“Compromise is for people that are wrong”

 

 

This is painful.

 

 

“The state that she did govern was right across the street from Russia…”

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Pretty Please With A…

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Hi Everyone, I have a favor to ask: I’ve made a quick “survey” (five minutes, tops) of sorts for a class project and now I need some people to take it and give me their feedback.

The survey is really just a series of images that I ask you to write down your reactions to (for yourself). For those of you who have a few extra additional minutes, there is a link to a further survey on another website at the end of my survey which ties in to mine.

So: I need some people to take the survey, which can be found here or here and send me some feedback or thoughts, either on the Facebook page I’ve created for it, or by emailing them to me at interactivityproject@gmail.com

Your participation would really help me out, so thanks in advance for those of you who take a couple of minutes to participate!

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Something to Get Off Our Chests

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In this brilliantly titled article from the New Yorker, Ariel Levy explores shifts in the feminist movement over the past half a century through the lens of two recent books on the subject–You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe: Sarah, Michelle, Hillary and the Shaping of the New American Woman by Leslie Sanchez and When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins. Levy’s review of these books, and her commentary on the subject matter raises many points which, though disheartening to acknowledge, are necessary in re-forming the feminist movement for today’s world in a way that will allow it to talk about and work on many issues pertaining to women which, as Levy points out, have gotten lost along the way. As she puts it “We’ve come a long way in the past forty years; there’s no “maybe” about it. The trouble is that the journey hasn’t always been in the intended direction.” And, above all, Levy’s article raises an important question which I don’t think gets asked (or answered) often enough–“why has feminism, which managed to win so many battles–the notion of a woman with a career has become perfectly unexceptionable–remained anathema to millions of women who are the beneficiaries of its success?”

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Bi-Partisan Sexism

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(from Slate)

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Gender Politics

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This interesting article on Politico discusses a new study that shows women lawmakers outperform men in Congress, in terms of a number of factors such as delivering discretionary spending to their districts, introducing more legislation, and doing so earlier in their first terms, getting more co-sponsors for their bills, etc.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0909/27152.html

This mirrors coverage showing that women now outperform men in higher education as well.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/education/09college.html

The Politico article also mentions the fact that women running for political office face many more challengers than do men, a fact that surely must be related to their performance once elected–that is, only the most tenacious of female politicians are able to clear the extra hurdles laid before them, not only in terms of the less tangible, socially imposed gender expectations they face from birth and in terms of the skepticism that many voters still, incredibly, feel about women in positions of leadership and authority, but in terms of the greater numbers of (male) opponents they must defeat in order to claim their seats.

In any case, it’s an interesting study which, while in a sense good news (in the sense that  it’s nice to have concrete proof that women politicians are indeed “ready to lead” contrary to many still-prevalent lines of chauvinistic thought) also hints at the uphill battle still faced by women in politics and how much work is still to be done in leveling the playing field.

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I’ll Remember April

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Now, when the waters are pressing mightily

on the walls of the dams,

now, when the white storks, returning,

are transformed in the middle of the firmament

into fleets of jet planes,

we will feel again how strong are the ribs

and how vigorous is the warm air in the lungs

and how much daring is needed to love

on the exposed plain,

when the great dangers are arched above,

and how much love is required

to fill all the empty vessels

and the watches that stopped telling time,

and how much breath,

a whirlwind of breath,

to sing the small song of spring.

-Yehuda Amichai

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Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference

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Anyone living in New York–come to the Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference this Saturday at The New School! The conference, in case the image above is too small to read, takes place this Saturday, April 4th from 10 am to 8 pm at 66 W. 12th Street in Manhattan and is free and open to the public. It will kick off at 10 am with a keynote address by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and will continue through the afternoon with a variety of panels involving themes in media studies. For more information and a full list of the presenters, visit the conference’s website here.

I’m on the planning committee for the conference and we’re hoping for good turnout on Saturday–hope to see you there!

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Drop Dead Gorgeous

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Here’s just a quick link to a review/analysis I wrote of “Weird Beauty”, an exhibition of modern fashion photography currently on display at the International Center for Photography. While I can appreciate the aesthetic qualities of these images and find some of them truly amazing and, indeed elevating, I do think, as I’ve discussed before, that all too often, the fashion industry and the imagery that represents it couch both masochism and sadism toward the female body, justify the degradation and destruction of it in various capacities, as merely artistic expression and exploration. While I believe true exploration and discovery through art, even or especially when it explores and depicts extremely taboo or troubling subject matter, is extremely valuable and important and has broader implications for society as a whole, I often question whether that is really what is going on in some of these images, whether any higher ideas are really being explored or whether the primary goal is merely to be provocative for provocation’s sake with the aim of attracting attention and selling products. Anyway, some of what I’ve written in my class posting on this exhibit overlaps with previous posts I’ve written on this blog, but I expand upon these ideas within the specific context of these images.

