Meat-Free Misogyny

July 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

by SARAH

In preparation for a delicious, animal-free dinner party I am to be throwing, I was leafing through the Babycakes cookbook (for those who don’t know, Babycakes is a rather excellent and slightly famous vegan bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side), and noticed this little blurb right in the middle of the cupcakes chapter:

You know her, you love her (me, too)!, and she needs no introduction…Ladies and gentlemen, the pride of PETA, Ms. Pamela Anderson!

A little-known fact: Animals especially appreciate being rescued by friends in white, French-cut bikinis as opposed to those in modest onesies (I don’t know why, they just do). And, of course, I’m happy to oblige – I’ve long been committed to sticking up for defenseless animals and the worldwide proliferation of sexy water-wear. But to successfully rock a shockingly shocking suit requires less chubby desserts. Thank all that is holy for Babycakes NYC and my new favorite indulgence: The sultry Healthy Hostess (aka Healthy Ho). In the wrong hands, Vegan fare can be tasteless, boring, and unattractive, but these are the greatest things since the California sunshine. When I bring the Ho’s around my boys and their buddies, they hover like undernourished pigeons, and with pals on set or at a fund-raiser it’s the same thing. In the end, I’m happy to pimp my Ho’s around town if it means chickens and cows remain unharmed and that people are made to realize that making delicious recipes doesn’t require the use of any animal products.

I’ll assume there’s no real need to explain the innuendo, but I must really point out and loudly shit on the encouragement of veganism as a weight-loss diet, a disturbingly widespread advertising trend that infuriates me largely because of how many young people really do use veganism as an excuse to hide their eating disorders. Here, Anderson appears to have been painted more as a billboard than an activist or even a real spokesperson. Comically shiny, cutesy, sexy, and glossy. That’s the image this text conjures up even without any pictures. Babycakes is, obviously, desperately trying to offset the traditionally feminine vibe of the pastel colors, cursive script, and pictures of ladies with brown curly hair in aprons with some unabashed appeal to the male gaze. And the mainstream vegetarian/animal rights movement nabs a spot in my list of “well-intentioned liberal-tinted movements that I despise” precisely because of this constant objectification of women, display of non-empowering sexuality, and obvious disregard for the dignity of over half the human population.

I’m sure many of us remember this intriguingly misguided bit of bullshit from a few years ago:

Ah, yes, the veg*n and vagina’d among us are all about the asparagus dildos.

Do vegetarians really have better sex? I don’t know! I’m sure there’s some sort of cause-and-effect snafu in play there. That’s kind of cool and interesting though, and I would really appreciate it if we lived in a society where we could introduce that sort of message to people’s minds without having to degrade women and enforce traditional notions of masculine sexuality to make it tolerable to the public.

It is true, PETA does sometimes put naked dudes in their ads.

Not good enough, though. Compare:

Both ads have de-clothed conventionally attractive people on them, giving the camera fuck-me eyes, with stupid captions sporting supposedly sexy puns that really don’t even make any sense. But the dude is facing the camera straight-on, with a sure, bold, dignified stare, in a powerful arms crossed position. The girl’s position is a lot more overtly sexualized, as if it were showing her off as a product.

Although, on one level, it baffles me why a lifestyle so seemingly compatible with feminism should become a platform for raging misogyny, it also really makes sense. On the other side of the dietary (but same side of the lady-hating) spectrum, we have those Swanson Hungry Man ads that question the masculinity (and mock the supposed femininity) of men who don’t eat lots and lots of frozen fried chicken from cardboard boxes:

There’s also that bogus but shockingly respected myth that a meat-free diet can lead to infertility in men, those jokes about Paul Rudd eating salad in that Jason Segal bromantic comedy, and the constant cultural equation of barbecue and burgers with good ol’ Uhmerrican manliness. Vegetarianism is undoubtedly feminized by US American society.  I’m sure I could go off and write at least 80 more pages about why that is, but the point is that these infuriating kinds of animal rights people are so afraid of this feminization that they have to bolt the other way. Typically, traditionally “feminine” industries and/or products, such as anything related to fashion, cosmetics, etc, often feel the need to go out of their way to make their product appealing to men by making their ads real sexy and pouty. Whereas traditionally masculine things like beer, bacon, trucks, whatever, rarely ever feel the need to make their products appeal to whatever standard those advertising people mean when they say “women.” On top of the fact that these advertisers already operate within restrictive and constructed notions of gender, they add insult to injury by acting afraid of female attention, because if too many girls like it then it’s a girly thing and girls have cooties. The route of masculinization that organizations like PETA take is one that is so obvious, gross, over-the-top and upfront about its total disregard for women, the real benefits of an animal friendly diet seem like a secondary message. I don’t believe for a second that it is necessary to encourage sexism twice as much as vegetarianism to get people to listen.

