About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

White People’s Place in the Hip Hop World

Mike Rodeno
One of the most recent phenomenon’s of our time is the influx of hip hop and rap music in popular culture. A rather obscure form of music and expression as of twenty five years ago is arguably the most popular form of music today. Hip Hop with its fast pace, clever lyrics and overwhelming intensity has taken over the music world not just with people in the inner city but people from all backgrounds. It is not common in this day and age to hear the sounds of Jay-Z or 2Pac blasting out of a car in a suburban or rural neighborhood. There has only been one incredibly successful white rapper Eminem. So that got me thinking what impact do white people have in predominantly African-American culture?

When you are talking about hip hop the number one thing you must start with is the artist. Many white people have tried to make it big on the rap scene many more have failed then have been successful. The only really big name in the rap scene is Eminem with his multi platinum records that he put out in the late 90’s early 00’s. Eminem was really big in the game and always will be but he has been somewhat forgotten for the past four or five years. Other white rappers that have been somewhat relevant are Paul Wall, Lil Whyte, Bubba Sparx and of course Vanilla Ice with his earth shattering hit Ice Ice Baby. Rap artists that are not black have to be absolutely exceptional at their craft because they are not the norm and white people are not the main target audience for rap music. Therefore unless a white rapper is supremely talented like Eminem the chances of a white rapper getting signed to a record deal are not very likely.

Except for a few great white rappers who have made it such as Eminem or the Beastie Boys most people think when white people rap it is funny or some kind of joke. Shows such as Andy Milonakis have mocked the genre of Hip Hop often using ridiculous lyrics that are never used in hip hop. When white people are rapping they are usually not taken seriously it is usually seen as a joke or a novelty. As I searched YouTube for videos of white people rapping all I could find is people either mocking the genre or just rapping for fun. I could not find any videos where there was a serious song. I think there is a perception in our society that this music is not for anyone else therefore not many white people makes an effort to make it in the rap industry as a white person. Many people believe white people do not have the talent, rhythm, street credibility or the look needed in order to be a successful rapper.
The most important thing to any musician including rappers is how many albums they sell. In the rap world who consumes the most rap music? According to Bikari Kitwana’s book Why White Kids Love Hip Hop 70% of all rap albums sold are bought by white people this is an amazing number. This statistic shows that white people may not be the face of hip hop but are the people funding the industry. Hip Hop is an awesome example of how a predominantly black genre of music has transcended to every walk of life. I love hip hop myself it is actually my favorite genre of music I have been listening to hip hop since as long as I can remember.

The main reason we don’t see many white people in the world of hip hop is because the people who own the record labels who are mainly white don’t think the people want to see white rappers. Most of the people who run these record companies are white and decide who they feel have the image and talent worthy to have a record deal. Many of these labels are looking for the thugged out black youth. Many white rappers have tried to make it but never have had the image that the record companies are looking except for a white rapper like Eminem that grew up on the streets and has tremendous talent. White people in general don’t usually fit the image that the rap community is looking for.

Eminem the most well known and successful white rapper has undeniable talent was discovered by rap mogul Dr. Dre in the late 90’s. Eminem has topped the charts from the point he broke onto the main stream until the early to mid 2000’s. Eminem is really the first rapper that really spoke about problems that white people have mainly suburban kids. White people had been listening to rap long before Eminem came around but he was the first rapper that most white people could identify with because of the color of his skin. His influence really spiked the interest of many whites in rap music. The thinking was well if there is a guy who looks just like me rapping why I can’t I listen or try rapping myself. Although there has not been a megastar rapper since Eminem his impact on hip hop especially in the white community is still felt.

Many whites that listen to rap are perceived of trying to act black or bluntly put being a “wigger”. White people that listen to rap are sometimes seen as people who are pretending to be something they are not. When a white person is seen blaring rap out of their car in baggy clothes and a crooked hat a great deal of people find this image ridiculous or not correct. The thought is that you should know your role as a white person and blaring rap music is not part of that role. Many white people think well how can I relate to this kind of music this is not my world I have never been shot at or dealt drugs. I believe that most whites listen to rap music because of the fact that many of them cannot relate to these experiences and want insight into another somewhat fascinating and dangerous world. Listening to rap is there only ticket into that world.

Whites are not the face of the rap industry but you could make the argument that they do fuel the industry. According to Bikari Kitwana’s book Why White Kids Love Hip Hop 70% of the people that buy rap albums white people have a huge influence on hip hop culture that goes unnoticed. In addition to all the record sales white people account for in hip hop most of the owners of the record labels that rappers are signed are ran by white people. Therefore whites are in control of the image that most rappers convey. Whites are more prominent then most people think in an industry that on the surface is dominated by African Americans.

