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Celeste Gonzalez (Thunderpants) – Objectification…what does it really mean to our society?

By Celeste Gonzalez

Team Thunderpants

 

In today’s day and age the objectification and sexualization of the female body has become a social norm and to the extremity when an audience points out the problematic issue, they are considered feminist who are “just” overreacting. Why is that? Throughout this course we have encountered many issues that deal with the female body and how the media portrays women as a sexual desire to promote a product of a company.

 

For instance one of the bigger issues has become the portrayal of women half naked who are slender, beautiful and sexualized, yet the media does not reflect the average woman who accomplishes more than just a sex being. Society today has made it okay for an audience to immerse themselves in advertisements on television, in print and on billboards. Commercials today not only consist of the concept of sexualization but the concept of gender, submission and female archetype that is portrayed.

 

In this specific commercial, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfVpXykZG5c, the female body is portrayed as a pure object for the audience to perceive as, when the product that is being sold is a Snickers and “not her.” As we learned throughout the course how gaze is important when a piece of work is created, it becomes very relevant in commercials that use the business tactic that “sex sells.” This commercial is shown in a male gaze by using women as a  washing tool for the vehicles presented in the commercial. The women are barely wearing any clothes and their breast are used to clean the car windshield. How far has society gone to think that it is okay to portray a human in such a manner and to air it on television? Although this specific commercial was banned it still demonstrats the normality that objectification has become in our society.  Valenti brings up valid points in “Pop Culture Gone Wild” discussing the issues how the sexualization of the female body has become pornographic in many circumstances. Valenti states, “Pop culture is becoming increasingly pornified,” in which it has to a long degree of measure (41). Looking at the documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes the narrator of the film describes how women are used as objects in hip hop videos for their “sexualized look” and attire that is chosen for them to wear to bring that essence out. When looking at the majority of hip hop videos today, the audience sees women in bathing suits or provocative clothing, dancing inappropriately and portrayed submissively to the rapper in the video. The women are usually portrayed on the side of the rapper seducing him rather than a woman taking charge of her character, in which it would be a female gaze, which in society has been seen as a rare gaze to use in the media. Just as Valenti expresses in her article, the media exploits the body and uses women rather than men more often which creates a domino effect  to our younger society creating a statement that it is okay to be objectified, submissive and sexualized in the media.

 

If we as a society choose to accept and feed into advertisement of female body then of course media will keep using marketing as a gateway to sell product by portrayal of sex.

 

Refrences:

 

CarjamRadio. “Best Sexy Car Wash Ad Ever Funny Banned Commercials 2011 – Carjam               Radio.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2012.             <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfVpXykZG5c&gt;.

 

Valenti, J. (2007). Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters.

 

 

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Francesca Salvato (Thunderpants): The “Situation”: How Shows like ‘Jersey Shore’ are Corrupting Today’s Youth.

By Francesca Salvato

Team Thunderpants

 

            The reality television series Jersey Shore premiered on MTV in December of 2009, and follows the cast of “Italian American” twenty something’s in their lives of partying and drunken debauchery at the Jersey Shore. Since the show has aired it has quickly become one of America’s most watched reality series, yielding record ratings for the MTV network. The series’ cast has also been credited with introducing unique lexicon and phrases into American popular culture. The University of Chicago and the University of Oklahoma are among the educational institutions that have had classes or conferences about the show. Some of these coined phrases however have caused significant controversy within the Italian American community and sparked outrage from groups such as the Italian Defamation League and Unico National, the largest Italian organization in New Jersey, have both spoken out against the offensive use of the terms, “guido/guidette” The problem is that “guido” – slang for a working-class urban Italian-American – is widely perceived by Italian-Americans as a pejorative word, like “spic” or “wop”, and the stereotype is unflattering. Unico’s president, Andrew DiMino, said: “It’s a term used to insult us, implying we are all uneducated people without social graces.” New Jersey state senator Joseph Vitale has called on MTV’s parent corporation, Viacom, to take the show off the air. “It promotes hatred and insults women of this state,” he said. “If this were the same with African-American or Hispanic or Polish kids, there would be hell to pay.”

