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I am one majorly unhappy camper

edited to change "women who use their bodies" to "women who use their position" as it is in the article. See what I mean? Too angry to see straight.

I am happily leafing through the current Entertainment Weekly this morning, enjoying one of my favorite pop cultural fixes, and I come across a cross-page ad for an upcoming television show on NBC: Playboy Club. That's right. It's set in a Playboy Club in the 1960s, to reap some of that Mad Men resonance--the clothes, the sexual politics, the music, the smoking, and the drinking. And the women in the corseted, crotch-cutting, chest-displaying outfits, complete with painfully high heels and the serving procedure known as the "Bunny dip": crouch without bending your back, holding your drink tray perfectly level at shoulder height. Because we couldn't do this at a dance club like Whiskey à GoGo or someplace where the culture was changing, like the Greenwich Village or San Francisco nightclubs. No, we have to have it be the Playboy Clubs where we can show women put on display like products in your grocer's dairy case in every episode as background, with men freely given permission to ogle and grope them and treat them like fecal matter because, hey, that was the time. The producer claims it's about female empowerment and women using their position to get what they want. A spot on the board, asshat? A job as CEO or CFO? How about second vice president at a bank? What about head chef at a pricey restaurant, or producer/director of a movie? (Hey, wait--we can hardly get a lot of those jobs now.) And what happens to them when they get wrinkles, or start to sag, or gain weight, or get pregnant, or develop minds of their own? How do their bodies get them what they want then? Or even now?

ABC, at the same time, is offering us Pan Am, focusing on "stewardesses and pilots and their glamorous world". (Keep scrolling down in the article for the other shows mentioned in this post.)

I thought I was through with this crap after the publication of COFFEE, TEA, OR ME? and Gloria Steinem's blistering series of articles on how demeaning a Bunny's life really is. I thought feminism would clear this garbage off televisions when All in the Family's Edith Bunker finally rose up and told Archie what he could do with his racism and sexism and moved out, when divorced women were portrayed as workers and parents rather than "easy," and when women headlined dramas rather than only home how-to shows and pre-school kids' TV.

But wait! There's more!

ABC also has Good Christian Bitches!--glamorous backbiting women à la Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girls, and Pretty Little Liars--and Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23.

To all of you who told me that I was wrong (when I said that using the b-word just tells people it's okay to use this term that trashes women), and that you were using the b-word to reclaim it for women, I hope you're happy. Because now cheap TV producers think it's a cool word to use on national television to mean nasty women.

Oh, yes. And they're re-booting Charlie's Angels. Again. Because women can't kick butt without a man to tell them to do it. I'm reserving judgment on the program about two guys who think the only way to get ahead is to dress up as women. Transfolk gotta eat, too, even if cisjerks snicker at it.

I am so angry I cannot see straight. Don't tell me I'm getting excited over nothing. This tide of egregious disrespect has been creeping up, and creeping up. Now, as they try to take our reproductive rights away, and we discover that rape numbers in the civilian and military population are under-reported (the FBI numbers don't include statutory and date rape, 60% of the population doesn't report it at all, and in the military it's 80% that doesn't report), our mass media tells us that we are here for sex. Women are shown in the media as sexual objects, as pieces of meat there to display desirable things like cars, watches, drinks, and a suit on a man.

Now the women who ruin their backs and feet running up and down airplane aisles and the women who were penalized for a two-pound gain are being shown off once more as the living equivalent of sex toys, which makes all of us sex toys. We're all of us bitches, because our media culture tells us so.


( 94 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 4th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
This is exactly the reason I don't own a television.
Aug. 4th, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC)
I stopped owning a TV when I realised someone like me would never be represented on a show on one, because I don't fit some standard of what a person in the real world is to those making and writing TV shows.
Aug. 4th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I tried ranting about the same thing to my husband a week or so ago, more in regards to my frustration with Marvel's recent obsession with making all of these male-centric comic-book-based Hollywood features and he tried to debunk me by saying "But wait, there was Catwoman and Wonder Woman! You can't say they never make movies out of those comics!"

