More sexist bullshit from Hollywood

As you may know, the Academy Awards were tonight. Here's a (not-so-fun) fact from the Guerrilla Girls: no woman has ever won the Oscar for Best Director. In fact, only three have even been nominated: Lina Wertmuller in 1975 for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano, and Sofia Coppola in for 2003 for Lost in Translation. I also found out via Feministing that Entertainment Weekly named their top 25 directors, and not a single woman appears on the list. If you're interested in learning about some great female directors, check out the discussion going on at Feministing, or post your own favorites here.


American Apparel ads offensive, not sexy

"American Apparel ads offensive, not sexy"
Published in the St. Edward's University Hilltop Views, Volume 25, Issue 4, Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
Presented in its entirety EXCLUSIVELY on SEU-Feminist!

By Lucinda Indian and Anna Whitney

Prominently displayed on page two of The Austin Chronicle, the pinnacle of capitalist sexual objectification in the form of obscenely bare and flashy pubescent flesh begins to make our blood boil. A young girl is wearing American Apparel’s nylon on her knees, forearms resting on the floor, tongue suggestively pointed toward a puddle of spilled milk, the image forever imprinted on our brains. Preying on younger and younger women, pop culture has gone wild. The subjugation of women through advertising permeates all levels of society. Marketing attempts to solidify women’s role as mere eye candy. Why do we allow the constant devaluation of our bodies by the media to continue unabated? Women, we must lift our voices and redefine what is acceptable and what is appallingly offensive.
What does advertising tell us about how to act and how to be attractive? At a subconscious level, we learn what society wants from us and how to behave from those seemingly innocuous images. The pornographic positions and bedtime faces of the models used by American Apparel reconfirm to young women that what we look like is more important than who we are. By portraying their models as meek, passive, and vacant, American Apparel encourages an unengaged, glossy-eyed, waifish stereotype. How much money would they lose if they actually represented women as strong, courageous, and empowered??
After reading Joelle Pearson’s account of “American Apparel ads sexy, not exploitative” published Dec. 3, 2008 in the Hilltop Views, the collective jaw-drop of every self-respecting woman was audible at the description of American Apparel’s models as “short, chubby, freckled, oily, unshaven, uncut, and untouched.” No airbrushing is necessary when the models are already conventionally gorgeous regardless. Pearson says she is proud we can display ourselves as American Apparel models do, but as women should we even aspire to look this way?
American Apparel gained status for being progressive by using real employees as models and being hip to environmental causes and labor laws. The CEO, Dov Charney, uses a group of untrained and ethnically diverse people as models for his advertisements. This Los Angeles-based company does not use sweatshop labor and uses its storefronts to promote various social causes such as immigration reform. Although there have been some disputes over union-busting, Charney pays his employees almost twice the minimum wage on average and gives them health benefits. And their clothes are comfortable, too.
For these reasons, we want to love American Apparel.
But it is Charney and his mindset that are the real problem. Frequently ambling about the office in nothing but his underwear, he uses sexually explicit language, brags that he has slept with numerous young, subordinate employees, photographs scantily clad women, and claims that all of this promotes an innovative, creative work environment centered around freedom of expression. We really want to believe that American Apparel advertisements are just “sexy” as Pearson claims, instead of demeaning, soft-core pornographic objectifications.
But we cannot. From print advertisements, billboards, and photos on the online store, everything seems to be covered in “a thick coat of demoralizing sleaze,” as feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.net puts it. Perhaps it is that Charney’s employees find it difficult to reject his sexual advances when their jobs are at stake. Or because Charney has been quoted as saying that “women initiate most domestic violence... and this has made a victim culture out of women.” Maybe he spouts this gibberish to rationalize the five sexual harassment cases that he has been charged with. Charney’s obvious misogynistic attitude directly translates to the photographs that American Apparel uses as advertisements, some of which he takes himself. Under the guise of promoting sexual liberation, Charney has been able to objectify women in a way that makes people think it is okay, and that is the real crime.
Our closets may not be strangers to their label but we cannot sit idly by while American Apparel perpetuates overtly sexual stereotypes of women. If American Apparel wants self-respecting women to stay their customers, they should listen when we denounce their advertisements for objectifying women’s bodies. Until then, we will refuse to buy into the idea that we are walking hangers for garish garments.


