How Much of Gender is Really Marketing?

I’ve worked Retail at Big Box Stores, one of those prime staples of employment for older working class women.  Do you realize we are about to enter the Christmas Selling Season.

In many stores there are employees who work on the Forth of July preparing the store for  “Back to School Selling Season”, which ends Labor Day Weekend and is followed by the start of the Christmas Selling Season, which is overlaid with the Halloween Selling Season.

Thanksgiving has been lost as a meaningful holiday, reduced to an orgy of football, advertising, gorging on crappy food and a weekend of credit card spending.  The next month becomes a hammering of commercials urging you to buy crap we no longer manufacture at fictional prices so the rich can make profits on the one thing we still manufacture, debt.

Yes siree Folks…  In the dystopian Brave New World Order credit card debt is prosperity and indebtedness is our most important product.  Indebtedness is the surplus value that keeps end stage capitalism capitalism rolling.  Welcome to the neo-feudal new servant economy.

Can’t have anyone slacking on that consuming.

We have become hooked on selling people crap, they don’t need or particularly want, in order to create the huge surplus value that feeds the ever increasing wealth of the 1%, the masters of the fucking Brave New World Order.

Part of that involves selling a lifestyle most working people will never really enjoy. They sell the image, not the reality.  Many of us grew up in homes that were less than 2000 square feet.  Now we are sold the need for twice that space.  Oddly enough houses with all that extra space never feel more spacious because then we are sold stuff we need to fill that empty space.  Instead of space to do things in we have more space to fill with things we are convinced will bring us happiness.  But only if we buy them at an artificially low price while paying the hidden tax of credit card interest.

I read a lot.  I play a little guitar and subscribe to Acoustic Guitar, which is better than many when it comes to the ratio of selling vs useful information.

I a pretty serious amateur photographer as well as camera trader With photography magazines the selling to information ratio isn’t so good, especially since the switch from film to digital.

Even though I’m not into fashion, I used to be and sort of still am hooked on fashion magazines.  The overly photoshopped photography sucks and their photographers don’t deserve to load film holders for the late Avedon or any one of dozens of 1970s era photographers.

Actually the most interesting thing about fashion magazines is their selling of gender and class fantasies for adult women.

Gun and sports magazines do the same for adult men.

Back to fashion magazines.  I’m at a loss as to who they are actually marketing to. They must inhabit some sort of parallel universe. Maybe Über Ultra Richistan.  I go to museum openings and once in a while eat at some pretty fancy restaurants and never ever see women actually wearing those sorts of clothes.

Granted I don’t inhabit Über Ultra Richistan or fly on private jets.

The real product seems to be gender, more specifically a hard line binary form of gender. Cubicle slaves, big box concrete floor peon toiling away at the same job seem less rigidly binary.

The programing as to what is proper behavior for children starts young.  Picking up/exhibiting the wrong sort of gender behavior is what initially marks out transkids.  Punishment and abuse follows immediately.

Over the years, my support for the current “Transgender Community” emphasis on gender this, gender that has been tepid at best. I really question the turning of gender into this all purpose Swiss Army Knife sort of term.  First it makes it way too easy for our enemies to claim we are using the term in a manner different from the way we mean to use it.  When we use gender for that core sense of self we mean one thing.  When someone else uses gender for the marketing of rigid sex roles to children they mean something completely different.

We face that chasm of misunderstanding each other, of talking past each other when one party is using a word, gender, to describe their core sense of being while the other party is using the word, gender, to describe the social construct of gender, which is what is being marketed to us 24/7.

I don’t usually think about the problems of subtexts, readings and semantics but clearly we have a problem when using a word with so many different readings, subtexts and meanings as to have no real concrete meaning.

Things like the term “gender binary” are even worse as they perpetuate the reality of what is an imagined or wished for marketing construct.

An article the other day really drove this home.

Is Diet Soda Girly?

From Slate:

Marketing companies take on gender contamination, the idea that when women flock to a product, men flee.

