Category Archives: Gender Issues

Society’s Celebrity Bloodlust Complex and Britney Spears: Part 2

In Part one I compared society’s fascination with Britney Spears to the new movie Untraceable where people visit a website to accelerate the murder of a prone victim. Now that she’s out of the psych ward, there seems to be a new level of intimacy between Britney and the “journalists” out to get the best shots of her. It’s almost as if whatever pretense there had recently been about not literally swarming and stalking her has evaporated.

These two stills from CNN video are courtesy of a media helicopter that followed her car away from the hospital. It was stopped at least twice on the road for the swarmings.

It’s hard to imagine how much of this a person can take. If she “snaps” we would get to say, “yeah, that figures” but how much of a chance does this woman have to be able to regain mental health.

It reminds me of a tunnel in Paris in the late 1990s, except this time it’s not taking place in one evening of speeding drivers, but stretched out slow motion over weeks and months, almost as if someone is storyboarding it for maximum extraction of images during her whole descent into madness.

On one level she has merely drifted from one entertainment sector to another: pop music to tabloid spectacle. Once a Disney prop, she’s now a media character. I wonder if she’s ever had much time to be a self-contained individual.

Society’s Celebrity Bloodlust Complex and Britney Spears


Last Saturday, I sadly missed a special presentation of something called “The Fall of Britney Spears” or something like that on E! Channel, a sad commentary on our society that used to be Vancouver Island’s TV station.

I don’t like Britney Spears’ music or PR thing very much at all, but we are both parents of two children so suddenly I have a good degree of empathy for her. I’ve also always been rather concerned about celebrity microscope effect, long before the death of Princess Diana.

But this show on E! Channel was about reviewing recent events detailing Britney’s “fall.”

Though I missed the show, I thought about it every time I saw the trailer for the film Untraceable. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it seems that one of the plot elements of the movie is that some killer fellow has set up some sort of murder machine that will kill someone at some point, a point which accelerates closer when a greater number of people visit some website. So people’s participation in the spectacle makes them complicit in a murder.

You can even try out http://www.killwithme.com and take part in the movie/murder/complicity spectacle on your own in an ironic, self-reflexive nod to the plot device.

It seems to me that everyone who watched that Britney Spears show on E! Channel last week [and every other act of celebrity obsession] is complicit in the struggles she is now enduring. And while we can callously wipe it all away by saying she voluntarily chose to become a celebrity, that is insufficient to excuse what truly appears to be a celebrity bloodlust complex. We like to build up people to be larger than life, but at the same time we are always looking for excuses to bring them back down to earth to make sure they aren’t better than us.

I expect sociologists have much more to say on this, and those who have seen Untraceable will be able to confirm how much this observer complicity is significant in the movie, but in the end, the movie may be a strong metaphor for our role in Britney Spears’ tribulations.

Gay pride versus the mayor of Truro…by Daniel Peters

As a change of pace from the usual west coast madness on this blog, I present a bit of madness from the east coast.

This weekend’s Gay Pride parades and other activities in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County have been in the news for the last week. It seems that the city council of Truro decided not to fly the Pride flag.

That decision, in and of itself, would not have drawn a comment from me. I don’t know what the precedents are. I don’t know what it means for a city hall to fly, or not to fly, a flag. Must they fly a flag for every little event that happens in their city? Nah, not worth commenting on.

Except for one thing: the way the mayor explained the decision.

It boils down to this. Truro mayor Bob Mills is a conservative, traditional Christian. According to him, it’s simply not OK to be gay, and that’s that. He won’t pick on gays in any illegal way, but neither will he do anything that expresses approval of their lifestyle.

Predictably, there has been a lot of noise (on both sides) in our local (Halifax) paper. Here’s my contribution (just now emailed):

– – – –

To the editor:

How curious that Truro mayor Bob Mills has raised the spectre of a slippery slope from the acceptance of homosexuality to the acceptance of pedophilia. I wonder on what basis he worries about such a thing as pedophilia, since the Bible has nothing to say about it. For that matter, the Bible never condemns rape, or even recognizes a distinction between rape and seduction. The fact that we are all horrified by pedophilia (and by rape) is a legacy of the very same modern, secular, humanist moral trend that has brought about our society’s greater acceptance of homosexuality. It is modern humanist morality, not Biblical morality, that emphasizes the importance of consent, and of the power balance that makes consent meaningful. The more secular and less Biblical our public morality becomes, the safer my children will be.

