Friday, October 31, 2014

"This Week" in Pop Culture: "The Woman Issue"

The title of the class in question seemed pretty ambiguous "Popular Culture", but needing more upper level (300 and 400) classes in order to graduate next Spring didn't offer much of a choice, plus most of the other classes being offered for this semester sounded far worse (more boring) than the brief description of this class. The class can be summed up as the critical study of popular culture and its objects, actions and experiences as related to fashion, shopping, television, film, music, books, newspapers and the Internet and how it influences the public, as well as how everyday actions affect us. Further, it's the study of how culture is defined by all of these things. It turns out the class isn't so bad.

The content of the class is centered around three texts (Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media, and Society by Kidd, Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture: Why Media is Not the Answer by Sternheimer, The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts by Sellnow).

In addition to the lectures the class includes a lot of documentary content that is in no way dry or boring. They don't necessarily involve new revelations, the impact of society on society, to someone over the age of thirty who already has a history of questioning everything; but since the class centers around getting students, those nearer the 20 year old mark, to think critically (they do that at this University!) and not just discount things as simply "that's how it is", it's pretty important.

If you don't think media, such as advertising, has any impact on society, and you think the notion is preposterous, then your kind of ignorance isn't likely going to get much from anything said here, or
elsewhere. The whole point of advertising is to send a message, the whole point of film, of TV, of radio, of magazines, is to send a message. It is communication. And communication has impacts on people as individuals, people as groups, people as communities, societies, and nations. Communication is how culture is shaped and formed, and culture is part of what guides people, their beliefs, their morals, and the way they shape their ideals. These things do not simply materialize out of nothing. For the majority, they come from popular culture, its icons, symbols...its messages about who people are and how they should be. Not only do these things come from message in popular culture, but they do so an increasing rate thanks to advancements in technology over the last one hundred years or more.

The most interesting thing that has come from the class, so far, is that it took a habit of looking at the meanings and messages, and forced it to be "deeper". How so, you ask?

Glad you asked.

To illustrate, we turn to a recent AdWeek article ( that picked up attention on Facebook (you can read the "awesome" comments here

This is the ad at the center of the current debate (it's for Victoria Secret).

Many people were "debating" (arguing like children) over the body message, but only a few actually hit on what the obvious issues are. At the time of discovery, nobody mentioned the "other message".

The issue isn't so much that the women are all thin, which makes the message: If you don't look like
them you are not perfect, and you will not be perfect until you look like this. But you can try to achieve this perfection if you buy these panties (or bras).
No. It's not that.
It's that the perfect body doesn't exist for the majority of the world, and it doesn't even exist for these women - if those perfect bodies did exist then Photoshop wouldn't be needed for the advertisement. That's just obvious if you think about it - and is also a message Jean Kilbourne conveys in Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women - which is provided below all of this text. (if you unaware of the prevalence of the use of Photoshop in advertising please do watch the film, and check out the famous Dove commercial

Second, and more subtle, is the message found when really looking at the words associated with the images in the advertisement. The prominent image(s) you are supposed to focus on is that of barely dressed women and their bodies. That should be obvious to anybody who understands advertising, and/or reality. They are the focus of the ad (though some might claim that the panties and bras are supposed to be). The advertisement implores you to "Explore the Collection", and by that it means explore the bodies. And by referring to these women, these bodies, as a "collection" it transforms them into objects, objects to be admired, desired, objects to be collected, objects that are not people. Put simply, it dehumanizes them. And you're right, they probably don't care. But the point is not them caring or not, it's about what the message teaches young girls, young boys - it's about how that message is carried out in society and reduces women to objects and opens them up to being treated in violent and dangerous ways.

And before you choose to go on the stock tirade of "Well women buy the products, it's their fault. They should just stop buying products that communicate these types of messages!", look to media and advertising and find the options where these messages aren't being conveyed. The options are small, and in some cases, nonexistent.

Just as a "fun" side note, there was another Facebook post today that caught the attention of many, and incited loads of stupid comments:, all regarding a "Sexy PhD" Halloween costume and the response it got on Amazon by women with PhDs (comments, which, are hilarious.
The most ridiculous argument (as the time of discovery) was that "There's a market for it"...and so that somehow means it's okay, and nobody should have a feeling or thought about it. Don't be upset about it, just accept it...because consumerism...or just as bad...accept it because status quo.

If the kind of pacifist attitude was dominate in this country (which is the United States, in case you're new to this blog), so many changes in society would have never materialized. Like the female right to vote, like the end to slavery, like the American so many things.
It's in the blood of Americans not to stand for the status quo.

Having said enough on the subject, you can learn more, perhaps more eloquently communicated, by watching the provided films following this entry.

From a female standpoint, the feelings they claim women have regarding these images is just as true as not. If it wasn't true, the beauty industry wouldn't be raking it in, eating disorders would wouldn't be prevalent. The issues wouldn't be so real, and if they weren't real, nobody would be talking about them.

As a quick point, this post should in no means indicate that the writer of this entry is a "feminist", or "feminazi" or whatever the cool trollish slang is these days. Rather, the goal is to inspire deeper thinking, to learn to not take things at face value, because as a matter of fact, advertising does matter, media matters, and the issues that arise from a culture manufactured by messages people discount as "just advertising" or "just TV" also matter.

The following are four recent documentaries recently presented in class that center around female images and the media messages as related to music and advertising, as well as the implications they have on women and society. While most of the focus is how this affects women, don't worry guys, there's a video here that focuses on you too (it has more to do with movies and video games...the Boy Scouts...and maybe your dad - but definitely society).

Before you comment here, or elsewhere, watch at least two of the videos (particularly the first one); basically, don't be a dick about it, don't be a troll about it, don't be cyberbully, a douchebag, or an ignorant waste of human space.

You probably have time to learn something, and if you don't then you really shouldn't be reading this blog post, or be on the internet. Bookmark the page. Come back when you have time.
As always, comments from people who know how to communicate like adults, are welcome.

Happy Halloween. When you're done here, go have fun being something slutty. ;-)

Killing Us Softly 4 by 1989jkm

<clicking on the image takes you to the video located here:>

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