Works Cited
Kitwana, Bikari. Why White Kids Love Hip Hop. New York, NY:
Basic Civitas Books, 2005. 114-120. Print

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cut Off Your Stereotypes: Art Fern and the Dumb Blonde Schema

Jasen Sokol

The recent scandal involving David Letterman and his affair with a female colleague has brought discussion of the role of women in late-night talk to the forefront. A recent New York Times article mentioned that Letterman’s show has had a “strikingly small number of women” as writers over the years (Cohen). This fact that women have played a minimal role in late-night television has meant that women are often objectified in the jokes and skits presented by the hosts. However, this is not a new phenomenon. For decades, Americans tuned into The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to end their day. As such, he had a very powerful platform with which he could influence public opinion. The skits included in his program did not always put forth positive images of women. One such skit is the Tea Time Movie in which Carson plays a salesman named Art Fern who is accompanied by his sidekick, the Matinee Lady. Although these skits were humorous in nature, the portrayal of the Matinee Lady as a dumb blonde represented a negative portrayal of women on one of the most popular shows in television history.

One of the ways in which the Matinee Lady's dumb blonde portrayal can be seen as degrading to women is the way in which she is portrayed as just plain dumb. In many cases, the Matinee Lady makes statements that make her seem as if she has very little intelligence. In one skit, Art Fern says that a sound is that of a bull being neutered. The Matinee Lady responds “does that mean they take off all of the bull's clothes?” (Carson Show). Later in that same skit, Art Fern is describing a funeral home's promotional bumper sticker that says “honk if you're horizontal.” After hearing this, the Matinee Lady goes on to demonstrate for the viewers the difference between horizontal and vertical and appears to be very proud of herself afterward. Fern replies that the Matinee Lady should get her brain “checked out before the warranty expires” (Carson Show).

However, the most notable part of the blonde schema that can be seen in the Tea Time Movie skits is the use of the Matinee Lady as a sex object. The Matinee Lady is objectified numerous times in every skit. An example of this can be seen in a skit advertising insurance policies. In this skit, Art is describing why people should buy Shifty's Insurance when the Matinee Lady picks up an arrangement of insurance policies and holds them over her breasts. When he sees this, Art says “look at what these policies cover!” Clearly, Art Fern is not talking about accident coverage or vehicle replacement, but rather the Matinee Lady's breasts (Carson Skit). Another instance of the Matinee Lady being used as an object can be seen when Art says that classes at the University of Hay, or Hay U, start at dawn because being early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Playing off of the fact that she is portrayed as stupid; the Matinee Lady asks if going to bed will make her wise. Art responds “no, but it will make you wealthy” as if to suggest that she would be a good fit for a job in the prostitution industry (Carson Show). Any doubts about what Art thinks about the Matinee Lady can be cleared up in the middle of each skit, where they are caught making out when the camera pans over to them. This confirms that Art Fern sees the Matinee Lady as little more than a pretty face on a pretty body and something for his enjoyment.

Although the Tea Time Movie skits are clearly parodies of infomercials, the way that the Matinee Lady is portrayed can cause problems for blondes in the real world. In fact, a study performed by California State University revealed that blondes are more likely to remain sidekicks in the business world simply because they are blonde. The study showed that blonde women are rejected for jobs more often than brunettes and are usually paid less for the same work (Bates). This is due to an anchoring bias, or a tendency to focus too heavily one one trait or characteristic when making decisions, that has developed against blondes and has been perpetuated by the media (Anchoring Bias). The Tea Time Movie is a prime example of this perpetuation. This phenomenon is a real-world example of another phenomenon seen in the Tea Time Movie skits. It is clear in the skits that Art Fern values the Matinee Lady for her sexual attributes. However, his constant downgrading and insulting of her shows that he does not value her for anything else. Because of this, blonde women and women who choose to be blonde by way of hair dye are often put in a bind whereby they may feel that they will be thought of as more attractive if they are blonde, but will be looked at as inferior in the workplace

Johnny Carson's Tea Time Movies were intended to be a humorous look at the way that products are sold on television. However, beneath all of the fast talking and fancy slogans lies a slew of sexual jokes and degrading statements against the Matinee Lady that made her seem like little more than a sex object for Art Fern to enjoy. This tendency of late-night television to downgrade women continues today, as many shows do not have a single female writer. Portrayals like this have led to blonde women having less of a chance to be successful in the working world than other women, and as such they must be eliminated so that all women can have equal footing in the working world.

Works Cited
"Anchoring bias in decision-making." Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/a/anchoring.htm.

Bates, Brian. "The New Blonde Bombshell." The Observer [Manchester, United Kingdom] 29 July 2001: n. pag. The Guardian. Web. 1 Nov. 2009.

"Carson Show- Art Fern And TeaTime Movies." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. N.p., 20 Oct. 2008. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHw825yq98M.

Cohen, Randy. "Is Letterman Hurting Anyone?." The New York Times 12 Oct. 2009: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 3 Nov. 2009.

“Carson Skit#4." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. N.p., 29 Aug. 2006. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. .

The McDouble Standard: You Don’t Have To Be Smart To Enjoy a Latte

Ashleigh Prigodich

This past year, McDonald’s has come out with a new line of coffee-house-style drinks from their version of a coffee shop called the McCafe. The advertisements for this product line follow the same pattern: two “intellectuals” sit in a coffee shop drinking their lattes and reading. One of the characters mentions that McDonald’s is now serving various coffee drinks. The two then go back and forth discussing how wonderful it will be not to be a poser anymore. In this paper I will consider how the ads construct intellectualism, and set up a dichotomy between intellectual interest and both femininity and masculinity.