I became a vegan because it’s a lifestyle about compassion, respect, and, to a certain degree, humility.  The transition was an exercise in sacrificing personal desires for the sake of something bigger and more important, particularly challenging because I could not really see the results of my actions. But I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. I finally feel settled comfortably into my relatively new-found animal-free lifestyle (vegetarian for coming on 1 ½ years, vegan for about 4 months), and honestly, it makes me feel really, really fucking great. There are so many wonderful and obvious reasons to go veg*n for those who can physically and financially afford it. I also feel like my veganism and my feminism work in tandem, informing an important part of my identity and faithfully representing my principles and how I look at the world. However, the mainstream manifestation of the animal rights movement, in all of its cynicism and feminiphobia, pits animal rights against women’s dignity, ignoring the roots of its principles, not just succumbing to patriarchal influence, but actively supporting and encouraging it.

And Babycakes, because you ruined my morning, I will be serving homemade chocolate chunk coconut banana “ice cream” instead of your lovely looking peach cobbler.

Dear Producers and Casting Directors of major projects:

May 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

Get. Your. Act. Together.

First Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games?

Then Bradley Cooper in a remake of The Crow?

And now speculation that Kate Hudson has signed on to another Linda Lovelace torture porn, i mean biopic featuring torture porn?

Oh, and let’s not forget Rosie Huntington-Whitley in the next Transformers celebration of boobies and explosions  shitshow.

And I still remember the fact that one of you cast a neurotypical woman in Temple Grandin and an able-bodied man on Glee. 

I graduate in November. Care to clean up your act and make the industry a little less fucked up when it comes to gender, race, and (dis)ability?

Otherwise, I’m going to be very, very pissed off. And it’s not a good idea to piss of a ginger feminist badass with too much student loan debt and no tolerance for this bullshit.

The Slut Myth

October 24, 2010 § 7 Comments

by JANEY

“In my first book, Full Frontal Feminism, I opened by asking readers what the worst thing you could call a woman is (slut, bitch, whore, cunt), then what the worst thing you can call a man is (pussy, fag, sissy, girl). In both cases, the answers were some variation of ‘woman.’” — Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth

The word “slut” first originated as a Middle English word meaning a physically dirty woman, and has now evolved to mean a metaphysically “dirty,” or sexually promiscuous, woman. But how exactly do we decide who should be considered a slut? If sexual promiscuity is the mark of a slut, it would make sense to measure a woman’s sluttiness by the number of men she has slept with. In my experience, however, this is not actually the deciding factor. For example, when I was in high school, two of my best friends were considered “slutty” to some extent, but one was considered more of a slut than the other. I’ll call them A and B.

A was a white, thin girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, pearls and polo shirts. She lost her virginity when she was fourteen and had thirteen sexual partners before she entered college. She had several one-night stands and “friends with benefits” type of relationships. She never considered herself a sexual being and had little to no sex drive. Most of the boys she slept with were in the same social circle which we dubbed the “AP Boys”: a group of boys who were good-looking, athletic, popular, usually rich, and smart enough to get good grades without trying very hard. She didn’t particularly like sex, but she continued to have it for a variety of reasons, including to gain social approval from the AP Boys in order to continue to be invited to their parties, and because they wanted to and she “didn’t care.”

B identified as Middle Eastern; she was curvaceous and exotic-looking, with long black hair and darker skin than anyone else in our milky white high school. She often wore low-cut, tight black shirts and short denim skirts. She was visibly comfortable in her sexuality; she was unashamed of her body and unafraid to flaunt it. She lost her virginity when she was sixteen, and had six sexual partners before she entered college. She generally slept with the “bad boys” in our school, both because she liked the excitement and because she didn’t want to hurt a “nice” boy’s feelings as a result of her lack of interest in a serious relationship. Although she didn’t have serious relationships with these boys, she never slept with someone she wasn’t dating and she never had a one night stand. She enjoyed sex immensely and regarded it as a simple physical act which brought her and her partner pleasure.

