In each of the institutions we explored, we found the following overaching themes to connect the way women’s sexuality is perceived in each environment.
Polarity of Women’s Roles
The role of a woman in each environment is often polarized between a masculinized role and a hypersexual one. For example, women in the military strive to appear extremely masculine and capable by acting tough and wearing no makeup. On the other hand, women are hypersexualized because they are the only females around. The all-male environment in pursuit of noble ideals like freedom and justice is less flexible to accepting women’s differences. Any sexual harassment is often ignored or swept under the rug; the men in this field are pursuing noble ideals and undermining their character is akin to undermining the strength of the state.
Women in sports also face the same dichotomy. When women are on the playing field or court, they are perceived as extremely competitive and cannot afford to make any emotional mistakes. The physicality of the sport is emphasized first and foremost. Conversely, women cannot be seen as a successful athlete without being portrayed as a sexual object - female athletes on magazine covers often have to bare their skin and boast their feminine appeal. Furthermore, successful female athletes are often caught in the trap of “super-mom.” Female athletes need to be able to do it all: be competitive in their sport, be sexy when they need to be, and be the compassionate mother raising her children.
Finally, women in the workplace are pulled to either end of the spectrum as well. The “sexy secretary” stereotype has permeated popular culture. A woman wearing a pencil skirt at work is hypersexualized and less respected for their intellect. However, female executives are masculinized in order to be successful. Movies and books often depict the female boss as severe, unyielding, hair pulled back in a tight bun, and wearing a pant suit to appear more like a man. Sexuality is erased at the executive level so women can appear more like men in their logic and rationality.
More Power and Influence
Another overarching theme that is seen in all three institutions is that males hold the most power and influence. For example women in the work place hold little power when it comes to making decisions or being taken seriously because they are seen to be more fragile and emotional. There is little trust in their decision making abilities because they experience too many emotions. This can be seen in the mere evidence that women hold less high level positions than men and also that women are compensated less than men in similar positions.
Women in the military are also faced with little influencing ability and power. Starting with the fact that women consist of only 14% of the military shows that they this field is still controlled and held by men. The power that men hold in this field can be portrayed through the many sexual assault and sexual harassment cases where the verdict consist of minimal punishments to the perpetrators, who are seen to be mostly men. These verdicts are decided by men who hold high power positions within the military. A well-known controversy that illustrates the distinct power differences within the military is that women are not allowed to serve on certian combat line because of they are emotional unstable and don’t have the “correct” body to fit these positions.
Similarly women in sports experience very little power and influence ability. This is especially true when it comes to women and the media. Men continue to be the one’s who hold high powered positions within the media, and make decisions on what is put forth to the public. Women are rarely seen on the front page of sports magazine or making top news, and when they do it is not about their accomplishments within their sport. Rather it is to objectify their bodies into sexual objects, and re-enforce the ideals of what it means to be feminine. Along with little to no coverage in the media, the power men hold within sports can be seen by the fact that men’s sports are much more popular and hold a greater amount of air-time than women sports.
In the world of sports, business, and the military, males dominate. These themes can be seen in connection with the body ideals of each of these institutions. Within the military, women cannot participate on the front lines even if they want to because they are seen as having an inferior body. Male soldiers have the ideal body type and are seen as having the mental capacity to handle the violence that occurs on the front lines of battle. They are stronger and not as emotional as women. Uniforms are another example of this ideal. Until recently, combat uniforms were made only for male soldier. Women are still trained in combat, and they may take part in combat in certain situations, but they do not have the same tailored equipment or uniform.
Likewise in the work force, women must wear a certain uniform to conform to an ideal body. Women wear pant suits that resemble those of men in order to assert their power. Powerful women often wear less makeup and must be very attuned to the neckline of their blouse. Furthermore, women are seen as having a weaker more emotional psyche while men have a stronger one more apt to making decisive decisions. They can separate themselves from emotion to make decisions for the good of the company. In order to obtain positions of power women in this setting must try to obtain the body of a man, and they can display this through what they wear and how they carry themselves.
These ideas also tie into the sports world. Women and men’s leagues are kept separate and this shows a clear separation of bodies. The popularity of male sports over that of women’s shows an ideal body image exists in the sports world. Men’s bodies have the stamina and strength for competition, while women’s bodies are seen as being weaker and having to be in a separate league. Body ideals of what a women should look like are also re-enforced through sports. Through uniforms and media attention, the ideal body of thin, big breasts, long luscious hair, and etc. are continually re-emphasized. And anything outside these feminine characteristics is consider “abnormal”.
Overall, we see that success is often related closely to the extent that women are masculinized in these environments. Women as hypersexualized objects do not command the same respect in these fields, but women that dress or act more like men are seen as victors. At the same time, success is defined in two worlds - women must be successful in their environment as well as at home for them to be validated in their public pursuits. Success is more strictly defined to include both the private and public sphere.
One of the most recent issues I know I immediately began thinking about when I first had the idea to look into sexuality in the military was that of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT). While this may not seem to directly relate to women in the military, the lack of information about female homosexuality shows how females are already thought to be either masculinized or overly sexualized. There is no need to comment on lesbians because they are not seen as a threat to hegemonic masculinity. Also by looking at how hegemonic masculinity in the military sees homosexual men it is easier to identify power relations outside of this norm which includes how women are treated since they also fall outside the norm. I found two main media clips pre-repeal and post-repeal. The first one comes from the Colbert report which is above.
In this clip Colbert pokes fun at “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The clip shows how discriminatory the act is. It makes no sense because it is unclear how homosexual men will cause combat to be difficult. Colbert gives the satirical example that this may be because homosexual men will come-out on the front lines. However this would not be something that in reality would ever occur. The knowledge that a fellow soldier was gay would in no way harm anyone in combat situations. Instead homosexual men are oppressed and threatened with violence and a dishonorable discharge if they let slip any information about being a homosexual. They are compared to women in that they do not have the masculine standard that the military perceives men need in order to be successful in combat. They are a weak link on the front lines, just as women can be.
This next YouTube clip is post-repeal and occurred just a few hours after Obama announced the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on September 20, 2011. This airman had been an influential figure on YouTube speaking out for homosexuals in the military. He had never shown his face prior to the video and coming out for the first time in this news clip shows the response of his father back home. This shows how difficult it was for him to come out and he has had many videos prior to this one speaking against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Prior to the repeal he could not give his identity for fear that the country he was serving for would discharge him. There are similar tales of other homosexual military men that have faced persecution from the government and have lost their jobs in the military for being gay or have gone through violent hazings due to people thinking they were gay. Now it seems that these men do not have to live in fear of someone finding out if they are gay. It can become a natural part of their lifestyles in the military. One they do not have to hide.
This video was reminiscent of the article “Beyond the Closet” by Steven Seidman, CHet Meeks, and Francie Traschen about routinization of homosexuality and coming out. These men did not have the opportunity prior to the repeal of this act to allow their sexual orientation to become an every day part of their lives. They constantly had to watch what they said, who they were open around, and what they did at home as well. If anyone were to find out that they were homosexuals they could lose their jobs. This is very different from homosexuals in every day society that had more of an opportunity to allow this to just be a part of their lives whether they made it openly public or not, it was their choice. Now these military men have that opportunity, and while there is still much progress that needs to be made hopefully in these will come with this monumental action of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Hopefully with this repeal homosexual men can become more integrated, and with the changing dynamic of what male sexuality is accepted in the female sexuality and the current normative male sexuality in the military will be changing as well.
(Disregard the last 15 seconds of the link. There wasn’t a link with just this scene.)
These two scenes demonstrate how men in the military treat the women in the countries they are serving, which in turn can show how women in the military are sexualized as well. As seen previously men in the military do not always treat women serving alongside them with the same respect. Female soldiers are often sexually harassed and the military itself is hyper-masculine so these behaviors rarely are punished. It is seen as men being men. These scenes from the 1984 military movie Full Metal Jacket show just how male sexuality dominates female sexuality in the military even outside of female soldiers. Prostitution is something that is considered necessary to soldiers serving far from home without female contact. It is rarely questioned or recognized as being out of the ordinary. This is seen in the Cynthia Enloe article read in class “It Takes More Than Two: The Prostitute, The Soldier, The State, and the Entrepreneur.”
Certain things about this clip show how women’s bodies are scene as sex objects. Soldiers said things like: “Don’t get between a dog and it’s meat.” The excuse of military men being so sexual that they need a prostitute in order to satisfy them while they are away seems to relate back to the sporting culture in a way. Women continue to pursue prostitution as a career in these countries not because of its glamour, but because of the same reasons we saw in lecture that prostitutes view their situation. They see it as a way to earn money for their family, to be autonomous from men, access luxuries especially since often times military men are seen as being rich and powerful, and quite possible because they feel they may be able to meet a larger population of men to marry. The prostitutes seek $15 for everything and haggle prices with these men as this is seen as their job. It seems degrading that these men only want to pay them $5 to do whatever they want, and that they jest about the “batting line-up.” It is clear that there seems to be less respect for these women than others. They are seen solely as sex objects there for soldiers to use as they perform their duty for their country. These women are foreign and exotic, which is reminiscent of the fact that women of different races were considered more desirable for prostitutes in the 19th century.
While this movie may be older prostitution around military bases today is still prevalent and can be seen in other military movies. There is a scene in the Academy Award winning movie The Hurt Locker in which Sargent James leaves camp without permission to find an Iraqi boy’s killer. When he returns to camp and is held at gunpoint until he is identified the soldiers when realizing that he is a comrade immediately assumes that he went to a brothel and congratulate him. They want him to tell where it is because they want in on the fun. This just shows that while in certain areas they may not be as openly known prostitution is still actively sought and seen as being okay, especially since this soldier went off base without permission and could have put himself and his unit at risk. There is no repercussion it seems for this error, but instead laughter and asking to join in.
This treatment of prostitutes is also reflected in the treatment of female soldiers in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases that have been brought forth. As can be seen in this article, “The Private War of Women Soldiers.”
Women soldiers feel that often times their own enemies are the men in their own encampment. In one quotation from the article: “This guy out there, he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, but they don’t have those in Iraq. So they have women soldiers instead.” These women are treated just like the prostitutes, and are sexualized. When any of these cases have come forward they are often times turned away and very difficult to win. Suzanne Swift, one women sexually assaulted, went awol after her attack. The only way she would not go to jail or serve extra time in the military where she was attacked was to sign a statement that the rape never happened. This is a prime example of how women lack power in the military because they are seen as sex objects instead of people.
Before analyzing media representations of women and other sexualities in the military I wanted to gain some common notions about women in the military. Since this is a male dominated institution it seems interesting to look at the “other” especially since women seem to make up so little of the military. According to the U.S. Census Bureau women make up only 14% of the armed forces. I spoke with my roommate and three other cadets in the University of Michigan ROTC program about ideas that circulate about women in the military. Two of them were females and two of them were males. They all have friends who are in active duty, and they have all spent at least a month on a base to do military training.
There were two main images of women that came forward during this discussion. Women were either seen as over-sexualized or desexualized. One of the girls immediately brought up sexual harassment in the military. “When I first decided to join ROTC a few friends immediately brought up how sexual harassment is an issue in the military.” She is referring to a string of cases that have involved military violence against female soldiers by other male soldiers. Women are often times seen as inferior and are taken advantage of because they are women. This can be seen not only in these sexual assault and harassment cases but also in the manner women are treated in different military positions. In the Army and Marine Corps they are excluded from assignments that are likely to take part in combat. They are seen as weak because they are women, and they have no control over their actions and do not have the strength and perfect body that men have to carry out the duty of soldier in combat. This image of a woman can be seen in the Onion video posted in this post.
In this instance, women are seen as incapable of duty because they do not have the same bodily constructs as men. Their bodies are viewed as incapable of carrying out the duties male soldiers can carry out. The satirical video shows the ridiculousness of women being incapable of carrying guns on the front lines. Women do not need chaperones. They are adults and can engage in combat equally to men. Women are not allowed in positions likely to engage in combat for most of these reasons. They are seen as being too emotional, and that this is too outside the role of a woman. Women are not seen as being violent individuals, but mothers who are supposed to care for others. It has to do with their bodily construct in that they are women rather than any qualities they have. It does not matter if they have the desire to fight in a combat position. They are not equal to men because they have different bodies.
The other image that came forward were that of masculinized women taking part in the military. “Women are often immediately thought of as being lesbians or butch women.” They are thought of being manly most likely because this is a highly masculinized environment. Soldiers are seen as being the manliest of men with high aggression levels. They are doing the highest service to their country by putting their lives on the line. Thus the assumption is that a woman in the military would have to have these masculine attributes in order to survive and do a good duty as a soldier. It is very interesting that it is automatically assumed that she must have these masculine traits because she signed up to be a part of the military. It is almost assumed that if a woman is in the military she cannot be feminine or she will hinder her unit.
When women first entered the office, as clerks and note-takers during the Civil War, there was an immediate reaction from all facets of society. Men and women working side by side sparked consternation over gender roles penetrating into a new public sphere.
Women were at first assigned menial tasks of note-taking and copying documents. Their professional impact was minimal. Their role as secretary extended to bringing feminism and aestheticism into the office. Secretaries were even responsible for bringing beverages and refreshments into meetings, like a wife or daughter. The feminine touch led into a progression of women in the office becoming so-called “Office Wives,” to supplement (or even replace) the housewives of most male executives.
Women in the office were not treated in the same professional manner that men were. Their role was distinctively different and perpetuated the ideals of beauty, propriety, and docility that was revered at home. It was especially difficult for women to maintain their propriety in this public sphere; women in the office were often considered flirtatious rather than modest.
In the late 50s and 60s, the role of the secretary became more sexualized. Women were sexy decorations to the office, wearing tight skirts and high heels. While women may have striven to achieve demure and modest attire, the “sexy secretary” stereotype was idealized in fantasies, books, films, etc. The “Office Wife” provided an extra dimension to men’s prowess; another conquest in a professional environment as well as dominance over their legal wife at home. The boss-secretary relationship became even more complicated.
In the current age, the sexy secretary is less apparent in the office. Pretty young colleagues may still be objectified, but to a lesser extent. But the stereotype has extended into Halloween costumes and depictions in pornography. The alluring secretary has been idealized and immortalized in the desires of men, even today. Popular culture paints the image of the ditzy secretary, on the hunt for a rich husband, who may have no real professional qualifications, but is allowed in the office as eye candy.
Today, in the struggle to move away from objectification of women in the workplace, we see a shift in titles from “secretary” to “administrative assistant.” The forums to discuss appropriate attire are endless. And women have broken out from traditional roles to more impactful positions in the office. The original office wife image is lingering, but to a lesser extent than before.
Askmen.com hosts an entire section of their website to dealing with women in the workplace. Authors consistently provide their advice on how to “deal with women in the workplace.” The purpose to these articles is supposedly to help men become more adept to interacting with female colleagues.
This article in particular approaches the topic of female bosses. Askmen helpfully summarizes the main points of the article in three bullets:
· It is still almost impossible for men and women to work together.
· If you suddenly land on your female boss’ bad side, she may have had feelings for you.
· A female boss can replace her love for a colleague or employee with hate.
First, the article identifies the problem – even though there have been great strides with gender diversity in professional environments, men and women still struggle to work together. Ultimately, we are dealing with two different bodies and psyches that are irreconcilable in professional pursuits. Men and women differ too much – the idea of “separate, but equal” comes into the conversation but the implementation of such ideology has historically been terrifyingly unfair.
Furthermore, the article makes sweeping generalizations about women’s motivations in the workplace. A female boss is undermined by the feminine emotions that may influence her to conduct herself unprofessionally; such as mistreating a colleague that has rejected her on a personal level. The assumption that women are more prone to emotional outbursts is a common misconception from a male-dominated workplace. The emotional, maternal mother full of compassion is difficult to separate from the professional, detached climate of the workplace.
Finally, emotional constructs are re-emphasized in that women “replace” feelings towards their colleagues from love to hate with ease. The idea of an emotional gap that must be filled, either with love or hate, emerges; the polarity adds a further dimension of inflexibility to women’s ability to adapt to a professional environment. As such, we see how perceptions of the emotional woman are ill-received in the professional environment. While an emotional maternal figure that loves her family and children above all else is revered at home, that same thought brings discomfort to many male colleagues.
Overall, women in the workplace present a problem or issue that men discuss in insular sites, such as Askmen. The main issue with women in the workplace lies with the emotional fragility of women, and this manifests to an even greater extent in women in leadership positions. Female executives face a more stringent set of expectations in terms of logical and rational decision-making skills. Emotional decisions are doubly criticized and scorned.
I wanted to explore the ways in which sexuality have played a part in sports, especially when it comes to women. These next few post deal directly with how women’s sexuality is portrayed and objectified through sports.
This comic depicts how society has once again found a way to objectify women and their bodies. In 1999 the Federation Internationale de Volleyball standardize the uniform for beach volleyball to be that of “shorts or a bathing suit”. Seemingly this regulation is vague, however shorts or a bathing suit, leaves women with relatively few options-that she will be a wearing a bathing suit and her body will objectified into a sexual object. The real question lies within the realm of why men don’t wear speedos, if a bathing suit is an option? One answer is that sex sells, and whether a man is in a speedo or shorts doesn’t change the sexual appearance for the onlookers. However if a women were to wear shorts and a tank top, that would have a completely different appeal than a bikini. Yes, there is some argument that the attire is worn because of its comfort, especially in the heat, but they are clearly not required because of their efficiency.
Beach volleyball is not the only sport in which through regulation of uniform, women’s bodies are objectified. The sport of figure skating “ice dance” calls for strict guidelines that differ for men and women. Women must wear a skirt and men must wear full length trousers, no tights allowed and no sleeveless tops.
The question is then why do these rules exist? In both cases the uniform that is required is not because of its comfort or efficiency but rather to view women’s bodies as sexual objects. These regulations are clearly in place to objectify women’s bodies to the standards of what society see’s them as- worthy of only one thing, sex. If society wasn’t trying to objectify women as sexual beings, men would be wearing speedos and leotards.
This isn’t a problem of today’s society but rather a misinterpreted view of women and their sexuality that has been concretely formed throughout history. For quite sometime, especially beginning in the 19th century women’s bodies have been viewed as weaker, less than men. Thus in return they are seen as objects that can be touched and used for sex. Creating uniform regulation such as these is just another way that society has been able to continue to objectify women’s bodies into sexual objects.
Similar to previous posts, these images bring together how women are continually depicted as sexual objects of desire and how “feminine” characteristics such as breast, make up, luscious long hair, etc. override women’s ability to viewed as successful in sports. Women can be good in sports, but it is always accompanied by exploiting her body and “feminine” characteristics.
I mean think back and try to remember a time when you last saw a women on the front page of a sports magazine, where the topic of discussion wasn’t accompanied by a picture of her naked or objectifying her body particularly exploiting her breast. If it wasn’t seen in the picture, I am sure some where in the write up you are bound to find something along the lines of “Breathtaking, really with flawless skin, endless legs and a C cup”.
The point is that, let alone the fact that women rarely appear on the front page of a sports magazine and when they do it’s not because of their accomplishes but rather to objectify their bodies into sexual objects. This picture of Serena Williams affirms this thought. Does picturing her naked really have an effect on how she performs as an athlete. She can be successful regardless of whether she has the got the perfect body and breasts, but not in this society we live in.
The comic specifically deals with societies objectification of women’s breast. The breast have gone through historical changes from the erotic, domestic, political, and now commercialized breast. Commercialized breast has been formed because of capitalism and the need to convince producers to produce and consumers to buy. Using the breast as “sexual objects” gives consumers they idea that can touch the breast, in other words the idea that sex sells. It is very sad that our society has become comfortable/allows their bodies to be objectified only because it is how they will become successful.
Instead we should take the approach of the liberated breast and body. Our body shouldn’t be judge by anyone but ourselves and we shouldn’t let it become “things” external to us. We need to own our body and realize that we can be successful athletes regardless of connotations that our attached to one’s sexuality-feminine or masculine.