Category Archives: masculinity

Mid-Week Links

Debbie says:

 

3035331-inline-i-1-play-tampon-run-an-adventure

Any fan of “subvert the dominant paradigm” (like me) will be delighted by Tampon Run, a new online game, created by two high-school students, Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser, who met at a Girls Who Code summer program. They say, “”Although the concept of the video game may be strange, it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable.” I’m lovin’ it.

If they’re not playing the game in India, at least Indian women have Menstrupedia. Priti Salian at TakePart has a feature article on Aditi Gupta, an Indian woman who started out with a “Menstrupedia” comic book for Indian women who are shamed into not talking (or learning) about their periods, and has now built it into an amazing online resource. India is a big country, but I hope Gupta is in touch with Arunachalam Muruganantham, whom I wrote about in a links post earlier this year. And if the two of them connect with Gonzalez and Hauser, well, I sense some world-changers on the horizon.

***

African-American artist Kehinde Wiley has mostly done paintings of black men in poses from Western paintings, but recently he has turned his eye towards paintings of women.

Juliette_Recamier_zpsf7154030

This one is “Juliette Recamier,” a 19th-century salon hostess, taken from a painting by Jean-Louis David.

Jacques-Louis_David_016

I really appreciate how some things in the two paintings are very similar, and others are very different. Wiley makes me look, and look back, and look again, which I suspect is exactly what he wants his viewers to do.

***

On a related note, Vanessa Willoughby and Stacia L. Brown both have things to say about the “white beauty myth.” Willoughby writes both about her own life, and in the naming of actress Lupita Nyong’o as People Magazine’s Most Beautiful:

To be “colorblind” is to adopt a non-confrontational method of deflection and denial. The ideology of “colorblindness” encourages the persistence of colorism and Western beauty standards. Based on her speeches and the progression of her career thus far, Nyong’o understands the unspoken implications of her success and what it means to have achieved such widespread visibility. She is not an exception to the rule. She is a woman that has defied the rule. Her presence in the film, fashion, and beauty industries decimates the idea that black beauty can only mean a light complexion and/or white physical features.

Brown is thinking about Vogue, black history, and erasure:

“Vogue” writer Patricia Garcia seems to think that Rihanna’s arrival at the CFDA Awards with her backside exposed was made possible because of J.Lo. She does not account for the hundreds of thousands of black women in the history of the world who were stripped of their agency, placed “fully on display” against their wills, and sold to enslavers who used their free labor to feed the textile industries that have fueled the fashion market.

Representation and historical context matter. The ways in which black women and their bodies are discussed in mainstream, predominantly white media matters. “Vogue” isn’t the only publication to frame conversation like this poorly. Just this month, The New York Times published a … multi-paragraph missive about the “new” trend of white women eschewing hair-straightening and “cultural bias” against white women with curly hair. One line is given to the discussion of black hair …

Especially if this topic is new to you, read all of both Willoughby’s and Brown’s articles; they go especially well together.

***

I hope no women are holding their knees together waiting for male birth control, but this is the most encouraging news I’ve seen on the subject in a very long time. According to Maya at Feministing, Vasalgel, a long-term reversible form of birth control that blocks sperm after a single injection, is entering human trials and could hit the market by 2017.

Of course, it may just fail in the clinical trials, but there are other, less defensible obstacles.

Long-term treatments like Vasalgel often don’t get much funding in a pharmaceutical industry that maximizes profits by selling us uterus-having folks hormonal birth control that must be taken regularly. “Why sell a flat-screen television to a man, after all, when you can rent one to woman for a decade?”

We can only hope that good sense and market demand will prevail, especially since Maya says that Valsagel “does not mess with testosterone.”

***

Binary This is always nuanced and thoughtful, as are a large number of feminists on the web, but no one is funnier. Here’s her take on Yang Liu’s Man Meets Woman.

e1c4f9baa50e84d3c7a7329f6135d35f

While looking through Liu’s work, I couldn’t help bristle at many of the reflections on offer. It seems to me that there is a fine line between reflecting stereotypes, and reinforcing them through replication. Liu dances on that line, and I’m still not sure whether I really like the project. Part of the problem is that Liu’s motivations are somewhat difficult to deduce – she states that the images are reflections on a world that she perceives, yet it is not clear whether she is challenging these stereotypes, or merely describing them (and perhaps, reasserting them).

But how are we to ensure that Liu’s book gets taken up in this way – as a challenge rather than a reinforcement of stereotypes (already there are a number of blogs reflecting on the “charming” and “witty” reflections of the book). Never fear – here’s a handy guide to using this small book to smash the patriarchy:

STEP 1: Visit parliamentary question time. Throw copies at the heads of known misogynists politicians. 
STEP 2: Go on a guerrilla mission Valerie Solanas style – throw the book at all known misogynist pop artists.
STEP 3: Get someone to bail you out of jail.
STEP 4: Reflect on the stereotypes of the book, and realise that we live in an unjust world where men and women are socialised differently and driven apart.
STEP 5: Become a revolutionary gender warrior. 
STEP 6: Use the book for kindling if you get cold while smashing the patriarchy. 
STEP 7: The book also doubles as a nice coaster if you need to stop for a refreshing drink.
STEP 8: Show other people the book and talk about how it doesn’t need to be this way. 
STEP 9: Work with others to fundamentally reassemble society into a world where gender is plural and fluid, not binary, and doesn’t separate us from each other. 
STEP 10: Read the book again, as a bizarre historical artefact capturing an inequitable time.

