By Sophie Sharps
After watching these two movies, every commercial I view, every advertisement I read and every comment I hear seems to somehow relate to the construction of femininity and masculinity and the problems with the way we construct these ideals in our society. I began by watching Dreamworlds 3, and I was happy I was able to find it online in the comfort of my own room. I could not believe how inappropriate the images and videos were, and then I realized the movie was made entirely of real music videos and news clips that we watch and listen to on a daily basis. The idea that really stood out to me when watching this documentary was the message that there is nothing inherently wrong with these images and representations of women. When we discuss topics such as sexual representations of women in the media, the immediate assumption (myself included) is that these images are bad, inappropriate and should not be seen. In this movie, Sut Jhally makes the incredibly valid point that the question is not whether an image is good or bad, but rather whose story is being told, and whose story is left out? This question made me realize that depicting sexuality is acceptable, but not when it is one-sided and ignores and degrades others. There is nothing wrong with displaying sexuality; in fact, the movie argues that these desires are part of being human. The problem is that women are presented solely as sexual objects, rather than including additional spheres and dimensions such as the intellectual, political, athletic, independent, or anything with a deeper meaning. Jhally points out that on the contrary, the real issue is that there is not enough discussion about sex. This was the last statement I expected to hear, especially in this documentary. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is true. There is no diversity in the stories we take in regarding sexuality. As Jhally states, the media perpetuates the “commercial male heterosexual pornographic imagination” and nothing else. We need to create more videos that portray the multidimensionality of both women and men. Women need to reclaim their bodies and their narratives, maybe through music videos that when juxtaposed with those shown in Dreamworlds 3 will elucidate just how false these male fantasies are.
Tough Guise II picks up from where Dreamworlds 3 left off. The main message I received from this documentary is the idea that even when men and boys are the ones committing harmful and violent acts, media and our society continuously “degender” the actions and focus on the subordinate group (women), which only further reproduces the dominant invisibility men experience. Katz very eloquently states that “dominant ideologies work linguistically to conceal the power of dominant groups.” He then gives the example of the fact that when people think of race, they think of minorities; when people think of gender, they associate this term with women. This association places the focus on these subordinate groups and allows the dominant group, men, to remain unquestioned in positions of power. After watching Tough Guise II, I watched Katz’s TEDtalk on Violence Against Women. In this lecture, Katz writes on chart paper to turn a simple sentence “John beat Mary” into the passive “Mary was beaten by John,” all the way into “Mary is a battered woman.” It is incredible how much sentence structure and linguistics play a role in how we perceive certain situations, but unfortunately it is entirely accurate. We live in a culture that perpetually seeks to blame. All too often, we render the men invisible and we focus on what the women are doing wrong. Even through this simple restructuring of a sentence, we see how pervasive victim blaming is in our society and the consequences “degendering” has in reshaping the rhetoric of who is responsible. While the use of active or passive voice to explain a violent act may seem trivial and unimportant compared to slut-shaming or sexual assault, these little details such as word choice are equally important, and are the small details that we internalize to create our daily language.