Friday, May 4, 2007

Myself as a Modest Witness

In “Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium,” Donna Haraway describes what it means to be a modest witness. She defines witnessing as, “seeing; attesting; standing publicly accountable for, and psychically vulnerable to, one’s visions and representations” (Haraway 267). Basically this means that a witness is someone who acknowledges his or her own views and biases. While this may seem easy at first glance it is very challenging to view yourself as a modest witness. To do so means to question the way you see the world, and really try to understand what preconceptions, biases, etc. are affecting your views. A modest witness “cannot afford self-invisibility” (Haraway 268). This blog post will be an attempt to view myself as a modest witness and at the same time determine how these preconceptions, biases, etc. have subconsciously guided my analysis of “Scrubs” this semester.

The way I see the world is a product of my experiences. I view what I know to be “normal” and this influences how I interpret the world around me. When I analyze “Scrubs”, or anything for that matter, I tend to look for things I understand or have personal experience with, so it is not surprising to see that many of my posts this semester have gravitated toward topics of masculinity. My reply to “Grey’s Anatomy vs. Scrubs” is based around the topic of men acting outside the socially constructed norms of masculinity, and in my post “The Todd…” I discussed issues of homophobia in men. I was not trying to ignore women’s issues in these posts, but it happened without my realizing it. This is a good example of how my life experiences guided my blog posts. The only post where I feel I really broke away from issues involving masculinity was “Heterosexism in ‘Scrubs’”. In that post I touched upon queer issues in “Scrubs,” but the only reason I analyzed the show in this way was because I was not given an option that allowed me to analyze issues of masculinity that week. The next step in my analytical growth will be to try and recognize issues other than those I can relate to without someone else forcing me to.

One of the biggest (if not the biggest) contributors to my view of the world is my place of privilege within society. I am only recently (within the last year or two) starting to understand that my worldview is deeply rooted in my privilege. One moment from this last semester stand out to me as a moment when I really understood a little of what it meant to have privilege. I was sitting in one of my classes waiting for it to start when I noticed that none of the other men students were in class yet, and I was the only male student in a room of about 25 people. This realization made me feel a little uncomfortable and out of place, but then I realized that there was only one African American student in the whole class. I began to wonder if this was the kind of feeling that she faced on a daily basis. This experience helped me to understand that I view the world through the lens of my privilege. I view a “normal” situation to be one where white men are in the majority and have power. This is not something I admit proudly, but the only way to try and move past prejudices like this is to unlearn them first requires acknowledging them.

This perspective was undoubtedly present, at least on a subconscious level, throughout my analysis of “Scrubs” this semester and is most apparent in my post “Power, Authority, and Gender.” My prejudice may not have been obvious to someone reading the post, but looking back I can see how present it was. My privileged perspective characterized the way I analyzed the character of Elliot in the episode “My Female Trouble”, and furthermore it has been a part of the way I have viewed her character ever since I started watching the show. During the first two seasons of “Scrubs” Elliot was constantly portrayed as a spoiled girl who was unable to handle her own life without emotionally falling apart every other day. In particular Elliot was shown as unable to handle the criticism she received from Dr. Cox, the sharp-tongued alpha male doctor who was in charge of teaching the new interns. But during the third and fourth season Elliot began to change into a much more confident woman and stood up to Dr. Cox in a number of episodes including the episode “My Female Trouble.” Seeing Elliot strip Dr. Cox of his authority gave me a feeling of uneasiness. Dr. Cox was the tough guy with the authority, how could he be verbally beaten down by a woman like Elliot? I had been able to see “normalcy” in Elliot crying after Dr. Cox criticized her, but as soon as Dr. Cox was on the other side of the equation being talked down to I became disappointed and annoyed. The first time I saw this episode I was sure why it bugged me so much but now I see that I was watching the show with the preconceived notion that normal equals guys in charge, so there was a conflict between what I thought should be happening and what I was seeing.

By trying to view myself as a modest witness I can see that all of my blog posts were guided by my preconceived ideas, biases, etc. In some cases this helped my analysis by helping me see issues I could relate to, but it also hurt my analysis by stopping me from seeing other issues. The bottom line is that I will probably never be totally free of prejudices or biases, but through reflective exercises like this post I can try and combat these prejudices so I can be as open minded as possible.

