Thursday, October 30, 2008

David Bowie - Role Model??

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In this chapter titled Directions for Living; Role models, pop music and self-help discourses, of David Gauntlett’s Book, Media Gender and Identity: An Introduction, Gauntlett looks at various examples of role models and other “products” that help to shape an individual’s identity.

Gauntlett begins by describing what a role model is. On page 211, Gauntlett describes a role model as “ ‘someone to look up to,’ and someone to base your character, values or aspirations upon”. Many of these role models especially in pop culture have been music icons, political leaders, actors and other artists. Many of these role models have something to do with being examples for young women or young girls.

Gauntlett continues his discussion by describing six different types of role models. Those six types are, “the ‘straightforward success’ role model, the triumph over difficult circumstances’ role model, the ‘challenging stereotypes’ role model, the ‘wholesome’ role model, the ‘outsider’ role model, and the family role model” (215). Although I can see Gauntlett’s point in that each of these different types have actually been role models or leaders and examples to individuals, I do not necessarily agree with each type of role model. It seems to me that most of these role models are only role models and examples because of their popularity. I feel as if Gauntlett forgets to mention that many of the role models that have influence in individual’s lives are people that are not famous or popular. Role models could be grandparents, friends etc. Although Gauntlett does mention the ‘family role model’ type which does say that the category includes looking up to members of your own family, he still does mention the fact that society looks up to the rich and famous ‘family’ as a role model for their own families. I believe that most of our role models are individuals who are not necessarily famous. Some of the most influential individuals in my own life were not famous or well known, and I believe that Gauntlett makes it seem as if role models can only be people who have a lot of influence or popularity, etc. Possibly I’m wrong, and Gauntlett does point out on page 216 in reference to a study done that “…it would be inappropriate to infer that the majority of these people felt that famous role models were deeply important to them; and we can note that when asked to name their greatest overall role model, 63 percent of respondents chose one of their own parents”, however, the chapter is entitled Directions For Living, and I know that I am probably not directing my life based on famous wealthy individuals in popular culture.

Gauntlett continues to write that there have been ‘role models’ such as the Spice Girls who have influenced young ladies and the idea of “girl power”. Gauntlett writes on page 218, “The ‘girl power’ concept was a celebration for self-belief, independence and female friendship…” and some influential individuals that became role models for this ‘girl power’ concept include girl-groups such as the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. Along the same lines were male artists that influenced male identity. One interesting case that Gauntlett points out on page 222 is a situation in which a younger man felt that he could not identify with some male pop music because he was confused about his sexuality. It was not until he purchased a CD by David Bowie that he really felt he could relate because of David Bowie’s homoerotic lyrics.

Gauntlett takes things a bit further when he dedicates a few pages in his chapter to discussing Brittney Spears’ influence as a role model throughout her career. He discusses how many fans have viewed Spears as a role model because she was able to inspire women and especially teen girls around the world. However, Gauntlett does point out that Brittney has been criticized (and rightly so in my opinion) because of her risqué clothing and provocative dance moves. However, some fans stated that they thought that the way she dressed and danced showed her independence and uniqueness and therefore dubbed her as a role model because of her ability to ‘be herself.’

At the end of his chapter, Gauntlett discusses self-help books. There are self help books which address “personal narratives and lifestyles” which could be about “transforming the self” or attaining a more positive personal view and identity of their own selves and others. Gauntlett points out an interesting point when he says in relation to a quote from Foucault, “…we can learn about our culture by looking at its self-help books…” (239). Gauntlett points out that there are self help books for men, and self help books for women. Gauntlett does a good job in summarizing the “most common self-help messages” on page 244 which are, “believe in yourself and you can achieve anything, you can’t let the world ‘happen’ to you; instead you must take control of your life, it may not be obvious what would make you happy in life, and what is available to you, women and men are fundamentally similar on the ‘inside’…and can adopt new ways of thinking and behaving so they can become fully-functioning, balanced, self-assured, emotionally intelligent people, and finally, change is always possible”.

