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.

Tuesday, February 20

Desperate Housewives-Juicy Promo

This clip shows the five desperate housewives in a way that is supposed to remind viewers of the biblical Eve. Similarly to how Eve eats the forbidden apple, these women are eating the forbidden apples. The housewives are also trying to tempt the viewer to watch the show, just like Eve tempts Adam. The show is supposed to be a guilty pleasure for the viewer. It even says at the end of the clip "tempting, isn't it?"

Sunday, February 18

Five awesome Desperate Housewives analysises!

ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' reinforces stereotypes of gender and race
I choose this article due to the fact that it talks about race roles in the Desperate Housewives series in addition to gender roles. The article also mentions the merchandising and advertising strategies of the show, and tells the reader that images on the show do in fact have meaning.

Desperately Debating Housewives
I love the fact that this article has two perspectives of two different women, debating whether or not the show supports the ideals of feminism or if it’s “sexist backlash.”

Desperate Housewives
This article mentions that this is the first show in a long time that portrays housewives. It discusses the television shows of the past that portrayed mothers, wives, and divorced women, comparing Desperate Housewives to them.

Desperate housewives? Not today's homemakers
This article talks about real housewives and how Desperate Housewives in some ways gives a more realistic portrayal of housewives than television shows of the past.

Finale wrap-up: "Desperate Housewives"
The article asks why women are many times referred to as “desperate.” The article sees “Desperate Housewives” as a show that had potential to redefine societal stereotypes and expectations of gender roles but fell into the hands of the mainstream instead.

Each of these sites gave excellent analysises on how Desperate Housewives portrays women. Some argue that the portrayl does in fact emphasize feminist ideals. Others argue that Desperate Housewives has a rather negative message about and for women. My goal here is to analyze, not to judge. In addition, the articles all are very interesting and are worth reading (even if you are not in fact a fan of the show). Enjoy!