Empowerment – the long winding road

Happy women’s day to us all!

For me, today is a day that inspires me to keep fighting, keep moving forward, keep striving for empowerment and equality. Today is also a day with sad and frustrating undertones since it reminds us that we still have such a long way to go. The road ahead is never ending, or so it seems..

For the last months I have been working with several papers for my doctoral thesis, mostly I have been gathering empirical material in the form of interviews and focus group discussions for a particular paper that will be about female sexual agency in contemporary advertising. I will not go into too much detail, but needless to say there is an ambivalence towards this shift in advertising where the idea, the message is that women + sex = power. As always, women’s bodies, their appearance, is at the core of this subject, and sadly it is still and will still be up for many discussions in years, decades to come, I’m afraid. Personally, I am a bit torn between thinking: “women should be able to display themselves any which way they want”, and “hm, yes sure that does sound lovely, but we cannot ignore the fact that the social construction of women and their bodies/appearance is not the same as for men, and women are unfortunately much more sexualized, still, so trying to gain power by being sexy is kind of another side of the male-gaze coin. Is this really the way to empowerment?”. I do not really think there is a correct answer or solution to this conundrum, but getting to study what other women  think about it has provided me with different perspectives and inspirations. This work is for me so thrilling, frustrating, eye-opening and tough, I am truly blessed to have gotten this opportunity to delve into such issues that I am so passionate about.

On another note.. in a couple of days it will be the 20th anniversary of one of the best tv-shows ever: Buffy, the vampire slayer, first airing on the 10th of March 1997. For me, growing up in the 90’s/00’s, Buffy was such an inspirational, kick-arse feminist character that inspired in so many different ways to be yourself, to be strong, to take place and claim space, to be brave, to be ok with being sad, afraid, thinking that you may not be good enough, but realizing that you are. I feel a bit sad for generations that have come after me, who instead got to grow up with Twilight or whatnot instead of Buffy, because Buffy is a fighter, not a push-over, she is not obsessed with guys all the time, since she is a bit too damn busy saving the world.

In her own words:
buffy
Truer words were never spoken..

So happy 20th anniversary Buffy, and thank you for inspiring me and other young girls to be empowered.

So what else is new, well, I recently got the lovely news that one of my papers was accepted to the Macromarketing conference held in New Zealand, yay me! And today, of all days, I also got the news that another short paper was accepted for another conference, in Paris. So double-yay for me, on this wonderful, women’s day.

Sexist Advertising Survey

Hello dear readers, time to stop reading and start writing; I would greatly appreciate if you could take 10-15 minutes of your precious time to participate in the following survey:

Sexist Advertising Survey

This survey is open for everyone, anyone, who would like to share some thoughts on the research topic of “Sexist advertising”. No previous knowledge necessary, all that matters are your own personal thoughts.

Cheers a lot!

Courses, conferences and competitive papers

Long time no see, dear blog. I am not ignoring you, just having my plate full of work, work and some more work.

So far I have enjoyed my time as a PhD student, even though the course load this semester has been kind of a pain (who’s idea was it to put three courses at once, huh?). Nevertheless, one is completed, one is about 90% done, and the last one has two more hurdles to go, so all in all, everything is under control. For next semester, I am hoping to take a course in CCT (Consumer culture theory), then maybe do some writing course, more methodology, and if I can manage to find a suitable one, take a gender theory course. I have also been greatly inspired by the courses so far and am contemplating how to use Institutional theory, Grounded theory, Discourse analysis and Netnography for my dissertation. Oh the choices! My problem is, and has always been, that I want to do it all, and I want to do it now. I often experience a decision-making-anxiety growing inside when I learn that I have to let something I believe in go, when I understand that I in fact do not have all the time and resources in the world. However, this “itch” of wanting to do everything, has always worked as a source of passion and ambition, and surely, if I did not want to do anything, ever, I would not be doing a PhD at all. I mean, there are other ways of spending my time. So I should not complain.
Just make a decision.

Anyway. This last month has been hectic to say the least, but it has also come with some wonderful surprises and news. The biggest one being that the paper I submitted for a conference in Macromarketing got accepted! I will thus present it at the conference in front of fellow peers and scholars. Needless to say, this news was shocking to me. Basically, this is me opening the e-mail and reading the first few words saying “We are very pleased to inform you that your submission….” :

surprise

And then this is me seconds later when the words really sank in and I got the message:

surprise

I can’t even begin to describe the joy, sense of accomplishment, and then utter, utter terror and panic, I experienced during that moment. I mean, me? I? Really? Holy *insert ALL the curse words*!! I always hope, but never expect, thus such news always get me by surprise. I still cannot believe that I am going to present something I created at a conference for the first time in my life. Hopefully, I will not be a puddle of nerves, lying on the floor in a fetal position. Hopefully, I will manage.