Gauntlett finishes this chapter by summarizing what he has discussed. He writes on page 246 that through what he has previously written, “…we see possible insecurities within modern self-identities being addressed through fearless, confident discourses, generally in a glamorous and aspirational form”. I’m not sure that addressing insecurities within yourself about your identity are best addressed through “glamorous and aspirational forms” only because I’m not sure how reliable these ‘glamorous’ forms are. I believe that Gauntlett did a good job in discussing these ‘glamorous’ forms of addressing self identity. However, it is our responsibility to take matters into our own hands and only pull out from some of these forms what is necessary for our own self identities and be okay with the fact that our self identities may not come from popular culture (which really shouldn’t be that difficult to be okay with).

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I really don’t like self help books. In fact, I despise self help books. These two self help books make it seem as though 7 steps is all it takes to change your life. As Gauntlett pointed out, one of the messages of self help books is “change is always possible”. I didn’t realize that change was possible in only 7 steps! If I could change my entire life and become happier, fitter, and more productive and have more potential, I think I would buy the book. However, I can not imagine that anyone in their right mind would think that changing their lives would be possible in 7 steps unless the 7 steps took 7 years. Possibly, as Gauntlett also pointed out, maybe these two books say something about our contemporary culture. Our culture today demands so many things to happen in short amounts of time. With technology, we can see results of different procedures, surgeries, surfing the internet, cooking foods in microwaves, in a matter of seconds. Are these self help books just emphasizing the fact that we demand so many things so very quickly? And I know, and hopefully others know that you cannot possibly change your life in only 7 steps…I’m not even sure that there is any set number of ‘steps’ that one can take to change their life and live a better life. Changing your life takes time and effort. A self help book cannot and probably will not be the answer. Self help books can encourage and give insight, but it really frustrates me and makes me angry that there are people out there who buy into books that say things such as “Your Best Life Now – in 7 Steps”. Only you can know what your “best life” looks like and I don’t think that you can have a “best life” in 7 steps. Of course, I’ve never read either of these two books, so I could be completely wrong, but I have no intention of reading the books or following the 7 steps to develop the “best life” I could ever have.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer = Girl Power?

In the article, The Buffy Effect Or, A Tale of Cleavage and Marketing written by Rachel Fudge, Fudge addresses the 90’s hit television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how Buffy, the main character is, or is not, a feminist icon. The author, Fudge, starts out the article by explaining how Buffy is an exception to the classic main characters of horror films. In the T.V. shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is blonde, beautiful, and as Fudge states multiple times throughout the article, a symbol of femininity. Contrary to most classic horror films in which the blonde female character is usually the one being hunted or the character shown running away in terror, Buffy is the protagonist and the main character who slays the evil monsters who present themselves during the show. Fudge continues to explain the plot of the actual show, which is basically about a high school aged female who finds herself in situations which require her to slay vampires and monsters while also tackling the daily frustrations of high school female life.

Throughout most of the article, Rachel Fudge praises Buffy’s character by writing that Buffy is an icon for girl power and femininity. I feel as if the author gives Buffy’s character more credit than she’s due, however. Fudge writes on page 2 of her article that “Buffy could be the poster girl for an entire decade of girl-oriented mass media/culture.” Fudge continues to write that because Buffy is feisty, “an angsty alternateen” yet able to wear tiny dresses and tank tops and knows how to perfectly apply her makeup and do her hair, that she is an icon and an example for females, especially females in the 90’s. I never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m not sure I agree that Buffy’s character is or should be an icon for women. However, in our culture which is consumed with achieving power and being independent and strong yet beautiful, I can see how Buffy has become an icon for women and femininity.

Towards the end of the article, Fudge does criticize Buffy’s character. Fudge writes, “Herein lie the limitations in the Buffy phemon: “Girl power” as articulated in the mass media (and mass marketing) is often misrepresented as de facto feminism, when in fact it’s a diluted imitation of female empowerment” (5). Fudge continues to write that the idea of “girl power” often relies too heavily on style and the material rather than “substance”. Much of what is in the Buffy television series, such as Buffy’s clothing and some props are now available at various clothing retailers and merchandise stores.

However, Fudge writes that Buffy has been able to create a feminine heroine who is strong and feisty which would appeal to men (also because she is beautiful and wears tiny shirts) yet Buffy is still able to keep her femininity in terms of her ability to put the right makeup on and wear the right clothing. I can understand Fudge’s point that Buffy’s character, as unrealistic as a vampire slayer may be, is able to appeal to all audiences and create a positive image of a female heroine. And, I might have to agree with what Fudge writes on page 5, “Call her a Hard Candy-coated feminist heroine for the girl-power era. And it isn’t just the pubescent boys who like their heroines sweet: This pastel veneer might just be the necessary spoonful of sugar to make the pro-feminist message palatable to network honchos, the marketing crew, and teen viewers alike.”

