The Eventual Demise of “Shop by Gender” ?

5 Mar

Research has suggested that retailers should take note when it comes to gendered items. Clothes and toys don’t necessarily need to cater to either boys or girls. By focusing on a non-gendered audience, products will appeal to a wider market.

A report titled “Little Miss Understood” indicates that young girls prefer brands that empower them, rather than those which are specifically gender orientated. The research surveyed 1,070 girls aged 8-14 showcasing the brands they liked and disliked, and highlighting that the younger the child, the less they were influenced by gender. Gender is a social concept rather than a predisposed natural instinct.

Always’ advert ‘Like a Girl’ also struck a chord with retailers and consumers alike, identifying the negativity of stereotypically targeting children of different genders. The ad shows girls acting out ‘what it means to be a girl’, showing off the typical attributes that categorise them. Younger girls are seen running faster, whereas older girls run according to their gender’s stereotype, ‘girly’ or ‘ditzy’. Are products losing relevance with girls?

Danish toymaker Lego has already explored unisex figures, allowing its female characters to take on supposed masculine job roles. In 2014, three new Lego figurines were introduced, with a palaeontologist character, an astronomer and a chemist. The items were backed by a public vote and geoscientist Ellen Kooijman, who wanted to oppose the, ‘skewed male/ female minifigure ratio’. The toys were a success, selling out within a week of launching.

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The main category on Lego’s website splits toys by age rather than gender, allowing Star Wars items and the ‘Detective office’ to appeal to a wider demographic. The company’s sales increased by 13% to $4.4bn in 2014, seeing it named as the world’s most profitable toymaker and powerful brand. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the Lego Group puts this success down to the company providing, “children with a tool to express their imagination”.

Brands such as GoldieBlox also strive for innovation. Though targeting only girls, the brand focuses on strong female character such as the ‘zipline action figure’. The brand lets girls know that it’s okay to aspire to be something that is deemed masculine, such as an engineer. Though founder Debbie Sterling was originally met with hostility and told that, “construction toys for girls don’t sell”, consumers backed her plan, raising $285,881 on her site. Further backing was provided by investor Kickstarter, allowing the company to expand. The toys are now sold in 500 independent stores in the US and Canada, with a spot in toy giant ‘Toys R Us’. You can check out the toys by clicking here.

‘ab’, a creative communications agency, emphasises that gender isn’t relevant to younger girls, finding that the main reasons girls will engage with a brand is if it ”helps them to have fun” and “allows them to be themselves”. ‘Let Toy Be Toys’ reported that the number of retailers using gender to categorise toys has dropped by 46%.

The results are reinforced with news of Mattel’s Barbie reporting disappointing financial results for its fourth quarter in 2014. Barbie suffered a 12% drop, while Mattell‘s net income fell 59% to $149.9m and sales dropped 6%. New CEO, Christopher Sinclair was less than happy with the situation, who said: “Our results were not acceptable,” and put the decline down to inconsistent product innovation, most probably the limited demographic Barbie targets.

Belinda Paramer, CEO of Lady Geek adds: “Successful brands that engage young women deliver on three things: emotion, reassurance and authenticity”.

It is no longer enough to target boys with blue and girls with pink. Successful retailers are subverting the idea of ‘hegemonic masculinity’, instead focusing on age groups for maximum exposure. AMEN!

I think the real question here is if the “pinkification” of toys for girls really adds to gender inequality in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or if this ideal is over exaggerated. One can argue that children learn through play; it’s how they develop skills and interests, and that the detrimental effects of this kind of marketing, though clearly only one factor in a mix of many influences on the young, may run broader and deeper. It polarizes children into stereotypes. It’s not just that vehicles, weapons, and construction sets are presented as “for boys” while toys of domesticity and beautification are “for girls.” Toys for boys facilitate competition, control, agency, and dominance; those for girls promote cooperation and nurturance. These gender stereotypes, acquired in childhood, underlie a host of well-documented biases against women in traditionally masculine domains and roles, and they hinder men from sharing more in the responsibilities and rewards of domestic life.

