Sexualized Minorities, “sexual otherness” & heterosexism in the media

February 24, 2009 at 6:59 PM (Gender Norms and Expectations, Homosexuality, Queer Theory)

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Sexualized minorities are considered not of the socially constructed “norm.” This polarizes individuals and puts them in categories. The norm is considered anyone who is non-heterosexual or transgendered. Heterosexism is another word for homophobia. Unfortunately there are is still heterosexism on television, in film, and in TV advertisements. There is also the lesbian-chic/pseudo lesbian phenomenon thanks to the adult film industry’s influence on mass media, and men. The male “turn-on” of seeing women make out on screen is almost a must in most teenage drama TV shows and in teen movies. Although some of these shows try to present real lesbians (refer to the “OC” clip above), they are all seen through the male gaze. The “OC” presented a relationship between a main character Marissa and a new character, Alex, a female. The relationship was the first lesbian interaction for Marissa. Whenever the two male main characters spoke about it, they laughed, and mentioned trying to visualize. Without this commentary, or without the facial expressions from Seth in the scene provided in this week’s blog, the relationship would have been validated. Instead it falls into pseudo-lesbian chic category, thus remaining only for the male’s gaze, and leaving little room for lesbian viewers to see it as a legitimate relationship and experience it through their gazes.

“Friends” gives us an accurate example of same sex desire. While Joey and Ross are both portrayed as heterosexual couples throughout the series, this episode focuses on a nap they take together and are both ashamed of the position they fall asleep in. In the end of the episode Joey wants to reenact the nap with Ross and suggest they leave the café to cuddle. Initially Ross resists the idea, but seconds later he gives in and chases Joey upstairs to the apartment. Author Dennis writes “tradition to present homosexual desire as only possibility has traditionally made characters appear asexual.” This is seen in this episode, along with many cartoons in which Dennis researched. It is interesting because both men show signs of homophobia, initially rejecting each other after they wake up. What we find is that this is actually only a façade from their same sex desire. The end of the episode leaves us wondering what happens between the two. “The Real World” every season tries to have at least one gay or lesbian character on its show. It is important to understand that although they might be set in the “real world” they are characters cast by specialists. These specialists are looking for specific personality traits before they meet the individuals. It is like they all ready have the characters drawn out and molded, they just need faces and bodies to fill those positions. In the scene provided we see Ryan, a small town Iraq veteran, calling the transgendered character an “it.” Not only does he call her an “it,” he claims ignorance as if ignorance justifies his language. The casting specialists specifically looked for this small town ignorance for a character who they knew would offend housemates. Although he seeks out Kaitin, the transgendered woman, for answers, his behavior leading up to it polarizes her individually. The Nike advertisement was banned for its homophobia. The face in the crotch while getting dunked on, and the text reading “that ain’t right” did not sit well with the gay community. Nike quickly apologized and released a statement that they have a strict policy prohibiting homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.  Apologies are often made after mistakes are made which is a responsibility of any business. However, Nike is one of the world’s leaders in advertisements. This was simply sloppy design and should have never occurred. The clip from “My Best Friend’s Wedding” supports the claim that heterosexual women in film and TV define the gay man’s role and character. According to Shugart, the gay man/straight woman configuration can be seen in this movie and Will and Grace. The women’s roles are consistently written as being weak, needy women who always rely on men; gay or straight. When these women are seeking hetero relationships they lean on their gay male friends for help. When the women are single, they rely on the gay male to shop with them, sleep with them (in bed, not sexually), live with them, and kiss them on the lips both hello and goodbye. When the female does meet a male counterpart, he waltzes on the screen looking more masculine because of her gay friend. This dynamic further polarizes and stereotypes gay men. In this scene we see Jules waking up after drinking tons of bottles from the mini-bar in her hotel room (a sign of weakness) because of her broken heart and stress. Her gay friend, George, surprises her early in the morning and one of the first things out of his mouth is how ugly the hotel room is. The notion that gay men are there to fix things, accessorize, have high knowledge of fashion and interior design is a notion created by these stereotypical roles in film and TV.

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Social Challenges

January 21, 2009 at 11:34 AM (Gender Norms and Expectations, Homosexuality, Uncategorized)

This week we will examine five images of sexual imagery being used as social critique or challenge.waygay

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The first image we see is an advertisement from Abercrombie and Fitch. Although there is no way of knowing for sure if this is a homosexual couple for not, the two men portrayed as laying around the house in a relaxed way. The gaze of the men looks to be directed at the male viewer, as this advertisement was found in the men’s clothing section of the 18 years-old and over catalogue. The shirtless man cuddles in closely to the clothed man. The both have mischievous smiles on their face which makes me wonder what exactly they were up to before lounging.  Rugby?  Probably not. Abercrombie and Fitch has made an effort to include pictures of couples of all sexual orientations, including a lesbian wedding photo in their clothing catalogue.

The Pink video has been revered as being one of the only pro women music videos that both celebrates female sexuality and transgresses the norms of it. While Pink may be a beautiful and sometimes scantily clad singer, the video “Stupid Girls” pokes fun at other young Hollywood starlets who compromise themselves for fame and fortune. Like the website Suicide Girls, Pink confronts the norms of male expectations. She makes fun of plastic, blonde, fake-breasted women and tries to show the little girl in the beginning of the music video that there is a power a woman can hold by being beautiful, smart, and athletic. Pink continues to challenge social norms of female sexuality while singing about girl power on her latest album.

The third image is from the Gay Times, a magazine published in the United Kingdom. Both images were posted in the Tube (London’s metro underground transportation), but one was banned. Both images suggest interracial male sexuality, but one was banned. Perhaps there was too much touching, and the fact that his hips were glued to his partner’s side gave him a personality, like a longing for one another. The second picture, which was allowed, only shows a man reaching behind the other man taking away affection, love, caring, and personality altogether. The man in front has a wide stance and a look on his face that declares “this is just a sexual image; I do not care about the model behind me.” While the touching of bodies, and face from the first image, show more than fashion. It shows a relationship, which was ultimately banned.  At least the Gay Times tried to challenge social norms.

The second video is from Bjorn Borg, a fashion designer who declares “Love for All” in her gay marriage friendly television advertisement. The ad features a church and wedding going on but does not allude to it being a male-male marriage until the final kiss. Not only is it a gay marriage, a female priest leads the ceremony. Bjorn challenges the norms of organized religion by saying, “love for all” and that women can be spiritual leaders also. While an ad like this has yet to make it to the United States, it is available for Americans to view on the internet and hopefully Europe will set the tone for acceptable sexual behavior on television; “Love for all.”

Bianco, a shoe company often features gay friendly advertisements in European catalogue and on the internet. In this photo, two women embrace one another on the edge of a bed. Although it transgresses norms of just hetero couples featured in ads, there are no shoes in the photo, and both women are barefoot.  I am not sure the advertisement exactly advertises anything they are trying to sell, but it is a step in the right direction. I say this because; these two women are not portrayed as pseudo-lesbians gazing in the male direction. Instead, they are portrayed as a couple that spends quality time together, and the soft touching of each other’s legs suggests a comforting relationship.

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