Target: Sell Merchandise Not Women

I was alerted by a friend the other night about a disturbing set of Target commercials  which aired during the Golden Globes. Target’s “Every day Collection” is anything but. While Target’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones, claims their new adds embody Target’s slogan of “Expect More; Pay Less” I disagree. I think a more accurate description of the advertisements would be: “Expect a Target ad; Watch a Sexy Woman Change a Diaper”

Take a look for yourselves:

And that’s just one ad out of 8.

Did I miss the part of the Everyday woman? It is not okay for a major corporation like Target to be spewing misogynistic garbage into the media. I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps I could begin with the fashion model who is as far away from the Everyday woman as  is humanly possible. She looks fake. And not just in the airbrushed fashion model way, but every move she makes screams that someone is telling her to make it. I know she is a hired actor, but every movement of her body is on display. There are multiple screen shots of her crotch and from the moment she powders her hands with baby powder to the moment she backs away from the newly diapered baby she is not her own person.

Instead of empowering women in their housewife activities (as some viewers claim these ads do) it is doing the opposite.  There is nothing in this ad that praises the everyday woman who chooses to be a housewife. It’s disgusting that this woman is the ideal. She is represented as the only version of this elusive creature called Woman. This model, dressed in all white (does any one else think Purity Myth?) is both a doting housewife and incredibly sexy  while doing it.  Thus, the ad appeals to both men and women. If nothing else, Target is smart: they know they want women to think “If I buy my household goods at Target maybe I’ll be that woman”. Target knows they want men to think “How come my wife isn’t like that? Maybe we should go to Target”. It is blatant misogyny.

These ads hold up an ideal for women that is impossible and make women hate themselves. In the same stroke they teach men that the women in their lives are not good enough. The real women they know aren’t these cowgirl angels  who exist in a white vacuum of household goods and crawling happy babies.

Target presents women as sexualized aliens, resembling women only in the barest of body form. Listen to the narration. It is a woman’s voice who seductively tells the viewer to “master it” and then whispers in a sultry voice that this is the “everyday collection by Target”. It’s not the woman changing diapers who speaks because God forbid she gets a voice instead of just her body. No, it is a voice off camera meant to remind viewers just how sexy women are and how it is up to others-the media, men, etc-to control their sexuality and represent women how they feel it is best.  It is misogyny. I repeat: it is misogyny.

I urge anyone who reads this, to look up the other commercials on youtube, leave your comments, and tell Target that their hatred of women will not stand when there are those of us who see it for what it is. Boycott Target until they take the ads off the air. Write Target letters.

Use your voice before someone tries to take it from you.

Terra: Radical Rocker of Teen Titans

I’ve noticed a trend in my favorite fictional characters: at least 90% of them are male. What surprised me the most about this realization was that I have way more female friends than male friends. There was no way I couldn’t brush aside this point and say that maybe I just “don’t connect with women”.

I have heard women talk about how women are annoying, petty, and more difficult to be around because of their tendency to be overly emotional. This seems to be less about how women actually are and far more about how they are portrayed in fiction, especially in relationship to how their male counterparts are portrayed. In short, the men (even men who are evil) are almost guaranteed to be people in their own right and therefore more likeable. Rarely are male characters designed to benefit a female character. Chances are it’s the other way around.

Now, when I first began to be interested in superheroes I fell in love with the Cartoon Network series Teen Titans. While I do have a few complaints about the female characters in the show I was floored by one character. I fell in love with Terra.

She was the first female character I had a genuine connection with. She was a young girl trying to be a hero with her powers of earth manipulation, but because she could not control these powers she would inevitably cause more harm than good. When she is introduced in Season 2 she was a live-life-to-the-fullest go-getter hiding her massive insecurities about her powers, her past, and her ability to have normal relationships. Her backstory is never fully explained in the cartoon, but watching the series and seeing how she interacts with main cast of Robin, Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Raven, it is easy to see she is a rounded character.

Terra reacts out of fear, love and pain, just to name a few of the emotions she goes through. Her character arc is treated with respect and even though she is paired with Beast Boy she was not created to be his love interest. She is her own person no matter that her arc is bound up with the male characters of the series, Robin, Beastboy and Slade.

