds in this arena as of late,

Sha: Oh right I’ve heard about that.

me: whereas Cosmo is offensive just by existing.

Sha: Hahaha. The industry is just really fucked

me: Well yes. Women in media, in general, are not well represented.

Sha:  HENCE the blog. lol

me:  Haha huzzah! And I don’t think you get brownie points just for being “honest” about it.

Sha: No, he’s sleazy. But I would expect him to be, I guess? I don’t expect the editor in chief at Cosmo to be a good person either, or hollywood studio executives. They don’t want to upset the status quo, that’s how they make their money

me:  BUT THEY ARE CREATING THE STATUS QUO. Sorry for the shouty caps.

Sha: Hahaha. I think that we create it, by buying it. The collective we. If we stopped buying it they would stop making it that way.

me: True… I think it’s a cycle, because we are in a consumer culture, and we are desensitized. So yes, I agree with your point, but

Sha:  But we can make choices in what we consume. I don’t know if there’s like a male magazine equivalent to Bust Magazine? Is there?

me: I don’t think so. But let’s take Dove, as a for instance.

Sha:  yes

me: Great Real Beauty campaign, right, but so many women say

Sha:  right

me: “That corporation also owns Axe body spray, so they’re hypocrites, so I won’t buy Dove”

Sha:  ah

me: But by not supporting the campaign that’s great, aren’t we sending a message that it isn’t important to us? Unless you’re writing to them saying “I will not buy Dove until you stop making Axe,” then no one knows about your principled protest. And like you said, our dollars matter. So buy Dove, not Axe. Amiright?

Sha: Right, yeah that does make sense.

me: It’s not productive to say All Women’s Magazines are to blame, because they’re not all the same. We have to support the pieces that resonate with us. I subscribe to Glamour, not Cosmo. Bust is a women’s magazine, and it’s amazing.

Sha: It’s like the indie flick that gets great reviews and makes no money

me: Exactly! It’s why box office earnings are so important. Opening weekend, specifically. But I digress.

Sha: The thing about advertising and magazines, because most magazines are mostly about advertising, is that even if it seems good… like the dove campaign, for example, and even if good things come from it, like the dove campaign, we are still just being sold something (soap), but also a feeling…

me: Of course. I say better that feeling of positivity and acceptance than feelings of worthlessness and insignificance.

Sha: …and I’m sure that even though there are well-intentioned people who worked on the Dove campaign along the way, and they were glad to put it out there, it was backed by people who were like, “You know what women seem to want right now? Acceptance. Let’s sell that to them so they will buy this soap.”

me: Which again, in my opinion is a better message, and a result of what women want right now, what we are demanding, which speaks to your point that our dollars do our talking. So ultimately I think if more media responded that way – “this is what women want so let’s give it to them to sell our product” – that’s essentially a good thing! They’re going to try to sell us shit no matter what. That part isn’t going away.

Sha: Haha that’s true.

me: Personally I’d rather have diversity and acceptance selling me things than Rosie Huntington Whitley draped over a fur rug in her panties. (Added after chat: Omg I just said that off the cuff, but look! It’s almost an actual thing.)

Sha: Well we’re both from a demographic like that and plenty of companies use that on us. But not all. Many of them don’t need to use it. Like men’s magazines!

me: Way to bring it full circle! And I suppose my biggest issue there, is that the kind of objectification in men’s magazines is the sort that leads to perpetuating the treatment of women as objects.

Sha: Yep.

me: And in women’s magazines, the objectification makes women feel like they Should be treated as objects. So all around, things need to change, and if it’s one greedy corporation at a time, so be it.

Sha: It’s a gross business. I don’t know what it would take to change it but talking about it is definitely a start.

Elizabeth’s Summary: Talking about it is absolutely a great start. We can see the ripple effect that these conversations are having – there are countless grassroots campaigns that have set out to spark the necessary discourse, in order to change the way women are portrayed in the media and the way we see ourselves in everyday life.

Together, these campaigns have already had a powerful effect on representations of women in commercial media (as evidenced by the ads below, which were unheard of in popular culture before the body image movements of the last several years), but there is still a long way to go. Our voices, our insistence on respect and real representation, cannot be too loud or too prevalent. This is how we will change the story.

On that note, here are some steps in the right direction: 

handm

 

Yes! More women of color! More women who are curvy!

Dove-Campaign-for-Real-BeautyYes! Not all women are under 25!

nikethighsYes! Women’s bodies are strong, healthy sources of support for how we live our lives!

And if this:

dove_wideweb__430x327
Leads to this:

real real women
Then let’s demand more of it!

This link is also posted in my summary above, but y’all should check out Beauty Redefined! It was pure coincidence that I stumbled upon these amazing ladies while doing my google search for diverse ads. Show them some love and support. And let’s plaster the world with their amazing post-it notes!

beauty-redefined