See Me Now

Lightening skin products are set to become a $10 Billion industry by 2015. A new documentary, See Me Now, tackles the subject of race and beauty within the fashion industry. Made by fashion film-maker Glen Mackay, it includes Black women from four continents.

Fiji-Australian model, Indigenous-Australian television host Leila Gurruwiwi is featured in the documentary. She works for Australia’s Indigenous broadcast network, NITV, on the Marngrook Footy Show, In the interview below, she tells SBS News:

“For me it was very sad to hear some of the stories of some of the girls that have had really bad experiences especially when it comes to their skin and being uncomfortable in their own skin. Coming from a Yolngu background a strong Yolngu woman from Northeast Arnhem Land it’s something that we’ve always been very proud of.”

Read more on SBS News.

Girls in STEM

A post I co-authored with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and Professor Rajini Rao has just been published on the science website, We address the false idea that girls are fundamentally inferior to boys at science due to our biological capabilities. We examine how gender stereotypes negatively impact women’s careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Gender stereotypes are perpetuated through the stories we tell children as soon as they’re born. We show how children in Prep and Grade 1 tend to draw scientists in gender-neutral ways, but by Grade 2 onwards, they start drawing White men in lab coats. By Grade 5 the stereotype that only White men are scientists has taken hold. The stereotype is both gendered and racial, as research shows that even minorities tend to draw White men, thus affecting diversity in science on multiple levels. Continue reading Girls in STEM

Husbands Resting Area: Heteronormativity and Shopping

This image stands as a cheeky but clever piece of visual sociology on the social construction of gender: wives shop while husbands rest away from their company. Conversely, husbands do not enjoy shopping. I also see that this photo belongs in the rubric of my beloved sociology of the mundane: shopping is not simply a boring, routine leisure activity, it is a way of doing gender. Women/wives live out or “do” femininity by shopping; while men/husbands do masculinity by not shopping.

The gender-appropriate activities we choose to participate in, as well as the activities that we opt out of, are socially prescribed. Steering away from these gender-appropriate scripts that society expects of us can mark people out as being abnormal, or worthy of ridicule. Husbands provide women the funds for shopping and they should be rewarded with solitude – but men who enjoy shopping must not be “good” men.

The sign is an example of heteronormativity: the heterosexuality of the public assumed to inform only one reading of the activity of shopping. The shop appears to display glittery bangles, bracelets and necklaces which are items that Western culture associates with “women”. Husbands are men. Men don’t like this type of jewellery. In other cultures around the world, such as in various Central Asian societies, men wear a lot of coloured and glittery jewellery, sometimes as a sign of status or wealth. In some sub-cultures within Western societies, men wear various pieces of chunky jewellery, but often such pieces signal strength or character or the aesthetics of belonging, such as with some elements of rap culture. In other cases, men wear jewellery as a counter-hegemonic expression of identity, such as with some queer men. In other cases still, bracelets and necklaces are symbols of counter-culture or rejection of the mainstream, such as with goth sub-cultures.

The sign captured by this photo is meant as a joke, but the punchline works because it rests on the heteronormative presumption that there is only one way of being a husband – by rejecting women’s activities, like shopping.

There’s more to be drawn from this photo about the interplay between consumer culture, class and gender, but I’ll leave it to your sociological imaginations to take it further!

Photo by Maria Heyaca.

Hegemonic Masculinity in Film

1970s Jack Nicholson is THE man. He wins everyone over and gives the appearance of not trying. He walks into the room and pushes the needle off the record player. He looks incredible in clothes. He says something completely terrible and insulting and then is forgiven because he smiles to acknowledge that he knows he is being terrible. What he wants he just takes and if he can’t get it he destroys property. He is charming but he is also evil. Are all charming people evil? Isn’t that sort of what charm is about?

Jack Nicholson believes that men are innately different from women (“cunt…can’t understand normal thinking”) He thinks men have egos that overpower everything around them and appetites that require constant maintenance to be restrained. He does not understand that this is the human condition. It would be insulting to say that he is too old to learn this, but I suspect it is something he has secretly known all along, and that most of being Jack Nicholson is pretending to be “Jack Nicholson” for the enjoyment of people wishing to live vicariously through his imagined lifestyle.

– Molly Lambert.

Jack Nicholson’s celluloid persona are exclusive examples of hegemonic masculinity. That is, a society’s idealised vision of what it means to be a “man”. Raywyn Connell argues that films are one of the primary vehicles for perpetuating hegemonic masculinity. Jack Nicholson’s gender performances in most of his films represent what mainstream society expects of all men: living out the heterosexual fantasy of having sex with as many women as possible and assuming power over women and other “weaker” men. The films that have made Nicholson famous also embody heteronormativity: the presumption that heterosexuality is natural and normal. To be a heterosexual man is to be actively seeking sex with women, but only with emotional detachment, even when this is self-destructive or damaging to others.

The real Jack Nicholson we can never know. But his films represent a patriarchal fantasy.

Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider and Carnal Knowledge.

Quote ia: This Recording.