Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last week in Snuggie News

There was a Snuggie pub crawl in Seattle.


1. Neoliberalism and the family – Ron Becker (2006) stated that “…neoliberalism overburdens the heterosexual nuclear family both ideologically and materially”, which in turn translates into primetime television with shows such as Supernanny that promote the ideology of the nuclear family consisting of a biological male father, a biological female mother and their child(ren) all because society believes that the heterosexual family is “in crisis” (p. 183). Are same-sex families the sole cause of this alleged “threat?”
To place the blame solely on same-sex families as being the reason why heterosexual families are in jeopardy is laughable. Laughable because “…gays and lesbians are certainly convenient scapegoats,” which diverts people’s attention from the facts (Becker, p. 183). Let us take a brief journey through American history to figure out why the heterosexual family is really losing its once highly regarded societal value. During the colonial era, European-American families were dependent on there being a mother, father and multiple children in order to work the land so as to survive, thus it made sense for the majority of the families to be headed by heterosexual couples because reproduction was vital to their survival and lesbian and gay couples have no way to reproduce between themselves. Even with the institution of slavery, heterosexual families were still “necessary” because the land was passed down from generation to generation and their children, girls especially, were married off into equally wealthy if not wealthier families to preserve and increase their familial wealth. Fast forward a bit to the twentieth century and we find that suddenly the divorce rates increase drastically. Why is this? For one, there was World War I and World War II, which meant that millions of men were drafted in order to “protect and serve” their country. Logically, the same number of men that left for these wars was not the same number of men who returned home. During this time, the men that served in the First World War and were lucky enough to return home suffered from post-traumatic stress, leaving their wives feeling as if a complete stranger had returned home. The same can be said for the husbands returning home after the Second World War except that more women were asked to fill the jobs vacated by men because they were needed to fight in the war. Women gained a new sense-of-self and realized that they could do more than just keep a house and raise their children; they could be productive members of society within the workforce. So, in addition to not being able to reconnect with their husbands because of their post-traumatic stress disorder, another contributing factor to the rise in divorce rates was that people were living a lot longer than their colonial predecessors. A longer lifespan meant that that increased the amount of time people could get on each other nerves, hence higher divorce rates! Since the social stigma that once came with getting a divorce is virtually non-existent, it has become that much easier and acceptable for married couples to get a divorce as people see it as being “no big deal.” Finally, the newer generations (generations ‘Y’ and ‘Z’) no longer see the appeal to get married because there is no longer a need to do so in order to survive and the celebrities they idolize, who serve as role models, are continuously heard saying that a couple can be just as committed, if not more, than those couples who are legally married and recognized by their state of residency. In the end then, the alleged “danger” same-sex couples present to the institution of marriage takes a back seat to the issues stated above.

