Tag Archives: oppression

Long Over Due

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time.  In fact, the last post I made was back in March.  YIKES!  Well, not to make excuses, but here are my excuses.  First (and I hope you already know this about me), I don’t blog unless I am inspired to do so.  Of course there have been moments since March where I was inspired to write so that isn’t really a great excuse.  Like the “Ben Roethlisberger having sex in a bar bathroom with an underage, intoxicated co-ed that didn’t get called sexual assault even though it walks and quacks like a sexual assault” for example.  I could have written a book on that.  And…I wanted to.  Which leads me to the second reason why I have been away – the Texas PEACE Project.  Over the last year, I, along with a small team of co-workers,  have been steadily plugging away at creating all things Texas PEACE Project  for my day job at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.  We just launched the project at out annual youth summit at Trinity University in San Antonio [he said with a huge sigh of relief].

The Texas PEACE Project (formerly Students Taking Action for Respect) is our youth program. The intent of the project is to engage, encourage, educate and support youth activists and their adult allies to create social change and equality across Texas in order to end sexual and dating violence. The Texas PEACE Project employs a peer education model. We believe that youth educating their peers is the most effective means of bring about that change.  We train youth to speak out against all forms of oppression – in particular sexism, racism, homophobia and adultism as they are all root causes of sexual violence and have a profound impact on Texas youth.

This has been a tremendous undertaking that has occupied all of my time – especially since January or so.  It has been worth all of the work, but I have had no gas left in the tank to devote to Responsible Men.  I am glad to see that people still have been reading my blog even though I have not been posting anything new.  And now that I am nearly out of the proverbial woods, I can safely say that I will jump right back into the game on a regular basis, er, when I am inspired, er, you know what I mean.

Even though the topic is a bit dated, I did want to share something I did write during my hiatus.  This was a soapbox piece I wrote for the Spring 2010 TAASA Revolution newsletter that you can read in it’s entirety here if you like.  For now, take a look at my contribution below:

Making History

I grew up in a very small, southern town with not much diversity. For the most part, the people of my hometown were fairly conservative and reserved. Everyone looked alike. Everyone talked alike. Everyone even said pretty much the same things when
they spoke. As a member of a community like that, you know everyone’s business and everyone knows yours – like it or not. From what I can tell, my hometown isn’t all that different from Fulton, Miss. In fact, I remember watching, as a boy, the local community college playing against Itawamba Community College (from Fulton) in baseball and basketball every year. The similarities between my hometown and Fulton are numerous, but there is one notable exception. The people of my hometown, when faced with overcoming hatred and discrimination, did the right thing and took a stand against it.

My hometown is Pulaski, Tenn. Most people have never heard of it. Those that have most likely know it as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. As ashamed as I am of that part of my hometown’s history, I am very proud of the fact that the citizens of Pulaski found a way to step out of the shadows of the town’s past and write a new page in the history books. When I was in high school some 20 years ago, the Aryan Nation (a white nationalist neo-Nazi organization) was looking for a place to set up a training and recruitment facility. They targeted Pulaski because of its historical significance in the white supremacy movement. I guess they thought it would be a good fit. I imagine they also believed the people of Pulaski would be tolerant, if not welcoming of them. However, when whispers of this group’s intentions spread, the citizens of Pulaski decided to take a stand. On a weekend when the Aryan Nation scheduled a rally to announce their plans publicly, Pulaski citizens united and spoke out by completely shutting down the city. Gas stations closed. Hotels closed. Restaurants closed. Everything closed. So when members of the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups invaded Pulaski they were greeted with locks on every door and orange ribbons (a symbol for racial harmony) in every window and on every car. The message was clear that things like hate, discrimination and inequality were not going to be part of Pulaski’s future. It was heard loud and clear and the Aryan Nation made other plans.

So what’s that got to do with Fulton, Miss.? Well, Fulton is the hometown of Constance McMillan. You might have heard of her. She is an openly gay senior from Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton who has been thrust into the national spotlight for wanting to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend. In case you haven’t been following this, the school decided to cancel the prom rather than let Constance attend with her date. After a federal Mississippi court ruled that the school violated Constance’s First Amendment rights, the parents from the community offered to host a “private” prom on April 2 that would be open to all students. Spring 2010 It seemed like Fulton, in some ways, was following in Pulaski’s footsteps. They realized an injustice and came together to do what was right. Sadly, it appears that is not the case. Apparently the parents from Fulton secretly organized two private proms on Friday, April 2. Constance and her girlfriend were only invited to one of them. According to Constance, they arrived at a local country club expecting “the prom” and discovered that only five other students were in attendance, including two students with “learning difficulties.” The school principal and some teachers were there to chaperone, but it doesn’t sound like there was much for them to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the students attended a different prom at another “secret” location.

If I could give a message to the parents, students and school officials of Fulton, Miss., I would say “you made a HUGE mistake.” You chose to overlook that Constance, like everyone in the LGBTQ community, is above all else a human being. You had the opportunity to treat her with the dignity and respect every human deserves (even if you believe homosexuality to be morally wrong). Instead, you chose to treat her as if she were somehow less than human. You chose to degrade, humiliate and exclude her because she is presumably not like you. The way you have treated her is not that different than the examples of bigotry and racism of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Did you learn nothing from the 1962 race riots that erupted after James Meredith became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi? Is the unbelievable pain and suffering caused by a segregated and exclusionary past not enough for you to change the way you treat people in 2010? If not, then perhaps you are the ones who are not human, for it is empathy and the ability to learn from our mistakes that make us so.

While Fulton cannot tear these pages out of their history, they still have the opportunity to write new ones where they will be remembered for their ability to rise above their past rather than for drowning in it. As singer Tom Morello said, “History, from this day forward, is what you make it.” I sincerely hope that the community of Fulton will realize the devastating and far-reaching repercussions of their present actions and learn to embrace and value the diversity of all people. If they do, then perhaps 20 years from now Constance McMillan will be able to write about the time that her hometown stepped out of the shadows of its past and started making history for all the right reasons.




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One Leg at a Time

WOW…seriously???  I mean…seriously???  Dockers, what are you thinking?  Take a look at this new ad campaign that Dockers is putting out there and tell me what you think:

So is it that Dockers is of the opinion that their pants will somehow make men more “manly”.  I hate that this campaign is calling for a return to the days when a woman’s place was in the home cooking dinner and minding the kids and that men are the ones doing “real work.”  And that somehow our world has gone off its tracks and landed in a feminized (and therefore chaotic and broken) world that could be fixed with a healthy dose of testosterone.  If only we could go back to a time when men were in charge then the world would be one big Shangri-la (but not in a frilly, fluffy, emotional way – that wouldn’t be manly).  I get that the ad is trying to be funny.  However, funny sexism is still sexism.  It is just more palatable and easier to dismiss as harmless.

I happen to have a different opinion of what is wrong with the world today.  Try this on for size.  I feel that society has lost its way, at least in part, not because of feminization but because far too many men can’t (or won’t) let go of the past.  Far too many men have remained in a state of suspended animation – frozen in that mindset that men work so they don’t have to have a hand in child rearing and house cleaning.  Well fellas, women work too (they always did – we just didn’t call it that).  In most families today both parents have full time jobs outside the home.  Gone are the days of the bread winner and care taker roles.  Nowadays, both parents need to share the responsibility of raising the children and maintaining the house.  Unfortunately, many men have been reluctant to engage and the results have been catastrophic.  We know that something has to change, but many men are afraid of that change.  We have a fear of the unknown.  Unfortunately while we are “sitting idly by” cities do crumble and children do misbehave.   In my opinion, you can add to that list that family relationships crumble.  Children are forced to raise themselves (or let their television or X-Box do it).  Divorce rates skyrocket and children’s grades plummet.  How about things like childhood obesity? Dating violence? Self mutilation?  Is it possible that they are also symptoms of this larger problem?  I think so.

Please don’t mistake this for male bashing or that I am blaming all men for the world’s problems.  I certainly am not.  After all, I am a man and I know plenty of other men that are wonderful partners and fathers.  I also know a large number of men that aren’t meeting their potential as partners and fathers because they feel like they cannot be masculine and be a loving and engaged partner and father at the same time.  I can certainly understand that.  The messages men receive from all around us is that men are supposed to be anything but engaged and loving.  Most men, I feel, are at a crossroads.  We feel like it isn’t safe to be authentic, yet we can see that problems in our families, in our schools and in our communities has reached critical mass.

It is time for men to engage, in meaningful ways, in our families and in our communities.  It is not enough to bring home a paycheck and make sure the yard looks nice.  Those things are important, but they will not ensure that the world our children and grandchildren will live in will be a place of equal opportunity for everyone where people’s differences are celebrated rather than shunned.  I truly believe that the majority of men in this world want to be really great guys (and often are).  What I think we need is a way to bring these men together so that we can meet one another (either in person or online) and see that we are not alone and that we can be considered masculine by our peers.  That would be the permission we need to be more visible as engaged partners and fathers.  That is why I started Responsible Men in the first place.  Now all I need is guys who are willing to take that small step forward to say “I am one of the Responsible Men.”  Are you willing to be that guy?

