Thursday, May 29, 2008

What not to wear? Or what to aspire to be?

TLC is a television station with a barrage of "makeover" shows. Their shows cover everything from making over a house with Dress My Room and Flip That House to making over an individual with shows such as What Not to Wear, and 10 Years Younger. What Not to Wear specifically focuses on taking a person and pointing out everything that they do wrong with their fashion. They tell individuals that how successful they are in the world depends solely on the clothes they wear and the first impression that they give off. The two hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly try to drill this philosophy into participants heads, thus only furthering many of the stereotypes and social stigmas that society has embedded on American culture. What Not to Wear, through its seemingly innocent format and "good-natured" attempt at helping people is molding certain ideas of what is in good taste and what isn't into the minds of the American population.

In their attempt to help the "unfortunate" people on their show, they tend to disregard any accomplishments that they person might have already accomplished and instead focus solely upon what they do wrong with their clothes, and what how their lack of "fashion sense" has deterred them from accomplishing the things that they really want. What the show is saying is that "by developing the women's capacity to groom and outfit herself to her own advantage, the episode implicitly promises to transform a passive employee into an energized entrepreneur of her vocational future."(Hay, 99) In essence, the only way to succeed is to conform to what society says is appropriate for men and women to wear.

The show constantly tells its female participants that they must dress in a way that is conservative, but that they should also
still be sexy. The professional woman must not dress in a way that brings too much attention to her physical assets, but at the same time, she should be dressed in a way to show off her figure. Stacy London is always pulling womans clothes tight against their bodies when they are in the 360 degree mirror to show that this is where the clothes buy and wear should be fitting them. She tells people that what she calls their "hot little body" is what they should be showing off to the rest of the world.

The show helps to create this ideal of what a professional person, a woman in particular, should look like. In a sense the shows says, "look, if you just spend a little money on your wardrobe and make up, your life will be better both professionally and personally." What they often tend to ignore is that not everyone can afford to shop at the high end expensive stores that they take their participants to. What Not to Wear is creating this idea that the perfect image and the perfect ideal of a working woman can be bought in a store for enough money.

What Not to Wear also perpetuates certain ideas about women, such as how catty they are. As Pozner says, "in this unreal world, [of reality t.v.] women aren't just stupid--they're also catty and bitch." (Pozner 97) This persona of a catty female is portrayed through many of the things that Stacy says to the women who come on the show. Her statements cover anything from constantly reminding the participant what it is that they are doing wrong, in a rather catty and nose-in-the-air type voice, to flat out making fun of some of the clothes that the participants pick out for them selves.

TLC will tell people that their show is quit harmless and that it's all just good entertainment, but is that really the case?
Ouellette and Hay claim that "What Not to Wear illustrates the paradox of makeover TV, in that it prepares the worker to take on burdens of insecuritt and disposability in the name of her/his own freedom." (Hay, 101) The producers of the show know, are often times taking people who are content with themselves and their fashion sense constantly telling them "no, you can do better, and you should want to do better." When a person hears things like that often enough, they will in fact start to believe it. So is the show helping give people ways of bettering themselves? Or is it simply taking happy people and making them miserable just so that they conform to the norms of society?

What Not to Wear sends out this false idea of what a professional woman should be. It says that professional woman always has a certain haircut, and always wears a certain type of suit, when that is not the case. This ideal that is created in the show of a woman who is perfectly coiffed, and who can only accomplish her pristine look with the help of professional experts, is one that very few, if any women, will ever be able to live up to.

Work Cited:
Ouellette, Laurie, and James Hay. Better Living Through Reality TV. Malden: Blackwell, 2008.

Pozner, The Unreal World.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Does sex really sell?

Sex has always been used by advertisements executives to help sell their products. Big companies in America stickily follow the philosophy that "sex sells all products". This philosophy is seen not only in the advertising of items that are targeted for men, but also in those that are made specifically for women. In most of these ads, whether the product is for men or women, more often than not, it is the women in the ad that are objectified as sex objects. When people say that sex sells, what they really are saying is that objectifying one sex, usually the female sex, sells products.

Today almost any ad that a person looks at contains some representation of sex. Beer ads say if you, men, drink this beer, hot women like the ones pictured in the ad will chase after you, hair care products use slogans such as "she went all the way" and others that have very obvious sexual undertones. "Sexuality provides a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly." (Jhally,253) Sexuality is such a prevalent thing in ads not only because we as a society seem to be acceptant of it, but also because it is an easy and obvious way to make people pay attention to the advertisement. Even if a person might not consciously remember the naked woman in an add, they do remember the commercial, especially when it comes time for them to buy a certain product.

Many people say that they are sick of these ads and how they portray women, but yet, there is little being done to bring about a change. While it might be too difficult to set about trying to change the mentality of the male population, women can at least start by trying to change what they accept from the ads targeted towards them. "As long as a woman viewed her body as an object, she was controllable and profitable."(Hesse-Biber 40) If women simply see their bodies as objects, why should men see them any differently? And for that matter, why should they not objectify women and use sex and sexuality in all their advertisement?