The ad below focuses on two men sitting in a coffee shop sipping on their lattes. They are dressed in “typical” coffee shop attire: sweater, glasses, and nicely trimmed facial hair. Man #1 is reading a rather large book when the second man looks up from his paper and informs his friend of the new drinks.

The interaction between the two men is meant to be comical. Its humor comes from featuring feminized men, who are, because of McDonalds, now “free” to be their more masculine selves. Man #1 appears to have a lisp. The other man takes off his turtle neck sweater while Man #1 takes off his glasses while saying, “I don’t need these glasses. They are fake.” They both hide their masculinity to fit in with their surroundings. McDonalds, in essence, is selling both masculinity and authenticity, by situating coffee shops as intellectual, feminine, and inauthentic spaces.

The next commercial is almost identical.

Here shows two intelligent-looking women sit together with some form of reading material. They are wearing sweaters, glasses, and scarves loosely draped around the neck. Again, woman #1 looks up and says that McDonald’s is serving lattes. Both women discuss how wonderful it is not to have to change their image to fit the coffee shop standards. Now they can read gossip magazines, wear heels, and not care about the location of Paraguay.

This commercial implies that femininity is somehow contradictory to intellectualism. The ad’s humor is premised in the dichotomy between sexuality and one‘s capacity for learning. But why can’t women be smart and sexy/goofy at the same time? One of the women claims that she wants to show her knees but apparently it goes against proper coffee shop etiquette.

The ads set up a dichotomy between its store and coffee shops. McDonalds is equated with authenticity, where men and women can be their “true selves. Coffee shops are constructed as inauthentic and pretentious. These definitions work well with the target audience. McDonald’s advertises its business as a restaurant for the “common man.” It appeals to working class who want a meal at an inexpensive price. To make fun of educated people reaffirms those beliefs of the people who frequent the restaurants. This ad devalues the notion of being book smart while emphasizing the gender-based stereotypes. Knowing about the world and opening one’s mind by a sense of reading isn’t important and is frowned upon. Therefore…

Knowledgeable and well educated = elitist and bad

This concept of anti-intellectualism can have a negative effect on the masses. What was valued and deemed essential in order to succeed in society is poked fun at. No person is actually smart. We just do it for the coffee.

Who the Wild Things Are

Donikea Austin

In white American culture non whites are often portrayed as exotic, more sensual and overly sexual. As author and ad critic Jean Kilbourne points out in her documentary Still Killing Us Softly, non white women are portrayed in a way makes them seem less human. (Lazarus, 1987)

What is happening when we create and view these images? This blog will look at three different forms of media that all show black women as animals or in the form of an animal. These ads come from November’s Harpers Bazaar issue with Naomi Campbell. We will also be looking at an ad from a liquor company in the U.K., and lastly rapper Lil Kim on the cover of Vibe magazine.

Harpers Bazaar is a fashion magazine that caters to an upscale female clientele. It features the latest designs from luxury fashion lines as well as insider beauty tips and “$500 Steals” from high end stores. Most people featured in the magazine are white, and this reflects the consumers of the magazine. In this image model Naomi Campbell is dressed from head to toe in zebra print, playing jump rope with monkeys in what seems to be a zoo exhibit. She is being watched by a white man who seems like a tourist, possibly on Safari. This image shows the white man kneeling on a rock and observing her as if she is simply one of the animals in the wild, while she plays gleefully unaware of the man. It reflects a racial hierarchy; Campbell, a famous wealthy model is reduced to an animal. An animal to be observed and ultimately consumed by a white male. Not only are the characters in this picture important, but the camera placement seems to be part of the message as well. The male tourist is perched above Naomi Campbell which is a visual reflection of power; in this case the man has more power because he is above the woman. The audience is also situated in a way that has them above Naomi Campbell, looking down into her exhibit.

The second image is an ad for a U.K. liquor company called Wild Africa. This company is famous for turning people into animal like characters for their advertisements. In this specific ad we see a black couple in a simple embrace, however, in this ad the women is literally part animal. She seems to be turning into a leopard and, has already scratched her date. The tagline is “Unleash your wild side”. It seems as if this black woman is posed as someone who cannot control their animal instincts and will turn into a prowling beast if given the chance. There are also undertones of sexual promiscuity, although the woman is wearing what appears to be a wedding ring on her finger the ad makes it seem as if she is taking part in an illicit affair.

Lastly, the cover of Vibe magazine features female rapper Lil Kim as a wild cat like animal posing next to the title “Sex Kitten. Lil Kim is ready to roar.” Vibe is a magazine that caters to the black community as well as fans of Rap and Hip Hop music. It typically features articles on black music, fashion, movies, television and occasionally politics. Lil Kim is a famous rapper known for her vulgar lyrics and outlandish costumes; she is one of the few female rappers to have won a Grammy and to have crossover success in the music industry with collaborations with pop stars like Christina Aguilera. On this cover, Lil Kim is on her knees crawling, with her hair blown out into a full mane, her mouth with a snarl and her eyes designed to look piercing and very cat like. Unlike the previous ads, where women of color are visually compared to animals, in this ad, the woman is the animal. She does not just act like an animal, she is an animal.

This image is based on the philosophy Eugenics—where a black woman is constructed to be somehow different, and fundamentally inferior.