Posted Monday, Aug. 12, 2013

Marketers, as well as anyone who’s been to a Toys R Us in the last 10 years, are well aware that a common way to goose sales is to split a market by gender. If body wash is a product traditionally purchased by women, design a body wash exclusively for men. Persuade both genders that they’re better off with their own gender-specific stuff, and you could wind up with double the sales—households with two types of bath soap, two types of diet soda, two sets of nearly identical kids’ building blocks, with one set in pink.

Part of the reason this approach works so well is that men, apparently, don’t want to buy stuff strongly associated with women. This resistance has led to ads like one launched recently for Dr Pepper Ten, a diet soda that attempts to address the fact that male consumers think “diet’s kinda girly,” as one of Dr Pepper’s execs put it to me. The new ad showcases a mountain man who chews bark and canoes with a bear; the tagline is “the manliest low-calorie soda in the history of mankind.”

A few years ago, an ad for Verizon’s Motorola Droid painted the iPhone as “a tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty pageant queen,” a “precious porcelain figurine of a phone,” and “a princess.” The Droid, meanwhile, was a “racehorse duct-taped to a Scud missile,” fast enough to “rip through the Web like a circular saw through a ripe banana”—at which point in the ad a banana explodes in a kind of orgy of male satisfaction. Got it. And earlier this year, when Google’s Sergey Brin gave a Ted talk boasting about the eyeglass/smartphone hybrid Glass, he criticized traditional smartphones for being “emasculating,” which was apparently code for physically limiting, socially isolating, and just plain lame. Could this be the germ of a future ad campaign? When even soda and smartphones have a gender, apparently anything can.

Some time ago, professor Jill Avery at the Simmons School of Management in Boston set out to explore this gender-based squeamishness, which seems like a holdover from the ew-cooties! phase of preschool. Within the business world, this squeamishness had long been the problem that has no name; marketing executives and consultants I spoke with were well aware of the issue but didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about it. Avery had to borrow from anthropology to find the term “gender contamination,” which traces back to the kind of ancient cultural taboos that banished menstruating women to special huts for fear they’d pollute everyone else.

Gender contamination captures the cultural disapproval that takes place when objects seen as having a strong gender identity are used by the wrong gender. Unilever’s vice president of skin care, Rob Candelino, told me that before Dove launched a cleansing bar specifically for men in 2010, the company’s research showed that men made up as much as a third of those using the traditional Dove beauty bar. But the original product was strongly associated with women, and as a result the men were using the product in a passive way, often letting their wives or girlfriends buy it, and “probably not telling their guy friends,” Candelino says. The beauty bar’s potential for growth among men was limited so long as it stayed a beauty bar.

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Psychologist: Bradley Manning had gender identity disorder

From LGBTQ Nation:

Manning to testify at sentencing hearing today

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. — Pfc. Bradley Manning’s private struggle with his gender identity in a hostile workplace put incredible pressure on the soldier who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, an Army psychologist said Wednesday.

Manning eventually came out to Capt. Michael Worsley and emailed the therapist a photo of himself dressed as a woman, wearing a blonde wig and lipstick. The photo was attached to a letter titled “My problem,” in which Manning describes his problems with gender identity and his hope that a military career would “get rid of it.”

Worsley testified at Manning’s sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. He said the soldier had little to no support base.

“You put him in that kind of hyper-masculine environment, if you will, with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least,” Worsley said. “It would have been incredible.”

Manning faces up 90 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.

He sat and listened attentively to the psychologist who had treated him, smiling occasionally. But his face tightened when Worsley talked about how guarded and hesitant Manning had been in Iraq to talk about his gender identity.

Worsley’s testimony described some military leaders as lax at best and obstructionist at worst when it came to tending to troop mental health.

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REAL Women of Canada, and the naked far-right truth

From Rabble Canada:

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More Bad News for NOM: Aug 12 Marriage News Watch

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The Pentagon’s Transgender Problem

From Mother Jones:

New studies suggest that transgender civilians are twice as likely to enlist, and transgender veterans are 20 times as likely to commit suicide.

