“It’s So Not Okay To…
Our panel of experts tells you how to avoid these lipstick crimes”
Picture from www.womenshealthmag.com from the beauty and style section, retrieved 02-17-09.
Last week I discussed the mediums of masculinity, but this week it is all about the girls, girls, girls! What in the media shows society what femininity is today? We have many social artifacts to examine, such as advertisements, TV, film, websites, and magazines. If one were to study these artifacts and analyze them down to only a few elements of what represents femininity in American culture, one might find it differs slightly with age. However, one would also found that over all the ages the end means of expressing femininity through sexuality is the same for all American women. Advertising tells women to express themselves sexually through consumerism, pseudo-lesbianism, and marketing oneself. Consumerism is covered by the Lip Shine Seduction video via Youtube.com from the Maybelline, and Victoria’s Secret in this week’s blog. Here we have a lip enhancer commercial where the narrator’s voice is deep and seductive sounding, with pouting glossy lips on the Victoria’s Secret model (cross over promotion, selling sex and lipstick) and the word seduction right in the name of the product. Watch the video on mute, does it not look like it is geared for men? What about this product would actually turn a woman on? The commercial was obviously designed by a man not because of its sexuality, but the fact that there is instruction in the advertisement. When the narrator tells the viewer that it is easy to use with “just one click” and a demonstration, what does this say about what men think of women? Not only does the advertisement sell men sex, it assumes women need instructions on how to use lip gloss as if has not been around for over 50 years, but it tells women that make up products are what make women feminine. Ultimately the consumer will seduce someone with this lip gloss, and have sex, and then hopefully live happily ever after. Hopefully that woman will understand it just takes “one click!” The Victoria’s Secret picture shows all of its popular models in sexual poses with either nothing on, or just underwear. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that these are some of the most beautiful women in the world. But with only seven percent of the world’s women having these body types, doesn’t it set unrealistic goals for women? And to me, all of these women sort of look the same. Sure they are German, African-American, American, and Brazilian, but they all have the same body, same tan, same pouty lip, and all have long after-sex looking hair. This is the picture of American’s largest grossing lingerie company, so how many women are really analyzing this and saying “I cannot look like that?” Not many. Instead, it becomes a medium of femininity specifically sexualized. Meaning, if men like this look and it turns them on, women must buy everything they can to look like these models. As Markle explained in this week’s reading about Sex and the City, just like the women on the show are celebrating post feminism (as in now we are all equal to men. Except we still get paid less) through expressing their sexuality through sleeping with many hot powerful men and buying $700 designer shoes, so are “real” women. Real women are forced to consume almost to be considered sexy. But the media still tells women through hundreds of diamond advertisements in the “Sex and Love” sections of major magazines, that one can have sex now with hot men (and experiment with women), but one should make it a goal to end up monogamous with a man and married. This is what I mean by the ends mean is the same for all women. When you’re a teen or “tween” you look at make up products, start picking out your own clothes, etc. Where are these girls getting their advice from? Teen magazines yes, but there is no age limit on mass media. Gossip Girl, Hannah Montana, and the new 90210 unfortunately set teen standards for consumerism. The stars of the show are featured in teen magazines in the “style” section with headlines claiming you can look as good as ____ from Gossip Girl! From a young age girls are taught to consume products to sell themselves to men. Katy Perry pretty much sums up pseudo-lesbianism because we know she is heterosexual, and we also know we have never actually seen her kiss a girl. But she sure put 16-year-old girls at Homecoming in an awkward spot didn’t she? Imagine high school students at a dance and the song comes on. Everyone screams, everyone sings and jumps up and down, and then the “exhibitionists” decide it will be “hot” to make out for their boyfriends. Always for the males gaze and fantasy, never for true lesbianism. That is all that really needs to be said about dear Katy Perry. And lastly, the Cougar. The Cougar is not a MILF (Mom I’d Like to F#$! For all of you who just don’t pay attention to pop culture). While the MILF is still a mom and probably married, the cougar is actually on the prowl. This is an older women, her kids are probably in college or all grown up with kids of their own, and she is just a lonely, rich, hypersexual female looking for a young man to again, F%&!. Gossip Girl is about teenagers. The boy (actually played by a 23-year-old man) in the clip has been pursued by a girl at school’s mother who screws him in her and her husband’s bed then throws him out in his underwear for the whole neighborhood to see. She has used him and humiliated him. But she is in power here, so this would be a sign of mediated femininity as specifically sexualized. Because she is the one with the upper hand, and sexual experience, she is seen as a sexy character, instead of the child molester that she is (remember he is a teenage boy). What does this tell women? It tells middle-aged single, very lonely women, that as long as it is consensual banging the boy at your daughter’s high school is sexy. This character walks a thin line between MILF and Cougar, but I decided she was a cougar because her husband is always gone and she is actually acting out the fantasy. Unlike a MILF who is just given the title by horny teenage boys (thank you American Pie). The whole cougar notions play into the women who market/package themselves. They have the spray tans, the fake D cup, tiny wastes, work out all the time but somehow still meet their other rich cougar friends for Starbuck’s Frappachino’s on a daily basis, and are the queens of consumerism. They have created a package of what is hot to other men, and now they want to act upon what they have created. To wrap it up, women are told to express femininity through consumerism (buy junk you’ll look hot, but not junk food, that is not hot), pseudo-lesbianism (make out to Katy Perry at the next college bar you go to and you’ll probably have sex that night. But keep your fingers crossed for a boyfriend/fiancé/husband! Oh the possibilities! Thank you Katy Perry!), and marketing oneself (whether it is now or when you’re 55, if you have the whole package and sell it sexually, you’ll have lots of sex. So buy some lube you Cougars out there!)
