Crazy, Rich, “Hegemonically Masculine” Asians?

crazy rich asians

By Jane Hatfield

Although attempting to be progressive as the first Hollywood film with an all Asian cast in over 25 years, Crazy Rich Asians perpetuates traditional gender norms of hegemonic masculinity and femininity. The texts Everyday Women and Gender Studies and Gender Inequality help display the implications of the movie’s differing portrayal of both genders.

The bachelor and bachelorette party scenes in the film define typical gender roles as the men party, drink, and shoot guns while the women shop, gossip, and tan on the beach. At the bachelor party, the men are constantly surrounded by beautiful female models, all of whom sit around them or on their laps in tiny bikinis. This portrayal of women reinforces the belief that women exist only in order to appeal to men, to be seen as sexual, beautiful objects for the taking. As Judith Lorber explains in Gender Inequality, “one of the manifestations of men’s objectification of women is the male gaze, the cultural creation of women as the objects of men’s sexual fantasies” (174). The scene further supports traditional masculinity when one bachelor takes a bazooka gun and fires it off of the ship. Since this act of aggression and the use of guns is seen as stereotypically male, Crazy Rich Asians supports traditional gender norms. In “Racializing the Glass Escalator,” Adia Wingfield concludes, “contemporary hegemonic masculine ideals emphasize toughness, strength, aggressiveness, heterosexuality, and a clear sense of femininity as different from and subordinate to masculinity” (266). Through its bachelor party scene, Crazy Rich Asians perpetuates hegemonic qualities of masculinity and depictions of women as subordinate to men.

On the flip side, the Asian women in the bachelorette party spend most of their time on a shopping spree, squealing with joy at the thought of buying new clothes and products. The portrayal of characters Araminta, Amanda, and Francesca as product-crazy consumerists redefines the stereotype that femininity is defined by an interest and dedication to beauty. In “The Muslim Women,” Lila Abu-Luhgod states that America is “a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them”  (31). While reinforcing the idea that women are the primary consumer of beauty products, the film also suggests that women themselves are a product to be consumed, as evident in the sexualization and objectification in Crazy Rich Asians’ bachelor party scene. Further, when Amanda and some of the other girls leave a dead fish on Rachel’s bed with the words “gold-digging bitch” written on the mirror, Crazy Rich Asians perpetuates the stereotype that women are inherently bitchy and love to gossip, especially when it comes to their boyfriends.

Overall, whether overt or not, the differing portrayal of females and males in Crazy Rich Asians reinforces hegemonic masculinity, As Braithwaite and Orr state in Everyday Women and Gender Studies, “these are the characteristics of real men constantly              re-presented around us, in everything from popular culture (film, TV, music videos) to the workplace; indeed there is a long history of such representations of what has been called hegemonic masculinity” (311). Since the film constantly switches back between shots from the bachelor and bachelorette parties, Crazy Rich Asians helps to contrast and define what it means to be feminine and masculine.

 


Note: This essay was written by a student in Dr. Heidi R. Lewis’ First-Year Experience (FYE) course FG110 Introduction to Feminist and Gender Studies. FG110 teaches students how to examine, power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic status, age, physicality, and other social, cultural, and political markers using multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches. The students visited a local theatre to screen Crazy Rich Asians, and this essay was written in response.

Angels for A Capitalist Agenda: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

LIFESTYLE-BRITAIN-US-FASHION-VICTORIAS SECRETBy Isabel Aurichio

Victoria’s Secret has been gearing up for their 2016 fashion show all year. On Wednesday evening, the models strutted down the runway at the Grand Palais in Paris, one the fashion capitals of the world. The event gains a massive amount of media coverage every year, resulting large viewing audiences. This year, the show is expected to reach over 800 million people in more than 190 countries. With such a wide audience, Victoria’s Secret attempts to market their fashion show as an empowering experience for women all over the world. However, formulating female empowerment by portraying women as active, desiring sexual subjects not only encourages an objectification of women through the male gaze but also creates an expectation for women to enjoy their own objectification. The commonality of using hypersexualized “empowered” women in media and advertising is an extremely problematic post-feminist mantra that is used and abused over and over again in our modern capitalist society.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is marketed as an opportunity to view women that represent the pinnacle of western idealized beauty, setting a standard that is impossible for most women to meet, therefore encouraging women to “self-police” their appearance according to absurd standards. According to Olivier Rousteing, a renowned fashion designer who turned out for the event, the show includes “a wonderful mix of pop culture and fashion” (Isaac-Goize). He went on to note, “Here you have the most beautiful women in the world daring to show how powerful, sexy and confident women can be, in all their diversity” (Isaac-Goize). According to the thought process that fashion designers and promoters of the show want customers to buy into, feeling sexy should be something every woman is able to participate in. Victoria’s Secret offers women this opportunity through the consumers’ choice to purchase part of the fashion line. However, this discourse creates issues for women. As Rosalind Gill writes in “Supersexualize Me!,” “A notion of women as completely free agents who just ‘please themselves’ – does not serve feminist of cultural understandings well” (282). Gill goes on to note that, “the emphasis upon choice sidesteps and avoids all the important and difficult questions about how socially constructed ideals of beauty are internalized and made our own” (282). “Choice” therefore, is an illusion created by media and advertising to convince female consumers to participate in a society that actively sells and exploits a hyper-sexualized and exclusive female body.