All of the above images are based on the philosophy Eugenics—where a black woman is constructed to be somehow different, and fundamentally inferior. Eugenics is the process of selective breeding, to breed the human population up by only mating the best specimens. In Eugenics the best specimen was thought to be the people who belonged to the superior race with the idea that these races were innately, even genetically better than the other races. The images in this blog are especially resonant within our culture. There is not a large representation of non-white men or women, and because of this limited representation, these images hold a great deal of weight. Essentially, non-whites have been symbolically annihilated. Women and people of color, women in particular, are portrayed, it is all too often in a way that metaphorically treats them as less-than human.

Lazarus, M. (Director). (1987). Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women [Motion Picture].

Women in Video Games: Half-Life 2 – A New Perspective

Josh Scott

In 1998 a popular game took store shelves in the form of “Half-Life”, a first-person viewpoint shooting game which changed the way that the games were viewed. Prior to the release, shooters of the first-person type were typically very violent games that were focused on the sole purpose of killing any creature that moved in the animated world in which the character moved. Half-Life changed this by introducing a complex storyline and puzzle-based play to the time tested and popular method of run-and-gun gameplay. Six years later the sequel to Half-Life (aptly named Half-Life 2) added a different spin to the genre, gender equality. Shooters, which are primarily a male dominated genre, typically over-sexualize women, depict them as weak, or do not include them at all in gameplay. The introduction of a certain character in Half-Life 2 has expanded the perception of women in the FPS genre and may be redefining women in video games in the more modern era.

The story of Half-Life 2 revolves around a character that the player takes the role of, Gordon Freeman. Gordon fought his way through an alien invasion, and through a military quarantine in his first encounter in the original Half-Life. This time, the aliens have taken over the earth and he must fight with a resistance of remaining independent humans to try to free themselves from control. In the beginning of the adventure Gordon is introduced to Alyx Vance, a young woman who is also a freedom fighter and it is her who is the focus of the very fair gender portrayal in the game. Alyx is a unique character because she is also ethnically mixed, half black and half white. But the most important part to her persona is that she is equally as adept to fighting as Gordon, and in many circumstances, better.

It is not uncommon to see a female character fighting along-side a male character in modern action games, however, where Half-Life differs is the production of the game itself. Created Valve Inc. Half-Life 2 was a incredibly difficult task to undertake and, according to their website, took a combined total of 5 years and $40 million to create. Such an epic undertaking in the gaming industry demanded some changes along with it. So with the characters that were included in the game, complex story driven voice-overs were used. This brought each character to life in a way that games, such as the earliest arcade games, failed to achieve. To the point when Half-Life 2 was released the gaming industry was brimming with new ideas and the Half-Life genre continued to expand out of the simple blood and gore of most common shooters and into the realm of intelligent design.

Alyx is not the first female character to star in games that was as inclined to fighting as men. Lara Croft, of the “Tomb Raider”, series of video games was a female character who played the controllable main character in the game. She was incredibly athletic, kin to shooting, and was also very fond of destroying many supernatural and human characters. The difference between Alyx and Lara is the area of over-sexualization. Lara displays in incredibly large bust size, a very small and uncomfortable outfit, and an unblemishing depiction throughout the game regardless of the environment she is fighting in. Alyx’s outfit is much less revealing and fitting, she wears a pair of jeans, and a jacket which is slightly unzipped which exposes a necklace but does not reveal any cleavage. Between the two of these characters it is easy to determine which one is made to look very sexy and which is meant to be viewed more as a believable character.

At several points in the game, Alyx displays the ability to overcome obstacles much easier than Gordon can. There are also several circumstances, such as a scene where Alyx becomes responsible for Gordon’s life when she is mans a sniper rifle as the player navigates an enemy infested landscape, where she can also outsmart him, and hold her own in combat at his side. The combat aspect of Half-Life 2 is not unlike many other shooters on the market, it is no less violent than others, but does not rely on blood and gore to make a statement. Alyx is a partner in the adventure, rather than an idol of sexualization, which is somewhat uncommon in video games, and surely in the first-person shooter genre.

Video games are an expanding genre which are not unlike many other forms of media, such as films and television. They reach a very large audience of people of all ages, and the stereotypes and discourse we see in other mediums are also held securely there. Over-sexualization of women can be seen in television, films, and music. The introduction of the character Alyx in the game Half-Life 2 is an example of how women can be viewed equally in media in the context of the game/film/music that is being perceived.

Ideology and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Ryan Radke

A SCWAMP analysis is an intersectional analysis that explains that ideological positions are interconnected and relational. These relationships are shaped and affected by the society in which they come from. The ability to identify the dominant ideologies in the media provides us with a way to consciously conform, or resist these norms that are forced upon us defined by SCWAMP. SCWAMP stands for Straight, Christian, White, Able-Bodied, Male, and Property holding. These are the norms that the media today portrays. To be these things is to be desired, to be the opposite of these things is to be inferior and not good enough. One television show that exemplifies the SCWAMP ideology originally aired back in the early 90’s. This show has reemerged as a piece of popular culture thanks to its reruns being showed on multiple networks during multiple parts of the day where it can be watched. This show is the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Throughout the show Will and Carlton constantly have on thing on their mind, girls, girls, and more girls. One does not realize when this is the case how much this pushes heterosexuality as the norm on you. However, the fact that you are never shown a homosexual relationship tells you that heterosexuality is the norm. There is one episode however where homosexuality is made fun of.

