Posts Tagged ‘gender’

The Princess Diaries Premiere

‘The ideas we give children to play with, tell them what we expect them to be.’ – Sarah Ditum

‘If, after over sixty years of a considerable amount of research effort, direct effects of media upon behaviour have not been clearly identified, then we should conclude that they are simply not there to be found.’ –David Gauntlett

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Earlier this week, born-again-radical-feminist Sarah Ditum took part in a heated radio debate with party planner Lisa Forbes about princesses. As little girls (and boys) across the globe eagerly await the arrival of  Frozen 2, the question of the role of princesses in the media in shaping real life femininity is a pressing one.

Ditum (unsurprisingly) took the view that princess films produce damaging aspirations for girls to follow, and Forbes who runs princess parties for girls (unsurprisingly) didn’t. Their discussion ended like this:

Sarah Ditum: ‘you as a female human are going to have to look like a cartoon character to belong in this world of imagination that we’re giving to you’

Lisa Forbes: ‘That’s your perception, that’s you putting your opinion onto a little four, five year old, they don’t see it like that’

SD: ‘You dressing a girl in a princess outfit is you putting your opinion on a four five year old. They do not pop out of the womb with an innate liking for sparkles and crowns. That is something that we give them. That is culture we make it and we give it to them and we have to be honest and responsible about the messages that we’re giving them’.

pitstop

Here, Ditum is reaffirming a popular feminist stance on the social construction of gender, and couples it with a crude media effects model. One is not born a princess, one is forced to want to be one by Disney films and party planners. But as David Gauntlett has explained, those who have concerned themselves seriously over many years with the issue of how far the media does effect people’s attitudes and behaviours have not found any direct cause and effect relationships.  Gauntlett’s article ’10 things wrong with the media effect’s model’ is well worth reading in full. He makes specific mention of how the media is said to affect children, and argues (as does Lisa Forbes briefly in the radio segment) that children are much more nuanced and critical in their consumption of media than ‘media effects’ psychologists give them credit for. He writes:

‘The same kinds of approach are readily observed in media effects studies, the production of which has undoubtedly been dominated by psychologically-oriented researchers, who – whilst, one imagines, having nothing other than benevolent intentions – have carefully exposed the full range of ways in which young media users can be seen as the inept victims of products which, whilst obviously puerile and transparent to adults, can trick children into all kinds of ill-advised behaviour.

This situation is clearly exposed by research which seeks to establish what children can and do understand about and from the mass media. Such projects have shown that children can talk intelligently and indeed cynically about the mass media (Buckingham, 1993, 1996), and that children as young as seven can make thoughtful, critical and ‘media literate’ video productions themselves (Gauntlett, 1997).’

As someone more fond of deconstruction than social construction I think the princess radio debate is worth revisiting in the context of its overflowing onto social media. This twitter exchange involving Ditum and two others is interesting, because it destabilises her position that media princesses have a negative effect on young girls development. In revealing that her own daughter was ‘a princess obsessive’ for a couple of years Ditum (as one tweeter implies) is admitting her role in ‘constructing’ gender as she sees it, via allowing her daughter to take part in the princess ideal. In adding that ‘it wears off if you have other stuff around’ she is suggesting that kids tend to have access to a range of media imagery and are not permanently scarred by early princess exposure.

Little-Princess-book-cover

Another blogger Ms Vanilla Rose, recently pointed out that Ditum’s new statesman byline describes her columns as “Politics for tired people”.  Rose says: ‘Too tired to question her, maybe.’ I’d add that if you look at them at all closely, most feminist claims within the mainstream media at least, lazily lack depth of thought, research and evidence to back them up*.

*Warning: pointing this out can result in spoilt ‘princess’ like tantrums!

This week I’ve seen two videos that ‘turn the tables’ on gender roles, and specifically in the realm of ‘street harassment’ of women by men, the brutes. One (above) is an advert for Snickers, the other an Everyday Sexism project featured in The Guardian

The snickers ad has generated some commentary, including two posts with differing viewpoints in Sociological Images and a not very complimentary piece in Time Magazine.

