A few days ago over at Partizane.com we were “treated” to a couple of really disturbing videos. The subject of both was how women are presented in advertising. One video was a compilation of images by the GABRIELA NetworkUSA which is described as “A Philippine-US Women’s Solidarity Mass Organization, est. 1989.” It’s aim is to empower Filipinas living in the U.S., but the video is a must-see for every woman. The other video which features images interspersed with a discussion of their impact by Jean Kilbourne is called “Killing Us Softly 3.” (The information on how much advertising we see seems to date from 1999, but the age of the video doesn’t diminish its impact.)
The post which features these videos is called BURN IT DOWN WOMEN .
I’m old enough to remember when the objectification of women in advertising and other media was a real cause for women’s groups. Sadly, they don’t seem to really care about it now. Instead, they seem more interested in endorsing misogynistic Presidential candidates and then whining about it.
For some reason I occasionally get email from the much detested Newsmax, although these days they seem almost sane when compared to the “mainstream media.” Yesterday, the message was about a calendar, with a sample of what was included inside.
You can see what I saw in my email if you click on this link. Frankly, it’s a really nice departure from what’s being dished out in advertising and cable stations like VH1, etc. Or a Ludacris video. Or, worse, what passes as “reporting” on topics of a sexual or “cultural” nature which go for the most exploitative images of women producers can possibly find whenever possible. Even watching one blonde after another on FOX gets to me, since they are all the same color blonde, it seems, and are made up like Kewpie dolls or older versions of Barbie. They are not individuals, just interchangeable talking mouths.
Now, if you don’t feel like going to the Newsmax store to see what’s there, I’ll give you a small sample. These calendar pictures seem like a breath of fresh air, not necessarily because they are about Sarah Palin. Just the range of pictures is a pleasant change, from home to campaign trail to her role as governor, all taken by a Wasilla, Alaska photographer named Judy Patrick who served as Vice Mayor of Wasilla when Palin was Mayor. A real woman doing things she normally does.
One could ask whether this sort of calendar “objectifies” Sarah Palin — does this go beyond admiration into the realm of objectification? It seems more like a family photo album, but somebody is making money off it; I’m sure the photographer isn’t getting the lion’s share of the profit. In the mall today, I saw one remaining calendar featuring Obama and his “words of hope.” Where does that fit in? Are these calendars just plain vanilla exploitation? I don’t know…
Ironically, only a few days ago, BBC America repeated the movie “Calendar Girls” (2003) which starred Julie Walters, Helen Mirren, and nearly every older woman I’ve ever seen on Masterpiece Theater.
As you recall, the movie is based on a true story about how a fundraiser dedicated to raising money to purchase something as gift in memory of a late husband mushrooms into an international event. There are nude older women, posed discreetly behind plants and buns and it’s good fun, but with the additional message of how the increasing hype jeopardizes a friendship. (The story is highly fictionalized; see the facts, here.) BUT, when you think about it, a nude woman, young or old, being used to sell more calendars and make more money is still what’s going on. And the mature women are “girls,” of course. Acceptable “objectification” for a good cause?? Mmmm…
Then there’s the promotion for the film–now THIS really IS “objectification.”
As Jean Kilbourne mentions in “Killing Us Softly 3,” the absence of the woman’s face is typical of how ads focus on one body part, rather than the whole person.
Sigh. I feel like I’m in the process of dredging up all the stuff that’s hidden in the gravel on the bottom of the fish tank. We really need to attend to this, don’t you think??? Hey, NOW…how about returning to reality and helping us out?? Consciousness raising, anyone?
Last night as I was writing this post, I had “Mr. Roberts” on in the background and noticed the pinup posters on the lockers of all the crew. I remembered how Betty Grable was THE pinup girl during WW II (I also recalled that she died on July 4th…I heard the news on the way to the 4th of July Party thrown by the U.S. Embassy in Rome back in 1973) …Today, this, a “re-make ” of a pin-up calendar in the style of WWII pin-ups. At least they’ve got clothes on!!!
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: "Calendar Girls" (2003), advertising, Barack Obama, Barbie, Betty Grable, exploitation of women in advertising, Filipinas, Gabnet.org, Gabriela NetworkUSA, gender, Helen Mirren, Jean Kilbourne, Judy Patrick, Julie Walters, kewpie dolls, Killing Us Softly 3, Ludacris, misogyny, Newsmax.com, NOW (National Organization for Women), objectification of women, Partizane.com, Pin-ups for Vets, Republican Party, Sarah Palin, VH1, Wasilla Alaska, women's consciousness raising, WWII pin-ups | 15 Comments »