The sad cynical guessing game

Small online quizzes seem to be very popular these days, some better than others, some darn right pointless (why would I want to take a quiz to find out what my favorite flavor of ice-cream is, or what mood I am in, I already know that damnit!).

However, this one about sexist ads I found quite interesting. I scored only 6 out of 16, and some of those ads I’d seen before so I already knew the answers. How sad is that? Of course, you can answer in different ways: You can go with the answer that you actually think it is, and due to the fact that you have grown up in a world full of such ads you are fairly cynical regarding these and know that they are not about what they seem to be about, so you would then of course get the right answer probably most of the time. OR: You can answer what you, based on the imagery, really think it should be about. This second way would of course be the most obvious one in a better world, but unfortunately, we live in a world where ads like these are thought up, designed, created and published:

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Now in the quiz I guessed it was for a hair product, even though I did not really get the point of it. I feared that the answer would be the night club and prepared myself to be upset. But not even in my wildest imagination would I have guessed this was an ad for organ donation. When the quiz revealed the text and logo, I think my heart just sunk.
Is this really the best way to make people become organ donors? Also, it seems that they are basically only looking for male donors, seeing as how I, at least as a straight woman, would not like to get anywhere inside that poor girl, so I guess my female kidneys aren’t good enough? Right then! Not only is this pure unadulterated sexism, which marginalizes, degrades and offends women, but it is also making organ donation feel extremely creepy. Who in their right mind would like to become organ donors after seeing this? I have absolutely nothing against organ donation, it’s wonderful that so many are given second chances because of it, but this ad is just making me sick and I cannot understand what the hell they were thinking. How about having some self respect for yourself and the organisation/company you work for, how about not stooping to others low levels and degrading women in this washed out, clichéd and tired way? How about having some faith in humanity and portraying the best we can be, instead of the most creepy, disgusting and objectifying bastards that we seem to be?

Från Rumänien till Sverige och allt däremellan

(First of all, sorry all you non-Swedish-speaking readers out there, but I have to write this blog post in Swedish, please come again! :] )

Mamma tipsade mig om Alice Teodorescus sommarprat i P1, och när jag lyssnar på något som får det att tåras i mina ögon så måste jag också skriva om det. Om ni som läser detta har tid och lust så lyssna igenom hela, det är värt det. För er andra, kommer jag lite kort berätta vad hennes prat handlar om genom hela min egna historia.

Alice berättar om sin uppväxt och sina erfarenheter, född i Rumänien under Ceausescus tid är det en berättelse full av förtryck, rädsla och sorg, men även hopp. Som barn kom hon till Sverige och var då tvungen att i princip lära sig leva från scratch; nytt land, ny kultur, nya människor, nytt språk och helt nya möjligheter samt svårigheter att ta sig igenom. Hennes berättelse påminner så otroligt mycket om min familjs flykt från Rumänien till Sverige. Jag har så många gånger suttit och lyssnat på mammas historier om när hon var barn, tonåring och tillslut vuxen i ett samhälle där folk spionerade på varandra, där man stod och köade för en limpa bröd mitt i natten i flera timmar, där man antingen var en med samhället och led med resten av folket, eller emot och hamnade i fängelse. Där man inte fick vara sig själv.

Alice minns sin resa till Sverige, jag å andra sidan var alldeles för liten för att minnas. 1989 flydde min mamma till Sverige helt själv, hon lämnade sitt hem, sina föräldrar, sin man, och inte minst sina barn efter sig för att skapa en grund för oss alla, en ny början. Jag var endast ett år gammal då, min syster Anna var fem. I Sverige lyckades mamma på något sätt att få tag på en lägenhet, att börja lära sig språket, börja lära sig att bli svensk och passa in. Det tog ett år innan pappa, Anna och jag också kom hit, ett år innan vi fick återförenas med mamma. Min syster som var stor nog att minnas saker och ting hade saknat mamma och kände igen henne direkt, jag däremot, jag visste inte vem den främmande kvinnan framför mig var. Tydligen höll jag fast vid ett gammalt fotografi av mamma, och envisades om att DET var mamma, inte du, framför mig med usträckta armar som försöker övertala mig om att du är mamma. Jag minns detta såklart inte, har fått det återberättat flera gånger, och den smärta mamma måste ha känt i sitt bröst när hennes tvååring inte känner igen henne och vägrar gå till hennes famn måste fått henne att tvivla på om hon faktiskt gjorde rätt val.