In my house, I do the dishes – my fiance will not touch them –  he takes out the garbage. I clean the floors and bathroom, but he washes, dries and folds the laundry.

Who does what chores in your house?

Being Fierce in ’15 – Dispelling the False Association Between Feminism and Misandry

12 Feb

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We’re going back to basics. Have you ever heard the term misandrist? It’s like the antonym for misogynist and pertains to hatred for men instead of women.

Lately, discussions of feminism have been at an all-time high as celebrities such as Emma Watson are taking a public stand on the issue of inequality between sexes. Consequently, most backlash and negativity seems to attack feminism at it so-called weak spot, calling supporters “man-haters.” When did feminism become code for “person who hates men?” When did feminists become viewed as individuals who believe all men are predators? After all, feminist is just a word. A word to describe people who believe everyone should have equitable places in society regardless of their gender. Hey guys, that means we support you too!

Some feminists are misandrists, but it is not a criterion to join the movement. A portion does not equal a whole, even if that portion is very loud.

What matters is that feminism, distilled down to its most inner core, is about gender equality, with the goal of creating a society or utopia in which gender does not restrict an individual from an equitable shot at success and happiness.

Most feminists, including myself, politely disagree with the belief that women are better than men, and conversely try to convey that we’re all deserving and worthy – women, men, trans – and should be treated as such.

Man-hating is unfortunately a reactionary sentiment identified with feminism.

So…What Does Feminism Say Is Bad?

Feminism came about because of sexism – it’s historical presence as well as its existence today. Sexism is the problem, and a problem that is largely engaged in by men, and a lot of women internalize. Because men are largely the vehicles for sexism, they oftentimes wrongly associate feminism as an attack on men. But we’re not out for your blood in particular, our sights are on the patriarchy.

Men become participators in sexism because they have been taught to behave and think that way. Women internalize it for the same reason.

Aside from seeking equality, feminism asks both men and women to think about those normalized behaviors created by society, and calculate the impact. More than anything, the movement asks to hold people accountable who perpetuate sexism whether they realize their behavior is sexist or not.

It’s easy to get defensive about this. Whenever my boyfriend and I debate if feminism is relevant or even needs to exist today, he oftentimes brings up the belief that men can’t be accountable for sexist behavior they never thought/knew was wrong. To no avail I argue that this does not make it acceptable.

It all comes down to society and educating our peers how to treat each other with equity. That is what feminism seeks to achieve.

Saying all feminists hate men is a stigma, which closely relates to the notion that college is just one big beer fest. But you and I both know that college is more than that, isn’t it? Maybe I went to the wrong university…

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Panic at the prom – when young women are denied the agency to feel beautiful

18 May

There’s really no way to ease into this; I have a vendetta against this organized home school prom committee. If you haven’t seen the blog post and complementing news article that went viral earlier this week, let me quickly fill you in.

Click here to read the post!

Imagine this: you’re getting ready for your high school prom; you look gorgeous and feel even more beautiful inside. You found the perfect dress and can’t wait to have a great evening with your closest friends. You’ve barely begun to enjoy yourself, and you’re pulled aside only to be told you must leave. And no, you weren’t caught sneaking in airplane bottles or intermittently going outside to pass a joint.

This is what happened to a high school senior named Clare, who was thrown out of her prom because a group of horny middle aged male chaperons admitted they were getting aroused from watching her.

Yeah, you read that correctly, more than one of the fathers attending the prom publicly expressed their inappropriate lust for a seventeen year-old girl.

She wasn’t dancing in any provocative manner and more than adhered to the dress code of a fingertip length dress, yet she was made to leave because a few pedophiliac fathers couldn’t keep their lewd thoughts from showing through their pants.

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Excuse me, but how the hell do these “adults” earn the right to stay, nevertheless monitor the activities of teen girls who reportedly were acting raunchy and behaving like a Girl’s Next Door orgy?

I can just imagine the conversation these men had with their wives that night.

“So Hon, how was it?”

“Boring. Really standstill. With all the shit music these kids listen to you’d think they’d know how to have a fun time…but yeah I couldn’t wait to come home to you.”