If the world were set up so that men could feel safe about being authentic I imagine it would be a very different place.  I imagine in that world the advertisements might look something like this:

Maybe a good place to start is to recognize that regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other ways we classify people, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

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Falling on Tone Deaf Ears

Well, well, well…Reebok, it seems, has themselves a new product called the EasyTone running shoe.  It is said to use “balance ball inspired technology” to get “better legs and a better butt with every step.”  So, how do you market this miracle shoe???   Take a look:

OR this one:

I wanted to discuss this from a couple of different angles.  First, and the most obvious, these ads objectify and sexualize women.  Like so many ad campaigns before this one, Reebok has bought into the idea that sex sells.  In this case it is fitness wrapped in sex.  In addition, the entire ad campaign spews the message that if you buy these shoes then men will be “speechless” (meaning they will be too busy staring at your body to bother talking to you) and other women will be jealous.  Is that what being a woman is all about?  Attracting men and making other women green with envy with by having a firm backside???  I don’t think so.  Yet Reebok would like you to think so.  Even Oprah is getting in on the act…YES OPRAH.  It is plastered on the Reebok EasyTone website.  Take a look…

While you were on their website you might have noticed another video.  In case you missed it, here it is:

…which beings me to part 2.  It bothers me that men in many ads (and other forms of media) are often portrayed as being mindless and only thinking about one thing – SEX.  Now some of you may be saying that men really do think about sex all the time or that it is in our genetic make-up and we can’t help it.  My response to that is that might be true to a degree.  After all, we are sexual beings and we survive as a species by having sex and making more of us.  However, we are not without the ability to choose when and where we are sexual.  If this were not the case then people everywhere would be having sex in places like the cereal aisle at the grocery store.  We’d have to step over naked, writhing bodies in the throws of passion to grab a box of Fruit Loops.  It would be like like seeing two dogs going at it in the park or one dog going at it with a basketball or your leg.  AND IT WOULD SEEM NORMAL!!!  But we don’t and it isn’t because we were also born with the ability to choose – free will.  We get to choose how we respond in any given situation.  Unfortunately, we are socialized to believe otherwise.  We are told what is masculine and what is feminine by society.  Society tells us that “boys will be boys”  and “nice guys finish last” and “diamonds are a girls best friend” and “girls just wan to have fun” and millions of other messages that slowly but surely define gender in very narrow terms.

If we can agree on that, then it is concerning when companies like Reebok produce ads that portray men as being mindlessly and completely sexually-minded – as if that part of us never shuts off and that we are powerless over its constant influence on us.   This is just as problematic as portraying women as sexual objects.  It is when these two things are working in concert that potential danger becomes reality.  It is in the space where men buy into the notions that they must to be hypersexual AND that women are objects that exist for men’s pleasure and enjoyment that sexual violence lives.  If men view women as sex objects and men are told that men are judged by their sexual conquests (quantity or quality), then it stands to reason that some men will go to great lengths to prove they are a “real man” – including rape.  Also, if it appears that there are no real consequences for their “hyper-masculine” behavior (i.e. staring at a women’s bodies, cat calling, groping, forceful sex, etc.) then why would these men stop?  What is stopping them from committing a rape?  ***Please note that I am NOT saying that all men behave in this way.  In reality it is a very small number of men that do these things, but it is these behaviors that have come to define all masculinity.

I decided to look into Reebok’s philosophy as a company to see what they stand for (if anything other than making money).  What I found is worth sharing.  I found that Reebok is owned by Adidas Group.  Adidas Group, who also owns Taylor Made Golf, has a very strong belief in social and environmental sustainability.  They have a “Social and Environmental Programme” (they are a European company) that is dedicated to promoting social and environmental sustainability as the name suggests.  While I feel like this is a great step in the right direction, I had some questions for them.  So, I wrote them a letter.  Here it is:

Hello,
My name is Ted Rutherford.  I am the founder of an organization in Austin, Texas called Responsible Men which is dedicated to promoting gender equality and ending men’s violence against women.  I am writing today to thank you for your dedication to the concept of sustainability through your Social and Environmental Programme.  I am glad to see that you are making a public commitment to this on your website and that large corporations like Adidas Group are leading the charge so to speak. I’d like to also ask you if you have considered looking at sustainability in terms of gender.  I recently came across your ad campaign for the Reebok EasyTone shoes and was sad to see that some of the video and images objectify and sexualize women.  Also, in one ad, there is an off screen character (presumably male) who repeatedly stares at the on-screen woman’s butt despite her redirection, which reinforces the gender stereotype that men only care about sex.  While I get that the campaign is telling women that they can have a sexy butt and legs by wearing the shoes, I think these ads reinforce the notion that women’s primary value lies in their sexuality and sex appeal.  In addition, the entire campaign reinforces gender stereotypes (men are always thinking about sex and women are out to make other women jealous) which simply aren’t true.  In my opinion, it is ads like these (when combined with other ads and other social factors) that help build versions of masculinity and femininity that are not sustainable.  In fact what we are left with are very rigid, narrow and oppressive options for expressing our gender that have much larger social ramifications.  If men are taught that all men care about is sex and if men are taught that all women are sex objects, then we have a “perfect storm” for things like sexual assault to occur.
Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that Reebok EasyTone shoes cause rape.  That is obviously ridiculous.  However, I am suggesting that this ad campaign is part of a much, much larger system that helps create a culture where sexual violence exists on a large scale.  What I am asking you to do is to really do some soul searching as a company to see if you care about the sustainability of your customers.  While you cannot change the actions of other companies and other social influencers, you are responsible for your own actions.I must tell you that I purchased a new pair of basketball shoes today.  Because of this ad campaign, I chose to leave Reebok off of my list of options.  I liked the shoes that I saw, but opted to spend my money elsewhere because I can’t support a company with sexist advertising practices.  I know that may not mean a great deal to you, but it is an example of how I may not be able to change your actions, but I can certainly be responsible for my own.Please consider marketing the EasyTone shoes and all of the Adidas Group merchandise in a way that promotes gender equality and sustainability.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

The idea of gender sustainability is one that I have been pondering for some time now.  In fact, when I think about it, gender isn’t actually a  real, tangible thing.  It is a social construct, to which most of us subscribe, that is one way to organize and make sense of the world.  It is the way males and females are supposed to look and behave according to society’s definition of “normal” in gender terms.  In other words, we are not born with our gender predetermined.  It is largely imposed on us by society.  When babies are born we wrap them in a pink or blue blanket (according to their sex) and assign them a name that usually indicates whether they are male or female.  We encourage them as they grow older to look and behave in a way that is consistent with the way society defies “normal” in gender terms.  We throw around phrases like “boys don’t cry” and “that is not how a lady acts” in order to teach the next generation to ignore their true selves and assimilate into the gender binary world.    Companies, like Reebok, market products to us in a way  that leverages our socialization to maximize their profits.  This Reebok ad campaign is a great example of that.  Reebok is banking on lots of females buying these shoes because they want to be successful at playing the role of  “woman” – meaning that they want to have a great butt to attract men with and to make other women jealous.  After all, many of us are just acting the part of “man” and “woman” so that we are not ostracized from our gender culture.   Throughout our lives we are pushed into very narrow gender roles that ultimately are not sustainable.  We are pressured to be something that we frequently are not.  That is a very fragile and precarious state that will collapse sooner or later.

The take away from all of this is hopefully that it is the job of conscious citizens to embrace gender diversity and stop perpetuating the gender binary that society has created.  While it is becoming cliche, it is true that if we want to change the world we must first change ourselves.  It is our job to demonstrate to corporate America that we embrace our diversity as human beings and we expect them to honor and accommodate us by acknowledging our differences rather than denying them.  If we choose to live outside the gender boxes they have built for us, then they will have no choice but to shift their approach in order to reach us.  Never forget that it is our money that is lining their pockets and informing their decisions.  Perpetuating narrow gender roles is just a strategy that corporations use to manipulate and control us in order to maximize their profits. If they can convince the majority of males to buy into one version of masculinity, then they only have to create (and pay for) marketing strategies for that one type of man.  That means less money spent on advertising and more money in the bank.  In the end, it is our money and we can choose to spend it in a conscious way that will send a clear message to corporations that we are tired of the same old song they are singing and they had better change their tune.

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pay attention to the man behind the curtain…

In light of the fantastic response to my last article “I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” I decided to write a follow up piece.  My colleague, Pat McGann from Men Can Stop Rape, commented that he had written a piece about how the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are actually counter stories to societies definition of masculinity (no brain, no heart, no courage).  I started thinking more about the characters in the Wizard of Oz as metaphors for issues like gender, power and oppression.