 

And yet the series has quickly become part of American pop culture, along with terms such as “grenade/s” being used to describe unattractive females or males usually picked up by the male cast members during drunken escapades. The term “smoosh” coined by Jersey Shore’s mascot Snooki, for sex, has also been added to the lexicon, along with the ever popular “GTL” describing the essential activity carried out by the male cast members, gym, tan, laundry. The show has had a huge impact on today’s youth in the way these cast members lives are depicted in the series. They are kids without responsibility, partying, getting drunk, hooking up, and being hung-over. So how is this different from what goes on on almost any college campus throughout the country? Well, for starters it isn’t being broadcast to your home every Thursday at 10 p.m. The show glamorizes the “get drunk, hook up, and hangover” party lifestyle that these cast members are taking part in, and when some young people see this they think, “Hey these guys are just like me!” and they mimic the behavior being played out on the series because it is familiar and comfortable to them.

 

So whose reality is this?

 

MTV has been one of the first networks to cast reality TV Shows, such as The Real World, Road Rules, and these shows weren’t criticized nearly as much for the effect they had on today’s youth, so why has Jersey Shore gotten such a bad wrap? Well, I don’t think its just the Jersey crew, Teen Mom, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, 16 and Pregnant, are all shows within the reality t.v. gambit that have given the impressionable youth of America a false idea of what is “normal” behavior, and even if it’s not considered “normal” it gives them a false sense of what appropriate adult behavior should be. So why watch it? This question seems to be a difficult one to answer both by fans and critics of reality television alike. Well, for starters it is entertaining isn’t is? Many people will openly admit that watching trashy reality television in some sense makes them feel better about their own lives, giving them the reassurance, “At least I’m not as bad as that!” But, when does the line between guilty pleasure and infatuation become blurred? It seems that by witnessing the use of the terms mentioned, and the constant references being made to shows like Jersey Shore, demonstrates the significant impact these shows are having on not just today’s youth, but on society and viewers of all ages. America’s obsession with reality t.v. has allowed shows like Jersey Shore to become part of our popular culture, but when it begins to shape the ideas and values of our society, in particular, the values of the youth of America, I would hope that there would be less of an emphasis on “smooshing” and “gym, tan, laundry” and more of an emphasis on education, community outreach, and not being a binge-drinker with a third grade vocabulary.

Let’s hope I’m right.

 

Sources:

Benigno, Anthony (July 28, 2010). “‘Jersey Shore’ glossary: This dictionary of terms will get you (fist) pumped for season two”. Daily News. Retrieved February 3, 2011.

Gorman, Bill (January 7, 2011). “‘Jersey Shore’ Season Premiere Draws 8.45 Million Viewers; 4.2 Adults 18-49 Rating”. TVbytheNumbers.com. Retrieved January 7, 2011.

“MTV GREENLIGHTS SEASON FOUR OF ITS RECORD-BREAKING SERIES “Jersey Shore”” (Press release). MTV via tvbythenumbers.com. January 25, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2011.

 Pilkington, Ed “Italian-Americans hit back at Jersey Shore’s use of the word ‘guido’ MTV in hot water over reality TV show’s depiction of loud-mouthed stereotypes” The Observer,  Web article Jan 2010.

Anna Brennan (Thunderpants): Race in the Media: Contradictions in the Cases of Charlie Sheen & Chris Brown

By Anna Brennan

Team Thunderpants

Race in the Media: Contradictions in the cases of Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown           

            In our society, public fascination with the daily lives of celebrities seems never-ending.  From their romantic endeavors to their dietary choices, we just can’t seem to get enough of the soap opera – and thanks to a constant stream of media dedicated to this very thing we don’t have to.  Unfortunately celebrity gossip does not always limit itself to short-lived marriages and tales of personal trainers; sometimes allegations of abuse and mistreatment attract the public eye to the more violent side of human relationships.  When these reports surface, reactions of the popular media both influence and reflect biases of the population at large.  Differing responses to celebrities of color such as Chris Brown, and white celebrities such as Charlie Sheen, raise questions around the influence of racialized understandings of masculinity in our society.