Thus, by watching the Fresh-Prince of Bel-Air one can be conditioned without even realize it to consider heterosexuality the norm, and act negatively toward homosexuality.

Although religion is not often something that is focused on during the show, however there are two weddings during the show. In one of them Will’s Aunt is getting married in what is undoubtedly a Christian ceremony. In the other Will’s buddy Jazz is getting married. Will’s uncle Phil, at this point a judge, presides. However, the ceremony still contains the traditional Christian construct. These two weddings train you to see Christianity as the norm, thus, any other wedding service is not the way normal people get married.

The W in SCWAMP stands for white. On the surface this does not seem like it would apply. After all, the show is about a would black family. Upon further examination however, one can see an ideology that values whiteness. Fore example, one of the things that Will picks on Carlton the most for, is acting like he is white. Carlton is constructed as holding white values; acting white.

Will comes from the streets of West Philadelphia, in the “hood”. Carlton should be different than white people because he is black. Will thinks that Carlton conforms too much, to what would be considered the good thing to be. Carlton is too much like his white friends from the prep school, he just acts to normal, to much like the other kids, and to Will he should be different. However, Will’s mother sent him to Bel-Air to become more like his Carlton. In a sense his mom sent him away from the largely black neighborhood where he grew up, to the largely white neighborhood where his normal cousin lives. Thus one can conclude that being white is of value, and that people of other races should try to act white.

A=Able Bodied
The A stands for able-bodied. Throughout the show, Will makes fun of people in the family. Will makes fun of Carlton for being short. Carlton’s lack of stature is his imperfection. Carlton is constructed as holding white values; as acting white. At the same time he is made fun of for not being masculine. Furthermore, Will make’s fun of his Uncle Phil for being overweight.

Again, Uncle Phil’s weight is his disability, which makes it something to be made fun of by the cast. Will on the other hand is tall, and is a star athlete, a spectacular basketball player. As a result, Will, and his physical appearance and ability is constructed as superior.

It is obvious to see how being male is the norm in the Fresh Prince. Will and Carlton get into most of the trouble, and Uncle Phil is the bread winter in the house. Although Will’s Aunt Vivian is a College Professor, this is rarely referred to. Aunt Viv is rarely seen leaving or coming home for work, where as in every episode Uncle Phil is seen in one of those two roles. The norm is thus male. It is normal to be male in the professional world. Furthermore, Will and Carlton go to an all boy school until the middle of the show when there show starts allowing girls. This is frowned upon by Carlton initially because he feels like it is not normal for girls to be able to go to school with him. His school seemed more normal when all boys went to school there.

P=Property Owning
Will’s Property-Owning Uncle Phil is looked at as being normal. When Will got in to trouble in Philadelphia, his mom sent him to Bellaire to live with he rich uncle because that would provide Will with a better place to grow up and get him away from his poor hood life in Philly. This creates the thought that being Property Owning is what is normal, and what every boy needs.
From all of this we can see that despite a façade which would make this show seem like it promotes a different look for black people in America, it really denigrates the black race. In the end the show states that Will’s uncle’s family is better because they are more white. They are more civilized, they live the way all people should live, the white way. Will was sent to his aunt in uncle to change himself, to stay out of trouble, essentially to turn white so that he could live in normal society. This is the true message of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

From all of this we can see that despite a façade which would make this show seem like it promotes a different look for black people in America, it really denigrates the black race. In the end the show states that Will’s uncle’s family is better because they are more white. They are more civilized, they live the way all people should live, the white way. Will was sent to his aunt in uncle to change himself, to stay out of trouble, essentially to turn white so that he could live in normal society. This is the true message of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Why Black Women’s Hair Matters:Black Hair Care Products and Empowerment

Shayna Bane

“There is no woman’s hair style that can be standard, that says nothing about her. The range of women’s hair styles is staggering, but a woman whose hair has no particular style is perceived as not caring about how she looks, which can disqualify her for many positions, and will subtly diminish her as a person in the eyes of some,” Deborah Tannen explains in There Is No Unmarked Woman (1993). This is especially true for African American women who filter their money into the $9 billion industry that is Black hair care (“Chris Rock's Good Hair,” 2009).
Questions like “Does your hair really matter?” are being posed to African-American women on blog sites (Michelle @ Fierce Glamour Blog, 2009). Powerful African-American icons like Oprah and Tyra are unveiling their “real hair” (Winfrey, 2009) (Banks, 2009). Comedian Chris Rock is taking a look at African-American hairstyles in his upcoming documentary “Good Hair” (“Chris Rock's Good Hair,” 2009). Essence recently featured an article called “The Root of the Issue,” covering a discussion on Black hair between several Black female stars with varying styles (Mayo, 2009). Hair is certainly not a new issue in the African-American community, but it does seem to be gaining greater significance and public awareness (crossing from strictly African-American discussion into mainstream media) as of recent.
The issue is open to many perspectives. When asked by Essence, “Some will say for those who wear their hair straight, ‘They’re a sellout.’ Why do we still hate on one another?” Tonya Lewis Lee explains, “…for some it’s about going against the system. So for them, it’s courageous if you go natural. If you go straight, you’re assimilating.” The discussion also dealt with issues of what “good hair” means right now, self image based on hair, and Black women changing their hairstyles for men – Black or White (Mayo, 2009). These are just a few of the dilemmas Black women face within the overall matter of hair. Time featured an article in early September entitled “Why Michelle Obama’s Hair Matters” (Desmond-Harris, 2009). It could be argued that it matters because Time magazine has an article entitled “Why Michelle Obama’s Hair Matters.” It matters because there is such attention being paid to her hair. It matters because an empowered African-American woman is being defined by her hair. The first lady cannot even escape the role of hair as an indicator of strength for African-Americans. The Time article quotes a stylist as saying, “Girl, ain't no braids, twists, afros, etc. getting into the White House just yet ... LOL" (Desmond-Harris, 2009). The ideology of what makes a black woman’s power legitimate is very much influenced by the media. The quote suggests that power (the White House being the representation) cannot be exerted by someone with the hairstyles mentioned above, based on society’s current view.

