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The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

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heteronormativity

Queer Animals: Make Love Not War

The following post is going to be the last one dealing with sexuality of animals from my side. For that reason this time I chose a species that really does not seem to care about gender at all when it comes to pick a partner for sex. This is one of the reasons why they are considered as hippies, another reason is that they seem to use sexual practice to avoid or to solve conflicts. Therefore they are also called make-love-not-war-apes. The species I talk about is the Bonobo, one of the smaller representatives of the great apes. Bonobos break all rules about sexuality that were ever made. They do not only ignore gender, they also seem to ignore age, because even the young ones participate in sexual activities. Moreover they use different positions and practices like for example oral sex. Scientists often observed that bonobos started to have sex when conflicts arise. For example when two bonobos see something to eat, the conflict that they both want it for themselves is followed by sex between them and afterwards they share the food peacefully. In fact this can not be the only reason for them to have sex as they do it very often during the day. My first reaction to this theory was to think that it is another way to negate sexual activities among animals that are not heterosexual. But I think the difference is that in this theory the interaction is still seen as sexual even if it is said that it has another reason than reproduction. Bonobos seem to make clear that there are different reasons and different ways to have sex. German media seems to be kind of excited about the bonobos’ strategy to organise their social live. Us humans, we live in a reality that is totally different and seems to be not as good as the peaceful way of life bonobos share. For many of us it is an utopia to live that way instead of leading wars and exploit each other and the most exciting thing is that bonobos are one of the two species that are related the closest to humans. But coming back to reality it is obvious that we cannot just all start to have sex every time we have a conflict like bonobos do. Again we come to the border of seeking our natural behaviour by watching animals. We have our culture, our social rules which we should try to question and to improve as much as we can, but not by looking for the most natural thing because this is neither interesting from a moral point of view, nor even possible for us to discover. It is inviting to look at the bonobos and draw the conclusion that we are all born to have sex all day and be peaceful, but the second species that is as close related to us as the bonobos, the chimpanzees, is a very aggressive species that has a totally different social structure. We can surely choose one of the two for a role-model but we should be aware that this can only be for inspiration and does not reveal a deeper truth about our own nature.

 

References

 

http://sz-magazin.sueddeutsche.de/texte/anzeigen/44135/Das-Liebesdiktat-der-Hippie-Affen

 

https://www.welt.de/lifestyle/article5679413/Bonobos-sind-Meister-der-sexuellen-Versoehnung.html

 

http://www.focus.de/wissen/natur/forschung-und-technik-sex-fuer-den-frieden_aid_168490.html

Queer Animals: Lesbian Albatrosses

The animal I want to talk about this time is a bird which has been seen as an icon for heterosexual monogamy. That was the image of the Laysan albatross until 2008. The reason for this image is that most of these birds nest with the same partner for their entire lives. Even the former first Lady Laura Bush praised their lifestyle in a speech about Oahu, an island of Hawaii, where a big colony of the birds live. Imaginable that Laura Bush was not amused when in 2008 an article of a team of scientists revealed that almost one third of the couples of albatross consist of two females, at least in this area. The reason why this has been undiscovered for such a long time is the fact that the sexes of albatrosses are very difficult to distinguish, paired with the heteronormative ideology of past scientists who did research on the albatross. Whenever two animals are seen together doing something that is linked to reproduction, it is automatically assumed that they are male and female. Considering the albatross a pair is defined by two individuals that incubate eggs and raise chicks together. The female-female pairs are able to do this because their eggs get fertilised by male individuals which are often themselves part of a pair. The fact that there are so many same-sex couples among these birds was however a bigger scandal than the infidelity of the paired males. Although one of the researchers said that they were very careful in their writing, which probably means that they tried to not make it a political pro homo article, it was on the one hand used to argue in favour of homosexuality and on the other hand attacked for being pro homo propaganda. When I read the article I thought that it actually lets the female-female pairs appear in a more unflattering light, using descriptions likefemalefemale pairing in the interim appears to make the best of a bad job[1]. Of course good and bad refers here to the reproductive success. But still negative judgemental words are used and the relationships between the birds are not euphemized at all. Nevertheless to me it seems like the scientists really tried to be neutral and to stay with biological terms. For example Lindsay Young who is cited and interviewed most often, refuses to call the female-female pairs lesbian and the male-female pairs heterosexual and insists that these terms have nothing to do with her researches. Unlikely that she manages to be totally neutral because we are all up to some point bound to our culutural ideology. This might be part of the answer to the question how we can stop imposing our cultural images on animals, which I posed in my first post. It seems not to be possible, even if a scientist does their best on being neutral, one never knows what the further usage and interpretation of results will be.

