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This is my essay for our study of Mythologies, by Roland Barthes. We had to choose an everyday ‘myth’ (read ‘Myth Today’ by Roland Barthes if you want a full understanding of how he defines myths – it’s pretty complex, and, I must confess, confuses me) and analyse it in the style of Barthes’ essays. Enjoy!

When Women Rule The World

What would happen if, by some strange twist of fate, women ended up in charge? What would occur if men were deemed the weaker sex, and women became dominant? Would women handle the task better than the men of the past? When Women Rule The World, a series on Channel Four, claims to ask (and, perhaps more importantly, answer) these questions. It takes 8 women and 10 men and puts them on a desert island. The women are given dominance; the men must work for them and bend to their every wish. Here, then, is the perfect gender experiment – what does happen when women are in charge?

One is frequently reminded, when watching this programme, that this is an experiment to show ‘how women cope with power’, and ‘how men cope with being the weaker sex’. Instantly, the assumption that women are not in positions of power in our modern society, that this is an example of an alternate reality, is put forward as truth. Equally, one is expected to accept without question the idea of men taking on the role of ‘the weaker sex’, with its implication that this goes against the natural order of things and that women are, in reality, the weaker of the sexes. For a supposed gender study, then, this programme fails at the first base. Instead of using gender neutral terms, and approaching the ‘experiment’ with a view to gaining real results, When Women Rule The World has only one aim: good television. For this reason, the women and men chosen are not representative of society, but handpicked ‘strong’ women (where ‘strong’ here means loud or stubborn) and ‘anti-feminist’ or arrogant men. The desire to cause hostility between the sexes in order to make good tv should be clear, yet it is disregarded by the public as they are spoon fed the idea of a ‘social experiment’ by an equally easily led presenter.

Steve Jones, who claims that When Women Rule The World is ‘all about the journey’, ignoring the large cash prize given to the winning man, throws a spanner in the works by his presence alone. Having a male presenter, who gives the women tasks to give the men, who tells the women when to call council and who calls the weekly sacrifice, undermines the idea of a matriarchy. Instead, one is presented with a group of women who take orders from one man, who in turn takes his orders from a television crew who will be, at the very least, a combination of women and men, if not entirely men. This crew aims to make television that will sell, which means that it needs to be something which will appeal to the masses. In effect, the crew takes its orders from the society it works within, a society which is perceived to be male-dominated. How, then, can one legitimately claim that this is a fair representation of how women would fare if our society were a matriarchy? Clearly, one cannot.

When Women Rule The World reinforces the gender divide through the prejudices that run throughout the programme. In one episode the viewer is reminded that women are emotional, whereas men are intelligent, that women really should be in the kitchen, that men cannot follow orders, that women cannot draw or understand maps and that ultimately, women need men to tell them what to do. Instead of presenting a ‘social experiment’, this seems to be a veiled attempt to broadcast negative gender stereotypes to the masses as though they have been proven by psychological experimentation.

When Women Rule The World also raises issues of identification. This experiment does not build up a faux-city, with women as figures of authority, nor does it even create a village setting. Instead, it creates a tribal setting, on an unnamed desert island. The contestants wear very little clothing, and what is worn is simple enough to conform to the idea of ‘primitive’ living. Added to this aesthetic ‘tribe’, comes the idea of a weekly sacrifice. The women choose one man who is to leave the group, and his dismissal is declared by each woman painting a line of red paint, reminiscent of blood, across said man’s bare chest. This places the idea of a matriarchy in a realm of ‘otherness’, a society unlike our own, and demeans the tribal societies which still exist today by portraying the society as dysfunctional and oppressive. In a similar vein, though initially called servants, the men are often called the women’s ‘slaves’. The very use of a word as emotionally, historically and morally loaded as ‘slave’ in a context of light hearted reality television undermines its power, and belittles the sufferings of slaves by coining the term in reference to men in a game show. Much like the sacrifice seems to mock religious sacrifices, be they to a god or goddess, calling contestants slaves mocks the history of an entire people, justified under the all encompassing explanation: ‘it’s a social experiment’.

