Category Archives: General

Cee’s Confession

Recently, the American hip-hop community was buzzing because a legendary radio DJ and music producer, Mister Cee, was seen on video in the act of soliciting a prostitute – that was not a woman. The situation was such a ‘scandal’ because Cee had been arrested for solicitation before, however he had refused to acknowledge that the prostitute was transgendered, and dismissed any inquiries as to his sexuality. The story eventually died out, as most gossip does, but upon the release of yet another video, Cee felt as though he could no longer keep his sexual preferences private.

Soon after the video went viral, Cee did an 30-minute interview with a close friend and coworker at his radio station, Ebro, and admitted live on air to having certain sexual interactions with men. The revealing exchange falls closely in line with Foucault’s Scientia Sexualis chapter in The History of Sexuality, and his assertions about the confession.

We have since become a singularly confessing society. The confession has spread its effects far and wide…. One confesses one’s crimes, one’s sins, one’s thoughts and desires, one’s illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, whatever is most difficult to tell. Once confesses in public and in private… to those one loves; one admits to oneself, in pleasure and in pain, things it would be impossible to tell to anyone else, the things people write books about. Once confesses – or is forced to confess. When it is not spontaneous or dictated by some internal imperative, the confession is wrung from a person by violence or threat; it is driven from its hiding place in the soul, or extracted from the body.

Foucault, The History of Sexuality, p. 59

Ebro stated, “You’ve been dealing with this privately… but after this video comes out, I don’t really know what to tell the listeners. I take our listeners seriously because without them we wouldn’t have a job. So I kinda feel obligated to share, especially when something like this happens in public, and especially when you’re breaking the law.”

Ebro went on to say that Mister Cee didn’t “owe anybody anything,” which directly contradicted his previous statement. The presumed obligation that Cee has a moral imperative to be forthcoming about any element of his personal life, especially something as intimate as one’s sexual preferences, to anyone other than his immediate family, is arguably quite intrusive and offensive. Mister Cee’s sexuality has no bearing on his ability to produce music, conduct interviews, or perform any other duties associated with his career. Even Ebro’s comments that Cee’s actions were unlawful and that the escapade was caught on a video that ended up going viral, do not constitute an obligation to reveal and discuss personal matters. At the very least he might be compelled to address his legal troubles, but should reasonably be allowed a modicum of privacy to exclude details. This also speaks to another issue of the rights of public figures.

Cee’s reluctance to admit his sexuality was directly tied to his fear of how he would be received in his truth. “My whole dilemma has always been ‘am I still gonna be looked at the same?’” This is an example of what The Trouble With Normal author, Michael Warner, refers to as the politics of shame. According to Warner, Cee is a stigmaphobe, a member of a world in which, “conformity is ensured through fear of stigma” (43).

People are constantly encouraged to believe that heterosexual desire, dating, marriage, reproduction, child rearing, and home life are not only valuable to themselves, but the bedrock on which every other value in the world rests. Heterosexual desire and romance are though to be the very core of humanity… Nonstandard sex has non of this normative richness, this built-in sense of connection to the meaningful life, the community of richness, the future of the world.

Warner, The Trouble With Normal, p. 47

It is never easy to put oneself in a position that is beyond the boundaries of general social acceptance or in any way not aligned with mainstream beliefs, whether it has to do with sexuality or otherwise.  Warner explains, “nearly everyone, it seems, wants to be normal. And who can blame them, if the alternative is being abnormal, or deviant, or not being one of the rest of us? Put in those terms, there doesn’t seem to be a choice at all. Especially not in America, where normal probably outranks all other social aspirations” (53).

Further extending the conversation of normality, Mister Cee did not confess, come out, or otherwise admit to being “gay”, despite participating in what is generally categorized as homosexual behavior. “I know I’m gonna get hit with social media when I get ready to say this, but I’m gonna say it anyway. Do I consider myself gay? No, I don’t consider myself gay. I do – I have gotten fellatio from transvestites. And that’s as far as it went…. I’ve never had actual sexual intercourse with another man, and vise versa, that has never been done to me.”

It is completely an individual’s right to define and perform gender and sexuality as one sees fit. If his definition of ‘gay’ in centered on the act of penetration, that is perfectly okay, but it is more likely that Cee’s discomfort with putting himself in the gay box further underscores his stigmaphobic nature and his innate desire to be accepted – or normal. He not only had to face the perceived abnormality and deviance of his sexual preferences in the heterocentric general population, but as well as his perception amongst peers and fans in microclimate of the hip-hop community.

In this hip-hop community of ours, it’s not cool to be gay. It’s not cool to be bisexual. I felt that if I was to actually be honest about myself that nobody would want to deal with me anymore. But the more that I kept lying and the more I kept trying to deceive you and myself – the more I was being more closed in and not being who I really am… I got tired of lying and hiding. But I’m here to tell you today that you don’t have to lie or hide no more about your sexual freedom.

Mister Cee, quoted in his PSA for the Aids Healthcare Foundation

Foucault says, “The obligation to confess is now relayed through so many different points, is so deeply ingrained in us, that we no longer perceive it as the effect of a power that constrains us; on the contrary, it seems to us that truth, lodged in our most secret nature, “demands” only to surface” (60).  Cee’s confession, his decision to stop lying and trying to deceive himself and others, was his truth demanding to surface. It was no longer the power of constraint, but the embracing of freedom.

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Gendered Genres

Both Ien Ang in Gender and/in Media consumption and Helen Thornham in  It’s a Boy Thing, explore the gendering of certain genres, Ang with soap operas and Thornham with video games. Both authors assert that gender-based narratives are highly situational and that gendered subjectivity is a constant renegotiation, which is to say that as individual experiences evolve, so will the perspectives and interpretations of media interactions.

Ang explains how differing gender definitions are the result of discourse, using the example of Catholic discourse in which ‘woman’ is defined as either a whore, a virgin, or a mother; in contrast to radical feminist discourse that establish women as victims and oppressed humans. Two completely different definitions for the same group. Discourse, according to Ang, also produces gender positioning by assigning different, “roles, opportunities, ideals, duties and vulnerabilities to ‘men’ and ‘women’ that are classified as normal and are very difficult to break out of” (120).

After making this distinction between gender positioning and gender definition, Ang then goes on to ask the important question: if gender identification is not a mechanical or passive process, why do men and women seem to continue to identify with gender-based positions?

Ang goes on to answer his own question with the Henriques explanation of ‘investment’ – that persons choose to assume their gender-differentiated positioning to ultimately received a reward from their emotional commitment. This was illustrated in Thornam’s article by two of her interviewees, Sara and Rach.Gamer-Girls

Sara said she gamed as a way of bonding, which is a gender neutral ideology and an emotional commitment (investment) however she did not attempt to better her skills because she felt that it was her role, or position,  to be inferior at gaming. When she relocated from the co-ed house, to the all-female house, Sara was compelled to get better –  or was at least no longer stifled in her pursuit of improvement, with the absence of the unspoken obligation to stay in her place – what Ang referred to as ‘social subordination’.

I wouldn’t take it very seriously. I’d clown about and mess about and pretend I couldn’t work out what to do. And I didn’t bother to try to improve as a gamer because that was my role. Whereas now I’m gaming and I’m looking at the map to try and see where the symbol is and where I’m going. There, they would just be amused that I was so rubbish. They’d always be telling me what to do. But that’s boys isn’t it? (…) Gaming is just another way to play out roles. It doesn’t give you a space where you can do what you want or be who you want. It’s how I chose to bond with people in Brighton, but it didn’t change how I interacted with them. I was still “the Girl” and didn’t know what I was doing. Here, though I don’t have to do that any more.  – Thornham 133, 141

Rach also ‘played her role’ while gaming, to stimulate interaction with her boyfriend, Rob, by downplaying her above average ability to play the game. By constantly asking questions about how to work the buttons and other gaming related questions, Rach kept Rob present and engaged, while reinforcing his sense of authority in the subject.

A similar obligation to role responsibility was displayed in the video we viewed in class – the wife/mother felt a certain inadequacy due to not having time to play the game enough to advance her character, and essentially play her role, that she paid money to have her character ‘power-leveled’ so she could feel that she was contributing to her team at a level equal to her male counterparts, including her husband.

It is likely that most women having similar responsibilities as a wife and mother, would simply play the game less and not give it a second thought, dismissing it like many other luxuries they’ve had to relinquish to their familial duties. However, this woman (I do not remember her name) expanded the dynamic of their household to include the game, thus evoking a similar sense of obligation to the game as to her other responsibilities.

Side note: I did not know that the first game to make a conscious effort to attract both male and female players was Pac-Man. According to the young woman in the video below, Pac-Man’s creator realized that women talk about food a lot (ahem – he was listening to women at a café, hmmmm) so that’s why he incorporated the food-like elements such a pizza, fruit and ice cream. There was an immediate increase in female players, which provided valuable insight as to the limited marketing of video games.

She gives further commentary about gaming from a female perspective here

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Feminist Media and Culture

In Feminist Perspectives on the Media, author Liesbet van Zoonen discusses three general trends of feminism: liberal, radical, and socialist – and how the increasingly blurred lines between activism and academic critique are jeopardizing the relevance of feminist media studies.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Liberal feminism attributes “irrational prejudice and stereotypes about the supposedly natural role of women as wives and mothers” (27), to women’s unequal place in society. The solution offered by liberal feminists is that women should enter male-dominated fields and acquire power, and media can support the shift by minimizing, if not eliminating, sexist language and portraying men and women in more non-traditional roles. This, “we can do it all” mentality has resulted in the Superwoman stereotype, which of course, few, if any, women can achieve and sustain.

Radical feminism credits the subordinate position of women to patriarchy, “men’s innately wicked inclination to dominate women” (28). The radical perspective on media is that it will

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

operate to the benefit of patriarchy because mass media is owned and produced by men.  This ideology is problematic as well because hierarchy, regardless of sex or gender, is human nature. “Power differences, difference of opinion and interests appear to exist among women also, and are not a male preserve” (28).

Socialist feminism differentiates from both radical and liberal currents in that it does not only consider gender, but class and economic conditions as well to account for women’s position in society. The overall concern is the way media portrays women and femininity, and how gender roles and stereotypes are perpetuated.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Although there are flaws and contradictions in each feminist theory, they all share an important and fundamental perspective that media are the, “main instruments in conveying respectively stereotypical, patriarchal and hegemonic values about women and femininity. They serve as mechanisms of social control” (31).

Rosalind Gill adds to the discussion her critique on postfeminism, in the article Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.  Gill tells us that a crucial element of postfeminism is the shift from unassuming sexual object, to active participant. “It represents a shift in the way that power operates: from an external, male judging gaze to a self-policing, narcissistic gaze. It can be argued that this represents a higher or deeper form of exploitation than objectification – one in which the objectifying male gaze is internalized to form a new disciplinary regime” (139).

 “The sexually liberated modern woman turns out to resemble – what do you know! – the pneumatic, take-me-now-big-boy f**k-puppet of male fantasy after all.” – Janice Turner

The media targets young girls, baiting them with provocative clothing such as super-short shorts and cropped tops; branding notebooks, backpacks and clothing with the Playboy bunny symbol encourages girls to grow up quickly and socializes them into putting an unrealistic and age-inappropriate value on their bodies and appearance. However adult women are subjected to ‘girlification’ which promotes young girls as the desirable sexual icons. It’s one big mind game, and women are not in a position to win.

Gill also addresses the postfeminist sensibilities of individualism and ‘pleasing oneself’ that has become prominent in Western media culture. She gives the examples of the increase of women choosing to wax off their pubic hair (Brazilian wax) to, “reinstate a prepubescent version of their genitalia” and the surge in young women, even teenagers, getting breast augmentation; all in the name of  using beauty as a tool to make them ‘feel good’ – but are we not right back to the girlification, fuck-puppets and internalized male gaze? “The body is presented simultaneously as women’s source of power and as always unruly, requiring constant monitoring, surveillance, discipline and remodeling (and consumer spending) in order to conform to ever-narrower judgments of female attractiveness. Indeed, surveillance of women’s bodies constitutes perhaps the largest type of media content across al genres and media forms. Women’s bodies are evaluated, scrutinized and dissected by women as well as men, and are always at risk of ‘failing’” (137).

“Scant attention is paid to the pressures that might lead a teenager to decide that major surgery will solve her problems, and even less to the commercial interests that are underpinning this staggering trend” – Rosalind Gill

 

 

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