Archive for the ‘misogyny’ Category

Orientalism in the Orient – I

May 3, 2011

Looking through some old photos of mine, I came across one that I was hoping to use in a class but hadn’t gotten around to yet. It is an ad for power switches/light switches. And its marketing angle is the term ‘xen’ which is obviously playing off of the term ‘zen’.

Zen is a term used widely in North American popular culture to evoke the mystical East, or a sense of calm, or whatever its latest referent is. What is interesting is that this picture was taken in Bangalore, India (2006). If this image was used in North America, we might decry it as the appropriation of the “Other” for the capitalist gain of the “Self”. Instead, we have the appropriation of the “Other Asia” by “Our Asia”. The key elements of orientalism that are reproduced here are stereotypes of the Other as exotic (zen is a major signifier of such), as a symbolic commodity to be capitalized on for is semiotic value, and as a moving signifier to meet the needs of the ‘Self’. What does ‘Xen’ mean here? What does it evoke? The clean, calm lines of modernity? Of minimalism and simplicity? Of mystery and exoticism? How does the ‘X’ change the meaning as opposed to the ‘Z’? Does it signify a cool, hip variant?

Another thing to note is that the second sentence under the word ‘Xen’ is as follows: “More Affordable in economy LATINA series”. Here we see the politics of orientalism/race/gender playing out that contributes to the stereotyping of female hispanics as poor or lesser than. It might contradictorily affirm the attractiveness of the hispanic female–that is, why is it LATINA and not LATINO? Again, we can come back to the analysis that sex is the prime signifier of desire in late capitalism, and sex within patriarchy is inhabited by the male gaze.

This seemingly innocuous image of power switches is embedded in a whole intersection of symbolic meaning and utilizes many stereotypes within discourse to market the product as attractive for consumers who are also consuming this symbolic product.

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The Female Character Flowchart

October 12, 2010

While Smurfing, I came across this awesome flowchart from Overthinking it, which, after this post I will delve into to see how much I love it. Just sit back and enjoy the pop-culture sexism decoded in this flowchart:

As the commenter on the site I found the link through (Jezebel) says, this is even before we start applying the Bechdel test.

Anatomy of Rapists

March 29, 2010

If only this title could be in reference to rapists having some sort of post-mortem. Figuratively, this is a kind of post-mortem, but not the revenge fantasy kind. I have a lot to say about rape culture and masculinity and the failures of men at being able to handle Patriarchy’s messages about masculinity. But, new research coming out is giving us a much better idea of who rapes (aside from Catholic priests). It may lead to some new beginnings for fighting rape on the ground and provide some more data for fighting rape culture. Anyway, the research coming out has been called Predator Theory, and feministe has an excellent post about it.

A related link is one to a post over ion Kate Harding’s blog that coins a term that I have now started using in my daily parlance (yes, daily. I basically use the word Patriarchy 20 times a day without thinking about it): Schrodinger’s Rapist.

Why I don’t watch movies–much

April 30, 2009

So. This year I have had cable. It provides the  unique experience that TV brings liberating me from having to choose which tv show on my download list I will have to watch next. Instead, now TV decides for me, spoon-feeding me its rich gooey pablum at its own descretion; I remain free to be fed whatever mama-tube will deem acceptable for me to ingest. Sadly, mama-tubes is a cruel mama. She also feeds me advertisements. And sometimes the mute button is far, far away.

It was during one of these streams of mental warfare/propaganda that we call ‘commercials’ that I saw a trailer for Obsession. Eye twitching, I watched all 40-whatever seconds of it. And, that’s all I needed to see. Watch for yourself this longer version, and my comments will follow:

So… The trailer spells out the plot perfectly. We have a white woman who is ‘obsessed’ with her boss, a black man. Stuff happens. Then, the black wife of the black man has a showdown with the white woman. OMG What’s going to happen?!?!?! So, we have a movie that shockingly plays into ugly racial stereotypes about inter-racial relations with a dash of misogyny. Here’s a list:

1. White women are stealing black men from black women. Like we need to feed into that hateful stereotype anymore.

2. Black men are eroticized and over-sexualized for being black. Oh, but this is a successful black man with power and position. So that stereotype can’t hold. Except that every other stereotype is thrown in here, so why not?