 

References

 

https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/tierwelt/article7243977/Wenn-schwule-Tiere-moralische-Werte-bedrohen.html

 

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/4/323

 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/06/02/female-albatrosses-set-up-same-sex-partnerships.html

[1] Lindsay C Young, Brenda J Zaun, Eric A VanderWerf; 2008

Queer Animals: Hyena Genitals

In this post I will focus more on the anatomy of an animal than on their behaviour. If we have a look at animal genitalia, the spotted hyena is a species that is kind of mysterious for scientists. What makes the anatomy of this kind of hyena unusual is the large clitoris of the female. Large means here it can be as long as the penis of the male. It is used for urination, for reproduction and for birth. indexThis seems so uncommon to us that a bundle of questions turns up. But before answering them I would like to have a look at the way female hyena are described. Two aspects are striking in the description. Above all the female hyena is described as masculinized. This applies to its genitals which are described as „pseudo-penis“ but also to her bevaviour which is quite aggressive. Due to this and their body size which is bigger than the size of the males, they always have a higher rank in the clan than the male individuals. It seems that people are confused about these characteristics that do not fit into our ideology and the only way to escape this, is to use words that on the one hand show how extraordinary it is and at the same time imply how it normally should be. The second eye-catching thing about the reports is that they use a lot of negative judgmental words like for example awkward, weird and bizarre. All of this leaves no doubt about what is normal and what is abnormal, even though for a female spotted hyena having a penis and being strong and aggressive is the most normal thing in the world. Now let’s move on to copulation and giving birth. To reproduce the male has to insert his penis into the clitoris of the female. Like many animals this happens while the male mounts the female. This surely is more difficult and therefore takes more time than it does for other mammals, but I think here the descriptions are again exaggerating when they stress how painful it is, how hilarious it looks and especially how tough it is for the male. Seriously, which animals do not look funny when they have sex? Besides, this way of narration implies that hyenas are not really enjoying it but only doing it to produce descendants, which is quite doubtful. That the female hyenas give birth through this clitoris seems to be a problem too. Proof of this appears to be the fact that the clitoris tears during birth, which kills some hyenas after getting an infection. But if we, for a second, think about the large number of human women who get a tear of perineum and that this does only not pose a problem because most of our birth happen under medical observation, the problem seems to relativize. The way spotted hyenas are described still gives us the feeling that something went wrong which matches the bad reputation hyenas have. But they are just one species under millions of totally different species and should not be considered ugly, abnormal or pitiful just because they do not fit into our ideology.

 

References

 

http://www.spektrum.de/alias/soziobiologie/muetterliche-aggression-als-vorteil/1054058

 

http://www.livescience.com/699-painful-realities-hyena-sex.html

 

https://curiouscox.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-spotted-hyenas-she-penis/

Queer Animals: Two Male Lions

After my first post where I had a short look at Nemo’s father’s transsexuality, I would like to write about a pair of Lions which were pictured during sexual activities. The special thing in this story is, that both of them were male. The series of photos were taken by Nicole Cambré in Botswana in March 2016 during a Safari.