Work Cited

Haraway, Donna J. “Facts, Witnesses, and Consequences.” Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouseTM. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blog Buddy Responses from Nicole

1. Dan showed strong analytical work in his post titles “Power, Authority, and Gender”. He explained in detail some of the hegemonic/counter-hegemonic norms that are shown in the television show Scrubs (his topic). He gave several exampled from the show where these norms are present. Someone reading his Blog would clearly understand his ideas, even if they have never seen the show.

2. I think Dan is very good at using the course readings in his Blog posts (something that I often had trouble doing). I think you should be able to find another good article to cite in your final Blog post.

3. 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. Dan has been writing about Scrubs all semester (except when asked to do otherwise), and this is evident in his Blog posts.

The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy. Dan is obviously a fan of the television show Scrubs, otherwise he would not have chosen it as his topic. He seems to also be interesting in analyzing Scrubs. He seems to know enough about the show that he is able to cite examples from many episodes.

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. Based on Dan’s posts, and what I know about the show Scrubs, there are various characters that can be analyzed based on gender issues. Scrubs, like Grey’s Anatomy (my topic) is set in a hospital, where there are issues with power, and who has that power (usually male characters). He produced the required number of posts as well.

The posts make analytical 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. Dan was able to use his topic to follow the assignment for every post. The posts were clear and analytical.

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. Dan cited several different articles throughout his blog posts. Each article was related to the topic he was writing about in that particular post.

The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester. The quotes Dan used were from articles read is class, and were related to the topic he was writing about in the specific post. He used several different articles 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. Dan properly cited the sources he was using. I was able to tell when he was citing a source in his reading.

4. Finally…
I thought it was great when you added a video clip to emphasize your idea about one of the characters. It made it easier to understand what you were talking about in regard to the personality of the character. If possible, it might be good to try to do that again in your final blog post, or in your presentation.

I found it confusing when you used several different characters in a post. I know I did the same thing, but it probably would be better to just focus on one character in each Blog post. You could try to do this for the final Blog post.

You’re really great at finding readings that go along with your post. You are also good at explaining the articles in terms of how you are citing it in your post. This is something that I had a lot of trouble doing.

I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/ etc. these three things…
1. I think you should focus on the character of Elliot more in one of your posts. I’ve seen the show Scrubs, and I know that she often fits in with the hegemonic norms of a woman. I think there are things in many episodes that you could draw on to write a post about her.
2. Try to focus on just one character in your last Blog post to make it less confusing.
3. You might want to try to better explain characters with their relationships to one another.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blog Buddy Work with Nicole, Author of Nicole's Grey's Anatomy Blog

1. 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)?

2. How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?

3. 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

The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy

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

The posts make analytical 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.

The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course 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.

4. Finally, complete the following:

I thought it was great when you...

I found it confusing when you…

You’re really great at…

I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Heterosexism in "Scrubs"

In the article “Homophobia in Straight Men” Terry A. Kupers describes how one male inmate was dressed as a woman in order to protect himself. The inmate had been beaten up and raped a number of times by other inmates. He had even been fought over by various prison toughs, but once he began to dress and act like a woman he became the quasi-girlfriend of one prison tough and therefore he was no longer beaten up or fought over (Kupers 500). This clearly brings up the issue of women being viewed as property, but this post will focus on the issues of heterosexism that can be seen here and then discuss how these same issues of heterosexism can be found in “Scrubs.”

This inmates experience reveals that his prison society did not view homosexuality as a normative or even reasonable lifestyle choice. When the inmate dressed and acted like a man he was beaten up, raped, and fought over by various prison toughs, so in order to gain the protection of one prison tough he presented himself as a woman so he could be seen as a “girlfriend”. When one tough saw another trying to rape the inmate he did not think, “Oh, I guess that tough owns that guy.” Instead the toughs would fight over who could have the inmate for sexual use. The inmate could not gain protection as a man because the prisoners did not view two men being together as a relationship so the inmate was up for grabs, but as soon as the inmate dressed as a woman the prisoners acknowledged that he could have the protection of his “boyfriend.” This basically says that two men can not be viewed as being in a relationship, but a man and a woman can be. It might be easy to think that only a bunch of hardened criminals would view the world this way but issues of heterosexism can be found throughout pop culture and “Scrubs” is no exception.

The first, and most obvious, heterosexist issue that can be found in “Scrubs” is the lack of any prominent homosexual characters. All of the recurring characters are straight and their straightness is a large part of who they are. A large part of the show is dedicated to the characters finding or hanging out with a boyfriend/girlfriend of the opposite sex. So “Scrubs” very clearly describes all its main characters as straight.

