#FemGeniusesinBerlin Update

As some of you may know, I’ve been in Berlin since May 30 teaching my study abroad course FG214/RM200/GR220 Hidden Spaces, Hidden Narratives: Intersectionality Studies in Berlin. You may also know that this year my students are producing podcasts again about all of the mandatory course sessions.

However, my final thoughts post, which will include an index of the podcasts, won’t be published until Wednesday, June 26. So, in the meantime, please head over to SoundCloud and follow us there so you can keep up with the podcasts as they’re published.

You can also follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to see fun pictures and videos.

Hope to see you there! Have a great summer!

Heidi R. Lewis, Ph.D.
Director & Associate Professor
Feminist & Gender Studies
Colorado College

Daddies and Diamonds: Problematic Narratives Within Toddlers and Tiaras

original-print“Although we concede that pageant parents have a direct role in the sexualization and objectification of their children, we believe that Toddlers and Tiaras still presents a particularly nasty and harmful image of motherhood. As we analyze the show’s original print advertisement and video alongside our own satirized versions, we will argue that  TLC, as a creator of media, is responsible for perpetuating the problematic narratives of the demonized mother, the uncriticized father, and the bratty, hypersexualized toddler.”
—Isabel Aurichio, Daniel Feder-Johnson, Michaela Kahn, Sophie Mittelstadt, and Gabriel Rosenthal (Block 4 2016)

“As explained by Sut Jhally in The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Popular Culture, objectifying women leads to an increase in sexual assault and rape. Despite this, TLC actively advertises these dangerous aspects in an attempt to draw viewers in on various emotions ranging from disgust, interest, and thrill. However, by also pushing a narrative of the children’s innocence, TLC is partaking in a direct form of sexualization and objectification of children.”

“While the children on Toddlers and Tiaras may not adopt authoritative tendencies, the reversal of roles forces social responsibility onto the child, who is unable to access the resources to handle it. Meanwhile, it alleviates external pressure from the parent, allowing TLC to construct the adults as ‘just being crazy,’ and therefore inherently bad people, uninfluenced by oppressive social constructs and institutions.”

new-print“In keeping with the theme of parental narcissism, the revised poster aims to combat the fetishization of young girls with an opposing image of Francis. He takes on the same childlike expression as the toddler from the original poster, thus reversing deeply ingrained gender roles … The poster combats naturalized ideas about how women and children should act. In the current media climate, only little girls can don pouty expressions and act bratty, even if they learned those behaviors from their parents.”

“In order to expose this problematic normalization of ‘mother blaming,’ we replaced the typical ‘mother’ character in our parody with a father (Francis), twisting the show from Toddlers and Tiaras to Daddies and Diamonds. By placing a father as the perpetrator of the stereotyped ‘pageant mother’ role, we are working to expose Toddlers and Tiaras viewers to the vilification of these mothers. In creating a pageant father who is neglectful, obsessed with winning, and massively self-absorbed, viewers are able to see how ridiculous and exaggerated these characters are, and begin to question the role of mothers and absence of fathers on the show.”

Animal Rights and Misogyny: The Problem with PETA Advertisements

original-print“In recent advertisements, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has released intensely grotesque images of women, hoping to stop animal cruelty. In the process of dehumanizing female figures in their ads, PETA contributes to the normalized misogyny of image-based advertising, and thereby fails to fulfill a humane approach to animal rights. By examining PETA’s advertisements through an ecofeminist lens, we show how the organization contradicts their own claim that animals deserve to be treated with respect, by implying that women do not deserve the same.”
—Katie Lawrie, Lauren Milliet, Anna Wermuth, and Willis Zetter (Block 4 2016)

“The severing of the female body in the print ad corresponds to what Jane Caputi calls ‘symbolic dismemberment’ in ‘The Pornography of Everyday Life.’ In this case, the dismemberment is more literal than symbolic: it plays on the “male sexual objectification, and possession unto death of both women and the Earth’s substances” (Caputi 379). The symbolic aim of the advertisement appears misguided and confused—while it associates the harm and mutilation of non-human animals with images of an abused and dismembered female body, it does so in a way that aims to shock and arouse the (presumably male) viewer rather than educate him.”

“To suggest that these women enjoy more pleasurable sexual encounters is one thing, but to source that pleasure from vegetarianism and the use of vegetables as sexual objects is another. Ultimately, the commercial fails to communicate anything legitimate about the relevant environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet. It only perpetuates hegemonic standards of sexuality, and emphasizes the marketability of the sexy female body. In doing so, PETA degrades women to a commodified status like that of animals, and thereby effectively dehumanizes them.”

new-print“Resisting PETA in the actual sphere of advertising might look like an ecofeminist-minded organization which campaigns for animal rights in a more just manner; therefore, we attempted to conceptualize such an entity. Even the abbreviation for our organization’s name, EFFWAR, is an allusion to anti-war and anti-violence principles adopted by feminists all over the world, and is a way for us to articulate a rejection of the problematic violence seen in PETA’s advertising.”

“In today’s culture, advertising companies feed off the new and rising consumerism, or an undeniable need to ‘keep up.’ Due to this social comparison and manifestation in the bigger, better, and faster products, advertising companies prey on the ethos of viewers instead of logos. Therefore, our new company targets the critical thinking of viewers by using a helpful and informational narrative to stand out in an advertising world dominated usually by the objectification of women in flashy, sped up images.”

Straight Best Friend: Inverting G.B.F.’s Failed Attempt at a Political Statement

original-print“The presentation of this fairy-tale ending, where everyone lives happily ever after, neglects to address the conflict between the three girls and their horrific treatment of Tanner. This quick and sloppy resolution trivializes the abuse Tanner faces and thus normalizes gay submission to those in dominant social roles.”
—Susanna Penfield, Jules Olliff, Jess Keniston, and Winston Xu (Block 4 2016)

“The color scheme of the poster, and entire movie, is itself a binary that further enforces gender and societal divisions. Despite the sparkles and pastel-tint that render the title and background slightly more effeminate, and thus more gay, the primary colors are still blue and pink. Due to its predominate size and position, the pink title G.B.F. fills the upper half of the poster while the bottom is predominantly blue. This contrast points to the constructs society has imposed on male-female relationships and the separation that is maintained between behaviors of the two sexes.”

“Although the trailer for G.B.F is an attempt to satirize the behavior of individuals who sensationalize sexuality, the trailer devotes little time to showing Tanner’s plight, treating him like a minor character. The trailer’s focus on the other characters’ struggles detracts from Tanner’s own journey. The trailer reiterates several times how having a G.B.F is beneficial to one’s social status. ”

sbf“The difference lies in the character’s sexuality as Tanner has now “come out” as straight in a society that has embraced queer to be the status quo, meaning that the three depicted women are all meant to be homosexual. This, however, is not evident in the revised print as each character is presented as confident and autonomous, firmly grounded and perpendicular to the surface they stand on regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

“By creating a world where queer women possess the mainstream narrative, we lend voices to individuals that are typically overlooked by the media. This, in turn, highlights the widely accepted notion that heterosexual men naturally occupy a dominant space. This choice counters the heterosexual norm, while pointing out the ridiculousness of normalized shock and tokenization that are common reactions to homosexuality.”