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It’s a Man’s World for Talking Dogs

6 Jul

The following is cross-posted from the Vegan Feminist Network. The original can be found here: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/talking_dogs/

Closeup of a collie chewing food and talking from Beneful commercial

Why is it that almost every voice-over for dogs in commercials for flea & tick medication, pet food, or treats is masculine?


First, animals for whom we do not know the sex or gender we often presume to be male by default. Secondly, canines in particular tend to be masculinized. However, the predominance of masculine voices in media is well documented. Human or nonhuman, it really speaks to the patriarchal dominance of public spaces and experiences.1

Feminine voices only seem to be consistently ascribed to Nonhuman Animals on television in dairy commercials featuring farmed cows. These voices are often matronly, as well, likely in an attempt to frame the product as something that is nurturing, healthful, and familial.


One exception can be found in the 2015 Yoplait commercial that gives a masculine French voice to an American female-bodied dairy cow. In fact, cows are frequently represented as male despite being female-bodied.2 This not only demonstrates a general ignorance about the American food system, but it also lends evidence to the male-as-default schema.

Notes:

1. Voice-overs are also white-dominated, with few ethnic intonations represented.

2. Gender and sex are not one in the same of course, but human constructions of gender in the nonhuman world are even less consistent and tend to reflect gender hierarchies.

 

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

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Vegan Bros: The Way to a Meat-Eater’s Heart is Through His Vagina

22 Jun

The following is cross-posted from the Vegan Feminist Network. You can find the original post here: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/vegan-bros-the-way-to-a-meat-eaters-heart-is-through-his-vagina/

Content Warning: Sexism and trans-antagonismMeme produced by Vegan Bros which reads: "The Way to a Man's Heart is Through His Stomach: Unless He Eats Meat, Then It's Through His Vagina!"

There are a number of things wrong with Vegan Bros (a weight-loss business that banks on sizeism, thin-privilege, and fat-shaming to sell products and programs), but their recently published vagina burger meme really takes the cake.

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Posted on the Vegan Bros Facebook page on November 22nd, 2015, the meme reads:

THE WAY TO A MAN’S HEART IS THROUGH HIS STOMACH…UNLESS HE EATS MEAT, THEN IT’S THROUGH HIS VAGINA!

In addition to being extremely misogynistic, the meme is also trans-antagonistic. According to Vegan Bros, to have a vagina is to be lesser and/or to be a man with a vagina is to be lesser.1

The Abolitionist Vegan Society agrees, strongly condemning the message. Vegan Bros responded with pleasure at the offense it caused, citing it as “validation” for their cause:

When the Abolitionist Vegan Society hates on your post you know you’re doing something right.

Recent essays posted on the Vegan Bros website mirror this violent rhetoric. For instance, one post that declares animal ingredients in man-friendly products like beer are actually vegan (as though thousands of vegan-friendly beers were not readily available). Those who disagree with their patriarchal entitlements are referred to as a “piece of shit.”2

Vegan Bros sitting in a bar

As Cheryl Abbate has discussed in an earlier essay with Vegan Feminist Network, the promotion of masculinity and “real manhood” in vegan spaces inevitably upholds violent gender norms and attitudes associated with masculinity and patriarchal rule:

Let us recall what the message of animal liberation entails: one of the goals of the animal liberation movement involves challenging the model of dominance by rethinking why we give privilege to and admire “dominant” or “stronger” beings. Yet, when organizations use bodybuilders to sell the vegan message, they send the opposite, dangerous message: masculinity is preferable to the feminine and there is a hierarchy where the masculine reign and dominate at the top.

Not only does this idea endanger women, but the idea that there is a dichotomy between the masculine and feminine disadvantages animals, since animals are identified as part of “nature”- and nature is in turn identified with the feminine.

Indeed, Vegan Bros bills itself as “[ . . . ] a movement dedicated to raising up an army of fit, sexy vegan soldiers [ . . .], making the language of domination, force, and anti-femininity part of its brand.

