Welcome to Lydia Magazine’s newest biweekly installment, the Lydia Lexicon, where we document the highlights, lowlights and ho-hum-lights in the world of feminist news. I’ve always rather heard the good news first, so let’s get started.
Why don’t you build me up, Buttercup
Buzzfeed posted a letter written by frustrated 7-year-old Charlotte to Lego, whom she would like to see “make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun.” In a very admirable attempt to catch their attention, she also garnered a lot of support from the web, which backed her up in her observation that the building-blocks giant notoriously promotes gender stereotypes.
Charlotte’s call was not only answered by the mega-toy maker, who just released a barely Bechdel-approved movie, but also by an independent toy maker. Anyone watching the Super Bowl ads as intently as I was probably saw the GoldieBlox commercial the rejoiced in girls finally breaking out of the dress-up aisle. (You might remember that GoldieBlox was in Lydia’s feminist gift guide in December, and hopefully you invested in a set, because it’s about to get popular.) Campaigning in such a high-profile arena is on its own is being called “history making” by Forbes and has reached 111.5 million viewers. That’s 111.5 million people who now know that they can get their daughters, nieces, sisters, etc. great toys that don’t come covered in sequins and marabou.
Could it be? Are advertisers finally getting that they’re detrimental to women’s body image? Marie Claire Australia asked six ad agencies to put together PSA-style campaigns alerting readers to the unnaturalness of image awareness. The results were stunning, but I’m not sure who the real target of the learning lesson is: the readers, or the ad producers themselves?
Professional ads weren’t the only ones doing a body image reboot this month, either. Independent artist Daniel Soares pasted Photoshop toolbars on several public H&M swimsuit billboards in a project he calls “Adbusting.” It went viral online and on the street and was another way to point out how companies treat their models like moldable plastic in the final editing process.
Speaking of plastic…
Sadly, not everyone was keyed into the importance of healthy body image. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is always a hot-button issue for feminists because of how it objectifies women in the eyes of men and upholds an almost unattainable standard in the eyes of women. This year’s 50th Anniversary issue features three bronze, stick-thin supermodels Photoshopped to perfection and standing with their backs to the camera. It’s a calm shot that’s more of the same, which makes it a rather yawn-worthy news item.
That is, if you hadn’t heard about the other cover released. The issue’s other cover features Barbie in an updated version of her classic black-and-white one-piece. Mattel and SI teamed up in a campaign called “#unapologetic,” which aims to defend both controversial companies when it comes to how they portray women. There are two ways to look at this. The first is that it’s a pretty gutsy move to make, essentially sexualizing one of America’s most famous toy icons and replacing plasticized models with real plastic — it’s like they’re admitting that their standard of beauty can only be found in the toy aisle. On the other hand, the use of a child’s toy catches the attention of little girls, an audience that’s already very prone to the “ideals” preached by the media.
Give me a “Whaaa?”
One of Barbie’s many past careers has been as a cheerleader, and earlier this month we learned the dark secret behind one of the most famous professional dance groups in sports. According to the Oakland Raiders, their cheerleaders have to take full responsibility for how players treat them. That’s the gist of the “super-secret handbook” released in an LA Times report, which instructed the women of the football team’s cheer squad on how to be “football’s fabulous females.”
Their words, not mine.
The book advises cheerleaders to not attend any parties where a football team member might be present, to never date a player despite the fact the Raiders are the only NFL team without a “no date” policy and not believing a player if he says he’s not married. I’m sure there’s a secret handbook for the Raiders team that advises them to “not tell a cheerleader you’re not married when you have a wife and three kids” (note the sarcasm).
But perhaps the biggest news from the world of football comes from my own alma mater. Michael Sam, defensive lineman for the University of Missouri, announced he is “an openly, proud gay man,” which means that if he’s drafted, which is likely because he was the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, he will be the first openly gay NFL player. Many people rejoiced over his announcement, including Mizzou students, newscasters such as Dale Hansen and Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway. But with every step made toward a more LGBT-friendly society comes controversy, as many coaches have said they wouldn’t want the “distraction” of a gay player in their locker rooms. Jon Stewart put it best in his coverage: being gay is a distraction, but it’s fine if you have players charged with assault, dog fighting and even murder.
Although LGBT rights are not directly a part of feminist news, the principals that comprise them, equality regardless of sexual identity and behavior, are the same ones that feminists support. Sam’s inclusion in the NFL draft despite his sexuality is progress for anyone — man, woman, gay, straight, transgender — who longs for the world to see himself or herself as a talented, valuable individual.
And isn’t that all of us?
Kate Everson is Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”