Friday, May 4

Final Blog Post!

All images, especially the repetition of images, have meaning. Many viewers watch the hit television show “Desperate Housewives” but fail to discuss the empowering and disempowering images being shown to them. Since “the points of view of the creators of the show are being constantly and attractively cast into the public arena,” it is impossible for the viewer not to be absorbing the ideas the creators of the show have about gender and popular culture (Lull, 1995, pp. 62). As a result, it is important to look at what images are empowering and disempowering in order to understand the impact the show “Desperate Housewives” can potentially have on its viewers.

One of the most empowering images shown on the show is when the character of Lynette complains to her friends about motherhood. Women are typically “governed by principles, rules, and laws they believe operate in their best interests, even though in actual practice many of them do not” Lull, 1995, pp.63). The inability to express dissatisfaction with the role of motherhood has resulted in women feeling trapped. If a woman expresses her discontent, people think of her as a terrible mother. However, when Lynette expresses some of her doubts about motherhood, she is comforted by her friends and told that they too have struggled and not always loved being mothers. This image is extremely empowering, for it shows that it’s normal and fairly common to not always enjoy being a mother. However, this image is disempowering because it shows the women blaming themselves. Some of the blame should go toward the fathers for not helping out as much as they should.

Another empowering image on the show is having the character Lynette work outside the home while her husband Tom stays home with the children. Although it is relatively common for a woman in the United States to be employed, it is not very common for a man to be the primary caregiver while his wife works. This message has the potential to be very empowering. It breaks rigid gender roles and shows that fathers can be effective at child-rearing. It also shows that woman has the potential to earn more money than her husband and be the sole breadwinner. However, when Tom decides to go back to work due to the fact that he feels he is being emasculated, the empowering image disappears. Men are told that they can be temporary “house-husbands,” as long as they complain bitterly about it and make it known to their wives that the work is inferior and is meant for women.

The fact that the five desperate housewives are being portrayed as sexual beings in their forties can be seen as an empowering message. Typically, women are seen as asexual and are not the primary characters on television shows once they are considered “middle-aged.” It gives women in their forties the power to feel sexy and to have sexual feelings as they get older. However, the only reason why these women are allowed to be sexual is due to the fact that they are extremely thin and attractive. The majority of middle-aged women (and even women in their twenties and thirties) do not look the way the five main characters on the show do. As a result, this message doesn’t really apply to most women. Women in their forties can be sexual… as long as they look like they’re in their twenties. This takes away power from women and makes them believe that men will only want them if they look more or less like models.

This analysis has only skimmed the surface of all the empowering and disempowering images on the show. Despite the fact that the show tries to be empowering, a lot of its messages are reinforcing the counterhegemonic norm of women being the subordinate gender. The show tries to empower women by showing women with careers, intelligence, humor, beauty at age forty, etc. Unfortunately, the show falls short on its empowering messages to women. When I used to watch the show, I thought the show had almost nothing but empowering images for women. However, I now realize that I thought the show was so empowering due to the fact that seeing empowering images of women in the media is such a rarity. It’s important for people to pay attention to all the images of power throughout the media in order to understand them and attempt to change the less empowering ones.

Lull, James. “Hegemony”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 61-65.

Saturday, April 14

Blog buddy work Kristin C, author of Gender and Desperate Housewives

Where has your Blog buddy shown strong analytical work (be specific—is it a particular post, a type of analysis, a site for analysis that seemed to click more so than others, etc)?
I think you showed strong analytical work through your collage in which your main focus was DH products. You really stepped out of the box by looking at the materialism produced by the show instead of analyzing the characters.

How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?
You can use this strength for the final post by focusing on DH’s impact and effect on the viewers. Why would women want to buy oven mitts that say desperate housewives? What messages does the show convey to them that would interest them in these materials?

Think about the following statements in relation to your Blog buddy’s Blog and then provide feedback on each area (constructive praise/criticism):

The Blog is on a topic that has been clearly evident in the Blog posts throughout the semester
You’ve done a very good job incorporating your topic of DH into every post that it was applicable to. I really liked the video clip you posted with the women tempting the viewer with the apples.

The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy
It’s apparent through your posts that you’re a fan of the show and know a lot about the topic. Sometimes it seems to get into the way of actual analyzing the characters and their effect on the viewers; this was hard for me as well.