I’m starting the program as soon as someone gives me a free copy of the book.

***

In the “some people have too much time on their hands, and the evolutionary psychologists are lying in wait” department, we have the idea that online matchmaking can be done by smell. (What? You thought you couldn’t smell people through your computer? We have an app for that.)

Researchers had 44 men wear the same t-shirt for two consecutive nights without bathing, washing or otherwise preventing their stench from thoroughly seeping into their clothes. A group of lucky women then rated the pleasantness (or chose the least awful) of the shirts – and the study did indeed find a preference for men with dissimilar MHC-genes. Good news for Singld Out and their customer base, right? Well, no.

See, the researchers found a preference for dissimilarity, but only sometimes. It turns out that women who were using an oral contraceptive while assessing potential mates’ body odour were actually more inclined to prefer similar MHC smells. Further research has, if anything, only complicated interpreting how odour affects attractiveness.

If this ever comes to anything at all reliable or worth taking seriously, I’ll eat one of those t-shirts (with a clothespin over my nose).

***

And for a last bit of (not body-image-related) fun, check out the Taxonomy of Mansplainers Tumblr, which gets more hilarious every time I look at it. Here’s just one recent one …

If I were a woman I’d feel differently…

Him: If I were a woman, I don’t think I would feel that way.

Us: That’s an impossible statement.  You don’t and will never know what it’s like to be woman.  Your opinion on this topic simply doesn’t matter.

Him: You are excluding my voice.  Everyone deserves to have their voice heard.  I just want you to hear my side.  Any good feminist ideology should include everyone’s voice.  You can learn something from me.

Us: All we are hearing right now is the dry heaves of patriarchy, gagging out rubbish all over this intelligent conversation.

I get most of my links from Feministe, Feministing, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read. Special thanks to Lynn Kendall for the Menstrupedia link.

 

Full Frontal Nudity, Gender, and the Penis

[warning: contains images that may not be comfortable for workplace or other public computer constraints]

Debbie and Laurie say:

We missed Sezin Koehler’s Sociological Images post about full frontal nudity on HBO back in June. Koehler analyzes the frequent use of full frontal female nudity and the extremely rare use of full frontal male nudity on True Blood, Hung, and Game of Thrones. 

Koehler’s conclusion is:

Ultimately, nudity is rarely necessary to further a storyline.  Women’s nudity isn’t about plot, it’s about treating women as objects and men as human beings.  The problem is systemic. Women’s bodies exist in many of HBO’s varied worlds to serve men, circling us back to a culture of male entitlement that, in the case of [Elliott] Rodgers at least, led directly to violence.

We agree with Koehler’s article, and our more-or-less unique experience of photographing, writing about, and talking to and about naked men in extensive detail, when we were working on Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes makes us want to take the conversation in another direction.

Of course, not all bodies are male or female and not all penises belong to men. This post relates specifically to commercial television and movies, where trans and genderqueer bodies are extremely rare, and nearly always objectified on a different axis than we discuss here.

Here’s the thing. Women are objectified whether or not  we are depicted in the nude. Men are physically objectified more than they used to be twenty or thirty years ago (read Susan Faludi’s Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male for a treatment of this issue), but the vast majority of television and movies, are made with the tacit assumption that men are the watchers and women are the watched. In academic language, these programs are made with the “male gaze.” Shows that never show a naked woman still constantly objectify women’s bodies.

This is why an image of a small portion of a woman’s unclothed body is a nude

..
backimages
..

but only a full frontal picture of a man is a nude.
..

 

EV1
..

Men’s full frontal nudity isn’t shown for lots of reasons. It’s still a real taboo (and women’s full frontal nudity is not, but showing labia is). Penises (especially relaxed penises) show the natural experience of being a male human. Once again, we quote Jonathan D. Katz from his piece in the Familiar Men keynote essay:

Female nudity can be ubiquitous, but to present the male body threatens to give the lie to the rich meanings we associate with it. All of which may explain why it’s so rare to see naked or near-naked men in art, advertising, popular media, or that host of other venues in which the female body is now coin of the realm. … I think novelist Dorothy Allison said it best when she remarked that she thought the penis was the original source of the literary concept of irony, that something so small and vulnerable could be accorded such impressive powers. To see a penis is to know that it couldn’t possibly be a phallus.

As for the show Hung, which is specifically about a man with a large penis, Koehler points out that “we only get one brief glimpse of it — and not even the whole.”

The very existence of a TV show which makes the invisible central, which builds its entire plot on that-which-cannot-be-revealed says a lot about how women’s bodies–however objectified–are real to the television/movie creative world and the audience, while the essentially male feature of men’s bodies is, in our current cultural context, purely metaphorical. The show is not — it can’t be — about Ray Drecker’s penis; it’s about how we imagine, and create, our own imagery of Ray Drecker’s penis. In contrast, a show about a woman’s body is about the character’s actual body.

All pictures of bodies, clothed and nude, are laden with the gender-specific, deeply embedded overtones that have been placed there by the tens or hundreds of thousands of images of bodies we’ve seen before. The embedded message about women’s bodies is “see all of me,” and the embedded message about men’s bodies is “I get to control what you get to look at.”