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Comedy’s Nude Legends

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Hill, Rogen, and Segel: never-nudes?

 

Representing something of an intersection between my recent post on ethics in photography and  other previous posts on gender inequality and portrayals of women in the media, Jezebel takes on the recent Vanity Fair photograph spoofing a 2006 cover image of Keira Knightly and Scarlett Johannsen draped naked around the (clothed) designer, Tom Ford. The send-up is featured in an article entitled “Comedy’s New Legends” and, like the original, was photographed by iconic photographer Annie Leibowitz. It portrays comedy pals Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Jonah Hill sprawled in flesh toned body suits, draped around a clothed Paul Rudd. The first time I saw the cover, I just thought, “Well, that’s not particularly funny,” but something about it rubbed me a little bit the wrong way as I thought about it, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. Well, Jezebel has compiled excerpts from a bunch of different reactions to the image, from blogs like Pandagon, Salon and others which have helped me to articulate what it is that bothered me–the fact that the entire premise of the joke, the entire reason the image is ridiculous is that nudity in the context of sexual objectification is being reified as the domain of women, something that for a group of men to participate in is patently ridiculous, laughable. I realize that for some this may seem to read to much into the image, and I don’t think it was probably premeditated to mean anything of the sort, but there are imbedded assumptions which form the basis of the joke. As Melissa McEwan at feminist blog Shakesville, quoted on Jezebel, puts it:

“Even when women do what they’re meant to do by the fucked-up standards of The Patriarchy-get naked and submit themselves for public objectification-they’re going to get mocked for doing it. Because, even though we’re ostensibly laughing at the Judd Apatow Boyz for their uproarious send-up of a sexy female-oriented VF cover, implicit in that laughter is a condemnation and marginalization of the female-oriented cover: See how silly it is when a man does it?Ho ho ho.”

It is silly to see these men trying to assume the roles of sex objects, the photo implies, because they are men, and therefore despite imperfect bodies, they have been able to become famous and popular through their bodies of work (pun intended), rather than their physical appearances. Meanwhile, talented female comedians like Tina Fey (who has lost a significant amount of weight as  her fame has grown and increasingly been forced into the molds of idealized beauty and sexual desirability, photographed for Vanity Fair and other magazines in a progressively more revealing succession of ensembles) are expected to meet certain standards of attractiveness in order to be palatable and in order for their talent to be given a platform.

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Tina Fey, from the January 2009 issue of Vanity Fair

Both Jezebel and Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon discuss the complicity of Annie Leibowitz in the production of this and other questionable images. As Williams puts it:

“That this drivel is being peddled by the same woman who shot one of the most famous male nude photos ever — the beautiful, vulnerable image of John Lennon curled up against Yoko Ono for Rolling Stone, just makes the whole business all the more cynical and pitiful.”

Do I think that within the realm of media imagery there are far more egregious examples of sexism? Sure. Does that mean it’s petty or not worth it to discuss this example? Certainly not. In fact, sometimes the examples which are less egregious are those which are harder to recognize and therefore too often do not get discussed. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, too, I think that sexism couched in comedy is often seen as out of reach of cultural criticism, met with retorts that amount to “calm down, can’t people just take a joke?” or “but we were just kidding!” However, I believe comedy is still an area in which sexism (and racism–the New York Post’s chimp cartoon, anyone?) is very much alive and well. The very fact that the cover story of the issue of Vanity Fair in which this photograph appears, entitled ” Comedy’s New Legends” features only men on the cover and almost entirely men in the article is very telling. And then, of course, there are Christopher Hitchens’ disgustingly misogynistic pieces (published, again, by Vanity Fair), such as the one entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” a piece which was “rebutted” by another Vanity Fair cover story, this one entitled “Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?”, which, frankly, seemed more intent on answering the question “Who Says Women Comedians Aren’t Hot And Sexy?”, what with its accompanying photo shoot, which featured female comedians like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and others making like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan. With splayed legs, lots of bare skin, smoky eye makeup, and amped up hair, the photos as a whole were more straightforward imitation than camp, and seemed aimed at putting these women on display as sexual objects in much the same way as the starlets they were imitating. Less conventionally attractive SNL comedian Cheri Oteri was notably absent from the photos and later confirmed that she had not been invited to participate in the shoot.

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Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Tina Fey in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair

What I am getting at is the fact that this new photo comes with a larger context, one which only bolsters and strengthens the critiques of Jezebel, Salon, and others.

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Photo Play

Here are some of my beginner’s feeble attempts at experimenting with Photoshop for my Media Practices: Concepts class. Several more can be found at my class blog, here.

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