Girl Power? [Girls & Game Ads, Part 3]

Ads from
Girl Power: Liberating or Objectifying?

Way back when I did the first instalment of this series, I quoted a description of a GameStop commercial that an employee had seen while working in the shop. The long and the short was that it was an ad for trade-ins featuring guys getting hit by women (representing video games) while on their way to trade them in for women who packed a bigger punch. The employee describes the women as “scantily clad” and, thinking of most video game heroines, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.

These women clearly fit into the idea of “girl power” that’s been floating around the entertainment industry for the past 10+ years. They are valued for their “strength,” as evidenced by how hard they can punch their player being proportional to how valued they are (he trades them in for women who can hit harder). They are women who can, and do kick ass. But, is this “power” that of a true kind or is the phenomenon of women kicking ass a way to co-opt female power and bring it back firmly under men’s control? Continue reading

The best drug you'll never take

Instead of finishing my rant on another one of those stupid “gifts for her” list, writing on gender in Indigo Prophecy, or finishing the essay I want to submit to She’s Such a Geek, I’ve been hit with the creative writing bug. I don’t question this, and neither should you. Plus, Buffy will be happy that I finally finished this round of editing on CoS.

But this isn’t about me and my laziness, this is about the new miracle drug, Panexa:


Pregnant women, or women who plan to become pregnant, should avoid taking PANEXAor handling broken tablets. Or intact tablets. Women considering some day becoming pregnant, who have ever been pregnant, who have had a pregnant friend or pet, or who have seen other pregnant women, naked or otherwise, should also follow these precautions:Do not handle PANEXA tablets, containers, or related literature. If a PANEXA product nears your field of vision, avert your eyes. Try not to say the word “PANEXA.” If you do happen to pronounce the syllables, spit thrice and soak your hands in iodine. If you hear the words spoken, live or via recorded medium, cover your ears and immediately see a specialist to try and staunch the bleeding. Try not to think too hard about PANEXA. In fact, don’t ever even think about it at all. Pretend you never heard of PANEXA, and never will. Drop this magazine immediately, and get the hell out of here as fast as you fucking can. Go on, get out of here. You’ll thank me.

If you should be aware of a pregnant woman who has handled PANEXA, attempt to warn the peoples of earth of the mind-numbing horror that is about to unfold. Also, drink plenty of liquids.

If that’s not a poignant critique on legal drug culture, I don’t know what is.

Can't a man be "sexy" for once???

An Ad Seen On Pandagon
Democrat Dates! Only Women Are Sexy

Here I was, trying to read Pandagon because I haven’t checked it out in a couple of weeks. I was minding my own business, looking forward to get my dose of snark against sexism, and WHAM. I was assaulted by the above ad.

This, my friends, is one of the reasons I ceased calling myself a Democrat or liberal a long time ago. You’d expect that a supposedly minority-friendly group would be above reducing women to role of “sexy” date for someone. Or, at least, that they’d shy away from a tit shot and/or use a male model. But then you’d expect wrong.

Extreme 3some Gaming!

Alienware Ad from Game Politics
Alienware Ad from Game Politics

So, I was surfing around this hot new feminist gaming blog, New Game Plus, which lead me to a link to Game Politics but before I actually could read any of the content, I was confronted by the above ad.

Two obviously female lips, pressed up against each other, with the male-fantasy threesome buzzword “times two”. Excellent. The 3 in “3D gaming” doesn’t look so innocuous to me, either, given the context and the fact that gaming marketing is still largely aimed at adolescent males who are seen as being slaves to their overwhelming hormones.

This ad truly disugsts me, although it sadly doesn’t surprise me. My mother bought one of Alienware’s gaming PCs, for crying out loud! This shit demeans her, it demeans me, and it demeans women and men everywhere – gamers or not.

Empowerment Through Lipstick?

Cosmetic ad from Feministe
Cosmetic ad from Feministe

Feministe has just reinforced how much I never want ads on my blog. I had the dubious pleasure of seeing this ad on the side of the blog; one of the three from blogads that Feministe runs. Normally I don’t pay attention to them, but this one caught my eye (it’s a moving gif) and I had to say I was angry and disappointed when I read the text.

Can someone tell me how buying into the beauty myth and mandatory makeup culture is empowering in any way, shape, or form? Thanks.

GQ's "Men" of the Year

GQ's Men of the Year Covers
One of the guys?

In my first installment of my Girls & Game Ads series, I commented on a disturbing phenomenon in the portrayal of men versus women:

Another thing evident in this particular line-up is something I’ve noticed as another feature of video game advertising: images of women tend to have the large boobs as a focus (either by showing lots of skin or by having skin-tight costumes), while images of men tend to focus on the face, or show a heavily armoured (or clothed) man. While there are obviously exceptions to this (armoured/small breasted women, scantily-clothed men, etc), I posit that this dichotomy is one that is typical in advertisements for the gaming industry.

Enter GQ and its “Man of the Year” winners. With AOL News’ tagline Aniston Joins the Guys one would expect the cover to show a confident, strong Aniston with a focus on her head/face. But GQ, unfortunately, has chosen to take the same approach to the portrayal of men and women as I described above.

Aniston is the typical female (hero or villain) found in video game ads. Of the three covers, her face is the smallest. Her body shape is the most prominent display – showing clearly that it fits into the “normal” female shape (ie. skinny with round breasts). 50 Cent is the shot that is typical for knights, paladins, and dwarves: the primary focus is on his muscles and outfit, but his face is still large enough to convey distinct individuality. Vaughn shows the typical hero portrayal with the entire focus being on his face.

The reasoning behind these three candidates being chosen given in the AOL article furthers the “masculine” versus “feminine” dichotomy. All emphasis is mine.

Aniston first:

Aniston, 36, earned the 2005 title, Healy says, because she “exhibited a lot of poise, unbelievable amount of grace and good humor this year.”

Okay, now 50 Cent:

That the 30-year-old rapper has the year’s top-selling album, a best-selling autobiography and a new video game is just the start of his appeal. Now, he is crossing over into movies with the just-opened Get Rich or Die Tryin’. “He’s one of those public figures we’re endlessly fascinated by.”

And, finally, Vaughn:

With the summer’s movie hit, Wedding Crashers, Vaughn, 35, nailed the honor. “Once again, he was hilarious, charming and smart.” Editors do recognize that there are more well-known stars, “but there’s not one who better represents who our (readers) think is cool than Vince,” recently photographed enjoying a weekend in Chicago with Aniston.

Aniston is defined by the words “poise”, “grace”, and “good humor”. What kind of image does that call up in your mind, ’cause I know the first thing I thought was that they felt she was some sort of prim princess who takes everything with a smile. I don’t know anything about who Aniston may or may not be, but it seems like an insult for a woman who often plays strong minded, ambitious, and talented women in films to be described solely by words that belong in a decorum class rather than a discussion of the defining admirable talents/traits of a person.

The justification for 50 Cent’s inclusion seemed rather weak to me, but the selling points seemed to be what he had accomplished. He is defined by his “good” works (or what GQ deems is good, I suppose…) – the things he has done actively, and continues to do actively. To call him someone who posesses “poise” or “grace” (and perhaps even “good humor”, depending on context) would be an insult, or at least not be enough to qualfiy him for being a “man” of the year. Yet in Aniston it makes her the paragon of womanly virtue. Or something.

Finally, there’s Vaughn. He gets the highest praise of them all, with the adjectives “hilarious”, “charming”, and (most importantly) “smart”. No one calls Aniston (The Woman) smart, though her insistence to not be defined by the men in her life seem to imply that she is able to think for herself, or 50 Cent (The Black Man), which would be appropriate praise for someone who seems to have some entrepreneurial skills. No, Vaughn has “earned” the honour by playing a jerk who takes advantage of the wrong girl in Wedding Crashers. I could accept his performance being called “hilarious” and “charming” (because a character who’s a sexual predator seems to be the funniest thing ever to so many of the guys I know *sigh*), but smart? Come on. But maybe I’m being too harsh; Vaughn may have actually done something intelligent in his personal life to earn it.

Via feministing.

Complicitly exploiting young women NOW

I was starting to feel bad about dragging my feet in support of NOW (National Organization for Women), but not anymore. Well, I’ll let my letter speak for itself [link added]:

I’m a young feminist who has been aware of NOW for quite some time, but I haven’t made the decision whether to join yet. I was browsing through your catalogue and seriously considering buying a few items until I happened upon your “We do it for Money” shirt. I noticed that it was made by American Apparel and, frankly, I would like to know why NOW, a feminist organization, supports a company that exploits young women in a softcore porn-esque advertising campaign, has more than one sexual harassment suit filed against the CEO, and is known for it’s anti-union bullying.

I also added the following links to the bottom of the e-mail:

For information on AA’s advertising practices:

Info on the sexual harassment lawsuits:

I’ll post a reply when (if) I get one, but until I have a darn good explanation and/or they pull their support of American Apparel, they aren’t getting one red cent of my money, nor an iota of my support.

Update [2005/10/22]: I received a reply from Olga Vives, Executive Vice President.

Thank you for your comments. We are discontinuing the American Apparel
shirts. Looking for a comparable shirt.

My reply[link added]:

Thank you for your prompt response.

If you haven’t already, I suggest considering No Sweat Apparel as one alternative to AA’s gear.

I look forward to seeing the AA shirts replaced with those from a better company.

I’ll keep an eye on the site. Hopefully they’ll replace the shirts soon, ’cause some of them really were cute. Now if only I could find a really nice looking “This is what a feminist looks like” shirt…