Not only does When Women Rule The World deprive the black race of its history, it twists the terms of feminism to fit its own agenda. Feminism, a belief that all people should be treated equally, becomes something altogether different when associated with this programme. By claiming feminism as its own, it reinforces the negative attitudes in society towards feminism, which claim that it is about female superiority rather than equality. By tying feminism to a show which can be seen to advocate female superiority, the myth of man-hating feminists is perpetuated. To tie it with a show which reveals female leadership to be a shambles, as this programme seems to claim, is to both perpetuate the myth and mock feminism because of it.

The myth that When Women Rule The World is merely a social experiment conceals something much deeper. As well as inoculating people to gender stereotyping by presenting it under the guise of a psychological experiment, it presents history in its own light by attaching the idea of feminism to something directly opposed to it. This is no bid for equality, nor is it an attempt to show that women are capable of leadership – it is simply a reality television show with delusions of grandeur.

who has an issue with the way this has been reported?

I know by now I should be used to the victim-blaming of our media, but yet again I am left speechless. The headline and first few paragraphs of this news item seem to blame Funke Sobo for her ‘lie’ provoking Crampton’s ‘angry reaction’. With a headline like

Lie sparked slaughter of family

can one possibly question who they see as to blame?

Follow this with

“Desperate to get him out of her life, Funke Sobo, 36, told him she was seeing another man.

It was a fatal mistake, as her unbalanced ex-partner claimed he was driven by “extreme possessiveness.””

and you have the perfect recipe for a victim blaming article. Sobo’s attempt to get a deeply troubled and dangerous man out of her life was, apparently, ‘a fatal mistake’.

Honestly, if these women would just stop lying to these murderers everything would be just fine.

[EDIT: In fact, the BBC have reported on this in a different manner, with a much more suitable headline and tone. Which leads you to question – why write an entire new article with the blame focused upon Sobo?]

He can still teach? He is still allowed near young women?

*Is sick*

LINK

Read this

Not only is this a horrible piece of news, but I found the way in which it was written/the attitudes conveyed quite sickening. There seems to be an implication that it is surprising that ‘Summers had no regard for the law’, and the suggestion that he ‘couldn’t be stopped’ is such a cop out – instead of accepting the responsibility of the police and MAPPA and acknowledging that Summers ought to have been imprisoned or at the very least watched more closely and taken more seriously, they imply that he was an unstoppable force.

How on the Goddess’ sweet green Earth are we meant to progress in catching criminals and preventing crime when ‘official reports’ claim said criminals are ‘unstoppable’??

So many great blogs to choose from…hmm…

  • Feministe has an interesting blog on Christian Bale and the accusations against him

  • Unapologetically Female asks: does advertising show us men want breasts, or not?

  • And posts this awesome video:

  • Brownfemipower looks at the plans for a new Disney film

  • Courtney Martin assesses the idea of marriage

  • Today’s Big Thing has a video of some women kicking the girls-are-bad-at-sports stereotype where it hurts

  • And feministing has made my life complete by introducing me to this wonderful, wonderful woman:

  • Seriously, MAN CRISPS? Fucking MAN CRISPS?

    How can they get away with this kind of advertising?

    I actually hate the world.

    How can people do this?

    In Suffolk on the 14th, a woman was forced into a car and raped. The rapist was in his 60s and had asked for help with heavy bags…

    I just can’t understand it. I don’t see why someone can think that that is an ok thing to do, I cannot fathom how someone can justify raping someone. As with the man who raped and tortured the student in Columbia, there is a thought process that these men go through that I cannot begin to comprehend.

    I suppose it’s the same with all criminals – it would be strange if you could understand them, understand the reasoning behind their actions. You would have something in common with them. But this isn’t like stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family, this isn’t like bank fraud. This is such a serious, terrible crime, this is a crime against womankind and yet still, so many people, all over the world, can find it in themselves to rape. Can justify it to themselves, can live with themselves having done it. Would do it if they could get away with it (as seen in Malamuth and Check’s research in a uni in the US, where 1/3 of the all male participants said that they would rape if they could get away with it).