Let’s recap.

Following a pre Grammy Awards party in 2009, allegations surfaced that prominent singer Chris Brown had assault fellow performer and romantic partner Rihanna prior to their scheduled performance at the award show.  Brown was arrested for charges stemming from the incident, engaged in some angry tweets that seemed to boil down to “get over it,” and a temper tantrum on the set of Good Morning America.

On the other side, the laundry list of charges against Charlie Sheen includes shooting his then-fiancée Kelly Preston in the arm “accidently” in 1990, battery against girlfriend Brittany Ashland in 1996, accusations of threatening behavior by ex wife Denise Richards in 2005, and felony menacing and assault against wife Brooke Mueller after threatening her with a knife in 2011.  Following the most recent incident Sheen had a very public meltdown, including trashing hotel rooms, becoming romantically involved with two women he called his “goddesses,” declaring that he is composed of “tiger blood” and thus impervious to addiction, and coining the term “winning,” not to mention losing custody of his children and being fired from his role on “Two and a Half Men.” 

 

Despite both being implicated in instances of domestic violence, media reactions to these two men have differed significantly.  Although coverage has varied on Chris Brown, he still continues to face scrutiny for his violence against Rihanna as well as his subsequent outbursts.  Charlie Sheen, however, has been practically celebrated, with #winning becoming a new trend on Twitter, and landing both a comedy tour and the lead role in an upcoming series “Anger Management.”  There has been virtually no mention of his assault against Mueller, let alone his history of domestic violence against the women in his life. 

The question remains: where is the disconnect?  Why are both the media and the public more willing to forget Charlie Sheen’s transgressions than Chris Brown’s?  It is hard not to think that race might have something to do with it, especially when considering the list of other white actors who have been implicated in incidents of domestic violence – such as David Hasselhoff, Nicolas Cage, Mel Gibson, Christian Slater, Bill Murray, and Eminem – and the relatively little impact it has had on their careers.  As Dennis Rome asserts in “African Americans: Murderers, Rapists, and Drug Addicts,” ” The criminal image of the black male is continuously evoked today to perpetuate the dominant society’s continued fear and subjugation of African Americans” (1998: 71). 

Now this is not to take away from the horrific reality of the violences allegedly committed by both Brown and Sheen, or to attempt to oversimplify the complexities of racial relations and privilege as they play out within popular media sources.  However, based on a brief analysis of the portrayals of these two men, it seems we could definitely stand to take a more critical perspective on the acceptability of violence against women among celebrities, especially surrounding racialized privilege and stereotyping.

For more information check it out:

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/race-card-chris-brown-charlie-sheen-race-and-domestic-violence

 Sources

“Evil Slutopia: Celebrity Domestic Violence.” Evil Slutopia. 24 Apr. 2011.             <http://evilslutopia.com/2011/04/celebrity-domestic-violence.html&gt;.

Holmes, Anna. “The Disposable Woman.” New York Times: The Opinion Pages. New York             Times, 3 Mar. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/opinion/04holmes.html&gt;.

Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “Race Card: Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, Race and Domestic             Violence.” Bitch Media. Bitch Magazine, 24 Jan. 2010.             <http://bitchmagazine.org/post/race-card-chris-brown-charlie-sheen-race-and-domestic-            violence>.

Rome, Dennis M. “African Americans: Murderers, Rapists, and Drug Addicts.” Images of Color,             Images of Crime: Readings. Ed. Coramae Richey Mann and Marjorie Sue Zatz. Los             Angeles, CA: Roxbury Pub., 1998. 71-79.

 

 

 

            

Lindsay Laszio: In Da Club…Thirsty’s That Is

By Lindsay Laszlo

“In Da Club”… Thirsty’s That Is

Anyone who’s a UConn student that is twenty-one, has snuck into a campus bar, or has been to an 18+ bar night, can agree that it is quite the experience. Thirsty’s in particular is one of my personal favorites. Saturday night is lady’s night (what what), which means ladies get in for free, there are drink specials, great jams, and (duh) a ton of guys. After taking two Women Studies courses I have come to view the bar a little differently than I had at first. That isn’t to say that I don’t still go and have a great time, but I have noticed things that initially never occurred to me. I think that Thirsty’s is a great example of the affects of hip-hop culture and media on a young community. Several of the same stereotypes that we’ve discussed in class and in Deconstructing Tyrone, are evident at our very own bar on campus.

