The Feminist Progress Report: “Whiteface,” Pizza, and Eggs. Oh, My!
Marinda Valenti | On 14, Sep 2013
Welcome to the weekly Feminist Progress Report, where Feminspire brings you delights and disappointments from recent news! What do we have for you this week?
Disappointments. Lots and lots of disappointments.
X - In awkward attempt to garner attention (or something), Tyra Banks released some controversial images from an upcoming exhibition in which she presents herself as her fellow “colleagues, competitors, and friends” in the industry, the majority of whom are—unsurprisingly—white. In emulating models with lighter skin, Tyra lightened her own to more convincingly portray fellow fashion icons Cara Delevigne, Kate Moss, and Cindy Crawford. The Internet’s response, of course, was to equate Tyra’s photos to blackface—in its entirety.
While Tyra’s project is admittedly rather strange and there are undoubtedly many ways to critique it, accusing her of doing “whiteface” is not only absurd, it doesn’t actually mean anything—because whiteface isn’t a thing. There is no history of dehumanization attached to images of non-white folks paling their faces. Tyra’s photos don’t and can’t reinforce a racial hierarchy in which non-white skin puts you at the top of the pyramid. But Tyra’s mostly white recreation of big names in the modeling industry does indicate a major problem about race in society: We are still perpetuating disproportionately western European ideals of beauty. And that is troubling.
X - Also troubling: treating breasts as currency. In the spirit of Mardis Gras half a year too late, Drew’s Pizza in Champaign, Illinois, decided it was an excellent marketing strategy to offer free pizza to women who exposed themselves to its skeezy employees and any customers who happen to be in there at the time.
What’s worse is that many if not all of the women who participated in this creepy deal were drunk—like, really drunk. As a commenter on Smile Politely reported, “I don’t know if you have ever been on Green St. at 2 in the morning, but there are people that cannot stand up straight, much less make the sound decision to lift up their shirt or not.” Manipulating intoxicated women for kicks? Drew’s Pizza doesn’t care—”It makes the crowd happy.” The pervy pizza place has since removed its social media presence and is hopefully feeling some semblance of remorse, but the fact that this happened a totally gross reminder that women aren’t safe from objectification anywhere, not even from subpar restaurants.
X – And while some places like Drew’s encourage women to be sex objects, where would society be without those who condemn women that follow suit? In this case, the woman is actually a seventh grade girl, which makes the shame she has been subjected to more concerning. For twerking [another issue entirely] at a school dance, 11-year-old Jamie from Bakersfield, California, was publicly punished at a busy intersection as a form of corrective discipline. Jamie’s mother made her hold up a sign to passing strangers that read, “I was disrespecting my parents by twerking at a school dance.”
While it isn’t difficult to sympathize with the shock of a parent who first discovers their child is behaving sexually, it is a challenge to rationalize public ostracization of a child instead of opting for a one-on-one conversation about the matter. Girls are surrounded by images that tell them to perform a very specific kind of sexuality, and shaming them for listening to these messages doesn’t inform them about what makes Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance problematic (Miley doesn’t even know the answer to that one), nor does it empower them to discover their personal sexuality in a healthy way that makes sense to them. All it does is make sex into something that is guilt-ridden and confusing in a world that already sends them mixed signals when it comes to their own bodies.
X – Meanwhile, in Norway, the gender binary is being reaffirmed with what is perhaps the most unlikely method: eggs. The Scandinavian country’s leading name in dairy products, Prior, just released its latest line of blatantly gendered eggs—pink princess cartons for girls, and blue pirate cartons for boys. Prior tried to defend this rather bizarre branding move by explaining it as an attempt to get children to eat more eggs, however, I’m not exactly clear about how a child’s gender informs their diet … Thumbs way down for gendering food, Norway.
X – Finally, if there’s one thing the media loves to tell us about women with mental illness it’s not to take their very real conditions all that seriously. From treating Amanda Bynes’s onset of schizophrenia as a circus show to glamorizing women writers that killed themselves, there’s an unmistakable trend of downplaying women who suffer from mental health problems. Thanks to NBC’s new comedy “Harmony House,” we’ll soon have a television show that turns female mental illness into a romantic manic pixie dream-trait.
The half-hour show will follow a young, inevitably male psychiatrist who falls in love with a patient in the psychiatric facility—because what’s more romantic than using mentally ill women as quirky plot devices to inflate a man’s sense of personal fulfillment? As Deadline writes, the show is “a romantic comedy that reminds us that love can drive you a little crazy.” Barf.
This week’s rating: 0/5. And that’s the whole ball game, folks. At least J.K. Rowling announced she’ll be writing a screenplay for a new film set in the Harry Potter universe! Quick, post something inspirational in the comments below!
Written by Marinda Valenti
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