Then he goes into the shower to beat one off to a remembered image of his daughter’s best friends. Way to go.

There’s something wrong here and I’m infuriated by the fact that women are always made to feel as if they violated someone in such a way that they were “asking for it.”

Why are men allowed to blame blasphemous thoughts and behavior on innocent women?

This is not so much different than rape, and I’d be highly questionable of my husband if I knew he was lusting after someone close to three times his junior. American Beauty anyone?

So she made you feel “uncomfortable?” Get a grip, you chose to look. And the solution was to remove Clare, when all the while she was not the problem at all.

On my daily work commute to and from New York City, I face inappropriate stares, wolf whistles and snarky comments to no avail. I don’t stand for it. Last week I yelled at a guy on the subway and threatened to stab him in the face (eh, a little much I admit) because he kept staring at me in a seductive manner, literally eye fucking me from six feet away.

Women shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable or unsafe because men think they can publicly display thoughts that should be kept inside the content (if there is any) of their minds. And don’t sit there saying all men aren’t the same. I’ve had numerous one night stands with cops and correctional officers who like rough foreplay which was on the barrier of being domestic abuse. Protect and serve my ass!

Next week, I’m contemplating standing on a street corner entry way to the subway. I’m going to smoke a Marlboro menthol, even though I don’t smoke, and  square up with every man that passes by. I’ll rotate between throwing a head nod, saying something obscene (“Yo, you look like your packing a nice set tools) and rubbing my crotch like  Miley.

How you like me now?

If only there were more men like this…

 

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Women Love Sex Too! And No, It Doesn’t Make Us Sluts

20 Mar

I have a lot of guy friends that significantly outnumbers my amount of girlfriends. A typical weekend night consists of throwing back a few brewskis, (guys love adding “ski” at the end of everything…I still don’t know why) watching some type of perverse cartoon (South Park, Archer…) and of course the storytelling of the weekly sex-capades. Since I’m considered a “bro”, there’s no detail they believe is unfit for my ears. Besides, I might have a whole new perspective on why Dawn cheated on Dan, and that could be valuable information!

“Yeah, she just got down and started going at it.”

“I told you she’d be into it bro.”

“She’s such a little slut.”

Slut…the word for women who have a plethora of sexual partners. So apparently, we are not allowed to carnivorously desire, and engage in sex like men. Please! As a woman with a high sex drive, this aggravates me.

Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson have also had a lot of sex — and they’re not afraid to talk about it either.

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After Fisher went through a rough breakup, the two New York-based stand-up comedians, both in their mid-20s, decided to pool their collective un-shame about sex and create a podcast in which they interviewed men they’d slept with. The first episode of “Guys We F**ked, The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast” was released in December. Since then, their audience has grown quickly, and the show now has over 200,000 subscribers on SoundCloud.

“We’re saying, have a lot of sex and be proud of it,” Hutchinson explains at the beginning of the debut episode.

That friendship extends to no-holds-barred, frank discussions about sex. The pair touch on everything from dirty talk to disastrous one-night stands with equal parts honesty and humor. But “Guys We F**ked” isn’t meant to titillate — Hutchinson and Fisher hope that the podcast encourages women to feel more comfortable with themselves and everyone to have more great, shame-free sex.

The Huffington Post interviewed the pair on their response to how society’s opinion of sexually empowered women is flawed.

Why do you think that slut-shaming is such an issue in our culture? Are people just terrified of women as sexual beings?
K: Yes, I think people are afraid. Hate stems from fear and I think they’re just afraid of a woman who is empowered and sexually in charge and in control of her own body. And I also think that some people were raised to feel this way because the people in their lives didn’t have a positive attitude towards women, and they don’t realize that it’s messed up.

What do you hope listeners take away from the podcast?
K: We want to make people feel more comfortable in their own skin. We just got a message from a girl from New Delhi, India, about how she loves the podcast because it makes her feel like it’s OK to be comfortable with your sexuality and enjoy sex. And that made me so happy.