La Femme Nikita

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Youtube clip:

This movie, La Femme Nikita is about a woman who was involved in a crime and caught by the police. However, rather than throw her into jail or sentence her to death, the ‘government’ decides to train her as a top secret assassin. The beginning of the film portrays Nikita as a rough drug addicted woman who ruthlessly murders a cop by shooting him in the face. She is feisty and stubborn and refuses to cooperate (she curses a lot, too). While she is being trained to become an assassin, she learns how to become ‘feminine’ by taking classes with an older woman who teaches her how to apply makeup like a woman, talk like a woman, eat like a woman, etc.

Throughout the rest of the film, Nikita learns to be feminine while also learning how to put together a gun, perform martial arts, and some computer skills. According to Fudge’s opinion of a feminine icon, I believe that Nikita might possibly be a better icon than Buffy. Nikita pulled herself out of her old habits and learned to be aggressive and beautifully feminine at the same time. Of course, Nikita would have been killed by the ‘government’ had she refused to comply with their demands.

I find it interesting, however, that when Nikita is faced with situations in which she must assassinate specific people, she is portrayed as nervous, as if she doesn’t want to do it, etc. Of course, who would really want to assassinate people anyway? Nikita never becomes comfortable with her aggressive, ‘assassin’ side. I get the feeling that she would much rather be with her love, lying in bed all day in her apartment.

However, Nikita learns to take advantage of her ‘femininity’ and what she has learned in terms of how to be a woman. She finds herself a very honorable boyfriend. Nikita also somehow finds a way to keep her ‘second life’ as a secret assassin a secret from her boyfriend. When confronted about the issue, Nikita pushes it aside or somehow wins her boyfriend over with her cuteness, thus taking advantage of her femininity. The message of this film is clear when the woman training Nikita says to Nikita, “Let your pleasure be your guide, your pleasure as a woman. And don’t forget…there are two things that have no limit; femininity and the means of taking advantage of it.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Girls and Beauty

This article entitled, “The More You Sutbract, The More You Add:” Cutting Girls Down to Size, written by Jean Kilbourne really was not a surprise to me, but still mad my stomach turn. In this article, Kilbourne discusses the development of girl’s identities, especially the identities of adolescent girls and how these identities are shaped by media. She begins by discussing how girls are becoming more and more involved in destructive behavior. Jean Kilbourne writes that the gap between girls and boys is lessening in the sense that girls are closing the gap between boys academically but also that girls are becoming more involved in the destructive behavior of boys such as smoking, drinking and other drugs.
This need to or example of girls engaging in male activities is evident even as girls become older. According to Kilbourne, “Girls are put into a terrible double bind” (259). Girls are encouraged to be quite and talk nicely, softly, while at the same time, as they move into a professional setting, they are told to compete with men in terms of becoming successful in the business world.
Kilbourne discusses the repercussions of this ‘double bind’. Because of the pull to not only be submissive and girly but also demanding, successful and strong, it creates a distorted image in the lives of women today. Kilbourne continues to address some of the other obstacles women face in terms of the identity that media places of females. Kilbourne says that advertising has been one of the most influential areas in which a woman’s identity has been distorted. Kilbourne describes how advertisements encourage women to be submissive or quiet. She addresses some advertisements for cosmetics that display a thin model with a caption that may say something like “Make a statement without saying a word,” or “The silence of a look can reveal more than words” (263). Not only are women encouraged to stay quiet but at the same time attractive and influential (in terms of their looks), media advertisements are also influential in displaying a distorted image of a woman’s physical body.
Kilbourne addresses the problem that so many women face today: dieting and the need to be thin. I found it extremely surprising and disturbing when Kilbourne wrote in regards to dieting: “The obsession starts early. Some studies have found that from 40-80 percent of fourth-grade girls are dieting” (261). The need to look thin and to eat foods different from what men apparently can eat is only supported through advertisements. Unfortunately, this standard of a specific way to look and act is only reinforced through images that women see every day. The fact that it is affecting girls at such a young age is troubling, and as Kilbourne also addresses, dieting and these images in advertisements sells and brings in a ton of money to companies is also extremely disturbing.

