Recently in misogyny Category

I have been spending a lot of time in the past year pondering modern American society's current constructions of masculinity and femininity. The "LEGO for girls" curfuffle kicked it into high gear for me.

JeongMee Yoon's The Pink and Blue Projects "explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism." Yoon visited with young boys and girls (mostly American and South Korean) in their homes, and photographed them among all of their pink or blue belongings. The resulting photographs were highly saturated fields of pink for the girls and blue for the boys. The effect of everything gathered together in one place was startling, and perhaps a little unnerving.

Interestingly, I came across this project while I was reading Julia Serano's Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. As is usual for me and non-fiction books, it was a slow read, but it was a good read. Serano has very interesting and insightful things to say on femininity, society, and misogyny. It is generally considered acceptable and even cute for girls and women to do, wear, and enjoy "boy" things, but shameful and wrong for boys and men to do, ear, or enjoy "girl" things. No one looks twice at a woman in pants, even a suit, but a male in a dress is comic. This is because our society generally sees masculine things as good and strong, while feminine thing are silly and weak, so it makes sense to want the masculine things, even if you are female. But for a male person to seek out the feminine is to downgrade.

On a personal note, this was something I struggled with a few years ago. I was seeking out a new car seat. I found the brand and style that I wanted, but it was pretty expensive. There was one seat in that model that was significantly less expensive that the rest: it was pink. I was buying the seat to use with a boy child. I knew that the seat would work as well whether it was black or blue or red or pink. I knew that the savings was not insignificant. I knew that pink being for girls only was an artificial construct. Yet I found that I couldn't get past these things and choose the pink carseat. I was annoyed and resentful at this fact, and wanted to force myself past this hang-up. And still, I ended up with the red seat. It was a serious "what the hell?" moment.

How strong do you have to be to get past the "pink for girls"? Why on earth should you have to be strong to get past "pink is for girls"? And, given the strength that it takes to push past this stupid color taboo, why is pink still seen as weak?

The world, it makes very little sense sometimes.



I was of two minds about even linking this, but here are my thoughts:

Yes, this is a collection of ridiculous, dated photos. Glamour Shots and it's ilk had/have some very silly things going on. As a photographer who really strives to capture my subjects in the best possible way, this hurts my aesthetic sensibilities.

And yet, the mockery of the photos was also a mockery of the women in them. I don't know them, maybe some of them are/were genuinely mock-worthy people. But neither do the people doing the mocking. It may be just a random collection of silly pictures to them, but each one is a photo of an individual woman, who may very see this (or someone who knows her might.) What did they do that deserved to be mocked? Try to live up to society's demand for feminine beauty...for glamour...and fail. Shame! Point them out and let them know how stupid they look.

This collection is mean-spirited and cruel. I'll bet many of the women (and girls) in those photos went to have their portraits taken so they could look at the image and feel pretty, something that the world around them went out of its way to deny them on a regular basis. If your beauty doesn't completely conform to the basis of what society is celebrating that minute, someone is always going to tell you how you need to improve. You hair is too flat, too mousy. You need to lose a few pounds. Your boobs should be bigger. Your teeth are crooked. You're too old.

So you go to the place that promises to make you look like a model. They do your hair, they do your makeup, they give you something to wear. They make sure you have fun. Now, the photo stores in the mall probably aren't employing the best hair and make-up people, the top-notch photographers. They are hiring folks for a little bit above minimum wage and then instructing them to sell, sell, and up-sell. They get a small wardrobe to work with, and a set of poses they like (it saves a lot of time). Which means you get some silly end results. But I'll bet that most of the women looked at the photo they got and felt happy, felt pretty, even if just for a little while. Until society started reminding them how much they fail at looking like an ideal. How plain, how fat, how old, how silly.

And then we come along, a decade or so later, to point and laugh at their aspirations to glamour.

Good job, internet. Good job.



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