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May 26 2012

Sexism still exists!

“Woman is not born: she is made. In the making, her humanity is destroyed. She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that: mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because it is forbidden for her to do so.”
Andrea Dworkin


“Femininity is wearing shoes that make it difficult to run, skirts that inhibit movement, and underclothes that interfere with blood circulation. It can hardly be coincidental that the clothes men find most flattering on a woman are precisely those that make it most difficult for her to defend herself against aggression.”

Suzanne Brøgger

“The “feminine” woman is forever static and childlike. She is like the ballerina in an old-fashioned music box, her unchanging features tiny and girlish, her voice tinkly, her body stuck on a pin, rotating in a spiral that will never grow.”
Susan Faludi

We know about sexist advertisements of the past. Happy housewives could not drive cars but could push vacuum cleaners.Time has changed, women are not anymore forced to be slaves of men in many societies. They are allowed to be educated and become independent. Most countries in the world adopted United Nation’s The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). But sexism still exists.

The vintage sexist advertisements in the 50′s and ’60s were demeaning but the modern sexist advertisements are not any less demeaning.


Sexism Then:


Sexism now:

Should men and women let sexism continue to exist?

41 comments

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  1. 1
    FredBloggs

    “It can hardly be coincidental that the clothes men find most flattering on a woman are precisely those that make it most difficult for her to defend herself against aggression”

    There may be various reasons why an item of women’s clothing may be considered more “feminine”, but I really, really doubt that this is one of them.

    1. 1.1
      Phillip Helbig

      Indeed. Most men don’t care what women wear. (Ask a man what you wore yesterday and see if he remembers.) Most men would probably prefer women to wear nothing at all. Yes, many women are slaves to the fashion industry, but the fashion industry is run mainly by women and gay men, so it seems a big leap to conclude something about the preference of heterosexual men from the fashion industry.

      Yes, the sexism in the ads did exist, but it does not automatically follow that everything which disadvantages women today is the result of sexism.

      1. mynameischeese

        Why do men like to rattle of “facts” without fact-checking? Do a little googling for yourself, my friend. You’ll find that the fashion industry is not run by women and gay men. That’s just a cliche.

        Then there’s your stuff about small waists and the “scientific” reasons a small waist is “universally” appealing.

        Is this the shape produced by a corset?
        http://babymagic.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/venus_willendorf1.jpeg?w=490

        Nope. Did the “hottentot Venus” have a wasp waist? Nope.

        Bound feet are universally considered aesthetically-pleasing? Long calves? Long necks? Flat heads have something to do with fertility?

        Fun fact: Beauty standards vary from culture to culture and they’re not all directly related to fertility.

        #

        “Yes, the sexism in the ads did exist…”

        What do you mean by “did”? Half the ads are modern.

        “but it does not automatically follow that everything which
        disadvantages women today is the result of sexism.”

        Well, there are loads of things that are disadvantages to women today that have nothing to do with sexism. Diabetes. Climate Change. Recession. Nothing in this article implied that *every* problem women face is the result of sexism. But something tells me that asked to elaborate on this, you’d come out with some BS about how sexism isn’t the real cause of the wage gap.

        1. Phillip Helbig

          “Why do men…” You like to generalize, don’t you.

          “You’ll find that the fashion industry is not run by women and gay men. That’s just a cliche.” I guess we need a breakdown of the sex, gender and sexual orientation of the major players. I’ll start: Karl Lagerfeld: gay man. Stella McCartney: woman.

          “Bound feet are universally considered aesthetically-pleasing? Long calves? Long necks? Flat heads have something to do with fertility?” I never made any of these claims. I never said that all fashion trends are based on fertility or even understandable, but did address some that are.

          “Fun fact: Beauty standards vary from culture to culture and they’re not all directly related to fertility.” Right, and I gave several examples.

          “But something tells me that asked to elaborate on this, you’d come out with some BS about how sexism isn’t the real cause of the wage gap.” It certainly isn’t the only cause. And, yes, there are areas where women earn more than men for the same work.