Victoria’s Secret’s portrayal of the fashion show as an “empowering” experience ultimately works to convince potential customers that sexual objectification of oneself can give one power. However, this power is only able to reach the desires of heterosexual men. Edward Razek is the executive producer of the show and chief marketing officer of creative services at Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. According to him, “It’s a celebration of powerful women by powerful women who work very hard at what they do, live a healthy life and inspire legions of admirers. It speaks to diversity in a number of ways, as well as free-spiritedness” (Isaac-Goize). The idea of women’s power stemming from their sexual desire is a concept that has been determining female worth long before the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show began. In Laurie Ouellette’s “Inventing the Cosmo Girl” Cosmopolitan’s editor-in-chief Helen Brown was quoted in 1962 saying, “Sex is a powerful weapon of a single woman in getting what she wants from life” (266). This attitude of treating sex as a commodity exchange limits female potential for upward mobility to relying on men by fulfilling their sexual desires and expectations. Therefore, Victoria’s Secret’s promotion of “female power” is not about the women at all, but instead stems from the idea that women hold sexual power over men, that can be taken advantage of through self-sexualization and objectification. In accordance with this attitude towards female power, Ouellette mentions, “Expenditures on clothing, cosmetics, and accessories were presented as necessary investments in the construction of a desirable self” (262). By buying into the Victoria’s Secret franchise, women have the opportunity to dress up their full feminine potential with lace, ribbon, and sparkle.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show reinforces unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies and reduces them to sex objects while veiling this agenda under the disguise of “female empowerment.” Unfortunately, this is a common marketing strategy adopted by modern media and advertising to further capitalistic agendas. Although mega-corporations like Victoria’s Secret are not going to give up this strategy despite the negative effects it has on its target customers, it is important that consumers are able to recognize the manipulative way media tries to brand hyper-sexualization as harmless. By acknowledging this dangerous discourse, women can alleviate their own self-critical gaze while continuing to fight back against the omnipresent male-gaze that media also relies on.

Dress Codes in the Senate?

Mitch Holmes

Senator Mitch Holmes (R-Kansas)

By Josie Stern (‘19)

This month, Senator Mitch Holmes (R-Kansas) imposed a strict dress code on female legislators who testify in front of his committee. Holmes issued the dress code to deter women from distracting the committee by wearing clothing he deemed “revealing.” Holmes claims, “Put it out there and let people know we’re really looking for you to be addressing the issue rather than trying to distract or bring eyes to yourself.” Specifically, the Senator’s dress code for women prohibits those who are testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. However, he did not specify what was considered a low-cut blouse or miniskirt. Reports indicate that Holmes considered issuing another dress code specific to male testifiers, but decided that men were able to dress themselves without guidance. Female senators, his own colleagues, were rightfully outraged at Holmes’ guidelines. Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Kansas) claims, “I am more interested in what they have to say about the direction our state should go than what they’re wearing that day.” Subsequently, Holmes apologized for his demeaning language, saying, “My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable.” However, it is unacceptable on probably more levels than he had intended.