Another issue in “Scrubs” related to heterosexism is how homosexuality is presented when it does come up in the show. The only character that is mentioned more than once that is gay is Dr. Kelso’s unseen son, Harrison, who Dr. Kelso talks about from time to time. When Harrison is the topic of conversation, Dr. Kelso almost always talks about him like he is a disappointment. One of the few times when Dr. Kelso admits that he loves Harrison he starts the conversation with, “[Harrison] hasn’t come out quite the way I planned…” So even when Dr. Kelso talks about his son in a loving way he includes the fact that he never wanted a gay son. This is not exactly showing homosexuality in a positive light.

“Scrubs” also runs into heterosexist issues in the way that lesbianism is portrayed in a fourth season episode. In this episode Elliot and Molly are sitting in the cafeteria talking and Molly mentions how her thighs hurt. Elliot then offers to massage them with oil. Elliot does not say this in a sexy way, but every man in the cafeteria looks over hopefully when they hear her. Showing quasi-lesbian behavior in this way is problematic because it frames lesbianism as a male sexual fantasy. This reduces lesbianism to something that is used by heterosexual men. Lesbian behavior is no longer presented as a plausible lifestyle choice but rather a taboo used for heterosexual arousal.

Heterosexism in “Scrubs” exists in two forms: the lack of major representation of homosexual characters, and the negative representation homosexuality does get during its limited times of discussion on the show. In this way “Scrubs” is presenting a world where the only realistic and logical relationship type is man and woman.

Work Cited
Kupers, Terry A. Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power. The Guilford Press, 1992.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Todd: The Supposedly Straight Surgeon

Kupers says that men often “do a lot of toughening up” and keep other men at a distance so that we can be free of any closeness that might make us feel vulnerable (Kupers 500). I will use this statement as a focus to analyze the “Scrubs” character The Todd. The Todd acts ultra-masculine. He is the stereotypical meathead who is always giving high-fives, sexually harassing his women co-workers, and acting in ways to affirm his masculine sexuality. Despite this macho, hyper-masculine attitude his heterosexuality is often questioned by the other characters of the show. Todd’s behavior is so over the top that everyone assumes or suspects that he is gay and is trying to hide it by constantly affirming that he is straight. Kupers would say that Todd toughens himself up so blatantly that it is natural for other to suspect that he is trying to repel any feelings of intimacy with other men, because he is uncomfortable with his desire for that intimacy.

Work Cited

Kupers, Terry A. Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power. The Guilford Press, 1992.

Here's a video of the Todd in action.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Power, Authority, and Gender

“Scrubs” is a part of popular culture and so it carries with it messages about cultural ideas. Some messages are hegemonic and others are counter-hegemonic. This post will discuss the different messages about power, authority, and gender that are sent by “Scrubs” and whether they are hegemonic or counter-hegemonic.

The first hegemonic idea about power, authority, and gender that “Scrubs” propagates can be found by looking at who has power and authority in the hierarchy of the hospital. Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox are the two characters that are most often shown as being powerful. Dr. Kelso is the chief of medicine in charge of the hospital and Dr. Cox is the “alpha male” who teaches interns how to be doctors through fear and intimidation. Both of these characters are white men so “Scrubs” contains the hegemonic message that positions of superiority belong to white men.

“Scrubs” also contains counter hegemonic ideas about authority and gender. The most notable example is the episode entitled “My Female Trouble” where Carla and Elliot are described as two strong independent women who can make men feel like little boys. In this episode, Carla’s husband, Turk, is being sued for malpractice by a former patient whose tennis game is not as good as it was before Turk performed surgery on the patient’s shoulder. The patient is upset because tennis games are the only times when he feels he has friends. Carla stands up to the patient and convinces him to drop the lawsuit and then uses intimidation to force Dr. Cox to play tennis with the patient. Elliot also stands up to Dr. Cox in this episode when she tells him that she’s no longer afraid of him, because she knows she does not need him as much as she used to. Prior to this episode it was commonplace to find Elliot crying after a critical comment from Dr. Cox so this was a major change in her character. Showing two women characters standing up to Dr. Cox is counter hegemonic because it shows that even a cocky alpha male can be stripped of his authority by a strong woman.

In this episode, Jordan’s character also sends a message about women and power, but it conforms to the idea that men are the natural authority figures and is therefore hegemonic. In the episode J.D. is dating a woman that he wants to break up with, but can’t because he can’t stand up to her, so he decides he needs the help of another woman even stronger than his girlfriend, “a real witch.” Then he asks Jordan for help. This statement sends two messages. First it depicts Jordan as the strongest woman character on the show. J.D. didn’t think, “I need a strong woman so I’ll go talk to Carla,” or, “I need a strong woman so I’ll ask Elliot for help,” he immediately went to the only woman he thought strong enough to help. The last part of his statement is probably the most troubling. J.D. says that he needs “a real witch.” He describes a woman who is strong and intimidating enough to help him as being evil. This fits into Enloe’s statement that cultural norms forbid women to be “wielders of violence,” aggression, or intimidation (Enloe 515). Jordan is so strong, and so independent that society cannot acknowledge her as admirable or even acceptable and she is labeled a witch.

“Scrubs” overall describes positions of authority as roles for men, but it does also send messages about the power of women. Carla and Elliot are displayed as strong in a positive light, but ultimately by describing Jordan as a witch because of her strength, strong women are portrayed as deviant.

Work Cited

Enloe, Cynthia. “Wielding Masculinity Inside Abu Ghraib: Making Feminist Sense of an American Military Scandal.” Ms. Magazine Sept./Oct. 1995: 514 – 522.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Grey's Anatomy vs. Scrubs: Or the Limits of Representation (post from blog by Maia)

I've started watching Grey's Anatomy really regularly (they're repeating Season 1 in NZ), I'm not quite sure why - because I don't really like it that much. I don't think it's well-written, by half-way through season two I hated almost all the characters. But watch it I do, if nothing else it gets things to blog about it.

Shonda Rhimes (Creator of the show) said that she wanted Grey's Anatomy to look like America. Of the four authority figures we see most regularly, three are african-american, and one of those is female. This is a world where you can live in a trailer park and grow up to be surgeon. Rich or poor, male of female, Korean, African-American or white - anyone can work at Seattle Grace.

Compare this to Scrubs, the authority figures are all white men, and while you can be a doctor and female or a doctor and African-American, the women of colour are all nurses.

There was this episode of Scrubs where all the main characters...

dgolazeski said...

I don’t think this post is saying that we should see more minorities committing crimes on television. It’s saying that a show that acts like issues of class, race, and sex don’t matter is making these problems worse by making the viewers believe that these problems don’t exist. Scrubs shows these issues as problems in episodes like the one described in the post.

Another episode of Scrubs that deals with issues of gender is the episode where Elliot starts dating a male nurse. In this episode Elliot goes out with a coworker from the hospital and really likes him until she finds out that he’s a nurse. After that she considers dumping him for that reason only. This white male carries a stigma because he has a job that society believes is a job for a woman. I’m not saying we should feel bad for white males who are nurses, but we should try and unlearn our socially constructed instincts that tell us that leadership jobs are for men and subservient jobs are for women.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Femininity in "The Girls Next Door"

This entry is a follow-up to my first post in which I discussed the norms and ideals of masculinity that are portrayed in an episode of “The Girls Next Door.” This post will discuss the norms and ideals of femininity displayed in the same episode. The episode deals with how a women is expected to look, act, and eat.

Before even the opening credits of an episode are finished the show already presents a feminine norm related to appearance. The three main female characters (Kendra, Bridget, and Holly) all look pretty much the same. They are all blonde, white, and skinny. Even their hairstyles are practically identical. Right from the start, this show is setting blonde, white, and skinny as a standard for feminine beauty. Another trait that is common to all three women is that they are all comfortable being naked or nearly naked in front of men with whom they are not romantically involved. This is obvious since they all modeled for Playboy magazine, but they are also shown getting dressed during the episode. As ridiculous as it may seem that the popular media is defining a “normal” woman as a woman who is willing to be naked or at least almost naked in front of others, we live in a society where girls are being sexualized through dress at a younger and younger age so it may not be as ridiculous as it sounds.

In one of the most startling scenes of the episode, attractiveness, health, and an eating disorder are all combined and describe a particularly dangerous feminine norm. While Bridget and her parents are eating a meal together she says that in order to get ready for her burlesque act for Hefner she is going to try and “get healthy” and not eat anything at the meal. This one statement says a lot about feminine ideals and norms. One of the things the statement does is equate being healthy with being unreasonably skinny. Bridget is already in shape and in no way needs to lose weight, but she wants to anyway. Rather than admit that she wants to lose weight, she subtly replaces the words “lose weight” with “get healthy”. This replacement is not just a simple euphemism for dieting. It sends an extremely dangerous message to girls by telling them that not only is it ok to stop eating to lose weight, but that it is good for them. This statement is encouraging girls to start eating disorders. The problem is compounded when her parents see her eating nothing and just ignore it. By not speaking up, her parents are silently saying that it is acceptable to have an eating disorder. Bridget is starving herself, her parents support her by ignoring it, and suddenly eating disorders are being presented as part of a normative definition of femininity. The last part of this statement that makes everything even worse is that Bridget is doing this for her burlesque act for Hefner. She is starving herself so that she can be desirable to men. This sends the message that girls should do things for the approval of others, even if it means putting yourself at risk.

The ideals and norms of femininity displayed in “The Girls Next Door” are troubling to say the least, but it is important to remember that the existence of the norms and ideals of society are not to be blamed on popular media. The media is merely reflecting the norms and ideals that already exist in society. The media can be blamed for perpetuating malignant ideas, but in the end it is the viewers who enable this to occur. If no one tuned in to watch the program then the show would be cancelled, but the show is still on so obviously people are watching and enjoying the show. Analyzing popular culture can only help us realize what ideals and norms exist around us. If we want to steer society away from norms and ideals that are damaging then we need to worry about society itself not just its popular media.

Masculinity in "The Girls Next Door"

The first post of this blog will be a slight deviation from the blog’s main focus. It will not deal with issues of gender, race, or class in the television series “Scrubs”. Instead this post will analyze the norms and ideals of masculinity that are found in a particular episode of the show “The Girls Next Door”. The episode being analyzed is the episode where Hugh Hefner turns 80 and his birthday party is planned. This episode describes a number of societal norms and ideals related to gender, some more obvious than others. This blog entry will analyze the masculine norms shown by Bridget’s father, and the masculine ideal portrayed by Hefner.

The episode also touches upon masculine norms through the behavior of Bridget’s father. Bridget’s parents come to visit her and in one scene they are all having a meal together. During the meal, Bridget’s father is shown eating a sizable amount of food and burping in the process. While some, if not all, of this was shown for comedic purposes it does send the message that it is normal for men to eat a lot and be a little vulgar while doing it. Another aspect of Bridget’s father that shows masculine norms is his appearance. He is a middle aged, slightly overweight man. Not a single female character is shown during the entire episode that is overweight at all. These two facts put together tell the audience that it is acceptable for men to be overweight but unacceptable for women to be overweight.

The show “The Girls Next Door” paints a very clear picture of the masculine ideal in the lifestyle of Hugh Hefner. Hefner is preparing to celebrate his 80th birthday in the episode and is also dating Kendra, a model in her early 20’s. Male viewers who see an elderly Hefner with a girlfriend in the prime of her life could easily think that Hefner’s method of attracting women is obviously foolproof. In this way, “The Girls Next Door” shows the ideal man as a man who is rich, powerful, and does not have to commit to one woman for any significant length of time. The ability to choose not to commit to one woman is further solidified as part of the masculine ideal during the planning of Hefner’s birthday party. Bridget, one of Hefner’s ex-girlfriends, is planning to perform a burlesque act for Hefner’s birthday where she will climb out of a giant cake and strip for her ex-boyfriend. Kendra, Hefner’s current girlfriend, will be at this party. In most situations, if a woman saw her boyfriend watching his ex-girlfriend strip for him she would be upset to say the least. The fact that Bridget is not worried that the show will upset Kendra shows that Hefner is able to have a girlfriend, Kendra, but still enjoy a quasi-sexual relationship with Bridget. Hefner can have his cake and eat it too. This entrenches the idea that an ideal man does not necessarily have to commit to one woman. Another part of Hefner’s relationship with Kendra that sends a message about the masculine ideal is the way they interact with one another. When they talk they are very formal with one another as opposed to being casual and comfortable. By doing this they are showing each other a persona rather than who they actually are. Dr. William Tardy says that a relationship that lacks at least some level of real communication is an unhealthy one (Petrie 223). This episode is describing an unhealthy relationship as being part of the masculine ideal.

The show “The Girls Next Door” depicts a masculine ideal that in many ways is problematic and dangerous to a society that is supposed to value and strive towards equality, but the ideals and norms it displays that relate to femininity are much more alarming and will be discussed in the next post of this blog.

Work Cited

Petrie, Phil W. “Real Men Don’t Cry…And Other ‘Uncool’ Myths.” Essence Nov. 1982.