Firstly, I want to discuss the attire. Of course there is no dress code for the bar, however there are certainly expectations for how to dress and to sum it up; less is more. Girls, including myself, tend to dress for the male gaze. This means short skirts, tight clothes, heels, and makeup. While the choice of clothing is more reserved than the video girls in hip-hop culture, a parallel can be drawn between what is representative of females in the media and in society. By dressing in a particular way, women feed into the gendered expectations that are projected onto them. How one dresses for the bar is a personal choice, but when women do dress in a particular way there are rewards in the form of free drinks, attention, etc. Since male gaze has dominated hip-hop and the media, certain dress becomes the norm.

Secondly, I want to discuss the music. Like any club, or bar, Thirsty’s hosts DJs that play the most current and popular music. Many of these hip-hop songs have crude and offensive lyrics. For example, Big Sean’s “Dance A$$” says, “Bounce that ass, it’s the roundest, you the best, you deserve a crown, bitch.” I think every girl, including myself, negotiates this one when it comes on and we dance to it. It has a good beat, and I find the lyrics comical, but does that mean we enable the normalization of female objectification? In Deconstructing Tyrone the authors state, “others obey the sexist commands on the club dance floor and sing along, justifying it with a smug, internal common refrain” (Hopkinson & Moore, 86). Women have a tendency to negotiate music and its lyrics because it personally does not apply to them, but that allows music to make generalizations and stereotypes about women as a whole.

Lastly, this may get awkward, but I want to discuss the dance styles exhibited at the bar. Now I’d be lying if I said I never got up on stage and tried to bust a move or two with my friends, but why are girls the only ones to do it? By doing this, women mimic and fulfill the role of being a spectacle for men. And then on the dance floor, one second you’re dancing with your friends and then the next some guy comes up behind you, grabs you, and starts dancing with you (most often in an inappropriate manner and without your consent). In any other context, the latter situation would be a sexual harassment case, but for some reason at the bar, this is the norm. I think hip-hop culture has a strong influence on how people act and gives them a false sense of entitlement.

I always have a lot of fun on ladies night at Thirsty’s, but it’s interesting to take a step back and think critically about what is really going on. Does the ultimate level of “fun” have to entail these three elements or is that what “fun” is as it’s taught to us? Thirsty’s is just one of the many places where the impact of hip-hop culture and media is evident. As we have said in class, media impacts society and society impacts media. Overall this reciprocal relationship clearly creates implications on gender expectations in society. Below is a link to Nelly’s “Hot in Here” music video. Although the club shown is no Thirsty’s and girls don’t strip everywhere, there are similarities and parallels between the music video and the behavior displayed on campus.

Nelly’s “Hot in Here”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-qN6TCY85c

Hopkinson, Natalie & Natalie Y. Moore. “Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black

Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation.” Cleis Press Inc. San Francisco, CA, 2006.

Michael Budhram (Thunderpants) : Representing Masculinity and Femininity in Video Games and Popular Media

By: Michael Budhram

Team Thunderpants

 
Representing Masculinity and Femininity in Video Games and Popular Media
 
In our discussions throughout the semester, we have demonstrated that men and women take on various archetypes that construct what masculinity and femininity represents and how we create meaning by applying them to symbols in society.  Through symbolic interactionism these shared meanings become the standard in which how to conduct ourselves.  In this blog, I link how archetypes are manifested through popular media and how they support hegemonic structures of masculinity and femininity.  Having messages sent through such a pervasive form of media can have a great impact on society, especially on young adolescents.  Video games allow people to assume roles that are unlike reality and provide an escape.  Fighting games with explicit violence gives you power and control over a character to exhibit behaviors that are socially unacceptable. According to Milestone and Meyer (2012), direct effects theory states that media messages containing “representations that are directly, uncritically, and passively absorbed by the audience” (pg. 152); meaning that people take on these messages to exhibit certain truths of acting in reality.  Also, with video games, there is a certain priming effect, in that when we see violent images, we have tendencies to relate to that violence. Fighting games have virtualized thousand year old traditions of fighting your opponent to the death, like the events in the Roman Coliseums.  Mortal Kombat is one such game, in which I go into greater detail.        