I am skeptical that there is room for masculinity in the vegan world we seek. Masculinity relies on hierarchy and violence, and is thus deeply counter-intuitive to our goals.3

In the comments following the publication of the meme, Vegan Bros sought to clarify their intentions and wrote: “Most feminist vegans understand what we are doing with this post.”  Yes. I understand very well. I know bigotry when I see it.

 

Notes:
1. Women and female body parts are regularly used throughout the website to degrade and humiliate a presumably male audience. For example, in a post about Thanksgiving, Vegan Bros infers that being vegan is “badass”: “Extending your circle of empathy and compassion is [not] for pussies.”

2. Ableism is also regularly utilized, with detractors labeled “fucking stupid.

3. Male-identified Professor Gary Francione has chimed in to position my feminist “complaining” as “idiotic”:

"I certainly do not agree with people who complain that anyone who does not think they're just 'awesome" are sexist/racist/evil, etc.; indeed, I think that is very harmful in various ways. And I agree that it is beyond idiotic to claim that the use of "Bros" per se is inherently sexist."

 


Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded the 2016 Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

Benefit Concert

3 Mar

Untitled

Fundraising is a difficult but important part of many feminist projects; interestingly, male privilege means it is often easier for men to raise money for a women’s shelter or hotline than for women to do it. If we take on some of that work, where our privilege is especially helpful, it also leaves women and people of other genders with more time and energy to devote where their specific life experiences give them more expertise!

 Unrelatedly: music is amazing. Musicians are often cool people, many just want to go out and share their talents with an audience, and some even write or cover songs specifically about gender justice! That said, the music industry is notoriously sexist – so it’s always good to push back against that a bit.

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Boys Using Porn to Sexually Harass Boys

26 Feb

800px-Bananas_juicy_sex_series

Porn is normal. Porn is crazy. Porn is something every boy has on his personal cell phone. Everyone except me of course. Because I’m not sick. Though it’s not entirely perverted. Only sort of.

These were some of the contradictions boys were trying to negotiate in the previous post from ‘Porn and Hookup Culture in a Primary School in Ireland’. Today we move on to exploring the competing discourses that pushed and pulled boys in all sorts of contradictory directions.

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Debunking the Myth of Childhood Sexual Innocence

8 Jun

Hello again and welcome to the second post from ‘Porn and Hookup Culture in an Irish Primary School’. For those of you unfamiliar with the first post in the series, over the coming months I will be sharing research findings about boys’ sexualities. Last month I mentioned that adults are deeply concerned about the effects of our sexualized culture on children, often claiming that today’s children are being prematurely sexualized. That children can be sexualized before it is developmentally appropriate relies on the idea that childhood is naturally a period of sexual innocence. This month’s post therefore unpacks the very notion that children are naturally innocent.

The fear of premature sexualization is premised on several misguided assumptions. The one we will be debunking today is that children are only pre-sexual (not fully sexual) since sexuality can only ever be triggered by puberty, and children are pre-pubertal.

We see evidence for this in the culture when, for example, textbooks for courses in developmental psychology fail to include sexual development in chapters on childhood. Instead, the topic of sexuality appears only when adolescence comes into focus. Developmental psychology in turn guides everyday popular understandings of children among those involved in teaching or caring for them in Western culture. As such it is shot through with power, in this case the power to discursively normalize the absence of sexuality for children but also to pathologize its presence.

We know that sexual experience among children is commonplace. For example, in the Kinsey studies of the 1940s and 1950s parents reported seeing children aged 2-5 self-manipulating and exhibiting their genitalia, in addition to exploring other children’s. We have also known since the 1960s that it is normative for 10-13 year-olds to engage in heterosexual kissing. Childhood sexual innocence, then, is an adult fabrication more than a natural feature of childhood.

Some psychologists do argue that ‘light’ sexual activities such as those above mark normal stages along the developmental trajectory but are a far cry from the sort of sexuality that is prescribed by children’s cultural milieu. That is, the extent to which our culture is sexualized is ‘too much too soon’ for children. Recognition of children’s sexual behaviors, not to mention the power of consumer capitalism, is preferable over the downright denial of childhood sexuality.

Nevertheless, what constitutes ‘too much too soon’ is in fact contestable when compared across time and space. During the 17th century, for example, the children of the French aristocracy were not shielded from sex but rather regularly encountered references to it in songs, stories and games. Fast forward to the 20th century and the following extract, taken from fieldwork with the !Kung San of the Dobe area of Botswana, further troubles the notion of precocious sexuality:

Like her counterparts in other foraging societies, the !Kung child becomes familiar with sexuality in early life. The youngest children sleep under the same blankets with their parents and are under the blankets during their parents’ lovemaking. From the age of eight or ten, children engage in sex play, which may include intercourse (…). The !Kung have no notion of virginity. I have never been able to come up with a concept or sense of a word that would correspond to our word virgin. Given the early sex play, I will hazard a guess that there are few !Kung virgins, male or female, at puberty.

(Lee, 1985: 39)

In summary, what we deem appropriate or inappropriate for children is historically and culturally contingent with the result that we cannot take it for granted that children are prematurely sexualized by the sexualization of culture.

Another way to see how sexuality is normative for children is to step back from the view of it as an essential, biological force that gives rise to bodily activities. When we see sexuality as a set of social practices, it is easier to recognize it as integral to children’s and adults’ everyday subjectivities and identities. Allow me to explain …

Foucault argued that sexuality induces specific gender effects and we see this eloquently elaborated upon by Judith Butler (1993). Individuals are assigned one of two sexes at birth. They are then expected and encouraged to do a gender in accordance with that sex. But the way to do that gender is guided by the belief that it should be done in opposition to the other sex/gender and that it should ultimately give rise to sexual desire for that opposite sex/gender. Put simply, we are getting our gender right when we are getting heterosexuality right, and vice versa.

People tend to heterosexualize their gender in many arenas and not just when being physically sexual. The same is true for children. In past research (Renold, 2005) primary school boys could successfully heterosexualize their masculinities by being a boyfriend though they could also opt out of the boyfriend/girlfriend culture without penalty by heterosexualizing their future masculinities. This was achieved by making reference to the skills that would one day be needed when the time came to have sex with women, thus consolidating a hegemonic heterosexual masculine identity in the present.

Boys could also heterosexualize their masculinity in the present by merely playing the right sport – soccer – or by fighting with other boys, or even just engaging in fight talk. Indeed those boys failing to display similar interests were marginalized as sissies or, you guessed it, gay.

Clearly then, childhood sexuality is much more than ‘light’ practice for the future but is also experienced seriously in many painful and pleasurable ways in the present.

The sooner we allow the full range of sexuality practices come into view, the sooner we can understand children’s experiences more fully and provide appropriate support. Might the panic over the premature sexualization of childhood be interfering with this goal? This is one question we will be returning to over the course of Porn and Hookup Culture in an Irish Primary School.

Porn and Hookup Culture in an Irish Primary School

13 Apr

Welcome to the first post in a series of monthly posts on masculinities in an Irish primary school. Over the coming months I will be sharing research findings on boys’ experiences of porn and hookup culture. There has been growing concern in recent years over the ‘premature sexualization of childhood’ that is claimed to be caused by the ‘sexualization of culture’. So before actually detailing the aforementioned findings, some of the initial posts will lay out the socio-cultural context in which they were produced.

As mentioned, the research in question took place in Ireland. The data were co-produced with eleven- and twelve-year-old girls and boys during their final year of primary school. I spent the academic year of 2009/2010 hanging out with the children a couple of days a week and interviewing them in pairs and groups about my observations. Furthermore, interviewees were invited to introduce topics of their own choice for discussion.

Overall, the themes that emerged ranged from academic performance to religion, from sports, dance and athletics to friendships and family relationships. Clearly, then, the more overtly sexualized themes chosen for analysis were not necessarily central to the children’s lives. Rather I played an active role in determining what to focus on. Nevertheless, porn and hookup culture did emerge and as such warranted exploration.

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International Conference on Masculinities: Post-Conference Press Roundup

9 Mar

CSMM_ICM2015We hope that you all enjoyed the International Conference on Masculinities, that you learned new and exciting things and that you made connections with researcher and activists that will move the field forward!

Here is a collection of articles from around the web reporting on the Conference:

Washington Post: “Michael Kimmel is out to show why feminism is good for men.”

Huffington Post: “Gloria Steinem On What Men Have To Gain From Feminism.”

CNN: “Sheryl Sandberg teams up with LeBron James to get men to #LeanIn”

Daily Mail: “‘We still have far to go!’ Jane Fonda addresses women’s rights as she attends International Conference On Masculinities.”

New York Magazine: “Jane Fonda Battles the Friend Zone and Toxic Masculinity in One Speech.”

New York Magazine: “Gloria Steinem Explains the Perks of Feminism for Men.”

Stony Brook Statesman: “Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities hosts inaugural conference.”

The Guardian: “What a masculinity conference taught me about the state of men.”

 

#BlackGirlsMatter

16 Feb

We have reported previously on the specific challenges faced by male students of color in the education system and have pointed out some of the flaws in programs designed to help Black boys.

To add another dimension to this debate, we would like to point to a new report released by The African American Policy Forum. In this report the authors show that “girls of color face much harsher school discipline than their white peers but are excluded from current efforts to address the school-to-prison pipeline.”

To read the report, go to AAPF’s website and download it here.

You can also listen to an interview with one of the report’s authors, Prof. Kimberlé Crenshaw, director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School and co-founder of the African-American Policy Forum, who was recently interviewed on FAIR‘s radio program Counterspin.

Are the Oregon Ducks the nation’s first “politically correct” football powerhouse?

9 Jan
Marcus Mariota running the ball against the Wyoming Cowboys (Source - Wikimedia Commons)

Marcus Mariota running the ball against the Wyoming Cowboys (Source – Wikimedia Commons)

This post was written by Michael Kimmel, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University and founder of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities.

Is Oregon the first Politically Correct football team?  And could such a team win a national championship?

Consider this: following their systematic, upbeat, and perfectly executed demolition of previously unbeaten Florida State in the national semi-finals last week, Oregon players were seen on the sidelines imitating FSU’s “Tomahawk Chop” and singing along to their equally disgusting “Indian War Chant” the phrase that rings out across the country around sexual assault: “No Means No.”

Excuse me?  Were these football players?  Good football players? Continue reading

#GamerGate and the Politics of Resentment (Part 2)

24 Sep

(This is Part 2 of an article series that explores a case of harassment in online gaming known as #GamerGate. Please read Part 1 of this post here. Part 2 argues that the sexist harassment campaign is rooted in resentment against current changes in the gaming industry.)

In the early days of the harassment campaign against Zoe Quinn – indie game developer, critic, and cyborg – before the campaign was given its name, a number of editorials were written on a curiously specific theme: the cultural category of “gamer,” and how those who play games relate to it. On Kotaku, Luke Plunkett wrote of the “Death of An Identity.” “Gaming is a hobby I’ve had (on and off) for most of my life,” wrote Emma M. Woolley in The Globe and Mail, “but I’ve never called myself a gamer.  One reason is that while playing video games is something I enjoy, it doesn’t define who I am; another is that I don’t identify with many people who do call themselves gamers.” The “gamer” label has been a problem for games writers for some time; never literally describing everyone who plays any kind of games (which is to say, almost everyone), it’s traditionally been used to exclude casual games, mobile platforms, or certain genres. In its most nativist form, “gamer” (often appended by the modifier “real”) is a term used to denote a class of consumers that cares about gaming more than anyone else, competes more fiercely than anyone else, and is thus deserving of special attention from the industry and the press that covers it. In academic circles, there have been attempts to expand the category of “gamer” to better represent the variety of players out there. These editorials were taking the opposite tack: if this is what “real gamers” really want “gamer” to mean–young white men with disposable income who respond to academic criticism with death threats–then fuck ’em. Let them have it. “‘Gamer’ isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use,” wrote Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra. “Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.”

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