Friday, April 30, 2010

Monster-ous Advertising: Monster Energy and violent masculinity

As some readers may know, two of my biggest interests as a feminist are gender and advertising. The messages advertising sends are important to understand. They help reinforce our understanding of the world, especially the gendered aspects. These messages are everywhere and they can hardly be ignored.

I work at a convenience store on my college campus, and a few weeks ago I was stocking a cooler of Monster Energy drinks when the violence associated with their drinks became unavoidable. To start with the name Monster and their logo which is the letter "M" made out of three claw marks. Both the name and the image convey a certain level of animal aggression that carries through to all the products that they market. I took some pictures on my phone to post here.

Notice the product name above (M-80) and how the zero resembles the cross hairs on a sight of a gun (the Khaos drink also uses this tactic).

I think the Monster Assault* was the most disturbing to me. I know that part of my strong reaction was due to the fact that sexual assault has been a very hot topic at my college, so seeing the word assault automatically put some very troubling ideas in my head. I will not say that Monster's choice of drink name in any way was intended to imply anything relating to sexual assault, but that does not free them from the consequences of the choice.

At a very practical level, what is the point of calling an energy drink "Assault"? Not only does it give no indication of the drink's taste, but it is a word with numerous bad connotations. What are we to think about this product? That it helps prepare one for assault?

No. Monster is playing a typical advertising game in which a very aggressive, even violent, masculinity becomes as much of a product as the drink that the company is actually trying to sell.

I make the assertion that the violence being marketed here is masculine for several reasons.

First, violence and aggression are generally viewed in this society as masculine traits. In the gender dichotomy we are taught to think in/live by, women are associated with a timid femininity. Men, on the other hand, are associated with an assertive, agressive, and even acceptably violent masculinity.

Second, if you view the Monster Energy Drink website you will find a section entitled "Monster Girls" that showcases the type of women that men are supposed to find attractive (thin, big boobed, hardly dressed, sexually available -- look at the bios).

Clearly, these drinks are meant to be masculine. They are meant to appeal to men.

The problem, therefore, lies in the violent aggression in the words used on Monster products. Buying into the masculine = violent stereotypes to sell products only perpetuates troubling ideas about gender. If boys and men are taught to believe (from TV, family, friends, magazines, and even energy drinks) that in order to be real men, they must be violent, or at least be interested in violence, the implications are frightening. Such beliefs can manifest themselves in numerous, problematic ways. Verbal violence, domestic violence, sexual assault. All of these are very real problems that are added to when violent masculinity is sold to boys and men everywhere they turn.

In a society where only one kind of masculinity (that is agressive and has no room for compassion or other off setting characteristics) is accepted and being taught to our boys and men, it is no wonder that violence is such a problem.

*On the back of the Monster Assault can is printed the following: At Monster we don't get too hung up on politics. We're not for "the War," against "the War," or any war for that matter. We put the "camo" pattern on our new Monster Assault can because we think it looks cool. Plus it helps us fire up to fight the big multi-national companies who dominate the beverage business. We'll leave politics to the politicians and just keep doing what we do best - make the meanest energy supplements on the planet. Declare war on the ordinary! Grab a Monster Assault and Viva LA REVOLUTION! That's their side of it. I'll leave that without comment, except I wonder what they say about their Monster Hitman energy shooters?

Friday, April 23, 2010

NOT a win, FAIL Blog and Cheezburger.

(trigger warning on image at the link)

NOT a win. Jesus, how many times do we have to talk about this?

I'm utterly, utterly tired about women's bodies being used as fodder for jokes, much less sexual assault jokes. You spend so much time and energy trying to enact real difference in people's attitudes and interactions with others, and then one image can suck all the air out of any sense of progress. The fact that the core of the image is focused around one simple idea - that women aren't people. That it's funny to see women's bodies assaulted.

Sometimes it just feels suffocating.

Here's the contact page for the people at FAIL Blog and Cheezburger.

Have a nice weekend, I guess.

