On the (Rest of the) Net.

Seven years on from Tom Cruise’s couch-jumping incident and Rich Juzwiack ponders how it changed Cruise’s career and pop culture itself. [Gawker]

Is “ambition” a dirty word for women? [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

London takes steps to eliminate street harassment. Or make people more aware of its ramifications, at least. [Jezebel]

Meanwhile, the Rookie girls tell their tales of street harassment.

How male body objectification derailed D’Angelo’s R‘n’B career. [Jezebel]

What it’s like to be a third world woman and how their circumstances can be changed. [NY Times] 

(Religious) men who hate women. [HuffPo]

Image via Celebitchy.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

While I’ve done as much reading as normal this week, it’s not reflected here. Maybe it’s been a slow news week… Anyway, here are the articles that jumped out at me.

Who run the world? White girls. Dodai Stewart asks if Girls is too whitewashed. [Jezebel]

Finally, a fast food outlet that’s making the change to animal cruelty-free products. Now, if only it was a chain that’s available in Australia… [Slate]

Street harassment on MamaMia.

Housekeeping and childrearing are still classified as women’s work, that’s why no one values them as “proper” work. [Clutch Magazine]

I’ve never been an Oprah fan, but apparently she might be losing relevance. Quick, give away a car or stage a stunt-wedding! [Jezebel]

Image via Très Sugar.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

The disturbing, tragic life of Hustler’s Larry Flynt.

Dubai isn’t the pink-buildinged, “Middle-Eastern Shangri-La” of materialistic Sex & the City movies it’s made out to be.

“All Work, (Almost) No Pay” for the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. Fascinating stuff.

The cult of Oprah.

The case for women to serve in combat roles in the armed forces.

Hypocrisy and “male narcissism” in “political sex scandals”.

Got a problem with SlutWalk? Finally, some solutions to make it better.

Also, for all you anti-SlutWalkers out there, This is What Slut-Shaming Looks Like”:

“1. Was I suppose to just take it in stride that random pervs found out where my little sister went to high school and speculated about whether she, too, would become a ‘whore’? An anonymous asshole emailed her last fall asking her that. Don’t tell me that’s normal criticism.

“2. What about the manufactured ‘scandal’ that Internet vigilantes began in hopes of getting my boyfriend kicked out of his Ph.D program? They decided to email the entire sociology faculty list. I was a junior at the time in the same department. Do you have any idea how incredibly difficult it is to force yourself to graduate when your professors have all read about how you’re supposedly being ‘raped’ on a regular basis? That is not criticism.

“3. Is trying to get me fired also normal? In 2009, when I was working for an education non-profit during my time off from Harvard, someone wrote a fake article about how my employer was so embarrassed to have hired a ‘porn blogger’. There were made-up quotes from ‘company reps’. They disseminated it online, not realizing that I actually told my boss about my blog during my initial interview. (He emailed me the article and totally had my back. It was one of the most touching things I’ve ever experienced from an employer, no joke.)”

I originally blew off Roseanne Barr’s New York Magazine take on sexism in Hollywood. But I read it this week and couldn’t recommend it enough. Great writing.

The Smurfette principle:

“Little girls learn to split their consciousness, filtering their dreams and ambitions through boy characters while admiring the clothes of the princess. The more privileged and daring can dream of becoming exceptional women in a man’s world—Smurfettes. The others are being taught to accept the more usual fate, which is to be a passenger car drawn through life by a masculine train engine. Boys, who are rarely confronted with stories in which males play only minor roles, learn a simpler lesson: girls just don’t matter much.”

This article on the sexual misconduct of AFL players from 2008 is just as pertinent today.

“In Defence of Prudes.”

“Women are pieces of art, men aren’t”?

What is the average Australian’s yearly income?

Sarah Ayoub-Christie writes her final post for Wordsmith Lane.

Why Psychology Today hates women.

How the celeb sex tape ruined America (NSFW).

Music Video: The Underlying Message in Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” Video.

About a month ago, I posted a quick revision of a presentation I did at uni on Madonna’s most controversial videos. In it, I wished to go into further detail on “Madonna’s influence on the music video and religion in pop culture”. Here I attempt to do so.

Another pop culture icon who’s had a big influence on modern religion is Oprah, who pushes her brand of “pick and mix religion” to her millions of followers. Funnily enough, Shmoop comes to a similar conclusion about the “Like a Prayer” video:

“The blending of Italian American and African American traditions and cultures should also be considered a postmodern choice. It resists interpretation. Where a critic might try to understand the video as an endorsement of Catholicism, the blending of Catholicism with the African Methodist Episcopal choir Madonna meets in her dream prevents such a simple interpretation. The video is neither here nor there on particular religions, only communicating the power of some force of faith to empower her.”

