Tag Archives: sex and gender

FP Issue is More Teenage Pop Mag than ‘Sex’ Issue

(This post originally appeared on DuckOfMinerva where I am a regular contributor)

After reading the FP special ‘sex’ issue this week I had the strangest feeling. It was like I woke up and it was 1991 and I was 13 again reading teen magazines. After reading Charli’s excellent post on the issue I couldn’t help but chime in. You see, I know that one of the obvious retorts to some of the criticism that has been waged about the issue will be ‘Hey, it was meant to raise a few issues and have some fun while we’re at it. We’re riffing off the Cosmo style ‘sex’ issue and just mixing it up. Lighten up.” Ok, fair play FP. But keeping with that theme let me start by saying that most of the issue was more like a teeny bopper mag rather than a sex issue (with some excellent exceptions). You’ve missed the target audience FP, and you are behind about 20 years in research. Parts of the issue was sort of like having an article on “a girl’s first period’ in a magazine aimed at adult women and men (oh yeah, I went there). Here are a four pointers on how to write a real sex issue.

1. When you read a Teen Mag you expect banal questions like “who is the sexiest teacher/leader/football player,” but even a low grade pop magazine wouldn’t publish the idiotic list of answers you got re: world leaders (which included Vladmir Putin and “those in South Africa and Muslim countries”). You might as well have just published “brown men” as one of the answers. When adults respond to surveys in ‘sex’ issues you’d hope they can at least remember the names of the brown bodies they fetishize. Why not just have a bunch of photos of politicians and have us rate them ‘hot’ or ‘not’?


2. When you asked why there should be more women in politics you collected answers that covered almost every single cliche: they are more peaceful, they think more about children, they are multitaskers…I guess for the full effect you could have asked someone to mention puppies, gardening, and aprons too…but not exactly sexy right?

3. The article, ‘The Most Powerful Women you’ve never Heard‘ of, must have also been aimed at teens. If your readers have never heard of any of these women then they haven’t been reading the news, preparing for lectures, watching TV, or generally participating in public life. So, like, duh. We know they are powerful- now how about some analysis? This list was like a “60 Sex Tips” article that wouldn’t help the reader undo a bra. Talk about a “most embarrassing moment” FP!!

4. The cover images? That Miley Cyrus-esque Vogue-naked-hunched-pose combined with elements of Muslim/war porn-fetishism is interesting but really below you, don’t you think? Also, paint the woman blue and you’ve got the playbill for Blueman group too, so there may be copyright issues with that.
FP, maybe its time to take the survey: “Are you totally out of the loop?” when it comes to gender and sex. Next time you want to write a sex issue, call in (more) of the experts.

What ‘Hot’ Guys Can Tell us About Masculinities and Social Norms

(This post originally appeared on DuckOfMinerva where I am a regular contributor)

My second option for a title was: ‘How to teach masculinities by looking at pictures of handsome men.’ (Note: this photo was sent to me as a humor-gift from one of my students…I didn’t do it myself!)

Feminist Ryan Gosling, a website featuring photos of actor Ryan Gosling posed next to intelligent quips about feminist politics is a perfect tool to use in a lecture on gender- no really. Why has this website gone viral (it was even re-posted on the Duck last week)? We know from movies and interviews that Gosling is buff (he sports a mean six pack in Crazy Stupid Love) and tough (he recently broke up a fighton the street in NYC)- classic ‘manly’ stuff. Bim Adewumni at the Guardian goes further in her answer to the question ‘Why do Feminists love Gosling?’ claiming “It goes beyond looks. He was raised by a single mother to whom he’s close, and he waxes lyrical about his female co-stars and ex-girlfriends. Guys love him too- he kissed Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn on the Cannes red carpet…Basically, he’s perfect.” Putting him next to feminist engagement is so unexpected that viewers seem to find it titillating and super-sexy (or so I’ve heard). Discussions of these types of gender contrasts, as well as broader debates of who is considered a male icon (sexy, ‘hot’) at particular moments in time can actually be very useful when trying to talk about different forms of masculinity and the social expectations placed on men and women in class.

Every year when I give my first lecture on gender I struggle to find new ways to make it resonate with students. Most men in the class assume that gender is ‘not about them’ or that they can’t say anything in a gender lecture without getting lashed from me or the female students. The female students- on the other hand- appear equally isolated in lectures on gender: they seem to feel like they are supposed to have an opinion or respond a certain way about gender.