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When I first looked at this advertisement, I wasn’t sure what they were selling. In fact I had to look at the actual website to conclude that the ad is selling Kate Spade shoes. I wasn’t sure if it was advertising clothing or bags or whatever. Anyway, what I see in this image is a college aged woman sitting awkwardly. I can’t imagine sitting in that position, it would be so uncomfortable. It seems as though she may have been studying outside with some friends since there are books scattered about. Maybe they were in a fight because their purses are scattered around as well. It looks as if they left a trail of books behind them before they decided to sit down and pull their knee-high socks up. Anyway, the fact that their books are scattered and thrown around along with what looks like their purses or bags shows me that these girls pretty much view their books as an accessory like their purses. The way these girls are dressed, or the one in which we see her entire body, also looks as if they are clowns with the extremely bright colors and mismatching outfit and frills around the neck of her shirt. I’m not really attracted to their shoes, either since all the shoes are the exact same style but a different bright wild color. Most importantly, the message I feel like I may be receiving from this advertisement is that books should be taken about as seriously as a handbag and that books may only be for clowns. Of course, some women take their purses EXTREMELY seriously and in that sense, if you are a woman who takes your purses seriously, then maybe this ad is telling women that books are serious too…along with a great pair of shoes. But, the fact that everything is thrown around, the colors are bright and chaotic and the girl shown in the ad is sitting awkwardly and uncomfortably makes me want to run away from this ad very quickly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Women's Magazines = Women's Identities?

Women’s Magazines and Female Identities Today

In the chapter entitled Women’s Magazines and Female Identities Today in David Gauntlett’s book, Media, Gender and Identity: an Introduction, David Gauntlett writes about women’s magazines and how these magazines have influenced or contributed to constructing a woman’s, in contemporary society, sense of identity. Gauntlett writes that through various studies, it has been shown that women’s magazines do not have as much influence in constructing a women’s identity as previously thought. Gauntlett writes that this ideology is not always automatic (182). Many women simply purchase these magazines to fill times of boredom or when in need of relaxation. Some women, which are used as examples throughout the chapter say that they purchase women’s magazines because they like the glossy feel of the pages, the colorful pictures etc.
Gauntlett continues to write specifically about women’s magazines and the content in those magazines. First, Gauntlett writes that there are many more popular women’s magazines in today’s culture than men’s magazines. Second, Gauntlett addresses the key themes in women’s magazines which he says are “all about the social construction of womanhood today” (187). The first key theme Gauntlett addresses is the theme of “men as sex objects” (187). Gauntlett writes that contrary to women’s objectification for decades in media aimed at men, now men are the ones being objectified in women’s media. Gauntlett writes that the same type of imagery and language that was originally associated with women in men’s media is now associated with men in women’s media. A second theme in women’s magazines is sex. Gauntlett writes that women’s magazines are extremely open about sex and have been highly criticized for their openness about sex and sexuality. Another criticism about women’s magazines have been their lack of ‘coverage of sex, because their articles are almost always heterosexual’ (189). In women’s magazines, lesbianism is not written about or exposed in great detail. A third theme that Gauntlett writes about is relationships. Women’s magazines have been accused of “suggesting that a man is the route to happiness” (191). However, Gauntlett writes that opposite of the traditional “desperate-for-marriage wallflower”, women’s magazines encourage women to be in control of seeking out and ‘hooking’ a man for themselves. If they do find a man, and he is a bore, then they should simply drop him and go looking for something better. The final key theme that gauntlet touches on is “transformation and empowerment” (191). Women’s magazines have been criticized for the fact that they create an ideal for women which in actuality most women will never be able to attain. Women’s magazines promote the healthy, beautiful, thin, successful, independent woman. This creates anxiety for women who find that they cannot achieve this ideal and could in effect encourage women to feel badly about themselves. On the other hand, women’s magazines do contain advice about beauty and health, advice for negative situations, ‘life affirming material’ and other positive topics (192).
The end of the chapter includes interviews and responses of various women regarding women’s magazines. I found it most interesting that many women admitted to purchasing magazines simply because of the feel of the magazine, the pictures, the glossy pages, etc. Ever since I was a little girl, I would always want to buy a magazine because of the thickness of the magazine, the pages, the pictures, the colors, etc. I never really was too interested in reading the articles necessarily, unless they were about health tips or beauty tips (makeup, skin care, etc). Rather, I was more interested in looking at the pictures of the models. I found it interesting in Diana Crane’s article entitled Gender and Hegemony in fashion Magazines: Women’s Interpretations of Fashion Photographs when she writes, “Feminists argue that media images of women are always directed at men and that women are encouraged to look at themselves and other women the way men do (Davis 1997)” (314). Not that I purchase women’s magazines to look at women the way men tend to look at women, but I can understand Davis’ point. I have found myself looking at the advertisements of women and images of women in various magazines and have been in a state of awe at their beauty or their sleekness, thinness, etc. I do not necessarily agree with Davis in that these images are always geared towards men, however. I think many of these images are geared towards women in that they make women want to look like that specific woman in the advertisement or image and the advertisers hope that women will want to look like the women in advertisements enough to purchase that specific product.
In all, I agree with many of the interviewees in Gauntletts article in that I do not feel that women’s magazines completely contribute to a women’s identity. There are many other factors in a women’s life that affect her sense of identity. I do agree, however, that women’s magazines create an ‘ideal woman’ that not every woman can attain.