My Blog buddy’s topic is one that has produced a good set of posts that were analytical used gender as a primary category of analysis
This topic can be easily analyzed through a gendered lense as the mere title implies a sense sarcasm.

The posts make analytical arguments.
You provided solid evidence for analyzing the characters although it seems we ran into the same issues in trying to find readings that corresponded with our topic and arguments.

The posts are understandable and each post logically outlines and supports the argument presented. The posts were clear, provided insight, evidence, and analysis to connect the topic with the assignment for each of the posts

The sources cited in each post are relevant to the topic and help to aid the understanding of the argument and/or assisted in proving the argument.
Again, some of the sources didn't fit in perfectly but most of them effectively reinforced your argument.

The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester.
The quotes did illustrate a broad range of readings throughout the semester.

The quotes were clear and succinct; additionally, the material was presented so that I could differentiate the Blog buddy’s ideas from that of the author cited.
The quotes were clear although come were contradictory with your argument.

I thought it was great when you...
I really like when you brought up the comparison between Eve, the apple, and the four main characters. This is a key component in how the show is presented to viewers.

I found it confusing when you…
In the post about motherhood I couldn't really tell if you were defending Brie or supporting her.

You’re really great at…
You did a very good job at analyzing the gendered hegemonic and non hegemonic roles portrayed by the different characters situationally.

I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…
I wish you could focus more on race and class and the way they intersect with the great points you brought up about gender.

Monday, April 9

Blog Post #5: Motherhood and "Desperate Housewives"

Although many aspects of the definition of a good mother have changed since the 1950’s, there are a few parts of it that are still prevalent in today’s society. In a television show from the 1950’s the character of mama states that she wants “success at work for her husband, marriage and childrearing for her daughters, the presidency for her son, and nothing for herself” (Lipsitz). Although now one might argue women are now being encouraged to pursue education and careers, it is still expected for mothers to be self-sacrificing and want more for their family than for themselves. As soon as a mother does something for herself instead of for her family, she is portrayed as selfish and as a bad mother. Ironically, it is the character of Brie on “Desperate Housewives” who is the epitome of 1950’s values that is today considered a “bad mother.”

The character of Brie on “Desperate Housewives” is portrayed on the show as an ineffective mother. On the surface, Brie is society’s idea of the perfect mother, for she “stays at home all of the time and holds very conservative values” (Coates). In addition, Brie’s home is kept spotless, her cooking is superb, she is always dressed in beautiful clothing, her appearance is always perfect, and she enjoys housework. However, Brie is missing one key part of the definition of a good mother; she is not “providing a stable and safe haven for her children” (Coates). It is this unstable and unsafe home she has provided for her children that makes her easy to portray as a bad mother.

From the first episode of “Desperate Housewives,” the viewer can see just how much Brie’s children dislike her. They ask Brie to make a dinner for once that isn’t extremely fancy, and her response is asking her son if he’s on drugs because his behavior is “horrible.” The children are sick of the spotless house and the gourmet dinners, but Brie refuses to change her ways. Later on that night, her husband Rex tells her he wants a divorce due to her obsession with being perfect. Instead of showing her husband that she does in fact have emotions and flaws, she hides them in order to keep her “perfect” persona. As a result, the children blame Brie for the divorce. All of this happens because Brie is more concerned about what others think of her than what her own children want and need.

Brie tries to appear perfect to others as her “means of changing the unpleasant realities” of her life instead of emotionally reaching out to her children (Lipsitz). Her son Andrew protests this by slamming doors in his mother’s face, going to strip clubs late at night, smoking pot, etc. Instead of really talking things out with Andrew, Brie sends him to boot camp and makes sure to hide this fact from her neighbors. Later on in the show when Brie’s son tells his mother that he is gay, she tells Andrew he is not going to heaven. As a result, Andrew tries to make his mother’s life a living hell. Although his behavior is in fact horrible, he is acting this way because he believes his mother no longer loves him due to his sexuality. Brie tells Andrew at one point she would love him even if he was a murderer, but will not accept him when he takes away from her image of being the “perfect Christian.”