Throughout the movie, we are told that in order to get what we want, we must go see the “great and powerful Oz”.  It is the Wizard that has all of the power.  He is the gatekeeper.  He can provide the Scarecrow with a brain, the Tin Man with a heart, the Lion with courage, and above all else he can get Dorothy back to Kansas if he feels like it.   Once they reach Oz, he quickly demonstrates his power by refusing to see them and then by declining to help them unless they bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West (a daunting and seemingly impossible task).

Overcoming great odds, and a gaggle of flying monkeys, the 4 travelers return to the Emerald City with the broomstick.  This time around, Oz tries to turn them away by using  intimidation and fear.  Take a look:

The Wizard represents power.  In our culture that translates to wealthy, white, straight, Christian men (the power elite) since it is generally wealthy, white, straight, Christian men who are the “decision makers” in America.  That has not changed much since our country was formed.  The Wizard wields his power in order to maintain control over others (refusing to see the travelers) or to gain more power (obtaining the broomstick) in the same way that the power elite have done for decades.  If you need examples, how about slavery, denying women the right to vote, the ban on gay marriage, “golden parachutes” for corrupt CEOs, and even the whole concept of being “one nation, under God”.  Of course these are the ones you can’t miss, but isn’t it reasonable to think that there are smaller, less noticeable things that also serve the power elite at the expense of the “have nots”?  How about Capitalism?  On paper it seems like a good idea, but in practice it’s a system that makes the rich get richer often at the expense of everyone else.

This is what brings me back to the sexy Halloween costumes.  Not only do these costumes sexualize and objectify women for the pleasure of straight men, they also put more money in the pockets of the CEOs of the companies that make them.  Each time we purchase on of these costumes, we support the current social power structure because the power elite are making money at the expense of women.  To back this claim up, I did my homework.  Let me lay it out for you as best I can.  Spirit Halloween is owned by Spencer Gifts (another company known for selling products that sexualize and objectify women). Spencer Gifts is owned by ACON Investments which was co-founded by Bernard Aronson (ACON also owns Mariner Energy, which was purchased in the aftermath of Enron and since it’s inception in 1995 has managed over $1.5 billion in investments).  In addition to his work with ACON, Aronson currently serves on the Board of Directors for Liz Claiborne, Royal Caribbean, and the Global Hyatt Corporation and has strong ties in the political world.  In fact, he once served on the White House Staff as Deputy Assistant to the Vice President (1977-1981) and as the Director of Policy for the Democratic National Committee (1981-1983).  He also serves on the board forth Democratic National Institute.  Make no mistake, this guy is a heavy hitter and has a tremendous amount of power and influence.  We must pay attention to the man behind the curtain for it is he that is shaping the world we live in.  He only has power if we continue to grant it to him.  Like the wizard, power is often an illusion that we help create and proliferate.

Of course it is not only his fault.  After all, this is a Capitalist society.  People will only sell what others will buy.  Some will say that if women don’t want to be objectified or sexualized, then they shouldn’t buy or wear the costumes.  I agree with that to a certain (small) extent.  However it becomes problematic when you realize how very few options there are for women.  Nearly everything is intended to be sexy.  Also I’d like to point out, as I did in the last article, that  you have to look at what would motivate women to buy and wear these costumes.  For many I have to think that being sexy is one of the few ways women are granted any power by men.  So should women give up the small amount of power they have?  Or is the better solution for men (particularly those that are white, straight and Christian) to be more willing to share the tremendous amount of power we have by building equality for everyone.

It seems obvious that the latter is the only viable option if our goal is to create equality.  If we can agree on that, then why can’t men agree to do it?  Why is it so hard for men to share the power that we have?  Is it that we don’t know how or don’t feel safe doing it?  If you think about it, the power we have is not something we earned.  It was granted to us at birth.  It has been passed down through history from father to son.  To break the cycle, all it would take is a generation or two of men who believe in equality for all to teach their sons differently.  All it would take is to tell our sons things like “pink is just a color”, “it’s OK to cry when you are upset”, “solve problems with your brain, not your fist” and “regardless of our differences, we are all just people.” Small changes bring about big changes.

