Tuesday, July 31, 2007

F***ing Brilliant

In my last post, I wrote about this billboard. The discussion has sparked an interesting debate with remarks such as "women bring this on themselves."

Well a comment from Adrienne was so well written that I have decided to give it a proper place as its own post. To read comments leading up to this answer, click here.

Adrienne states:

Although I hate giving this answer, it is absolutely true: if you were a woman, you would totally get the whole 'objectification of women' problem. Imagine your wife having to go out in a skimpy tank top and boy shorts with an impending wedgie in order to get a fair deal at a car dealership. If the thought makes you uncomfortable, imagine how we feel-- especially if you do not, for whatever reason, fulfill that sexual stereotype. Is it fair for me to walk into a store and not get service, while my five foot one hundred and ten pound sister gets helped immediately? Call it human nature, and I'll buy it, but that doesn't make it right. My money is as good as anyone's, so is my time, and-- attention please-- so is my body. Same parts, same functions. In fact, I may even use some of my parts better than others.

Admittedly, the problem is, at times, stemming from women. I've commented on this before on this site. But lets examine that, shall we? In my experience-- as a woman-- women who pull me down because of my appearance do so because of some insecurity of their own. Why? Because we all see each other as competition. The fact that the sexual stereotypes (thou must be skinny, full breasted, with long blonde hair and ruby red lips) perpetuate in our heads is not our fault (even if it is our problem).

Looking at things from a generational stand point, let us take a small look at the women who we gained most of our insight from: Our Mothers. Our mothers, who were raised watching TV shows where girls were told that being a woman was better because it meant less responsibility and decision making. Mothers who took high school courses on making perfect roasts and how to fold napkins, while the boys learned accounting and managerial skills.

And, above all else, mothers who were taught by THEIR mothers that they needed to be a certain sexual stereotype in order to snag a bread winner for their empty little heads. It's no secret that since the beginning of time men have been choosing women based solely on their looks: if she's a virgin and she's beautiful, then she's worth every penny of the bride price. If she's 'soiled,' or ugly, then she better come with an awesome dowry. You may think times have changed, but the women of my generation-- when both eating disorders and teenage sexuality are at an all time high-- know differently.

Again, the fact that the stereotype perpetuates is not our fault, even if it is our problem.

The stereotype stems from, was created by, men. I have actually been broken up with because I am overweight. I have lost roles in musicals because I do not fulfill the 'romantic lead' appearance. I have been overlooked for PR positions because I don't have a 'public face' (look at the number one college major for beauty queens: communications).

The problem with this billboard is that it is selling sex. What a tired, overdone marketing ploy. This billboard tells me nothing about the radio station except that it is run by men, for men, who are willing to exploit and objectify women in order to get more listeners (read: money). What kind of music do they play? Soft core porn?

The question is: where do we draw the line? At what point have we crossed it? What negative outcomes could possibly outweigh the gains of this billboard?

Will all the teenage girls with eating disorders, trying desperately to look like this bill board please raise their hands? Continue raising them if you have also purchased ridiculously promiscuous clothes in an attempt to attract attention to your pubescent body?

And, PS-- it doesn't make much sense to have sex so blatantly on display for all to see and then to make contraceptives and abortion illegal. Just saying.


WELL DONE SISTER. Truly couldn't have said it better myself

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Billboard debate

This billboard has caused a firestorm of criticism in my community. The local newspaper featured several stories and the online forum for each drew pages and pages of comments.

A 37-year-old mother, Jennifer Dufner is at the front of a media campaign calling the billboard inappropriate. She has expressed concern over how the image will affect her 3 step kids (all younger than 10).

In this article, Dufner seems concerned about the clothing (or lack thereof) that is worn. I'm not offended really, this outfit is more than most women would wear for swim-wear. Rather than young children, I find myself worried about adolescent and pre-teen girls who see this billboard.

Young girls seeing this image will be very clear on the message. The sign says "THIS is what an acceptable, sexy woman looks like." And consequently, if you want to feel valued by men or if you want men to find you attractive, you will conform this beauty norm. I'm not saying this billboard alone does this. But this billboard paired with every other ad depicting young women, any every MTV image tells women that being thin, blonde, (and consequently, white) equals value. Not to mention that you make yourself sexually avaliable.

Young girls are told over and over through various mediums that they need to be provocatively dressed and sexually available. Interesting that in this billboard, the young woman has no head, no mouth no face-- none of that pesky personality. She's quite literally just a hot piece of ass.

What a nice message.

I can't see how this billboard breaks any obscenity law (our town's city council has agreed) but it certainly doesn't brighten my day driving by it. Just another disappointing ad in a trend of ads that cut apart women's bodies to sexually entice men and in turn, sell product. In this case, rock music. Not that women being sexy = horrible. Sure, entice the men-folk. But how about a hot rocker chick playing a guitar or belting out a song? Why is she this passive, faceless OBJECT?

