Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reading Qs for this week

In “Primetime Harem Fantasies,” Frank argues that The Bachelor “problematizes normative expectations of erotic relationship behavior” (95). Yet, I didn’t really understand how the show presents normative expectations of erotic relationship behavior to be problems in the article. Does The Bachelor regard monogamy as a problem? If so, how and why? The author implies that nonmonogamy opens up a space for feminist discourses since “sexual nonexclusivity is a crucial piece of sex radical feminist history” (98). This is understandable in that monogamy is more often understood as a patriarchal institute. If it is a problematic concept, is there any safe alternative to this sexual relation? What resulted in the cultural pattern of sexually intimate relationship from monogamy to nonmonogamy in contemporary dating culture as the author says? Also, in the show, is the relationship between the bachelor and the women participants to seek a true love as they say? Do the women look for a real love or do they compete each other for what the bachelor could provide to her when she wins (e.g., money and upgrade of her social status)? I somewhat agree with the author’s argument that “the harem fantasy contains a kernel of feminist potential” (102); yet, containing feminist debates in the show do not mean that the show serves feminist interests. Then, how can we understand The Bachelor in relation to feminism?

My personal observation of today’s media in terms of sexual representation is that there seems to be more feminized masculinity than masculinized femininity? Masculinezed femininity is often represented to be powerful in association of masculinity; yet, it is more depicted to be sexually provocative (e.g., Janet Jackson in the “Rhythm Nation” music video). In her article, Wald examines how “girlish” masculinity acts out to attract girl fans, but she leaves out the question of how “boyish” femininity acts out to attract a certain group of viewers/listeners/audiences? Is “boyish” femininity more attractive to girls than boys? If it more attracts girls, why is it like that? Also, is the girlish masculinity of the Backstreet Boys a result of market play or how is the sexual identity of the group as girlish masculinity constructed at first in terms of production?

In relation to this, Wald also talks about the role of consumption for identity construction for girl fans. She implies that consumption is an important arena that needs to be discussed in feminist politics and in fact many scholars who studies postfeminism often talks about the conflict of feminism and consumption. I, personally, see that consumption is significant in constructing one’s identity because “style” as a site of expression of one’s identity (not limited to sexuality) is the core of consumption. For example, an indie band geek would be more likely to wear what others in his/her community wear. In many cases, style becomes an indicator of one’s identity. The relationship between style, identity, and consumption is also discussed in Cohen’s article, which discusses Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Yet, Cohen critically points out that “Queer Eye defines the queerness of the Fab Five through their expertise as consumers, not through their sexual orientation” (179). How does one express one’s sexual identity without products that are obtained through consumption? To what extent, does consumption formulate one’s sexual orientation? Are the criticisms on the Fab Fives generated from homophobia or from the patriarchal fear of femininity? How does this question apply to the discussion of the Backstreet Boys?

Penley’s examination of the women’s slash fictions is especially interesting to me. She argues that the fantasy of the women slash fiction writers about the relationship between Kirk and Spock comes from their desire of equality in a romantic relationship that dominance and submission do not constitute the relationship (490). I think this is a fascinating point about the fan fiction culture, especially for women. But, how does this fantasy of the romantic relationship between Kirk and Spock in the slash fictions explain the women’s fantasy in romance novels? In Reading Romance, Radway talks about how the narrative structure with certain characteristics generates a romance and how and why it works for the women readers. Yet, the romance novels are strictly based on heterosexuality. In those kinds of novels, do we see any power relationship between the hero and the heroin to be dominant and submissive? How dose the power relation in romance novels attract the women readers and how is it different from or similar to the slash fictions? Last semester, I have read Steven Duncombe’s book called Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture for the Indie Culture seminar. During the discussion, I remember we talked about how class functions in zine culture. Mara and some other students pointed out that zines are many times made by white middle-class. However, Penley observes differently. She says that most of the fans that write k/s slash fictions are working-class and they perceive feminists to be middle-class professionals. How does class function in zine culture, especially for the zines like k/s?

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