It is when Brie kicks her son Andrew out of the house and leaves him to fend for himself on the streets that the viewer is left with little choice but to think of Brie as a bad mother. As Brie kicks Andrew out of the car, a tearful Andrew tells her, "You know what? I win. The day I told you I was gay, I knew by the look in your eyes that one day you'd stop loving me. And I was right." Although Andrew was behaving atrociously, it is apparent in that moment that Andrew did in fact love his mother and was acting out as a defense mechanism. The second Brie kicks Andrew out of the house, she has committed the ultimate sin of motherhood- she has completely given up on her own child!

By the beginning of season 3, the viewer cannot help but be horrified at how things have turned out for Brie’s children. Brie’s son Andrew is living on the streets as a homeless man, Brie’s daughter Danielle is having sex with her high school history teacher as well as many of the boys in the neighborhood, and both of Brie’s children hate her guts. Recently, there have been some significant changes for her children. Andrew has been allowed to move back home and seems to be acting a whole lot nicer to his mother. Meanwhile, Danielle just got pregnant. As a result, Brie is having Danielle live in another country for 9 months and telling her neighbors Danielle is studying abroad so no one will know and there will be no “scandal.” Although the relationship between Brie and Andrew seems to be improving, Brie still has a lot of work to do in order to truly mend the relationships between her and her children. Until Brie can stop worrying about her own need to appear “perfect,” she will never be able to give her children the “maternal devotion” they truly need (Coates).


Coates, Norma. Moms don’t rock- the popular demonization of Courtney Love.

Lipsitz, George. The meaning of memory- family, class and ethnicity in early network television. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 40-47.

Saturday, March 31

Blog Post #4: Will Desperate Housewives Products Really Make Housewives Less Desperate?

The reasoning behind advertising to housewives is that “buying a product appears as the true means of changing the unpleasant realities and low status of women’s work in the home” (Lipsitz). The hit T.V. show “Desperate Housewives has the tendency to glamorize the unpaid and unappreciated housewife. Throughout the show, we see very attractive women wearing nice clothing and full fledged makeup with very asthetically pleasing homes. It is only through Lynette’s character that one sees that being a housewife is difficult and unglamorous work. Products such as a “Desperate Housewives” food timer, cookbook, and oven mitts are not in actuality going to make cooking and housework as a whole any easier. The only realistic depictions of housewives were through the character of Lynette, who can no longer be considered a "housewife" due to the fact that she currently holds paid employment on the show. The products being sold to women who are fans of the show give them the illusion that being a housewife is fun and glamorous; making them want to do the unpaid, low status, and challenging work.

Lipsitz, George. The meaning of memory- family, class and ethnicity in early network television. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 40-47.

Links to the photos:
(I’m a Bree)
(Desperate Housewife magnet)
(“Blinged out” mug)
(Oven mitts)
(Lynette with baby)
(Throw pillow)
(I cannot seem to find the picture of the ornament that has the picture of the woman sitting cross legged… but it is from this link)

Friday, March 30

Blog Post #3: Desperate Housewives and its Hegemonic and Counter-Hegemonic Messages.

I have been a huge fan of the hit television show “Desperate Housewives” since it first aired in 2004. The fact that it is a television show with a predominately female cast made me take notice of it. Everything ranging from the humor to the suspense to the constant plot changes are what make the show such a hit with viewers such as myself. I think that this show in particular is full of many influences on gender and popular culture. Although I have not typically analyzed “Desperate Housewives” as I watched it, I can see how the show genuinely affects its audience and gives it certain messages. As a result, I have chosen to analyze what "Desperate Housewives" is revealing about gender and popular culture in today's society. It's important for viewers to see just what message each character on the show is giving the viewers about society.

The title “Desperate Housewives” implies that the characters of the show fit the old hegemonic norm of a woman staying at home while the husband earns the money. However, this is an inaccurate assumption. The characters of Susan, Lynette, and Edie all have paid employment. Nevertheless, one might argue that the hegemonic norm currently for women is to work outside the home. A person would think that with both men and women working, they would share an equal amount of the housework. However, the hegemonic norm currently is for women to take care of the majority of the housework and the child rearing. Desperate Housewives both challenges and reinforces the norms of housewives and working women.