Tids nog kom jag över det, jag fick på nytt lära mig vem mamma var, och för mig måste flykten till Sverige trots allt ha varit den lättaste av oss alla. Jag tänker att det måste varit enkelt för mig att vänja mig vid mitt nya hem, då jag inte haft så mycket tid att skapa starka band till det gamla. Jag minns inte svårigheten i att lära mig svenska då det kom naturligt, för resten av min familj var det dock en svår väg uppåt på en väldigt brant backe. Min syster vantrivdes i skolan, hon tyckte inte om den svenska maten och vägrade äta, mina föräldrar kämpade som dårar för att få jobb och kunna stå på egna ben. Sakta men säkert har dem tagit sig in och uppåt, sakta men säkert kämpar dem vidare mot kulturella och etniska hinder som än idag sätter fällben för dem. Jag hade det lätt. Väldigt lätt, när allt kommer omkring. Men trots det, så har även jag känt mig som en främling i detta land. Sen jag var liten visste jag att det var något med mig, något annorlunda, jag lärde mig tidigt att jag inte var helsvensk och att jag var tjej. Tjej och invandrare, något som för mig aldrig varit det minsta konstigt blev helt plötsligt två hinder att försöka kravla sig över. Jag förstod aldrig, och jag kommer nog aldrig riktigt att förstå, vad problemet är, varför det ens skulle vara ett problem. Men, det jag lärt mig, är att det är ett problem. Inte alltid så klart, inte för alla, tack och lov. Men att vara rumän, den enda rumänen i min umgängeskrets, har lett till många psykiska smällar. Folk, även vänner, har ibland skämtat om det faktum att jag är rumän, och även om jag inte förstått det roliga i skämtet så har jag skrattat med för inte ska väl jag vara den som är den? Well. Det skämtet är inte speciellt roligt faktiskt.

Något som alltid svidit är när jag hört svenskar som knappt klivit utanför landsgränsen, prata ignorant nonsens om rumäner eller andra människor ifrån så kallade “u-länder”. Det är så jävla lätt att som svensk eller utomstående snacka strunt och titta ner på folk som är fattigare eller har det sämre ställt. Men vad fan vet ni om fattigdom egentligen? Vad fan vet ni om diktatur eller krig? När Sverige inte krigat på flera hundratals år, när svenskar inte under de senaste decennierna eller sekel känt någon form av förtryck. Vilka är ni att uttala er om andra vars situationer ni inte ens i era mardrömmar kan föreställa er? Den förundran Alice hade när hon klev in i en svensk mataffär, det överflöd hon fann där, precis så var det för min familj när vi kom hit. Min syster såg en banan för första gången när hon var sex år gammal och trodde att det var en gurka, mina föräldrar fick smuggla mat, bensin och allt möjligt för att överleva i Rumänien. Och här i Sverige så fanns allt man ville och behövde uppstaplat fint på butikshyllorna. Jag säger inte att krig är bra, jag säger inte att förtryck är något som någon borde uppleva. Men om man gått igenom något sådant, om ens familj är präglad av sådant, så får man i alla fall lite nya perspektiv på saker och ting. Man lär sig uppskatta sånt som andra tar för givet.