I was going to write something myself but realised I don’t have much to say about either, really. I actually found them hard to watch, cringeworthy and annoying, especially the Everyday Sexism one. I think what’s most irritating about both is their heavy-handed use of ‘irony’ or what passes for it in our oh so knowing, clever-assed post-ironic world. Perhaps the Everyday Sexism/graun effort seems particularly crass because suddenly, feminists are using ‘humour’ to cover a topic they have previously had zero sense of humour about. My pal Ben who first showed me the Everyday Sexism vid had his comments about it deleted at Graun/Cif HQ, along with those by some other commenters. Maybe that ‘humour’ doesn’t run very deep then?

What do you think of these videos? Do they ‘turn the tables’ on gender norms or do they spectacularly miss the point?

 

posthuman

Over at Cyborgology blog,  Whitney Erin Boesel has written a critical post about gender representation in Digital Dualism Debates. To really engage with what she writes, if you’re not part of the discussion already, you might have to read some of the posts she links to. Here I show the begining para of her piece, followed by my comments BTL and her reply to me. Then I will see if I can ‘widen’ out this topic to be relevant to more than just the digital dualists (and their opponents).

Whitney ( @Phenatypical) wrote:

‘If you’re a regular reader of Cyborgology, chances are good that you caught the most recent “brouLOL” (yes, that’s like a 21st century brouhaha) over digital dualism and augmented reality. If you’re a careful reader of Cyborgology, chances are good you also caught (at least) one glaring omission in much of the writing featured in this wave of commentary. What was missing?

Ladies, gentlemen, and cyborgs, allow me to (re)introduce you to Jenny Davis (@Jup83) and Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry)—oh yeah, and my name’s Whitney Erin Boesel (I’m @phenatypical). None of us identify as men, and all of us have written about digital dualism. In fact, you may have seen our work referenced recently under our collective noms de plume: “the other digital dualism denialists,” “others on this blog,” “others,” “other Cyborgologists,” “other regular contributors,” etc. If you’re a crotchety sociologist with a penchant for picking apart language (ahem: guilty), it doesn’t get much better than this. Per the conversation earlier this month, there are two groups of people who write about digital dualism on Cyborgology: there are named men, and there are unnamed Others’

I responed:

‘I too notcied the debate being framed as between what I termed – a bit sarcastically – ‘men of ideas’.

But I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say women are being ‘silenced’. Your post is not silence for a start. And in the piece by Machine Starts about Jurgenson v Carr the writer also mentioned Sherry Turkle at least. And at the #ttw13 there were loads of women talking, tweeting, organising, questioning etc.

Here’s my take. I believe that the ‘where are the women?’ statements are PART OF THE PROBLEM. They give too much credit to the ‘white men’ and their ‘pissing contests’ and present women as innocent victims of their lack of ‘voice’.

I believe gender inequalities are a problem in the realms in which you are focussing on – academia, journalism, tech, entrepreneurship etc. But I dont think these inequalities are as simple as a ‘lack’ of women and a ‘dominance’ of men. You mention trans people and people from diverse ethnicities, but as an afterthought, or as subservient to ‘women’.

I am a woman. And, as I have said before, the people who have ‘silenced’ or attempted to silence me the most have been feminist women.’

Whitney replied:

‘hi QRG – thanks for your comment. i agree with you that there were a good number of women engaging in dialogue around #TtW13; in fact, that’s part of why i think there *must* be more women writing about these issues, too!

we both know there’s a lot of gender stuff we’ll never agree on (though i like to think we have our points of agreement as well ;) , but there are two points in your comment i wanted to address:

first, i certainly have not intended to treat transpeople and people of color as afterthoughts. my focus in *this post* is the way women theorists were overlooked in a particular conversation (everyone writing for cyborgology at present is white, as is everyone who’s engaged in the early march 2013 debate so far as i know); what i want to do in my *future post* is highlight work done by a range of non-white-men. there are probably more non-white-men doing this type of work; i just don’t know about them yet. wanting to know is part of why i wrote this piece.

second, there’s a big difference between “speaking” and “being listened to.” women ARE speaking about digital dualism, as i’ve illustrated! but if no one’s listening (or if most of everyone is ignoring), that’s being silenced-in-effect–and i think it’s important to recognize that.’

I replied:
‘I do not think ‘white men’ is an accurate description of those who dominate debates on digital dualism or anything else. I suspect they have other characteristics in common. Because in USA for example, many ‘white men’ are INCREDIBLY disadvantaged in terms of economics, education etc. Are they writing about digital dualism? I doubt it. Once we start looking at ‘the academy’ we are already talking about some very ‘well off’ people in many ways.

also, as for ‘not being listened to’ = ‘silencing’ I see where you’re coming from. But not sure its an exact fit. and again, it is feminist women who have ‘not listened’ to me the most, in groups, on blogs, twitter etc and who have banned and blocked me to high heaven. so ‘silencing’ is not just something those big bad ‘white men’ do.’