Quote of the Day

“I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”

-Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, in a letter to Ben Roethlisberger suspending him for 6 games

via Speaking of Faith Observed

Monday, April 19, 2010

RIP Dede Allen, innovative film editor

When you watch action, comedy, romance, foreign, well, pretty much any type of film, you owe the pace of the film and the cuts from shot to shot to one woman - Dede Allen. She virtually changed the way movies are edited together, including shock cutting and overlapping audio (playing the beginning audio over the last second of the prior scene).

One of her greatest film accomplishments was Bonnie and Clyde (1967). The editing subtly contributed to the themes of the movie, infusing the film with an overtone of sexuality through it's cuts. Additionally, the final shoot-out that kills Bonnie and Clyde is fast-paced with 50 cuts in less than 60 seconds. It was the first film where an editor received solo billing in the credits.
"The skills of a great film editor are almost always invisible, and when Allen's work on Bonnie and Clyde is discussed, the focus tends to be on her split-second cross-cutting in the shoot-out that ends the movie or the breakneck robbery getaway scenes. But Allen's contribution was far more nuanced than the creation of a couple of showpiece sequences. Allen, who has called herself a 'gut editor - intellect and taste count, but I cut with my feelings' - was almost peerless in her ability to focus on 'character, character, character'...

Allen knew just how long she could hold a shot of Beatty to reveal the insecurity beneath Clyde's preening; she seemed to grasp instinctively that sudden cuts to Dunaway in motion would underscore the jagged, jumpy spirit of Bonnie Parker and that slow shots of Michael J. Pollard's C.W. Moss would mimic his two-steps-behind mental processes. And Allen cut Bonnie and Clyde with an eye and ear for the accelerating pace of the story, making the building of its panicky momentum her priority."

Mark Harris, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, pgs 286-287

Besides Bonnie and Clyde, Allen edited The Hustler, Reds, Dog Day Afternoon, The Breakfast Club, The Addams Family, Wonder Boys, John Q and more.

Dede Allen, groundbreaking film editor, died this weekend. Thank you for all of your work in revolutionizing film editing. Rest in peace.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Link Lovin'

So, I've noticed lately that some blogs have been directing traffic to Female Impersonator because they've linked us. That's awesome, and we all appreciate the love very very much.

Well, if you are one of those bloggers who is showing us some love and we're not linking back to you, go ahead and leave a comment here (including a link to your blog) and I will return the favor.

Also, just out of curiosity, how did you find Female Impersonator?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Know what I hate?

When you're trying to co-host a feminist radio show and some guy calls up and asks if he can request a song.

This is not unusual. People call to request songs on the radio all the time.

But when you explain that you host a feminist radio show and that you only play female-positive (or neutral) music and the guy says that he'll call back...and then he calls back asking you to play this song by Ludacris (warning - the lyrics are horribly sexist). Well, I hate that.

When that song was requested by a guy who clearly knew the criteria that Kate and I use to judge what music we play on our feminist radio show, it was annoying. It was clearly an attempt to try to cut us down. Either that, or that guy was really uneducated and had no concept at all about what "female-positive" means. But I don't buy that at all.

This isn't even the worst of what Kate and I have experienced during our three years of hosting the Female Impersonators Radio Hour at Knox College, but it never ceases to be annoying.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Britney Spears challenges photo altering

Please read this letter to Britney Spears, written by Melissa at Shakesville.

In it, Melissa mentions how Britney decided to release, side by side, both unaltered and altered photos taken during a recent shoot for Candies.

These kind of made my day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mike Huckabee creates a stir on my Facebook news feed

Facebook is clearly the best place for anyone (like me) who clearly has nothing better to do than try to educate their friends about sexism/racism/homophobia.

Mike Huckabee recently went to The College of New Jersey and was interviewed by the school's newspaper. A transcript of the interview provides the following quote from Huckabee, about legalizing same-sex marriage:

"That would be like saying, well there's there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let's go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?" he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

One of my friends wrote a status about this quote saying that he did not think the comparison was hateful at all. I responded to his status, but I will keep my analysis out of the comments for the time being.

So go ahead, discuss.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A post in which I question my participation in social networking...

Like millions of other people in the world, I have a Facebook account. I started my account in order to network with people who would be attending Knox College with me, and over the years it has grown into one of my preferred methods of communicating with people I am unable to see often.