Time magazine is not the first, the last, or the only source of media to place an emphasis on hair. In 1981, an award-winning reporter, Dorothy Reed, who is also a Black woman, was suspended for wearing corn rows on the air (Prince, 2009). While she was reinstated and there are no longer discriminatory rules to prevent Black women from styling their hair naturally for broadcast, it is still rare to see an African-American female anchor without weaves, relaxers, and the like. The president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Kathy Times, told the Maynard Institute’s online column, Journal-isms, "[Hair has] always been an issue for Black talent in newsrooms. I would love to wear my hair natural, but so many anchors and reporters conform with the majority's expectations. I could go on all day! Even our own peers discourage us from wearing our hair 'natural'" (Prince, 2009).

One of the primary media that is a major source of the message “Hair is power” for Black women is the African-American hair product advertisements. These ads tell Black women their hair does matter – and more so than the average hair ad featuring women of other races. The messages in many of the Black hair product ads revolve around success, power, and strength. Just as Michelle Obama draws her strength not from her education, her family, or her values, but based on media emphasis, her hair.

In the 70s, ads like the Raveen Relaxer System above were commonplace. This one outright says that if a Black woman is hired, it’s not because of her resume, but rather because her hair is relaxed. And while an advertisement like this probably wouldn’t make it without plenty of controversy in the new millennium, ads with the very same message pass without detection today.

The Soft Sheen – Carson ads above were extracted from the November 2009 issue of Essence magazine, “Where Black Women Come First.” The first ad, for Triple Repair Hairdress, states, “Our roots make us stronger.” The copy implies that strength is based on hair and having hair like the woman in the ad makes a Black woman stronger. The second ad states at the top, “Proving, once again, that strong is beautiful.” Using the Anti-Breakage Therapy advertised here is supposed to make the Black woman more beautiful by strengthening her hair. It also implies that this woman is strong because she’s beautiful – because she used this product. The Black hair care companies’ main marketing strategy is and has been for years to sell power in a bottle. While the chemicals and techniques may have changed over the years, the message is unwavering. Black hair care advertisements perpetuate the notion that Black women’s power rests in their hair – power is equated to “good hair.” Black women are sold a false image of empowerment in these ads.

Banks, T. (n.d.). My real hair. Finally. Retrieved from http://www.tyra.com/view/story_01ABOUT_FACE

Chris Rock's Good Hair. (2009, September 29). Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090916-tows-chris-rock-good-hair

Desmond-Harris, J. (2009, September 7). Why Michelle Obama's hair matters. Time, 174(9), Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1919147-2,00.html

Mayo, K. (2009, November). The Root of the issue. Essence, 40(7), 136-144.

Michelle @ Fierce Glamour Blog. (2009, September 30). Does your hair really matter? I believe it does. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/beauty/user-post-does-your-hair-really- matter-i-believe-it-does-518303/

Prince, R. (2009, October 7). "Good hair" on the TV news set. Journal-isms, Maynard Institute, Retrieved from http://www.mije.org/richardprince/good-hairquot-tv- set Tannen, D. (1993, August 6). There is no unmarked woman. Retrieved from http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/nyt062093.htmWinfrey, O. (Producer). (2009).
Girl talk about "Good Hair" with Chris Rock [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7r8pnBBUsM

“Desperate Housewives:” Ideology of women

Kristen Fisher

“Desperate Housewives” is in the middle of their sixth season and, although the story lines always seem relatively similar from one that has already occurred, viewers are still drawn back with each new season. While the show may be filled with all kinds of “juicy” drama, the show is also filled with many different values that are often taken for granted. In particular, the show’s ideology centers on the connection between happiness and beauty. In fact, as presented in the show, these two are interchangeable. The television series often promotes the ideal that to be happy one has to be beautiful and to be beautiful one has to be skinny and a sort of femme fatale. The following is a clip from season that displays these ideals that skinny is beautiful.

