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Tom & Lorenzo’s Feminist Critique of a Glee Photo Spread

October 21, 2010

One of my guilty pleasures is watching tv, and reading tv blogs that analyze the visual cues and references in tv. I know, people with expensive educations are not supposed to admit to watching or even owning a tv. Whatever.

Tom & Lorenzo have one of my favorite tv-related blogs, especially their thorough discussions of costume design on Mad Men. Shut. Up. They have this awesome new post on the recent Glee photo spread in GQ.

You might not even want to look at the pictures if you don’t want to bleach your brain afterward. Yes, the actors are actually not high school students, but the images are set in high school and clearly meant to suggest sexually available teens. Actually, not just sexually available – the actresses who portray Quinn and Rachel are made to look at though being sexual objects is their only real purpose. There is a clear contrast between how they and the male character are portrayed. Hint: he’s fully dressed.

TLo have this bit of awesomeness in response:

Of course he didn’t dress all of them up like porn fantasies, just the girls. Guys don’t do sexy. Guys have sexy done for them. Guys stand or sit fully clothed while girls are meant to writhe and gyrate and spread their legs in their underwear. That’s the way of things. Great message there, morons.

Right on.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2010 8:33 am

    Thanks for this confession — and the link to Tom& Lorenzo which I’m now going to read on a regular basis!

  2. Freaky Weasel permalink
    October 22, 2010 12:44 pm

    C’mon Ray, the pics are in GQ, a magazine that caters to men. Most guys aren’t interested in shirtless dudes.

    All involved are consenting adults. Much ado about very little.

    • October 22, 2010 4:34 pm

      I disagree that there being an audience for something automatically makes it unproblematic; there’s an audience for plenty of things that are sexist, racist, or otherwise vile. Neither does the ostensible choice of the participants make it unproblematic; that choice happens in a context in which it’s clear what is valued about the objects of the photographs, and there are contextual issues that modify the degree of freedom of that choice/consent. The clothed male in the photos only serves to emphasize how women and men are expected to be differently valued by the viewer, otherwise he could be omitted entirely. See also http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/08/26/faq-what-is-the-“male-gaze”/

    • Freaky Weasel permalink
      October 24, 2010 3:13 pm

      I can’t disagree with you more, Ray. I can’ identify the problem with the images.

      I used to subscribe to Maxim, a similar magazine. I wouldn’t choose to see pics of men. Nor would I have women coerced to pose for my pleasure.

      Obviously I have no comprehension of what feminism is to the devout. In my estimation the models are compensated. The photographer is paid to provide images for the publication that will fuel sales.

      Clearly the dude in his boxers will not move GQ.

      Sidenote: The example of a Batman comic in the link is silly. Women don’t buy Batman.

  3. October 24, 2010 5:43 pm

    You can disagree/not see the problem all you want, and I will continue to think that you are missing something about the context in which this set of images is composed and which they reflect. The comment by April at 10:25 am on 10/20 (about context) in the TLo thread pretty well sums it up, particularly when taken with the comment of Anonymous at 10:52am on 10/20 (about choice). Sorry, but there’s no good way to directly link them, but I highly recommend them.

    Essay assignment for the class: why is the dude in his boxers included in the photos? What purpose does he serve?

    I don’t know how to make it more clear that I *do* see a problem, as a women, with the context and implications of the depictions of women in these shots, and that no amount of “I don’t get it” is going to make my reading of that context and its implications any more charitable.

    Not exactly on topic, but there is a post at Shakesville that often comes to mind in conversations like this (and which was focused on a different medium, video games), in which one is apparently thought to be making too big a deal of something (usually by someone who is not among the group being objectified):

    in a very real way, ignoring ‘the little things’ makes the big ones that much harder to eradicate, because it is the pervasive, ubiquitous, inescapable little things that create the foundation of the culture on which the big stuff is dependent for its survival. It’s the little things, the constant drumbeat of inequality and objectification, that inure us to increasingly horrible acts and attitudes toward…women.

    “Women don’t buy Batman.” – Not even remotely amusing. Of course, there’s a pretty sizeable amount of writing on the problematic images in comics/graphic novels and how they alienate/delegitimize their potential/actual women audiences, as well.

    • Freaky Weasel permalink
      October 25, 2010 5:36 pm

      I won’t claim to be an art / film critic. I ascribe no more meaning to pics of girls in their panties in GQ than I do to the shirtless Old Spice guy riding a horse.

      You disagree.

      You’re just plain wrong about comics. Every attempt to sell comics to females has been met with abject failure. Every type of story, all kinds of creators, nothing has worked.

      Women *don’t* buy comics. Period.

  4. batgirl permalink
    October 26, 2010 10:21 am

    “Women *don’t* buy comics. Period.”

    Really? Wow. Shit. I guess I better pick a new nom de plume and stop this nonsense of thinking I’m a woman.

  5. October 26, 2010 10:24 am

    Rachel, that’s precisely what bothered me about that photo shoot. My first thought was “why isn’t the cute boy naked and sexy, too?” followed by an irritable “dammit.” Gender politics abound.

    Thanks for the pointer to Tom and Lorenzo!

  6. October 26, 2010 1:36 pm

    Ha, I’m sorry, but this idea that women don’t buy comics is cracking me up. Maybe women don’t buy Superman comics or something, but I’m pretty sure the mix of genders who can tell you who Death and Delirium are is almost equal and the population of female fans of Japanese comics is enormous. Female comic readers might be continually shoved into a corner and ignored, but they exist. You only have to go to ComiCon to see them.

    Anyway, this reminds me of a recent episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where all the guys are attracted to this woman who acts like a little girl, but Barney has very little luck finding a woman who’s attracted to a man who talks like a little boy and the one woman he does find ends up being creepy.

    The truth is that selling grown men images of grown women pretending to be high schoolers is also creepy, hilariously creepy. But we rarely recognize it as such.

    • Freaky Weasel permalink
      October 27, 2010 7:49 am

      B, when I say women don’t read them, my intent is to say the big companies will go out of business trying to sell to them. DC’s Vertigo line has some great titles, but if you’re relying on Sandman to keep the doors open, good luck.

      I deliberately didn’t mention any manga because they have so much imagery of the type in this issue of GQ. Maybe not as suggestive, but lots of young girls in panties.

      So my revised statement. Girls buy some comics, but not many, except manga which features panty-clad girls and occassionally 20 year old reprints of Neil Gaiman collections.

  7. November 8, 2010 1:48 pm

    While GQ does cater to a male audience, and the girls are of an appropriate age, the concept of this photoshoot is disappointing, as Glee has gone so far to push a message of inclusion, of all shapes and sizes.

    WVFC’s Alexandra MacAaron is a self-professed “Gleek” as well, and is equally disappointed with the shoot: http://womensvoicesforchange.org/glee-girls-gone-wild-%E2%80%93-why-gq%E2%80%99s-pictorial-has-me-seeing-red.htm

    (Also – Someone elsewhere made a valid point that even if GQ is for a specific audience, it’s the age of the internet, and the images are and is accessible to everyone, including those that the Glee characters are role models for.)

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