However, Facebook is often a cause of much frustration for me because it gives people space to proclaim some rather shockingly sexist attitudes and beliefs. For example, one male on my friends list recently posted a status that said, "handjobs are like the WNBA, a cheap imitation of something guys do better themselves." I tried to point out how this was sexist, but the poster seemed to get distracted and have his attitude reinforced by others who commented saying that this status was funny.

I call out sexist/homophobic/racist statuses rather frequently to varying degrees of success. But today I was met with a shocking Facebook fan page. Anyone can make a fan page on Facebook, and currently there is a growing trend for people to make pages for anything even remotely clever that might attract fans. Today in the "Suggestions" sidebar of my Facebook home page, I was introduced to a fan page for "more girls go to college than boys, so stfu and make ME a sandwich," a page with more than 147,000 fans* and some pretty horribly sexist photos.

(click for a better view)

"But Amelia," people will say. "The first part is true. More girls are in college than boys. And the other part is a joke. Stop being a humorless feminist and just take a joke. It's a joke, see? Haha!"

I'll be honest. I am writing this post without knowing the current statistics when it comes to gender and college attendance in America (I know that my college is about 60/40 when it comes to women/men), but even if it is true beyond a doubt that more women attend college then men, that does not excuse the sexist language in the title of this page. Yes, it may be an inversion of a sexist trope, but I don't find it funny because it is still being used to put people down.**

The "make me a sandwich" trope is used so commonly that most people probably don't recognize the problems it presents. It is often used as a means of demeaning women who dare to make something of themselves. It is used to put women "in their place" - the kitchen, where they can serve men. Turning this on men does not make it funny. It's still sexist, through and through.**

The worst part of this terrible fan page?

Two of my friends are fans.

*At approximately 8:15pm CST on April 7, 2010 when I took the screen shot featured above

**EDIT (4/8/10): Added some lines to clarify that inverting a sexist "joke" so that it's aimed at men does not mean it's funny.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More from a rape culture

Do you want another example of what rape culture really is?

Looking in the corners of the bathroom I change in at work in case someone hid a camera there.

Didn't even realize how messed up that is until today and I've been doing it for months.

If women aren't safe in their hotel rooms and homes, then how can I be safe in the locked bathroom at my work?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A lunchtime conversation among friends

Overheard at the lunch table today...
Boy 1 to Girl 2: I heard Girl 1 didn't like a princess when she was at your house!

Girl 1: I didn't like Jasmine when I went over to your house.

Girl 2: Why not?

Girl 1: Princesses wear long skirts. She had pants on.

Girl 2: Princesses can wear pants.

Boy 1: Yeah, princesses can wear pants!

Boy 2: They can even wear shorts.

Girl 2: Yup.

Girl 1: They could wear underwear outside!

Girl 2: Nope, princesses don't do that.

Boy 1: [mashes up watermelon in his milk glass] Look, I made a watermelon smoothie!

The end.

When beautiful isn't beautiful...

...unless it's impossible.

The woman on left is Kimora Lee Simmons. I'm not sure who that is on the right, but I think we're supposed to believe that she is Kimora Lee Simmons.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Learn From This Fail

Last night I came across a new (to me) website, Learn From My Fail. It's similar to fmylife, in that people can submit less-than-perfect moments from their life to be read on the internet. Going through some of the posts on LFMF, I found this by a user by the name of "feeling violated":

This is upsetting because it tells of an experience of violation that no person should have to deal with, and illustrates the troubling fact that there are still many people in this world who do not view women as anything more than public property.

What's worse is the tone of victim blaming.

The website is called Learn From MY Fail, which indicates that because this woman posted her experience, she is blaming herself for the uninvited actions of the "frat boys" at the party she attended. This is classic victim blaming: If only she hadn't worn that shirt, those boys wouldn't have been provoked into touching her in a way that she clearly wasn't comfortable with. It just makes me sad that she has bought into the idea that their behavior was somehow a failure on her part.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Troll Patrol: Trans people and othering

I recently received a troll comment in my inbox to be moderated relating to this post about the International Transgender Day of Visibility. The comment was not as easy for me to write off as most troll comments are.

The troll spewed off the normal sort of "why are you paying attention to these people and not to ME" attitude prevalent in most troll-speak, but it was the last line of the comment that caught my eye.