2. Self Responsibility – In Laurie Ouellette’s (2008) research, she chose the television show Judge Judy because it was an example of “a neoliberal technology of everyday citizenship, and shows how it attempts to shape and guide the conduct and choices of lower-income women in particular” (p. 140). In her analysis, Ouellette states that while there are other shows that pass judgment on women for poor life decisions, they are not as highly regarded as Judge Judy because the “carnivalesque” nature commonly associated with Jerry Springer is absent. The main difference between Jude Judy and lower-class talk shows is that at the end of each case, one person is found guilty while the other is vindicated of any wrong doing. How is that really all that different if one takes place in a courtroom and the other on a stage?
To say that Judge Judy is above stooping to the same tactics that Jerry Springer or The Maury Show uses is incorrect. Yes she may be an actual judge and has the authority to find someone legally right or wrong, that does not mean that her show is better than any other daytime show whose ratings rely on using people’s problems for their own self promotion. The reason that Judge Sheindlin was offered the job of hosting the show was because of her “no-nonsense attitude” and outspokenness, are those not gimmicks corporations use to exploit and profit off of? Yes. So again, does throwing a robe on someone make her show more socially valuable than Jerry Springer or The Maury Show? Not really. One could make the argument that compared to Oprah, Judge Judy becomes the show that tosses and airs guests’ dirty laundry just for the sake of public condemnation. Which brings me to my other point, whereas the previously mentioned shows are in the business of airing those stories that are more scandalous, the hosts are trying to help all parties involved make amends and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Judge Judy scolds those who need the help of the court to solve their problems, but without those social degenerates her show and profession would not be needed. So, do you condemn the very people who are providing you with a paycheck or do you realize that while there are some people who make mistakes that others would know better than to make, that not everyone is perfect, including Judge Judy herself.
3. ‘Metrosexual’ in review – Katherine Sender’s (2006) article states that the original meaning for the term ‘metrosexual’ meant any male narcissistic consumer but today has taken on a new “more positive description of a sensitive, girl- and gay-friendly straight man…” (p. 144). Is this new definition really accurate though?
I argue that it is not. I believe that the original definition still applies to today’s metrosexual as the main principle of being a metrosexual is any man who not only takes more time in preparing his daily appearance, but in order to do so must participate as a consumer on a higher level than those men who are not metrosexuals. To say that today’s metrosexual is more “girl- and gay-friendly” is a bit presumptuous since a metrosexual can still be homophobic and a womanizer. Then again, I am thinking about the men that I know who fit this category but are African-American. Which then leads me to ask are there different conceptualizations for men of different ethnicities? I just automatically assume that whenever the subject of metrosexuality comes up, that they are talking about a white male. This is probably because whenever discussing some social aspect, we always talk about it within or in comparison to mainstream society, which is white culture. How does thinking about metrosexuality with regards to African-American men change anything, if at all? Again, I think that the original definition applies more so than the new one. Some could argue that because of slavery and the lasting affects it has had on African Americans, we are more likely to be concerned with our physical appearance, hence we are more likely to spend money on name brand clothing. So, with relation to African American men and metrosexuality, it could be said that African American men are metrosexuals because they are narcissistic consumers who are more concerned with what label is on their clothing, what type of car they drive and what type of hairstyle they are “rocking” at any given time. The newer definition cannot be applied so easily to them because African American men are presented as being extremely homophobic so they would not go out of their way to be nice to a gay male or polite when coming into contact with a gale male unintentionally (restaurant, cashier, etc.).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

American Chopper update

Sarah Palin gets American Chopper!

With Great Neoliberalism Comes Great Responsibility.

Supernanny: "I'm living clip-art"

Becker makes it clear that the 20th century saw the placement of increasing responsibility on the nuclear family to be self-sufficient while governmental services were cut. However, Becker also mentions "out-of-control children and exasperated parents" indicating the stress such responsibility likely causes. Is it possible that the marked decline in married households from 1950-2000 is a conscious backlash against the burdens of atomized parenting? Or is it more likely a symptom of an unrealistic familial ideal? For all the development of the dominance of the heteronormative, neoliberal family, does it seem so unlikely that either nanny show could incorporate a single parent family or *gasp* a two dad/two mom family into the show? What would this say about the desires of commercial culture and the flexibility of neoliberal capitalism?

Ouellette quoted Rose who wrote that people working together for a common national interest has been replaced by the "ideal of citizens seeking to fulfill and protect themselves within a variety of micro-moral domains." (141) Does this view coincide with the "I don't care what you do as long as its in your home and not in public" sentiment that is sometimes used by heteronormative folks to convey a tolerant/progressive stance toward non-heteronormative expression? If so, does this sentiment seem to be more or less prominant than the trend of legislating universal morality as in anti-gay marraige laws? What are the limitations of both of these trends?

It is peculiar that despite all the emphasis on personal responsibility, Ouellette seems to find evidence for dependence on the state by Judy's scolding of un-married cohabitants. Doesn't the emphasis on personal responsibility also seem to contradict the continued support for keeping drugs and prostitution illegal? Doesn't it seem to contradict the fairly widespread support for the proliferation of a surveillance state? (sorry, I can't find the original article) How is it that expectations for personal responsibility seem to be growing at pace with state control over private life?

