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.