In this clip, the joke centers on the assumption of female sexuality; women with big breasts is sexy, and pregnant women are not because they‘ve been “taken” by another man and are off limits. Gabby is not aware that Lynette is actually pregnant, so while she thinks she can make her “beautiful” again by helping her work out, there is actually nothing Gabby can do. No one on Wisteria lane knows that Lynette is pregnant and the men continue to comment on how “hot” she is lately because her breasts have grown in size. The irony here is that the men would no longer think she was “hot” if they knew her breasts were larger due to the fact that she is pregnant.

The following promo for season two of “Desperate Housewives” also displays these ideals that we tend to take for granted. Each video displays the ideal that women need to take care of their bodies so they can use them to get what they want. The sort of skinny femme fatale is beautiful, and if a woman is beautiful then she will be happy and successful. This show invites women to believe that beauty is only on the outside and forget about the fact that there is more to beauty than just looks.

The apples throughout the promo represent the story of Adam and Eve, and are a clear indication that this commercial is about temptation. These are all dangerously seductive women who are strong, successful, and beautiful. However, what this show invites viewers to believe is that they are successful simply because of the fact that they are beautiful. The women in this commercial do not say a word, yet their nonverbal body language speaks it all for them. The men in this promo seem to be dominated by the women, and all of the movements made by the women are very slow and again seemingly dangerous and seductive. Women’s power is, ultimately, in their bodies and not in what they have to say. This again enforces the idea that it should not matter what is in their minds because their bodies should be doing all of the talking for these women. Lynette may be the smartest, most successful woman on Wisteria Lane, but Gabby tries to nonchalantly tell her that she needs to keep her appearance if she wants to keep her success. The second video also portrays these ideas that women don’t need words, just their bodies to get them where and what they want.

Photoshop Nightmare: Making Models Look Unrealistic

Markanne Benich

By now, it is common knowledge that photographs can easily be re-touched. Often, this “photomanipulation” is so severe that the model no longer looks human, giving women an ideal that no one can ever reach. In this paper I will discuss why photos are edited and retouched to make a woman appear younger and thinner than they are, even when they may be a size two or four. Their skin always looks flawless and smooth, their make-up is beautiful and their bodies are thin. In the cover ad for the magazine, Redbook, Faith Hill looks gorgeous. Yet when looking at the original photo, th ere are some clear differences between the two pictures. In the picture on the right, the one that has been retouched, her arm is thinner, the wrinkles around her mouth are less apparent, her skin is flawless, her collar bone is less noticeable, and the top of her back appears to be smaller. This photo has been retouched so much when Faith Hill looks fine the way she is in the original photo.

More recently, there has been controversy over an ad for Ralph Lauren. The ad features model Filippa Hamilton. Even if an individual has never seen this model before, on can clearly tell that this photo has been altered. Her head is larger than her torso and she is extremely disproportionate compared to a real photo of her. Hamilton was angry over the photo when she saw it and in the end, the company let her go and told her that she was too big for their clothes, when she is only a size four.

Retouching and airbrushing does not only happen to pictures of women, but to men as well. While women are made th inner, men are made bigger and on the cover of Men’s Fitness, tennis player Andy Roddick is featured with large muscles. However, when looking at an untouched photograph, here it is clear that this photograph is manipulated. Roddick’s head and body do not match up. The copy surrounding this cover tells readers that they, too, can easily look this way. Something else that is noticeable in this ad is Roddick’s stance. He is standing with his arms crossed, which can sometimes give off a sign of aggression. Also, the titles of the articles that are in the magazine are all centered around losing weight and gaining muscle. One article appears to objectify women as it is titled “How to Make Her Better in Bed.” In stark contrast, the titles that are on the cover of Redbook are centered around losing weight.

The images presented here, and in the media in general, give both men and women a counterfeited ideal. The question that must be asked, then, is why are these images set up as the ideal? The answer, in part, lies with cultural notions of femininity and masculinity, and the dichotomy that is set up between the two. The ideal woman is small and weak, while the ideal man is strong, muscled and tough. Jean Kilbourne (1999) writes extensively about the way females are portrayed in the media and the effects it has on young women. She states that “even girls who are raised in loving homes by supportive parents grow up in a culture-both reflected and reinforced by advertising-that urges girls to adopt a false self, to become “feminine,” which means to be nice and kind and sweet, to compete with other girls for the attention of boys, and to value romantic relationships with boys above all else” (p. 104). The words surrounding Roddick are supposed to make the reader think that this is what women want, while the words surrounding Hill are supposed to make the reader think that this is what men want, while the ad featuring Hamilton is the epitome of horrible “photomanipulation.”

These hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine images serve the marketers because they are presenting an ideal that is unattainable. Men and women that want to look like this will continue to buy products to try and get the results they want, but ultimately will not reach them. This results in a constant state of consumption. Ultimately, products cannot deal with other qualities, such as spirituality, and happiness. Thus, the body is constructed as a site of change. Changing the body, we are told, will result in a change of self. However, this can never work, at least in the long term.

Works Cited
Kilbourne, Jean. “The More You Subtract, the More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size in Advertising.” Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2004. 103-109. Print.