Do you two consider yourselves feminists? Do you shy away from that term at all?
K: I don’t shy away from the word “feminist.” I think it’s unfortunate that people have a negative connotation of that term and I’m guilty of being that way too, sometimes. I find myself saying, “Well, I’m not like a feminist or anything, but…” But what feminism means to me is owning your sh*t. And under that definition I am absolutely a feminist.

C: Yeah, I like to call myself a modern feminist. I loved the Spice Girls because they dressed however they wanted and they rocked their hot bodies, but they were still promoting a really positive message. And I think to say that to be a feminist you can’t show off your body or be overtly sexual is bullsh*t. Jesus, if I can’t wear a miniskirt in my 20s, when can I?

Are you hooked yet? Want to hear more? Listen to the podcast that started it all…

https://soundcloud.com/guyswefucked/vinnie

Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ Campaign Undermines Women

13 Mar

Sheryl Sanberg’s new Lean In campaign, ‘Ban Bossy’ is being backed by many strong female celebrities and organizations that operate for the advancement of women (Girl Scouts)

While I love Sandberg’s tenacity, I simply do not agree with ‘Ban Bossy.’

I think it’s absurd to ban a word that is neither gender specific nor insulting.

My boyfriend and friends would describe me as sassy, independent and bossy. It is true: I enjoy being in control and managing others. However there is a difference between “assertiveness” and “aggression” that the campaign fails to distinguish.

I believe girls are strong willed, and ‘Ban Bossy’ underestimates their ability to be go-getters.

The word “bossy” doesn’t discourage female leadership aspiration, environment does.

I have always been a very motivated girl and so needed to adapt a thick skin. There will always be people who say you’re ugly, stupid, or not good enough, how are these any less of a concern for girls than being called bossy?

Not all girls want to be leader.

‘Ban Bossy’ is biased in promoting that society equates leadership and bossiness.

There are countless ways of leading without being domineering. There are infinite ways of being bossy that don’t involve the intent on wanting to lead.

Furthermore, the idea that all girls want to be leaders is ridiculous. I know many people who function better  as part of a team. ‘Ban Bossy’ doesn’t speak on girls finding their voice to assert themselves and be strong women in a communal setting. No, it shames the more shy and less outspoken, suggesting that every girl should strive to be president.

The Veil of Sisterhood in Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”

5 Mar

Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” is the type of poem I cherish not only because it’s lucid, lively, and genius for its time, but because there are so many ways of interpreting the language.

It’s freezing here in Jersey, it’s hump day, I got out of work early… my first thought…”I have plenty of time to lose myself.” This is what I came up with. Some ideas are not exactly complete, but I’m sure it will rain or snow in the next few weeks-giving me plenty of time to revise 😉

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            Goblin Market, under the veil of sisterhood, narrates the homosexual relationship between sisters, Laura and Lizzie. The text speaks on the nature of homoeroticism amongst women, and its influence upon the dominant patriarchal code. This code accommodates an environment where being a woman is of consequence to sexual and emotional vulnerability, allowing masculinity to control by assault as the central expression of power.

Karl Marx in Capital, (Das Kapital) defines a commodity as “an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of sort or another” (Marx, 125). Marx attempts to explain that a commodity is only valued in relation to demand or otherworldly conditions, and therefore is an ideal item for the capitalist economic system. The relationship between the materiality of an item and its perceived societal value is illusory—It’s value solely determined by desire.

In her book, This Sex Which is Not One, Luce Irigaray uses Karl Marx’s definition of commodity relations and values within the capitalist market, in comparison to the cultural structure and values of patriarchy’s own ‘market,’ which she asserts pre-dates capitalism: “From the very origin of private property and the patriarchal family, social exploitation occurred…all the social regimes of History are based upon the exploitation of one class of producers, namely women” (Irigaray, 173). Irigaray substitutes men as the ‘exploiters,’ a position Marx reserves for capitalists. She argues that under patriarchy women are oppressed, serving only as exchangeable property, while men are “exempt from being used and circulated” (Irigaray, 172). Irigaray’s interprets female homosexuality from the response of patriarchy, as a product which is to be consumed—a commodity—in which women become men because the code of patriarchy dictates that only a man can desire a woman. Irigaray questions, “what if these ‘commodities’ refused to go to market? What if they maintained ‘another’ kind of commerce, among themselves?” (Irigaray, 196). Irigaray believes female refusal to participate in masculine society would allow for a new society to form, in which, women are empowered and masculine systems of barter abandoned. Goblin Market also seeks for utopia, as throughout, the sisters challenge the conventions of patriarchy. However the end is troubling, whereby it ends not with abolishment of the patriarchal code, but a restoration of it through childbirth.