But when the video was released in 1989, that was the least of its critics’ problems. Perhaps it was the rape scene at the beginning, the depicition of a “black Christ”, who was in actuality the black Saint Martin de Porres, to  critique racism, or—my pick—the burning crosses in the field behind Madonna, who prances around in black negligee. It could have been any combination of these factors that made Pepsi back out of its $5 million deal with the star in the aftermath of the video’s release.

Granted, the film clip was made more than twenty years ago, and it was groundbreaking for its time. However, fast-forward to 2011, and what we’ve seen since then makes “Like a Prayer” seem positively tame.

Madonna herself has been responsible for some of these, like her clip the following year for “Justify My Love”, her Sex book or, on the tamer side of things, kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003, which seems to be an enduring image of ranch culture in this day and age.

But you don’t go about these things without thinking about them seriously, and that’s why Madonna’s legacy has persisted all these years. She knew exactly what she was doing in that clip, and all other clips to follow. The fact that at the end of the song the events of the clip are revealed to be a performance indicates that “we all play a part in this little scenario”. What part, exactly?

While religious groups trying to get the video banned could be interpreted as the Church being unwilling to accept square pegs that don’t fit into round holes, Pepsi backing out of their deal with the star is an example of big conglomerates being scared to buck the system and take a risk less they lose customers.

Someone who isn’t afraid to buck the system and is accepting of all walks of life (except, perhaps, those whose body parts were used in the assembling of her meat dress) is Lady Gaga, who is a huge Madonna fan, if some of her recent videos are anything to go by. Last year I blogged about Gaga’s film clip for “Alejandro” and how it emulated “Like a Prayer” and other Madonna videos almost to a tee.

While we would like to think that we have grown as a society and have become more accepting of different people in the twenty years since “Like a Prayer” was banned, “Alejandro”’s critical reception from religious and parenting groups may indicate otherwise…

[Shmoop] Like a Prayer Meaning.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] More Madonna.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Katy P. VS. Lady G.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Madonna (and Her Brand of “Feminism”) On the Rocks.

Images via YouTube.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Flavorwire celebrates the Chinese New Year with “40 Culturally Relevant Rabbits”.

Ryan Gosling as feminist icon?

Jennifer Aniston controversially embraces her inner Lolita for Allure.

Speaking of… The allure of Mormon housewife blogs.

Chad Woody on “The Oprahverse”:

“This gets at my perennial problem with Oprah. She’s all about the self-determined destiny. This comes from hanging out constantly with celebrities, the cultural lottery winners of the world, and asking them about their origins and beliefs. Sure, some of them say they were lucky in some way, but what Oprah really digs for is that little gold nugget of ego in everyone that says, “I did it my way, and I always knew I would!” But success woven from big dreams is an easy pattern to discern if you’re only interviewing winners…”

While I don’t agree with Erica Bartle’s comments—I believe that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was “born this way” as Lady Gaga, and everything she does is an extension of herself—the girl with the satchel raises some interesting points about not needing “an alter ego when you’re happy with who you really are”.

Also at GWAS, Bartle laments the demise of The Saturday Age’s A2 supplement in favour of “the more generic Fairfax Life & Style moniker). I feel your pain :(.

“Why I (Really, Seriously, Truly) Hate Carrie Bradshaw”:

“…If I ever saw a woman dressed like that either here in the city, or anywhere else in the world, I’d throw a Twinkie at them, tell them to take a long look in the mirror and eat a damn carb for a change. Yes, I keep Twinkies on me for such occasions… Carrie once threw a Big Mac at Big, so throwing things have been all the rage ever since, right?”

Not only do strong women get branded “the bitch” for knowing what they want and standing up for themselves (if I can be so cavalier, I consider myself a strong woman who is often called “bitch”), but apparently it’s hardest for us to find equally as strong, if not stronger, men in the dating market. Woe is us.

Some more thoughts from Sarah Wilson:

“… Men aren’t happy because they’re not being real men. They’re denied the opportunity to pursue, to go after the woman they reckon is perfect for them. That’s because they’re being pursued by women. Why? Cos everything is out of whack (women are used to chasing things and get impatient when men don’t approach, but also because the men aren’t pursuing… cos they don’t have to… and it goes around and around). And so men feel emasculated by this. Because men are meant to be the hunters.  The peacocks who do dances and display their prowess to women, to earn female trust and affection. Since the cost of partnering is higher for women, they must be fussier and sit back and weigh up their options. This is a biological imperative.”

