Posts tagged ‘CHID’

June 13, 2009

Does the Devil Really Wear Prada?

Because I’m rather happy with it. And it’s something that I’m actually passionate about, I’m posting my CHID paper here, minus the work cited.

We live in a man’s world. There are very few who have not heard that saying. And there are facts to back it up. We live in a world where a woman will make 15% less than a man will for doing the same amount of work and having the same credentials. We live in a world where there are societies and traditions of networking that still and will continue to belong to the “old boy’s club.” We also live in a world where politicians and CEOs are mainly seen as old white heterosexual males with a certain pedigree and education. But when there is an industry created, for the most part, by women intended for women, it is seen as living proof of the superficiality of the fairer sex. The fashion industry, and consequently, the women who work in it, is frequently dismissed for its vapidity and oft ridiculted through its portrayl in film. This attitude further demonstrates society’s one dimensional view of women and their capabilities. In particular, the portrayal of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada magnifies the extremities of societal bias against career women.

A few things to remember: one, the fashion industry is a multibillion-dollar industry, and two, it is an industry that tends to have women in the top positions. If it were up to the directors of films on fashion, it would be nothing but a world of cliches: “the harridan of a boss, bitchy journalists who never eat and seem able to afford Chanel couture despite earning about $6 a day, sleazy photographers, queenly designers, and expensive freebies raining down like wedding confetti” (Freeman 87). What the directors do not realize is that if the fashion industry is in fact a multibillion-dollar industry (which it is), it could not possibly survive if the many people behind it were exactly as they portray them. In fact, it would probably collapse. If one were to look at the story of The Devil Wears Prada through the eyes of the so-called villain, the intimidating editor-in-chief, as opposed to the young impressionable protagonist, one would see a very different picture. Mirand Priestlyis not merely the “dragon lady” who cannot manage to hold onto a workable marriage that the director would make her out to be. She is simply striving for what everyone else, regardless of gender, wants out of life, and that is both fulfillment from one’s job and having a “close, committed, and lasting intimate connection” (Gerson 267). And that means doing what needs to be done.

Throughout the entire movie, one learns about Miranda Priestly, ill-disguised as an allusion to Anna Wintour (editor-in-chief of Vogue), from the impressions of the people around her; the audiences hears about her impossible demands, impatient nature, cold demeanor, and her ability to make or break one’s career. In essence, she is the most powerful woman in fashion. THrough that character development, the movie manages to depict a “woman who seriously devotes her life to [the fashion industry] as being blind to the important things in life and an all-around self-deluding bitch” (Freeman 89). However, this reduces her characters; she is also a woman who strives for excellence in her work and upholds high standards. Moreover, she has moments of vulnerability, poignantly deliverd by Meryl Streep, as she strives to keep both her marriage afloat and some upstard from taking her job. And all that glamour and privilege comes with a price. In the end, she keeps her influence and powerful position but at the expense of others’ happiness and her husband leaving her. She puts it best in the end as she pushes Andrew to make a choice: “You can see beyond what people want and what they need. And you can choose for yourself…You want this life? Those choices are necessary” (Meryl Streep). And she is willing to make them time and time again.

Now what if the character of Miranda Priestly is reworked into a male role where, perhaps, his position would be a top advertizing executive instead? Would the same slant be applied? Would we as an audience judge his actions the same way? Most likely not. Even if the same labels were applied, the characteristics would not hold the same connotations for a man as it would for a woman. What is labeled “bitchy” and “ruthless” in a woman is deemed “stern” and “unyielding” in a man, qualities that help lead to a promotion. It would be seen as nothing more than doing what needs to be done in order to climb the corporate ladder and maintaining his own standards of excellence. Furthermore, a man putting in long hours for his career would hardly induce much judgment as concepts of traditionalism, even modified traditionalism, are at work. In stark contrast, from what the audience can infer from the brief glimpses into her home life, Miranda Priestly’s relationship with her husband is constantly strained–and eventually deteriorates into divorce–because she has the nerve to work long hours for something she loves and has spent most of her career building. Her dilemma is something many career women, regardless of what industry, must face. And clearly, it is created through a society operating on a framework of inequality and a double standard.

Traditionalism has placed a woman’s role in the home, raising the children and managing the household; having a higher education and a career generally is not in the picture. Moreover, they are reduced to having frivolous interests and “womanly” pursuits which leads society into thinking that women, themselves, are frivolous creatures in general. When they do have a career, women have to balance intelligence and appearance so much more than men do or else they risk not being taken seriously for their work. On one hand, sexual harassment can become an issue when a woman gets objectified for the way she dresses. Conversely, being deemed “serious” becomes synonymous with “dowdy” or “lesbian” because she is not feminine enough. Women continue to struggle with cultural boundaries that men simply do not have to face; they are constantly bombarded with gender stereotypes and lack a workable network that allows them to reach high positions.

Not only that, the concept of male privilege is a prevalent factor in the continuation of the glass ceiling. Often, women are met with discriminatory treatment when working in male-dominated occupations: “women fire fighters report concerns as to whether their co-workers will back them up in dangerous situations [and] when women are members of a token group in the workplace they are often ‘over supervised’ and scrutinized” (Bose & Whaley 202). And, rarer still is a woman holding a higher corporate position. In fact, in Washington Sate alone, out of 73 top publicly held companies, only 18% of executive positions and 14% of board seats are held by women (Harris). What is worse is that this is an ignored issue by men who have the power to help change it; instead of seeing a “systemic tendency in disciplinary frameworks or epistemology to overempower men as a group…for men’s centrality in all the inner sanctums of our most powerful institutions,” (McIntosh 96) they frequently choose to fall back on archaic justification as women being the “weaker” sex. So, maybe a character such as Miranda Priestly should be admired for being able to survive and thrive in a corporate world, despite society operating under a history that favors men.

Ultimately, all “women and men face rising conflicts over how to resolve the basic, tensions between family and work, public and private, autonomy and commitment. They are searching for new strategies for reconciling an “independent self” with commitment to others” (Gerson 258). And while the rigid structure of the male breadwinner/female caretaker household has faded somewhat, finding new solutions to the moral conflict between personal commitment at home and achieving one’s career goals is quite difficult with the residual influence of traditionalism. Times are changing with the current rise of public opportunities for women, meaning they can look “for definitions of personal identity that do not pit their own development against creating committed ties to others” (262). Men also have the same thoughts; “work along could not provide their lives with meaning [and they] hope to balance paid work and personal attachments without having to sacrifice the self for a job or paycheck” (266). How interesting that both are seeking the same thing, and yet, emphais different aspects of it. Women are seeking personal fulfillment in self-sufficiency because it was previously not available to them. They have watched their mothers stay in relationships longer than they perhaps should have and focus too much on their children all because the home was their “sole source of satisfaction or survival” (266). In contrast, men seek meaning to their lives beyond the workplace without having to compromise their own career goals because they have historically been placed as the breadwinner under traditionalism. Of course, men are applauded for it whereas women tend to be judged for making certain career decisions like Miranda Priestly did in The Devil Wears Prada. Women, it seems, are fighting an uphill battle.

If that was not already bad enough, people working in the fashion industry must work against more bias. Somewhere along the way, something that is supposed to be fun and a form of creative expression got lost. It became so “frivolous,” which by definition (self indulgently carefree) (Webster’s dictionary 2008) has connotations of triviality and worthlessness–as opposed to entertaining–that people have to create superficial worries such as becoming thin to the point of being unhealthy. While the people involved are not curing cancer, what they are doing cannot be deemed anymore worthless than pursuing a career in automobile editorial, sports, or film even. Reading a fashion magainze, which features some of the best photographers in the wolrd and depits the life of glamorous women, is an excellent escape from reality. It gives a woman a peek into a life where one can fit into luxurious couture to attend glamorous events and gets Bali salt scrubs monthly. It is not meant as a critique on women; the idea that fashion makes women feel bad about themselves is utterly ridiculous. While observing pretty young things live glamorous lives may incite some envy and viewing painfully thin models might inspire slight self-consciousness, a reader does not necessarily come away thinking that skeletal frames are normal. To my understanding, fashion is not some insipid cult that turns women into bimbos; women are quite able to distinguish between the fantasy presented in the magazines and reality. Why is it that mainstreem movies present an escape from reality as well, but yet, society does not hold people in the movie industry (who uphold an image of beautiful people) accountable for the degradation of women as it does Anna Wintour?

In fact, Vogue may be doing more for women than we all think it does. At the commencement at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2003, Anna Wintour demonstrates her ability to move with the changing times. She states that “At Vogue, these days, we do [not] just cover the collectons; we cover style in its many and every-multiplying incarnations, from the man who designed your Nokia cellphone to the people responsible for the cool new Altoids. We ask questions about what it means to look great for women of different body types and of different ages. And we recognize that the fashion and beauty industries can empower women” (Wintour.

In the end The Devil Wears Prada does not do justice to an industry that I have come to admire; the cinematographical slant on the life of Miranda Priestly further illustrates the moral dilemmas career women face and serve to demonstrate society’s one dimensional view towards women. It is easy to limit the fashion industry to pretty dresses and glamorous events, as easy as it is to dismiss its worth for being an industry mainly composed of women. Rocket science it is most certainly not but it is hardly worthless. Essentially, if a person happens to find personal fulfillment by having a job in fashion, that gives it worth. No matter how much others try to reduce it, if it accomplishes that one thing, it is on track with what we are looking for, which is intimate connection along with a fulfilling career. How one goes about balancing all that is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it is time for the creation of the new moral order, one that allows a woman to move beyond the home without giving up her personal life. Are men willing to form an allyship in the efforts of creating that new moral order? More importantly, are men willing to relinquish some of their privilege if it means achieving the ideal balance? Hopefully, we shall see.

April 19, 2009

Happy Musings

Well. I’m glad that I’m over my freak out. hahah I guess it wasn’t exactly my fault. But still. Glad to have the wacky moodswings gone as well as the paranoia over the placebo effect. But yet I still have questions. But as he is currently incommunicato I’ll deal by writing it out on the blog. Hmm I hate diary entries. Ironic since I love to write. But I don’t like to write the inspid feeling spillage that is so commonly found in teenage girl diaries. I prefer to angst it all out and bleed it onto the page. That is part of a being a teenager as well I think. The angst. The uncontrollable urge to let your emotions take control. This is why there are so many teenage movies after all. Teenagers feel things like 10x harder than normal people do. Whether irrationally or not. They just do. and feel. Such a nice existence at times; other times, not so nice. I like to think that I’ve matured somewhat. I’ve certainly calmed down since high school. This has been such an interesting year of discovery. And to think it’s not even over yet.

I do hope that I don’t ever become one of those needy, dependent girlfriends (*gasp* I’m a girlfriend now or at least I hope so!). That would totally suck. Not to mention be very pathetic. I really should diversify my interests in order to not become one. Either that or just keep on track with school. lol Cuz I got some exams to think about here. My life does not revolve around him. Or least it better not!!!!!!! I’d be very pissed that I let myself go to that point. I really should find new interests though. I’m getting a bit bored. And as I can’t really do what I normally do when I’m bored (hunting), I gotta find a new past-time. Cuz with him in the pic, that’s a big no no. hahaha Maybe I’ll go boulder or something. That’s something I haven’t done in a while. Anything to stop thinking/talking about him. Sorry honey, but I gotta stop sometime. This fluff period has gotta go away. Cuz it’s beginning to get even on my nerves. *sigh*

I guess I like to ponder existence, my existence in paricular, as well as question life. That is, after all, why I’m so drawn to philosophy classes. Oh CHID. You simultaneously am I what I need and what I want to run away from. On one hand, you get Rahul who will poke and prod me–in a good way of course–into thinking more critically and re-examining what I actually know. On the other, I get a ton of Greek row people. I must confess my natural bias against them. I can’t help it if the stereotype gets proven true more often than not!!!! It just does. haha Well I’m learning to get over that. There are really some very heavy hitting people in our class. Of course I am one of them :P (oh arrogance how you carry me through). But there’s this one guy (1 of like 2) who brings up such good points. I loved that he brought up the idea of ownership over our individual bodies and how in reality we don’t truly own them. It’s a freaky thought, but a true one nonetheless. The government puts tags and parameters as to what we can do with our bodies. If I wanted to prostitute myself (NOT THAT I EVER WOULD but a hypothetical) I can’t as it is illegal. Although it is my own body which I am selling. Not the government’s, not my parents’, not anyone else but myself. But as it affects more people than myself, the government find it their right to regulate it. Interesting.

Another interesting through as to biopower is one senator rep in Texas asking that all people of Asian decent to change their names so that it’ll be easier for them to pronounce with, of course, them being the white population. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Why should I have to change myself in order to suit societal needs? I’m sorry, but I wasn’t named for you. It is my name and I’d like you to respect that. And if you mispronounce it, I will correct you. I’d like you to give me the same courtesy if I were to mispronounce yours. So, sorry lady, you can go fuck off for all I care. That is one of the most bigoted requests I have ever heard of in my life.

Everything is interconnected. It is nearly impossible to isolate one issue. If it’s a race issue, there are also feminist, class, and sexual issues intertwined within it as well. The women movement is finding that out right now. While I never claimed to be a feminist (most likely due to the radical stereotype), I do understand the concept of male dominance. And one guy (same one actually) brought up a good point. When you compare a white woman of higher class to a black man of lower class for a job, who do you choose? Obviously, the white woman of higher class. However, if you had to compare two people of the same credentials, a white woman and a black man, then who wins out? I would say the male. We live in a man’s world, where a woman will get paid 15% less for the same amount of work as a man. That is part of male privilege. But it’s not just a matter of race or gender. There are class issues at work as well. Beauty, for example, is not just a sign of subjecting women. It is a class issue as well. For the Western world, being tan is not just an aesethic principle, but also a show of class. You are rich if you have the time to lay out in the sun to get that glow. In direct contrast, in the Eastern world, being fair and porcelain is the desired look. It’s not just a reflection of western colonization as to how white is a sign of purity and dominance ,but also class. If you are fair in the Eastern world, you don’t have to work out in the fields. You don’t have to be out in the sun where you can’t protect your skin because you are too busy trying to put food on the table. Fair, in this case, means you have the leisure to lay around inside, away from the scorching heat. Interesting how that works right?

Have I given you food for thought? I hope so. But this is more to appeal my intellectual aspect I think. Sorry, but this blog is all about me currently :P And probably will remain that way. I lie. These weren’t so happy after all. hahah

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April 2, 2009

Re-Thinking Diversity

So I finally got it. I wanted that class since I had first heard of it in summer around orientation time. And lo and behold, it came up in the Spring 2009 schedule. At first I was a bit disappointed. The first day was the typical humdrum of class syllabuses and speech of expectations. There was no actual learning going as well all reacquainted ourselves with the rhythm of academia. However, I was excited to hear our first guest speaker present. Only to be vastly disappointed with the depth of thinking and discussion going on. I do believe that we can understand the implications of “theory” without someone leading us through it. The readings already made me feel the drudgery of busy work. I must confess that I am largely biased again feminist scholars. Possibly because most of them tend to whine but don’t actually do anything. Or that they take it so radically, it turns me off to the cause. Like PETA. (Don’t get me into that) Anyway, the readings were rather standard basics for any philosophy class, one of which I had already read in a previous philosophy class (but with sheer awesomeness of the teacher it was well worth it). However, we didn’t really get much out of it. It was like dipping our toes into the pool of knowlege, as shallowly as possible. And I was hoping that the rest of the quarter would not be like that. Everyone told me that expectations are hardly ever met but really? My fabulous course was reduced to a standard philosophy class. But, then again, I do have tendency to make snap decisions. Has to do with the reading people things. Another HUGE deterrent was my nature bias against people in the Greek system. Sorry, but I can’t help it if the stereotype proves true time and time again. And boy where there a shitload of sorority girls. God help me.

HOWEVER, today was a huge shift in focus. I loved today’s session. My TA, Rahul, will make it well worth it. He expects nothing short of excellence and I plan to bust my ass off give it to him. If I can give him a fraction of what he’s given me, I will be tremenduosly happy. He’s one of those people who are unapologetically who he is. No bullshit. No censorship. Just straight up talk and consideration of the implications we make. He’s also one of those people who will touch people’s lives and be remembered. His passion for his teaching matter and frank way of speaking really touched a part of my soul. I don’t know how to do this experience justice. It was like I tried to absorb as much of what he was teaching us into my head and lock it in my memory for as long as I can keep it there. I could hardly take notes, I was so riveted. He’s like Quinn x10. And I love it. He’s preparing us to think critically and deal with the world as it stands at large. He has a lot of experience and wishes to pass that on to us. I, for one, am glad. This is what I signed up for. Something to challenge my thinking and change me for the better. Help me to deal with a world that is unlike my own and to face up to the various gridlines of diversity. This is will push me, mold me, shake me. And I welcome it. Crave it even.

I have a hunger for knowledge. I want to realize the limitations of my own ignorance. I want to prove that I can critically think beyond what people think of me. There is a natural bias against the youth: the common that is that they have nothing to offer but vapid souls incased in youthful packaging. And I have more to offer than that. I will not be talked down to just because I am young. And perhaps more than a little idealistic. There is nothing wrong with it. I can critically think about the world around me and the information being thrown at me. So adults will just have to deal.