Each year I start this lecture with a brainstorming session- getting students to list the qualities associated with both masculinity and femininity. Then we have a chat about what characteristics are valued in different roles or different elements of society. I often put a box around the set of characteristics- to illustrate gender stereotypes and social expectations- and have them talk about how individual men or women that have characteristics that are outside their sex-specific box are often seen as different- or even problematic. For example, a guy who is otherwise quite ‘manly’ but spends too much time on his hair and clothing choices is meterosexual (students still think this categorization is hilarious). If this same guy was less ‘manly’ (too sensitive, too weak etc) people would probably assume he was gay- he would be too far outside his gender box. We think Ryan Gosling with feminist quotes is sexy because it is just slightly outside of the box- the contrast is interesting and exciting. He seems even more manly because he can pose next to quotations about Enloe or Mohanty but still flex his arms and seem pensive.

While working in and out of these boxes can be a boon for your hotness factor, the problem is that these boxes cause all kinds of problems for individuals who don’t fit in them. Take gay male military service members. Somehow people can’t quite get their heads around a physically dominating man serving his country in one of the most hyper-masculine institutions in the world. The public- and policy makers- have often assumed that gay servicemen must be somehow weaker and less able to bond with their platoons- that they are a threat to the military somehow. Surely they can’t embody hypermasculinity AND want to have sex with men? It is a real head trip for people with strict gender boxes.

So next time you see something like the Feminist Ryan Gosling, or semi-pornographic photos of women in bikinis with AK47s, websites like Hot Navy Chicks (for real) that feature female service members that are also apparently sexy- remember that the reason why these are sexy and exciting is that they challenge the gender stereotypes we have engraved in our minds. Unfortunately, while Feminist Ryan Gosling and other gender contrasts may have elements of ‘inside/outside’ the box, they don’t exactly do much to erase our gender boundaries. That said, I think its safe to say that these photos will keep my students awake and engaged through my first gender lecture of the year next year…we can slowly work on getting rid of the boxes.

Post-revolution Walk of Shame in Libya: women asked to ‘go home’ in the afterglow of the revolution

(This post originally appeared on DuckOfMinerva where I am a regular contributor)

The exciting and tumultuous eve of the revolution in Libya has achieved many of its objectives: the power balance has swung in the rebel’s favor, many national governments around the world now recognize the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate leadership, and most (though not all) of the country is under their control.

In many ways, this week can be described as ‘the morning after’ the revolution in Libya. Rebels drunk on gun battles are now waking up with adrenaline hang-overs to the realities of post-revolution Libya. There’s mortar rounds everywhere, hundreds of displaced Libyans are crashing indefinitely in Tripoli, and- perhaps worst of all- Cameron and Zarkosyshowed up way too early, keen to help get the revolutionary council on its feet/ensure their financial interests.

In keeping with classic ‘morning after’ politics, men are waking up with only hazy memories of which women were at the party and what they did to contribute to the revolution. The TNC are trying to get their house in order for Cameron and Zarkosy as well as for the international media and for some reason these women just keep hanging around asking about what kind of future there is for them together, wanting some kind of commitment. The TNC’s responses so far reminds me of the scene in the movieBridesmaids when Jon Hamm’s character turns to Kristen Wiig after a one night stand and says “I really want you to leave, but I don’t want to sound like a dick.”

Women supported the revolution in Libya in countless ways- from hiding and feeding rebel fighters totaking up arms themselves– yet now that the post-revolution glow has worn off, the TNC seems to be asking women to take their walk of shame. The party is over, and this morning, the Transitional National Council has just one woman. Will the rest of the women who sacrificed for the movement- taking up new roles, and fighting for political change- be asked to get out of the political bedroom? Can the TNC really expect to rebuild Libya and move forward without acknowledging the significance of women’s role in the movement?

Unfortunately, women’s walk of shame post-conflict or post-revolution is all too familiar. Women havestruggled to maintain a significant voice in the new Egypt; similarly, women who fought as soldiers within rebel forces in countries like Sierra Leone and Angola often found themselves left out of post-conflict political agenda setting. For these women, as is likely for many Libyan women, the last thing desirable post-conflict/revolution is a ‘return to normal.’ For women, this means giving up any power gained and fitting themselves back into traditional patriarchal gender hierarchies. The TNC and the international community must stop the pattern of revolutionary one-night stands and work not only to acknowledge women’s role in the political movement, but also to secure political space for women as Libya faces a new day.