Today’s culture is caught up in the idea of what constitutes a “professional woman.” By proclaiming that a woman’s outfit is “too distracting,” Holmes, like much of society, is putting the blame on the women, rather than those who are supposedly “distracted.” That being “said,” dressing “professionally” in a workplace does influence the way a colleague views a co-worker. However, this dress code, like ones enforced at schools and workplaces, tells women to cover up in order to not be subject to male gaze, but refuses to hold men and boys accountable. The dress code supposes that women are not able to determine for themselves what acceptable, professional dress is. On another level, it is interesting how Holmes’ apology failed to acknowledge that women are often considered subordinate to men. Along these lines, in “Inventing the Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams,” Laurie Ouellette problematizes this subordination when she claims, Helen Gurley Brown, Editor-in-Chief for Cosmopolitan from 1965-1997, “clearly understood women’s subordination in the office, but she did not directly challenge it because in an ideal world, we might move onward and upward by using only our brains and talent, but since this is an imperfect world, a certain amount of listening, giggling, wriggling, smiling, winking, flirting and fainting is required in our rise from the mailroom” (267). Perhaps the women who testified in “revealing” clothing felt that, like Brown, the world in which we exist does not allow for them to only use their brains and talent to be heard and taken seriously. Perhaps they thought that they must also use their sexuality to advance and have their thoughts and ideas heard.

McGinn

Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Kansas)

Dress codes allow for women to be objectified and not taken seriously, if they are not dressed in what men see as socially and professionally acceptable. Dress codes like this give women the idea that how they dress is how they are going to be perceived in the professional world. However, men do not have to deal with this type of control. There is a lack of consistency between the guidelines for men and women. As Jane Caputi points out in “The Pornography of Everyday Life,” “Patriarchal cultures such as our own also associate nakedness and sex with shame and sin, and identify women with the essence of sex” while men are seen as above this negative identification” (374). This double standard in our culture opens the door for a flurry of negative associations with regards to the choices women make in this case with regards to appearance. Women wearing short skirts and low-neckline blouses are automatically assumed to be purely sexual beings and not serious in their work. This assumption is further troubling, because it completely objectifies the wearer of “provocative” clothing.  In short, Caputi claims, “Men can be viewed as sexual but are seen as having other attributes as well, such as intelligence” (374).  Women, like objects, cannot possibly have other attributes, right? Not in my opinion.

 

Video

Act Like A Man, Man!: An Examination of Old Spice Ads

Old Spice New

“Our print ad rejects the idea that the Old Spice product is desirable because of the heteronormative assumption that ‘blondes prefer gentlemen.’ Rather, we decided to advertise the true purpose of the deodorant to consumers—the elimination of body odor.”

“Recently, Old Spice has advertised creatively by taking advantage of YouTube, the video-sharing giant of the Internet. Their first of many satirical and quirky short videos on their official YouTube channel has almost 50 million views. The most recent ad campaign uses jokes about masculinity to attract male buyers to feel more comfortable buying body wash. It has obviously been successful, as in the three days after these videos were released, Old Spice’s twitter following increased from 3,000 to 48,000 followers. Since then, sales of body wash have increased 51%. Old Spice is no longer simply an increasingly popular brand, but it has also become a cultural icon and source of entertainment.”
—Georgia Griffis, Ivy Wappler, Charlie Bailey, Angela Kong, and Cailley Biagini

The Original Old Spice Print Advertisement

Old Spice Original“This Old Spice print advertisement makes use of the male gaze to target heterosexual men who may consider the blonde model to be a valuable commodity. Additionally, the advertisement celebrates blondeness as beautiful and enforces a specific beauty ideal. By valorizing white models, less space becomes available for minorities, enabling narrower and more stereotypical representations of those minorities. Similarly, ‘gentleman’ connotes that the goal for consumers is to reach an upper socioeconomic class. This formula strengthens capitalism because no matter how many products consumers buy, they will continually be dissatisfied with themselves and seek remedy from media and consumption.”

The Original Old Spice Audiovisual Advertisement

“This commercial reinforces heteronormativity in that, although the commercial is intended to be satirical, it does so in a manner that is understated rather than overt, which does not challenge the current discourse and rhetoric surrounding sexist tropes. This commercial utilizes a heteronormative script and appeals to both men and women—men by its featuring of a men’s product, women by marketing towards those whom buy products for their man. Companies aim to gender products in order to reinforce the rigid gender norms and expectations to entice customers to be more ‘manly’ and less ‘ladylike.'”

The Revised Old Spice Audiovisual Advertisement

“For our own audiovisual component of the project, we decided to remake the Old Spice commercial with variation of words and plot to emphasize inequalities the commercial encourages. Because the advertisement draws on gender inequalities to appeal their product to ‘manly men,’ we decided to challenge conventional ideas of gender roles in order to advocate equity in a way that the majority of Old Spice commercials don’t.”