Flip Gender, Flip Ways of Seeing

Flipping images of women and men can flip our way of seeing.

This picture of Steve Carell, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert posing like female supermodels is making its way around the web:

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(Is Stephen Colbert so hot because he’s not wearing glasses? Or is it that pose?)

Over at The Gender Press a “side-by-side” comparison of real Victoria’s Secret models and men posing to look like them is jarring. The women look sexy, but I’m not sure the men do. We are definitely not used to seeing men posed “sexily” in that way.

nude-group

This superhero image has also gotten around:

pose1

Ready and willing, these guys may strike terror in the hearts of villains. But not for fear of getting beaten up.

The Gender Press offers another take on the theme:

original-avengers

No if’s, and’s or butts with these Avengers. Unless gender is switched — in Kevin Bolk’s parody.

Men come across as tough and strong, as assertive or aggressive. Or at least standing upright.

Women are more likely sitting or lying on the floor, maybe caressing themselves or an object. And if at all possible, their butts or breasts are aimed at us.

Even when women are depicted as tough, best to add sexy and stir? Even as we move outside the box, we get put back in it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on April 24, 2013, in feminism, gender, men, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Wow. Interesting to see how easily socialized we are to the sexualization of women in media. Looks “normal” when it is a group shot of women, and just plain odd when it is a group of guys in the same pose.

  2. These pictures are amusing–and thought-provoking. It’s interesting that we think those poses are sexy for women (looking vulnerable, confused, distracted).

  3. Haha, thanks for sharing, I’ve seen the avengers one before, love it :)

    Rohan.

  4. GAK! This is a riot. Thanks. VERY revealing. Alice

  5. Great visuals. We could add photos of Angelina posing as Laura Croft and Anne Hathaway stretching her legs as Cat Woman to illustrate your last point about how tough women still have to show T&A.
    I’m wondering if the contrast in the Victory Secrets photo has to do with male fantasies of girl on girl and homophobia.
    I also noticed how Scarlet Johansson is even more sexualized in the original Avengers poster than she is in the spoof–maybe intentionally.

  6. Hahaha this is incredible! I love the photo impressions!

  7. It’s fascinating that we look at the photos of the women and most people think “sexy pose” and when looking at the men most people think goofy pose.

    We look at the provocative nature of the poses and immediately see that the women display what we call gender appropriate behavior but immediately we judge the parody picture of men modeling as “odd” or “unusual”.

    Its interesting that the default acceptance for modeling women is half naked and vulnerable looking yet when men model in the nude they take a position of power with a shot focusing on a strong jaw and a shot taken from low as to express towering power.

    As far as similarities go- yes… the shot is similar, but the intention or message behind the shot has a million implications of differences.

  8. It really is amazing how we have become desensitized to the sexualization of women in main stream media.It is funny to see the men posing for their photos how women would normally do it and how different the message becomes. We have become quick to judge the picture as “different” or “not as appealing” in comparison to the picture with the women posing. Recently, in the world of mixed martial arts, a woman named Rhonda Rousey, has been recently signed to a contract with the UFC. She is one tough chic and is hands down, an amazing fighter. I enjoy that the UFC does not portray her with sex appeal. She is beautiful by the way, but I believe other than her natural beauty, they depict her as being tough and hard core as any other man fighting for them.

  9. We do have provocative poses for men, though: Shirt open, slouched back, fingers laced into a waistband, eyes half closed, maybe an expression of slight boredom or disinterest. It’s not the same as a sexy pose for women, but it exists.

    When you put a woman in the same pose, it looks… well, silly. Nowhere near as silly as when you put men in a “sexy” pose for women, I’ll grant, and there’s definitely indication of strong gender differences there, but it’s still startling. Part of the difference lies in what parts of the body – male and female – we perceive as “sexy.” Men don’t sexualize breasts, for example, as much as physique and maybe muscle definition.

    One part I’ll agree on wholeheartedly is that American comics are obnoxiously sexist. I mean, I like playing devil’s advocate, but even I know when to give up.

    Although I did chuckle at the hulk’s booty shot. That was funny.

    • Well, poses for men are sexy but not that provocative. And they aren’t nearly AS “sexy.” And as a culture we haven’t come to fetishize any part of the male body. Again, way less sexy. Also, women have “sexy” muscle definition in their legs, for example, too. But muscle definition is not fetishized on either sex.

  10. Taylor Thompson

    I think these images are especially interesting considering my first initial reaction was that the men in these roles looked ridiculous, but the women seemed to look normal to me. This is most likely due to the fact that in our culture and society, women are the ones that typically become sexualized objects, but men are not. I also find it interesting that in the first image, the picture is composed of male comedians. The purpose of it is to make us laugh because it’s so ridiculous. And I think to most people it is, just because we’re not accustomed to men being treated in that sexualized way.

  11. Mikaela Hansen

    These are great pictures and definitely makes you think! It is strange to think that for one gender (women) these pictures are normal and ones you see in the media every day. They are considered sexy and beautiful. However, for the other gender (male), the effect is the complete opposite. It is really weird and more uncomfortable to see men in the same poses in the women were doing. I’m thinking that this is a learned social norm, that over time, we have learned that posing in such a way is deemed for females only. What if from the very beginning men were posing in that womanly way? Would it be considered normal today?

  12. After looking at these pictures of the models and the men who were imitating their body positions, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous those guys looked. The women looked “normal”, yes, but at the same time whenever I see ads or commercials where women are posed in a way that resembles this I think to myself that I never see anyone in real life posing this way, and I certainly don’t see too many people who look like that either.
    It looks unnatural for a man to pose the way that women in these ads do only because we have been exposed to these types of advertisements and such since it all began. It seems to me that in advertising women are used to show either an overly girly, feminine side or a side with tons of provocative sex appeal. And as stated in the blog post, when a woman is shown as a superhero or with a tough, “boyish” edge, there still has to be some element of sex appeal present, as if being tough isn’t sexy for a woman.

  13. Like many of the other commenters on this post, the fact that the males are in typical sexualized “feminine” poses also strikes me as silly. And this raises a question: Why? Why is it so normal to see females in these poses, and not males? Why are poses designated as right or wrong, fitting or unfitting, for a certain gender? The fact is that in America, we’re just used to it. Initially, there are no inherent appropriate ways for men and women to be; these “laws” we have are all culturally constructed. The images of the males in this post strikes us humorously because througout our lives, American culture has not shown us that this is “normal” or “desirable” behavior for men. Females are usually degraded to these kind of sexualized poses in media and advertisements (which have a strong basis in this society), and so the female images strike us as more normal, because it has become normalized all around us. But I think these images shown side by side are wonderful because it makes you realize these poses are ridiculous and we should wonder why they are strictly limited for women.

  14. Author Jim Hines does a lot of this. He recreates book covers, with himself in the usually female pose, often for charity. http://www.jimchines.com/2012/12/cover-posing-for-a-good-cause/

    Someone also took the two covers of Survivor’s Quest (A Star Wars novel) and switched Luke and Mara’s heads.

  15. Peter Pagrefor

    I found your post about “flip gender”.

    So I post this video here where it should be.
    Flip gender roles at the bar

  16. I completely agree with the last sentence which states “even as we leave the box we get put back in”. I feel that I have surpassed the norm and finally come up with my head above water and ultimately get let down because I am a female. In my field of work I am very good at what I do. My technical expertiese excells that of some males with multiple certifications. Yet even though I have 20+ years of experience I am constantly met with doubt and rejection. How could I ever know anything technical, I am a girl. There have been times that just at the sound of my voice, the caller insisted on being helped by a male and refused for me to troubleshoot his problem. There have been countless amounts of times that guys with certifications have gone in to solve a problem, only to come to me for further help, and at the end I am the one to solve it. But they never give me credit, or come to me as a resource. Its the male ego that won’t let a woman succeed. If we are smarter in even one meaningless area of life, they feel as if their whole world comes crashing down around them so they must retaliate by putting a woman down, not giving her credit, tricking, humiliating, making them feel less of a person in one way or another.
    Its a mans world…..

  17. Your ideas about gender flip are interesting to me because I notice these things when watching shows and movies and often mention to my husband when I see women or men being portrayed stereotypically. The Gender Press rendition of the Avengers really hits the nail on the head for me; why do powerful women need to be portrayed as sexy: very often highlighting their curves, their pouty lips or soft wavy hair, while men are “allowed” to be dirty, tough, rough, strong, as well as capable? Big question. It becomes powerful if we take a different viewpoint. I see the male side of gender stereotyping as well. The Avengers men are portrayed as strong, powerful, and capable. They are often portrayed in the film as having answers and not having feelings. As we know this is not true to life, men feel and they don’t always have answers, they don’t always feel powerful on the inside. So men are not accurately depicted either. Women are “sexy” and men are “strong”; this is the hard edge that I work to break down in my own life, by breaking down stereotypical norms when I see them, whether on TV or around me. Beyond just taking notice, which I find freeing, also looking for ways to take action. The Gender Press supermodel photos are an example of taking action. They allow others to visually see and feel the difference in how we see men and women. We aren’t used to seeing the soft curve of a man’s arm or a group of men nestled together—arms touching arms, legs touching legs, heads tilted in towards one another. To be honest, this is usually what we expect of feminine behavior not masculine. It makes me wonder how it came to be that society determined that human beings—which are made of both masculine and feminine qualities—have only one set of those qualities, and that set should only be ones that are predefined for us. Interesting topic indeed and I am enjoying hearing others viewpoints in the comments as well.

    • “It makes me wonder how it came to be that society determined that human beings—which are made of both masculine and feminine qualities—have only one set of those qualities, and that set should only be ones that are predefined for us.”

      That’s a good question, and we can only guess at it. I’ll have to write on some theories, sometime.

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