Thursday, March 1, 2007

Analyzing Gender: Femininity (Part 1)

The premise of the hit reality TV show Beauty and the Geek is a competition among eight teams, each comprised of a beauty (an attractive but “academically impaired” woman, according to the show's description on The CW's website) and a geek (a “brilliant but socially challenged” man). The teams participate in challenges that test the intellect of the women and the men’s social skills and awareness of popular culture. The ultimate goal of the show is to have the women and men make each other more confident and transform each other into more than just beauties and geeks.

The women on the show supposedly represent the ultimate in femininity, or at least the media’s feminine ideal. On the surface, they are all beautiful and are deeply interested in fashion, makeup, jewelry, shopping, and tanning. In the season three premiere episode, only one of the females wore jeans; the other seven walked in dressed in miniskirts. One of the “geeks” remarked that there was cleavage everywhere and the girls were all “shiny,” presumably because of all the jewelry and bright, sparkly clothes they were wearing. Essentially all of the women were comfortable wearing skimpy, revealing clothing and showing a lot of skin. This supports part of Jean Kilbourne’s theory that for a woman to be feminine, she “must be overtly sexy and attractive but essentially passive and virginal.” (259) The beauties can definitely be classified as sexy and attractive, but they are anything but passive and virginal.

The producers of the show select outgoing, fun-loving, experienced beauties because their job is to teach the geeks social skills and how to be more than just bookworms. Viewers know the women are not virginal because on this show, being a virgin or being inexperienced is regarded as being “geeky.” When the participants give interviews during the show, their name is shown along with something to describe them. The descriptions of the women relate to their beauty and femininity, while the tidbits about the men are meant to show just how geeky they are. For instance, Cecille is a “bikini model,” Nadia is a “sorority girl,” Scooter is a “Harvard graduate,” and Nate is a “singer, Star Wars band.” However, Sanjay is known as a “virgin” and Piao “has only kissed one girl.” Because sexual inexperience is connected to the geeks and has a somewhat negative connotation, we can assume that the women have plenty of experience. Maybe these beauties do not entirely fit the description of femininity in Kilbourne’s eyes, but they epitomize the feminine ideal present in popular culture.



References:

“About Beauty and the Geek.” The CW. 2007. The CW Television Network. 28 Feb 2007 http://www.cwtv.com/shows/beauty-and-the-geek/about.

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 258-267.

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Analyzing Gender: Masculinity (Part 2)

While the women embody society’s view of beauty and femininity, the men of Beauty and the Geek represent almost the opposite of the masculine ideal. The geeks are all intelligent and most were interested in technology, but other than that, they would not be considered ultimately masculine. Kilbourne writes, “Boys are shamed for being too small, too ‘weak,’ too soft, too sensitive,” (261) meaning the ideal male is big, strong, confident, and dominant. None of the geeks are very big and strong, and their self-esteem could probably use a boost, since the reason they are on the show is to become more confident with themselves and others. The men admitted they were intimidated by the good looks of the women. The women actually seem to be more dominant than the men because they have noticeably high levels of self-confidence. For example, Matt said he chose Andrea as his partner because he liked the way she took control of the room when she introduced herself. The show’s aim is to instill confidence into the geeks and to show them that they can talk to attractive women and have a lot to offer besides their brains, so in a way the goal is to make these men become more masculine by the end of the competition.


References:

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 258-267.

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