In many ways, Desperate Housewives rebels against hegemonic norms. It is especially apparent through the character of Lynette. Unlike the typical housewife portrayed in the media of the past, Lynette is not happy with her role. She does not have the “kept woman mentality” of doing all of the housework, chores, and child rearing without complaining and showing her unhappiness (Steinem, 1990, p.229). “Desperate Housewives” constantly shows Lynette with stains on her clothing, messy hair, and chaotic children running all over the place. She is far from the idealized image of the housewife whom always looks perfect with a beautiful home and obedient children. Another example of how she defies the hegemonic norm of a housewife is when she breaks down and confesses to her friends that she believes she is a terrible mother. Women are expected to love being mothers, working or not. When Lynette starts working again, the hegemonic norms are once again defied. Her husband stays home and takes care of the children. When he does decide to go back to work again, Lynette ends up being his boss. This is the ultimate defiance of hegemony- not only is a woman the boss, but she dominates over her husband.

Although Tom staying home with his children while his wife works defies hegemonic norms, his attitude about his situation certainly does not. While Lynette is working and Tom is staying at home with the kids, he is extremely unhappy. Tom does a poor job keeping the house neat and tidy, does not keep his eyes on his children as carefully as Lynette did, and constantly complains to Lynette that he feels he is being feminized. This fits into the hegemonic norm that women are better than men at housework and childrearing. When Tom gets fed up with being a “house husband” and goes back to work, Lynette becomes his boss. Tom resents this very much. One night when they are about to have sex, Tom gets angry that Lynette is positioning herself to be on top, the more “dominant” position. In order to assert his “dominance” as a man, he later on initiates sex with a hesitant Lynette in an elevator, pushing her against the wall in the process. Tom cannot handle his wife being his boss, making the decisions of the house, or even taking on the aggressive role in a sexual act. The reason why Lynette’s husband seems to have so much resentment toward Lynette when she asserts her power is because “girls are supposed to repress their power, their anger, their exuberance and be simply ‘nice,’ although they also eventually must compete with men in the business world and be successful” (Kilbourne, 1999, p.259). Tom very much believes in the hegemonic ideals of male dominance.

The show “Desperate Housewives” consists of a combination of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic norms and beliefs. Although one may argue that the title alone makes the show purely hegemonic, one cannot ignore the power, strength, and drive the women on the show have. Although one might believe that the show is purely for women, many men are fans of the show as well. Both women and men are affected by the power struggles of gender in society. They both can also appreciate the humor and suspense that is constantly on the show. As a whole, I feel that the “Desperate Housewives” storyline does more to promote feminist ideals and a positive outlook on women than it does to reinforce hegemonic ideals that put women in a subordinate position in society.

Kilbourne, Jean (1999). The more you subtract, the more you add- cutting girls down to size. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 258-265.
Steinem, Gloria (1990). Sex, lies, and advertising. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 223-229.

Tuesday, March 6

Ideologies in Suburbia by Sarah Ryder (Blog Post #2)

Here are the 1st couple of paragraphs of the Blog's post that I responded to:

Imagine Suburbia. The clean paved roads winding between densely packed houses that all look the same. Soccer moms and mini vans with kids running in and out of the street playing games and being scolded by their parents. This painted image of suburban perfection brings with it the idea of June Cleaver and housewives of the past. These historical stereotypes of suburban moms have been carried into the present in the primetime show entitled Desperate Housewives or DH. The show brings to life conventional wisdoms and ideologies about woman and their role as mother and wife. According to Decoding Advertisements by Williamson, “Ideology is the meaning made necessary by the conditions of society while helping to perpetuate those conditions” (13). Desperate Housewives reinforces these ideologies and traditional notions of women as stay-at-home moms while at the same time, it redefines and reconstructs the stereotypes of housewives. The tension formed by redefining stereotypes brings to life the show’s discursive practices, process of signification and mediation all of which I will analyze.