Goblin Market can be interpreted as both a didactic story of the importance of sisterhood, and a subversion of patriarchy, whereas Rossetti creates a world devoid of masculine hostility, where women are dependent on one another. Laura and Lizzie live in a feminine society which is depicted as ideal. However, each evening the utopia is threatened by goblin men who are selling their seductive fruits. They become a catalyst in the sisters’ transition from childhood into adulthood, and allow them to also realize their sexual potential, thus destroying their utopian, female society.

Whereas Laura is wary of the goblin men by warning her sister of their intentions, she is not strong enough to resist their temptation. Lured by the chanting, “come buy, come buy” (Rossetti, 4) and the exoticism of the produce that “men sell not such in any town,” (Rossetti, 101) Laura submits to exchanging a lock of her golden hair for the fruit. Irigaray observes that “heterosexuality is nothing but the assignment of economic roles: there are producer subjects and agents of exchange on the one hand, productive earth and commodities on the other” (Irigaray, 192). By substituting her hair for money, Laura ‘commodifies’ her body—allowing the men to determine the terms of the purchase, and situate herself within the patriarchal economy whilst rejecting participation in the female community. Through force, Lizzie is able to rescue her sister from the economic code of the goblin men, and create a new society which closely resembles Irigaray’s vision of utopia for women, where they possess agency and “exchanges occur without identifiable terms, without accounts, without end” (Irigaray, 197). However, before this new society can be formed, both sisters must negotiate within the goblin men’s economy.

When Lizzie goes to the goblin market she assumes the masculine role of “an agent of exchange,” (Irigaray 192) when she carries her coin. The goblins though, reject her money and therefore deny recognizing her as an equal agent of exchange. They try to force her to eat their fruits, rubbing them into her skin, and saturating her with their juices in a violent manner which echoes sexual and physical abuse. Lizzie manages to be triumphant against the goblin men, and while holding her coin, rejoices to Laura,

“Come and kiss me.

Never mind my bruises,

Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices

Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,

Goblin pulp and goblin dew.

Eat me, drunk me, love me;

Laura make much of me” (Rossetti, 465-72).

Laura offers Lizzie her body, requesting nothing in exchange. What follows is an erotically charged, homosexual salvation, as Laura is saved by consuming the juices from her sister’s skin. It can be said that sexual love offers a fulfilling experience of healing, much like spiritual devotion.  As the sisters are brought back together, their utopia can be more fully realized. “Nature’s resources would be expended without depletion, exchanged without labor, freely given, exempt from masculine transactions: enjoyment without a fee, well-being without pain, pleasure without possession” (Irigaray 197). Laura and Lizzie have placed themselves outside the control of the masculine system; however they have not abolished it. They may be able to save themselves as well as each other, but their children will have to fight for themselves.

The poems ends with a restoration of the patriarchal system as the sisters grow old and become wives and mothers, albeit men are absent in the text. Their children, who are sexless, are told to honor sisterhood, “for there is no friend like a sister” (Rossetti, 562). While the concept of sisterhood is supportive and comforting, it is a continuity of patriarchy. Although women can save each other, they cannot change the system that endangers them. Laura and Lizzie can therefore only hope that the ideals of sisterhood and warnings of the goblin men will prevent their children from falling victim to patriarchy.

