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Barbie Commercials Across the Decades and the Implications on Female Identity and Objectification

20 Apr

In the past weeks, the Law and Mind Sciences blogposts have included observations about media influences and gender, including  Misogyny in MusicMindfulness and Identity in the context of yogurt advertisements, and the conformity in appearances at HLS job interviews.   As these posts described, pop culture,  advertisements, and cultural norms all have the power to influence  perceptions of gender. No where does this media influence appear to have a wider or longer lasting impact than Barbie. From the first Barbie television advertisement ever (portrayed in the above video) to the introduction of Ken, to current television advertising, Barbie has maintained a prominent presence as a commercial phenomenon, a fashion icon, and source of gender socialization.

The focus of investigations and attitudes towards Barbie differ, but all seem to recognize that the Barbie is not just a doll, but a cultural phenomenon. Since Barbie first arrived at the World Toy Fair in 1959, wearing a Zebra bikini and stilettos, over a billion Barbies have been produced in 150 countries.  According to Mattel on Barbie’s 50th Anniversary in 2009, 90%  of U.S. girls ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie doll. In a Newsweek article commenting on this anniversary, Eliza Grey described Barbie as “the original bimbo, a relic of postwar paternalism that teaches its young to worship at the altar of blond hair, peach skin and formidable cleavage atop a waistline the size of a pinkie ring.”

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You Are Not So Smart

19 Apr

This great post by Rachel the week before last reminded me of an excellent blog I came across recently and thought meshed really well with the themes we address here. Over at You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion, a self-described “journalist who loves psychology, technology and the internet” is summing up all manner of ways that our own brain doesn’t work the way we like to think it does.

For instance, in a recent post called The Sunk Cost Fallacy, the author gives a great explanation for something I’ve always wondered: what exactly is the appeal of Facebook games like FarmVille? He explains how humans experience loss more acutely than gain, so when we’ve invested time or money in something, we are extremely reluctant to abandon it even after we’ve quit having fun, earning profits, or whatever else led us to the activity in the first place. We routinely throw good money in after bad, as the saying goes.

After the jump: my thoughts on the legal implications of this and other You Are Not So Smart topics. Continue reading

Ke$ha’s Critique of Misogyny in Music

16 Apr

Let me begin by saying that I am really, really excited to be posting about Ke$ha.  But before I get to her, some preliminaries are in order.  I don’t think it is too controversial for me to say that rap music is, and has been, very misogynistic.  From “Bitches Ain’t Shit” on Dr. Dre’s 1992 classic album The Chronic to “Area Codes” by Ludacris and the late Nate Dogg (“I got hoes in different area codes”) to just about every Eminem song (e.g. “I’ll put Anthrax on a Tampax and slap you till you can’t stand”), rap music is a genre rife with objectification of women.

Two recent songs have stuck out in particular for me.  The first, again by Eminem, is “Love The Way You Lie.”  The song, which features Rihanna (herself a recent victim of domestic violence), maintains a mainly positive message, with Eminem acknowledging and apologizing for a past emotionally and physically abusive relationship.  All is well until the last couplet: “If she ever tries to —-ing leave again, I’m gonna tie her to the bed and set the house on fire.”

The other song is “Runaway” by Kanye West, a song which (although it’s admittedly quite early) will probably garner a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.  Again the song appears to have somewhat of a positive message, with Kanye acknowledging his flaws and past transgressions (“You’ve been putting up with my sh– for way too long…run away from me”).  However, the second verse of the song, by guest Pusha T, returns to misogyny and objectification.  To paraphrase (and clean up), the verse basically says: “I admit that I cheated on you, but I know you won’t leave because all the things I buy you will make you forget about it.  Women just want us to buy stuff for them, but they should know that every bag, blouse, and bracelet we buy for them comes with a price tag; namely, infidelity and general lack of respect.”

My first concern, which I hope to address in my upcoming interview with Diane Rosenfeld, is the effect these lyrics (along with TV and film portrayals) have on shaping social conceptions of gender roles and domestic violence.

My second concern, and more Ke$ha, after the jump!

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