By and
Thu Aug. 15, 2013

Ever since she was a boy growing up in small-town Pennsylvania, Zoey Gearhart had “tendencies that were odd.” Raised as Robert Gearhart, she would identify with female characters in books and on TV, in video games and movies. She would also wear her mother’s fake nails, or make her own out of clay. “I was told to stop in no uncertain terms by my father,” she said. In 2007, at the age of 19, she decided to join the Navy. “I thought maybe joining the military would just help straighten me out,” she said. “Make me into a normal individual.”

At first, Gearhart tried to prove her machismo by applying and becoming accepted into the Navy SEALs, the elite force that killed Osama bin Laden. “I used to be in incredible shape,” she said. She did preliminary training with the SEALs, but after an ex-fiancee pleaded with her not to continue on to BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School) training, Gearhart decided to become a linguist instead. The first known transgender SEAL, Kristin Beck, first came out on her LinkedIn profile earlier this year and in her tell-all book, Warrior Princess. On the cover, she sports a long, bushy beard from the days she went by “Chris.”

While in the Navy, Gearhart kept her female identity a secret, hiding it from a Marine staff sergeant roommate whom she described as a “cave-dwelling dude-bro.” After her enlistment term expired in March, she decided not to reenlist so that she could begin her transition to womanhood in earnest. Had Beck or Gearhart revealed that they were trans while still in uniform, they would have received a medical or administrative discharge. Even after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011, the military still officially forbids openly transgender people from serving. The end of DADT, Gearhart said, “is this landmark for the LGBT movement. But there’s that hanging T. Trans service was not even addressed.”

Transgender soldiers and sailors largely fly under the radar, but they are hardly uncommon. In a recent survey (PDF) by the Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal, 20 percent of transgender people contacted said they had served in the military—that’s twice the rate of the general population. A 2011 study estimates there are nearly 700,000 transgender individuals (about three people per thousand) living in the United States. Meanwhile, the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) is scheduled to release a report today, which draws from Department of Veterans Affairs data, showing that the number of veterans accepting treatment for transgender health issues has doubled in the past decade. (While viewing the full report requires a subscription, an abstract should be available online as of today.)

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See Also:

The New Civil Rights Movement: Transgender Military Equality: The Time Is Now

Bilerico: Open Trans Service: Not If, But When

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Lavabit CEO: ‘If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It’

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CIA Targeted Noam Chomsky, Documents Reveal

From Alternet:

Foreign Policy magazine has obtained documents confirming that the Central Intelligence Agency snooped on famed activist and linguist Noam Chomsky.

By Alex Kane
August 13, 2013

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spied on famed activist and linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1970s, documents obtained by Foreign Policy confirm. While the CIA long denied it kept a file on Chomsky, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by an attorney and given to reporter John Hudson has confirmed that the CIA snooped on the professor from MIT.

Furthermore, the CIA appears to have scrubbed its record on Chomsky–a potential violation of the law.

For many years, similar requests for Chomsky’s CIA file were met with responses denying that the record existed. But FOIA attorney Kel McClanahan sent a request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it garnered a document showing FBI and CIA communication about Chomsky.

The 1970 document is about Chomsky’s anti-war activities and asks the FBI to gather more information about a trip to North Vietnam by anti-war activists. The memo notes that Chomsky endorsed the trip. “The June 1970 CIA communication confirms that the CIA created a file on Chomsky,” Athan Theoharis, an expert on FBI-CIA cooperation, told Foreign Policy. “That file, at a minimum, contained a copy of their communication to the FBI and the report on Chomsky that the FBI prepared in response to this request.”

Theoharis added that it was clear the CIA “tampered” with the file. “The CIA’s response to the FOIA requests that it has no file on Chomsky confirms that its Chomsky file was destroyed at an unknown time,” he said, referring to the fact that past FOIA requests to the CIA were met with responses that no file on Chomsky existed.

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See Also:

Raw Story: CIA stops denials and admits it had file on Noam Chomsky

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