In a similar vein, “The Sexual Cost of Female Success”:

“…What’s important is getting women to question every decision they make on the grounds of what insecure men might potentially think about it, men you’d never want to date anyway because their insecurities would make the relationship hell. And, more importantly, because you’re not physically attracted to them—something no amount of data or bullshit studies on the internet will ever change. Yes, women are ruining everything by not planning their lives expressly according to men’s biological clocks and wishes.”

Gender Agenda and Melinda Tankard-Reist get their wordplay on in the fight against Kanye West’s Monster video.

Can everyone get over Michelle Obama’s clothing choices already?:

“Michelle Obama is a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer and former executive at the University of Chicago Hospitals system who happens to dress pretty well and be married to the president of the United States of America. But what are the stories about her that have dominated the media? They’re not about her skills, her experience, her mind, or even about her almost disgustingly uncontroversial pet issue, fighting childhood obesity. The Michelle Obama News is about whether her eyebrows are ‘angry.’ Whether her clothes mark her as a ‘new Marie Antoinette’… [or a] ‘new Jackie Kennedy.’”

The straight guy’s guide to Glee.

In response to Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s “Hardcore”, Tana Ganeva debunks “The Anti-Male, Anti-Sex Falsehoods That Rule Discussions About Porn and Sexuality”.

Shut up, Mark Latham!

I disagree with most of Miranda Devine’s views in “Buying a Baby—Not a Pair of Shoes”, but one thing’s for sure: Nicole Kidman’s surrogacy is one contentious issue.

The secret diary of a call girl.

The private lives of Pippa Lee public people.

The dating game according to the ladies of the Jersey Shore.

“The Baby-Sitters Club: Where Are They Now?”

Image via Sassi Sam.

REPUBLISHED: Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

 

Following on from Monday’s post about the Feminism Has Failed debate, I thought I’d republish an entry from earlier in the year, when I went to hear Naomi Wolf speak at the Wheeler Centre about her book, The Beauty Myth, which led me to ask: Is there really a beauty myth?

Last night I went to see prolific feminist author Naomi Wolf speak on her book, The Beauty Myth, and how images of beauty in the media are used against women at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas in Melbourne.

The common perception about “feminists” is that they’re all—to borrow a quote from Bring It On—“big, dikey losers” who burn their bras and don’t shave under their arms. But at the risk of sounding cliché, I don’t believe you can be female and not be a feminist.

There was an overwhelming amount of people packed into the Capitol Theatre, off Swanston Street, and the majority were your average woman on the street, most coming from work or uni, with the odd flanny-wearing, mullet-rocking stereotype. And a few men, too, one of whom posed the question as to whether women’s magazines facilitate the media’s ideal of what a woman should look like. (More on that later.)

I also don’t like the notion, and nor does Wolf, that to be a “feminist”, or to even be interested in the topic without adopting the extremist views that some “second-wave feminists” espouse—Catharine MacKinnon, I’m talking to you—is to be a Germaine Greer tome-thumping man-hater. She touched on this when she mentioned that whenever there’s a move forward for women (ie. the right to vote, the availability of the birth control pill meaning women could have “sex without the punishment of pregnancy”, Jennifer Hawkins posing nude and unairbrushed on the cover of Marie Claire), there is the inevitable backlash.

It was interesting to note the fact that that the three most important pieces of literature on feminism—The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, Greer’s The Female Eunuch, and The Beauty Myth—each have twenty-one years between their publication dates, a “coming of age” of sorts in understanding the “lexicon of feminism”, the MC said.

Another point of interest was the beauty and vivacity of the author herself, not to mention her fab shoes!

Wolf said she loved Australia because we’re so candid and unselfconscious in our responses to the issues she raises, and that nowhere else do “visiting feminists get treated like rock stars.”

Speaking of rock stars, an certain icon in history has been not only a rock star, but a gymnast, teacher, astronaut and mother, amongst many other occupations. This icon is Barbie, and she was a hot topic on the night.

Barbie represents the “universal ideal” of “transcendental beauty”, in the Western world in particular and, according to Wolf, she is a valuable media tool in the cosmetics, dieting and plastic surgery industries.

Wolf asked why we never see women who are not under 40, thin, tanned, blonde, blue-eyed and Caucasian (ie. Barbie) in the media (which I personally disagree with; Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Ellen DeGeneres, Christina Hendricks, Kim Kardashian, Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and the Grey’s Anatomy women are a few examples that counter this theory). Here is the one word answer: advertisers. They are the reason the Barbie-stereotype is on the cover of magazines every month.