In the discussion of archetypes, the video game characters in Mortal Kombat that are created have direct commonalities in how they are represented in the game and how they are defined by Jungian Archetypes as well as through character archetypes.  To give an example, Liu Kang, the Defender of Earthrealm, would be classified as the willing hero, in that he accepts the responsibility of defending the Earth by winning multiple Mortal Kombat tournaments, which halts other realms from taking control over Earthrealm.  Raiden, the God of Thunder, would be classified as the mentor of Liu Kang, in that he is chosen as the champion of Earthrealm and guides him through his journey.  This dichotomous relationship between Liu Kang and Raiden can be seen most important in that it drives the main storyline; however, many more characters can exhibit these types of relationships, which make the game fun to play as well as interesting to assume certain roles.  To support my point, I attached a link to a YouTube video of one character, Johnny Cage, who could be seen as a fool and a willing hero.  He is a fool in the sense that he represents a human actor who is overconfident in his abilities that he provides comic relief in comparison to others, while at the same time seen as the willing hero because he follows Raiden’s cause.  However, his character represents hegemonic structures of masculinity, in that he has a physically fit body, seems to have the ability to take down all of his opponents, and still be able to ask out female fighter, Sonya Blade, out for dinner.          

 According to Milestone and Meyer (2012), they indicate that representations of masculinity rely heavily on strength and power as key characteristics.  To further support this point, they state:

 
“Physical strength derives from possessing a strong, large, and muscular body and a tough mental attitude, while social power is institutionalized through men’s financial income and independence and their position as head of the family and household”(pg. 114). 
 
In relation to Mortal Kombat, this quote directly speaks upon how playable characters are created.  In 1992, there were only seven playable characters, in which one was female.  The technologies to produce these characters were limited.  The company had to use live action actors to represent the characters.  At that time, definition of the body was difficult to represent.  In the present time, technology has evolved to such a level that actors are not needed and a multitude of characters can be produced through different software programming. When these characters are created, they seem, when compared to humans, exaggerated, and even disproportionate.  Male characters have bulging biceps and rock-hard abs, while female characters have large breasts and tiny waists.  Both male and female characters have become hyper sexualized.  However, the only commonality between all the characters is that their combat moves are brutal and their finishing moves (fatalities) are equally deadly and cruel.  This proves females can be just as violent and aggressive, but they have to be sexualized in the process.  In another link, I provide a clip from YouTube of the various fatalities that both male and female characters perform.  Such a clip goes back to the idea of direct effects theory and priming effect.  The audience consumes these messages subconsciously and even though they might not be prone to violence, those images are normalized and we make negotiations when we see someone that is beaten and dismembered in the context of the fight.     

Mortal Kombat is identified as leaving an endemic mark on the pop culture of video games.  First published in 1992, it changed how people played video games and how violence was portrayed in the media. Even today, this franchise still prevails as the ultimate fighting game, especially with the company’s (Midway Games) most recent reboot of the game, which was released in 2011.  The franchise became known for its bloody violence, especially offering the player to perform a fatality on the defeated opponent, which involves various ways of mutilation.  Such explicit acts of violence in video game media has contributed to the creation of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), which delineates how appropriate the content of the video game is for different age groups.  When children grow up playing with these games, it socializes them that it violence is acceptable in certain contexts.  Even though they might not exhibit such behavior, the idea has been cultivated.  Since boys, and a rising population of girls, are playing these video games, they are supporting hegemonic structures of masculinity and femininity, both in using aggressive behavior and questioning their body image.                   

