Feminist Remix

For this assignment I’ve decided to explore the topic of “beauty” and how society portrays it through the media. There have been hundreds of tv commercials and magazine’s ads with beautiful models selling a product that would make them… beautiful. The message implied in these commercials is that what they “sell” is what is beautiful, and if we all want to be beautiful we have to look like that. A lot of young girls and girls my age grow up under the pressure of having to look like those models, in order to be considered pretty within this society.  It’s fair to say that this pressure grows a lot more in women than men, considering these commercials are often directed to women and use them as a selling object.

The first part of my assignment is a remix created with the audio of this tv commercial of cover girl where a young and beautiful girl suggests that the cover girl products are required if you want to look like her, and videos of “normal teenagers”, to show that all of them could be “Cover girls”.

For the second part of the assignment, I’ve decided to make it more personal. I looked up to some videos on youtube and also remembered some tv shows and the goal is always the same: overcome your fears and show that you’re not afraid to tell what you don’t like about yourself. Well, in my opinion, it’s much more easier to tell what we don’t like opposed to what we do, so I thought it would be a good idea to do that: show the world what we love. First I asked some of my friends if they wanted to contribute and then I posted a message on twitter asking if anyone wanted to join. I told them to write of a piece of paper what they loved the most about themselves (physically) and then take a picture with the sign. Even though I got a lot of positive responses, some of the girls were telling me that it was hard for them to choose something that they liked. This proved that my “theory” was right, it’s always easier to find something we don’t like than something we do, and this is why I developed this “project”, to help girls realizing that they’re beautiful and they have something they should love and not feel bad about it. I used the mashup by Glee “I feel pretty / Unpretty” because it described what i wanted to achieve with this. As long as we’re beautiful on the inside, it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, you should feel pretty anyway.

Happy girls are the prettiest! – Audrey Hepburn

I would like to personally thank all my friends that are part of this video, even though we were all far from each other. From all regions in Portugal, to Germany, Czech Republic and Austria, they all contributed with a little piece.

Feminist New Media Intertexts

Everyday we’re exposed to different cultures, and sometimes, without even realizing it. The place we were born, the country we live in, our family background, the people we meet, are some of the factors that influence our behavior, knowledge and beliefs. Maybe it’s only when we move to another country or get in touch with a foreigner, that we realize all those cultural differences showed by cultural artifacts.

For this assignment I had to think about a cultural artifact that has some power and influence in my life. The first thing I thought about was my family. They’re probably the ones who influence me the most, not only because they raised me according to their own values but also because they support me in many different ways. Immediately after thinking about family, I thought about “Home”. I will focus this entry on the topic “A House is not a Home” and explore the different meanings and associations regarding different cultures.

Palimpsest traces

What are the contemporary meanings encoded in this?

If we think of a “house” what is the first thing that occurs to our minds? While I may think of a structure of walls, with windows and a door, someone from an African tribe may think of something different. However, almost everyone thinks of a House as a place to live. This is because even though we’re from different cultures, we share some of the same meanings. Now if we think about “Home” does the same thing occur? Do we think of a place to live?

House vs Home

When I first arrived in Klagenfurt I was taking pictures of houses on the street (first image), because they looked a bit different from the ones in my country – Portugal. However, I still recognized it as a house, a place where people live, but for me, it didn’t mean more than that. The second picture, is a image I found on the internet, after doing some research of the word “home”. While house is a very obvious cultural artifact (even though it may look different, but overall has the same purpose of existence), home is a more subjective artifact. Everyone can have a different meaning for what home is.

Where do the meanings I associate with these meanings come from?

The meanings associated with house are pretty obvious. A house is something present in our life since the day we’re born, we need a place to live. Throughout our life we can move from a city to another, from country to country, but we usually move to another house. So these meanings come from society’s ideas of the “true nature” of this. But where do the meanings we associate of home come from? In my opinion, they come mostly from personal experience and observations of life. This takes me back to the introduction of this journal entry. For me, “home” is where and when I’m with my family. Doesn’t matter if we live in an hotel, in an apartment or in a big house, home will always be when I’m with them. When I went to college I had to move to another city and I would only come back to my “hometown” on weekends. Every friday I would say that I was going home, but what exactly did I mean by home? Indirectly it was the place I lived with my parents and sister, but the true meaning was going where they were. To understand a little better where do these meanings come from and if they’re influenced by our culture, I asked three persons from different backgrounds.