I feel the most interesting thing about Terra though, is that she is not a feminist character. For all that I could rave about her being a rounded character, that does not mean that she is a feminist or that the creators of the show wanted her to be one. And that’s alright.

I love her because I connect with her on the basis that I could meet someone like her on the street. She doesn’t fit into the women-are-either-angels-or-monsters paradigm.

The irony to all this is that her comic book version created in the 1980s (read “Terra Incognito” and “The Judas Contract” for her comic book arc) was designed for her to be a loud mouthed jack ass who hates the Teen Titans for no other reason than that they are good. She is sexually involved with Slade Wilson, a man at least 40 years her elder and it is only to prove that she is psychotic. She is a “monster” in the comics, but the cartoon made a different call. The cartoon wanted a female character who was well developed and wasn’t created to further the story of the male heroes. Although she isn’t a feminist character this doesn’t mean she doesn’t do radical things for how female characters are perceived and written.

Queering Wolverine

It’s difficult to find feminism in comic books. The women are generally drawn as sex objects and a majority of them are characters either to be the token woman on the team or to serve as a love interest for the main character. But don’t worry, I don’t plan on rehashing old arguments about comic book women.

I’d given up on the X-men for a while-though this was less of a decision for feminist reasons and more because to keep up with the X-men you need to be reading 4 or 5 different series. Still, I hadn’t read any recent X-men at all until my mom got me X-Treme X-men #6 for no other reason than that she thought I would find the cover amusing.

I found it very amusing actually. I’m always ready to laugh at Spiderman lunch boxes, especially when they’re held by other, much cooler, Marvel heroes like Nightcrawler.

I was expecting to read this and be more than a little confused. It’s in the middle of a series run, it’s an alternate universe I know nothing about, and I’m reading only 15 pages out of a more complex story.

From what I gathered from the plot, Wolverine and Dazzler are traveling across different universes to stop versions of Charles Xavier  from destroying worlds. The comic was nothing special until I came to a conversation between Wolverine and Dazzler that did more for feminism than I’ve seen in almost any comic. In this alternate universe, Wolverine is queer.

Take a look at the conversation:

As I mentioned in my post regarding the Doctrine of Labyrinths series, it is a big step for feminism when writers craft queer characters because it works against the notion that gay is feminine and feminine is what you don’t want to be. The author of the comic, Greg Pak, however does more for feminism than if he had just created a character who is gay.

This is Wolverine. He is a recognizable symbol of masculinity and his feelings for Hercules  are treated with respect. Look at the panel focused on Wolverine’s face when he talks about “any man…loving another” and see how his feelings for another man are not sensationalized or played for laughs, but are genuine and treated as such. Queering Wolverine is such a bold move not only in the fact that it makes readers rethink sexuality, but that Wolverine is an established character; it is not possible for this Wolverine’s personality to be stripped down to the word gay.

Hercules is bisexual in the canon Marvel universe, adding another layer of feminism to promote the fact that sexuality is not a gay-straight binary.  Masculinity is not the clearly marked ideal people wish to believe in.

It is such a relief to know there are authors out there who are willing to make their readers understand that being queer is not about being masculine or feminine and it’s not a person’s only attribute either. I don’t think I’ll continue to read X-Treme X-Men, but I am glad I got a hold of the issue that I’m sharing with you.

“Do you think kissing is gross?”

Until my junior year of high school I assumed I was straight. Because of a fabulous sex-ed class that taught nothing of sexuality, I was under the impression that sexuality was firmly placed in the gay-straight binary and that because I was not interested in women, I must be straight.

When all the girls of my middle school class were growing into their new found woman’s bodies and discovering that  perhaps boys weren’t the disgusting cootie-ridden creatures of elementary school, I didn’t know where I belonged.

Sex frightened me. Maybe I was poorly educated. Maybe I was too far gone into the girls-should-be-pure bullshit children are fed. Either way, sex was a concept that was so disgusting it was frightening. It was a concept, not an act and I couldn’t even process it as something physical that happened between individuals. I couldn’t giggle nervously like everyone else during health class when we watched poorly made videos on the reproductive systems and read from poorly copied handouts. In my twelve-year-old mind, I was the mature one.  I was the one who was waiting to date and have a boyfriend. I was just a late-bloomer, that’s all. Sooner or later I would develop a crush, fall in love, and become a part of the sexual world.

One day in 7th grade, we were running laps around the gymnasium for gym class and one girl ran up beside me and asked me, “Do you think kissing is gross?”

“Yes.” I told her and she fell back a few paces to titter into her hand with her friend. Though I felt humiliated, I also felt like a grown up: I was above their petty talk about kissing and boyfriends.

I still think kissing is gross. What has changed is that I understand now that not only is there a word for my sexuality, but that being asexual says nothing about a person’s maturity. Girls who dated in middle school and high school were not less mature than I was. This is the same way that I am not more immature for not dating now that I’m in college.

I find that too often asexuality can be an excuse to claim a moral superiority and that in the opposite camp, sexuality has become a right of passage. I cannot tell you how often someone has told me “Don’t worry, you’ll find the right person some day” because they assume that a healthy adult life involves romance and sex.

As we get older we cross a line where it’s no longer acceptable to be a virgin because you’re expected to be a grown and mature adult. The irony is that in childhood, we’re taught to take the moral high ground and abstain from sexuality in order to be more mature.

My hope is that as more people learn about the diversity of sexuality, more people will break away from linking sex and morality, and sex and maturity. My wish is that sexuality becomes mandatory in health/sex-ed classes. With more education on the subject, people won’t feel the need to draw lines between us and them, mature and immature based on sex.

Reclaim the words of Fashion

My mother and I were on a bit of an artistic kick today. We wanted to create something, but felt we didn’t have the tools or the skill to put together something with as much value as, say, sculpture or pottery. I considered knitting or crocheting but that would have excluded my mother. We thought about painting, but had no paint. We thought about drawing, but had no inspiration. We finally settled on digging some construction paper and glue sticks out of the bottom of my closet,  and with the help of some of my mother’s old fashion magazines we created found poems.

At their most basic, found poems are created by taking words from pre-existing sources and fitting them together to say what you want. While my mother and I used old fashion magazines, to cut out and paste words, phrases, or images onto construction paper, found poems can be just as easily created by flipping to random pages in books and pulling out words to write on the page.

Although I cannot recreate the fonts, the colors or the backgrounds for the words I used, here’s the found poem I created as close to its original format as I can do.

Your body

Your embrace.

                    Yourself healthy, radiant

You don’t need Escape Plans

Welcome Compassion

         Do what you love.

Never forget yourself.

At least 90% of these words came from fashion magazines. As controversial as the fashion industry is in feminist circles, they use words that can be empowering if reclaimed. If you get a moment and are feeling creative, know there are inspiring messages anywhere. Create. See what catches your eye and piece it together in ways unique to you. Reclaim the words of the media and express your ideas for no other purpose than to make yourself feel good.

That’s So Gay!

I swore when I started this blog I would never try to tackle the “gay is not an insult” issue because what could I bring to the subject that hadn’t been done or said? Why would I want to rehash an old argument that doesn’t seem to have much impact?

Short and sweet, I’m having a conversation with my brother about superheroes and we get onto the subject of Robin and how his costume originally did not have pants, but was a green leotard. My brother calls him a fag. I tell him gay jokes aren’t funny.

He says, “Well, they’re funny to me.”

“They’re only funny to you because you’re straight.”

He looks at me as if we’re just having a minor misunderstanding and asks:

“What does it matter? You’re not gay.”

“Well I’m not straight either.”

And the conversation ends there with no acknowledgement of the legitimacy of my sexuality or the legitimacy of my argument.

Phrases like “that’s go gay” are not just harmful to the queer community, but are harmful to the rest of the world as well. Any words that preach heteronormativity as acceptable are devastating on every front. If people are uneducated as to why gay being synonymous with stupid is detrimental to equal rights, fine. Those people can be educated, there are SafeZone trainings and lecturers for that.

But what about the people who believe gays on one side, straight people on the other and equal rights is only an issue for those who are not straight white males? The answer is we need to prove them wrong. People from every walk of life, queer, straight, rich, poor, colored and white, need to do more than just be taught to know “that’s so gay” is wrong. It’s not about knowing, it’s about acting.

It’s about showing those who promote heteronormativity that equal rights is not just a project of minorities.