Throughout high school, B was considered much more of a slut than A. A remained well-liked and still retained most of the respect she had before she had sex, and it was generally accepted that the girls who called her sluts were simply jealous of the amount of male attention she monopolized. B, on the other hand, was more often than not written off as a trashy whore. Not because she had slept with more people (A actually slept with more than twice as many people as B), but because she was comfortable enough with her sexuality to integrate it into her self-image and her public image. Essentially, B wasn’t being punished for having sex, but rather for enjoying sex. Sluts are not “proper women” because a “proper woman” is not supposed to be a sexual being; she’s supposed to be prim, proper, and repressed, and have sex because it is her duty. In the Victorian era, when sex within marriage was considered a patriotic duty for a woman, women in loveless marriages and brides frightened of the wedding night hijinks were told, “close your eyes, open your legs, and think of England.” Things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think they have. Women are, to some degree, still expected to passively accept the sexual advances of men (especially of the men that will improve their station in life, such as the AP Boys) and fulfill their duty as hollow-eyed sex objects.

B was an easy target because she was precluded from living up to society’s ideal for a woman as a result of her race and body type. The archetype of a proper woman — pure, white, dainty, delicate — conflicts with society’s schema for women of color. Women of color are expected to be louder, cruder, and more sexualized — in body and demeanor — than white women. Where A was subtly pressured to live up to the archetype of the proper woman, B was pressured to live up to the stereotype of the exotic, oversexualized woman of color. People used to tell her she looked like Kim Kardashian all the time. Let me tell you, she doesn’t at all. The only things she and Kim Kardashian have in common are their black hair, big boobs, and Middle Eastern descent. Their eyes, noses, mouths, smiles and face shapes are drastically different. When I reminded people of this, they would say, “Yeah, that’s true, but they just have the same… look…” Many would go so far as to admit that their shared “trashiness” was a point of comparison.

Essentially, the idea of a “slut” is a myth told to women to keep them in their place. Just as Santa will not actually bring you coal on Christmas if you break a few of the house rules, you will not actually turn into an intrinsically tainted, unpalatable creature if you break one of society’s rules and have sex with one too many men. The word “slut” isn’t a criticism for having too much sex necessarily, but for being a woman: a real, living, breathing woman with quirks, foibles, normal sexual feelings, and personality; and failing to live up to the societal ideal for a woman: the passive, pliable, perpetually innocent, and sexually available Barbie doll.

Epic FAIL, Halloween Edition

September 28, 2010 § 9 Comments

by ELENA

I’ve heard people refer to the trend of woman wearing revealing Halloween costumes as “Slutoween.” I don’t particularly like this term, because I don’t like slut-shaming of any kind. However, both Victoria’s Secret, and Frederick’s of Hollywood seem to be  promoting Racially-Insensitive O’Ween, which just plain fucked up.

On The VS website, you can purchase  a variety of  costumes under the “Sexy Little Fantasies” brand. These include Sexy Bride, Sexy Nurse, Sexy Flight Attendant, and Sexy Senorita:

Because being a stereotypical Latin American is an occupation, too. And it’s perfectly acceptable to co-opt and fetishize a growing population demographics clothing and culture.

One of VS’s rivals, Frederick’s of Hollywood, is guilty of this practice as well.

This “Three-Piece Shanghai Girl” getup is what would happen if someone took the 2 Live Crew song “Me So Horny,” and made it into a costume.

Frederick’s didn’t have an Asian model this outfit, and VS didn’t have a Latina model theirs. Frankly, this wouldn’t make these costumes any less racist, since they rely on fetishism and inaccurate stereotypes about Latin American and Asian women.

I’m also confused as to why VS and Frederick’s think that insulting and alienating their customer base is a good idea. Both companies rely on young woman for their business, and judging by the traffic these businesses get during any given weekend, their customer base is far from being exclusively white.

While I continue to work on my Sexy Pissed-Off Readhead costume, you can contact Fredricks and Victoria’s Secret and let them know what you think about these ridiculous and racist costumes.

Really, W Magazine? Really?

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

Once upon a time, I had a subscription to W. Magazine. As an artist, I love collaging, and W’s edgy, large-format fashion spreads provide great imagery for collage, and other mixed-media projects. But this article makes me really happy that I didn’t renew my subscription.

For starters, I have a problem with anyone describing different fashion styles in a “clique” mentality. “Clique” seems to imply a negative exclusivity, which a lot of people face in their lives, without reading W’s fluff fashion pieces. This also implies that women can only have one sartorial style code. I own dresses that flaunt my curves, flashy miniskirts, streamlined pieces, and flowy, bohemian dresses and scarves. According to W, I’d be considered to be a fashion schizophrenic.

