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Categories : advertising FAIL, racism, sexism, stuff that makes me angry, violence against women
Here’s another episode in advertising FAIL. What is wrong with this ad?
1. It objectifies a woman and positions her in sexual submissiveness to advertise men’s shoes, so clearly the gaze clearly is male. When sex is used to sell products, which it often is, the gaze is pretty much always male. Thus women in the ad who are objectified embody a “to be looked-at” ness in which their subjectivity and personhood is denied. They simply exist as sexual objects to satisfy (cis, het) male viewing pleasure.
2. Notice the racial undertones in this ad – the woman who is tied up is Asian. Two stereotypes are being perpetuated here: one is that women are submissive and available for the male gaze and enjoyment; the second is that Asian women are subdued and submissive. She is also wearing a kimono, something that is traditionally and obviously Asian, which speaks to the exoticization and eroticization of Asian women.
3. The woman has a sexy, come-hither kind of look on her face. However, what is sexy about this? She is clearly in a subordinate position (her movement in space is entirely confined seeing that she’s tied up and displayed), sexually available because she cannot resist. She is tied to a shoe, so she is literally attached to an object. Her passivity renders her personal and sexual subjectivity entirely absent. The conflation of female bodies with objects for consumption reinforce and perpetuate rape culture and violence against women by showing that women are readily available and accessible for male consumption. It makes female helplessness seem sexy.
Many people may argue that this ad is just a shoe ad and that all these criticisms are just reading way too into it. My response? This ad does not exist in isolation. It is important to situate it in our cultural context and see this as symptomatic and emblamatic of not only misogyny but racism. We are socioculturally conditioned to be blind to sexism, racism, and other forms of oppression. So if you fail to see anything wrong with this ad, you are not examining it critically enough.
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Categories : feminist role models
I hold The Dalai Lama in great esteem and I deeply respect his peace activism. When I read in the Daily Mail that he identifies as a feminist I wasn’t too surprised:
“I call myself a feminist,” said the Dalai Lama. “Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?”
“Whether you believe this religion or that religion, we are all the same human beings. We all come from the same mother. That creates the basis for compassion.”
The article also says:
The Dalai Lama went to on say that women are more prone to compassion, since they have the responsibility of bearing children.
While I am more than thrilled that the Dalai Lama identifies as a feminist, I find the claim that women are more prone to compassion because they bear children highly problematic. Not only is this an essentialist idea, but it also confines women to their bodies and their ability to bear children. This essentialist imperative: prescribing women with the role of motherhood and concluding that their fulfillment of that role must mean that they are more compassionate is a perpetuation of gender stereotypes that rest on essentialist notions of womanhood, and a socially constructed gender binary.
Conflating motherhood and compassion is dangerous because it places an onus on women to behave a certain way because of their biological capabilities. Furthermore, women are not solely responsible for bearing children. Clearly there are many other influential people involved as well (it does take a village).
This being said, I do not mean to diminish the Dalai Lama’s statement that he is a feminist, but instead I mean to simply take everything with a grain of salt and to retain a critical eye. I think it’s great that the Dalai Lama publicly declared that he is a feminist and I would love to see more prominent people (be they celebrities, politicians, writers, activists, etc.) publicly align themselves with feminism as well. After all, the more the merrier! We can never have too many feminists!