Interactivity  / Collaboration

I used the same method with the three persons. First I asked them to think of a house, and then to think of “a” home. I asked if it was the same thing and then what were the meanings and associations behind it.

The first person is an erasmus student from Latvia. Her concept of a house was very similar to the one I described above, but when it came to “home”, she had a totally different point of view. She told me that she was born in a small town called Cēsis and after 10 years she moved to Jūrmala, a city close to the capital, Riga. Even though she has been living there for a long time, 11 years, for her, home will always be her house in Cēsis. She described it as the place where she learned about nature, appreciate music, sports and art. When she moved to Jurmala, she moved to a flat and that was immediately the negative side of it: she didn’t have the chance to stay in touch with the nature, she had to stay inside. So in general she describes home as “my best memories from Cēsis, first loves, my room, my spot in garden, my friends, my school and everything. Cēsis is one of most beautiful cities in Latvia so I’m proud to come from there. Cēsis is where I come from, is my home”. She used this song to express her vision, quoting that specific lyrics:

Oh this is the greatest peace I’ve ever known
Oh, little love makes house a home
This house is home.

The second person is a friend of mine who is a flight assistant. Since she has to travel a lot and stay in different places all the time, I decided to e-mail her to understand what her point of view was. First she described a house as a place to live, either alone, with family or friends. Then she told that, because of her job, she couldn’t feel stuck to a place to call home, so she had to find a solution. “Every time I travel, I take with me something from the house where I grew up, and place it in every hotel room that I stay. It makes me feel at home, because I have something familiar with me, and something that I associate with my life”. She then quoted a song saying: “It’s not a homeless life for me, it’s just that I’m home less than I’d like to be“.

Finally, the third and last person that I talked to is a graduate student from Portugal who is currently living in London. His definition of house was that “it is a place where people can live. A random space where whether they feel good or not, is their shelter.” On the other hand, for him “home is our personal space. Something that is only ours, where we should feel protected. Ours and nobody else’s”. He even added that for him “home is where I’m with my family, or where I feel protected, where I know I’ll always be safe”. Overall, he sees home as a place where his memories are.

From the previous examples, I think it is possible to say that “Home” is seen as something very personal and that varies from person to person, according to their own personal experiences. Home is definitely a cultural artifact, but I think House is one as well. All the different persons described me a different house. It had the same purposes, and it was similar, but it was always different. Even I thought austrian houses were worth a picture because they were different from portuguese’s.

Multifaceted critical pastiche

Throughout the years, house has been an artifact linked to the women’s role in the family and society. It was believed that women should stay in the house raising the kids and doing the domestic chores. Within the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts, Judy Chicago and her students came up with a project called: WomanHouse.

The age-old female activity of homemaking was taken to fantasy proportions. Womanhouse became the repository of the daydreams women have as they wash, bake, cook, sew, clean and iron their lives away. – http://womanhouse.refugia.net/

It is possible to find in today’s world people who still have sexist ideas towards women. The house can be seen as a patriarchal example, once people associate it as being the women’s job. I had a philosophy teacher, who was a true feminist, that once said: “A country should be organized the same way a woman organizes her house. A mother always protects her children, specially the defenseless ones, and a country should work in the same way, always protect the poor and defenseless people”.  In my opinion it is quite true, a house can be seen as a system, just like a country.

I also used google to search for images of “house” and “home” and the results were almost the same, except that for “home” there were a lot of icons that are used in websites to illustrate the main page. It is curious that home has another meaning, related to the technology industry. It just shows how our society is becoming more and more standardized and technological. I wonder if this will have impact in our lives regarding these two concepts of house and home.

Politicizing Gender Constructions

The purpose of this essay is to show how society and the social media affects gender constructions and patriarchal practices by doing a critical approach, using three visuals examples from our “day-to-day” life and changing their context using strategies like: repositioning, spotlighting, empty space and overlay.

In the words of Saussure “a sign is something that stands for something to someone in some capacity” whether they’re words, images, gestures or sounds. He also states “the sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified”. Symbols and signs are often used as metaphors and are based on society standards. They were conventionally conceived so that everyone could understand them. That being said, let’s take a look at my first image:


This symbol is used to represent the “Baby Changing Room” in shopping centres, where usually this room is located inside women’s toilette. I was very surprised, or rather shocked when I realized this situation. First of all, it’s completely ridiculous that the “Baby changing room” is inside the women’s toilette. What happens if it’s Dad’s time to change baby’s diaper? Where should he go? This only imposes the idea that this is the kind of job that women should do, and not men. And second, since symbols are metaphors of actions, places or rules, the fact that the symbol used to represent the baby room is almost always a woman with a baby, only reinforces the idea stated above and represents patriarchy. How can we truly state and believe that nowadays society views the roles performed by the mother and the father almost as the same, if it still didn’t change in these details? The problem is that we don’t really realize this kind of “discrimination” and sexism unless we pay attention or are confronted with that, but truth is, we’re exposed to a lot of situations like these without even realizing how it can affect each other’s lives.

Making use of the strategies of Spotlighting and Repositioning, I created this two signs:

The aim with the first one is to question people on how would you feel if you saw this in a shopping center? Would you be shocked that it is a man with a baby? Or would you even ignore that and just focus on the baby and the activity? In my opinion it would be a 50/50. Some man would probably be offended that it’s a “masculine” figure represented because they might think that this is the mother’s role, while others wouldn’t even notice it and just ignore. As for the second recreated sign, I tried to combine both parents in the picture, to encourage that this is a “job” that both should share, as both have an important role in raising a child.

My second and third examples focus on the gender constructions in advertisement, although in different contexts.

Let’s take a look at this advertisement of a portuguese beer:

(video of tv spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_TSjHqv4Lg)

“Fresh until the last drop.”

The whole concept of this campaign is to promote beer, using a pretty and seductive woman to make it more attractive. If we pay close attention to the advertisements or tv commercials of products that are usually for men’s consumption, almost all make use of a sexy woman. So women have been always linked to commercials when the product that they’ve been trying to sell is not even for her own consumption. In these cases, women end up being a product themselves, an object that is only used to attract men and as a persuasive tool.

Women were made an object of use, which confirms, with help from the social media, their role as a selling object for men’s consumption. (Arcadi, 2001, 150-151).

What if the same beer would have been promoted without the feminin figure? Would it have the same impact? Would men feel less attracted to it? With the empty space strategy, I recreated the whole poster:

Of course men would still buy the beer, but the ad doesn’t have the same impact. The women’s figure gives some sort of sensuality to the product and men feel attracted to it and desire it. Also, it works as a tool to make men think the woman’s body is a product for consumption as well.

Finally, my third and last visual image, as stated above, focuses on the gender construction in advertisement. However I won’t focus on the use of the woman’s body as a persuasive tool, but on how a certain type of commercials are only directed to women. The world wide known brand of clothes’ detergents “Tide” came up with a series of tv commercials for their campaign “My Tide” where “average people” would describe what type of product they use to wash their clothes and tell their stories.

Watch videos here:

The problem is that in almost all the commercials is implied that only women do the laundry, and contrasting with the beer commercial, they used people that would represent the average society, and not seductive models.This made me realize that all tv commercials of detergents or cleaning products are clearly directed to women as if only they would do the laundry and understand how it should be done. I see this as an example of patriarchal power in our society, because, just like in my first visual image, we still assume that the woman in the family has to do the domestic chores, while man can just chill and drink beer after a day of work. In this concrete commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1qW7Po-1KI) a man is portrayed as a “dad mom” because he’s the one in the family who does the “mom’s chores”. The commercial is directed in a way to make us find odd the fact that it is a man and not a woman, hence hat people call him “dad mom”.

Again, using the repositioning strategy, I placed a woman from one of the other commercials in the man’s place:

If this was the original commercial would we still find it odd and surprising? Probably not, and that’s because the media have been using women with this purpose for ages.

The three images presented in this essay are only some of the never ending examples of gender constructions in our society. I guess we can say that “we still have a longway to run” when it comes to equality of the genders, but will we ever get there?