Greetings from Estonia

Hello all! I made the commitment to myself and to the blog to keep my eyes and ears open for new, thought-provoking international perspectives. So far, I must admit, its mainly been a lot of crazy drunken Estonian nights. These don't really lend themselves to intense political discussion so much as intensely spastic European dancing. But, a few days ago, my roomate from Moldova noticed what I call my "Social Justice Sheet" on my bed. Freshman year, I did a speech about civil marriage for my speech class. I used a sheet to display in written form all of the 1,138 rights guaranteed by the constitution that were dependent upon a citizen's marital status and, therefore, denied to all LGBT citizens. After I did the speech, I kept the sheet and had it displayed in every room I have occupied since then. This is to remind me of a struggle that is still present, and injustices against Americans that are happening right now. She saw the sheet and asked what it was about, so I told her. She looked a little surprised when she asked me, "So, are you... for it?" I didn't know why she would be surprised, since everything about me screams liberal progressive, but I went for it anyways. She did not agree with me. She also thinks that the reason that a lot of Moldovans are coming out right now is American television. I told her I had to disagree, and that I thought that if anything American television might have given people the security to come out when before they had felt too afraid or alone to do so. She also believes that gay marriage and gay adoption are wrong, on the basis of the nuclear family. This was, obviously, another topic on which we disagreed.

Finding people who are surprisingly socially conservative, especially when it comes to gay rights, isn't anything new when you come from Texas. The new thing, though, was talking to someone who could bring a completely new perspective. One of her main problems with gay rights activists in Moldova wasn't what they were advocating. In her country, there is only one main city that is relatively industrialized (Chişinău*) and the rest of the country is made up of little villages that still use coal and wood for the most part to stay warm in the winter. Many of the people in these villages make 500 euros (644 USD) a year, and still maintain a family-focused village life that is rarely seen in the US. The parents take care of the children and the grand-children, and work either outside the country or in traditional jobs in the villages. In this situation, she said, there is no room for thinking about a place for gay and lesbian people. She told me that it was frustrating for her that someone could be trying to create a "community" for LGBT people when villagers still can't get gas to their homes to properly heat them.

Of course I've heard, and said, the cliche that being a human rights activist is a luxury. It means that you have enough food to eat and a place to be sheltered so that you are not just trying to survive. i had never actually met someone, though, who embodied the opposite. What is the role of activism in developing nations? And also, how can we, who are in a position to be concerned with these issues, work to further the understanding of human rights in countries that struggle with basic needs? Is it possible for us to be the change in bringing people's awareness out of this mindset that my roomate shows?

I don't know the answer to this question, but it is definitely one that has been on my mind since we had this conversation, and I'd love to get your take on this.

Nagemist! (That's good-bye in estonian)

*Thanks to the anonymous poster for setting me straight on my European capitols. :)


Courtney Martin on Bill O' Reilly

It's safe to say that here at St. Edward's, Courtney Martin is one of our favorite feminists. She's attended campus twice- once last year to speak about her amazing book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, and last semester to coach a small group of us in op-ed writing as a part of The Op-Ed Project. Check how amazingly she stands up to Bill O' Reilly, starting at about 4:30 (sorry for the title.)

You rule, lady. 


Swagger like M.I.A.

Normally I'm not a big fan of awards shows. The culture of celebrity worship is ridiculous and whenever I hear about red carpet events like these I find myself wondering why I should care. The shows themselves rarely offer anything new-- I'd much rather see the movies or listen to the albums up for awards than find out whether they won something. And the formal attire required by the fancy events calls for strictly enforced gender roles, not to mention that the men all look the same in their tuxedos while the women's choice of gowns is under constant scrutiny. So I didn't watch the 2009 Grammy Awards, which happened this weekend, but, as it turns out, something happened there that was definitely worth seeing.

M.I.A., best known for her hit single "Paper Planes," performed "Swagger Like Us" (which samples "Paper Planes") while nine months pregnant. She was actually due on the day of the performance and she still managed to hold her own with T.I., Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, and even flaunted her beautiful pregnant body in a sheer mini dress. I am in absolute awe.

And to think people used to say that women were the weaker sex.


Funny Feminist Friday: Excedrin for Racial Tension Headaches

Happy Friday! Funny Feminist Friday is back, and to celebrate Black History Month, here's a clip from Saturday Night Live of the fabulous and funny Queen Latifah:


"My time will come": Another milestone in the global struggle for political equality

Yesterday, former Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security Johanna Sigurdardottir became her nation's first female prime minister and the world's first openly gay head of government. This comes after months of widespread malaise in the country, and many look to her as a sign of better times to come.

She entered politics in 1978. Since then, she has held several prominent positions in Iceland's government. Much has been made of her former occupation as a flight attendant, perhaps not without cause: her rise to power is all the more inspirational considering where she began. In 1995, she ran for her current position without success. "My time will come," she famously remarked.

Along with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, her election has made January one of the most groundbreaking months in the history of the fight for human equality.

For more information, there's a great article at TIME.com on the subject.