On a related note, dehumanizing women in billboards has been a hot topic of late. There was a recent uproar about a much more disgusting billboard advertising for the movie Captivity. The sexualization of violence was so blatant in this case that the billboard was eventually pulled. And I must say, that if I had kids and they saw that atrocity, I WOULD be horrified as well. If my kid asked about the ROCK 102 billboard I could roll my eyes, but the Captivity poster is sick on a different level.

If you want a fabulous source for portrayals of women in advertising, look up Jean Kilbourne. Her video documentary series "Killing us Softly" is amazing.

The Rock station's billboard is relatively tame to be sure, but I wouldn't shed a tear if they all came down. I just think the advertisers could stand to stretch their imagination a little more. The sexualization of women's body to sell product is so overdone. Imagine doing something unique and actually clever.

Personally what offends me most is that she looks like she has the beginning of a wedgie.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Last night I was called in to the E.R. for a 23 year old rape victim-- same age as myself. I wondered what she was like as I drove to the hospital. Then I walked into the room came face to face with a man sitting in a hospital gown.

I sincerely hope the look of shock didn't register to my face.

Even though I know male rape happens, it wasn't really a reality for me. Every other trauma call I'd had was a female victim. I hadn't entered my realm of possibility that the 23 year old "victim" wouldn't look like me.

The evening was a huge learning experience. First I learned that the aftermath of rape is similar regardless of gender: shame, anger, embarrassment, wanting to keep it secret are reactions no matter what chromosome you have.

But I learned a great deal more speaking with the male police officer who was also at the scene. The cop was horrified by the notion that this could happen. The victim was driving in a truck with a coworker who pulled over, threatened him with a weapon and then threatened his life before forcing himself on him. This sort of thing was just not registering with the cop.

"How was he supposed to know that was coming? He knew this guy! Why would he do that out of no where?"

An angry, bitter voice inside me wanted to sneer, "Welcome to the world of womanhood where I fear every man who sits next to me... all the worse if I know him in some way."

Instead I said, "It's unthinkable I know. But this was an act of power and control and fear. It's not about sex but about violence. I don't even know if the gender of the victim mattered."

But the cop could NOT get over the idea of two men doing anything sexual-- consensual or not. I could tell immediately that he was having a very hard time (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) believing this assault had happened at all.

"No way in hell I'd let a man touch me like that. Disgusting."

Well yes it IS disgusting. But it'd be just as disgusting if he did this to a woman! I felt myself feeling more and more sorry for this male victim. We ask these same questions of female victims of course: Why didn't you fight back, did you just lay there and let it happen?

But male victims have an extra stigma. Male to female assault isn't regarded as out-of-the-ordinary. It's expected that a man could/would overpower a woman. But we expect men to handle their problems. A real man should be able to protect himself. No real man would stand for being raped! They'd fight, kick ass, they'd be TOUGH and STRONG. Men are not overpowered.

So the obvious conclusion is that men who are raped are weak, defective or maybe they wanted it to happen-- maybe they are gay?

Female victims face similarly horrible accusations but without that extra disgust of homophobia, and reaction of disgust that so many straight man have at the idea of one man forcing sex on another.

The scariest conclusion came later as I walked across the dark hospital parking lot. My eyes scanned around me and my keys were at the ready. Once I jumped safely into my car, I clicked down my automatic locks and heaved a sigh of relief. It was then I had a horrible jolt. I had been conditioned to play this role, lock the doors quick, be on alert, never accept an open drink, don't go back to his room alone etc. But does any of this cross my boyfriend's mind? My fathers? My best guy friends?

I guarantee the men in my life walk freely every day never dreaming they need to fear rape or sexual violence. But truth is healthy, strong, 23 year old men can be victims. And not only does our society seem mightily unfit to deal with male victims, but also we don't entertain the notion that men CAN be victims in the first place.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Not that I'm bitter

I'm angry at this point in my life. I feel like believing in God isn't so bad but organized religion causes nothing but problems and I have very specific anger in my heart for Catholic clergy.

For many reasons. My mother and I left the Catholic church years ago leaving my poor dad behind. There are plenty of priests out there who are quiet amazing--- I've even met a few. But the fact of the matter is, when it comes to the big-wigs in Vatican City. I would just as soon kick them in the shin. Seriously. Where the hell do they get off?

First the pope comes out with some bullshit about how you're not down with the G-O-D unless you're willing to worship (er-- follow) the Pope. After all, if you're not Catholic, you're just wounded.

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," the document said. The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.

They have the audacity to put that crap out there days before this hits.

Cardinal Roger Mahony apologized Sunday to the plaintiffs, who claim to have been sexually abused by archdiocese priests. He acknowledged that the settlement will not buy back their childhood.

You know what Mr. Pope, I don't think now was the best time to advertise that you are the only religion that "gets it" do you? Cause clearly you don't.

Yes. I take this all very personally. I take it personally when a bunch of men, who conveniently rule out women in every major role of influence and deny women any reproductive autonomy decide to inform the world that "ours is the only REAL way to go."

Oh and did I mention that they also try to tell you how to vote *otherwise no communion for you!* and they hate gay people.

Yeah. What winners!