But this piece went from “dumb” to “freaking inappropriate” in its way it described women’s body types. Jezebel pointed out W’s insensitivity to special dietary needs and eating disorders in the way that W called any woman who [ghasp!] isn’t a size two a “woman who eats her feelings”, and that is always talking about “gluten-free vegan cupcakes”. Here’s a nice little message for W: Women who may not fit within your acceptable skinniness range DOES NOT EQUAL a woman with a compulsive eating disorder. Also, Christina Hendricks, Beth Ditto, and Brigitte Bardot don’t have their amazing bodies (or, as W puts it, “full figured”) because they can’t stop eating. They have those bodies for a variety of reasons, mostly because they were born with bodies that were naturally curvy. Also, it would be nice if Christina could wear some Louis Vuitton or Prada to an event or awards show, but she has stated that designers won’t dress her because she’s bigger than a size two.

One of my friends from high school has food sensitivities that prevent her from eating many foods, including gluten and corn products. Another friend from Stephens is a vegan. Neither of them wear bohemian clothes, let alone Missoni or Edun. They wear jeans, t-shirts, and dancewear. Both of them have gotten frustrated about how their dietary limitations affect their everyday life. I understand that not everyone who follows a vegan/gluten-free/both diet is doing so for strictly medical reasons, but W needs to stop implying that a restrictive diet is just a great way to lose weight.

And finally, W Magazine, I’d like to think that someone thinks that I have depth because I, oh I dunno, actually have depth and speak with passion and knowledge about the things I care about. If I have to prove my supposed depth, intelligence, and “postfeminism” by wearing expensive designer clothes, then I don’t actually have any depth.

I like fashion. I like fashion magazines that produce creative photo shoots, creative and insightful articles, and that promote body diversity. I will be more than happy to put W out of business by spending money on a superior competitor.

Rape Culture Rears its Ugly Head (Again)

July 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

Trigger Warning.

Do you know what ruined my morning? What filled me with a blinding, seething rage? What made me really really sad?

This movie poster right here. The one for the I Spit On Your Grave remake.

Now I was almost tempted not to link to it or write this post so as not to give this piece of shit more publicity, but I couldn’t. Not only is this poster heinous, exploitative bullshit, but it also perfectly personifies the serious problem of rape culture in America.

I did some research and the film is about the brutal gang rape of a young woman, who manages to survive. She then goes on to exact revenge on all of her torturers. It was first released in 1978 to much controversy. It was originally entitled Day of the Woman and released under the guise of a female empowerment film, though apparently the way in which she “empowered” herself after the half-hour long, brutal, leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination rape scene, was to track down her rapists, seduce them (excuses for the actress to be naked again), and then torture and kill them in gruesome ways.

The most empowering thing I’ve ever heard.

Let’s get this straight. Let’s lay it out one more time. Rape is not a sexual act. Rape is not sex. Rape is not about sexuality or attraction. Rape is rape. Rape is about humiliating, degrading, and removing all power from the victim. I don’t care how you want to spin it, Cinetel Films in association with Anchor Bay Films or anyone else involved in the creation of and marketing of this film. This poster is about sex. This poster is about her ass and her bare back. So what if there’s encrusted blood and bruises covering her upper thighs and back from her TRAUMATIC RAPE? Look at that body!

This is reprehensible. This is sick. This goes beyond blurring the line between rape and sex–it smashes them together into one thing for your (the general public’s) enjoyment.

And the worst part of this whole thing? Countless people will see this poster and not blink an eye. Because these types of images are normal in our culture. Hell, they’re expected.

Update: Pajiba already has a brilliant takedown up. For more rage, click here.

Blue Mountain State’s Sexist Ads

January 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

I’ve seen some atrocious new ads pop on subway platforms, as part of a marketing campaign for Spike TV’s new television series Blue Mountain State. According to the network:

The football-themed series focuses on what it’s like being a freshman at national champion Blue Mountain State, but there’s much more to it than football… there’s also girls, partying, hazing and of course, class. “Blue Mountain State contains four key ingredients to being a guy…football, partying, women and hazing,” said Spike TV President Kevin Kay.

Hear that, dudes? Kevin Kay just told you everything you need to confirm your manlymanhood. So get on that.

The first ad is a gross display of the objectification and dehumanization of women and their bodies. Of course, the woman whose legs are featured is thin, white, and hairless. Anyone else repulsed by the idea that donning a varsity football helmet will automatically get you between girls’ legs?

Text reads: COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S NEVER BEEN DIRTIER

The second ad — what can I say? It’s disgusting.

Text reads: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SCORING

(I’d rather not hear any protests of, “Oh, the show is trying to call attention to damaging norms of masculinity! You’re so silly, you don’t understand their edgy humor!” Maybe that is what the producers are hoping the show will do. But using blatantly sexist advertising imagery doesn’t clue your audience in to that hope. Misogyny, in these ads and countless others, is not edgy; it’s all too common.)