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I chose to post this cartoon because I think it illustrates the 'ideal' that women may find in women's magazines today. There are so many magazines out there for women; for teen girls, women in their 20's and women of an older generation. I guess I never really took notice to the ideal that my mom's magazines were depicting. Thinking back, and even as I come across women's magazines today, many magazines geared towards older women are all about creating a 'younger' self. The magazines that I looked at as a younger girl, especially the fashion magazines, gave off the impression of trying to create an 'older' self. It's nauseating and a little bit scary that not too many magazines embrace the 'self' that you are at the moment. Women's magazines are always about improving your image, by either making yourself look 'less mature' or by trying to make yourself seem more 'professional' or more 'mature'.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sex, Lies and Advertising - Gloria Steinem

Ms. Magazine

This excerpt entitled Sex, Lies and Advertising, written by Gloria Steinem does not really live up to its name. Although it is about advertising and the difficulties that Ms. Magazine experienced in dealing with what ads to accept for their magazine, it does not really have to deal with sex. Ms. Magazine is a women’s magazine which not only discusses topics related to women, but also politics and feminist news. In this article, Gloria Steinem does discusses lies in relation to advertisers and their lack of interest in putting ads in Ms. Magazine. Gloria goes through different examples of the difficulties of allowing and not allowing specific advertisements in Ms. Magazine. Ranging from makeup ads to car ads, these examples are difficult to accept but a little funny at the same time.
One example that is really interesting and impacting deals with attracting ads for consumer electronics. The saleswoman of Ms. Magazine set out to convince advertisers to allow advertisements for electronics in Ms. Magazine. The response was negative. The executives refused saying that women have no interest or knowledge of electronics and if they do, they are only learning about it from their husbands and boyfriends. I found this particularly offensive because I know some men out there who have no idea how to use electronics and I know some women who know how to use and who love to use electronics more than any man I have ever met.
In all, this article is interesting because it discusses the difficulties that Ms. Magazine had to go through in dealing with advertisements. Particularly interesting was the fact that advertisers refused to put ads for electronics in Ms. Magazine because women apparently do not like to use electronics. I am curious as to how much this particular issue has changed throughout the course of almost 20 years since this article was written in 1990. Possibly because technology and electronics have become extremely prevalent in society today more advertisers are willing to put ads for electronics in Ms. Magazine. I wonder what Gloria Steinem would say about the difficulties of advertisements today?