The competitive paper I submitted is about how viewers deal with being exposed to an abundance of sexual, pornographic and violent ads, and in it I construct and present a framework that explains some of the practices that may go into forming opinions regarding the ads. I call the framework the Clutter Syndrome, and if things go well, this will not be the last time you hear about it.

In the words of Morrissey: So wish me luck my friends, goodbye.

Time to get back to work.

The Second Sex

Finished writing my second term paper in the classics course, where we were supposed to present and discuss some classical texts, any way we wanted. Now of course I chose classics that I found interesting and fruitful for my own research field; from social construction, to gender, to ads to the male gaze and so on. Connecting these all together, finding the red thread, the causes and effects, has been thrilling but also very depressing..

One of my favourite classics that I had the pleasure of diving into again is hands down Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Even though it was written almost 70 years ago, her examination of women and their (our) development and placement in society still holds. Dissecting and explaining the relationship between subject and object, providing both accurate and interesting examples covering both factual occurrences and myths, she put forward an incredible piece of work that should never be forgotten.

“Any myth implies a Subject who projects its hopes and fears of a transcendent heaven. Not positing themselves as Subject, women have not created the virile myth that would reflect their projects; they have neither religion nor poetry that belongs to them alone: they still dream through men’s dreams. They worship the gods made by males.”

How incredibly depressing this is to read, yet how important it is to understand the enormous impact of it. Just letting it sink in, and getting the picture of the vast amounts of ramifications this has had over the way women have been and are still struggling to get a shared 1st place position alongside men. You start to wonder, will we ever get there?

I very much believe in the social construction of reality and things, however when discussing constructions, more often than not you hear that “people” have constructed this and that, but let’s be honest for a moment; not all people have always had the same amount of power to construct all the pieces of the puzzle we call society.

“The representation of the world as the world itself is the work of men; they describe it from a point of view that is their own and that they confound with the absolute truth.”

Now, I am not saying that women have just stood idly by while men did whatever they pleased. At least, I hope it was not like that, but who knows really? There is no one that can for sure say how the first society was built; sure we can speculate, but we cannot know since we were not there. Either way, somewhere along the line, it was decided that men were the norm, they were the people, and women, well, we came in second place for some reason. Perhaps it had to do with just biological factors? Or perhaps it had to do with religion? Ah..religion. Let’s talk some more about that, shall we?

First of all, no offence to all of you who might believe in some “god” or other, but as far as I see it, religion (perhaps not all but major ones, plus sects and so on, organized religion with crazy fanatics) has been the cause of several problems we are dealing with today. Sure, religions might have started out innocently, people just wanting something bigger to believe in than just themselves, however, as so many other things that people get their hands on, religion has evolved and throughout history been used time and time again to kill, slaughter, rape, enslave and just fuck up everything for people who do not share the same fantasies and worship the same “god/s” (ah, the old sky-cake conundrum, Patton Oswalt does it best). Now, I am not going to bash religions that I am not that familiar with because that would be rather ignorant of me, but the one that I “had” when I was born and know most about is Christianity (I have since long left it all behind me). I would argue that the bible and the fantastical stories (yes, stories, not facts) they talk about in there have really made things more difficult for women than they had to be. Starting with the “creation”: Adam, a man, of course, being created after “god’s” own image, i.e. “God” is a man. Of course. And then, since he, Adam, was feeling lonely and miserable, Eve, a woman, of course, was created to provide him some company. However, being a woman and all, she could not also be created from “god”, but had to come from one of Adam’s ribs. Well.. that’s just lovely isn’t it?! What I don’t understand is that if Eve was created from Adam, then why the hell did she get the uterus and the ability to actually give birth to others? Wouldn’t it have been more logical to give Adam that “gift”? And let’s not forget Virgin Mary, who did not even get to have sex in order to have a baby, well that’s just great, cheers. she probably really appreciated it. Cause lord knows women are not supposed to have sex willy-nilly, unless they want to be whores, cause those are the choices men have provided for them: Virgin or Whore. Take your pick ladies!

Ugh.

Christianity has in my opinion, had a huge impact in setting the norms, dividing women and men and making sure everyone knew, they were not equals under the laws of “god”. That is one of my main reasons for detesting religion, because it was created by certain types of people, in this case men (God, Adam, Jesus, the apostles etc etc all men), who of course wrote and set the standards and norms that they preferred. If it had instead been clear from the beginning that women and men were equal, then we might not have been where we are today, who knows..

Perhaps I am rambling a bit but I will make my final point now. The point being, that this society, the one in which I am writing this, started off on the wrong damn foot. And once you start something wrong, it can be very difficult to undo it. The thing is, that since we started off having men as the norm, they have thus always been the norm, no questions asked. It wasn’t even an “issue” some hundred years ago, I mean come on, in the early nineteenth century, the word ovary didn’t even exist, because they never thought about naming it since women were just seen as men who were “defected”, men turned outside in. Think about that for a minute.

Now think about this: What if we had started off in the opposite end? What if women had been the norm from the very beginning? What if men were seen as merely women, turned inside out?

The world would look very different indeed.