The plot of DH is centered on five women; Lynnette, Bree, Susan, Gabby, and Eddie. Lynette is a wife and a mother of four trying desperately to rekindle her marriage and her old advertising career. Bree lost her husband and is a mother of two children who resent her; she is battling with alcoholism. Susan is a divorcee with one daughter trying to begin a romantic relationship with the plumber across the street. Gabby, a former model, is married with no kids, and has no intention of having her own. Eddie is a real estate agent living on Wisteria Lane with the others. All of the women were friends with their other neighbor Mary-Alice before she committed suicide in the series’ premiere. Mary-Alice committed suicide because someone discovered her dirty secret; she stole a baby and raised him as her own and killed the baby’s mother. I have just described the overall plot or the ideology of the story because ideology is defined in The Theory Toolbox by Nealon and Searls Giroux as “a descriptive word, attempting to show the way things are, a whole way of life in a social group” (86). As you can see, the plot shows that the women in this social group are desperate housewives.

Here is my response to her Blog:

I think that you make an excellent point when you state that the show has some positive messages for women as well as negative ones. For example, the fact that Lynette does end up going back to work in order to support her family is a terrific message to women. It was an interesting spin for a change to see the husband at home, taking care of the children. The fact that Tom complained to Lynette that he didn’t feel like he was doing anything meaningful reveals something extremely important about society. Being a housewife simply isn’t seen as anything valuable. As a result, women who make the choice to stay at home taking care of the house are seen as lazy and incompetent. Many husbands feel that they do not need to help with the housework, for they feel that the work they do outside the home is more difficult than staying at home with the children. I think Desperate Housewives proves that being a housewife is in fact difficult work (especially if your kids are anything like Tom’s and Lynette’s). It is a positive image to see Eddie working as a real estate agent and Lynette working as an advertiser. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the job of a housewife is equally valuable and challenging.

You made another great point when discussing how the desperate housewives are linked to Eve in the opening credits. Even in advertisements for the show, they depict the housewives holding apples with the advertisement stating “Isn’t it tempting?” in the background. Unfortunately, this is not the most positive portrayal of women. I understand that Eve represents a form of rebellion. Unfortunately, I think she is a representation in the eyes of men and women alike that women are selfish and get men to do bad things. It makes it easier for men to not own up to their own responsibilities and simply blame whatever happens on a tempting woman. For example, Gabby cheats on her husband Carlos. I’m not supporting her decision, but it’s important to realize that Carlos was not fulfilling his duty as a husband. Carlos tried buying Gabby’s love with jewelry and cars, not by spending time with her. His idea of intimacy was sex, and Gabby felt very lonely. Eddie also gets a bad reputation on the show as the “town slut.” If Eddie’s character was a man sleeping with a bunch of women, he would be seen as a “stud” or a “lady’s man.” I’m not promoting being promiscuous, but I do not see why Eddie has to be a slut just because she is a woman. Eddie is a powerful woman because she earns her own money and does not need someone else to take care of her. The show ought to focus less on the sex appeal of the desperate housewives.

I think your overall point that Desperate Housewives does ultimately give a positive portrayal of women is valid and well thought out. The show obviously has areas upon which it could be improved, but it definitely is making a lot of headway. Like you said, the housewife is no June Cleaver. These women are flawed and make mistakes, but at the same time are very powerful and are unafraid to take risks and chances.

Monday, February 26

Blog Post #1: The Girls Next Door- Breaking Down Gender Roles And Expectations (Part 1)

My goal is to analyze the concepts of masculinity and femininity as found in popular media and advertising. Specifically, are they concepts that can be linked directly to an analogous sex or gender? What messages do the media send about the normative definitions of masculinity and femininity? What traits are included and omitted when portraying an ideal or non-ideal/pathological masculine and/or feminine subject?