    Part of me seems to think that if we could understand, maybe we could stop these men. Prevent them from terrorising women, from torturing and raping women.

    Ultimately though, I suppose, it comes down to the education of men (because, strangely, it shouldn’t be the case that women have the responsibility of defending themselves, it should be the rapists that are being stopped) and the efficiency of the enforcement of law…

    Either way, it’s highly depressing that this is still such a frequent occurrence, not only in our country but all over the world. It’s disgraceful that people think that it’s an ok thing to do, and that women so often get the blame. It’s disgraceful that people think you are making up statistics if you tell them what they don’t want to hear, that a woman can be penalised for what she was wearing or for her relationship history or indeed just for being a woman, it’s disgraceful that there isn’t a bigger effort to prevent this from occurring. It’s disgraceful the amount of men who get away with it, and the amount of women who have to live with the memory of such a horrific experience.

    Really, how can we ever be proud of a country where there is so much disgrace?

    …or at least, that is what one is led to believe by the promise of many new ‘Hooters‘ bars cropping up all over England. Hoorah, another way of normalising the objectification and degradation of women.

    I’ll link you up to the criticisms on The F-Word, and the relevant Facebook group and petition, but first have a look at what Hooters have to say for themselves:

    The element of female sex appeal is prevalent in the restaurants, and the company believes the Hooters Girl is as socially acceptable as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, or a Radio City Rockette. The Hooters system employs over 25,000 people – over 15,000 of which are Hooters Girls. The “nearly world famous” Hooters Girls are the cornerstone of the Hooters concept, and as part of their job, these all-American cheerleaders make promotional and charitable appearances in their respective communities. Hooters hires women who best fit the image of a Hooters Girl to work in this capacity. The chain hires both males and females to work in management and host, staff, service bar, and kitchen positions. The Hooters Girl uniform consists of orange shorts and a white tank top, short-sleeve or long-sleeve T-shirt. Pantyhose and bras are required.

    Claims that Hooters exploits attractive women are as ridiculous as saying the NFL exploits men who are big and fast. Hooters Girls have the same right to use their natural female sex appeal to earn a living as do super models Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell. To Hooters, the women’s rights movement is important because it guarantees women have the right to choose their own careers, be it a Supreme Court Justice or Hooters Girl.

    Women occupy management positions all the way from Assistant Manager to Vice President of Training and Development, Kat Cole, who started her career at Hooters as a Hooters Girl.

    The chain acknowledges that many consider “Hooters” a slang term for a portion of the female anatomy. Hooters does have an owl inside its logo and uses an owl theme sufficiently to allow debate to occur over the meaning’s intent. The chain enjoys and benefits from this debate. In the end, we hope Hooters means a great place to eat.

    Hooters characterizes itself as a neighborhood place, not a typical family restaurant. Sixty-eight percent of customers are male, most between the ages of 25-54. Hooters does not market itself to families, but they do patronize the restaurants. Ten percent of the parties we serve have children in them. Hooters is in the hospitality business and provides the best possible service to anyone coming through the door. For this reason, the chain offers a children’s menu.

    Oh I could continue quoting, but you might as well read the page if it interests you. I’ll just add this one bit:

    Sex appeal is legal and it sells. Newspapers, magazines, daytime talk shows, and local television affiliates consistently emphasize a variety of sexual topics to boost sales. Hooters marketing, emphasizing the Hooters Girl and her sex appeal, along with its commitment to quality operations continues to build and contributes to the chain’s success. Hooters’ business motto sums it up, “You can sell the sizzle, but you have to deliver the steak.”