Sure, magazines get most of their revenue from the advertisers, and if they think their brand ideal will be jeopardised by running an ad in Glamour magazine, which has been running a lot of plus-sized photo shoots recently and garnering a lot of attention for it, for example, they will not give their ad money to that magazine. So therefore, Glamour has a lower budget to promote itself to readers every month. Then its loyal readers receive less of the content they keep coming back for, ie. women who look like them, and will stop buying that magazine.

On the other hand, as Mia Freedman talks about in her memoir, Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood, and editor of Shop Til You Drop magazine Justine Cullen writes in this month’s issue, women don’t buy the Ellens, Meryls and Kims, they buy the Jennifers and Kates. So, Wolf said last night, “it’s something you’re doing” as media consumers.

So it’s a double-edged sword. We complain that we want to see more “real women” in magazines, however we’re not willing to shell out for them, therefore sales go down, advertisers move elsewhere, and “we don’t know what we’re missing” because “women doing interesting things are omitted” from the mainstream media, and instead we get another story on Jennifer Aniston’s desperation over Brad and Angelina’s marriage, or some crap. I think Wolf is right in saying that we need to consciously refuse to buy into those kinds of stories and look towards other instances of women in the media.

However, I don’t agree—and this seems to be the consensus, especially amongst those who don’t actually consume women’s magazines on a regular basis—with the belief that all women’s magazines try to sell us are diets, $350 beauty products that don’t actually work, and low self-esteem. To people with this view, I say, try picking up a copy of Cosmopolitan, Frankie or Girlfriend magazines. These are all publications that are geared towards different demographics of females—sexually active and assertive women in their late teens to mid-to-late twenties; alternative, crafty women, most likely studying design or politics; and the teenage set, respectively—that DO NOT run diets, do recommend fashion and beauty products at the affordable end of the spectrum, and present women of all shapes and sizes in a positive light. Not all women’s magazines are at the crux of this “beauty myth”.

Another major point in Wolf’s theory is the abundance of pornography in today’s society, which she also talks a lot about in this past weekend’s Sunday Life supplement in Melbourne’s The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. She argues that this lowers the sexual confidence of both men and women, but young women, in particular, feel they have to offer an array of sexual activities they’re not necessarily comfortable with in order to “feel competitive in the sexual marketplace”. Because men, in particular, have such “strong, Pavlovian responses” to porn, excessive consumption can lead to desensitisation to the real thing, which is why there is such a surge in impotence in young men.

Where once it were supermodels who determined the sexual ideal of women, it is now female porn stars, with their svelte, childlike torsos, fake breasts and meticulously trimmed pubic region, society uses as the benchmark. Bodies that share similarities with— who else?!— Barbie.

One could argue that Brazilian and XXX waxing is a way for the male-geared porn industry to beat women into submission, so that they become childlike and are able to be dominated. Another intriguing point Wolf puts forward can be traced back to the dieting industry, in that striving to look the way of the porn star, with a super-slim body and low body mass index actually diminishes the libido. Is this really what society wants whilst pushing such a sexual culture? Or is it in tune with the subservient nature of females in porn?

Wolf also addressed the perception that women with eating disorders and negative body image are “crazy”. As an anorexic in her teens, Wolf debunked this, saying that “physiologically, low calorie count causes mental impairment,” and is a “form of control” by the dieting industry, the media, and society to control and suppress women’s ambitions. Because when you’re thinking about food and exercising and the way you look, you’re not thinking about education and work and your future.

She added that a way to counteract this is to form “active critical thought” about images of beauty, which apparently 33% of women do. Another 18% become obsessed by these images, which in turn leads to eating disorders and body dysmorphia. The rest of us hover somewhere in between.

During question time, one audience member asked why she—who comes from an educated, loving and supportive background; is surrounded by encouraging and non-judgemental friends and family; who does form critical opinions about the media’s portrayal of women—feels ugly, fat, not good enough and constantly compares herself to other women, in the media or no, and how “active critical thought” can really alter this.

I thought this was a very brave and fascinating question put to Wolf, however her response was more disheartening. In a nutshell, she basically said that at the end of the day, if being open to different images of beauty, both from the mainstream and non-mainstream media worlds, and being able to confidently and objectively realise that not everyone looks like that and that is not the real-life ideal, still makes you feel like crap, there may be some underlying issues that only a therapist can fix.

Which poses another question: how far have we really come? From the 1920s “flapper body style” that emerged when women first won the vote and somehow felt they had to look more masculine to adapt to this, to an auditorium full of beautiful, successful, smart and “critically thinking” independent women in 2010, does this notion of the “beauty myth” really exist? Is there a beauty myth that we have to expose?