Daniel Peters

The Risks of Hiring Women Instead of Men

Hiring women is risky, so it goes.

Generally, they aren’t as reliable as men. They get pregnant and suck your benefits plan dry, then you need to train someone to fill in for them for 12 months, then displace that worker.

Then when their kids get sick they often take days off claiming to be sick themselves. The liars.

And anyway, women should stay home and raise children. They’re biologically oriented that way. And the prime minister even gives them $100 [taxable] each month per child to cover the loss of income of uppity women working.

And by the way, men should make more money than women because of the large head-of-household family responsibilities they shoulder.

So I was happy to hear that women do not actually leave their work so much more than men [like all those “irresponsible” women mentioned above]: Women no more likely to quit jobs than men since the early 1990s, study finds [see below].

Women no more likely to quit jobs than men since the early 1990s, study finds

Fri Feb 23, 9:58 AM

OTTAWA (CP) – A new study says women have been no more likely to quit their jobs than men since the early 1990s, putting the lie to a common excuse for gender wage gaps.

Female workers have long been considered more likely than men to quit their jobs, to be absent or to take more days off for family reasons – a gender difference that some have used to explain the fact men are paid more on average than women.

But a new study by Statistics Canada documenting gender differences in quitting and absenteeism shows that differences between the sexes have been shrinking since 1994 to the point where they now are virtually non-existent.

The study found, for example, that 5.5 per cent of men quit their jobs in 1984, compared with seven per cent of women but, by 1994, the rate for women was 5.6 per cent, almost identical to the rate of 5.5 per cent for men; in 2002, the rates were 7.7 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively.

The study found that 4.2 per cent of Canadian women took temporary leaves due to pregnancy and maternity in 2002.

It found, on average, men took two days of paid sick absence, while women took about four days of paid sick absence per year, though there were no gender differences in most other paid and unpaid absences.

Women: Staying Unequal to Preserve Marital Peace…by Jen Keefe

This is in response to Lidia Lovric who writes for the province. The article
I’m responding to [see below] showed up in today’s paper.

Having read Lidia Lovric’s previous neo-conservative anti-feminist articles,
it is clear that the implication of her most recent article, “A woman
president is OK, but is the White House Ready for a ‘First-Man’?” is that
women should sacrifice their success for the sake of preserving peace in the
household. Because our society allegedly raises men to be insecure, selfish
and unable to be supportive of strong and successful women, women should
continue to occupy subservient roles so as to not threaten their men. Like
most of Lovric’s articles, this is disempowering to women and discourages
women from seeking success outside the home ‘for the sake of the family’ and
societal relations as a whole. The implication of Lovric’s article should be
that our society needs to do a better job of celebrating women’s successes
and chastizing men for being uncomfortable with it.

Furthermore, Lovric’s husband’s responses to her prodding about what his
level of comfort would be with her earning more money should be an
indication that he views her position in the home as being less threatening
likely because he views it as less significant than his contributions;
Otherwise, he wouldn’t be threatened. This is supported by his remark that
if she earned more than him he could stay at home, implying that staying at
home is easier than working for a wage. Unfortunately, the reason men are so
supportive of women staying at home is because they do not perceive their
role as being as important as men’s in the workforce, and thus this is why
it does not threaten them.

============

A woman president is OK, but is the White House ready for a ‘First Man’?

Lydia Lovric

Friday, February 02, 2007

When Laura Bush concludes her term as First Lady, it’s quite possible that the White House will experience a little role reversal.

With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announcing her bid for the 2008 presidency, husband Bill is being touted as America’s first probable “First Man.”

“I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do,” said the ex-president in a recent New York Post article. “I am very proud of my wife. So is her daughter. I wish her well.”

Although the former president appears to be supportive of his wife’s presidential bid, one must wonder how Bill would truly feel if Hillary becomes the most powerful person in the world.

While most couples can’t really relate to life in the White House, more and more husbands are finding themselves married to highly successful women with greater income levels or loftier titles. But is it a blow to the male ego?

Political correctness dictates that men today should graciously celebrate the achievements of their partner. Yet, I believe most men still like to wear the pants in the family.

When I questioned my husband about how he would feel if I earned more money than him, he hesitantly asked, “How much more?”

“Double,” I replied.