    Lovely. It’s one of those ‘the majority is always right, therefore the perceived majority is always right, therefore the media is always right and therefore we are’ decisions. Pretty questionable if you ask me. What they don’t seem to understand is that their company reduces women to mere ‘sex appeal’, and normalises the view of women as constantly sexually available, as there for male pleasure and as subservient. As Laura Woodhouse from The F-Word puts it,

    Some women may have no problems working there or dealing with the customers. But some women choosing to work there doesn’t mean that the Hooters’ view of women is OK. As long as women are primarily valued and viewed as sex objects for male pleasure/entertainment, all women suffer, because that status allows us to be discriminated against and “justifies” male sexual harassment of women, the myths about rape (she asked for it because she had her breasts out, she wanted it really etc etc), paying us less or barring our access to certain jobs. We will not be seen or treated as equals with equal rights as long as the culture of which Hooters is a part insists that our greatest asset is our breasts, and that these exist for men to look at and make money out of.

    Other women have to take any job going, and they shouldn’t have to put up with the Hooters uniform and sexual harassment in order to make a living. Callers on the show last night who claimed that no one has to do a job they don’t like are naive. You think people CHOOSE to empty bins or clean toilets day in, day out for years on end? People have to make ends meet, and they should not have to put up with the Hooters environment in order to do so. I don’t think the women who choose to work there should have to, either.

    Here are the anti-hooters links: Both blogs at The F-Word , Facebook group, PETITION, Guardian article.

    And here’s the agreement that all of the ‘girls’ have to sign – read paras 2 and 3.

    I’d be intrigued to know what you think about this. Personally, as you may have gathered, I’m astonished that this should even be suggested, let alone accepted, as a new branch of restaurants, pleasantly titled ‘breastaurants’ by one of the lawyers for Hooters (which, really, says it all), in England.

    Goodness, that’s a bit of a long sentence, sorry. I hope that there is some way of stopping them, really I do. The fact that they are celebrating their 25th Birthday in America is depressing enough, let’s hope they never get to celebrate their first one here.

    [Edit: It would appear that actually they have been successful in getting permission for a Hooters in Southend on Sea. Damn damn damn damn. But that does not mean (obviously) that we just give up and accept their existence in our country. Or indeed anywhere. Keep fighting the good fight, my friends. And on that note, as ever, adieu.]

    Cos we’ve never heard that one before.

    THIS isn’t, apparently, a touchy-feely, “women are more emotional in the workplace” kind of argument.

    No, instead it’s a ‘men are just emotionally incapable and LIKE to see others fail, while women make a good judgement not to get involved with aspects of business that require more commitment time-wise’

    . . . .

    Male performance is boosted simply by having to compete, while female performance is automatically lowered by competition, according to studies that tested fourth-grade schoolchildren under different running scenarios in gym class.

    Because, of course, fourth-grade schoolchildren are perfect examples of working women and men. And anyway, why o why o why the generalisation?! Some women perform better when they have to compete (I sure as hell do), and some don’t. The same goes for men.

    “More women than men think they’ll do poorly, even when they perform very well,” Dr. Pinker says in the book. “In the competitive sphere this can look like discrimination, when in fact women may be withdrawing from the race of their own accord, based on their faulty self-assessments.”

    This, of course, is natural. Women expect to do badly. This couldn’t possibly be a learnt personality trait, could it?

    Oh no, let’s not even suggest that. That’s crazy talk. Women just think like that, ok?

    To be fair, I’m judging from the article rather than reading the actual book. But really, Dr. Pinker, shouldn’t we have learnt by now that all people behave/think/process information differently? What can we possibly gain from such ‘research’ other than a confirmation of this, which has been gendered? Surely the only thing that this book does, then, is promote the idea that it’s ok for there to be so few women in the higher jobs in business because some women don’t want it, and that men are incapable of real emotion/compassion?

    Thus, the power of patriarchy is yet again affirmed – we’ve even got women saying that it’s natural for women to not want to be promoted/paid more! And while we’re at it, let’s confirm that idea of the RealMan – he’s masculine, he’s strong, he likes to compete and WIN, oh yeah, and he just doesn’t do any of that girly compassion bull.

    Perleeease. Give me a break.

    …when you ought to be sleeping.

    Two videos for you to watch. The first – men being asked what feminism means to them. The second – women being asked. I think they’re from about a yr ago, but still pretty telling.

    I’m off to bed now 🙂

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