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So how does this exchange fit into wider debates on gender, academia, and the ‘digital society’ we live in? Firstly I have noticed before that the rather loaded question, Where Are The Women? is asked frequently and insistently. Where are the women in politics? science? celebrity chef land? music industry? etc. And the answer usually seems to be that they are cowering under the weight and dominance of those beasts – men. I find it is normally white, middle class feminist women, who already have some ‘power’ in life, who ask this question. And that they blame their brothers and husbands and colleagues – white middle class men, for the lack of parity in gender representation in their fields. Boesel says in her piece she is not looking here for reasons for gender inequalities in digital dualism debates. But I think she is. And I think she finds reasons – ‘white men’. But as I said in the comments, many many ‘white men’ are far more disadvantaged and far more ‘silent’ in the media, academia, technology, than the women she is championing. Because inequality doesn’t cut down a binary line. It’s complicated! The calls of ‘where are the women’ just reinforce the binary, and maintain the ‘silence’ of those not ‘represented’ by it in my view.

Secondly, the notion of ‘divides’ in digital cultures is not always helpful. In his #ttw13 talk,  ‘Urban Libraries and the Control of Access’ Daniel Greene ( @greene_dm ) critiqued the concept of the ‘digital divide’. He – yes, he is as far as I can tell a ‘white man’ – suggested this binary presentation of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in digital culture is simplistic and misleading. The myriad ways in which we access technology or are excluded from technological activities, are not expressed by this phrase. And I think the ‘where are the women?’ phrase similarly simplifies and obfuscates the complex issues of gender, opportunity, ‘silence’ and voice in digital dualism debates. At one point in her piece Whitney asked for us to send her links of work by ‘non white men’ on digital dualism, including people from various ethnic minority backgrounds, and trans people. I dont think this is the answer either. Trans people in particular, I think, may have huge problems in having a voice and being visible in academic cultures, digital or otherwise. For them, ‘visibility’ can be hugely distressing, difficult,  linked to medical and financial issues around transition, and, can even be a matter of life or death. I don’t think it is any coincidence, for example, that Professor Raewyn Connell became ‘visible’ as a trans woman after she had developed her career and name as an academic in her assigned gender identity. As a trans person I dont think she’d have been able to achieve what she did, at least not without all sorts of very hard personal and political battles. Maybe some of the men and women writing on digital dualism are trans? But haven’t ‘come out’? And why should they? Boesel is not advocating ‘outing’ trans academics, but I think she may be assuming more of them are ‘out and proud’ than there probably are.

 I have more to say on this. And, I am glad that, the group at cyborgology won’t try to ‘silence’ me. I have found them welcoming and open in their style of engagement. However, one of the issues I do intend to tease out is, illustrated by Boesel’s post, some of the gender politics these exciting young academics espouse, are lagging behind their more forward thinking 21st century ideas on digital societies and digital dualism. Donna Haraway was, in some ways ahead of her time with her cyborg feminism. But in other ways she was very much of her time, and she held up ‘women’ to be special flowers in my opinion, oppressed by those big bad wolves, men. I dont see the world like that. And I don’t think cyborgology has room for gender or any other form of binaries.

Typhon blue, who sometimes comments here at QRGHQ, is, according to her profile on her own blog:

‘a Canadian in her thirties. She writes about the state of decay in the relationship between the genders in our culture with a focus on men’s vulnerability and women’s agency.

She is also currently working on a sci-fi webcomic about conflicting world views and colonial arrogance.’

Typhon has made a fascinating vlog about the problems with patriarchy theory.

She has called the traditional feminist view of patriarchy, where all men share power and dominance over all women, because they’re men, ‘patriarchy 1.0’

And she calls her own theory of a more nuanced system of gendered power, ‘patriarchy 2.0’.

In particular, typhon introduces a concept called ‘apexuality’. She says that ‘apexuals’, who I think she conceptualises as ‘male-bodied’, are people who achieve power in hierarchies. And, contrary to feminism’s patriarchy 1.0 theory she says these apexuals do not achieve power based on their commonalities with other men, but rather by distinguishing themselves from them. The search for ‘uniqueness’ is a key part of the search for power. And ‘apexuals’ have to sacrifice their ‘maleness’ as an identity in order to achieve high status roles.