 Resources 

 Milestone, K., Meyer, A. (2012). Gender & Popular Culture. United Kingdom: Polity Press.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijh4fcapGY4 – Fatality Compilation, fast forward to 0:26

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlmPKFr3T70 – Johnny Cage, Fight Dirty

Audrey Manning: Untitled

Audrey Manning

I recently saw a segment on ABC News about the increasing use of Botox in people under 30 years old. Much to my surprise, some statistics say this age group accounts for up to 30% of Botox users. According to dermatologists, the emerging Botox craze is being fueled by more and more women seeking to stall the aging process. In general, cosmetic procedures (surgical and nonsurgical) have been becoming increasingly commonplace over the last several years. Apparently, celebrities are not alone in their search for the fountain of youth.  Women are resorting to dermal fillers for wrinkles and thinning lips, Thermage to tighten skin, face lifts, eyelid lifts, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and much more to turn back the time… despite the cost. Upwards of several hundred dollars a procedure (most of which need to be repeated), it becomes concerning why so many women are suddenly resorting to such measures.

Flipping through any magazine or watching television for an hour, it becomes clear to anyone that American society reveres youth about as much as it does physical attractiveness and weight. It also becomes evident that age has an inverse relationship with beauty in our society – the years go up, your appeal goes down. This is especially true for women. Have you ever seen an anti-wrinkle cream commercial with a male sponsor? Even the dermatologist’s office is laden with pamphlets depicting only women; and if men are included, they are embracing their new, improved, and younger looking woman! Females are the main targets of such advertising because they have historically been subject to the social pressures of being on display and looking good. In addition to marketing diet pills, “Spanx” and liposuction to weight conscious women, capitalists are now taking advantage of their insecurity of growing old. At this point, it becomes obvious why cosmetic surgery has been on the rise. As advertising and social pressures increase and the price of procedures decrease (not to mention, financing is becoming more readily available), cosmetic surgery is becoming an appealing option for many American women.

Sadly, this dangerous message about superficial beauty is even being delivered to children. In an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim is shown receiving Botox. She was only 29 years old at the time. She is not alone; countless celebrities admit to using Botox, and many have even been quoted singing its praises. The popularity of injectables and plastic surgery in the celebrity world causes one to wonder how the younger generations are being affected. Some dermatologists say they have been observing a horrifying trend they refer to as “teen-toxing.” According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Botox was injected on 12,000 occasions in people ranging from ages 13 to 19 years old. Clearly, the positive, and even negative, publicity surrounding cosmetic surgery has taken its toll. Consider celebs like Heidi Montag, JWoww from Jersey Shore, Lindsay Lohan and other young women who have recently been in the media for controversy over what procedure they have had done – these are children’s role models. Whether it’s a smoother forehead, plumper lips, a straighter nose, bigger breasts or smaller thighs, young girls are being given the idea that they can purchase the self-confidence they want. They are being taught that they need to permanently alter and literally invest in their faces and bodies to fit our patriarchal society’s ideal image of a woman.

Looking good seems to be a paradox for women, however.  Feminist authors Katie Milestone and Anneke Meyer explain, “…‘natural’ beauty is proclaimed the ideal and what men want. Girls are told to self-improve, but in moderation, to achieve a ‘natural’ look…” (Milestone & Meyer, 94) This creates an extremely narrow and practically impossible ideal. Furthermore, going as far as cosmetic procedures seems contradictory to “natural” beauty. No wonder so many people deny having plastic surgery when they really have had it; they feel that they would be imperfect. That being said, it seems as though the root of the problem lies not in cosmetic surgery but in our ideals. Cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery are not inherently bad.  But the normalization of cosmetic and plastic surgery is a red flag for a much larger issue. Our patriarchal society is perpetuating an unhealthy, unfair, and unachievable ideal of beauty for women. As the recent Botox epidemic demonstrates, these ideals are destroying young girls’ and women’s self-esteem and body image.

 

Bibliography

Milestone, Katie, and Anneke Meyer. Gender & Popular Culture. Cambridge: Polity, 2012. Print.

“Preventative Aging”: Botox in Your 20s? Abcnews.go.com. ABC News, 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/preventive-aging-botox-20s-15918008&gt;.

Saint Louis, Catherine. “Skin Deep – This Wrinkle-Free Teenage Girl Uses Botox. No, She’s Not Alone.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.