    2. 1.2
      Jennie

      Why do you “men” have to disagree with everything that women feel or say? Because you love being right all of the time. Have you ever tried walking in high heels? Or how about wearing a corset? A bra? Maybe stockings? Ok, let”s try these: tight jeans, mini skirts, thongs, fake fingernails, wigs, shall I go on? Those sexist advertisements (made and published by guess who? MEN!) are repulsive. Guys do NOT want us women to be treated as equals! They are longing to bring back the days where Taslima wonderfully puts it: “women were slaves to men!” The patriarchy won”t budge. It does not want to give up it”s power-not give one inch to women and girls. If guys had their way, they”d have access to our bodies 24/7 to rape us. (Another issue in itself-PROSTITUTION=where men pay to RAPE women)..That”s how I feel about that. If the tables were turned, how would you guys feel? You guys are so great about dishing it out, but you can never take it. I also don”t see how women can love the oppressor. When black women were slaves, you didn”t see them loving the white man, now did you? I am angry. I absolutely am. How could I not be? 2012 and ads like this are still floating around?!!

  2. 2
    NanceConfer

    What horrible images.

  3. 3
    maureen.brian

    You’ve never been a woman have you, Fred?

    1. 3.1
      FredBloggs

      You’ve been a man have you maureen?

  4. 4
    Gene C

    I have been reading this blog since the first entry, agreeing with much of the content most of the time. But come on, this one seems to be somewhat silly. Sorry if this comment offends anyone… After all, I am but a mere male.

    1. 4.1
      rogernehring

      Apparently, Gene, you have no clue as to the power of advertising and advert images.

  5. 5
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    What’s silly? Advertising world is awash in sexism.

    From every beer commercial ever to Taslima’s examples… And look at this : Got PMS? Drink Some Milk, Says Sexist Ad Campaign

    1. 5.1
      FredBloggs

      It may well be, so why present a series of adverts from the dark ages, other than to induce anger?

      It’s just too easy to make reference to past injustice. These are awful adverts. Few people (of either sex) would disagree with this.

      Women comprise about 50% of the population of the world and an ever-increasing part of its spending power. Advertising is about money – those with money have the power.

      Taslima – If you want to make a difference, why not have a “contemporary sexist add of the week” slot – and let readers vote with their wallets. Let the vendor know you are boycotting them and why. Suggest the same to other Freethought bloggers.

      Alternatively, keep printing ugly adverts from the past and getting angry.

      1. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

        ?
        The one I linked to is about a year old. Advertisements are still full of sexism, it’s not a thing of the past.

        1. Nick

          There’s a major difference between sexism and the “sex sells” mindset. Men are objectified in advertising just as often, if not more, than women. How many ads do you see all the time with half naked men with “perfect” bodies posing? If anything, modern ads portray men in the worst light. They are either the above, or a complete imbecile incapable of even the simplest of tasks with “super woman” to help them

      2. KarenX

        The last eight ads pictured in the post are contemporary ads. Are they anger-inducing now that you know that?

  6. 6
    mnb0

    That one for the last picture should show my head instead. I hate it when electrical appliances have more than 6 buttons; indeed I don’t own a cellular.
    Oh, and I’m male.

    “Even MNb0 can operate this.”
    Trust me, in that case everyone in the world can.

  7. 7
    ik

    @maureen.brian: Whether you have experienced pressure to wear inconvenient clothes firsthand or not, you still don’t know whether being inconvenient is what makes an article of clothing feminine.

    From my admittedly privileged point of view, the main distinction between women’s clothing and men’s clothing is that women’s is actually aesthetically designed and ornamented. (which makes it impractical when overdone, and is usually hugely overdone.) The inconvenience is a side effect, not the cause. (though it could have been in the past)

    Also, a lot of more modern clothing is vastly better while still being considered feminine. . Most I know only wear visibly inconvenient (although still more fragile and probably expensive) clothing in situations where everybody is super-formal.

    I think it’s more an objectification/male gaze problem than anything else.

    1. 7.1
      FredBloggs

      Indeed. High-heeled shoes are a classic case in point. Do women wear high-heeled shoes because:

      a. They make women’s legs look longer?
      b. They make women more vulnerable to assault?

      Which do you think it is Maureen?

      Incidentally, that same quote makes claims about tight skirts inhibiting movement. Short skirts are considered by many to be sexually alluring. Do short skirts inhibit movement? Try putting on a pair of jeans and running shoes and seeing how fast you can run 400m. Then do the same in a short skirt and compare your times.

      That entire quote is just nonsense.

      1. mynameischeese

        That’s like asking, Did women in ancient China binde their feet because:

        a. It hobbled them.
        b. It made their feet look small.

        Why the hell should women care about having small feet? Or long legs? Or small waists (corsetts) or breasts that are contained (bras)?

        Of course, they have the option of not caring. But there are consequences. Men can be valued for other things besides their appearances. Women are valued for their appearances first. Without the correct appearance, they are invisible and no other quality counts.

        1. sharkjack

          Fred didn’t deny the sexism part, Zhe pointed out a flaw in Talisma’s reasoning.

          Men in general tend to find longer legs more appealing, high heeled shoes generate an illusion of longer legs, making the women wearing them look more appealing. The idea that women need to conform to this at the cost of their own comfort is of course sexist, but that wearing high heels makes running harder is entirely coincedental.

          Same with corsets. The lack of blood was treated as a neccecary cost (as it wasn’t the man who suffered and the woman didn’t matter) to make the woman look more appealing, but that it limits their ability to escape probably never crossed the designers minds. People don’t want their children and wifes to get assaulted (by other people) and they have far more powerful ways to get them not to leave if they themselves are the ones doing the assaulting. Emotional and social control are far more effective than physical constraints when it comes to this.

          Your analogy is flawed btw, a more appropriate version would be

          Did women in ancient China binde their feet because:
          a. it makes their feet look small (which causes them to be hobbled, just like wearing high heels is uncomfortable and corsets limit blood distribution)

          b. binding feet makes women slower, because their feet become hobbled making it easier to assault them.

          The ideas that women have to conform to what man are supposed to find appealing and that their apprearance is the primary criterium on which they are to be judged are both sexist and need to be challenged.

          That some of these pieces of clothing make assaults easier is a red herring, because that is completely irrelevant to most people wearing them and to many of the articles of clothing (or procedures) people feel pressured wear or go through because of this.

          1. mynameischeese

            “but that it limits their ability to escape probably never crossed the designers minds.”

            That’s really unconvincing. Even in modern times, people talk about how women must “suffer” for fashion. And we talk about “fashion victims.”

            Why would a small waist be considered aesthetically pleasing? It’s not an outward sign of fertility. And the standard varies from culture to culture (some cultures prefer a bigger woman).

            My analogy was in line with the one given by the person who commented before me. You can’t take sadism out of the equation when you’re dealing with fashion. Why would fashion magically be immune to sexism? So the answer for both analogies is both A and B. Foot binding and high heels are both aesthetically pleasing and the viewer gets off on the fact that another person would suffer to become aesthetically-pleasing.

          2. sharkjack

            @mynameischeese: I seem to be unable to reply directly to you, so I’ll make do like this.

            You started out by misrepresenting my position by quoting only half of that sentence.


            “but that it limits their ability to escape probably never crossed the designers minds.”

            That’s really unconvincing. Even in modern times, people talk about how women must “suffer” for fashion. And we talk about “fashion victims.”

            Here is the bit in full


            Same with corsets. The lack of blood was treated as a neccecary cost (as it wasn’t the man who suffered and the woman didn’t matter) to make the woman look more appealing, but that it limits their ability to escape probably never crossed the designers minds.

            The suffer part is right there, in the lack of blood (circulation) part. Just like high heels are uncomfortable and hard to walk on. These are the things that designers know about, but don’t care enough about because there are enough people willing to buy their stuff regardless. This whole thing is rife with sexism. And I acknowledged that.


            The ideas that women have to conform to what man are supposed to find appealing and that their apprearance is the primary criterium on which they are to be judged are both sexist and need to be challenged.

            The point that Fred made that you seemed to either miss or dodge, was that the whole bit about making assaults easier was wrong. That was what the example was all about. Your analogy swapped the ease of assault for the general suffering caused by wearing them. The fact that binding feet makes them hobbled is an unintended side-effect that was deemed unavoidable for the greater good (from their perspective) of having feet look smaller.

            The original example compared two different intents, your analogy compared an intent with an unavoidable side effect. Thats where its flawed.


            You can’t take sadism out of the equation when you’re dealing with fashion. Why would fashion magically be immune to sexism?

            The sadism lies in the suffering caused by people wearing extremely uncomfortable and painful clothes, or go through unnececary procedures (potentially causing lots of harm) because they are being judged based on these arbitrary criteria instead of stuff that matters. Fashion is not immune to sexism, neither me nor Fred claimed anything of the sort. Same goes for advertising. Taslima has made a good point about advertisements and how they are still sexist and normalising sexism because of that, but the quote from Suzanne Brøgger just makes no sense.

          3. mynameischeese

            I didn’t need to quote you in full because your reasoning doesn’t make sense even with the word “suffering added in.” That constraint didn’t cross the minds of people who designed constraining clothes is unconvincing (but interesting to note that you can apparently read the minds of the people who designed these items). The more you try to mansplain this away, the more the original quote makes complete sense.

            Suffering, constraint, lack of defense…they all go together in women’s fashion. Unless you think it’s just a coincidence that the man in one of the photos is standing on a woman’s neck?

          4. mynameischeese

            But you don’t have to take my word for it:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding#Reception_and_appeal

          5. sharkjack

            Fair enough, it is indeed arrogant of me to presume to know what designers were thinking, I’ll admit that.

            I guess the idea of assault being a factor in fashion was just too alien to me. Upon more careful consideration, presenting a woman as “assaultable” as possible could very well be considered a way of showing off wealth by basically saying: “Yeah she’s right there and can’t do a thing to protect herself from you, but you’re not going to touch her because you can’t, because my guards/influence will destroy you if you do. The idea that you have full control over your woman is probably also part of the allure, making it prevalant in women’s fashion. In that sense, ‘assaultability’ can factor into why something has become fashion.

            My perspective was more from the person deciding to wear it. My sister doesn’t wear high heels to increase her assaultability, but to look prettier, at expense of her own comfort. I saw the fact that she would get looked down upon if she didn’t do that as the primary issue. However that perspective is too shortsighted. If the very idea of a culturally determined standard for beauty is to be challenged, people will need to be shown why. Showing ‘assaultability’ to be a core concepts of what we percieve as femininity is probably an effective way to get that point across.

          6. Phillip Helbig

            “Why would a small waist be considered aesthetically pleasing? It’s not an outward sign of fertility.”

            Of course it is. Or, rather, a waist which is small relative to breasts and hips. (If the ratio is not small, the woman might be pregnant, so from the point of view of increasing one’s reproductive success, which is what we all evolved for, such women are a waste of time.) There are three solutions: reduce the waist (corset), increase the hips (petticoats, various frames women used to wear under their dresses) or increase the breasts (bras, especially padded ones). In more modern times, add cosmetic surgery for all three areas. Comparing clothing today with clothing of 120 years ago, we notice that the less revealing the clothing, the more the artificial things are exaggerated. (Yes, there are women who have breast-enhancement surgery and wear revealing clothing (or none at all), but these are a minority; compare this with what essentially all “Western” women wore 120 years ago.) I recently saw a television report which noticed that nose jobs among women are very common in Iran, since essentially the nose is the only visible part of the body.

            Stepping back a bit, one notices that fashion trends (whoever causes them) do change. Thin women have been fashionable, as have plumps ones; short hair and long hair; pubic hair or the lack of it; light skin and dark skin. Some of these are easily explainable: For example, when most people worked outside, it was considered a luxury to have light skin, hence the parasol culture of 120 years ago. Now, most people work inside and it is considered a luxury to go on a sunny holiday, hence the solarium culture of today. Plump women (and men) might have been favoured when only the rich had enough to eat. Female shaving is one of the few fashion trends which is traceable to a specific advertizing campaign.

            While currently not as pronounced for men, throughout history men have been fashion victims at least as much as women have. (The other side of this coin is that these days there is less freedom with respect to what men are allowed to wear in public: not by law, but by common consensus, which can be just as powerful. Just look at any group photo with both men and women.)

  8. 8
    mynameischeese

    Some of these comments are hilarious.It seems that all a blogger has to do is post the word “sexism” and the MRAs will crawl out from under their rocks to refute whatever the word is in reference to.

    Countdown to someone commenting: “A man standing on a woman’s neck for a fashion ad? That’s not sexism. That’s just in-group out-group bias.”

    Keep up the good work, Taslima!

    1. 8.1
      No Light

      It’s like reddit has sprung a leak, then oozed everywhere.

      I particularly liked the “who cares about vintage ads? use contemporary ones” commenter. Odd how he vanished when it was pointed out that some of the worst examples *were* contemporary.

      People seem to want to push back against everything Taslima writes, with an almost irrational zeal.

      1. FredBloggs

        Sorry, I didn’t “vanish”, I just went out to dinner.

        In truth, I did miss those later ads, and in truth I wasn’t aware of the crude misrepresentation which the ad industry still uses. I don’t watch TV, so I miss a lot of this stuff.

        But on the quote of Suzanne Brøgger used by Taslima – it is nonsense.

        1. Who Knows?

          Well Fred, had you read the orginal post in full, rather than jumping right in to disagree, you would have known those to be modern ads.

          1. FredBloggs

            Yes, I made a mistake (on that point)

            But my original comment wasn’t about the ads, but about the quotes (or at least one of them) that head up this post, and I still hold to that position.

            It isn’t constructive to portray this as a men versus women position. Virtually all of the men I know would be horrified by these ads (the old and the new). Most of the men I know (all?) prefer women who are assertive and strong, not women who are passive. I would rather chew my arm off than spend my life with some kind of Stepford Wife.

            So who exactly are these men who want women to be submissive? I just never meet them.

          2. hall_of_rage

            It’s not as if the post is long, Fred. There is no excuse for commenting without reading the post in full. If you can’t show that bare minimum of respect to the original poster, why would you comment expecting other people to read all your writing and see things from your POV? This is not your blog and we are not your audience.

  9. 9
    seditiosus

    We really haven’t come as far in the last 60-odd years as we like to think, have we?

  10. 10
    BglBttr

    No, no, no, did I say no already? I am a man, and I hate this demeaning stuff.

  11. 11
    Phillip Helbig

    You would alienate fewer people, and reach more, if you didn’t quote Andrea Dworkin.

    1. 11.1
      GMM

      And why is that Philip? Her quote was spot on.

      “Andrea Dworkin/Germaine Greer/someone else said something complicated, and I have a reductionist summary of that which comes out to “men hate women” / “all sex is rape” / “something else catchy” … why am I wrong? Only, competently stated.” Feminism 101

      Andrea’s been vilified for far too long and with the same tactics Creationists use against people like Richard Dawkins. You’ve most likely never read a single thing she ever wrote. She was an amazing, brave woman. I don’t find the mention of her name alienating at all. Or does that make me a “Feminazi” like just like Andrea?

      “Here’s a measure of how much a group is despised: how much malicious absurdity can one ascribe to its members and still be taken as a credible source on what they say and do?”

    2. 11.2
      Taslima Nasreen

      Andrea is not wrong.

      1. Tigerloaf

        But what is she saying?

        Superficially this quote could be taken to mean something like: “Much of what we call womanhood is socially constructed, and much of that is harmful to females.” No doubt many readers of this blog would agree with that sentiment, myself among them.

        However, if that was what AD wished to say, it seems to me she has rather overstated her case. “Woman is not born”, she says, and this can only mean all women. Why else use the singular noun? And the implication then follows that “man” is “born” rather than “made”. Why else single out woman?

        It seems obvious that everyone is forced by circumstance to become many things they were not “born” to be, and this often has negative consequences for individuals. No one is born Muslim, for example. So why does AD single out females in this way? Is the social construction of woman uniquely and uniformly destructive of humanity? And what of the many women who are content with their lives and their selfhood? Are they all dupes of the system, living in false consciousness? And how did AD know all of this? What access did she have to the pure humanity and selfhood of females that patriarchy effaces?

        Perhaps the quote would benefit by being returned to its context. A page reference would be helpful here.

  12. 12
    Aaron Armitage

    Louis XIV

    I’m fairly sure he was not the victim of a social demand that he wear footwear specifically intended to make him vulnerable to sexual assault.

  13. 13
    Pops

    I guess no one has read this article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/28/business/media/28adco.html

    1. 13.1
      GMM

      Right, who creates those ads? (hint: not women). The worst “male-bashing” I’ve ever heard has almost always come from a man. Men tell me that all men are pigs, that men are only interested in “one thing”, that men and women can never be friends, that most men will most likely try to assault you if trust them enough to be alone with them, and that I’m naive to think otherwise.

      Men in housecleaning and laundry detergent and other domestic chore-related ads are portrayed as bumbling and clueless so that women will continue to do all the shit work convinced that they’re really the “smarter” one.

      So they show women being much more competent at cooking and cleaning and scrubbing toilets then men, lucky us! It’s basically flattering women into getting back in the kitchen (where they belong).

  1. 14
    Sexism alive and well « An actuary walks into a(bar)…

    [...] are three great posts on sexism in advertising by the excellent Taslima Nasreen. Share [...]

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