At first, he said it wouldn’t be a problem, and joked about whether he would be able to stay home. When prodded further, he admitted that, yes, it likely would bother him a little. I suspect most men feel this way.

This is not to say that men would not be proud of or happy about a wife’s success, only that, if their own achievements failed to measure up, some would feel like “less of a man.”

Relationships where the female earns considerably more money are likely fraught with problems, whether the couple admits it or not.

Consider the following hugely successful women: Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Kim Campbell. All have had tremendous careers. Their success on the homefront, however, has been less than stellar.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly contributed to the breakdown of their personal relationships. But bruised egos are plausible culprits.

One exception: Women who earn their wealth and fame through modelling, acting or singing. I think it’s easier for a husband to deal with this success, because the rest of the world regards such stars as being grossly overpaid and incredibly lucky.

A woman who has conquered the corporate world, broken down barriers in politics or contributed greatly to science or medicine is far more intimidating.

To be sure, there are a handful of men able to live happily in the shadow of their formidable wives. But I believe they’re in the minority.

Most men today still expect to be the breadwinner.

They’re OK with the missus earning some dough as well. But when she brings home a giant baguette and he brings crumbs, well, it’s bound to create a bit of tension.

Lydia Lovric can be reached through her website: www. lydialovric.com

© The Vancouver Province 2007

Your Ignorance and Lack of Empathy

To Mindelle Jacobs:

Your lack of empathy for structural abuse and discrimination against women is only superseded by your ignorance of the realities of the plight of millions of women in Canada.

Despite many reality-challenged “facts” you seem to believe, the fact that you believe Canada to be a nation that has moved beyond racism and colonialism means your qualifications to comment on Canadian society are completely lacking. I am ashamed of your ability to spout such ignorance in Canadian media.

http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Columnists/Jacobs_Mindelle/2006/09/24/1888704.html

Despair over cuts to women’s groups

By Mindelle Jacobs

The way critics are wailing over possible cuts to women’s programs, you’d think the Harper government was preparing to force females into burkas.

One group, the National Association of Women and the Law, closed down earlier this month because it didn’t get federal funding.

The little-known Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action thought it was going to have to close last week. But its grant application was approved on Thursday, it announced on its website.

So much for those women-bashing Tories, eh?

Still, the movers and shakers in the women’s movement are waiting with baited breath to see if Status of Women Canada, a federal agency that bankrolls women’s groups and promotes gender equality, is on the chopping block.

If it gets the boot, will the rights of Canadian women be in danger? Will their life choices be curtailed? Hardly. Women in this country are better off than ever before.

This endless quest for gender equality is quite tiresome at a time when virtually all the significant barriers to women’s accomplishment have been smashed.

In my mind, the one major remaining roadblock in the path to women’s equality is the lack of a national day-care program. But, given the Tories’ unwavering opposition to such an initiative, that is a battle for another day.

That issue aside, the left-wing crowd is working itself into fits of despair at the thought of cutbacks to women’s organizations.

“This government clearly has no interest in the status of women,” bleated NDP MP Irene Mathyssen on Wednesday.

That’s right. The Harper government will be banning girls from school, prohibiting birth control and ordering up burkas any day now.

Get a grip. Yes, some women are having a hard time of it. And women’s groups are quick to blame systemic societal barriers. Nonsense. Bad choices lead to miserable lives.

If a woman studies hard and goes to law school, she will have far more financial autonomy than most men. Her decision to challenge herself is the key.

A woman who gets pregnant, drops out of school and hangs out with losers has less opportunity in life. But that’s not society’s fault.

One of Status of Women Canada’s main goals is improving women’s economic autonomy. But do we need a federal agency to tell women to stay in school and make wise career choices?

The agency also puts out mind-numbing reports, like the recent one on gender equality.

The paper harps about the ongoing pay gap between men and women, without pointing out that men tend to choose higher-paying jobs because they’re socialized to be the breadwinners.

It’s disingenuous to complain that women working full time only earn about 70 cents for every dollar men make if you’ve deliberately chosen to work as, say, a low-paid restaurant hostess.

Status of Women Canada also supports the loony idea of placing “gender specialists” in federal departments to measure the impact of proposed policies on the equality of women.

I’d say that’s not the best use of our tax dollars.

Before it lost its funding, the National Association of Women and the Law worked “to end racism and colonialism.” Yeah, there’s a lot of that happening in Canada.