What he didn't get is that yes, women do exist as superheroes in those movies. The problem is that they can't be over 35 and they have to meet the "proportional standards" Hollywood tends to think women's bodies should have at whatever time. And the only "masculine" thing they're allowed to do is (sometimes) kick butt. Usually with the help or hindrance of a man somewhere in the mix. Being a cis-man himself, my husband often fails to see how it would be annoying at the very least to have to try and identify with female superheroes who aren't really all that super and sure as hell look nothing like me. After all, these movies were made...for people like him. He may be cool enough to love me for what I am, no matter how genderqueer I am, no matter how overweight or un-Hollywood-esque I look, but he still thinks I'm overreacting when I become outraged at the impossible standards to which people with my bodily parts are held in the media.
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
Don't forget the fact that they cancelled the (albeit unrealistically shaped) Wonderwoman movie because they said no one would go to see a movie with a chick hero.
(no subject) - nicoli_dominn - Aug. 5th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - nicoli_dominn - Aug. 5th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mmaresca - Aug. 5th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nicoli_dominn - Aug. 5th, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm retweeting and googleplus and whatevering this everywhere because I think this is *so* important and it resonates so much for me. Having grown up as a young woman in this age, I feel like this is everywhere I turn and I really appreciate you being able to verbalise it so perfectly for me.
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I would rather not have had this to have to verbalize about, but our druthers weren't exactly taken under consideration, were they? ;-)
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
Totally agree. "The More TV Girls Watch, The More Limited They Consider Their Options." I'm tired of seeing girls and women sexualized and objectified everywhere. I'm tired of seeing my nieces believe that their only option in life is to be a princess. I'm just disgusted.
Aug. 6th, 2011 03:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link!
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
In fairness, I caught A Tale of Two Bunnies (aka The Price of Beauty) on TV a few years back and thought it did a decent job - the shy country girl who decided to try out as a bunny because - in her "nice, decent, respectable" office job, pay day meant her boss getting in as close proximity as he possibly could under the loose guise of "finding, writing and handing over her cheque" (and after she sent a decent chunk of her salary home to her parents, she barely had enough to scrape by at said office job); the girls so nervous about putting on weight and getting demerits for it that they turned to amphetamines/slimming tablets and damaged their health; the slightly older woman who put her husband through medical school as a bunny only to have him then humiliate her because he in turn was embarrassed to be married to a bunny (who earnt more than him, after tips, from memory); the sole black woman, surrounded by her white friends, seeing the news about racial violence in the South, where she was from... At that time, for a lot of young, attractive women, it was probably the best-paid (legal) living open to them. Because sexism was so firmly embedded into society, waitressing in a bunny suit under the watchful eyes of a security team and with strict codes of conduct in place probably felt safer and less humiliating for some of them. Did that make it empowering? Only in the sense that financial security (and spending power) are empowering. Did that make it a healthy and aspirational lifestyle with no risks attached, providing a safe and healthy environment for young women cut off from the support network of their families for possibly the first time in their lives? Of course not.

That film also explicitly made the point that grabbing at women was not allowed, and that any men who didn't treat the bunnies with respect could expect to be immediately (and, it was implied, painfully) escorted out by security. (Not that relationships never happened, but they only happened if the desire for them was mutual - and the film again made the case that - sometimes - peoples expectations of a mutually desired relationship can be painfully different...)

It's *possible* to treat the subject matter in an intelligent, respectful light - to show the pros and cons of a choice with the social context of the other choices that were on offer. It has, IMO, been done.

It sounds like this new show probably fails to do that.
Aug. 4th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying it isn't possible to treat the material respectfully--I did see that movie, actually. I actually considered trying for the job myself when I was in college because the money was so much better than anything else I could get at the time. Then I found out about the dormitory living at the Great Gorge club, where they were looking for help, and that I couldn't have my boyfriend visit, and that was that.