On the show The Girls Next Door¸ there are very obvious definitions of what makes someone “masculine” and what makes someone “feminine.” The two genders are made out to be very different in terms of what is expected of them and what their purpose is.
Both women and men in today’s society are expected to be successful and compete with each other in the business world (Kilbourne, 1999). In “The Girls Next Door,” it is painfully obvious that Hugh Heffner has obtained a tremendous amount of wealth and fame from “Playboy” magazine. Heffner is someone who can afford anything he wants, and therefore has a lot of power. A tremendous amount of people know who he is, and are eager to attend his many parties and events. Heffner’s girlfriends do possess a small amount of fame and power as well in the sense that people recognize them from the television show and want them to do guest appearances. One can argue that gender is analogous when it comes to a thirst for fame, money, and power. These women want to be on the cover of the magazine, they want to be recognized, they want to make appearances in movies, radio shows, television shows, etc. However, there are way more differences between what defines masculinity and femininity.
Men are portrayed as powerful and active throughout the media (Kilbourne, 1999). Hugh Heffner is no exception to this rule. Whenever Heffner enters a room, everyone pays attention. In “The Girls Next Door,” all the staff is there for Heffner. In one episode of “The Girls Next Door,” Holly wants to see the latest edition of the playboy magazine in order to see if she was on the cover with Kendra and Holly. However, she was not allowed to see the magazine until Heffner had seen it first. He is so rich and powerful that he is able to afford the purchase of a diamond necklace for a dog! Another example of his power is illustrated when Heffner converses with Kendra in the episode “Heavy Petting” I noticed that he failed to make eye contact with her when he spoke to her and that she rarely said anything to him. This is possibly due to the fact that women are expected to be silent, especially around powerful men (Kilbourne, 1999).In a way, he speaks to the girls more as a father figure than as a lover. This may be due to the fact that women are encouraged to be delicate and childlike (Kilbourne, 1999). Heffner is more of a father figure since it is he who supports the girls financially, feeds them, buys them their clothes, provides them a home, etc. Another way Heffner is more powerful than the girls is depicted in the first episode of season two. The girls in the house are extremely concerned with looking thin for his party, but one never hears Heffner vocalize a concern about his own personal appearance. This is largely due to the fact that the media has little problem depicting men eating fattening food products (Kilbourne, 1999). Although he never tells the girls to lose weight in the episode, many men feel they have the right to tell their girlfriends to lose weight (Kilbourne, 1999). However, men are entitled to eat whatever they want, while a woman eating a low fat pizza or a salad is considered a “privilege” (Kilbourne, 1999). Hugh Heffner is the epitome of the ideal masculine image.

Blog Post #1: The Girls Next Door- Breaking Down Gender Roles And Expectations (Part 2)

During the episode “Heavy Petting,” Bridget’s character gets a new dog and tries to put bows in her hair. When the dog refuses to wear them, she refers to the dog as a “Tom Boy.” On a similar note, Bridget claims that the reason she likes holidays is because she likes to decorate. Women are told by advertisers that it is important to decorate themselves through the means of clothing, makeup, accessories (such as bows), perfumes, etc. (Kilbourne, 1999). Many times, women themselves are portrayed in the media much of the time as decorations (Crawford, 2006). Perhaps this is why Bridget has such a love for decorating. Bridget is being told that her ability to decorate is what is valued and not her intellectual ability. Bridget later on talks about a party she threw for her dogs that went “really good.” This incorrect grammar seems fake, considering the fact that Bridget has multiple master’s degrees. Later on at the Easter egg decorating party, Bridget dresses in a pink bunny costume (not a playboy bunny one, one that completely covers the body). It is incredibly hot and uncomfortable for Bridget, but she states that “sometimes you have to pay a price.” Bridget has suffered in order to look a certain way before, as shown through her dieting in the first episode of season 2. Women believe that they can achieve the standards of thinness and beauty that the media portrays (Kilbourne, 1999). “However, “The Girls Next Door” fails to tell people that it is impossible to look like these women without plastic surgery, and that“the obsession with thinness is most deeply about cutting girls and women down to size.” (Kilbourne, 1999, p.262). Bridget is suffering to look a certain way, ranging from eating less food to wearing something uncomfortable. Men do not have to try nearly as hard to be deemed attractive (Crawford, 2006).
Kendra claims that the whole concept of a dog party seems weird and that she has better things to do. Nevertheless, as soon as Heffner knocks on her door and tells her it’s time to go to the dog party, she attends. The next day, Kendra remarks that the day before made her feel like a five year old. Once again, she is being encouraged to be childlike in order to be more feminine (Kilbourne, 1999). During the Easter egg decorating party, Kendra states that she’s “not a girly girl” and that she would have never sat there painting eggs before living in the mansion. Kendra is being discouraged from being active and feisty, qualities that females are not allowed to possess (Kilbourne, 1999). Kendra doesn’t want to participate, but does so in order to fit in with the other girls. On Easter Sunday, Kendra wears a very short, pastel colored dress, just like Holly and Bridget. x. Feminine clothes are very constricting and typically difficult to play sports and be active in (Kilbourne, 1999). Nevertheless Kendra wears them, for she realizes her role is to be sexually attractive.
Throughout the episode “Heavy Petting,” Holly keeps talking about how she wants to be a mother, largely due to the fact that she’s 26 years old and feels she’s “no spring chicken anymore.” It is very rare for women over 35 years old to be portrayed in the media (Crawford, 1999). Femininity is defined by youth, and The Girls Next Door typically fails to show women older than 30.When older people are portrayed, it is typically men (Crawford, 1999). Holly sees herself as older, yet is over fifty years younger than her boyfriend. In addition, Holly mentions how she really wants to be a mother, but never mentions any career or education aspirations. Females do in fact get educated and go to college, and this is very much not portrayed in the show. When attending Bridget’s dog party, Holly wears a very short ruffled pink dress with pearls and pigtails. The way Holly dresses more or less epitomizes what females have to be: “overtly sexy and attractive but essentially passive and virginal” (Kilbourne, 1999, p. 259). Later on when talking to the secretary about Easter, they both mention how they like to see the pretty little girls in their pink dresses. Women are being told that what’s most important about them is their clothing, bodies, and beauty (Kilbourne, 1999). The only thing Holly and the secretary mention about little girls are their appearances and their clothing. At the Easter egg decorating party, Holly uses her mouth to literally blow the yolk out of an egg and jokingly says “finally I found something I’m good at!” Once girls hit adolescence, they lose their self confidence, ambition, and their sense of being a “unique and powerful self”(Kilbourne, 1999, p.259). Holly only sees herself talented at this one task that is very similar to a very sexual act. Holly could very well be talented at something not relating to sex or domestics, but she only sees herself talented at what she is expected to be talented at.
“The Girls Next Door” portrays Heffner as intelligent, powerful, famous, and wealthy man. He is the epitome of what men strive for, and the American Dream. Heffner’s girlfriends are valued predominately for their appearances and for the way they fit the expectations of femininity. The power the girls do have is derived from Heffner’s power, and not from something they themselves have accomplished. “The Girls Next Door” reinforces gender expectations, which ultimately make men the powerful and women the powerless.


