was sexism more insidious 50 years ago or today?

And, before you answer, be sure to check this out.

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  1. mark
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    I was going to use Girls Gone Wild video to illustrate modern sexism, but I thought that it was too obvious. Better, I thought, to go with fake-breasted professional wrestlers in wet t-shirts.

  2. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    In a class discussion about two months ago, one of my students said that she wanted to be a Stepford Wife, meaning, I think, that she yearned for a subservient, traditional role in a marriage. It boggled me. Perhaps she is lured by the simplicity offered by a lack of freedom? Her father is a conservative politician. Was she conditioned? Is she wrong? Maybe she’s rebelling from the kind of image portrayed by the women wrestlers (immoral, skanky, etc.). Some people are comforted by tradition–even when it’s twisted, and who am I to say. . .

    At my school, each cheerleader, for the day of every football game, bakes cookies for a football player to whom she has been assigned. She gives the cookies and other gifts to the player, and he lugs around his gifts all day at school. I asked a cheerleader about this, and she justified it by pointing out that the football players give the girls flowers on certain occasions. Is this wrong? Should I try to change my school’s culture? Is it by design, or did it just happen this way?

    I try not to judge my students, and it isn’t my place to tell them how to be. I’ve decided the best thing is to do my best to help them become critical thinkers and develop their skills related to literacy.

  3. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Do Stepford Wives have more dignity than wet t-shirt contest wrestler women? Who has more freedom?

    On the spectacle of the wrestling clip, I see corporations behind it. They design and manufacture our culture. Their culture programmers market the image that those women wrestlers portray, that the Olsen twins portray, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, etc. Conservatives blame the liberals for opposing censorship and preaching freedom that sunders traditional roles. Liberals blame conservatives for supporting the corporate siege on our culture.

    Corporate marketing and the media seem to be working in contradiction to any gains we have made in minimizing sexism and achieving equality among mena nd women. Is this by design? Or is it simply that sex sells?

    Can we take back our culture from the mass producers and from the media? Will it require censorship? Or restructuring the role of corporations in our society? Or could education be enough? Do we just leave it up to the parents?

    Maybe we should just demystify nudity. What’s it like in other countries where nudity is not so feared? What would people of a culture where public nudity is the norm think about that women wrestler clip?

    I remember that after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl boob incident, an old Family Guy episode was edited for reruns so that the father’s bare ass was obscured in a scene where it was exposed. It was just a curved line, and all they did was blur it. Is blurring out the curved line of a cartoon character’s ass crack the solution to our problems?

    The Puritans vs. Walt Whitman, The Victorians vs. the Roaring Twenties, Leave It To Beaver vs. the Hippies, Three’s Company vs. blurred cartoon butt cracks. It cycles. Is it still cycling? Are we waxing or waning (to/from the puritanical or to/from the liberal)?

    Lao Tzu says go with with the flow. I wonder.

  4. mark
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the comments, DG. When I first started out writing the post, I was more ambitious. I tried to define the differences I saw between the old-school misogyny and this new super-sualized sexism that’s gotten itself all wrapped up in “empowerment” somehow. It turned out to be way too complicated, so I just looked for examples and asked folks to make their own diagnosis… I’d love to hear more about this Stepford student.

  5. egpenet
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I met a young woman in Atlanta who moved from Chicago to be totally in an atmosphere where the men “take care of” their women. She wanted nothing to do with any degree of feminism.

    Then, there’s the summa cum laude from Albion I know who considers her degree as a Mrs. degree and soon married and later sought employment in some menial job.

    Our families and our culture gives very mixed signals to women. Even in today’s NYT … it’s pointed out in the context of the Presidential Campaign … a woman who DOES express some strength of opinion is a turn-off to some male voters.

    And take the case of Larry Sommers, late President of Harvard, who lost his job due to a comment about women not being cut out for the higher sciences.

    Will we EVER stop putting adjectives in front of nouns … female president … black candidate … etc.? I think not.

  6. egpenet
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t help watching the spot a couple more times. Reminds me of my childhood addiction to B&W TV.

    I got a big kick out of the remarks about the “girls at the office” and their “hot plate,” and that huge birthday candle on his cake. And I really loved the closing cliche. Ad writers loved to do that.

    Today, on Saturday Night Live, she would’ve told him to make a wish, he would’ve scrunched his eyes, and SHE would’ve blown out his candle. THAT’s how far we’ve come.

  7. Captain Pinecone
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    So what are the official wet-t-shirt rules in regards to who wins if one of the competitors gets DDT’ed? It doesn’t seem fair to disqualify Trish since she got punked but Terri was really working hard out there, surely that counts for something.

    It’s easy to mock wrestling, it’s low brow entertainment (and a guilty pleasure of mine) that can and will offend everyone over time. I don’t think having two sweaty body builders rolling around in spandex is overly flattering to men either.

    All that aside I must say that dirtgrain’s story about the cheerleaders seems pretty troubling. “Let’s make cookies for the boys” doesn’t seem to much better than worrying about making a good cup of coffee.

  8. Paw
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Lao Tzu makes a wonderful cup of coffee, and really fills out a sweater.

  9. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    EgP, is it still okay to put adjectives in front of nouns with our current president, “dumb-ass” for example?

    DG, I concur with much of your post and definitely your pedagogy. It’s good stuff. I’ll just say that I think that as much as demystifying nudity may put a damper on wet-T contests it’ll just shift boundaries. We’ll always seek out a new forbidden fruit or something else to mystify. If everything currently mystical is gone, we’ll begin slitting our navels and belly-button fucking in backseats. We’ll be sold ever more elaborate gizmos to make us feel acceptable in the bedroom. It would seem, to date, we’ve largely just replaced instant coffee with instant boobs as the ultimate way to please your man.

    I’m an everything changes/nothing ever changes guy. I think rather than more or less nudity, we need to redefine and re-exert morality. Not a skirt length morality but a morality of respect and equality and what it entails. Otherwise, we’re just trading new lamps for old.

    I do think we’ve come a long way. There is real progress in, say, equal pay in the workplace. But, as long as you have dicks snickering and diminishing equally paid coworkers at workplace urinals, I don’t think we’ve made the kind of progress that equates to real change.

    It’s not that we need more tits. It’s that we need less assholes.

  10. Mark H.
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    The commercial for Folgers is part of a genre in the advertising world known as “2 Cs in a K,” meaning “Two cunts in a kitchen”: two women talking in a kitchen, about a product that women must be able to handle successfully to fulfill their feminine social role. There are countless commercials of this genre,and they are dreadfully sexist in content, and in conception (the copywriters weren’t concerned with real women, but just with two “cunts” who would successfully and mindlessly market the product).

    I think American culture was more sexist 50 years ago, because the sexism was invisible to nearly everyone and the chances for women to break out of the most narrowly defined sex roles were so slim. For a woman to NOT want to define herself as wife and mother was to be a freak, as Betty Freidan famously demonstrated. Today women have wider options, even if the pop culture include more outrageously degrading and sexistly sexualized images.

  11. Paw
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    “Cunts in the Kitchen” is my all time favorite episode of The Facts of Live. It’s the one we Tootie and Natalie ‘accidentally’ kiss while making brownies.

  12. Old TV
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I remember that episode. That’s the one where the girls have to plan everything for Mrs. Garrot’s funeral, right?

  13. BinaryBob
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Next Mark is going to ask us which tastes better, horse shit or dog shit.

  14. Little Dick Dave
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s a trick question. They’re both delicious. And they’re particularly delicious when mixed together. Don’t believe me? Try a slice!

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