A More Feminist Halloween: Rethinking Costumes

Halloween is nearly upon us! Unfortunately, along with the usual witches, monsters, and superheroes, it’s also common to see some of the following costumes, especially on a college campus. This campaign – “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” – targets costumes based on racial stereotypes that make perennial appearances at Halloween parties and asks all of us to rethink what we’re unwittingly reinforcing when we wear them (even if our intentions were just to have fun).

Think back to Chimamanda Adichie’s talk “The Danger of a Single Story” from the beginning of the semester. How do each of these costumes capture her point?



photos for poster


Read about actor Julianne Hough’s poorly-thought-out Halloween costume, which included blackface. She dressed as one of the characters from the TV show “Orange is the New Black.”

Julianne Hough sports blackface as one of the characters from "Orange is the New Black" for her inappropriate Halloween costume this year.

Julianne Hough sports blackface as one of the characters from “Orange is the New Black” for her inappropriate Halloween costume this year.


Like Jason Alexander, whose lengthy and well though-out apology we read earlier this semester in our unit on derailing, Hough issued her own apology on Twitter. Now that you’ve learned about derailing, what do you think of Hough’s apology? Is it as successsful as Alexander’s? Why or why not?


Stopping Human Trafficking: Campus Conversations & Upcoming Events

traffickingBeginning on November 2nd, Purdue will be host to a week’s worth of events aimed at stopping human trafficking. Although we haven’t explicitly discussed this topic in class, Adrienne Rich does mention human trafficking (specifically sex trafficking) as one of the methods used by those in power to maintain the powers of men (see “Compulsory Heterosexuality…”). The events will include  informational talks, a documentary screening (hosted by Marie Kellemen from the YWCA, who spoke with our class earlier this semester), and even guided prayer.

For a complete list of the events and their times and places, check out the Stopping Traffic: Breaking the Chains of Human Exploitation Facebook page.


Want to know more about human trafficking, including who it affects and what forms it takes? Listen to this eye-opening episide of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. The show features Sophie Hayes, the author of the memoir Trafficked, who went on to create the Sophie Hayes Foundation to stop human trafficking. Hayes was a victim of human trafficking herself.

“Flipped” Images and Highlighting the Male Gaze

Here’s some food for thought: consider the group of Victoria’s Secret models posing in the photograph below, and further down, the guys from the TV show Jackass in a similar grouping, highlighting how differently we pose men’s and women’s bodies to display female “beauty.”

Of course, what these flipped images really highlight is the “male gaze” –the male gaze refers to the idea that images, art, and films are often produced by and for men from a male perspective to satisfy men’s interests and desires (just think of the picture of the retro stewardess in Marriott Hall). Of course, just as women can internalize patriarchal oppression, so do women learn to create images based on the male gaze themselves.

John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing, sums it up:  “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” – hello, self-conscious!
A typical fashion photograph of grouped female models (top) and its parody (below) featuring men.

A typical fashion photograph of grouped female models (top) and its parody (below) featuring men.

And here’s another flip from the world of comic books:


Kevin Bolk's gendered parody of an early Avengers movie poster (Top: original poster. Bottom: Bolk's "flip.").

Kevin Bolk’s gendered parody of an early Avengers movie poster (Top: original poster. Bottom: Bolk’s “flip.”).

Artist Confronts Street Harassment by Turning the Gaze Back on Men

Most women have experienced street harassment. Such behaviors can range from a simple whistle to more sexually explicit language, all of which can make a woman feel less safe walking down the street and can reduce her to incredible self-consciousness about her body as an object. Worst case scenario: harassment can become a form of verbal violence that many women learn to accept as part of their everyday lives – particularly women who live in urban environments, like photographer Hannah Price.

Rather than averting her gaze and hurrying past, Price decided to turn her gaze back on the men who cat-called her – with her camera. Her resulting portraits, collectively called City of Brotherly Love, are human and revealing. Read about the artist’s work and see more of her photographs in “Photographer Takes Portraits Of Men Moments After They Catcall Her; The Results Are Mesmerizing.”

“After moving to Philadelphia from Fort Collins, Colorado, artist Hannah Price started experiencing street harassment for the first time, and she came up with a novel way to respond to it: she turned her camera on the men who catcalled her. In a fascinating interview with The Morning News, Price describes how she takes the portraits: ‘Once a guy catcalls me, depending on the situation, I would either candidly take their photograph or walk up to them and ask if I can take their photograph. They usually agree and we talk about our lives as I make their portrait.'”