3. Women are obsessed with power and sleep their way to the top. Just a dash of this… lighty salted with it.

4. ANGRY BLACK WOMAN! “I’ll show you crazy”

5. Crazy inter-racial chick fight! HAWT!

6. Really? You want me to subject myself to this?

So. With most movies these days, one can usually tell (not always, sometimes one might be wrong) what a movie is about and guage accordingly. See also Observe and Report. See also 70% of Holleywood movies.  I guage Obsessed to be a pile of crap that I would have to paid to subject myself to.

Continue with your regularly scheduled programming.

h/t: Miss Kitten while watching tv together pointed this out. I was too busy being offended by the misogyny to immediately catch the racism.

‘The East’ in Advertising – Part 1

March 28, 2009

I try to compile advertising media images of Orientalism just to have a visceral representation of how Orientalism plays out in a certain sub-set of media. Perhaps one day I can put together a series of film clips that show the same.

The first video, an ad for a Nomad phone package, shows quite a number of tropes. It is about India, as Other. Let’s Watch.

It opens with a series of romanticized images of India as the exotic, bountiful, Other: full of the treasure we can have access to. Here take note the gaze of the camera: it is a romanticized, colonial gaze. We follow, in the narrative, the exploits of the white woman as she negotiates her journey through the East–hearkening back to 19th century travel journals (many penned by women) that were a part of sparking the imagination towards the East and a contributor to the discourse of colonial Orientalism. The images flash before our eyes and collect to our imagination the semiotics of Orientalism: elephants, gold, saddhu, available wealth, access to elite indigenous power.

But then, the union of East and West poses a threat. The white woman, duped, is now part of the harem. She has lost her Western privilege. She is trapped by the East in a despotic social arrangement. Other threatening tropes rise to our mind: despotism, barbarism, irrational inequality. On the one hand, we might argue that it was her own colonial and Orientalist imaginings that led her to this ‘trap’. Homi Bhabha has argued that the colonial imagination is both of these simultaneously. It is ambivalent: “The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority. And it is a double vision that is a result of what I’ve described as the partial representation/ recognition of the colonial object.” The trap was set before the curtain even opened on this ad.

On the other hand, the East as both romanticized AND dangerous is a hallmark of Orientalism. It is an ambivalent, contested representation. Orientalism must represent the East as BOTH opportunity and threat. It must call to the desire of the Western Self, but must repel this call at the same time to preserve the essence of the West. The threat is to the very identity of the West as a Self. That is, if Orientalism is a discursive regime that imagines the East as Other in order to define the West as Self, any union is a threat, and necessarily so. So, this ad reinforces and recreates some of the most fundamental tropes of Orientalism.

A final point: It is no coincidence that the protagonist is a white woman. Women as property, tagged by race, insights the fear of the colonial gaze by having a brown, colonized man then possess the true property of White, colonial ownership. Racism, colonialism, misogyny, and Orientalism. All are different, and yet all are intertwined.

And the threat? Encapsulated quite well in the capping statement. In English translation it might be something like: Know what you are getting into before you commit. Reflechissez avant de vous engeger. Before you get with the Other, remember this commercial, where we point out that the mysterious Other can be a dangerous, duplicitous, threat. Remember this, so that you can go with the sure thing, the known. Ironically, I am sure some white women watching, who know the perils of Western Patriarchy, seeing the luxury of the harem, might feel attracted to this idealized image of Eastern Patriarchy rather than the sure thing, which they know so well and must deal with on a daily basis, something that is often no less threatening.