Crawford, Mary (2006). Images of women. Transformations- Women, Gender, and Psychology, 60-96.
Kilbourne, Jean (1999). The more you subtract, the more you add- cutting girls down to size. Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 258-265.

Sunday, February 25

Plan B: Politics or Science?

Although the morning after pill/ Plan B cannot be directly be linked to “Desperate Housewives,” I think it’s important to learn a little bit about it. On March 7, 2007, I attended a lecture given by Susan Wood at The College of New Jersey. Susan was very surprised that she would be forced to resign from the FDA due to birth control issues. It’s very interesting that Plan B is becoming such a huge issue. In actuality, Plan B is nothing more than a high does of birth control pills. Plan B does NOT kill a fetus! Instead, it shuts down ovulation. It’s like taking multiple birth control pills at the same time. The debate over whether or not Plan B should be available over the counter and what age groups can use it is being based on politics and not on the science. At this current time, Plan B is of non-prescription status for those 18 years of age or older. Unfortunately, the status of Plan B (whether it should be prescription or over the counter) was up in the air for a very long time. I feel that many people who got expensive and possibly painful or dangerous abortions could have been saved a lot of stress and money if this issue had been decided upon sooner. My questions are this: what does the FDA have against Plan B and what happens to those who are sexually active below 18 years of age? Denying that minors have sex is preposterous. Realistically, minors do in fact have sex. It would most likely be harder for a minor to afford an abortion than someone 18 or older. Considering the fact that Plan B is safe and effective and it’s the FDA’s job to approve things that are safe and effective, it seems foolish that Plan B is having such a hard time. Unfortunately, it’s all political. All I want to say is that it’s a woman’s right to decide what she wants to do with her body. If you do not approve of Plan B, then do not use it! Considering that birth control pills and abortion are legal and widely used, it makes little sense not to allow Plan B. The government needs to realize that birth control is incredibly important and needs to be here! I’m not saying that minors should be having sex, but I am saying that we need to be realistic. I am very glad that Susan Wood took the time to come to my college and speak about Plan B. I knew very little about the situation beforehand, and it’s great to have just a little bit more knowledge about the subject.