Washington Post FAIL!

August 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

Another guest post by Joel, originally published at Citizen Obie.

I know, I know, I’m really setting myself up for disappointment by expecting anything more than moronic from the periodical that brought us thousands of words of climate science obfuscation from a baseball aficionado who doesn’t really bother to check his facts, but this criticism of Michelle Obama is just really fucking stupid.

Now, as a White Man (Robin Givhan being a Black Woman), there are some race-critical criticisms I am not prepared to make. That would be over-stepping my bounds, and I admit that wholeheartedly.

But:

clothes are part of our broader aesthetic obligation to each other. That commitment pushes homeowners to mow their lawns and not be a blight to the neighborhood. It makes them think twice before painting their houses in psychedelic stripes. The desire to be aesthetically respectful means guests give consideration to what they wear to a friend’s wedding or mourners take care in how they dress for a loved one’s funeral.

I’m sorry, but who the fuck is the imperial-objective arbiter in this court of fashion? Who got appointed as the taste police? That shit is straight up elitest garbage.

And another thing: to equate dress on vacation with dress at a wedding or funeral is completely fucking ridiculous. I will absolutely accept that at a wedding or funeral there are people to whom respect is owed, there are traditional codes that ought to be adhered to. If a person grants you the privilege of inviting you to a celebration of their life (wedding) or an honoring and farewell (funeral) than yes, maybe that’s a circumstance in which conformity to their wishes is valuable.

But the woman is on god damned vacation. In fact, that is probably the last place she ought to give a shit what some pundit at the Washington Post has to say. The only obligations my public officials and symbols have to me is that they fix the oppressive and destructive systems of this country and challenge the bullshit that allows those processes to survive. They are damn sure not obligated to wear anything on vacation for my sake.

Fuck the Washington Post.

Alcohol Advertising in Inwood

August 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

Hey, so it’s been like 3 years since I have posted anything, but here it goes.  SO, my job this summer is to research and map out the community of Inwood in terms of alcohol availability as well as the prominence of alcohol advertising.  I am creating a Google Map that will compile all if this on one handy map, which I will definitely post here once I’m done.  First of all, you would not believe how many ads there are, second of all, if anyone ever actually stopped to look at these ads (like I did), you would be SHOCKED.  The way women are portrayed was so scary that I didn’t know what to do.  Every deli, corner store, and bodega is covered in ads; most depicting women nearly naked, and often bent over, not facing the camera.  I would show you a picture, but it is SO not appropriate, and I do not want to promote anything like that.  This is not some magazine, where you can just turn the page; this is on every block, on every corner, basically everywhere you look.  Also, Inwood is a young neighborhood, most of the population is very young, many under 18.  The thing is, you would think “wow, that’s not subtle.” But really, it is.  You don’t notice it unless you stop to look at it, and I am sure many elementary school-age boys and girls do see these every day.

What do you do though?  These stores cannot and will not survive without alcohol advertisements, and who could POSSIBLY make alcohol advertisements without demoralizing women?

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

April 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Not this girl’s.

Last night, as I was helping my cousin pick out a new background for is iPhone,* I stared enviously at all the cool thematic options. That is, until I spotted one not so cool: “Girly.”

The icon for this set of  screen savers was (you guessed it) a diamond. A tiny, shiny diamond that I find upsetting. For all the gender stereotypes that demean women (and girls to whom the title for this background tailors to), I find diamonds one of the most offensive. Here’s why:

They are used as heteronormative objectifying persuasion devices that men give their love interests/girlfriends/fiances/wives as material apologies/marital contracts/ownership/representation. Sure, they might be giving these diamonds out of love, but what can women give men to match up to these diamonds they are supposed to love oh-so-much? Why do men do the buying and women do the receiving?**

AND

They are oh-so-shiny it is oh-so-abasing to assume that women view shiny objects (what toddlers and animals are rumored to be attracted to) as their signature mark.

So really, iPhone? Why does such a cool gadget have to produce such gross features? And why, oh why, do mainstream companies insist on forcing gender stereotypes to objectify girls on these seemingly innocent screens?

 

*After countless google searches, I have yet to find the aforementioned “girly” background online. I believe it’s a standard one that comes on the iPhone, but if anyone can find a picture of it, please post it in comments. Same goes if anyone can find the application designer so we can file some feminist complaints!

**This is not to say there is necessarily something wrong or sexist with men giving women diamonds. It’s simply important to recognize where this practice comes from and to stop love from turning into objectification via ignorance.

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