In Roberts' article in the Postfeminism book, he argues that government is increasingly subject to the interests of capital. Roberts writes, "governmentality [a subset of biopower?] is driven primarily by the agendas and interests of neoliberal capitalism as much as of the state, that indeed, the state and its institutions are increasingly subject to these interests and have taken on an instrumental role in securing them." (lower on 231) my emphasis added. I think it is hard to underestimate the significance of this statement. What does democratic participation/democracy mean when government has "taken an instrumental role in securing" the interests of neoliberal capitalism? The saying "if you don't vote, you can't complain" seems saturated in the personal responsibility exhorted by neoliberalism which, at the same time, substantially restricts the range of choices offered by the democratic system. Such "blame the victim" mentality, emphasis of personal responsibility for the situation in spite of no control over the range of choices/candidates, and denial of any alternative to the situation (contemporary US democracy) all mimic some of the stages in the cycle of abuse.
Everything will be all right. You are in my hands. I am here to protect you. You have nowhere to go. You cannot survive outside the city shell. We only want to help you. This is your last chance. THX 1138

Project presentations for Thurs., 5/7

As requested, here are some guidelines for the presentation of your research projects in class on Thursday, 5/7. We have approximately 12 minutes per student. That means that you should keep the "presentation" portion to about 5 minutes. During this time, please tell us about the general topic and focus of your paper. If you have an argument worked out by this point (please try to do so!), share it, as well as some of the ways you are supporting that argument with evidence and analysis. If you would like to show us a clip or example from the material you are studying, that is fine, but please keep it very brief, no more than 1 1/2 minutes, so that you have enough time to discuss your ideas. Also please try to make sure your clip or example is loaded onto the computer or otherwise set up before class begins so that we don't have to spend a lot of time waiting for these. The balance of the 12-ish minutes will be spent on q&a and discussion. I'm sure everyone will have questions and comments on all of your great ideas. The whole thing should be relatively informal, and may even prove helpful to you as you finish up your papers. Let me know if you have other questions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

tough love!

hey everyone,

i remember mara talking about the "tough love" show on vh1 some time ago in class, and i just saw this awesome commentary on it by sarah haskins. check it out!

my all-time favorite target women is the one called your garden. you can click the following link, and then select your garden from the list of possibilities if you want to watch it.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Neoliberalism and Post-Feminism

The Sender article suggested that Queer Eye was potentially subversive in its treatment of white heterosexual masculinity. On page 146, she says that critics of the show failed to see how Queer Eye turned the tables on heterosexual men by forcing them to “work harder, in the ways women and gay men have had to work, in order to get and keep their mate, their job, their class position.” While I take much pleasure whenever the tables can be turned on hegemonic white heterosexual men, I am continually skeptical of situations that use devalued and hence feminized situations, to poke fun at masculinity. Can forcing men to “work harder” in this way really undo what patriarchy has done to instill these ideals in women? Obviously, if you follow the money, the companies that are providing products for this type of consumption are winning, and doesn’t that mean that patriarchy is still in the winning?

It is hard to divorce the ideologies of neoliberalism and post-feminism, especially after reading the Ouellette article. She says that neoliberalism should be understood as the idea that the free market is the best mechanism to organize every detail of social interaction, and the locus of free market power lies in the individual (140). In what ways is this directly related to post-feminist ideology? Did post-feminism and neoliberalism emerge together? Both of these ideologies seem to be of particular advantage to hegemonic masculinity (what a surprise!), because both of them place responsibility for social failures squarely on the shoulders of the individual. I feel like I don’t really need to say how convenient it is for heterosexual white masculinity to have a dominant ideology that blames the downtrodden and marginalized for their plight in life.

A very tricky idea is present in the Roberts article. He says that the goal of the makeover shows, in his case What Not to Wear, is to reveal the more “authentic” self hidden underneath the poorly dressed and inadequately made-up exterior of the participants (237). This idea is problematic for so many reasons. One is because it reinforces the idea that femininity is inherently inferior, and requires constant attention and upkeep. But also because I loathe the word authentic. It’s so subjective and pretentious, and it is so often dispatched by marketers that the word has lost all meaning, if it ever had any. I’m left with the rather hollow feeling that authenticity is inseparable from consumption, at least in the eyes of the mainstream media. We know that authenticity is a mechanism of bourgeoisie class distinction, but what does it say about gender? Is this the fundamental problem of post-feminism? Or, to put it another way, has post-feminist logic managed to solidify consumptionism, sexual objectification, and heteronormativity as “authentically” feminine?