I wanted to leave you with something a little different this time.  I came across two great videos on Facebook the other day.  I did not intend to make them a part of this blog, but when I blog, I let the article write itself.  Sometimes, I end up in unintended places.  I hope you can appreciate that.  Anyhow, the first video was created by a teenager from a teenager’s perspective.  While it isn’t about preventing violence or building equality, I think it captures what is at the core of my message – doing something to make change happen.  Here it is:

The second speaks to the things that we, as adults, pass along to our children.  This one is about the things we pass on to children.  It is from Child Friendly Australia and it is a little hard to watch, but very powerful.  Take a look:

Thanks for reading.  Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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I’ve a Feeling We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

Finally it’s Autumn.  I love this time of year.  In Austin, the weather cools down to a balmy 92° and thoughts turn to things like turning leaves, football, chili, and Halloween.  Ah, Halloween – the one day out of the year where us grown kids can act like our children and nobody will give it a second thought.

Now if you’ve known me for a long time, you know that I have not always been a fan of Halloween.  In fact, I can remember several times in college when I, along with my roommates Pat and Springer, would sit and drink beer with all the lights off in the house so the trick-or-treaters would think we weren’t home.  I hated Halloween.  For me, that tradition more or less carried on until I had a child of my own.  Once my son was born, something changed.  The more he understood Halloween, the more he got into it and the more I got into it.

My son is 5 now.  Last year was the first time he actually cared about his costume.  We shopped at places like Spirit Halloween and Party City to find a Wall-E costume because, in his mind, nothing else would do.  Sadly, none of the costumes we found met his exacting standards.  So, being that I have a degree in art, I decided to make a costume for him.  Check it out…

DSC03299

Pretty cool, huh?  At first I was sad that I wasn’t able to find a costume all ready to go, but it was fun making this with him.  I was also saddened by what I did find in those stores.  So this year I decided to write about it.  In order to research this article, I visited www.spirithalloween.com to see if anything had changed.  They have costumes for babies all the way to adults.  They are also separated by gender and style for convenience.  I started by looking at costumes for men and then for women.  Quickly I was overwhelmed by the stark differences between the male and female costumes.  In fact, it was so bad that I had to find a way to simplify it so that I could even put it into words.

For this article, I wanted to be able to compare apples to apples.  I wanted you to see just how entrenched male and female gender roles really are in our society.  I decided to focus on a set of costumes to which most, if not all of us can relate…the characters from Wizard of Oz.

First, here are the “standard” costumes for Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy:

all_four

I’d say this pretty much what I expected to find.  They seem true to the original movie wardrobes.  HOWEVER…I also found a series of costumes called the “Wicked of Oz”.  Here are the same 4 characters from that line:

all_fourWhat I noticed right off that bat is that the male characters, in this version, appear more powerful because they are more menacing.  Meanwhile, the female character (Dorothy) became more powerful by seeming sexually dominant – down to the black latex corset and knee boots.  She looks like a dominatrix.

These gendered expressions of power are found throughout pop culture.  Nowhere is it more evident than in the world of superheroes.  Male superheros are powerful because they are physically dominant machines that leave collapsed heaps of criminals in their wake.  The lines between hero and villain are often blurred because of the violent nature of many heroes today.  For female superheroes, their power is expressed in their sexuality.  Take a look at these examples of  Batman in the film The Dark Knight and Silk Spectre from the film The Watchmen and you will see what  I mean:

Batman-Dark-Knight-Solo-FP2062SilkSpectre

Batman is the embodiment of raw power and anger who is always teetering on the brink between good and evil.  Silk Spectre, on the other hand, radiates sexuality.  In fact, her story line in the movie is that she is involved in 2 sexual relationships with 2 other superheroes (Night Owl and Dr. Manhattan).  Oh, and she is the daughter of a superhero who was beaten and raped by another superhero (The Comedian).  Both characters are powerful, but they arrive at their power by very different means.

But I digress.  Where was I??? Ah, yes…KANSAS.  I was stunned (but not surprised) at the divergence of the character paths in the “wicked” costumes.  So, I decided to see if there were any other interpretations of these characters costumes.  I did a search on the site by each of the character names (Scarecrow, etc.).  What I found was nearly unbelievable.  Check it out:

SexyOz

This is wrong on so many levels I will have to focus on just one in this particular post.  These outfits scream SEX regardless of the character contexts.  These costumes make the models look like a strange amalgamation of naughty school girl meets farmer’s daughter meets St. Paulie’s Girl meets “Diamond” from the local strip club.  All of them play on male (generally speaking) sexual fantasies.  They also reinforce the cultural belief that women’s bodies are the most valuable currency women have in order to “purchase” power from men.  In a patriarchal society, men are the keepers of power and women are forced to use their sexuality in order to share in that power – even if temporarily.