Lions

On the one hand Cambré’s pictures gave many gay people a lift. Something nice that they can show to homophobic people who are claiming that homosexuality is unnatural. On the other hand a large amount of articles appeared which stress the arguments why the two lions are probably not gay at all. I will focus on these speculations and theories that were brought in to defend heteronormativity, which is build on the assumption that sexuality is only meant to reproduce and that therefore homosexuality can not exist in nature. The first thing that comes into people’s mind is, that one of the lions is actually a maned lioness. But unfortunately for all conservatives in addition to the photographs there is also a video win which you can see the „male parts“ of both of the lions. As far as lions are concerned it is very simple to identify the gender, that this is not the case with all species might be one of the reasons why same sex behaviour has not been seen by science for such a long time. When a scientist saw two animals mating he or she automatically assumed that they were male and female. Another classical theory is that a male only mounts another male to show and reinforce his dominance. Craig Packer director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota explanes this behaviour that way. I think it’s very interisting, that he still describes the mounting of the lions as „affectionate“. This discription leaves me with the question, why it than is not a sexual act. Moreover there are videos which show two lions mounting each other, that is to say one time the one lion is on top of the other and the other time vice versa. That seems to be a clear falsification of that thesis. 
Last but not least we have the claim that they are only doing it because of the lack of a lioness. Here it is assumed that once an available lioness appears, they will let go of each other and focus on the lioness. In this special case there was one lioness living in the same area. That the two males showed no interest in her lead the photographer to the assumption that this lioness must have been pregnat and therefore not available. This shows how heteronormativity is read into animals by deducing in a circle. Males do only have sex with males if there is no available female, therefore any female in the area must be not available, here we have two males having sex and one female which after these premises cannot be available, therefore we have to conclude that the two males are only dealing with each other because there is no female. This is just one of the tautologies on which heteronormativity its naturalisation is based on.
References

http://www.livescience.com/54491-male-lions-in-botswana-not-gay.html

http://www.snopes.com/gay-lions-mating/

Queer Animals: Finding Nemo

It is interisting to see how humans project their cultural formed concepts on animals. Of particular interest are cases when heteronormative and gender binary concepts are applied to animals which actually do not fit at all into this picture. A nice example is the movie „Finding Nemo“. For the few people who do not know the movie, it tells the story of a clownfish named Nemo who gets cought by a human, to be a birthday present for a child. Nemo’s father now has to pass many adventures to save his son from this fate. Everone knowlegable of this popular species of fish should already wonder about the terms „father“ and „son“. The reason is that these fishes are actually all born without any gender. This is until within their school of fishes the largest individual develops into a female and the second largest into a male in order to reproduce. I think the terms male and female are not sufficiant in this short discription, because it does not tell a lot about what actually happens here. Instead a gender binary and heterosexual picture is again applied to give an overly simplefied description. Back to the movie we can easily see that a father living together with his son is an impossible setting for clownfishes because if Nemo is to small to reproduce he has no gender. The other possible interpretation would be that if Nemo is old enough, his father would have changed into a female to produce descendants with Nemo. And this is in fact a discription you can find in some newspaper articles from people who found it a sensation worth writing about the fact that Nemo’s father might be transsexual. Two questions are evident here. Number one: what was going on in the heads of the people who wrote the script of „Finding Nemo“? Number two: how can we escape the trap of imposing our cultural pictures on animals? The discription of clownfishes changing their gender might be closer to the truth than the movie, but is still a discription in cultural terms imposed on an animal which does not have that culture. I will hopfully manage to approach to the second question in the next posts, while it is still some space her to have a short look at the first question. It is obvious that society does not see topics like transexuality siutable for children. Instead movies for children are only allowed to deal with settings that are completely „normal“ as far as it comes to gender and reproduction. The funny thing is, that we often assume that normal is what ever is natural. While society is most of the time convinced that normal and natural reproduction means a male and a female are having a child, and gender is something you have from the moment of your birth, the nature of a clownfish tells another story. So it comes that the movie stays quiet about nature, and spreads instead our normative opinion of what is natural. A colorful contradiction that shows how absurd the naturalisation of gender is.

