GEND 2166 Media

Scroll down for more webnotes for Women, Media and Representation



Among other things, the sketch is commenting on the well-documented phenomenon of casting older men with much younger women as their love interest:

Maggie Gyllenhall age 37 was told that she was too old to play the lover of a 55 year old man:

Olivia Wilde also too old:


Remember when she sells “MILF weed”?


A recent example that I can think of is how Carrie Fisher’s appearance was discussed in relation to the new Star Wars. What were some of the comments about her appearance?

The same intense scrutiny was not directed toward Harrison Ford or Mark Hamill. This double standard was so apparent that it became a news story unto itself:

Aging “well” means not showing any visible signs of aging:


Examples: Cher at Burlesque premiere in 2010. Described as looking “glamorous and beautiful” until close-ups revealed “face tape” and she was immediately vilified for trying to cling to her youth.

Then she was photographed outside her hotel a few days later looking closer to her age, 63, and she was roundly criticized for looking “old.”

Coverage of said “incident:”

Example: L’il Kim. Some of the gossip writing about her frames her surgeries as excessive, in keeping with Fairclough’s argument.

“Over the past decade, Lil’ Kim has seemingly gotten so much work done to her face that she’s completely unrecognizable now. From an apparent nose job to a possible face lift, the 41-year-old needs to slow down!”


TMZ said simply and in all caps: “CHECK OUT LIL KIM”S FACE!”


Returning to RHONY, Lee and Moscowitz observe, “when it comes to casting wealthy out-of-touch villains, female socialites are hard to beat” (144). The authors point out that these women fit the trope of the “rich bitch.”

Can you think of any other examples?

RHONY (2012):

I urge you to be critical of this and any use of the phrase “white trash.” It’s not the white part that is the issue, for me, but what does this phrase say about class? What kinds of beliefs does it implicitly confirm?

On class and cultural capital:


“Money Can’t Buy You Class:”

This video begs the question—is this ironic?


Outrageous examples: Tom Ford print ads; Drake’s “Best I ever had”

A more subtle example: Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Screening: Whale Rider (2002), 1h 41 minutes, PN1997.W444 2002







Social Justice:

Fair and Lovely:


In light of the Fair and Lovely ads, and the Axe ads, what do you make of this Dove ad?


As Murray writes, “The strategy surrounding Dove with these partnerships may operate to reduce popular attention to Unilever’s other brands; after all, Unilever manufactures Slimfast (a diet plan), Fair & Lovely Fairness Cream (a skin lightening product), and Axe deodorant (whose advertisements, targeted at men, portray objectified women). Unilever’s ownership structure suggests it is a site of fractured ideological credibility that circulates knotty popular meanings of feminism and social change” (292).

Choose Beauty:

Your thoughts?

The Fair and Lovely ads acknowledge shadism (a socially-constructed preference for fairer skin). It’s not good that the “solution” provided is that women should use chemical bleaches on their skin, but it is interesting that the ads acknowledge that such inequalities exist. In contrast, the “Choose Beauty” ads seem to inhabit a world in which women just need to learn to see themselves as beautiful.

Both the Dove ads and the Fair and Lovely ads ask women to change themselves.

Dove Legacy:

Women are the cause and solution of body image issues?


“Choose” not to be critical of your appearance.

Your thoughts?

The campaign increasingly asks for individual change without social change.


Murray asserts that: “The three close-up photos represent women from each wave. Their images are accompanied by ballot boxes next to descriptive labels, posed as questions: “wrinkled? wonderful?” (First Wave), “gray? gorgeous?” (Second Wave) and “flawed? flawless?” (Third Wave). The dark-skinned ninety-ish woman wearing a colorful headscarf smiles, with the text beside her asking, “Will society ever accept old can be beautiful?” This query signifies the difficulties involved in changing societal views regarding the role of women (First Wave).

The smiling fifty-ish Caucasian woman wears a black turtleneck and, looking over her shoulder at the audience, the text beside her raises the only question of those in this set that invites discussion, rather than a yes/no response: “Why aren’t women glad to be gray?” This question signifies the consciousness-raising ideology of dialogue relevant to her era (Second Wave).