I think these costumes send the message to girls and women that females should always exude sexuality or should always give off a sexual vibe.  For boys and men, the message is that females are always looking for sex or to be sexy.  If you combine that with other messages that tell males that “real men” are tough, strong, in control, devoid of emotion (other than anger) and hypersexual, then it is easy to see why some men don’t take “no” for an answer when it comes to sex and/or why some men don’t accept responsibility for getting consent (they put the onus on women to say no rather than actively seeking an enthusiastic “yes”).  It is also easy to see why some women give in when being pressured to have sex even if they don’t really want to and why some women don’t classify or report an unwanted sexual encounter as a sexual assault.  The lines around intent, sexuality, consent, appropriate vs. inappropriate, wanted vs. unwanted are blurred.  Everyone is confused and some men (and women) are taking advantage of that confusion.

Thankfully, most men treat women with dignity and respect (I really don’t like the word respect, but I don’t have a better one in this case).  Most men do not abuse, assault or rape women.  However, I think on some level we all have a hand in paving the way for the men who do.  We are all part of a culture that accepts the sexualization and exploitation of women.  By accepting those parts of our culture, we are creating space and therefore opportunity for the small number of men who see women as sex objects and pressure, coerce and force women into having sex.  When we say things like “I don’t abuse or rape women, so it’s not my problem” we are actually saying that we have no influence on the world around us.  If that were true, then boys who grow up in abusive households wouldn’t frequently grow up to be abusive themselves (for example).

The reality is that men must challenge our own socialization.  We must think critically about the world around us and how we are influenced by it.  If we are ever going to live in a world that values men and women equally, men must join women in challenging anything to the contrary.  We must also be willing to pass on to the next generation a set of attitudes and beliefs that reflect and promote gender equality.  We can do this through schools, community centers, churches, sports leagues, etc. but for these values to really take root and flourish, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MY FOLLOW UP POST CALLED “PAY ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN”

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Beer Me!

pintofbeer1

*taken from The Inactivist Blog

I love beer!  Not in the “if I drink enough of it I will forget my troubles” sense.  I love it because it is a refreshing, relaxing, interesting, complex, thirst-quenching roller of good times.  We can come together over a beer and talk about the world’s problems or the stupid things we did in high school (or still do).  Not to mention it is the perfect way to wash down a pile of Buffalo Wings from any place other than Hooter’s (I really need to blog about them – stay tuned).  Ah, beer.

Sadly, the beer industry does some pretty hefty social and environmental damage as it cranks out gallon after gallon of the golden nectar.  The industry has made a habit out of sexualizing and objectifying women to make a profit.  Companies like Budweiser, Miller and Coors are notorious for using images of scantily clad women in their advertisments.  Who could forget the Coors Light TWIIINNS???

Of course this is just one example out of literally thousands and thousands of print ads, tv commercials, billboards, and internet ads that bombard the advertising landscape from September to February.  Why you ask???  The answer is simple – football season.  This is a time of year that companies desperately clamor for the business of men by appealing to their inner man.  Sexy women doing sexy things in sexy clothing is one of the main sales mechanisms employed by these large beer companies.  In a hypermasculine culture, sexism sells.

This type of advertising is damaging in several ways.  Obviously, it objectifies and sexualizes women.  This teaches men and boys to value women for their looks and sexuality first (if not only).  It also teaches women and girls that in order to gain the interest of a male, you must behave in a sexual way – even if you aren’t interest in actually having sex.  It also socializes men to believe that men must act like the men in the commercials in order to be a “real man” or perhaps more accurately all men should behave like the men in the commercial because that is what is normal.  Naturally, if men are taught that women are sex objects that are available to them at any time and women are taught to behave sexually even if they aren’t interested in having sex, then you are bound to have scenarios in real life where men force themselves on women sexually.

Environmentally speaking, the beer industry makes a significant ecological footprint.  On the whole, the industry uses nearly 500 million tons of grains every year.  Since beer isn’t chunky, you have to wonder where all of the grain goes after it has been boiled and the sugars extracted?  In the pre-Budweiser days, smaller breweries would give their “spent” to local farmers who would used it for cattle feed.  This was a tremendous help to farmers and breweries.  It even kept costs lower on beer and dairy products because a production expense has been eliminated (there must be someting to this symbiosis thing after all).  Also, think about the amount of waste that is created during this time of year from the number of bottles and cans of beer consumed is staggering.  What about the massive amounts of petroleum products it takes to deliver the beer across the country to every grocery, liquor store, quick mart and bar in America?  The industry’s environmental load is taxing to say the least.

