Friday, August 5, 2011

Masculinity Sells: Targeting Males in Beer Ads

In the advertising world, products are rarely marketed solely based on their characteristics. Instead, they are often sold on the basis of seemingly unrelated factors, such as gender. This is perhaps most apparent in beer advertisements. They target male consumers through their portrayal of masculinity via the use of the male body and female objectification.

Beer ads often display a strong male physique in order to define masculinity. According to Katz, “one way that the system allows working class men (of various races) the opportunity for what Brod refers to as ‘masculine identity validation’ is through the use of their body as an instrument of power, dominance, and control” (Katz 351). In other words, men are able to assert their masculinity on the basis of their bodies. Beer advertisements reinforce this view by showing men with ideal, muscular bodies that represent what all males should aspire to if they want to be “real” men. They make male consumers believe that they can appear more manly by drinking their brand of beer.

Besides the use of the body, beer advertisements define a man’s masculinity on the basis of the women that are available to him. The females in beer ads are portrayed in a very sexual manner. There are physically attractive women wearing little to no clothing in suggestive poses. Jhally states, “in advertising, gender (especially for women) is defined almost exclusively along the lines of sexuality” (Jhally 253). Women are shown as sexual objects that are simply accessories to go along with the beer. The ads show that the reward for drinking their beer is appearing masculine, for which the ultimate reward is an unlimited supply of beautiful women.

Works Cited

“Budweiser.” Photograph. Individuality: The New Conformity. Web. 4 August 2011.

“Budweiser- so many buds.” Photograph. Beer Images. Web. 4 August 2011.

“Corona Extra.” Photograph. Web. 4 August 2011.

Jhally, Sut. “Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 249-257. Print.

Katz, Jackson. “Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 349-358. Print.

“Keith Stone.” Photograph. Bleacher Report. Web. 4 August 2011.

“Samuel Adams.” Photograph. RifftRax Blog. Web. 4 August 2011.

“Skol Beer.” Photograph. Singapore Media Owners. Web. 4 August 2011.

“Ursus Beer ad.” Photograph. Beer Images. Web. 4 August 2011.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Barbie's Standards of Femininity

In order to analyze the ways in which toys teach children gender, I recently went on a shopping trip for a young girl. I was shopping for Lacey, an 8-year-old girl who likes soccer, dance, and Barbie dolls. For the purpose of this analysis, I opted to focus on Barbie dolls. Barbie purveys a certain message to young girls about what it means to be a woman. According to this toy, the ideal woman is white, rich, preoccupied with appearance, and limited to traditional female roles.
Barbie represents a very specific and idealized image of a female. For one, Barbie dolls are overwhelmingly white. The few that are not are specified as the African American counterpart to an existing white Barbie. Besides white and black, no other races were accounted for in the Barbie products that I encountered.

The image that Barbie embodies is also a wealthy one. The word “glamorous” is thrown around in many of the product descriptions. Barbie has access to mansions, vacation houses, pools, luxury cars, and yachts. She also has an unlimited stream of clothes and accessories. She unquestionably represents an upper class lifestyle.

Barbie portrays an unattainable image of beauty. Her figure is thin with large breasts, a tiny waist, and long legs. In addition to promoting this beauty ideal, Barbie shows girls how to achieve it by teaching a preoccupation with physical appearance. According to Rogers, “Barbie demonstrates that femininity is a manufactured reality” which “entails a lot of artifice, a lot of clothes, a lot of props such as cuddly poodles and shopping bags, and a lot of effort” (Rogers 95). In other words, Barbie shows that being a female requires a lot of maintenance. All of the dolls come with hair brushes. This is even true of the professional Barbies, showing that she needs to appear flawless even while on the job. Many of the Barbie products are centered completely around grooming. Girls can do her hair, make-up, nails, and even put tattoos and body glitter on her.

Barbie also teaches young girls the traditional roles that are valued for females. Many of the products relate to cleaning, cooking, and housekeeping. Even when Barbie decides to be a working woman, her careers are very much limited to stereotypically female ones. These include teacher, babysitter, nurse, and ballet dancer. Furthermore, these careers are portrayed in a very glamorous and feminine way. Her uniforms are almost always pink, glittery, and impractical. How many nurses do you know that wear pink stilettos to work?

All of these feminine ideals and roles help teach children gender. In his discussion of learning differences, Newman states that “toys and games that parents provide for their children are another influential source of gender information” (Newman 112). Barbie clearly sends a lot of messages about how girls should look and behave. Children internalize these messages in order to build a more complete concept of what it means to be a female in society.

In addition to simply teaching these views of what it means to be a female, many Barbie products allow children to actively try and emulate her. These products include everything from dress-up kits to accessories like fake sparkly cell phones. Barbie also introduces children from a young age to make-up and beauty kits. They even sell blonde wigs so kids can “look just like Barbie!”

Overall, Barbie teaches children gender, by depicting what it means to be a female in today’s society. According to Barbie, the ideal woman is white, upper class, and physically attractive. She is preoccupied with appearances and sticks to traditional gender roles. The children that play with Barbie dolls learn this image of women and internalize it. With the help of Barbie they are even able to emulate this vision.

Works Cited

“Barbie Hairtastic Hairplay Wig Set- Blonde.” Photograph. Toys “R” Us. Web. 27 July 2011.

“Barbie I Can Be Doll Playset- Newborn Baby Doctor.” Photograph. Toys “R” Us. Web. 27 July 2011.

Newman, David M. “Learning difference: Families, schools and socialization.” Identities and Inequalities: Exploring Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. New York, New York: McGraw Hill, 2007. Print.

Rogers, Mary F. “Hetero Barbie?” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 94-97. Print.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Patriarchy and Hegemony in "That '70s Show"

“That ‘70s Show” has very strong portrayals of gender in all of its main characters. However, for the purpose of this analysis I will focus on Donna Pinciotti. The show depicts Donna with masculine traits and feminist ideologies. However, these are still overpowered by hegemony and patriarchy since she is oppressed by her boyfriend.

Donna seems to exhibit some traits that are more masculine. These are mainly seen in her physical mannerisms, such as the way she walks and holds herself. This is also seen in the way she dresses. While the other women on the show wear floral skirts and dresses, Donna often wears plaid shirts and jeans. In addition, Jackie often comments on her masculine appearance, calling her names, such as “lumberjack.”

Her masculinity is further emphasized in comparisons to her boyfriend Eric. The gender roles in their relationship are somewhat reversed and Eric is portrayed as more feminine. His tiny build and sometimes overly sensitive personality are frequently made fun of by the other characters. In addition, Donna is portrayed as the more rational one in the relationship, while Eric is more emotional.

The masculinization of Donna can be viewed as a form of counter-hegemony. Hegemony is defined as “the power or dominance that one social group holds over others” (Lull 61). In this case, that would mean the power that men have over women. Therefore, counter-hegemony involves changing hegemonic messages and ideals in order to present new messages that are resistant to these dominant ways of thinking (Lull 65). Thus, showing Donna’s masculine traits goes against traditional views of gender in order to portray a different view of women as individuals that are not limited by female stereotypes forced upon audiences by males with power in the media.

Donna’s masculine qualities seem go hand in hand with her feminist attitude. Since the show takes place in the 70’s, her character is progressive and ahead of the times. She is rather independent and she speaks her mind. When Eric sees her expressing her maternal instincts he makes a comment that she would be great staying home with their future kids. Donna gets angry and says that she wants to be a working woman and that Eric should stay home with the kids. This starts a fight between the two of them

The fact that her ideas are progressive is accentuated in comparisons to other females on the show. Jackie cannot understand why Donna would not want to be a housewife. Donna’s mother is also confused and thinks of a working woman in terms of a “dancing girl.”

Donna’s progressive attitudes and views on life are a further example of counter-hegemony. She is shown as an independent and capable young woman who is not confined by society’s expectations of women. Additionally, she is not afraid to stand up to her boyfriend, acting as an equal and not a subordinate.

Despite Donna’s masculine traits and progressive feminist attitudes, traditional gender roles still win out in the show. For one, she is constantly oppressed by her boyfriend and she stays with him anyway. When she gets her story published in the school newspaper, Eric is disinterested and barely notices. Later, when they are fighting, Eric uses Donna’s desire to be a working woman as a way to put her down by suggesting that she would look sexually attractive in a business suit and should strip for him.

In contrast with the earlier examples, these are examples of hegemony. Hegemony is clearly seen in the way that Eric is depicted as Donna’s superior. He treats her like an object rather than an individual with thoughts and opinions. Moreover, Donna does nothing to stop him. This is hegemony in the media because it shows how women should behave by putting them in their place.

These examples also exemplify patriarchy. Patriarchy can be defined as a social system that oppresses women. “All men and all women are therefore involved in this oppressive system, and none of us can control whether we participate, only how…” (Johnson 98). Eric oppresses Donna through his actions. Since it is a social system, Donna is also participating. However, she can control whether she is proactive about it or not and by letting it go she opts for the latter.

Perhaps the most significantly telling part of the episode, in terms of Donna’s character, is how her fight with Eric is resolved. After having a talk with her mother, she is afraid that they might break up. So, instead of confronting Eric about her feelings, she decides to just drop the issue so that they can stay together.

This further illustrates both hegemony and patriarchy. Although Donna originally stands up for herself, she backs down for fear of losing her boyfriend. Since he does not even treat her that well, it comes off as fear of being alone. Thus, although she is initially portrayed as independent, it is only as long as she has a man by her side.

All in all, Donna is characterized as a progressive feminist woman with masculine traits. This represents counter-hegemonic ideas. Nevertheless, these traits are ultimately overpowered by her boyfriend’s poor treatment of her and her fear of losing him. Hence, hegemony and patriarchy are maintained in the show.

Works Cited

Johnson, Allan G. “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them or an Us.” The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997. Print.

Lull, James. “Hegemony.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 61-65. Print.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Link Hunt

Carrie on Feminism(s): Constructions of Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Sex and the City 2
May 16, 2011
Author unknown
Nobility Porn

July 7, 2010
Anna S.

January 3, 2010
Nicole LaPorte
The Daily Beast

June 30, 2010
Nick Cox
Equal Writes

December 17, 2010
Not Another Wave