Women, Stereotypes, and Applications: Pepsi's AMP Up Before You Score

Sam Guenther

Though the Pepsi Company has previously released many promotions and commercials exploiting a woman’s sexuality, it’s newest product may have crossed the line. In the interest of promoting their new energy drink, AMP, the Pepsi Company recently released an iPhone application titled “AMP Up Before You Score.” Immediate criticism of the product has been so abundant, that PepsiCo officials have release an apology about its content. When investigating this application, it is not hard to understand why. This application intends to provide men with tips to “improve their game”, but instead illustrates to the public the social construction of gender stereotypes and the ideology that insists masculinity is valued over femininity.

The application, which is available only to people seventeen and older, promises to equip users with the tools necessary to hook up with 24 stereotypical women. To use, customers of the app begin by choosing from two dozen generic female profiles such as the “Artist”, “Nerd”, “Cougar”, or “Tree Hugger.” Following the selection of a stereotype, users then flip the card of, for example, the “Rebound Girl”, and are given a cheat sheet listing her various interests while simultaneously providing them with pick-up lines and directions to local ice cream shops.

In examining the similarity of each female stereotype within the application, one can observe the social construction of femininity. Though 24 different drawings of women are available to choose from, each picture is slightly different from the next, though all have an enhanced chest, tiny waist, and round hips. While the clothing and hair of each female changes according to their specified stereotype, all outfits portray sexuality; revealing their bust, stomach, or both. “AMP Up Before You Score” normalizes the idea that women’s bodies are the only thing of use to a man. In addition to the idea that women must use their bodies as a commodity to men, AMP’s built-in features make it seem as if one can scientifically “score” by exploiting the socially constructed naivety of women.

Users simply choose the best fitted stereotype to place a woman into and are instantly given her characteristics and interests. For example, if a user decides a woman is a “Tree Hugger”, the app can provide them with “Your Fake Carbon Footprint Number”, Twitter posts about going green, and various vegan restaurants that she would enjoy. AMP, like much of consumer media, is constructing a woman’s personality and interests before a person has even spoken to her. Rather than learning the individual herself, users place a woman in a stereotype culturally constructed and portrayed by the Pepsi Company. Ultimately, all women are one-dimensional bodies meant for male exploitation.

Most critically, “AMP Up Before You Score” promotes an extreme ideology in which males are valued above females. This is exemplified by the fact that the app gives users a scoreboard to keep track of their conquests. AMP allows users to keep a “Brag List” of the women in which they have slept with. They can include the woman’s name, the date, and whatever details they wish to remember. The user’s “Brag List” can then be shared through email, Twitter, and Facebook.

The application dehumanizes a woman by illustrating her as nothing but a passive object to be pursued. This product, specifically geared towards men, encourages male dominance by objectifying women into a plaything to be won. The basic idea behind its content is that women should be won, used, and then tossed away. Furthermore, the fact that the app allows users to make their conquests public, further normalizes that the only use for a woman is that of game and pleasure. “AMP Up Before You Score” clearly shows that socially acceptable media has not progressed along with our technology.

Works Cited

Fredrix, Emily. "PepsiCo iPhone app draws fire for stereotyping." Yahoo Tech News. The
Associated Press, 14 Oct. 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2009.

Hein, Kenneth. "Should Pepsi Pull Its AMP app?" AdWeek. Nielson Business Media, 14
Oct. 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2009.

Physical Beauty: An Analysis of Esthetica Sliming Centre

Kit Yi Ng

For many years, it has been common knowledge that women, as presented in the media, seem in a continual quest to “improve” their appearances. While this social construction of femininity has not changed, now, women supposedly change their physical appearances for their own happiness, rather than for the pleasure of others. This is particularly true of diet aids and programs. In this essay, I will focus on the website of Esthetika Sliming Centre, which, I argue, uses a post feminist argument to sell its product.

Esthetika Sliming Beauty Centre sells products and services to help females to be more physically appealing. Their services, they claim, are all-rounded, and include body shaping, clearing acne, improving skin tone, etc. The service “helps women gain their ideal figure while boosting their health and self-confidence…with proven results.” In short, they attempt to convince female customer to undergo personal transformations so as to achieve improvements.
In the website of Esthetika Sliming Beauty Centre, only slim figures of females are portrayed. They dress like professional business women and look very confident. Under the category of “What You See Is What you Get,” successful cases of customers are shown. Most of them focus in how many pounds they lost. In the photos of before transformations, they all looked plump and were in out-dated style. After transformations, they are slim and much more confident. For example, a woman who is identified as Carina Yap, is quoted as saying, “after doing treatments in Esthetika Sliming Beauty Centre, I feel as if a whole new world had opened up for me. I love the way I look, and when I walk down the street, people take a second look. That really makes me feel confident.”

This reliance in the body for happiness is problematic in several ways. First, it still relies upon the judgment of others. So, ultimately, the power is still with others to judge woman as attractive. Second, the ideal can never be attained, and if so, it is temporary. As a result, women are forces to constantly “work” at attaining the beauty ideal. She will never be ideal enough. This serves the market well, however, as there is always some products that can “improve” or maintain appearance.

To conclude, there is a deeply-rooted ideology in society that females need to pursuit physical beauty in order to be “successful” and respected. Furthermore, the standard of beauty is set at a high level that is difficult to achieve. Females suffer under this ideology as they need to bear pressure as they are constantly judged by the others and thus attempt to attain the ideal which can never be reached.