And for the record, what you're doing is counterproductive to getting a group accepted as "same as everyone else", because you're making them separate and
"different" and "othering" them through your actions.
Full disclosure: Someone very dear to me is trans*. The same is true of several of my friends at college. So that is part of the reason this particular troll comment hit somewhat close to home.

That last line of the comment gave me pause because I was concerned that perhaps, after all the time I have spent trying to educate myself as best I can about issues particular to trans people, that maybe my cisgender privilege had led me to do something that may have hurt people I never intended to harm.

What is othering?

The basic concept of othering entails the creation of a dynamic of opposing groups of “us” versus “them.” There is nothing essentially bad about othering. It is a categorizing process that is given qualitative value based on it use. Negative othering could be taking on aspect of a person that makes them distinctive (that they are transgender, for example) and using that as a reason to harm them. Positive othering includes using one’s point of view (that sexism is bad) and using it against the opposite side (that sexism is good) in order to gain rights for more people. So, while the concept of othering is not necessarily either good or bad,

“…we do have to be careful about it, even positive othering can turn into something negative, for example when talking about countries that need aid we tend to treat them as inferior to us, and in doing so we are distancing ourselves from them and viewing them as ‘the other’.” – h/t

The Comment

In the quoted section of the comment there are several problematic assumptions. First is that the goal of bring to light the lives of trans people is to have them viewed as “same as everyone else” and that by promoting the Transgender Day of Visibility was “counterproductive” to that goal. While it could make sense that this would be a goal for those who work for the rights of trans people (after all, trans people are often persecuted and killed for being the “other”), it is not necessarily the case. True, some members of this community may want to pass and live without being openly trans, but other members of the same community (Monica, Queen Emily and Lisa for examples that I read often) are vocal about their trans identities and even use them to shape their activism. Basically, we have to be sensitive to the fact that the trans community is diverse in many ways, including their feelings on passing.

The second assumption in the comment is that by blogging about this Day of Visibility I was othering trans people in a way that the comment author implied was negative. This ties back to the simple understanding of what is best for a group of which he is not a member. In response to this assumption, I would like to address a few points.

Acknowledging how a group is different, especially when that group is already being denied jobs, harassed, and killed for being different every day is not an inherently threatening move. Difference is an important trait in being human. You know the phrase: “No two people are alike.” While acknowledging the difference between themselves and cis people may not be comfortable for all trans folks, it does not necessarily follow that creating a safe space for people to express their differences, if they so choose, is dangerous.

Without awareness and education, there is no hope of working towards ending transphobia. If we completely stopped discussing trans people, their lives and issues particular to them in order to avoid othering them in a negative way, think of all the ignorant, transphobic hate that would manifest itself in the lives of these people. While making the issue of transphobia visible may not stop all transphobic attacks, without it I believe the world would be much worse off.

That comment forced me to consider this issue, but I believe that as long as we work to make safe spaces for people who choose to be vocal about their lives as trans people (and maybe educate a few people along the way) that we’ll be just fine.

Thanks for your interest, though, Troll.

*EDIT 4/3/10: Thanks to a comment left by Queen Emily, I realized that I unintentionally othered my trans friends by mentioning their positions on surgeries/hormones. That information has been removed because it is irrelevant to this post. I had included it originally because I had written a slightly different post that mentioned feelings on surgery/hormones (and I question if it was even necessary there), but I take full responsibility for my mistake. I appreciate all readers and commenters who help me recognize instances of my cis privilege and help me grow in my understanding of these issues.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Fail

I'm sorry, Sheldon Anderson, Republican candidate for the Minnesota House from Wyoming, MN, but how is this an April Fool's Joke?

It just makes you sound like an asshole.

The Declaration of Independence says that all people have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I think many of the things you list would fall under at least one of those categories for people out there. I may parse your use of "entitled," but I think we're talking about almost the same thing.

Gunn Is Love - Westboro Baptist Church counter-protest

Over at Shakesville I found this really touching video of Bay Area Gunn High School students who counter-protested a group of Westboro Baptist Church picketers.

It made me smile. I wish my high school had been so awesome.

Check out the Shakesville link for the transcript.