The ending of the poem seems to be detached from the earlier sequences. The diction of the poem changes as well as the goblin fruits that were initially described as “sweeter than honey from the rock/ stronger than man-rejoicing wine/ clearer than water flowed that juice” (129-31). They now become “like honey to the throat/but poison in the blood” (554-55). The illusory pleasure and sensual nature of the fruits has been realized. This transition from fantasy into reality also brings a restoration of order. Rossetti appears to imagine a world in which sisterhood triumphs over patriarchy, however the ending in which Lizzie and Laura submit to the order by marriage and procreation, subverts Rossetti’s utopia into sheer intangibility of sole hopefulness. Sisterhood can triumph over patriarchy, but only temporarily—it cannot sustain it.

Sisterhood functions in Goblin Market as a way for women to save one another from the code of patriarchy. Women can disable masculine oppression, but only temporarily. While Laura and Lizzie are able to be victorious over the goblin men, their feat has no causality of change for their condition. Instead of fostering the new society which Irigaray envisions, the sisters reincorporate themselves into patriarchal society, thus allowing the system to persist

Female “Self-Love”- The New Trend in Pop Culture

28 Feb

Love her or hate her, Miley Cyrus has a knack at pinpointing things in the Zeitgeist and turning them into worldwide trends.

A scantily clad Miley Cyrus on stage in LA, hand on crotch

After making twerking so popular that it found its way into the Oxford dictionary, she debuted a racy video for her new song, “Adore You,” in which she rolls around while making masturbatory gestures.

But Cyrus isn’t the only celebrity giving new meaning to the term “self love.” A couple of months ago, Rihanna was spotted wearing a T-shirt saying ‘D.I.Y.’

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Yup, female masturbation is having a another pop culture moment and it’s about time. Still, men tend to have it easier—films such as There’s Something About MaryAmerican Pie, and Don Jon depict it as natural and necessary—and it remains something of a taboo for women.

Which is precisely why provocation-hungry celebs are eager to talk about it. But unlike the riotous, feminist rock stars of the ’80s—such as Blondie and Madonna, who simulated masturbation during performances of “Like a Virgin”—modern provocateurs are presenting self-service as an intimate practice. Instead of seeking out the male gaze, it seems like they’re building an allegiance with womankind. After all, isn’t masturbation social class, age, race, and marital status agnostic?

The shift that has appeared is largely based around an absence of the man: take for example Janet Jackson’s Take Care, where she sings: “I’ll lay here and take care of it ’til you come home to me.” For Jackson, masturbation is a bookmark. The Divinyls’ I Touch Myself– a pro-masturbation anthem if ever there was one – contains the line: “I’d get down on my knees, I’d do anything for you.” When it came out in 1990 it was intrepid. But the song is just as much about giving pleasure as getting it.

In a 2011 interview with CNN, Kathleen Hanna, feminist leader of Bikini Kill and now the Julie Ruin, questioned the purpose of Katy Perry’s sexual presentation on Perry’s 2008 debut single I Kissed A Girl. “The whole thing is like, ‘I kissed a girl so my boyfriend could masturbate about it later,’ said Hanna. “It’s disgusting. It’s exactly every male fantasy of fake lesbian porn.”

Considered alongside a line from the new essay collection by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Is It My Body? – “The body’s not theirs anymore,” she writes of rock stars. “It’s a public domain and public perception” – the discussion over whom a woman’s pleasure serves seems more relevant than ever.

“Masturbation is true girl power,” says Karley Sciortino, editor of the unapologetic, pro-sex website Slutever. Sciortino believes the current trend was influenced by  groups of young underground women artists who “use their bodies to make sense of their identity.” She also predicts that modern feminism will continue to encourage body reappropriation, and thinks that “discussing masturbation is an important step of this process.”

Delphine Gaudy, co-founder of hip Parisian, women-centric sex shop Dollhouse says part of our disconnect from proper sexual identity is that women usually first encounter porn that wasn’t intended for them—or, as she puts it, images that are “projections of male fantasies onto women.” But the landscape is changing. And instead of selling ultra-phallic shapes, Gaudy stocks her shop with pocketsize gadgets in fun colors intended for “yourself only.”

Personally, I’m pumped artists are bringing awareness and acceptance to a practice that was once seen as shameful (although their ways of alluding to such might not be the best, but hey it’s something right?!).