Tag Archives: sexist

The Pixel Project

Recently, Responsible Men became an Awareness-Raising Partner with the Pixel Project.  I highly encourage you to take a look around their website and support them in any way you can.  One way Responsible Men is supporting the Pixel Project is by sharing information.  So, have a look at the information below:

The Pixel Project, a global Web 2.0-driven awareness and fund raising campaign working to end Violence Against Women (VAW), is proud to launch The Pixel Project Wall of Support on 8 March 2010 in honour of International Women’s Day.

The Wall of Support is a gallery of video endorsements from people worldwide who support The Pixel Project’s mission to get men and women to work together to end VAW. Endorsements are uploaded to YouTube and displayed on the Wall of Support galleries in the Community Buzz section of The Pixel Project’s website.

By showing a human face and voice with every endorsement, The Pixel Project hopes that this global chorus of voices against VAW will ignite conversation and focus public attention on the urgency of ending gender-based violence afflicting one in three women worldwide.

Each endorsement will be counted as an “action” towards UNIFEM’s “Say NO – UNiTE” campaign’s bid to raise 1 million grassroots actions against VAW by November 2010.

Guidelines for submitting a video can be found at http://www.thepixelproject.net/community-buzz/wall-of-support/. For further inquiries, contact Chrissie Moulding at info@thepixelproject.net.

I will be submitting a video soon and  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  This would be easy to ignore, but preventing violence against women is too important.  Please take a moment to show your support.  The Pixel Project has provided very clear instructions and even some assistance in writing the script.  All you have to do is record and post to YouTube.

Today is International Women’s Day and I can’t think of a better way for everyone, especially men, to show our love and support for the women in our lives. Let your voice be heard and speak out against violence against women!


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Taking a Page from a Different Playbook

As I have stated many times before, I am a huge football fan.  College or Pro – it doesn’t matter.  I am a fan and have been for as long as I can remember.  As a small child I recall begging my mom and dad to buy me a pair of Dallas Cowboys shoes out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog circa 1978.  I lugged my school books around Pulaski Elementary in a Cowboys book bag that was bigger than I was.  Football is something I have never grown out of and likely never will.

Sadly there is a lot about college and professional football I don’t like.  You may have read some of my previous posts about that.  It seems we can barely go a month without reading another headline about some player being arrested for beating his girlfriend or for raping a stripper.  Stories of homophobia, violence, drugs, and murder at the hands of current and former players seem to be rolling on a continuous loop.  They have become the dominant narrative for football and sports in general.

Yet from time to time a story emerges from the abyss that blind sides us like Demarcus Ware coming unblocked on a jailbreak blitz.  They are stories that are shocking, not because they are horrific or disturbing, but because they go against everything we’ve been taught to believe about football players.  During the week of the 2010 Superbowl,  two of those stories managed to find the light of day.

The first was in the days prior to the game.  I read an article at Jezebel.com about New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.  In the article I learned that Fujita had recently given an interview with the New York Times where he “diplomatically but firmly” opposed the Tim Tebow ad that eventually aired during the Superbowl.  While I thought it strange that a football player would publicly state his stance on such a hot button issue, I didn’t think too much else about it.  However, from that same article in Jezebel, I learned that Fujita also lent his name to the 2009 National Equality March and has been quite outspoken on many gay rights issues. Now that got my attention!  Why was this story not dominating sports headlines in October of 2009?  Fujita’s surprises don’t stop there.  Check out the entire Jezebel article here.

The second story came moments after the Superbowl ended.  Amidst the boom mic jungle and the on-field  mass hysteria, television cameras caught something extremely rare and beautiful.  Take a look… [watch it a second time with the sound muted ;-)]

With the world intently watching their every move, it was as if Brees and his son were the only two people in the stadium.  During the most watched event in television history we witnessed an NFL champion football player turn into a world class dad.  Brees could have just as easily handed his son off to his wife or a nanny and celebrated with his teammates.  It would have been fine for is son to be in the stands or at home getting a wave or a wink from the Superbowl MVP.  Nobody would have even questioned it.  Instead, on the biggest of stages, we saw a caring father telling his son that he loves him.  We saw a father holding, hugging, and kissing his son in exactly the ways we, as men and as fathers, have been socialized to not do because it isn’t considered “manly.”  And as if that weren’t enough, we witness the moment where the enormity of it all hit Brees right in the heart.  It was the moment he realized that he was sharing this incredible moment with the most special person in the world to him.  And then, his brow buckled, his head turned and his eyes filled with tears of joy.  That was truly a beautiful moment that I feel fortunate to have seen.

What am I taking away from all of this?  Well, I realized that as an armchair media critic I often lose site of the good stuff in the media.  It is sometimes a little harder to find, but it is there.  I guess in some ways when I blog about the latest Axe Body Spray ad I am also recirculating that ad into the media landscape.  I am not sure that is a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity to recirculate stories like these.  So, I am going to take a page out of the Scott Fujita/Drew Brees playbook and, well, throw out the playbook every now and again. I am going to  look for media examples that highlight positive masculinity, uplift and empower women and model the world I want to see rather than the one I’ve got.  In the meantime, I hope that other men will take some plays from their playbook as well.  Or…we could all get together and draw up a few of our own in the dirt.

Go deep on 2…ready…BREAK!

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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…

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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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A Little “Rey” of Sunshine

It seems that there is a never ending stream of men, who are in the national spotlight, that perpetuate sexism and violence against women. From athletes to actors to politicians they just keep on coming. The latest example is USC Linebacker, Rey Maualuga. To celebrate the Trojan’s 2009 Rose Bowl victory, Rey decided to have a little fun with ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Take a look…

Many would argue that Maualuga was just having a little fun or that his actions were harmless. On message boards everywhere, men and women are dismissing this incident as no big deal. They are saying that Erin Andrews should have a tough skin and should expect this sort of treatment. After all, this is what happens to a woman on the sideline of a football game, right? Others are saying that the dance wasn’t derogatory or sexual. However, it is clear to me that it was. If you think it was not, ask yourself this – would Maualuga do the same thing to a teammate? A coach? A male reporter? Of course not. In the hyper-masculine and heterosexist world of NCAA football and male culture in general, he would be risking his social standing (regardless of his actual sexual orientation) because dancing like that behind another man implies homosexuality. It’s like the scene from Pulp Fiction were Jules Winfield was trying to convince Vincent Vega that foot massages aren’t sexual. Vincent makes his point with one simple question – “Would you give a man a foot massage?” Jules simply but definitively replied “Fuck you.”

It is time for people to stop making excuses for this sort of behavior. Maualuga’s actions clearly reinforce the notion that it is OK for men to treat women as less than equal or as sex objects. As long as this is the norm things like domestic violence and rape will continue to have a place in our world. Just listen to the reaction of the guys watching from the stands. They quickly cheered him on and praised him for treating her that way. The message was loud and clear for those men and many others that have seen it since. Maualuga needs to step up, be a real man, and sincerely apologize for this. Then he needs to volunteer at a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter for about 6 months so he can see the real impact of sexism. Perhaps he will also realize that his actions weren’t too bright after all.

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