So, what should an Inactivist do?  Consider drinking craft beers or microbrews made in your state (or locally if possible).  Here is why:

1.  Smaller, independent breweries typically spend their advertising budget (if they have one) on showing you how good the beer is rather than using half naked women to divert your attention from the actual taste of the beer – AND TWIIINNS!!!  Taking your money out of the large corporate pockets just might get those companies to evaluate their advertising practices.

2.  If you buy your beer from a producer that is in your town or in your state, then you are helping to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and cutting down on the automobile emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, and helping local farmers keep their feed costs low.

3.  Buying locally made beer supports the people who live in or near your community.  Keeping your money local will help put food on the table for people who are trying to do things the right way and it send a loud and clear message to the large beer companies.

I did a quick Google search for “TEXAS BEER” since I live in Austin.  The first listing that popped up was http://texasbeer.blogspot.com.  Here I found a great list of existing craft beer breweries all in the state of Texas.  I have had most of these beers myself and they are quite good.  I especially like “Fireman’s 4” made by Real Ale Brewing  Company in Blanco, Texas (70 miles from my door) and “Blonde Bombshell” by Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe, Texas (200 miles from my door).  Honorable mention has to go to “Live Oak Pilz” from Live Oak Brewing Company right here in Austin.

I encourage you to do a quick google search of your own to see what beers can be found in your neck of the woods.  You just might stumble on something you really like.  Craft beers might cost a few dollars more, but you can’t put a price justice.

Here’s to making the world a better place 12 ounces at a time this football season and beyond.

BeerMeWordle

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“Real Beauty” is only pocket deep

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is incredible, right?  If you haven’t seen it take a look at these videos:

Finally, a company that standing up for women and disconnecting women’s value from their looks or sex appeal.  This is in stark contrast to the majority of horrific ad campaigns that teach us that women’s worth lies in their beauty and level of sexiness.  One of the worst offenders is Axe grooming products for men.  I have written about them before. In case you aren’t familiar, take a look at these ads:

Terrible, right?  I mean, it’s a good thing we have things like the Campaign for Real Beauty to help combat the awful messages embedded in those Axe ads.  It is easy to see the differences in these two campaigns.  However, can you tell what they have in common?  How about this…

unilever-logo

You see Unilever, the makers of Axe, are also the makers of Dove.  Let me repeat that.  The makers of Axe are also the makers of Dove.  The same money that backs the horrific Axe advertising campaigns comes from the same pockets that created the Campaign for Real Beauty.  Ponder that for a moment.  I have been pondering it for quite some time.  I don’t want to believe it, but I have no choice.  Fact is fact whether I like it or not.  So…what does this all mean?

Well, to me it means that Unilever is playing all of us for fools.  They are also proving to me that they have no real interest in crumbling the beauty industry or increasing girls self esteem or making the world and equal place for women to live as the campaign would lead you to believe.  No.  They only care about making money.  The Campaign for Real Beauty, to Dove, is nothing more than an advertising campaign cleverly disguised as an attempt at bringing justice to the world.  Ah, Capitalism!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that the Campaign for Real Beauty is wonderful and it should be blasted from every mountain top.  However, I feel that we as consumers cannot abide this sort of underhanded deception being doled out by Unilever.  We must demand that Unilever stop undermining the powerful and necessary work of their own campaign and start advertising Axe in a way that is consistent with the messaging in the Campaign for Real Beauty.  We should accept no less.  After all, it is our children that will live in the world we are creating today and it is ultimately our money that deepens the corporate pockets of irresponsible companies like Unilever who gladly profit at the expense of women.

Ultimately, we have no direct control over Unilever or any other corporation.  However, we can control our own behaviors and actions.  We can choose to let Unilever know we feel about their advertising practices.  We can also choose to not purchase any Unilever products until they change.  No more Wishbone salad dressing.  No more Vaseline products.  No more Skippy peanut butter.  No more Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (yes, them too).  No more Unilever.  For a complete list of Unilever products visit http://www.unileverusa.com/ourbrands/.  Be sure to click around and do your homework.  Our actions dictate their actions.

We have the power to send a clear message.  We have the power to create a world where women’s bodies are no longer a commodity.  We have the power to create real change.  If we are willing to come together and take action.

Now THAT would be real beauty!

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