The text beside the twenty-ish, red-haired Caucasian woman, wearing a white tank top, poses a question that seemingly derives from her freckled appearance, “Does beauty mean looking like everyone else?” This inquiry signifies the ideology of difference in her wave (Third Wave).

Murray argues, “The copy emphasizes Dove as the organizer, catalyst, and vehicle for change: “it’s time to change all that … it’s why we started the campaign for real beauty” (289).

She says that “the ‘real’ women … represent the liberation of women … and the corporation [is positioned] as the [vehicle or] site for the elimination of women’s oppression” (90-91)

Part of feminism has been to create media images that challenge gender stereotypes and norms. The Dove video “True Colours” mirrors this strategy:

The Evolution video also uses feminist strategies as it “exposes the ideology of beauty through its deconstruction of a media text” (93-94). It reveals that the aspirational image is unattainable, even to the model we ostensibly see onscreen:

This early video is asking the media and beauty industries to change. In some sense, this video comes closest to making a feminist rather than postfeminist statement. Thoughts?

In many ways, Farvid and Braun are outlining updated versions of fairly old ideas.

There is a revealing moment in Friends with Benefits after both protagonists resolve to give up on romantic love after getting their hearts broken. Dylan (the guy) says that he’s going to “just work and fuck. Like George Clooney.” This cuts to Jamie (the girl) saying that she will “shut down emotionally… Like George Clooney.” How could these scripted lines be said to reflect gendered sexualities?

Example: “post-baby body”


A secondary point that Gill makes about this emphasis on women’s bodies is that “surveillance of women’s bodies constitutes perhaps the largest type of media content across all genres and media forms. Women’s bodies are evaluated, scrutinized and dissected by women as well as men, and are always at risk of ‘failing’” (37).

Can you think of any other examples of this kind of media where women’s bodies are surveilled, evaluated and scrutinized?

Example: Jemima Kirke

Gill also says that women’s bodies are “constructed as a window to the individual’s interior life” (138), where “a sleek, toned, controlled figure is normatively essential for portraying success” (138), while a weight gain is sometimes presented by the media as an indication of an emotional breakdown.


Gill says that there are increasing demands on women to be sexual subjects in ways that are:

“Instead of passive, ‘dumb’ or unintelligent sex objects, these women are shown as active, beautiful, smart, powerful sexual subjects” (This is a quote from a different Gill article, p. 52).

Example: Diesel ads

Example: “Only” video by Nicki Minaj

How might this video be seen as empowering to women?

What (troubling) role does violence against men play in this depiction of women’s “empowerment”? 

How might this video be seen as sexist in its representation of women?

Gill writes, “If this is empowerment, we might ask, then what does sexism look like?” (again, different Gill article, p. 55).

Example: American Apparel ads – logic – these women chose this therefore is not sexism


Essentializing sexual difference:

Extreme example:

She writes, “in postfeminist media culture irony has become a way of ‘having it both ways,’ of expressing sexist, homophobic or otherwise unpalatable sentiments in an ironized form, while claiming this is not actually ‘meant’” (144).

Example: Drake (2009) video by Kanye West


What might “women’s magazines” have been like prior to Cosmo?

Who is the target reader of Cosmo in 1965?

What does that mean—the growing gap between girlhood and marriage?

What does Playboy encourage men to do with the money that they make?

Social change or individual change:

Another women’s magazine named Ms emerged in 1972 and that magazine was pitched at women with university educations who were trying to break in to male-dominated workforces. How is this already different than Cosmo readers?

Cultural appropriation…

Oullette says that Brown is clearly class conscious. She knows that her reader is working class. She knows that being working class will hold her reader back. She also understands that the symbolic side of class can be adopted and performed by anyone. She understood that in that sense class is flexible.


Cosmo sidebar:

Alessia Cara’s “Here” in comparison to other current pop hits by women artists: