Tuesday Reads: Obvious Misogyny (at least to us anyway)Posted: November 18, 2014
I avoid pop culture whenever possible. I admit to being an effete snob about the music, the fashion, the sheeplike behavior of the entire thing. Sometimes, pop culture just forces itself on you to the point you have to just sit down and ask yourself WTF were they thinking? So, with that and a series of face palms, I direct your attention to obvious misogyny with definite agist and racial overtones. Nothing breaks the internet quite like some one who just refuses to see what they’ve done.
So, first up is an ad that’s attacking Senator Mary Landrieu that just makes me want to scream bloody murder. I’m really tired of the entire ploy to make older women irrelevant. This definitely falls into this category and the boyz behind it are like “what, sexist and agist, who me?”
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is denouncing an attack ad against her as being sexist because it shows her aging.
The ad, paid for by the Ending Spending Action Fund, suggests Washington has changed Landrieu, 58, over time and uses the age progression to illustrate that change.
Landrieu campaign spokesperson Fabien Levy called the ad “appalling.” He said it’s an example of Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy and his allies distracting from the issues.
“It is appalling that Congressman Cassidy and his allies would illustrate the senator’s age progression with a leading phrase that Washington has ‘changed’ her,” Levy said. “The ad is as classless as it is sexist, and Congressman Cassidy and his allies should remove [it] from television immediately.”
It’s hard to know what to say to below the belt optics like this that play into the idea of how a woman of a certain age–past the change–is all used up. I see it. Do you? Of course, we’ve seen this and many other sexist tropes applied to Hillary Clinton and I’m getting prepared for a lot more.
Let me first be transparent here: I’m a Republican, and I’d like nothing more than to see Clinton go down in flames. And, as a recent front-page story in The New York Times noted, many in my party are already seeking to label the former first lady a “has-been” by virtue of her decades on the political stage.
Their case is as follows: Clinton has been in the spotlight in one form or another since the late 1970s when her husband, Bill, first became attorney general in their home state of Arkansas at the age of 30. Ironically, as Times reporter Jonathan Martin pointed out, it was Bill’s youthfulness that propelled him to the Arkansas governorship and later the presidency. Now, it could be the inverse that puts the brakes on the Hillary freight train.
There is undoubtedly a lot of spin in this new anti-Clinton narrative. But there are indeed signs that the baby boomers are going to have a tough time winning another presidential race.
That is a really stale link to an article titled “Hillary Clinton is too Old to be President”.
The next thing up is one ESA scientist who has all the sympathy the dudebro crowd can muster. He did a major interview about the Rosetta project while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I generally expect scientists to be quirky so that doesn’t bother me at all. What bothered me and many other women is that it was bedecked with the stereotypical male fantasy of a submissive, naked female in fetish wear with space guns. You won’t believe the deep denial of the dudebro crowd on this one. I kept seeing nerd guys acting like women were upset because NAKED! Dude, it’s not the lack of clothes. It’s the impossible body image, the obvious visual references–repeatedly–to the submissive woman, and the overall lack of awareness of the wearer who should know that women frequently feel pushed out of career areas where this kind of subtle, perpetual sexual harassment happens. The scientist cried when he figured it out but the dudebro crowed continues to call us the new puritans because we’d rather have a more female-centric idea of our bodies and expressions of our sexuality. I see it. Do you?
Dr. Matt Taylor, one of European Space Agency scientists responsible for landing a spacecraft, on the surface of a comet, offered a tearful apology today for his tasteless choice in button-downs. On a streamed Google Hangout, hosted by the ESA, Dr. Taylor said he was “very sorry” and called wearing the shirt “a big mistake.”
In a post Philae landing-interview, Dr. Taylor was wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt covered with scantily clad women. Many picked up on this outfit choice, and were understandably outraged. A deluge of tweets and responses spilled onto the Internet. (In an aside there was the not shocking discovery that women who tweeted displeasure with the shirt were attacked, and men who tweeted criticism of the shirt were not.)
The shirt itself is pretty tasteless. The women on it are another reinforcement of our icky societal standard of beauty; the women are celebrated for their sex appeal. And the fact that Taylor thought that this was appropriate could point to the fact that he doesn’t work with enough women, or that he lacks the judgement to see how this could be offensive. Both are serious and issues.
Young girls are discouraged from the sciences (myself included, but that is a different story). There is also a huge terrible dearth of women in STEM fields, and when women are in those fields they must often contend with harassment, sexism and unequal pay. Because even if a woman does make it through the pipeline into STEM, they are not treated properly.