That was also 1972 and, as you say, somehow I don't think this program remotely wants to present a realistic view.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
Though a distant second to loudly and frequently expressing our annoyance at shows like this, not watching the shows will help.

And choosing to watch shows featuring competent women like Warehouse 13.
Aug. 4th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
Micah is competent when? When she is screaming?

OTOH, I love Claudia. I think they should get rid of Micah and Peter and leave the show to the rest of the gang. Eureka also has competent women, just incompetent scripts.
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
It was Gloria Steinem, not Germaine Greer, who wrote the exposé about being a bunny.
Aug. 4th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Gah! Both my heroes, my brain frazzled. Thanks!
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
Posts like this make me so proud to be a fan of your work, just saying. I agree with what you're saying here and find it disheartening.

On the opposite side of doing it wrong, DC Comics is now adding in several more female creator driven projects and female staring comic books following a fan dressed as batgirl dogging them at all the Q&A panels at SDCC asking questions and follow up questions about why thy were so failing about female characters and creators during the much hyped upcoming giant reboot. So at least sometimes companies listen when they are told repeatedly that they are screwing up.
Aug. 5th, 2011 01:47 am (UTC)
That was one of several issues plaguing me about this latest Great(?) Reboot of the DCU line. But we can discuss that elsewhere.
(no subject) - specimen_47 - Aug. 5th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Gee, do you think it is a coincidence that the far right is trying to take our country back to the 50's, 60's or maybe the dark ages? Alas, I do not.

Hopefully these shows will fail miserably and cost the people who made them a lot of money!
Aug. 6th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
do you think it is a coincidence that the far right is trying to take our country back to the 50's, 60's

No, I don't, which is why these last two years have just felt like body blows in so many ways.
(no subject) - deborahblakehps - Aug. 6th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I hear you SO HARD!!!! Sexism is so completely rampant in our culture, and people are just accepting it without even noticing anything is wrong.
Aug. 6th, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
people are just accepting it without even noticing anything is wrong.

And those who do yell about it are told they're humorless f-words.
(no subject) - laurenbjorkman - Aug. 20th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
I was just posting about these shows the other day on FB. I am guessing that these shows will have few, if any, people of color and use the excuse that the times were just like that. UGH.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)
This is after years of people listening to music that belittles women and makes acting like a gangster fashionable.

I even stopped watching Home Improvement because I was sick of the humor about fat women.
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
Not to nitpick, but does your comment also include all genres of rock, and pop, and country, in addition to those "fashionably gangster" songs?
(no subject) - sholamith - Aug. 4th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - specimen_47 - Aug. 5th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nicoli_dominn - Aug. 5th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tammypierce - Aug. 5th, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
I started to reply to this with my own rant, but since everything I said pretty much lines up with what you said, I'll just say I agree. Emphatically.

As a professional in a field still heavily male dominated, I still struggle every day with things as simple as maternity leave, and being forced to wear a skirt suit in court by a certain old judge who is offended by female attorneys and law students wearing pants. There is no way that I am convinced that these shows are about female empowerment. Real female empowerment is more along the lines of Temperance Brennan in "Bones." She's smart, a professional, and can handle a gun - and deals with real issues professional women deal with, like being made to choose between family and the job, or being thought of as weird for not wanting children at all.
Aug. 5th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
and being forced to wear a skirt suit in court

This would make me batty, even though I did wear skirts in court. That, however, was in the 70s.

I don't think it's weird not to want kids--I don't have any, and quite a few of my friends don't. ::shrug::
Aug. 4th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
Wow. I very very rarely will watch tv or movies, so I had no idea these kinds of things were being released. But after reading this? I'm spreading word about this post because that is just utterly ridiculous! Not a happy camper here, to say the least.
Aug. 4th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your righteous anger, and for putting it into words. There are days when the constant onslaught of misogyny is just too much for me; words fail, and I find myself with nothing left but angry tears and helplessness and frustration. Thank you for sharing the strength of your voice.
Aug. 5th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
There are days when the constant onslaught of misogyny is just too much for me;

Me, too. A lot of them have come in the last two years.
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