Lady Most Likely: Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

Every time I turn on the readio, it seems like there’s a Will.I.Am collaboration (“3 Words” with Cheryl Cole; Usher’s “OMG”; “Imma Be” with Black Eyed Peas) or Will.I.Am sounding collaboration (“Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B.; “If We Ever Meet Again” by former über-producer Timbaland and Katy Perry) getting airtime. The BEP front man may indeed be the new Timabland, so I was surprised he didn’t make it onto the list. There’s always next year, I suppose…

Someone who did make it on, though, is Lady Gaga.

Cyndi Lauper, Gaga’s partner-in-crime for the MAC AIDS Fund, profiles her for possibly the most talked about ranking this year. I have no doubt Gaga is the most influential person in entertainment today, as she’s collaborating with and inspiring the fashion, beauty, art, advertising, music and film worlds with her own performance artas Lauper writes, “she is inspiring other artists to go further in their own work”and striking up water cooler conversation with her boundary pushing antics, both onstage and off.

Time is spot on in naming Marc Jacobs the only influential fashion figure. Jacobs, who is profiled by fellow fashionista and friend, Victoria Beckham, glamorised grunge, began the bag lady chic movement, and is now championing voluptuousness in his new season looks for Louis Vuitton and his titular line. Perhaps Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour would have made welcome additions, but Jacobs certainly has the respect of all facets of the fashion world his peers, his models, his muses and his loyal subjects.

I am utterly dumbfounded to not see George Clooney on the list. Not only did he single-handedly organise the Hope for Haiti Now telethon but, like a fine wine, he only gets better with age.

In other “Artists” notes, shoe in Oprah is profiled by Phil Donahue, while her partner, “Mr Oprah” Stedman Graham makes the Least Influential list (more on that below); Robert Pattinson is bafflingly included (for influencing legions of teens and, worryingly, tweens ready and willing to let Pattinson bite them? Perhaps Brad and Angelina would have been better choices, as they actually contribute something to societyas well as being really, really ridiculously good looking. Or even Stephenie Meyer, without whom Pattinson wouldn’t have an Edward Cullen to broodingly portray); and “new media mogul” Ashton Kutcher, whom I was pleasantly surprised to see on the list.

Of course, President Obama makes an appearance as one of, if not the most influential leaders. While he certainly is the most well-known leader on the list, whether he’s been as influential as he could have during his first year in the presidency is a point of contention for a lot of politicos and American citizens.

My second favourite President (after Obama, George W. Bush is the only other President whose reign I was [un]lucky enough to grow up during, so Clinton wins via default), I find Bill Clinton funny, charming and smartalthough, hey may not have been utilising the latter during Lewinskygate. Nonetheless, he’s making positive change, and that’s all that matters here.

On the other hand, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin makes the list. She is certainly fascinating and controversial, but I wouldn’t call her influential. Perhaps she would be more at home on Barbara Walters’ annual most fascinating people list?

Speaking of other lists, on page 96 you will find Joel Stein’s “The Time Bum Hundred”, relaying how he chronicled the 100 least influential people of 2010, split into “four categories… Losers, Flameouts, Morons and Slimy Bastards”. The complete list is not available in the mag, but it is on Time’s website.

Here is a sneak peak of “the Least Influential People Who Used to or Ought to Have Influence”, not including babies (who really are the least influential people in the world!), “the tattooed chick who messed up Sandra Bullocks’ marriage” (negative influence), and Tiger Woods, who just had a “bad year”, but is “still immensely influential, only now his influence lies in preventing men from texting their mistresses”: the Tom Tom GPS navigation system; “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”; Paula Adbul; Michael Jackson’s doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray who, unfortunately, was influential enough last year to play a key role in the death of Michael Jackson; Joaquin Phoenix; gay-disapprover, sex tape “without any sex” star and Former Miss California Carrie Prejean; “first dog” Bo Obama; George Clooney’s ex, Sarah Larson; former MTV TRL host Carson Daly; questionably, The Doors, who “actually sucked and just had a handsome lead singer”; Grover; Carrot Top; news anchor Katie Couric; John Edwards; the quintessential douche bag reality show dropout, Jon Gosselin; keeping it in the familyLindsay and Michael Lohan; Jersey Shore outcast Angelina Pivarnick; Bernie Madoff; Levi Johnston; Tila Tequila; Nicollette Sheridan; witches (“Charmed was like, ten years ago. It’s all about vampires, werewolves and zombies now”); anddrum roll pleaseSpencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, collectively known as Speidi. Let’s hope Heidi truly is uninfluential, especially for The Hills‘ primarily teen audience’ssake, or we could have an army of over-inflated, frozen-foreheaded Barbie clones on our hands.