Or watch the video interview with the artist on NPR, which also shows a number of her portraits. Here are two of Price’s photographs. Click here to see a gallery of her photos:

Untitled, Pullover: one from the series City of Brother Love by photographer Hannah Price.

“Untitled, Pullover”: one from the series City of Brother Love by photographer Hannah Price, in which she turns her camera on her street harrassments to capture them immediately after cat-calling her.

Every Day After Work, West Philly: another portrait from Price's series.

“Every Day After Work, West Philly”: another portrait from Price’s series.

Students Fight Back Against Campus Rape Culture

Salon.com just published this article, “Why Naked Pictures Aren’t Harmless,” that discusses not only the growing comfort with which young men on college campuses, particularly members of fraternity culture, openly express their misogyny as a means of male bonding and as a joke. As we’ve discussed in class, these behaviors that fuel a wider rape culture hurt not only young women, in very obvious ways, but they harm, young men and destroy relationships between men and women before they’ve even got started.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS: the article also addresses the ways that students on these campuses have been fighting back – and successfully too. Click the link above to read more about how students taking action to protect their rights has made strides in educating others and sending a loud, clear message that campus rape culture will not be tolerated.

An image from the "Pink Loves Consent" campaign by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, which spoofed Victoria's Secret ads (the real VS campaign featured panties with messages like "Unwrap Me"), in 2012.

An image from the “Pink Loves Consent” campaign by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, which spoofed (and challenged) Victoria’s Secret Pink ads (the real VS campaign featured panties with messages like “Unwrap Me”), in 2012. For more on the movement, visit PinkLovesConsent.com.




Following Up on Virginity: Getting More Critical

In two of her educational videos, the very energetic feminist Laci Greene breaks down 1) the concept of the hymen and 2) the history of virginity as a social construct. Check it out:

HYMEN 101: Women, your hymen remains a part of your body your entire life.




Like Laci’s energy? Want to learn more about sex and relationships? She has a ton of videos on youtube, all of which are smart and funny.

Building on Jean Kilbourne: Race and Advertising in the U.S.

In addition to watching Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 in class, watch the short video below to see more images of how advertising has sold us images of racial minorities in the U.S. Then take a look at “Racism in Advertising: 50 Shocking Examples.”


Let’s take a closer look at one of the contemporary images they refer to in the video above, the controversial Vogue cover featuring famous basketball star Lebron James and model Gisele Bundchen. Vogue claimed that the WWI American propaganda poster was not an inspiration for its cover; however, the strong intertextuality of the piece, as well as the historical context of both images, led to much criticism.

What U.S. history does the Vogue image below draw on?



As another example, let’s compare the following 1952 ad from clothing company Van Heusen to a more recent Nivea skin care ad campaign. What similarities do you notice in their messages, despite the historical gap?

A ad campaign pulled by Nivea (2010) after public backlash:

recivilize yourself

What differences do you notice between the ad featuring the African American man above, and this other version of the ad, featuring a white man:


An Indian Miss America? What the Miss America 2013 Backlash Says About Race in America

After our readings on the social construction of race in American, consider the recent backlash regarding this year’s winner of the Miss America pageant, Nina Davuluri, who was criticized for “not being American.” According to  Samhita Mukhopadhyay writing for The Nation, immediately after Davuluri’s crowning, Twitter overflowed with comments from viewers who were upset with the judge’s choice because she wasn’t “American enough.”

Controversy over the crowning of the country's first non-white Miss America this year made headlines.

Controversy over the crowning of the country’s first non-white Miss America this year made headlines.

Such comments were obviously fueled by post-9/11 racism, as some commenters criticized the contest for crowning an Arab (in fact, Davuluri is a native-born American of Indian descent); such comments point to Americans’ inability to recognize or read races outside of the Black-white binary, what Native American writer Sherman Alexie humorously refers to as “ambiguous brown” people. Other commenters assumed Davuluri was foreign, making statements like, “Miss New York is an Indian. With all due respect, this is America.”

What do such statements reveal about how we imagine “Americans” in regards to race? What connections can you make to Buck’s reading from Friday before break?