Work Cited:
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. "Men and Women: Mind and Body." The Cult of Thinnes. New York: Oxford UP, 2006. 33-60.

Jhally, Sut. "Image-Based Culture." Gender Race and Class in Media: a Text Reader. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 249-257.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Children and Toys: Gender Roles being represented through toys

From a very early age children begin to be indoctrinated with an idea that there are certain roles that they need to perform. Even mundane things such as toys tend to get split up into either boys toys or girls toys, with very few, if any, that fall into the category of being "gender-neutral". While some "feminist" (I put feminist in quotes so as not to label all parents who try to keep gender roles away from their children as feminists, because that is not often a term that can truely be applied) parents do everything that they can to prevent these gender roles from being taught to their children, they do not actually have much control over what their children learn when they are outside of the house. "Children acquire information from a
variety of sources-books, television, video games, the Internet, toys, teachers, other children, other children's parents, strangers they see on the street."(Newman, 108) As much as parents praise children's ability to "soak things up like a sponge", in a family that is trying to break the gender stereotypes that exist in todays world, it is obviously not a very good thing.

My brother, chosen to represent the category of a 13 year old boy made a wish list of 4 toys that he would absolutely love to have. He said that the things that he wants are the Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, the Halo video game, the Grand Theft Auto 4 video game, and an Airsoft gun. All of these toys are toys whose marketing campaigns specifically target the teenage male. Even things such as video game consoles are gendered, because each system has its own target demographic.

The xbox 360 for instance, "targeted at two core target groups - ‘players’ who are interested more broadly in a digital entertainment lifestyle and ‘gamers’ who openly reject advertising and choose to seek out their own experiences as they see themselves as a more savvy, conscious consumer."(Microsoft) All of the people within this target group and male, usually in their late teens to early thirty's. The Playstation 3 (PS3) likewise only tried to get a certain group of people interested in their systems." The PS3's prime target audience is 20-to-30-year-old gamers who previously owned the original PlayStation or PS2." (Thomas) Both systems are specifically targeting a specific age group and gender, and both seem to forget that there are many female gamers.

The companies manage to portray these gender requirements through simple things such as the packaging of the consuls. The PS3 comes in either black or silver, while the Xbox comes in white, with some green accents. While the coloring of the game consuls might not have been done intentionally, never the less the colors are those that would traditionally be associated with boys. When video game companies do finally start to acknowledge that they have a female audience as well, they feel the need to make a special edition consul in pink and make a big fuss over the color and how it should appeal more to their female audience.

As for the video games that my brother picked out, both of them are centered around violent behavior. Grand Theft Auto 4, much as the title suggests, is all about stealing cars and staying away from the police. The game tells you that you should shoot the police if they get close to catching you, because if you do not get the drugs that you are carrying to the destination that it tells you to, you die and lose the game. Halo is also very similar in that the game is all about shooting and killing your enemy.

Even a tried and true toy such as a toy gun feeds into the gender roles. The toy gun, much like the video games condones violence, and tells boys that they should always be willing to go out and shoot something and "protect their house". This message of violence is only spurred on by the Airsoft gun, simply because some of them are rather real looking.
Many of the other guns on the Airsoft website looking extremely realistic. The only thing separating them from looking exactly like the real thing is an orange tip where the bullet would come out of. But one cant help but wonder if that slight difference is enough to keep remind boys that this gun is o.k. to use because it is fake.

In today's society more and more advertising is being done to specifically target the children and teenagers of a family. This is being done simply because " children [have] 'spending power of over $108 billion per year and the power to influence parental spending'"(Giroux, 172) While this trend in advertising to children has managed to create new economic possibilities for many companies, the types of advertising that they use is still very segmented. No matter what toy store you were to go into there is a very definite line that gets drawn as to where the boys toys are and where the girls toys are. Things like this being seen by children only further goes to segregate the boys from the girls. So long as boys and girls are as segregated as they are by the media and by advertisers, society will continue to have the stereotypical gender roles that it does today.

Work Cited:
Electric P220 Pistol FSP-150 Blowback Airsoft Gun. Hobbytron.Com: Airsoft. 20 May 2008 . (Photo)

Giroux, Henry A. "Kids for Sale: Corporate Culture and the Challenge of Public Schooling." Gender Race and Class in Media: a Text Reader. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 171-175.

"Microsoft Xbox 360: Case Study." Thinkbox. 2008. 20 May 2008 .

Newman, David M. "Learning Differences: Families, School, and Socialization." Identity and Inequlaities. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007. 106-143.

Thomas, Peter. "UK: the Poor Cousin, Part II - PlayStation 3." PC Advisor. 21 Apr. 2007. 20 May 2008 .


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