 

Gabby Masters (Thunder Pants): Can Men and Women Be ‘Just’ Friends?

By: Gabby Masters

 

Team Thunder Pants

 

Billy Crystal’s character in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” famously said, “Men and women can’t be friends…the sex part always gets in the way.”

 

I recently stumbled upon a funny, yet thought provoking YouTube video addressing the age-old question, “Can men and women be ‘just’ friends?” As Barb would say “what? what?”; Men and women as ‘just’ friends? How could this possibly be? In the video, a Utah State University student sets out to ask a handful of men and women at the school’s library if purely platonic friendships can actually exist between members of the opposite sex. The result? Well take a look:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_lh5fR4DMA

 

Interestingly enough, all the men in the video answered “no” while all the women answered “yes”. However when the interviewer provoked the women to think more specifically about the male’s in their life who are ‘just friends’, their initial ‘yes’ response begins to sway in the other direction. The interviewer asks the women if they think their ‘just friend’ may like them, and if given the opportunity would they hook up with them, in which the women consistently responded “yes”. From this the interviewer concludes that these women are engaged in merely one-sided friendships and that what these women mean to say is that no, men and women can not be ‘just friends’. 

 

While this video caused me to think more critically about the men in my life who I am ‘just friends’ with (and yes I do think it’s possible if you were wondering), the poising of the actual question brought me more concern. This question, and the reasoning behind if it may or may not be possible, is engrossed in strict gender roles and stereotypes based on a sexist framework.

 

Sure, the men in the video were seen laughing, joking (kind of) that platonic friendships with women are impossible. However their reasoning indicates how problematic the effect traditional gendered stereotypes can have on men themselves, and potentially the women who actually ‘just’ want to be friends. According to the men in the video ‘just’ being friends is “hard to do” because of “physical attraction”. Society and the media, has ingrained in men’s head a traditional representation of masculinity that is about, “looking at women, judging them for their physical appearance and attracting them in order to get sex,”(Milestone & Meyer, 127). From this definition it is assumed that men are incapable of thinking with their actual head, not the one between their legs. They are apparently sexually attracted to every women they meet, pretty or not, friends or not, already in a relationship or not. Being singly sex minded is ultimately damaging for men. I do not quite think the men in this video recognize this, however claiming that they cannot be solely platonic friends with a girl, promotes the idea that men have some kind of innate sexual prowl in which their identity can not be separated from. It ultimately sets men up as sexual predators, normalizing their constant urge to get in a woman’s pants, and condoning it to happen regardless of the circumstances.

Simultaneously, this definition of masculinity produces the image of women as helpless and always needing to protect herself from these urges in which men are seen as powerless to control. Therefore, if a woman is ever put in a non-compromising situation with a man who succumbs to this overbearing sexual urge, it is not deemed the man’s fault. The women may have said no, but he just couldn’t help himself.

 

Due to the gender binary, that masculinity and femininity are defined in opposition to each other, for men to be sexual, women must not be. In order to be ‘appropriately’ feminine, a women must be, “sexually innocent, shy, and modest,”(Milestone & Meyer, 127). Deviating from this gender stereotype will bring a social stigma, policing women to act in the confined manner traditional femininity says they should. Eliminating any sexual interest from the picture, women are supposed to want relationships and commitment, situating this as, “the key goal and source of happiness,”(Milestone & Meyer, 87). This dichotomy of men wanting sex and only sex and women wanting relationship seems to suggest the impossibility of a happy ending. Apparently men and women are simply too different.

 

This video was cute, and funny at times, however viewing it with a critical feminist lens allows one to recognize that whether the answer to the question is “yes” or “no” does not really matter. It is the reason we ask the question in the first place which is of utmost important. For it reveals the prevalence of gender norms and stereotypes in our society, and our lack of movement into redefining what it means to be a man or women. 

 

Links:

 

Why Men and Women Can’t Be Friends” Video

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_lh5fR4DMA

 

“When Sally Met Harry” quote

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098635/quotes

 

Bibliography:

 

Milestone, Katie, and Anneke Meyer. Gender and Popular Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012. Print.