Raunch Culture

After the women’s liberation movement in the 70’s, a group of women including Gloria Steinem founded Women Against Pornography (WAP); feminists opposing the porn industry, violence against women, sex trafficking and prostitution. This group was not as anti-sex as many of its opposers and critics would make it seem like, but they did oppose and actively try to change the way pornography portrays and objectifies women. In the coming years, the feminist line became more pro-sex and sexually liberating, seeing sex as an empowering way for women to become more free, and in the 90’s, the sexualization and objectification of girls and women became even more prominent in the mainstream media.

The raunch culture as Levi describes it is the highly visible sexualized culture we live in today, where both men and women are openly sexualize and objectify women as sexual objects, or as women, objectify themselves. Raunch culture is visible in music, film, TV, advertisements, magazines, fashion, video games and within the political and social world. Raunch culture is a form of backlash from the earlier times before the women’s liberation movement and the sexual liberation, before these events women’s sexuality wasn’t very visible at all, wasn’t supposed to be seen actually, but now with the raunch culture, it’s seen everywhere, from children’s movies to adult magazines! I don’t think (or at least I hope) I haven’t participated much in raunch culture, I don’t think it has anything to do with being a prude, it’s just not something I feel comfortable with. I don’t feel like I’m just an object, I’m more than just my body, and so all this sexualization and objectification and false empowering that the raunch culture ensures just makes me sad. Women are so much more than bodies, so settling for that is just cheap or talking the easy way out.

I don’t think that raunch culture is a symbol for post-feminism liberation, because even though women and girls may now feel more open, liberated, free and confident with their sexuality, raunch culture also makes women seem more like objects, and even more so, it makes it more acceptable because it’s so visible in the media. Flaunting your sexuality does not equal empowerment, raunch culture just makes sexuality less controversial but it is still as problematic from a feminist perspective. Male and female sexuality is still viewed on differently, and raunch culture just makes the differences even more obvious; men = subject, women = objects.

In the video, Anita Sarkeesian talks about the sexualization of some selected female cast members of Glee, a popular family show aimed for kids and adults alike. The female cast members in the photoshoot wear revealing clothes, sexualised pozes and attitudes – all while still looking like their on screen characters; high school kids. Sexualizing these girls, no matter if the actresses are older than they appear, is still harmful because it happens all. the. time. Girls and women are sexualized more than men and boys, that’s a known fact, but that they are doing it with characters who appear to be around 16 years old, living just an ordinary high school life? I agree with her arguments and I too feel like there is a bigger problem within this than just this single photoshoot. When images like these are getting more common, it’s no wonder than girls at younger ages than ever start feeling the pressures of being sexually objectified and conforming to beauty standards, just to “fit it”. That should not be the main goal of high school girls, but when images like these are frequently seen around the media, in magazines, billboards, advertisements, commercials etc it sets the standards; young girls look up to characters like the the girls on Glee and other role models like that, and seeing them being sexualized like that makes it more okay for it to happen in real life too. Raunch culture definitely makes it more acceptable for sexualized images like that to circulate and reach the eyes of young people who may not know better and think this is the norm.

(Originally posted on 2014/12/16 for Melanie Klein’s class blog “Women and Popular Culture”)

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The Body Project

The Body Project is probably the longest project I’ve ever worked on, I’ve probably never taken a break from it since the first day I became self-conscious about my body and how others viewed it. The female body project has become the primary focal point women and girls in today’s society; because if you take care of your body = you respect yourself.  Women and girls from a constantly younger age are encouraged to spend more time, energy and money than ever before on their appearance, because in today’s society, a woman is only worth her looks.

Compared to earlier times, like during the Victorian era, women still cared about their looks, but not to the same extent as today. Back then, if a woman cared too much about her looks or appearances, she would be considered self-absorbed, while today, that same consideration would be thought of as self-respect or self-worth instead. It takes much more time, energy and money today to obtain such beauty standard than it did before as well, because while the standard during the Victorian era was to be thin and weak (by wearing a corset), the standard for today is to be toned and fit, which takes much more effort to obtain for a woman. The beauty norms reflect the sociopolitical environment because there is nothing natural about beauty, what is considered beautiful or desirable characteristics both physically and mentally varies between cultures and time periods. After WWII for example, in order to get women out of the factories and give their jobs back to the returning men, the new beauty standard for women became hyper-feminine; women were encouraged to be more feminine and go back to the kitchen, working women were considered manly and not desirable at all.