The picture with the woman with the lip stick lines and pencil in her mouth just sort of wrapped up femininity as it is sexualized through the media for me. This photo is from Women’s Health Magazine (when is the last time you saw a man but one of these) and is completely a one shot of American culture where consumerism and sexuality are tied together with the lipstick and phallic symbol (pencil).
What is the difference between images that objectify an individual in the media, and images that portray empowered sexuality? Let me define in my own words each concept before examining this weeks five images.
- Objectified: The process of disregarding and depersonalizing a being, or a group of beings by making the subject nothing more than an object.
- Empowered sexuality: Not to just fulfill a male fantasy (or other sexual partner, regardless of sexual identification) but to fulfill ones own sexual desires, images, and confidence. Could charge the sexuality of an individual, or group (often the oppressed group).
Let us examine the next five images before analyzing them.
There are two objectified women portrayed above, and three sexually empowered women. Let’s look at the empowered images first.
Model and television show host, Tyra Banks faced scrutiny for gaining weight after retiring from the modeling industry. She proclaims on the front of the People Magazine that she “still feels hot.” She is in a traditionally male stance, with legs apart showing her strength, and wears a one piece red swimsuit. Red signifies a lot of things, but here it stands for power and strength. She wears minimal make up, hair down, and no jewelry. The image of her stands in front of a white background, white signifying purity. Tyra’s image tells us that she values strength and confidence as beauty and empowered sexuality
Barbie may not be a real woman, but many little girls aspire to be like her and have since the 1959. She is an unrealistic model of a woman’s body, in fact when replicated into a life size form, she falls over from having too big of breasts for too tiny of a body. But with the different waves of feminism Barbie has been updated to correlate with the lives of real girls and young women. During the third wave of feminism in the 1990’s Barbie started to own her own cars, mansions, make friends, own shops, etc. The Barbie in the image is part of the “I can be a….” collection. This Barbie is the “I can be a swim instructor” in the image. But Barbie can also be a “pet doctor” a gymnastics coach, a SeaWorld animal trainer, and the African-American Barbie has a culinary television show. All of these careers suggest either practicing, or perfecting a sport, learning leadership skills, and going to college. Little girls have more to look forward to in life than just being a hot roller skating babe now.
Marilyn Monroe being chosen to represent empowered sexuality may come as a shock to some. Her entire career she was objectified as a sex symbol by the men that owned her contract. However in this picture she is photographed reading James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses.” This is both a lengthy and difficult read, especially for the nations bubbly dumb blonde. However Marilyn had an intelligent side, but the media decided that was not part of her marketing package. This photo was taken as a candid by a photographer walking through a park. Although Monroe still has lips open to a sexual pout, and does not look too comfortable, the fact that she let someone publish this photo shows her empowered sexual side. Monroe’s intelligence was more empowered than any nude shot she ever took.
Beyonce was featured in a Direct T.V. advertisement in 2008. The video uses the age old “sex sells” theory by having her flaunt what her mother gave her. When we think of upgrading our cable we do not associate it with the images in this video. Beyonce is dancing in a tight gold dress, laying in sexually suggestive poses with the camera from the male’s perspective (on top of her, looking down) on top of piles of gold, and has a necklace in between her glossy lips that says “Upgrade.” During one dance scene Beyonce air “tickles” a man’s genitals, suggesting pleasure. Does upgrading our cable include this golden fantasy, and even sexual pleasure? I think not.
Kate Walsh was used for the same reason as Beyonce, just for selling a car. The Cadillac, which is traditionally driven by the ultra successful Mary Kay sales women or those about to die, has a new mission: Sex the car up! The shifter is the cliché phallic symbol horny production nerds like to throw in, but Walsh’s language says it all. Her voice has a deep, soft, sensual tone as she dismisses important things like the navigator, and asks “when you turn your car on, does it return the favor?” She then pushes on the gas peddle with her stilettos, and revs the engine during the “climax” of her acceleration.