Poverty, violence and discrimination “which still affect all too many women” require specific legislative measures, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action wrote Bev Oda, the minister responsible for the status of women, recently.

The open letter was signed by 31 women’s groups that supposedly represent Canadian women. But 22 of the organizations are from Quebec.

If we really want to help marginalized women, let’s put money into concrete initiatives like Head Start programs, affordable housing and retraining grants. Enough of the gender-equality navel-gazing.

– mjacobs@edmsun.com

E-mail Mindy Jacobs at mjacobs@edmsun.com.
Letters to the editor should be sent to mailbag@edmsun.com.

Real Soap, “Real” Beauty, “Real” Feminism?

Dove soap’s Campaign for Real Beauty is very interesting to me. I’ve seen the billboards and I appreciate their attempt to legitimize beauty beyond what we’re brainwashed with in Maxim, Playboy, Baywatch and the like.

But I’m not so sure about Dove. I’m not so sure that even if their soap products, etc. are stupendous that I respect them co-opting a legitimate debate for corporate ends. True, they may be spurring some to expand their sense of beauty, but underlying Maxim, Playboy, Baywatch and Dove is the consumerist necessity of defining for us what we want so we can buy it from one company, as opposed to the other.

So cynically–or perhaps realistically–Dove is merely engaging us in clever market segmentation: they are the soap for people who don’t wish to recognize any legitimacy in stereotyped constructions of beauty. How post-modern of them.

Then there’s the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, that helps “girls all over the world to overcome everyday beauty pressures.” Right. Again, Dove may be god’s gift to women’s dermatological health, but do we really want Dove being in charge of this dialogue? They sure want to be in charge of it. Great viral PR [we’re encouraged to invite friends to the website]. In fact, instead of them actually having to advertise to you about how great they are in funding socially-conscious projects, we end up seeking that information from them. It’ll stick to us better that way because we want to know about them. The cosmetics and health products industries are prime culprits in destroying women’s self-esteem. How ironic–or socially healing?–of Dove to try to rectify this. Either way, they will probably sell more soap.

Happily for Dove, 2 of the 5 items listed as success stories for the Self-Esteem Fund are photo exhibitions they created themselves.

It may be terrible to rub this in, but Dove is even doing market research on us as we navigate their site. In providing information about their motives [thoroughly altruistic sounding, of course–remember, they’re on our side!], they ration the information so that we need to click to further screens for elaboration. They end up with a good sense of just how much each of us is interested in various depths of information. This information about us can be combined with a log of all pages we visit on their site [including the time we spend between clicking through pages] to give them a pretty wonderful sense of how much we care to know. Heck, even I track my access logs to examine reading/clicking habits on my site [anonymously, though, because I collect nothing about yall but IP numbers]; I’ve got to believe Dove does it too. Worse still, if we actually log in and supply demographic data when we create our profile on the site [assuming a certain percentage of those signing up are not lying], they get an even broader sense of us, despite their claim that they only collect navigation data anonymously and in the aggregate. And what is our benefit from all this? Better soap? Better self-esteem through Dove products?

Even more cynically, perhaps, how many of the people taking part in the definition of beauty discussions on that site are Dove lackeys spinning conversation in defined PR areas? If I were running this campaign, I wouldn’t leave the discussion board completely at the mercy of regular normal people without having my branding agents subtly making it all worthwhile.

So then I dug through my hard drive to find the August 1992 update of the soc.feminism faq that defines various flavours of feminism to see which ones would support Dove’s campaign and which ones would condemn it. The updated faq of Different Flavours of Feminism is more useful.

Applying each flavour to Dove’s campaign will require great thought: more than I can accomplish without a few more days/weeks of mental meandering. [Maybe in the meantime I’ll write something in here about the disaster of w.Caesar’s election. Or not]

For now, until you follow the link to the full faq with descriptions of the flavours, here they are, listed:

Amazon Feminism

Anarcho-Feminism

Cultural Feminism

Erotic Feminism

Eco-Feminism

Feminazi

Feminism and Women of Color

Individualist, or Libertarian Feminism

Lesbianism

Liberal Feminism

Marxist and Socialist Feminism

Material Feminism

Moderate Feminism

‘pop-feminism’

Radical Feminism

Separatists

Men’s Movements:

Feminist Men’s Movement

Men’s Liberation Movement

Mythopoetic Men’s Movement

The New Traditionalists

The Father’s Movements

Finis