När Alice pratade om “duktigheten”, och berättade hur hon kämpat i skolan för att tillslut bli så duktig att lärare blivit skeptiska och anklagat henne för fusk, då brast det inombords. Även om jag som barn inte kunde minnas vart jag föddes, så hade jag alltid något dolt hinder inpräntat i bakhuvudet, av någon anledning så visste jag att jag behövde kämpa mer än dem andra barnen och jag försökte alltid att göra så bra ifrån mig som jag bara kunde i skolan. Jag var alltid den duktiga. Men att vara den duktiga, även den duktigaste, spelar inte alltid någon roll. Det spelade ingen roll för femteklassläraren att jag kommit 2o sidor längre i boken än den svenska tjejen, det var ändå bara hon som fick beröm. Det spelade ingen roll för en föredetta chef att jag hade mer erfarenhet och högre utbildning, det var ändå den svenska tjejen som fick en högre position och högre lön än mig. Ibland känns det som att det inte spelar någon roll hur mycket jag än kämpar, hur duktig jag än blir. Jag kommer alltid att vara invandrare och kvinna, jag kommer alltid att behöva bekräfta min kompetens, jag kommer alltid att behöva bevisa hur duktig jag är.

Men det är ok.

Jag älskar nämligen att bevisa folk fel. Jag älskar att slänga mina prestationer i tvivlande folks ansikten. Varje gång någon auktoritär person i mitt liv, främst lärare, har sagt: Du kan inte göra det där, du kommer inte klara av det där, du får nog tänka om… har dem tänt en gnista i mig, ett driv som inte går att stoppa. Jag har, om så bara för att jävlas med dem, kämpat in i det sista för att visa dem fel. Och alla dem har haft fel. Varje gång. Det spelar ingen roll för mig om jag är kvinna, eller rumän, eller bådadera, jag löser det ändå, jag klarar av alla mål jag ställer upp för mig själv, trots att jag är invandrare och kvinna. Eller kanske, därför att jag är det.

Folk frågar mig ibland om jag känner mig svensk eller rumänsk och jag brukar lite skämtsamt svara: Jag känner mig som en rumän i Sverige, och som en svensk i Rumänien. Jag är någonstans mittemellan, med en fot i båda länder. No man’s land. Men istället för att känna mig som en främling i båda länder, väljer jag att känna mig dubbelt så lottad. Jag är en svensk rumänsk kvinna, och jag är jävligt glad för det. Jag är jävligt glad för att jag haft en extra kultur som präglat mig, ett extra perspektiv att förhålla mig till, ett extra språk att kommunicera på. För att jag har ett extra land att kalla hem.

Talking to girls

I was bored and perusing Facebook when I came across this interesting blog post.

The fact that we talk to girls and boys differently shouldn’t really surprise anyone, but it should upset us all. The social norms we live by are not something we are born with, it’s infused in us as children. We learn early on how girls and boys should look and act, respectively. These norms are then passed on from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, mother to daughters, from our teachers, friends and even strangers. We all learn to conform to our gender. But gender, be it masculinity or femininity, is just something we have made up, so what is stopping us from reinventing these age old norms? Well, nothing really. The problem is that norms that are so deeply rooted are difficult to break from, they are engraved in our minds and our selves, therefore we have to actively think and decide to act differently, in order to make any change. This is not an easy task. I know. But it’s still worth it. If we can try changing bit by bit, making it possible to talk to girls about what they like and do, instead of how they look, asking boys about their feelings and stop pressuring them about being “strong” and “manly”. How great would it be if both girls and boys were encouraged for the same things, being complemented for the same achievements?

This issue is also deeply related to media and advertising, since ads reflect our culture and society, therefore reinforcing the norms we live in. So many ads are portraying women and men like the stereotypical image of gender we have been taught growing up: Women are beautiful and passive, Men are strong and active. As John Berger put it:

“Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision:
a sight.”

Growing up my mother always told me I was beautiful, being her child of course she thought and said so, as any mother would. This probably gave me some form of confidence boost that girls get from (being taught) hearing that. Still, more than praising my looks, she always encouraged me to use my brain. As a kid I was good at math, which thrilled my mother, and in the 4th grade it was me and this boy who were the best in class. However, while he was praised and acknowledged about his math skills, I was not. Needless to say, this really upset me so I told my mother about the boy and he being “better than me”. There and then, she made me a proposal: “How would you like to beat him at math and be the best?” I don’t know why but something in me triggered that day, my competitive instinct kicked in, I was sold. Of course I wanted to beat that boy in math, what ever it took. So from that day on I studied harder than before and sailed through the entire math book, I got so far ahead that in 5th grade I was reading the 7th grade math books. All the while my mother kept encouraging me and pushing me forward, praising not only my looks but also my smarts. So yeah, I did beat the boy, and that gave me a bigger confidence boost than any compliment about my appearance ever has.

I love my mother of course, but even more I am grateful for the way she raised me, being a strong independent woman herself, she always encouraged me to think, act and do. Not just be.

Thank you mom.

Women’s football

Yesterday I received this link from an acquaintance who figured it would interest me, and indeed, I was intrigued. Apparently there is some debate going on in Ireland regarding an advertisement for women’s football, and while I am not all that interested in women’s football, or men’s football, or any sports for that matter, I am very interested in advertisements. Here is the ad in question:

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It features a woman holding a football as if it were her pregnant belly, and it says “The most important nine months of a woman’s life“, referring to the football season January to September.

While some seem to praise the ad for bringing attention to women’s football, others are not that thrilled:

“Complaints suggested that the ad reduces women to “baby-making machines” instead of football players and that it places gender at the centre of its message, instead of sport.”

This kind of sums it up nicely, I think. After seeing and researching so many sexist ads, I’ve found that a very common problem is the fact that they use imagery which places gender, sex, nudity and so forth in the centre, instead of highlighting what they are actually about. And this is what makes so many ads sexist. It is not sexist to make an ad about a pregnant woman, but if you make an ad about women’s football, why not just let it be about women’s bloody football? Of course, one could argue that hey they are trying to be clever! But clever sexism, is still sexism, no matter how you sugar-coat it, it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Just for kicks, how would it be if this ad was about men’s football? Of course, the pregnant belly would be kind of ridiculous so you would have to adjust the ad for it to be relevant for men. So how about this: Same general design as this ad but instead there is a man standing in profile holding two footballs were his “other” balls are, and the caption would read “The most important balls in a man’s life“. Would that be sexist? Well.. yeah, it would. The sad thing is though, while this made-up ad would probably never even be created, the other one is real.

To be, or not to be, a feminist.

Last night I stumbled upon this video:

and it saddened me a bit.

It’s sad that people feel the need to object to feminism, because they believe it means that you basically hate men and don’t care about issues related to them. For me, feminism has always meant one thing: equality. Equality between genders, sexual preferences, heck even between “races” and cultures. Feminism for me is the ism that stands for, fights for, different groups of people that have been, and still are, in some ways, oppressed. I think it’s sad, and kind of ironic, that you (especially as a woman) would not want to be called a feminist, while living in a patriarchal society. I call myself a feminist, but at the same time I care about issues that are related to men as well. I think men should have the same parental rights as women, being able to go on parental leave just like women and stay home with their kids. I think men and boys should not be held to certain types of standards, always being the “strong” one, being asked to “act like a man”, cause really, what the heck is that supposed to mean? I think boys should be encouraged to play with dolls, or dress in pink or whatever else it is that we impose on girls, and they should be allowed to be caring, nurturing and show their emotions if they feel like it, without being called a pussy, or a sissy, or a pansy, or any other stupid word that degrades both genders in some way.

