Narrative Formations

Throughout the last 20 or so blog posts there have certainly been some consistent trends in the narratives that the various media artifacts have formed about women and their bodies.  It seems that regardless of the media artifact in question, women’s bodies are made out to be spectacles for various types of consumption by various demographics of people.  While the denotative elements may change, the connotative interpretations rarely do.

What is also important to note, as was noted in various blogs is how media artifacts such as lingerie football, women in politics and violent cartoons try to present women in a way that challenges our stereotypes of the female gender.  More importantly than how they challenge these stereotypes is the fact that they all continue to make women a spectacle and ultimately end up reinforce many of the negative stereotypes that they were trying to resist in the first place.  By trying to place a positive spin on a traditionally negative stereotype it seems that many of the media artifacts further introduce the “woman’s body as a spectacle” notion to the world.

An interesting divergence from this point is how many forms of media such as social media, pornography and online classifieds shape many of the narratives and perspectives of the young men and women who consume them.  These demographics are able to readily consume these images of women in the most highly sexualized roles possible without any limit or control by outside parties.  The is especially important on the part of social media because the representation that occurs is highly intentional.  Women, young and old, are purposefully sexually objectifying themselves for all to see.  This not only encourages others to follow suit but it forms very specific narratives and representations in the minds of young men and how they interact with women.

Popular Feminism would take issue with these media artifacts on the basis that they reinforce the notion that women and their gender are clearly defined and permanently linked.  By having so many images in the media like the ones we’ve seen on this blog, it becomes difficult for people to see the social imaginary through all the distortion and begin to resist these stereotypes, narratives and representations.  That is why it is so important for we, members of culture, to look past the images we see and get to the heart of the connotations and representations they are creating.  Only then can we see the bigger narratives in our culture and begin to work to redefine them in a more positive and constructive light.

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Blog 2.0

While I was looking for relevant material for my discussion on both female news anchors and “sexy” female video game characters I came across this blog.  Previously I compared and contrasted two different blogs from two different perspectives.  I feel like mention of this blog is important because it shows how we can take a respected female journalist and break her down into a simple binary: hot woman; and essentially disregard her accomplishments.

The blog gives us a bit of background about Kiran Chetry:

“Chetry joined CNN in February 2007 and immediately began anchoring various CNN programs including American Morning, Anderson Cooper 360º, Paula Zahn Now and CNN Newsroom. Previously, Chetry was the anchor of Fox & Friends First and Fox & Friends Weekend for the Fox News Channel. She has covered major breaking news stories including reports from the field during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, the invasion of Baghdad and Hurricane Katrina.”

This gives us an impression that we are discussing an accomplished journalist and generally speaking, does not suggest any notions of gender or sexuality.  As soon as we get this background on Kiran Chentry we are given a less flattering list of assignments she undertook while coming up in the newscasting field and then are left with this:

“Oh yeah she’s also pretty hot and not afraid to dress up as as a sexy video game character for Halloween.”

What this blog implies is that the most important thing going on with this women is that she is hot and can dress up like a sexy video game character.  Let’s look back to a previous blog that suggests the possible effects of sexy video game characters on young and impressionable men.  I would suggest that there is a link between growing up with such images and the automatic association and intrigue young men have with similar or reproduced images seen in real life.  Because the video games make such a spectacle out of women’s bodies and young men begin to associate that with reality, they become the most important and desirable attribute that a women can have.  This reinforces the concern Popular Feminists have about the linking sexual bodies and gender to women and the effects it has on popular culture.

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The Fight For Animals!

This is an interesting set of media artifacts that calls into question how women’s bodies are used in a political sense, outside of the government, and whether they are appropriate.

So here we have the celebrity Khloe Kardashian posing for an anti-fur ad completely naked.  This is a very intentional example of representation as we know that she is posing naked to represent the idea that she would prefer being naked over wearing fur.  The real question is what effects do ads like this have on the narrative of women and their bodies?  Does this ad suggest that it is ok for women to exploit their naked bodies if they are doing it for a righteous cause?  If so, then what exactly constitutes a righteous cause?

Here is a picture that was taken as part of a USO calendar.  Like posing semi-nude or nude for animal rights, is it acceptable and forward moving for women to pose if it’s for a cause like our troops?

The images often times look very different but the narratives they form are still the same: it is ok for women to exploit their bodies as long as it’s for a “good” cause.  Popular Feminists would argue that this is detrimental to women as it continues to link them to notions of their gendered sexuality and stereotypical assumptions about their bodies.  While some may argue that these are proud displays and liberating for women, Popular Feminists would contend that intention does not supersede interpretation and the interpretation among the viewers would be more along the lines of a spectacle regarding women’s bodies.

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Video Games: Sexy Characters and Young Men

It is no surprise that videos games today are full of scantily clad women running around with guns and swords; it’s nothing new.  This media artifact is important because it, like many other media artifacts we’ve seen, creates a spectacle around women’s bodies.  The addition of violence and more traditionally “masculine” character roles calls into question whether or not this is working for or against women.

Before Lara Croft we had Chung-Li.  Chung-Li is a character in the long running Street Fighter series of video games in which players would use their character to fight one another in a combat style game.  Like we saw in anime, Chung-Li, originally the only female in Street Fighter has her character design built out of stereotypical female attributes.  She has exceptionally large breasts, a tiny waists and long feminine legs.  The image of Chung-Li as a sexual being is readily consumable by the young men who played the Street Fighter video game.  Is this image working for or against women?

I think Popular Feminists would argue that these depictions of women in videos games are working against women.  As we can see above and  is also very apparent by playing contemporary video games, is that images of women have become even more sexualized as times goes on.

Here we see the female characters from Dead or Alive, a fighting game like Street Fighter, who have been taking out of the fighting world and put in bikinis and are now playing beach volleyball.  Is this suggesting that female characters in video games are becoming more or less linked to their gender and sexual stereotypes?  I don’t think one has to go out on a limb to suggest that games like this reinforce the notion that women are spectacles to be watched and consumed.  This is an especially dangerous platform for these ideas to be conveyed as video games such as these are largely consumed by impressionable young men.

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Reality TV: How Real?

I will begin this post some of pictures that illustrate exactly what kind of representations of females we are bombarded with on reality T.V.

We could go on for days posting similar pictures but I think the point has been made.  Reality T.V. is a venue for women to be made a spectacle out of.  What’s most concerning is how editing and production, generally done by men, are used to code each woman into a particular character, often times portraying her as having a personality distinctly from her own.

There can be women coded as “ditzy” or “dumb.”  Women coded as “slutty” or “whorish.”  There is a reality T.V. show that features a women being portrayed in all of these negative aspects somewhere on some channel.  What is the consequence of this?  It’s exactly what we’ve seen in previous posts; similar images seen repetitiously take on a hegemonic state and therefore form narratives in our culture about women and their bodies.  If we see women on “reality T.T.” we begin to assume that is the actual reality we live in.  If we see these images enough we begin to assume their true.  This is exactly what Popular Feminists are working against, the association of a woman’s gender, defined by sexual traits, as inherently linked to her.

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Naked News

This media artifact presents us with a news media organization in which the news anchors are women that progressively strip as the show goes on.  Like lingerie football and other media artifacts we’ve seen where women are participating in largely male dominated arenas, this program fails to help disassociate women from their bodies.  By creating a spectacle of women’s bodies on this program they become the focus, not the news.  The big draw of the program is a chance to see naked women and furthers the narrative that women are sexual objects for us to consume.

In this picture of “Naked News’ even the tagline suggests that the focus of the show is the naked women.  By making the statement “the program with nothing to hide” the show makes a half hearted effort to suggest some degree of investigative journalism but ends up just suggesting that viewers will get a show.  Some argue that such programing is an example of women taking control of their sexuality and also participating in a largely male dominated field.

Popular Feminism would argue that media that creates spectacles of women’s bodies is harmful.  Such spectacles continue to reinforce notions about gender and sexuality and women’s inevitable link to them.  By using their bodies to advance in a male dominated field the women in this program are essentially telling the world that it’s ok to exploit your body as long as it’s a tool to move yourself forward.

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XXX Pornography and Women.

This will certainly be the more controversial of the two media artifacts looking at pornography.  Unlike Playboy which is considered more refined and tasteful, XXX pornography found in print, online and on video is generally focused explicitly on a variety sexual acts between one or many partners.  The real dangers with this type of media in relation to women and their representation within our culture is how easy it is to produce and consume and how readily accessible it is to people of all demographics.

In about 3 seconds using Google and searching for “free XXX pornography” I was able to find over 400 websites promising to deliver free, streaming pornography.

In a similar search looking for “free children’s cartoons” only the first 8 matches were claiming to be streaming children’s cartoons.  The rest were either links to networks or links to resources about the children’s cartoons.  This comparison puts the accessibility of pornography into perspective.

If there is that much material out of the internet for anyone to see, it is fair to assume that some pretty inaccurate representations about women and their bodies are being conveyed to impressionable men and boys of all ages.  This impression can significantly affect how they eventually interact with women if they have begun to associate them only with sexual intercourse and other sex acts.  This also calls into question not only how pornography shapes representations of women but how these representations shape violence towards women.  The dehumanizing nature of pornography may lead to violence against women as a dehumanized person is an easy target.

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