Monday, November 30, 2009

New! Favorite! Website!

I know I say this about once a week but really this site is killing me:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gendering Christmas: or Apparetly there's only room enough in this town for ONE red suit.

photo from News and Observer / Debra Goldman

from New Raleigh:

Wonder why you didn’t see Mrs. Claus aside Mr. Claus at Saturday’s Christmas Parade at Raleigh? No, it wasn’t something simple like “She was sick”. Instead, Mrs. Claus was banned from dressing up in the red and white by the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, the N&O reported Saturday morning. It was recently elected City Council candidate for district B and Raleigh Merchant’s Association executive director John Odom made the call.

from the News and Observer
John Odom, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which runs the parade, said it’s confusing for children to see two people in Santa suits. He said it’s a policy that only Santa may wear the official outfit.

Parade officials even discourage people from wearing Santa hats, Odom said.

It was unclear how common youthful confusion of Santa and Mrs. Claus might be, and what harm might result from the misapprehension. Dr. Joseph Loibissio, a Wake Forest pediatrician, said Friday night that children can generally identify genders by age 3.

Several things strike me about this:
One is just about Mrs. Claus in general. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about Santa Claus since I was six and figured out that if the chocolates in my stocking came from Molly's Sweet Shop on the circle in Shelbyville that Santa was likely not real (oh the deductive reasoning of children!). But really, Mrs Claus basically represents the worst kind of traditional gender scripts, and becomes increasingly outdated. We do know that Mrs. Claus first appeared in 1890, in a book of poetry called "Sunshine and Other Verses for Children." The book's author, Katherine Lee Bates, also wrote the words to the song "America the Beautiful." That seems apropos, somehow.
From Wikipedia
Since 1889, Mrs. Claus has been generally depicted in media as a fairly heavy-set, kindly, white-haired elderly female baking cookies somewhere in the background of the Santa Claus mythos. She sometimes assists in toy production, and oversees Santa's elves. She is sometimes called Mother Christmas[citation needed], and Mary Christmas has been suggested as her maiden name.[citation needed]

Her reappearance in popular media in the 1960s began with the children's book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas, by Phyllis McGinley. Today, Mrs. Claus is commonly seen in cartoons, on greeting cards, in knick-knacks such as Christmas tree ornaments, dolls, and salt and pepper shakers, in storybooks, in seasonal school plays and pageants, in parades, in department store "Santa Lands" as a character adjacent to the throned Santa Claus, in television programs, and live action and animated films that deal with Christmas and the world of Santa Claus. Her personality tends to be fairly consistent; she is usually seen as a calm, kind, and patient woman, often in contrast to Santa himself, who can be prone to acting too exuberant. In some modern adaptations, Mrs. Claus is shown with a younger, even sexier appearance.

So some interesting themes present themselves. She is typically shown doing traditionally feminine tasks (baking cookies, "mothering") and she is almost always shown in the background. She is presented as a foil to Santa Claus (what is not masculine = feminine).She is passive, nameless and depicted as a helper to Santa, as opposed to a person in her own right.
Maybe that's why her presence has faded since her pinnacle in the 1960s.As the world changes, our archetypes likely change too(at least somewhat). Maybe she has become less salient because she no longer represents and ideal. Maybe it's time we liberate Mrs. Claus. I mean she doesn't even have a first name, ferchrisakes.
Updating Mrs. Claus for the aughts ought not automatically mean sexualizing her, however. (say that 3 times, fast) There is some argument that we automatically imbue Christmas with "sexiness" because we tend to sexualize everything. But Mrs. Claus seems to be the magnet for that energy.
But I digress.

By banning Mrs. Claus from the Christmas parade, we are just reinforcing the message that women don't matter: they are faceless, nameless objects that can be used, ignored or shuffled to the background at will.

It sounds to me like Mrs. Claus was usurping some of the attention away from Santa, a symbol of patriarchy, and that shit won't stand, at least as far as the greater Raleigh Merchant Association is concerned.

Because, really? We're worried about confusing the kids? It sounds like we are worried about confusing the kids about who's important.

Apparently there's only room enough in this town for ONE red suit.

Monday, November 23, 2009


That is, I will be until finals are over I'm guessing.
I miss you!
Tonight I watched some classmates give a presentation on advertising and they had four commercials from YouTube as examples. 3 of the 4 commercials used traditional gender scripts and assumption about the internalization of those scripts. What's scary about commercials is that we see them OVER and OVER and when they use humor we pay attention to them even more, but fail to notice the other, subtler messages they send, like all women should be thin and work out constantly, or all men should be in charge of the grill--because that's the man's domain. Send me your favorite commercials, I want to keep thinking about this stuff. In the meantime, here is something to think about UNTIL I RETURN....(cue scary laughter)

Notice how Nigeria is supposed to be a scary and dirty place? Notice how it's contrasted to the clean, safe white world?
Notice how this commercial only works if that stereotype is internalized?

Send me your links!

Here are some of the videos friends sent.

Keep sending them in!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Hit The Bitch": Or how The Danish do Domestic Violence Awareness

From AdFreak
There are subtle ways to raise awareness about relationship violence. And then there's "Hit the Bitch," a Web campaign by a Danish advocacy group. Setting up an interface where you're encouraged to slap and punch a woman seems pretty extreme. It's almost like an advergame, except you're delivering an adverbeating! (You can use the mouse, or connect with your Webcam and swing at the girl with your hand.) Getting called a "100% idiot" at the end doesn't feel like much of a rebuke. Perhaps you're supposed to feel guilty, like a real-life abuser might, for continuing to hit the woman just to see what happens next?


From Sociological Images

At the top, a counter keeps track; you start out as 100% Pussy, 0% Gangsta, but your Gangsta rating goes up every time you hit her.
Apparently, though, when you get up to where you’d be at 100% Gangsta, it instead says 100% Idiot, as though this is a real put-down that is going to make you think really seriously about domestic violence.
I am trying to think of any context that would make this seem like a good idea, or an effective way to combat domestic violence. I mean, ok, yeah, I guess people might be made more aware of it after hearing about or playing the game, but is it likely to have any positive effect? It seems more likely that people who don’t already take domestic violence seriously would either be uncomfortable, leave the site, and never think about it again, or find it funny to play for a few minutes just to see what would happen…and somehow encouraging people to slap around an image of a woman for fun seems like a really weird way to get people to think more seriously about domestic violence.

I have no words. thoughts?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Cozy Uterus

From and via Tara

Maybe I need one of these!