Now, regarding her video, I am pretty uncertain if all the statistics she presented are accurate, and also, where exactly they are accurate (is it only involving the United states or what? Cause I’m sorry all you Americans out there, but the world really does not revolve around you…yeah..). Nevertheless, I felt that some of the men’s issues she spoke about and tried to compare with women’s issues, were rather weird. For instance the rape thing. Hm…ok, so apparently there is a huge issue regarding men being raped in prison. Ok, I understand that it is an issue, and also acknowledge that it is a serious one and something should definitely be done about it. But. How can you even compare this to the amount of women that are being raped every day out in the “real” world? Men being raped in prison is men raping other men, in prison = the majority of all these men are criminals, albeit there are probably many that are innocent but that is a completely different issue that I will not discuss right now.. Anyhow. When talking about female rape, you are not talking about the amount of women being raped in prison by other women, you are talking about the amount of “non-incarcerated” women walking about freely in the world, being raped by men. Ergo, both issues have to do with men raping; men raping men, and men raping women. So hey, why not turn the issue around and make it about (certain) men raping? Why not trying to do something about the rape-culture that we seem to live in?

At the same time, of course, women’s issues do bother me “more” since I am a woman, and also, since the society I live in is still based on patriarchy, and has always been so. I do feel stronger towards women’s issues, since the majority of women have throughout our history, been referred to as the “second” gender, and been more oppressed than men. And sure, you can, as she does, say that men are also being objectified just like women, but really, really… I mean, really? How can you say that and honestly believe that it is true? I would not, nor can I, compare the objectification that is going on between the genders, especially when it comes to my field of research. Advertisements pretty much objectify everything, however, the objectification that is being done to women is not the same as for men. First of all, it is not the same amount of objectification between the genders, second of all women have been the target of objectification for a longer period of time, heck, women have basically started out as “objects”, while men started out as “subjects”, so how are you supposed to even start comparing? Sure, women have during the last century gotten more rights and “equality”, but still, what is a century, compared to the entire history of humans? Therefore, when talking about the objectification that is going on both for men and women, one must always remember the past and the present, one must remember what type of society the objectification is taking place in, one must remember to evaluate exactly how “equal” that society really is. Or as Kilbourne eloquently put it:

“When power is unequal, when one group is oppressed or discriminated against as a group, where there is a context of systematic and historical oppression, stereotypes and prejudice have different weight and meaning.”…”When men objectify women, they do so in a cultural context in which women are constantly objectified and in which there are consequences — from economic discrimination to violence — to that objectification.”

So yeah, is it really that strange that feminism is called feminism, when it all started with the “second” gender being tired of getting in second place? It could just as well have been called humanism, or peopleism or equalitism or whatever else that “represents” both genders, BUT, why does this even matter? It is just a word, after all. And just like all other words, all other isms, all other groups, not to mention religions; people will still interpret it in their own way, putting their own spin on it, reacting towards it in their own manner. So what can you do? Well, you can call yourself a feminist and fight for equality, or you can call yourself something else and fight for the same cause, as long as we are all working our ways, living our lives with equality in mind, it should really not matter what you call yourself. Cause really, we are all in this together.

Let’s do this

OK then, so this is my new blog devoted to my PhD studies, most importantly my research of sexism in ads. For all of you who don’t already know, I am pretty passionate about this subject, and relentless when it comes to sexist ads. It all started some four years ago when I stumbled upon a video on Youtube with Jean Kilbourne talking about sexism in advertising, how it has developed over the years, how it has only gotten worse, how it is a real issue that concerns all of us. I knew then and there that this was something I had to get involved in, so I decided to start studying business and marketing, just so I could write a bachelor thesis about this. And well, long story short, two years later I did.

For all of you who are interested, or have nothing better to do, have a go at it why don’t you:

Fuckable:
The objectification of women in advertising through a female perspective

Also, here’s a little video of Jean Kilbourne speaking at TEDx. It’s not the same as the one I saw all those years ago, but it will give you a glimpse of this incredible woman and her journey through this vast field of sexist, offensive and demoralizing imagery we call advertisements: