My dad had a bit of a thing for the ladies and this is considered true for most Caribbean men. Most heterosexual men, married or not can not help but admire women based on their physical appearance.
Some overtly show their interest by catcalling or whispering a sexually suggestive line to a woman passing by. Others may actually show their sincere appreciation for women by commenting on a new hair style, or a new outfit. Some brothers adopt a covert sports shades approach which allows them to rotate and gyrate their eyes in time with the unsuspecting woman.
I can not say my pops was one of those dads who openly investigated and verbally molested every remotely attractive woman in a 20 metre radius. I am extremely elated he didn’t, because that’s just really uncivilised and an unnecessary, though typical, aspect of masculinity in the region.
This said, there are many subtle forms of socialising males and females into gender stereotypes throughout the world, and if left unexamined could bring more harm than good to our society.
Women have always played a key role in the provision of entertainment for society, a society which notably gives men the upper hand. This entertainment doesn’t always involve a strip joint, or provide a direct sexual service but can include their talent.
Before my mom passed away, I was well aware that dad was obsessed with a few outside women. His lady friends were Donna Summer and Whitney Houston, who both passed away this year, and Sade who continues to rock the world with her unique and sweet voice.
My mom facilitated his addiction, and I found out earlier this year she would joke about him having an affair with them. It’s hard not to describe any of these women as sexy, and maybe my mom wouldn’t have done so if the ladies were living in the neighbourhood, but his fascination was the music, and as such the threat of a real affair was not there.
I’ve picked up this trait as well, and I don’t see anything wrong with a little external interest as the one my dad would have had.
Let’s take one women I am particularly fond of, the actress Scarlett Johansson. I was completely caught by surprise when she showed up on screen for the Hollywood blockbuster movie The Avengers, indicating just how clueless I was of this movie before seeing it. What distracted me was the director’s mischievous camera angle for a scene where the dialogue should have played a central role.
Director Joss Whedon opted for providing the audience with amazing footage of Scarlett’s backside clad in her Black Widow bodysuit costume. Hawt! is the new spelling of hot which is used to describe just how sexy one looks, and she fits the description well. Notwithstanding how much of a fan I am, I have to critique the director here, “it’s an action adventure movie man, not a romantic suspense flick!”
I think it’s completely amazing just how much we use sex to sell most things, which of course makes a big joke of demand driving supply when we are constantly being seduced to demand the sexy looking car, computer, deodorant, detergent, or running shoes.
While women are generally expected to assume the mantle of the ideal advertising object of the world, I’ve noticed that there has been some changes where male stereotypes have become common. These stereotypes have increasingly popularised an oversexed world, where the male models featured maintain the status quo of control, power and wealth. This no doubt contributes to a fair share of pressure amongst men to meet these unrealistic expectations.
When men’s magazines ask popular male entertainers and actors to model and promote a new line of fashion or fragrance, it certainly has the potential to influence your interest and consumption of the new cool they are promoting. And while our consumption patterns can be harmless, there are thin lines that can be crossed as well.
From 2007 onwards a slew of fashion designers have come under some serious criticism for adopting pornographic and sexually violent advertising campaigns. More specifically American Apparel has taken on an amateur porn look, while the advertising campaigns of Dolce and Gabbana and Calvin Klein were banned for simulating gang rape scenes where the models were clad in the brand’s clothing. These are nothing less than very dangerous promotion tools for the type of relationships the world could do without.
There are also fabulous examples of male actors using their image to advertise social change. Patrick Stewart and Daniel Craig come to mind immediately for their work to end violence against women. Craig, famously known for playing the womanising James Bond put his money where his heart is, and produced a short film to highlight women’s rights. The actor literally goes into drag to bring the point across. Unfortunately these men are really only a part of an elite group who would dare to come to terms with the fact that men are generally privileged and most importantly that men can be partners for peace.
It’s difficult enough negotiating a world of stereotypes as an adult, but can you imagine the influence on young people today. The media has taken the pink and blue childhood gender socialisation strategies to a new realm facilitated by a range of platforms that send messages faster than ever.
There are few of us who really police the media to restrict how much we adopt from their agendas. The media’s misrepresentation of what it means to be a girl, boy, woman or man is not only an important space for parents to control, but they can provide valuable fora for families to educate, counteract, and reinforce acceptable gender relations.
Adults need to question a lot of the messages we receive daily via the media. This is fundamental for the much needed revolution in gender relations to take place.