I chose to display this comic because it depicts an interesting point. The website I found this comic on points out some interesting ideas as well. The person who decided to post this comic discussed how women tend to laugh or hide discomfort to mask embarrassment or even anger. The person who posted this makes a great point when they write: “Make a racist joke to a minority, and chances are the person will call you on it. Make a sexist joke about females, the woman is expected to laugh. If she gets annoyed, then it means she has no sense of humor.” I have found this to be true in some of my own interactions with individuals who make sexist jokes. Women are expected to laugh it off and if they get offended then they’re stuck up or dry.
This shows the difficulties that Gloria Steinem writes about in dealing advertisements in her magazine. A lot of the difficulties faced had to deal with the fact that some executives don’t take the ‘women’s movement’ seriously and therefore did not take Ms. Magazine seriously. I have a great respect already for Ms. Magazine and I’ve never even read or seen Ms. Magazine. But the fact that they were able to keep their magazine in support of the women’s movement despite difficulties shows that the individuals involved in the creation and popularity of Ms. Magazine deserve our respect.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Male Image - Sports

In this article titled ‘Hooligans, Studs and Queers’: Three Studies in the Reproduction of Hypermasculinity, Varda Burstyn addresses the idea of ‘hypermasculinity’ and how this trait is portrayed in media and its effects on culture. According to Burstyn, ‘hypermasculinity’ is “the belief that ideal manhood lies in the exercise of force to dominate others” (912). Burstyn continues to write about three examples of this ‘hypermasculine’ ideology and how they connect and influence directly men’s identities. The three examples Burstyn gives are, “British football hooliganism, the cult of the black super-athlete, and the convergence of gay culture with the athleticized body” (193). Each of these three examples has to do with sports developing the male ideology. Burstyn believes these three examples highly influence the male identity because of how influential sport culture has been in “shaping and homogenizing masculine ideals across, through, and despite the multiple and diverse masculinities of real men” (193).

First of all, Burstyn writes about ‘Football Hooliganism’ and its relation to the ‘hypermasculine’ identity. This ‘hooliganism’ refers to the individuals in the United Kingdom engaged in football (American soccer) violence. “Collective violence” was practiced around championship games and weekly games and often times had to be censored by police (195).

Green Street Hooligans

I chose this particular clip from youtube because is directly illustrates the construction of a violent male identity in media. This entire film is about the excitement of being a ‘hooligan’ or individual involved in ‘football violence’. This film shows how serious those involved in this lifestyle are and how exciting and rewarding the lifestyle can be. It portrays these men involved in football violence as tough and they portray an image that seems to be appealing to a male audience. The end of the film redeems itself in that the main character realizes that violence is not always necessarily the answer to life’s problems, but the rest of the film supports violence especially when used to defend yourself or your family/friends.

Second, Burstyn writes about the black ‘super-athlete’. Basically, Burstyn suggests that the rise of famous black athletes really does not help to take away the stereotypes of the African American race. This is because of the commercialization of the black athlete. The African American athlete who is supporting a specific company through being in commercials, wearing specific gear, etc is, according to Burstyn “not a fighter for equality, justice or community,” but rather a “corporate warrior” (207).

Kobe Bryant Nike Commercial

I chose this Nike commercial because it portrays a black ‘super-athlete’. He is not in this commercial to somehow fight for racial equality or justice in terms of the African American race. Rather, he is supporting Nike as a major corporation by wearing and using their gear. He is working hard to achieve success and showing that he can achieve success with Nike’s gear, which only supports Nike and brings Nike more money and recognition, not the African American male.

Finally, Burstyn discusses ‘homoeroticism’. In terms of sports, and especially with male sports, homosexuality has not been accepted. Those involved in sports have been considered ‘manly’ while those men not involved in sports have been referred to as “pansies, sissies and mama’s boys” (214). However, today in sports, Burstyn discusses how ‘homosexual’ actions such as a slap on the butt and some language used in male sports like football such as: “Stick it down their throats” and some other sexually oriented phrases are somehow accepted in these athletic settings. Is this simply because football is viewed as a manly sport that using phrases that may be used to discuss homosexual tendencies are acceptable? Burstyn raises some interesting points in discussing the male identity in view of homoerotic interests within sports and among those involved or interested in sports.

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I chose this image because it portrays how 'homosexual' phrases or actions are acceptable in sports, especially male sports. In sports such as football, which is considered a 'manly' sport, somehow, a slap on the butt is an acceptable way of saying 'good job' or 'great play', etc. This cartoon puts a funny spin on how sexual 'references' are acceptable in sports such as saying "You were great last night." It seems very ironic that this type of action or these words are acceptable in the realm of sports and within the vocabulary of these athletes but when confronted by someone else and accused of homosexuality, these athletes would be extremely offended.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gauntlett On: Men's Magazines and Masculinity

