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16 Dec

Badge of Honor advertisement

16 Dec

Just wanted to share this with everyone

Men Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub

16 Dec

In order to understand what is going on (in terms of gender) on the Band of Buds website, I have been searching for scholarly articles and books on the topic of gender construction on the web. From what I found, one book (recommended by Professor Ley) stands out as the best resource: Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub. This is an ethnography of the online forum BlueSky, of which the author is using the pub metaphor as a lens to help interpret

BlueSky’s social world. Additionally, Kendall says that “the bar or pub metaphor also conveys something of the character of the social space on BlueSky, the participants’ relationships, and their use of the social space that BlueSky provides.” The clientele of the Falcon, a specific room in the Bluesky world, is mostly male, and so it provides a space in which people enact and negotiate masculine identities within a particular class and race context. I found this to be immensely relevant to what I have been seeing at the Band of Buds website.

BlueSky is a type of interactive, text-only online forum known as a multi-user domain, or mud. Muds are often considered a text-based “virtual reality” which makes participants feel they are present together in a social space. Although Bluesky is an older form of an internet social space, I am arguing that the Band of Buds contest page is a contemporary comparison. Instead of being text-based, the Band of Buds site combines video, photo and text descriptions to create ‘characters’ on each team. Although it is not explicitly stated, this character construction has a lot to do with gender construction. Like in muds, text-based forums require some acknowledgement of gender. On the Band of Buds site each member has a name and a photograph associated with that name. The individual’s gender (or at least their presented gender) is evident from their photo and name. As part of the contest, teams made videos about themselves, which made their gender even more clear.

Kendall says that the “masculinity of BlueSky’s environment relates in particular to computer use.” This is relevant to the Band of Buds site since it is a digital technology-based platform—the website is accessed through computers and smartphones, both of which are categories that men feel they have power over. In her book, Kendall quotes Segal on masculinity in our society, of which he states that, “ ‘masculinity’ is a quality of being which is always incomplete, and which is equally based on a social as on a psychic reality. It exists in the various forms of power men ideally possess: the power to assert control over women, over other men, over their own bodies, over machines and technology.” The fact that men dominate this discussion-board is not surprising at all. By being the majority of participants, they are showing that they are successful at controlling technology, women and themselves as men. Furthermore, the content of their comments show that they are successful at controlling themselves while under the influence of alcohol, in their work lives, in sports, in this contest.

One of the Guys

16 Dec

In my last post I discussed how men are performing masculinities by two means: by participating in the actual technologies of social and digital media, and through the content of this participation, which is centered around alcohol consumption and partying. While it is mostly men posting on the wall, there are a few women who participate by posting on the walls or by commenting on other participants’ posts. The women’s stand-alone posts, which I mentioned earlier, were either congratulatory or were photographs with friends. However, upon more recent observation, I found that the women’s comments on male posts were in the masculine style.

So what is going on here? Why are most participants men? Why are there very few women participants? And why do these women write comments in a masculine style? In “Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub,” Lori Kendall observed similar activity among the few women in BlueSky. For people who are outside of the normative social group, joining the style of conversation becomes very important—more important than the actual topic of conversation. Most women do not consider obnoxiousness as a normal part of friendship or a usual requirement for group membership, but among males this is important. Women must join into this obnoxious and insulting pattern of speech in order to be accepted and respected by the men, both in BlueSky, and on the Band of Buds site.

Kendall says that the gendered social context on BlueSky casts women as outsiders unless and until they prove themselves able to perform masculinities according to the social norms of the group. The same thing happens in the drinking/partying context of the Band of Buds website. Women must prove that they are “one of the guys” or else they are ignored or treated as sexual objects. The women who are able to use the masculine patterns are accepted within the group, but their acceptance “reinscribes masculine norms, which continue to define women as assumed outsiders and outsiders, by definition, as not men.”

Since my last post, no women have participated in the Philadelphia discussion board by posting their own comment. They hardly write on the wall, and I think it might be because this environment is not welcoming to women. Those who do participate respond to male posts, and copy the masculine style. I want to understand what is appealing to the men that makes them so inclined to post frequently, and why the women are not as interested. I am conducting an interview with a man from one of the top teams tomorrow afternoon to find out why he is interested in participating in this contest. I’ll update tomorrow with the results!

Fembot Invasion

16 Dec

Just in time for Halloween of 2011, Svedka released an official Svedka_Grl costume. The costume has long sleeves and long pants in order to cover most human skin with a blue/gray metal print fabric. There is a zipper down the center, which gives the woman the ability to choose how cleavage-revealing the costume should be. The costume has the fembot’s body printed on the costume, but because no woman would be as thin as svedka_grl, the areas surrounding her body are black. So the woman wearing the costume has highlighted: her breasts, center of her torso, and a sliver of arms and legs. The suit is skin tight, and most women chose to have the zippered pulled down so that their cleavage was exposed. What I found interesting is who Svedka was promoting for wearing the costume. About a month before Halloween, pictures of JWOW from The Jersey Shore were released of her being “fitted” for the costume, which appeared to be her walking around a house in the costume. A few days before Halloween, Kim Zolciak from Real Housewives of Atlanta was photographed walking around her house with the costume on. Wife of famous rapper, and reality TV star, Coco Austin was chosen to model the Svedka_Grl costume in a fashion show that was part of New York’s fashion week. All the women that were chosen to represent SVEDKA in Svedka_Grl costumes have very pronounced curves, obvious plastic surgery, and are portrayed in the media as superficial. This type of message only reinforces their promotions of an unnatural, body focused lifestyle. Shortly after Halloween, SVEDKA put together a team of girls in New York City to appear in various bars and nightclubs. What was unique about their fleet of women was that it was a large group of about twenty of them that traveled together. The group was called “Fembot Invasion,” which projects a robot takeover of the bar.

Becoming Bot

16 Dec

SVEDKA created Svedka_Grl to promote their futuristic playground and fantasy lifestyle in hopes of establishing an emotional connection between consumers and SVEDKA. Marketing director Marina Hahn described Svedka_Grl as fun and flirty, and hoped that SVEDKA vodka would enable consumers to tap into their fun and flirty side. On their facebook, SVEDKA has the slogan “R.U. Bot or Not” listed in the about me section. The area dedicated to company mission statement describes the “bot” way of life as: “BOTS are the ultimate party machines, Wired for fun, flirtation and fantasy, BOTS want it all, And they want it now, BOTS are the next generation of vodka lovers, And the party is just beginning.” Every contest or promotional image posted on the company’s facebook relates back to “R.U. Bot or Not.” For example, there is a weekly contests where the audience is supposed to rate photos taken of people drinking SVEDKA as “bot” or “not.” SVEDKA created an atmosphere on the page, and consumers run with it. There are hundreds of photos posted and tagged by fans of themselves holding a bottle of SVEDKA, drinking SVEDKA, or amongst friends and SVEDKA. A large portion of these photos indicate a sexual tone. Fans also use the facebook wall to say that they are “getting crazy wit SVEDKA 2nite” or share drink recipes. After Halloween, SVEDKA asked fans to submit photos of themselves wearing the Svedka_Grl costume, and three women were chosen as hottest fembots. Comments on the pictures ranged from “sexy” to “I’m Jealous” and several men said something along the lines of “I want one.” The company can only do so much to create and present a way of perceiving the brand, it is the consumers that make it a reality. The way that the fans embrace the futuristic fembot concept is surprising to me, Svedka_Grl must feel so accomplished.

100% Titanium Tastes Bad

16 Dec

Svedka_Grl is the “it girl” of 2033, her relationship status is “on the rocks,” she prefers “stiff cocktails,” she’s the “ultimate party bot,” and claims that “fembots have more fun.” These are just a few headlines from Svedka’s most recent advertisements featuring their fembot, Svedka_Grl. She was designed to be sexy; with long legs, thin waist, large chest, pronounced lips, defined cheek bones, and captivating eyes. If beauty can be described in measurements, then Svedka_Grl is perfect.
Among a plethora of reasons, Svedka chose a campaign in the year 2033, because nothing is off limits; they have the ability to make any claim they want. The claims attached to the fembot advertisements are designed to be outrageous, but some cross me as outright offensive. Svedka_Grl proclaims that 2033 has a 100% divorce rate, she praises LA for being home of the first drive thru plastic surgery window, and coquettishly declares “make your next trophy wife 100% platinum.”
I’m left in a state of disbelief, because Svedka had the opportunity to go ANYWHERE while building their 2033 fantasy land, and they chose superficial. I understand that Svedka had to design a futuristic playground that consumers would find shocking; but I would think that they were aiming for appealing as well. Does Svedka think that the hip twenty-something find broken homes, unnatural body parts, and an absence of love attractive?
Apparently I am not alone in taking offense to the crude sexually charged fembot advertisements. DISCUS (which is the Distilled Spirits Council of the US, code of the responsible practices for beverage alcohol advertising and marketing) has come down on Svedka multiple times for the fembot advisements. A few times, citing the ads for violating the “good taste” provision, and Svedka’s biggest offense; relying on lewd images and sexual success as a selling point.
I’m curious as to how Svedka_Grl engages the consumers. The company has quite obviously put a lot of time and money into creating an atmosphere, and an icon; I’m wondering if the audience embraces the lifestyle, deters it, or simply ignores it.