How To Link Automotive with Kink

Every business wants to come up with the latest and greatest gimmick to help them stand out. Well, before your business launches something new, make sure it knows how people outside the industry might interpret its attempts to capture their interest. Potential clients bring a boatload of experiences to the table. This means that what your company might see as cool, hip, or edgy, others might see very differently. Like me.

Take AVA, for example, the automated virtual assistant touted by AutoFerret.

I laughed out loud when I saw this, because it reminded me of all the other fembots who have appeared on screen before AVA was even a sparkle in Auto Ferret’s eye. I laughed because most of the other fembots I know about lean toward providing their owners with pleasure. In other words, they were built for sex. Below are several fembots who have aimed to please! And like AVA, they never give excuses or take a day off!

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The preceding slideshow includes five humanoid fembots from the movies Artificial Intelligence (Gigolo Jane), Blade Runner (Priss), Battlestar Galactica (Six from the tv series), The Stepford Wives, and Weird Science (Lisa). And these are just a few of the fembots I’ve come to know and love.

Don’t forget the fembots from the Austin Powers movie! Remember the fluffy, pink, big-busted women who shot bullets from their breasts? Not only do we get well-built women designed to satisfy our every need; we also got women who could protect us. We all know that most men have a breast fetish, but now they can satisfy their gun fetish too! But wait! It gets even better!

We also have the Heineken fembot who serves beer from her belly? I say we combine her beer-a-plenty belly with some bullet-filled breasts and we’d have the perfect fembot!

Svedka is another alcohol distributor who is using the sexy fembot as their advertising fetish. Who needs real women when you can manufacture one that doesn’t complain or take days off and she serves us beer to boot?!

I must admit, while AutoFerret’s fembot, AVA, is a sanitized version of all the ones above, she is also too closely linked with the fembots of male fantasy for me not to notice.

But I’m not the only one who is familiar with these “sexbots,” which leads me to wonder: is AutoFerret really using sex to sell their virtual assistant? Not that they wouldn’t be doing anything new or edgy, but did they know about AVA’s genealogy?

Can someone from AutoFerret let me know? I’m curious.

From Woman to Stepford Wife to Fembot to Cyborg

We all know the creepiness contained in the plot of the movie, The Stepford Wives, where men trade in their human wives for look-alike versions who have been transformed into replicas of women designed to fulfill their every fantasy. Stepford Wives become perfect wives beyond belief, because they’re not human! Therefore, the movie poster would have better represented the movie’s plot by saying, “The husbands of Stepford have a secret.” Their secret? They turned in their human partners for non-human fembots who are designed to please the men in their lives.

How close have we actually come to to this image from science fiction & fantasy actually becoming reality? The internet meme below appears to ask the same question.

While popular culture parades impossibly thin human women in front of us on a continuous basis, their too real, too human bodies might soon be replaced with something even better and more economical than real models–unreal bodies or fembots! Ladies, fembots are threatening to replace us!

In fact, the clothing store, H&M, is moving closer to this reality than we realize! It has turned to fembots for use in its latest ads. These ads superimpose human heads onto mannequins or unreal female bodies. While mannequins are nothing new in the clothing industry, what makes these so disturbing to me are the ramifications they have for real women. As I said earlier, real women are already inundated with standardized images of beauty that show us how we should look, that is, if we buy and use all of the products being peddled. At the same time, even though impossibly thin, size zero, Victoria’s Secret models all have the same anorexic look, they all look different, and therefore, more human than the H&M “models.”

Moreover, the H&M mannequmans are disturbing, because their bodies are all exactly the same. With a little photoshopping to change their skin coloring to match their heads, H&M ends up with fembots meant to represent the rainbow of diversity! But all we end up with is multi-colored fembots……whose…..bodies…..are…..all…..the…..same. Want a different color or a different head? No problem!

The H&M fembots with real human heads plunked on top of fake bodies eerily remind me of the original Stepford Wives movie poster that depicts Katherine Ross’s decapitated head. Her lone head appears to be waiting to be placed on top of that perfect “mannequin body” that will be known as a Stepford wife!!

H&M has received negative press over their decision to forgo real for fembot, but that means little once you realize that fembots appear to be everywhere you look!

For more on the ubiquitous fembot, read Annalee Newlitz’s “The Fembot Mystique” and view a gallery of images at the end of this blog depicting well-known fembots from popular culture.

Here is another critique of fembots by Anita Sarkeesian on Feminist Frequency:

Then there’s Bjork’s lesbian fembot music video to her song, “All Is Love.” Talk about a male fantasy!

Bitch Magazine has a different spin on fembots in an article that analyzes why women imagine themselves as bots.

Heck, even the auto industry is getting in on the trend toward replacing humans with fembots:

What we end up with are robots coded as female with breasts and high heels and curvy bodies. But if robots are not human, then how can they have a gender? And why gender them female at all? What does this say about male-dominated industries that need to peddle their wares using sex to sell, even if it is sexed up fembots?

Just remember what pop singer, Robyn, has to say in her song, “Fembots:” Fembots have feelings too!

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“Girls,” and Cars, and “Girls” on Cars (oh, and men too!)

Okay, so it’s not like cars and girls are a recent phenomenon. Girls on cars have been around for years!

Come to think of it. Maybe some anthropologist needs to conduct a study on the preponderance of girls on cars. There is a definitely a historical trend that a researcher can trace, so I’m sure there is something that can be made into a book.

But what did girls lay on before there were cars? Did they lay across horses or cows or wagon wheels? Now I’m getting off subject.

Okay, so what is it with men and cars and girls??!! It’s almost as if they are joined at man’s hip somehow–a sexy “girl”on one hip and a “hot” car on the other. Maybe they are simply Siamese triplets who never found a way to fully separate.

Even an ad for men’s cologne manages to link the three!

And an ad for men’s body wash equates women’s bodies with cars–you know, like you can “ride” them and get them so dirty that they’ll need to be washed. Get it?

And then there’s even a way to link women’s breasts with cars by making them synonymous with airbags. Hint! Hint! (elbow, elbow)

And for those older and higher-class gentlemen who like their women a little more refined, Mercedes Benz has you covered too. Covered with women in evening gowns, that is!

Not to neglect all the fembot talk that takes place on this blog, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring in the ubiquitous fembot on a car image! After all, as pop singer Robyn croons, “Fembots have feelings too!”

But to show Mercedes Benz cares about fembots and realizes that they have feelings too, here’s your friendly fembot doing a self-breast exam. Heaven forbid that Mercedes Benz get a real woman to put in their ad! Fembots might claim discrimination!

Oh! Oh! And here is my favorite. The woman-as-road, since we all know that women are like doormats, but in this case, she is analogous with a road.

So as not to appear like I’m picking on Mercedes Benz, BMW also gets into the act with a wink-and-a-nod ad that appears sexually suggestive!

Who cares if this pretty, young thing is used and possibly a carrier of STDs? Come on, guys! Drive her if you get the chance! She’s still a beaut! And I’m sure your doctor can take care of any problems that come up after you drive her. Oops! Maybe that was a bad choice of words. Nothing might be coming up if you drive too many used cars.

There is also a BMW ad like this that features a man, so at least BMW gives equal time to boys and girls in their advertising for used cars.

But it seems as if some men are claiming their right to put girls in trunks as well. Some might climb in willingly!

But a majority of women in trunks are already dead or dying. These images go well with the trend toward dead women in fashion photography, again, a subject for another blog.

In my opinions, women are merely props used to entice men into buying cars. Some women are eye candy and represent a status symbol. Other women are expendable and easily replaced.

How Society Polices and Enforces Gender Norms


“Man Up, Man!”

I have a vested interest in representation, and one ritual that always makes me stop and cringe when I see it taking place is the way society enforces and polices gender norms: Man up! Act like a lady! You look out of place in that outfit! You should be ashamed of yourself! Aren’t you embarrassed to act like that/wear that/be seen with that?

Gender norms refer to the social and behavioral expectations considered appropriate for one’s perceived sex. After all, society works hard at teaching us what it means to be a man or a woman, so why would anyone challenge or question time-honored traditions? In order to maintain the status quo, various tools are used to discipline naughty individuals. Through punishment we learn how we SHOULD or are expected to express or perform our gender through characteristics or behaviors associated with notions of masculinity and/or femininity. For their non-conformity, girls are called tomboys and boys are called sissy if they act or dress in presumably inappropriate ways.

Pink and Blue

Our lessons in gender begin even before we can ever understand what is going on. They usually begin even before we are born when our parents, friends, and family shower us with the stereotypical pink or blue gifts. A baby who isn’t even capable of understanding the socially constructed differences between “boy” and “girl” or “pink” and “blue” is already inundated with gender specific items that contain messages meant less for them and more for the adults around them.

The healthcare kits one might find in any baby section of a store are gender specific not only in color but also in the addition of an extra word on the pink “girl” boxes. The addition of this one word speaks loudly about gender norms to which girls will be held. The girl’s healthcare kits are also “grooming” kits. From day one, gender norms teach girls that their appearance is their most valuable asset. Thus, adults give baby girls diamond ring rattles and baby boys saw rattles, and they design and buy young girls t-shirts to wear that emphasize their looks over their intellect.

Smart Like Daddy, Pretty Like Mommy

From the moment they are born, children typically grow up with adults telling, showing, and guiding them both verbally and non-verbally how to behave, dress, speak, act, interact, and more based on their gender. In an example similar to those given in the previous section, the onesies also begin early on to emphasize female looks over male intellect for babies too young to even know the difference. It’s the adults around them who care.

From Babies to Young Girls

Sociologist, Dr. Erving Goffman’s ground-breaking study, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, explores what he refers to as society’s “ritualized cultural performance.” In his book, he recognizes that everything surrounding us teaches us what our society considers proper, normal, and expected when it comes to gender roles. Therefore, go down any toy aisle in the store and “girls'” toys are immediately identifiable by the color pink.

In the video below, Anita Sarkeesian shares her opinion about LEGO’s launch of their new line “just for girls!” Even as children get older, their toys continue to reflect their perceived gender, and boys are taught that they should never want to play with anything pink or girly.

Goffman examines advertising and multimedia, uncovering ubiquitous patterns of masculine and feminine ways of posing, for example.

So, Are You A Boy or a Girl?
The model below represents cultural performances through stances or poses that signal what our society considers sexy or feminine. The video, Codes of Gender, explores advertising to demonstrate how gender is encoded in the ads we see. A teaser video is provided below, but I would recommend that anyone see the entire thing. It will really make you look at print media in a very different way!

Men-Ups!

Some clever individuals have showcased how stereotypical poses are such as those above by doing mock or spoof images of what our society considers “sexy” or “feminine.” Photographer, Rion Sabean, featured men in hypersexualized poses found in older pin-up girls calendars. At the same time, each of the men in these images embodies a masculinity that requires strength signified by their clothing.

A staff member at Jezebel interviewed Sabean to find out his motivations for this particular project:

“What inspired you to make a series of pin-ups featuring men (and call them Men-Ups)?
I had had the idea for such a long time, and just never went for it. The imagery of showcasing the feminine/masculine ideals in one single image just struck me as something that could really work. Hilariously enough, and beyond my fascination with gender binaries and their inherent nature to be completely incomprehensible to me, I first began tinkering with the idea, because I will at any given moment strike very specific poses that would be defined as feminine by society; more specifically, the pointed toe. Haha. From there, it was completely obvious that pin-ups and all the associations with them would be the right choice in moving forward.”

Similar projects appear on the web, indicating that we have different expectations for the way men and women present themselves to the world. Specifically, the way men and women walk and pose are powerfully gendered moves that seem natural but are actually adopted based on how society teaches us and enforces our gender.

The pose is powerfully gendered as indicated in the examples of “Girls & Cars.” What has become analogous to the 1940’s and 1950’s pin-up girls are the calendars and advertisements that feature girls with and on cars. While we can say that the men are being humorous by imitating these sexualized and gendered poses, does that mean that men and women purposely showcase their gender and sexuality in very different and obvious ways?


Sex and the Gender Binary

It is apparent that gender isn’t something that happens naturally. Society manufactures gender. Gender is socially constructed with ways for us to interpret the ideals attached to men and masculinity and women and femininity. Gender is not sex. Sex refers to our bodies’ physical, hormonal, and chemical make up, but even these are not cut and dry. Like gender, sex is also fluid and runs along a continuum. But I digress. I will save this topic for a later post.

Evidence that gender is enforced and policed comes in the constant barrage of media messages that tell individuals what they should be like, what they should wear, who they should marry, and so forth.

Of course, the unquestioned assumptions that come with these messages is that if you are a man you should be strong, brave, tough, not wear dresses, not wear pink, marry a woman, and never, ever, ever be charged with being “too feminine.” A woman should be soft, independent yet vulnerable, tough yet selfless, love pink, love to wear dresses and high heels, marry a man, and never be too assertive. If you follow these rules, you move through life much more smoothly than if you flout gender rules or norms.

However, if you cross the lines of gender, you will find yourself being reminded, harassed, and possibly beaten and violated for not performing your gender correctly. The life and death of Brandon Teena is a classic example of the way our society polices and enforces gender, often through violence. For those unfamiliar with Teena, he was brutally raped and murdered in 1993 for daring to pass as a man.

The True Story of Brandon Teena (pt. 1 of 6)

Gender distinctions are sets of characteristics that allows society to place us in boxes that have borders we should never, ever cross. People feel threatened when someone dares to cross these borders, because that means they challenge definitions and roles already set in place and accepted as “normal.” Therefore, gender crossers challenge definitions of masculinity and femininity that have become normalized (i.e., by normalized, I mean what society considers to be “natural” rather than taught).

Toemageddon

Parents, teachers, movies, books, religion, etc. reinforce gender roles. Family, friends, and even strangers will try to get you to follow the rules. In this section, I discuss two examples of the way gender is enforced and policed. The first example came after a J. Crew ad appeared in 2011.

Jon Stewart referred to the apparently tragic event in J. Crew as “Toemageddon.” What began as an image of a mother bonding with her child was turned into an apocalyptic event that threatened the very fabric of our society. Yes, apparently gender norms being flouted can lead to the downfall of civilization. News reports that Stewart includes in his segment on J. Crew make this readily apparent.

Dr. Keith Ablow’s rhetoric on this so-called tragedy exemplifies how threatened some people feel when gender norms are not followed. He points to society’s need to enforce and police gender norms and warns his viewers on Fox News, “Gender distinctions have a place in society,” and he sees what he refers to as one mother’s indulgence as “an attack on masculinity.” His fear of a joyful moment shared between mother and son raised three questions in my mind. First, exactly what place do gender distinctions have in society? Second, how is painting a little boy’s toenails pink an attack on masculinity? If she had painted them another color, would he still interpret the act the same? Third, how does Ablow define “masculinity?”

As I’m trying to show, masculinity is socially constructed, so our society constructs it differently than other cultures do. In Africa, Niger’s Wodaabe men emphasize male beauty through accessories, poses, and gestures that Western society labels as feminine. This example indicates that femininity and masculinity are not only socially constructed; they are also culturally constructed. I guess Fox News’ viewers are just supposed to know what Ablow means, then, when he refers to the J. Crew ad as an attack on masculinity.

Ablow goes on to say, “This [the J. Crew ad] is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity.” If gender identity only relies on what he calls “trappings,” then isn’t gender just a show or a performance?

Ablow’s seeming acceptance of masculinity and femininity as fixed is blown out of the water when he refers to them as trappings, meaning, we can question, challenge, or change gendered accessories or adornments at any time. Therefore, there is nothing natural about gender at all! The place gender distinctions have in society is that they separate the men from the women, right?

Putting People in Boxes and Nailing the Door Shut

These so-called distinctions place people in boxes that are guarded, and woe to the person who tries to get out of that box! Brandon Teena was killed for stepping outside the box. Similar violence takes place all the time against men and women who defy the trappings of gender that Fox News and Ablow perceive as natural and normal.

When someone’s gender is ambiguous, people tend to get nervous and unsettled. Most people want to place others in pre-defined boxes that clarify who and what we are. We want to be sure about our world and what we see.

The character, Pat, on Saturday Night Live is a fictional androgynous character that plays on society’s tendency to be more comfortable with obvious displays of gender. Sometimes, we will go to great lengths to discover someone’s gender even to the point of violence. Which leads me to talk more about the 3 images near the very top of the blonde model named Andrej Pejic in the HEM ads. He is also featured in the reclining pose below. Pejic is a man but is often photographed or does runway shows as a woman.

Gender characteristics allow people to place us in boxes that have borders we should never, ever cross. People feel threatened when someone dares to cross these borders, because that means they challenge definitions and roles already set in place and accepted as “normal.” Therefore, gender crossers challenge definitions of masculinity and femininity that have become normalized (i.e., by normalized, I mean what many consider “natural” rather than taught).

Conclusion

With this brief lesson in how gender is constructed, policed, and enforced, try to notice how often you see stereotypical representations of masculinity and femininity in culture. Please send me more examples and I will add them to my piece and talk more about them in the context of this Hub Page.

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When Will It Be Okay for Men of Color to Play White Characters?

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