The beauty myth reenforces other forms of oppressions as well, with its Eurocentrism. What most women strive for, and what is considered most desirable in our society is to be white, skinny, young, tall and rich – to be able to afford all of those beauty products, services, clothes and accessories. Women who don’t fit into the norms of what is considered most beautiful must spend even more time, effort and money to look like the norm; these increasing demands of women serves as a backlash as well, in that it makes it even harder for women to succeed in other areas. When women climb the social hierarchy in the political or business areas, becoming powerful and getting status and respect, they are still required, and to an even larger extent than less powerful women, to show that they are still beautiful and measure up the social beauty standards. So in today’s society when women have more power and have gotten further than ever in being equal, the backlash for women getting this far is the ever gaining pressure of living up to the beauty standards, that are also getting more and more demanding.

I have felt the pressure on me from our society and culture to work on my body project, to focus more on my appearances and looks, and it has had an enormous impact on me and my life, because when I was younger, as an insecure teenager, I spend all my time and effort on it. I had extremely low self-esteem and thought I wasn’t worth much (even though I was very successful in school and in sports for example) because I didn’t feel like I was pretty or skinny enough. I was very self conscious about my looks and my body to the point where I developed and eating disorder that ruled over my life for many years and stole a part of my childhood. The scary thing was that even when I was at my worst, I would still get compliments from friends who envied me for being so strong and so dedicated, for looking good/pretty/skinny etc, all while I was slowly breaking myself down both physically and mentally. I don’t have an answer to how this problem is going to be solved, girls even younger than me at the time I started to feel that huge pressure on me are facing the same problem and going through the same things, but whatever the answer is, I know it has to involve the media. The media gives young girls the images and role models to look up for and to strive for, and when those role models are overwhelmingly white, skinny, young, pretty, beautiful, tall and well-dressed, it’s no wonder that girls start to focus on that. The representations of women has to change, it has to be more diverse and feature women in all shaped, colors, sizes, professions, classes etc for girls to feel comfortable and proud of their bodies, but first of they have to see themselves represented, to know that there is no one universal beauty standard, because the truth is, there isn’t, even though the media today makes is seem like there only is one.

(Originally posted on 2014/12/16 for Melanie Klein’s class blog “Women and Popular Culture”)

Sex Sells But We’re Paying The Price

I’d hate to be a kid these days too, but I have to say that it wasn’t to easy two years ago either when I was a teenager. Sex sells as we all know, and for adults who know and might have experience about sex, they have it easier to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not, but for teenagers and younger kids who don’t know much, haven’t had any exposure to sex, sex ed etc, all the information they get is from the media, and the media uses sex to sell products – it’s not trying to be realistic! It’s hard to find an ad these days that doesn’t use any kind of sexual subtext or obvious sexual connections to sell, it’s so easy and so effective.

But the harm with this is again as the article mentions, that kids who don’t know better, get influence by all of this sexual content because it’s so overwhelming! When I was a younger, just like I guess every other teenager, felt the pressure of having sex and having a boyfriend/girlfriend. It didn’t come from my friends, definitely not from my family, but from what I saw in media, and I really loved this portion of the article:

“Teenagers should not be worrying that they can’t stand on their heads to perform certain positions, or that they won’t know who puts what where in a threesome. They should be learning about their own bodies through trust and love, gradually peeling away layers to reveal the depths of their sexuality and boundaries.”

If the media had sent me this message instead, I think many teenagers, myself included, would have been spared a lot of pain – being a teenager is hard enough as it is…

(Originally written on 2014/12/11)

This Is What A Real Woman Looks Like

I thought this video was great! A lot of statistics and facts combined with personal comments and observations, it reminded me a bit of the film “Miss Representation”. I think that a lot of people knows that the women we see in the media aren’t real representations of women, that they are too white, too skinny, too beautiful etc but no one seems to do anything about it, and more so, even though we all know it isn’t true – we still compare ourselves to those images, because they are overwhelming!

Real women can of course look like the ones we see in the media, but they are not the only type, and that’s where the fault lies. Women compare themselves to one tiny portion of women who looks that way (and mostly so because of photoshop, make-up and all that) when the majority of real women come in all shapes, sizes and colors, it’s just not representative at all.

The women in the video talk about how those images makes them feel and what they have done to make themselves “fit” into the medias view of a real woman, and I don’t think they were exaggerating at all. This is what I’ve done, and basically all of my female friends as well (and actually, a lot of my male friends too, but in a different capacity and for a different goal). We all want to be fit in, be loved and feel good about ourselves, but the media makes it so hard!

(Originally written on 2014/12/11)

Comic Books & Gender Attitides

I’ve never been a big fan of comic books, and I’ve not very interested in this superhero franchise that’s taking over the movie industry either. Superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America and all those other hunky guys that always saves the day and/or the girl never appealed to me, because they always seemed so stereotypical in its portrayal of men and women. Men = strong and women = weak, and that’s basically it.

Now, since I’m not very familiar with comic books and all that, I found it fascinating to read this article and learn a bit more about that kind of culture, because maybe it’s not so black and white as I’ve always imagined it. Just the fact that Lois Lane represents the “standard” American girl, how her image changed before and after WWII is something I never knew, how it could be seen as a reflection of reality. And now that comic books have introduced more female protagonists, even though they are not equal to their male counterparts (Batman vs Batgirl) it is once again a reflection of reality; it’s progress but not good enough.

Just like that gay comic book characters now exist – but one exception still doesn’t change the rule or the “standard”, and the standard is still that hunky male superheroes saves the day and gets the girl, so I think that comic books, just like any other media has to do better, because it still enforces many stereotypical gender attitudes.

(Originally written on 2014/12/11)

Infantilizing the Mind

I thought this article was really interesting, because it “proved” a lot of things I’ve thought about social media, and what it does to us as consumers. Now, of course I understand that this article and the scientific proof from it comes only from one source, but still, I think there is reason enough to look more into it.

I’ve wondered for a while now how social media such as Facebook, that enables its users to watch short video clips, read short “stories” (statues, links etc) and chat with each other, does to our brains, because I’ve noticed that many of my friends and myself as well, who consume a lot of that kind of media, have started to get shorter attention spans. I find it hard to concentrate on a 2h+ movie or a long lecture for example, but watching a short Vine or YouTube clip – no problem! I don’t read as many books as before either, it’s just so much more convenient to read short articles and short stories, and finishing homework these days takes so much longer than it used to, because I cannot concentrate as well.

I think that the “infantilizing” of the human brain is a real problem, and not only with the shortened attention span, but with the other examples as well, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity, and I also definitely think that social media is a cause of it because it exposes the brain to an enormous amount of that kind of short, sensational content.

(Originally written on 2014/12/11)

Low Tech Parents

I can’t really remember if my parents enforced some kind of restriction on how much I could use the computer or watch TV when I was a kid, but I understand and agree completely why Steve Jobs’ and all the other high tech people have such restrictions on their kids. Especially nowadays when it’s so easy for kids to access everything from music, games and videos on smartphones, iPads and computers, and when it’s common for adult to get addicted to all that, what about the kids?

I think it’s only responsible of parents to have restrictions on how their kids uses technology, and even though the kids might protest about it, it’s for their own good; parents might not always know best, but they are definitely more experienced. I also agree on what Ali Portovi pointed out in the article, that there should be a difference between consuming and creating content.

And then again, if the restrictions are too harsh, I also think that there might be a backlash against it later from the kids, feeling like they have to compensate for everything they weren’t allowed to do. For example, as I kid I was never allowed to eat candy other than on Saturdays, but as soon as I got old enough to use my own money and buy things, I took revenge and bought candy for myself almost every day. There’s enough harmful media content shaping kids lives, so I only think it’s right of parents to do the best they can in creating a safe and good environment for their kids.

(Originally written on 2014/12/11)