References

http://www.businessinsider.com/clownfish-sex-changes-and-finding-nemo-2013-8?IR=T

http://evolutionfaq.com/articles/sex-change-nature-coral-reef-fish

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/01/clownfish/prosek-text/3

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/umwelt/fische-nemo-ist-ein-transsexueller-1132859.htmA

#WeDeserveBetter

Everyone wants a happily ever after that they can relate to right? Most young girls watch old Disney movies and think that waiting for their Prince Charming is their only option. Some young boys even think it is their duty to try and save every girl whom they believe are damsels in distress and need someone to save them. Unfortunately for the young boys and girls who are apart of the LGBT community ,or as I like to call them family, like myself, we do  not want that for our future. However, due to society’s standards created by predominantly privileged cis white males, we have been led to believe that any love that is not between a man and a woman is somehow an abomination and or fantasized and sexualized. That the love we share with our same sex is not natural despite there being scientific evidence that same sex attraction is as natural as heterosexual attraction. There are even homosexual relationships in animals. In some cases, female lionesses who identify as both gender or look similar to a male of their species can lead their pride because despite contrary belief, it is possible to survive with only one gender in a group.

Recently there has been a lot of controversy over ,the 100, a tv show which used to be one of the highest rated series of the year. The Director, Jason Rothenberg, used the promise of a non mistreated/mishandled LGBT couple romance, in this situation the main character Clarke being LGBT and falling in love with another woman Commander Lexa, in order to win the LGBT audiences ratings and views but then brutally removing one or both of the characters after ratings are high. This act has been named queerbaiting. So, after the show was ranked #1 on the most watched and popular tv series, the aforementioned couple ,both strong and respected leaders amongst their people, accepted their feelings for one another. Directly after spending their first night together as a couple, the partner was shot by a poisoned arrow meant for the other. Not only was the arrow a misfire but it was shot by the right hand advisor of the one that was shot. Now after this happened and the controversy began the Director claimed that this was done to add to the “shock factor” of the show.

The question that is being asked is would anyone call another lesbian character on a tv show being killed off a shock? Would the young lesbian and bi community think that was a good shock for a story they looked to for their promised happily ever after? One they could finally have that did not end in horrible and or tragic heartbreak? I certainly did not. After this fated day our epic Commander Lexa was taken from us, the LGBT community was outraged, flooded twitter with #Lexadesrvedbetter, #Wedeservebetter, #LGBTcharactersdeservebetter etc, and began to expose this director for the monster he is. A misogynist who mistreats his minority cast and ,even though his main character is a female, constantly creates male roles to dominate the strong roles of the females. Now I have only mentioned J. Rothenberg once or twice, I have made this whole blog post apart of the minority. Why is that one may ask? Because ,at least in America, society has taught cis white males that they are at the top and anyone beneath them are disposable.

Well the community took a stand and said we are not disposable. So what have we done? We have started a campaign for the Trevor project which is non-profit organization founded in 1998 and the leading national organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and other queer youth. Within mere weeks of the fated episode the Lexas death we have raised over $30,000. The message is clear, we will not back down, we will support our youth and ourselves and we are a force to be reckoned with #LGBTcharactersdeservebetter.

Sources:

http://nypost.com/2015/12/28/gender-fluid-lioness-is-the-queen-of-her-pride/

http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/death-100-prompts-30000-donation-furious-fans-trevor-project/#gs.X37aZKQ

http://www.autostraddle.com/all-65-dead-lesbian-and-bisexual-characters-on-tv-and-how-they-died-312315/

 

(3) Excursion No.1: Stereotypes, sexualizings (again!) and the adressing of gay men: A look at some famous avertisings

After finding many stereotypes and controversials in my last analysis, I want to dedicate this post to some famous advertisements.
Do you think we can find sexism and stereotypes there, too? Of course we can….and we will!

Collage
[1]

These ads and movie posters are not exceptions at all. As the marketing professors Robert Peterson and Roger Kerin found out, there are rather major trends towards more nudity and eroticism and many advertisements still present women as simple-minded and male-dependent. [2]

What we can find on all ads above is sexualizing combined with the intensive use of sexual innuendos although none of these ads promotes anything on a sexual basis.
Picking out the film poster of “Dirty Grandpa”, age rating 12, one can see obvious sexual associations and female objectification. Emphasis is placed on the woman’s butt, the rest of her body as well as her face are unimportant. Robert DeNiro is looking at the back of the woman and what Zac Efron holds in his hands doesn’t just vaguely look like a penis. The headline strengthens this impression by saying “They’re hitting the road. And everything on it.”

The “Joop Homme” advertisement tackles a similar route by showing an almost naked woman spreading her legs and again emphasizing her legs and butt. The movie poster of “Magic Mike XXL” (what could the “XXL” perhaps stand for?!) is interesting because it is one of the rare sexualized ads for women. Telling the story of a stripper, the poster highlights the genital area of Channing Tatum and even strengthens this with his gesture. The announcement “COMING” finally takes it to extremes.

Other advertisements bring in a more extreme way of sexualizing by including relations of dominance and suppression. In the following “Dolce & Gabbana” ad, a woman is pressed to the ground and surrounded by several men which reminds of a gang rape. After being published, the ad was critically discussed and finally forbidden.
Even food advertisements are full of sexualizings and objectifications like the “Burger King” ad impressively shows. It promotes the u-u-unbelievable length of the burger which is so unbelievable that the woman with her mouth wide open seems shocked. I think I don´t need to explain what the words “It’ll blow your mind away” resemble.

Collage2
[3]

However, I don’t want to reduce the logic of gender based advertisements to a subject-object-relationship. Since advertisers are not stupid, they often try to reach a bigger target group by including “mixed signals”. One famous approach is called gay window advertising in which heterosexual men promoting products for men are portrayed in a way that could also attract homosexual men. In this case, advertisers walk the thin line between addressing homosexuals and “frightening” heterosexuals.

Collage3

[4]

As you can see, sometimes there is more than sexualizing and objectification underneath the surface – but the emphasis is on “sometimes”. Overall, less changed considering the fact that the findings of Peterson and Roger are from 1977!

Marcel

Logo


References:

[1] = Pictures taken from http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/dirty-grandpa-teaser-poster.jpg, 19.03.2016 (Dirty Grandpa); http://media.breitbart.com/media/2015/03/American-Apparel-Ad-2-640×480.jpg, 19.3.2016 (American Apparel; http://www.punmiris.com/himg/o.37584.jpg, 19.03.2016 (Joop Homme); http://photos.laineygossip.com/articles/magic-mike-poster-04feb15.jpg, 19.03.2016 (Magic Mike XXL)

[2] = Peterson, Robert A. & Kerin, Roger A. (1977): The Female Role in Advertisements: Some Experimental Evidence. In: Journal of Marketing, Vol. 41, No. 4, p. 59

[3] = Pictures taken from https://thenatureofbeingblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/290e5-sexy-ads-part-1-burger-king.jpg, 19.03.2016 (Burger King); http://cdn.nextshark.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Dolce-Gabbana-Fashion-Wallpapers-3-Wallpaper-e1426714459580.jpg, 19.03.2016 (Dolce & Gabbana)

[4] = Pictures taken from http://www.thefashionisto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/David-Beckham-Armani-Underwear-Campaign-Photo-800×588.jpg, 19.03.2016 (Beckham); http://www.fashionadexplorer.com/l-2kA5vNTpDyiYCIVN.jpg, 19.03.2016

(2.1) The conquerer and the conquered?! Language and mediation in Men´s Health and Cosmopolitan 2.0

I’m glad you liked my post so much that you want to read even more about stereotypes and generalizations….or will you come across some more surprising results? Let’s see.

First of all
What was quite interesting was the extent to which we are full of inscribed gender roles and expectations – even when buying a magazine. I had no problem standing in front of all the men magazines, but after 5 minutes combing through Cosmopolitan, Jolie and Voque I started feeling uncomfortable and somehow like the other people were watching me. For the first time, I noticed that there are many lifestyle magazines for women, but nearly none for men. Most of the men magazines are classified in subject areas like sport, music, science or technology. This is also what Heiko Motschenbacher from the Linguistic Department of the Goethe University in Frankfort observed when explaining that traditional men magazines tend to focus on cars, sports and erotica and not primarily on the male self-image. [1] This is the reason why I chose Men’s Health which seemed to be closest to a lifestyle magazine for men.

Überblick Männermagazine
The picture was taken by myself in a magazine store. It shows several men magazines with different topics.

Now have fun with my observations in the following categories:

Advertising
In Men’s Health there is relatively few advertising and nearly all existing advertisements can be classified in the category “technology and sport”. There are for example advertisements for sport gadgets like classy fitness watches or sport apps with exercises or recipes for more muscles and less fat, all aiming at an improvement in performance and body shape (which basically means getting more muscles). Moreover, there are ads that promote sport contests or supplements.
Cosmopolitan shows definitely more advertisements, but they are similarly limited in subject because they are focusing mostly on fashion and cosmetics. There are advertisements for shampoos, deep conditioners, body lotions, dresses and watches. Moreover, there is an ad for “Almased” [2], a shake to lose weight.

What becomes clear is the different function of the advertisements which in Men’s Health primarily have the function of being functional and improving performance whereas the promoted products in Cosmopolitan primarily have the function of making women look good.

Pictures
Here I focused on pictures of the own and the other sex and not on pictures of things and products.
In Men’s Health, pictures of men are primarily used to demonstrate power and muscles. In order to do this, there are plenty pictures of men with nude upper body, training themselves or showing exercises, but none of them is portrayed in a pose that could be considered sexually. On the other hand, women are shown almost exclusively when it comes to sex which explains why they are half-naked or fully naked every time they are shown. Moreover, they are portrayed in more or less sexual gestures exposing their body and often directing their look at the (male) reader. Also interesting: When it comes to sexual presentations of women, you never see a man in the picture. I assume that Men’s Health avoids showing naked men in sexual contexts in order to avoid homosexual associations whereas they can show half-naked men doing weight training, because this is clearly connoted heterosexual.
What is interesting in Cosmopolitan is the fact that they also tend to show lightly dressed women. However these presentations seem to be connected to fashion or – like in Men’s Health – to sport. One can say that in both Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan there are presentations of the own sex in a way that attracts the other sex. In other words, women can be attracted by strong and muscular men and men can be attracted by slim and fit women. However, both magazines seem to avoid representations containing clear homosexual allusions.

One point that separates Cosmopolitan from Men’s Health is their portrayal of women and men in sexual contexts. While the former places emphasis on the objectification of women and the absence of men, the latter portrays women and men lying together in bed and in addition shows less of their naked bodies.

Topics
Focus in Men’s Health is clearly on physical exercise. They offer several articles on that topic dealing with different exercises for different goals, training schedules and training methods. Sport often has a competitive character and the function of making men harder and perform better. The subject of nutrition and cooking is mostly connected to exercise and functions as an instrument to improve performance and body shape. In addition to that, nutrition is presented as lifestyle which can be seen in an article promoting modern and cool forms of fast-food. When it comes to fashion, Men’s Health focuses on trendy accessoires like watches and exclusive gadgets that make men (look) successful. Furthermore, personal hygiene is portrayed in a specific way that characterizes it as manly and connects it to the idea of “manly” body care. This can be illustrated by the promotion of products that are all on the basis of coal.

Kosmetik_Kohle_Mens Health
Picture taken from Men’s Health, p. 92

Here, Cosmo treads a different path. Personal hygiene is primarily concerned with cosmetics and outside appearance. This explains the several ads for lipstick, face powder and other cosmetics in the magazine. Other important topics are fashion, styling and trends. While these topics are represented by special and exclusive products in Men’s Health, Cosmo seems to prefer quantity and offers innumerable tips and products. The subject of sport is primarily discussed in terms of figure, skinniness and weight loss and also supported by exercises and receipts.

Word choice
Looking at the section titles in both magazines, clear differences between Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan appear.
Consistent with their promotion of “manly cosmetics”, Men’s Health connects personal hygiene to the concept of being wild and animalistic by entitling this section “Style + Grooming” [3] (Grooming is also used in a zoological context and means “Fellpflege”). In an article that informs about testicular cancer, the word “steel balls” [4] is used to refer to testicles. In the field of sport, Men’s Health uses many technical terms referring to body parts and exercises. Talking about sexuality, there are less to none technical terms. Mostly, the used words can be considered colloquial like “Blowjob” [5] and “Doggy-Style” [6]. In general, the word choice does not seem to be aggressive or primitive, but there are some exceptions like “juicy oral sex festival” [7] (saftiges Oralverkehr-Festival) and “banged” [8] (geknallt). Moreover, there are some sexual innuendos. In an article about foods that appear aphrodisiacal, one can see a woman only wearing a bra and a slip. She holds some kind of chocolate cake in front of her mouth, showing puckered lips and looking directly to the reader. In addition, the text below her butt says “Put it in!” [9] (Rein damit!).

Frau nackt 2_Put it in_Mens Health
Picture taken from Men’s Health, p. 26

Starting with the personal hygiene section in Cosmopolitan, a difference appears. Like their section title “beauty & body” [10] assumes, focus is on appearance and on products that make women look pretty. There are similar results in the subject of sport in which terms like weight loss, beach body and tight body are often used. The way in which Cosmo talks about sexuality is quite interesting. They choose a more direct and strong language that includes sentences like “boink him his short term memory away” [11] (ihm das Kurzzeitgedächtnis wegvögeln) and rather unfamiliar terms like “Gagging” [12] and “Queefing” [13]. Such a word choice constitutes a clear contrast to the rather soft and playful pictures with a couple cuddling.

Conclusion: Constructions of male and female identities
I tried not to go too much in detail, because most readers of such magazines won’t do an intensive and concentrated reading either. However, I found more interesting and confusing aspects than expected. Here is what we can conclude of the analysis above.

What both magazines have in common is the fact that they present unadorned stereotypes of both their own and the other sex. Men’s Health is full of muscular and strong men and Cosmopolitan portrays young and slim women on nearly every page. In this way, both magazines portray pictures that could be attractive to the other sex while both seem to avoid homosexual associations. Male identity is connected to muscularity and strength and the male body as well as the products men consume basically have to be functional and efficient. In this way, male identity is primarily concerned with rationality and similar to the findings of Donna Haraway [14], male body is connected to technology which can be illustrated by the term “steel balls” for testicles. Women and female traits are placed outside male identity which is highlighted by an article about yoga – a “typical” female sport. Men’s Health does not promote yoga because it allows men to do something non-typical or just something that is fun for both sexes. Rather it picks yoga and transforms it to a masculine sport by pointing out its functionality. Or in other words, men are allowed to do yoga because it can improve flexibility and coordination and thereby improve performance in masculine sports like weight training. On the other hand, Men’s Health offers advice to be more emotional and emphatic and to always respect the wishes of women. However, these things are not important because men want them or because they constitute a good men from the view of men, but because WOMEN want men to be like this and – put simply – because this is the way to get women in bed.

Cosmopolitan spreads a similar confusing picture of female identities. Promoting self-confidence, independence and satisfaction with the own body on the one hand, it contents dozens of make-up tips and ways to lose weight on the other hand. Thereby Cosmo emphasizes appearance and links it closely to satisfaction and self-confidence. Moreover, the subject of sexuality is presented in an ambiguous way by using direct and self-confident language but at the same time focusing on sexual problems and awkward situations for women. Other ambivalences occur in the presentation of male identities. On the one hand, Cosmo demands “emancipation” [15] of men and wants them to show their feelings and disengage from rigid gender roles, but only 9 pages after that it lets a complete stereotypical man answer questions from female readers. This of course leads to answers which basically argument that all men just like “women, soccer, drinks and women” [16] and that men’s “cock” [17] is responsible for their behavior.

Altogether, Men’s Health as well as Cosmopolitan convey male and female identities that are clearly separated from each other but at the same time full of contradictions in itself.