The shirt was more than just nearly naked women.
However, I think there is a bigger problem. I’ll admit I don’t know the full gender breakdown of every scientist who worked on the Rosetta mission (and I searched for a list). However, watching the livestream of the Philae landing, during the victory speeches I saw microphone passed from man, to man, to man, and a female master of ceremonies (who had to call someone out for flirting). And on the Google Hangout, where Taylor made his apology, there were two women: one was the moderator, and one lone female scientist. That is a problem.
Hey little girls! Welcome to your STEM career where we constantly remind you that your role as a space engineer is to be Barbarella!!!
Perhaps you’d like a sexy Ph.D costume to go with that doctorate in astrophysics? Yes, yes, I am a humorless feminist on this one. (h/t to Delphyne for this one.)
The “Delicious Women’s Ph.D Darling Sexy Costume,” available on Amazon, features a “micro mini graduation robe” and cap, but you’ll have to provide your own high heels.
Women who actually hold their responses are nothing short of incredible. Here are eight of the best responses:have started reviewing the costume, and
1. This costume doesn’t live up to its name. — Alyssa Picard
Sleeves are too short & have no stripes. Costume does not feature a hood. This is a “sexy BA” at best.
2. This product definitely helps women with Ph.Ds feel sexier. — Dawn Rouse
Like all lady, I frequently ask myself: “How could I be sexier?”
Delicious costumes has come to my rescue! I can now lecture in my 5 inch gold spiked heels and “barely there” regalia while giving nary a thought to the male gaze and its implications on the prevalence of rape culture in our society.
I fully expect my chili pepper rating on RMP to go through the roof once I begin to greet my students in this costume. Hopefully I can keep my “post structural hegemonies” from engaging in some wardrobe malfunctions. Then again, who cares?
I’m sexy! Forget about the 7 years I spent sweating out a dissertation and engaging in innovative research!
3. The perfect outfit for showing off one’s accomplishments. — Mary from MN
When I left my nursing job for graduate school, I was so distressed. I mean what was I going to wear? There were plenty of sexy nurse costumes that I could wear to honor my accomplishments in that profession, but after I attained my PhD there was something missing. I was better educated, but not sexy. Until now. Thank you, Delicious Costumes, for filling the void. You’ve given women like me who have worked our asses off earning our degrees a way to show our asses off, too. Keep it classy, Amazon.
4. Why wasn’t this available in the ’90s? — Elizabeth P. Mackenzie
I got my Ph.D. in 1997. If only I had known about this costume. I would have worn it to liven up my doctoral defense. Instead of my committee focusing on the boring experiment they made me do over the course of several years and giving me a three hour long exam, I could have worn this, popped out of a cake, batted my eye lids asked adorably, “Puwease let me have a Ph.D.? I’ve been so good.”
Also, math is hard.
5. Perfect for all graduate student activities! — Tracy L. Brock
Wow! Super-slinky yet surprisingly comfortable for those long nights lounging around grading poorly organized undergrad essays. Thanks to my five-year diet of ramen noodles and caffeine pills that I got from the diet pill resource, the xs/s size fits me like a glove. I’ve never felt sexier–or smarter!
6. This outfit failed to get me tenure. Would not recommend. — PassionPhD
I spent 6 years working hard to get my PhD, which was extra hard because I am a lady, and it hurt my ovaries to think so much. After obtaining this advanced degree, the only position I could secure, like the majority in my field, was an adjunct position teaching for less than $2000 a course. Then I got this LadyPhD regalia and my life immediately changed! My department, full of esteemed and very prestigious senior male tenured faculty, saw me walking in the hall, invited me into the department meeting, and right there on the spot, immediately voted to make me a TENURED FULL PROFESSOR.
Sadly, the next morning, I found out it was NOT a faculty meeting that I had wandered into, just professors having an office cocktail party and I was not tenured after all. I WANT MY MONEY BACK. I have student loans to pay off!!
Here are some twitter comments on the Taylor shirt to check out what women and supportive men were saying. You can go find the stunned misogynist comments on your own.
Okay, so here it is. This is the one topic that I really didn’t want to write about but am doing it any way. The obviously photoshopped, distorted picture of Kim Kardashian’s body was last week’s topic. But, I’ve finally decided I want to take it on. Again, it’s not about the nudity. It’s not about her being a mother and being nude or sexual. It’s the overt misogyny with an objectification of a distorted female form that’s the problem. Kim obviously is a willing participant in all of this and seems to thrive on being the subject–or object–of voyeurism.
The problem is that her photos are just the latest run at an old theme from an artist that has used similar pictures to objectify black women as willing exotic savages all ready for pillage. So, here we go with the Kim Kardasian Butt Saga.
The photographer responsible for the image is Jean-Paul Goude, and there’s more to know about him than that he’s “French” and “legendary.” Both those things are also true, but there’s this too: his artistic history is fraught with justified accusations of objectifying and exoticizing black women’s bodies. This isn’t a tangent of his work –- it’s what his entire oeuvre is built upon. It’s not a coincidence that his 1983 pictorial autobiography is titled Jungle Fever. “Blacks are the premise of my work,” the artist told People magazine in 1979, “I have jungle fever.”
To create his exoticized images, Goude would photograph black women in poses which ranged from athletic to primitive. He would then literally cut the image into pieces and reassemble it to create something even more formidable. You can see how he pulled off the pre-photoshop manipulation via the infamous photo he created of Grace Jones, with whom he had a turbulent relationship in the ’80s, for the artist’s now-iconic Island Life album cover:
Criticizing Kim’s cover because “it’s Photoshopped” is missing the point of his art. As Goude said of the Jones cover, “…unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque. The main point is that Grace couldn’t do it, and that’s the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion.”
Paper is wrongly attributing the inspiration for Kim Kardashian’s cover to a vintage Goude photo called “Champagne Incident.” The photo is actually 1976′s “Carolina Beaumont,” and it’s about more than balancing skills. An innocent mistake perhaps, but the fact that Beaumont is being literally obscured by it seems sadly appropriate.
So last night while everyone else was arguing over Kim’s K’s right to show her butt, my focus was on something else entirely. When I looked at the spread all I saw was a not so subtle reincarnation of Saartjie Baartman – imagery that is steeped in centuries of racism, oppression and misogyny. For those who don’t know who she is, here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman (before 1790 – 29 December 1815 (also spelled Bartman, Bartmann, Baartmen) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—”Hottentot” as the then-current name for the Khoi people, now considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love.
Saartjie was a woman whose large buttocks brought her questionable fame and caused her to spend much of her life being poked and prodded as a sexual object in a freak show.
But something tells me Kim probably has no clue about the cultural and historic significance of what she’s done. Instead, she probably just thought it would be cool to do an edgy photo shoot with famous photographer. And many of you have fallen for that oversimplified stance as well.
I’m the first to admit that some of the work that Jean-Paul Goude has done over the past 30 years has become iconic, particularly his work with his (then-girlfriend) Grace Jones. But the one he chose to recreate for Paper Magazine is problematic for several reasons.
The original shot is of a black woman standing in front of a blue wall while she pops champagne into a glass placed on her rear end. And it’s from a book entitled: Jungle Fever.
Let that soak in for a second. Jungle. Fever.
According to a People Magazine article written about the couple in 1979:
Jean-Paul has been fascinated with women like Grace since his youth. The son of a French engineer and an American-born dancer, he grew up in a Paris suburb. From the moment he saw West Side Story and the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, he found himself captivated by “ethnic minorities—black girls, PRs. I had jungle fever.” He now says, “Blacks are the premise of my work.”
This is a man who boldly told news reporters that his black girlfriend was a “schizo… outrageous bitch”and that at times he would get hysterical and explode in violence during their arguments.
Though he was criticized at the time—and still is—for exoticizing African-American women in his work, a claim that wasn’t helped by his book Jungle Fever, Goude’s images of Grace Jones at least presented her as a strong female. In some ways, they were arguably feminist, with Goude broadening her shoulders and lengthening her neck so she appeared to be towering over the viewer. It’s also hard to imagine Grace Jones, an innovator who did it all—production, recording, singing, acting, modeling—not being in full control of her image. (In the case of “Carolina Beaumont,” the original image is certainly a conversation starter about race and femininity but, judging from that photo, the model looks like she’s having just as much of a good time as Kim K.)
Arguably feminist? Discuss!
Yes, here we are again in a time still promoting body dysmorphia for women. It just makes me damned mad. But then, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading why feminism isn’t necessary and what it’s terrible because men are the real victims of sexism like that poor scientist and his Groovy shirt. I personally feel like I just wrote part deux to my 1975 Feminist Philosophy class midterm essay during my sophomore year of university. Really! This still? Really?
Will it ever end?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?