Chapter eight in David Gauntlett’s book, Media, Gender and Identity, an Introduction, Gauntlett writes about modern men’s magazines and how these magazines shape men’s identities. Gauntlett suggests that magazines may play a crucial role in the way men shape their identities in terms of masculinity (154).
Gauntlett begins by describing how men’s magazines have emerged. Gauntlett points out that the lack of men’s interest or lifestyle magazines was not important to producers of magazines because ‘glossy’ magazines or ‘lifestyle’ magazines were seen as something only for women. Pornography magazines existed, however. Gauntlett writes that it was not until 1994 that the men’s magazine market took off with the emergence of the UK magazine Loaded. Gauntlett continues in his chapter to describe what material particular men’s magazines such as Loaded, FHM, Maxim, Men’s Health, Front, and GQ include. Most of these magazines portrayed a specific ideal or image of men and how they had to be well put together, smart, well-dressed and associated with many beautiful, sometimes naked women, which would somehow define them as successful.
Gauntlett describes these men’s magazines as ironic. He writes, “The irony is used as a kind of defensive shield: the writers anticipate that many men may reject serious articles on relationships, or advice about sex, health or cooking, and so douse their pieces with humour, silliness and irony to ‘sweeten the pill’ (167). Apparently men can relate with humor and irony more than anything else. I suppose I can understand this in that I can see something similar in women’s magazines. Women’s magazines tend to focus on the emotional in terms of getting their female readers excited about a specific story.
Men’s magazines tend to use iron for a few different reasons. One of the reasons gauntlet points out that irony is used is to ‘protect masculinity’ (170). I suppose in terms of lifestyle magazine, learning how to live effectively, especially with women, can take away a man’s masculinity if told to the man in a truthful way rather than a humorous or entertaining manner.
I find it extremely interesting when Gauntlett continues to write that most men’s magazines today are focused on the social construction of a masculine identity. There are many factors today that affect the ‘masculine’ image. There are choices that men must make in regards to other prevalent views in society such as feminist views. Gauntlett suggests that the fact that the male image changes and continues to change results in men finding solace and advice in men’s lifestyle magazines.
Men’s magazines give men a chance to learn about a ‘masculine’ identity in a society which requires the male image to change over and over again. Not only can men learn about a specific lifestyle that they can create for themselves in present society, they can also learn through humorous stories all the while finding entertainment in women portrayed in the magazines. To be completely honest, I believe that men’s magazines hold the same goal as women’s magazines. Women’s magazines also shape a woman’s identity and sense of lifestyle as well as pictures of good looking men. In all I disagree with Gauntlett when he writes that producers of magazines do not believe that men would be interested in lifestyle magazines, I believe that it is proved today through many modern men’s magazines that men do enjoy lifestyle magazines. The only factor is attracting men to these particular magazines through humor and sex.
Obama: The Ideal Identity of a Man
I chose to look at this picture on the cover of GQ mainly because of the relationship between the words on the cover and the individual shown on the cover of this magazine. I believe this magazine is the September 2007 issue. It is interesting to look at who is on this cover (Obama) and who he is (a successful presidential candidate) and then to look at some of the titles placed on the cover of the magazine. Some of the words that really popped out to me were "winner" "Barack Obama Rules" "All Hail the Young" "Most Powerful People" "He's Rich, He's Your Friend..." Although I could be reading into much of this, I interpret this to mean that many of these words, or titles of articles included in the magazine define or directly relate with the magazines view of Obama. What this magazine cover is portraying is that Obama is a winner because he is young and he is powerful and the men who read this magazine are striving to be winners just as Barack Obama is a winner. The magazine is using Barack Obama and his success and power as an image or example for men to model and live their lives according to. This magazine cover accurately shows how a magazine can influence a man's idea or perception of his identity and masculinity.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Men as Consumers and Fashionistas

Image from:

In Kenon Breazeale’s article titled In Spite of Women – Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer, it is clearly noted in the beginning that the basic consumer has always been viewed as the middle-class female. Because of this Breazeale suggests that “…some of our era’s most aggressively one-dimensional representations of women have resulted from attempts to court men as consumers” (231). Breazeale suggests that Esquire magazine was the first attempt to attract an audience of male consumers. Because women were regarded so highly as the consumer, Esquire magazine had to take itself away from things that had been identified with women for such a long amount of time so that men would be attracted to the magazine. In that Esquire became a men’s magazine and “confronted the popular periodical industry” saying that “women as women have no legitimate social role to play” (235).
Breazeale goes on to write some of the implications and areas in which Esquire gained its popularity. When Esquire was first founded, the art of illustration was also developing. This helped Esquire in that illustrators could illustrate pictures of provocative women which were not tagged as pornography. The magazine also produced “adult” cartoons which had the same effect on men. These illustrations basically degraded women into ‘dumb’ creatures who were too “giggly” and “jiggly” to really have any impact on men other than for aesthetic pleasure.
It is interesting to me how little Esquire magazine has developed and how similar it is today as to what it was in the 20’s. The goal of the magazine seems to be quite similar. Breazeale writes, “Esquire demonstrated that…women-trashing as such could be packaged and sold to a large, prosperous bourgeois audience” (240). What I receive from this is that in order to attract the male consumer, which is a large portion of society and will bring a lot of money, women must be “fantasized sexually and trashed socially” (240). To me, this is extremely unfortunate and not only degrading to women, but also to men in that a majority of men are interested in the messages of magazines such as Esquire.
Johnny Depp - Real Life
I chose this image because it suggests that Esquire magazine has other things to offer other than images of attractive women for men to 'gaze' at and think about. I believe that another huge aspect of the attraction of Esquire magazine is that it gives men the ability to hear or view powerful men in society and learn from those powerful men.
On this cover of Esquire, Johnny Depp is portrayed as tough and manly and powerful. Behind him on the cover are the words "The Meaning of Life" as if Johnny holds the answers to the questions of life. I believe men are as attracted to this image as women are; of course in a different way. Men see Johnny as powerful and edgy and because of this he could possibly have the answers to the questions of life. Esquire knows that men will eat this up because through this magazine not only are they able to look at attractive women, but they are able to get advice from the men who seem to have it all together and know all of the answers regarding the difficult life of a man.

In the article written by John Beynon entitled, The Commercialization of Masculinities – From the ‘New Man’ to the ‘New Lad’, the idea of a ‘new man’, or new masculine identity is introduced. The first change came in the 1970’s and the 1980’s. Men’s changing role was a result of pro-feminism and the feminist movement. Men who agreed with the feminist movement and agreed with social change changed their own goals in that they “attempted to raise both their own and their fellow men’s consciousness and foster a more caring, sharing, nurturing man” (199). The idea of a mixed ‘breadwinner-homemaker’ role came about during this time as well.
The second identity Beynon writes about is that of the ‘new man-as-narcissist’ (202). This identity came about mainly during the 70’s and was associated with style and fashion. Beynon identifies some results of this new image. Places for men to purchase clothing exclusively flourished in the 80’s. Representations of men changed in the 80’s in that the male body began to be “eroticized and objectified” in ways that were initially applied to females (203). And, magazines regarding style for men were produced. Beynon continues to describe the “yuppie” image in the 80’s. The “yuppie” was thought to be successful and wealthy with a huge desire to spend his money. He lived in the “chic” areas of the city with “café’s” and the like. Beynon refers to Soho as a place where “yuppies” would reside. Much of the “yuppie” image was about style and a certain “look”.
Beynon continues to write about “laddism” and how ‘lads’ lives consist of nightclubs and style and parties as a reaction to the “men’s style press and to the growing assertiveness of women” (210). The new ‘lads’ could live risqué lives without censor. Loaded was a major magazine that supported this lifestyle.
Beynon finishes by suggesting that new types of men are the result of inventions by the media. However, Beynon writes that there is no agreement on what the ‘new man’ exactly means or who he is. The ‘new man’ is not his conservative father, however. Beynon writes on page 216, “…new man-ism remains a highly pervasive and masculine’ message” which is constantly changed and portrayed through media.

I chose this image because I believe it really portrays this 'new lad' idea in terms of style. The fact that this male model is carrying a purse around as a fashion statement goes to show the changes that men have made in terms of what is acceptable in style.

Another change in the identities of men that is portrayed in this image is the idea of male models. I believe traditionally, females were regarded as the only 'models'. Today, however, men are fashion models as well. It is interesting to think whether or not this is an expression of men flowing into a more traditional female role as women are gaining traditionally male roles in society. Men are possibly trying to find their places in society and maybe male modeling and male purses are the keys.