Marcel

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References:

Info: The whole analysis refers to the German version of the March print issues of both magazines. All used pictures are taken from them.

[1] = Motschenbacher, Heiko (2009): Speaking the Gendered Body: The Performative Construction of Commercial Femininities and Masculinities via Body-Part Vocabulary. In: Language in Society, Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 8

[2] = Cosmopolitan, p. 117

[3] = Men´s Health, p. 8

[4] = ibid, p. 74

[5] = ibid, p. 102

[6] = ibid

[7] = ibid, p. 105

[8] = ibid

[9] = ibid, p. 26

[10] = Cosmopolitan, p. 10

[11] = ibid, p. 130

[12] = ibid

[13] = ibid

[14] = Haraway, Donna (1989): Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science, Routledge: New York and London

[15] = Cosmopolitan, p. 126

[16] = ibid, p. 135

[17] = ibid

(2) The conquerer and the conquered?! Language and mediation in Men´s Health and Cosmopolitan

Reading an interesting article, claiming that women and men magazines convey a picture of women as passive object that wants to be „conquered“ and men as dominant and successful “conquerers”, I found myself generally agreeing to this thesis. But I was wondering how these magazines create and communicate such deterministic and separated gender identities. Sparing no efforts, I bought the current issues of Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan [1] to answer these questions: What language and ways of mediation do Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan use to create male and female identities? And what do they look like?

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To meet the word limit, I will give you a summary of my results, but if you are interested in this topic, here is a more elaborated and analytical version of this post.

In both magazines, body played a central role but in different ways. Men’s Health discusses male body mainly in terms of functionality which basically means that it needs to be efficient and strong and therefore muscular. A big part of the things surrounding the subject of male body are aimed at this goal. Nutrition and gadgets for sport have the function of improving athletic performance. Suitable for this representation, sport and male body are presented especially in terms of competitiveness.
And what route does Cosmo tackle? Pretty much the same but in a slightly different way. It also puts emphasis on body, but not in terms of functionality but aesthetics. This means that the female body should look slim and attractive which explains the intensive promotion of exercises and methods to lose weight. This focus on aesthetics is also illustrated by many advertisings for cosmetics and other beauty products.

Looking at the subject of sexuality, some interesting results appear. In contrast to Cosmopolitan which tends to use a quite direct word choice including terminology like “Gagging” and “Queefing” [2], Men’s Health acts more reserved. However, Cosmo presents soft and playful pictures of a couple cuddling in bed whereas Men’s Health focuses on half-naked women, the absence of men and sexual innuendos like “Put it in” [3] below the butt of a half-naked woman eating a cookie.

Bild_NeuPictures taken from Men’s Health (left, p. 103) and Cosmopolitan (right, p. 128/129)

At the same time, both magazines avoid homosexual associations and try to separate manhood and womanhood from each other. This can be illustrated by the different handling of personal hygiene which is called “Grooming” [4] (Fellpflege) in Men’s Health and “beauty” [5] in Cosmopolitan.

What to conclude out of this? What male and female identities do both magazines construct? Overall, I can agree to Heiko Motschenbacher, linguistic researcher, concluding that masculinity is primarily defined as heterosexual muscluarity [6] and that the male body literally has the function of being functional whereas the female body basically has the function of (just) being aesthetical. [7]
So both magazines present heterosexual stereotypes and thereby try to create male and female identities that are clearly separated from each other by assigning them a subject-object-relationship. However, these separated identities are in itself full of (often unnoticed) contradictions.

Marcel

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References:

[1] = The analysis refers to the German version of the March print issues of both magazines and all used pictures are taken from them.

[2] = Cosmopolitan, p. 130

[3] = Men´s Health, p. 26

[4] = ibid, p. 8

[5] = Cosmopolitan, p. 11

[6] = Motschenbacher, Heiko (2009): Speaking the Gendered Body: The Performative Construction of Commercial Femininities and Masculinities via Body-Part Vocabulary. In: Language in Society, Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 16

[7] = ibid, p. 18

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