So feminists ideas about men working together as a kind of ‘team’ are rejected by typhon’s analysis.

I agree with her, if I have understood her correctly. I think we live in very ‘individualistic’ times.

She also says women do not achieve the same kind of power in hierarchies as men,  because women are less likely to sacrifice their ‘female’ or ‘woman’ identity in the search for power. And, as a result, more likely to identify with other women, and the commonalities they share.

I am not quite so sure about this, as I think some women gain power by invoking their ‘femininity’. I think Margaret Thatcher did, and Princess Diana, and say, Dolly Parton. I’m sure they trod on a few female toes to get where they did, too.

I am also not quite sure about what typhon’s theory of apexuality means for social change. If women are gaining more powerful positions, and more earning power, how does this fit in with the ‘apexual’ hierarchy as it is now. How does change occur within it?

Anyway it is interesting stuff and I’d love to hear some thoughts from typhon and other people about it!

‘According to a new study by researchers at Ohio State University, the oft-cited statistic that men think about sex, on average, about once every seven seconds can safely be put to bed—in a college-age population of 163 mixed-gender respondents, the median frequency of sexual thoughts for men was just 19. Women, meanwhile, weren’t far behind at a median of 10 naughty thoughts per day.

The lead author on the study, Dr. Terri Fisher, explained in a press release that the impetus for the research was partly to dispense with the notion that men are slaves to their more carnal instincts, as well as to show that women aren’t so innocent, either.

“It’s amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do,” she said. “When a man hears a statement like that, he might think there’s something wrong with him because he’s not spending that much time thinking about sexuality, and when women hear about this, if they spend significant time thinking about sex they might think there’s something wrong with them.”’

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/11/28/do_men_really_think_about_sex_more_often_than_women_.html

This news confirms what I have thought all along – that men and women are not so different when it comes to our approaches to sex.

Whilst I have some scepticism about all research that aims to ‘measure’ people’s sexual interests and responses, I welcome the findings. I also hope there may be a study soon that shows men are not massively ‘more visual’ than women when it comes to sexual stimulation.

As I have said before, people do not fit the gender binary imposed upon them. And when we try and mould our attitudes to sex(uality) around that binary we fail. This is borne out by the closure of Filament Magazine, which aimed to cater for the ‘female gaze’ on men by women.

http://www.filamentmagazine.com/2011/11/all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end/

I think even the great anti-gender-essentialism thinker, Mark Simpson, sometimes slips into this men v women binary. Here, in trying to show how gay men are not actually that different from straight men in their sexualities (I agree), he ends up creating a mother/other out of women. He says:

‘The real problem with gay men, even the campest variety, is that they’re men. Men without wombs in their lives to take responsibility for or slow them down – or give life a point. But instead, lots of testosterone and spunk and spare time. It’s this that makes them homo. Why do so many gay men have so much sex and take so many drugs, often – and this is something Fanshawe utterly failed to acknowledge – even when they are in a relationship?

Because they can’.

I have had plenty of casual sex in my life, and my womb has not got in the way at all. Simpson forgot for a moment the wise words of his friend Steve Zeeland:

Behavior is an unreliable basis for sexual categories. Desire is immeasurable. Sexual identity is a joke.

Amen.

‘I tried to explain to Mr X that it would only be really fun for me if they really genuinely hated it. And he said what about consent? And I said er…

That’s why I shouldn’t be allowed out to explore my sadistic side. I am quite a literal person.’

That in fact sums up my whole problem with sex. I have to hate it to enjoy it but that is hard to arrange, without risking genuine debasement/assault/despair. And all the feminist submissive books and blogs in all the world have not told me how to reconcile that paradox. And neither has Mr Foucault.

Also- why hasn’t anyone just said that? Why do they write such convoluted justifications and ruminations on such a simple problem? I guess Wilde and Crisp and Vidal have said it. But hetero women never do. Not even Anais Nin. Especially not her.

Is it because women need to hang on to ‘victim status’ for when it all inevitably goes pear shaped?

Is it because they need to hang on to the myth of the Great. Dark. Man?

image: http://www.berk-edu.com/RESEARCH/francescaWoodman/pages/woodman001.html