Barrel Chests, Brawn and Buffoonery: Controlling Images of Masculinity in Pixar Movies

This piece was cross-posted with permission from Feminist Reflections. To view the original piece, click here. The piece was also posted on Inequality by (Interior) Design (here).
by Tristan Bridges

I just read and reviewed Shannon Wooden and Ken Gillam’s Pixar’s Boy Stories: Masculinity in a Postmodern Age. And I thought I’d build on some of a piece of their critique of a pattern in the Pixar canon to do with portrayals of masculine embodiment. In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins coined the term “controlling images” to analyze how cultural stereotypes surrounding specific groups ossify in the form of cultural images and symbols that work to (re)situate those groups within social hierarchies. Controlling images work in ways that produce a “truth” about that group (regardless of its actual veracity). Collins was particularly interested in the controlling images of Black women and argues that those images play a fundamental role in Black women’s continued oppression. While the concept of “controlling images” is largely applied to popular portrayals of disadvantaged groups, in this post, I’m considering how the concept applies to a consideration of the controlling images of a historically privileged group. How do controlling images of dominant groups work in ways that shore up existing relations of power and inequality when we consider portrayals of dominant groups? Continue reading

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Filed under Culture, Masculinities, Media & Communications

What Do Americans Know About Abortion And Other Reproductive Health Topics?

by Danielle Bessett with Megan L. Kavanaugh, Lisa L. Littman, Caitlin Gerdts, and Alison Norris

After the abortion was complete, the young woman on the exam table – let’s call her Maria, though that is not her real name – asked the doctor, “Will I still be able to have kids?” My mouth dropped open in surprise. I had been observing at this clinic all day, and I held Maria’s hand through her procedure. Maria had told me about her two young children, how impossible it was for her to carry this pregnancy to term, how hard it had been to get time off from work for her appointment, how she hoped her fiancé would remember to pick her up at the right time. But throughout all the counseling, preparation, and intimate conversation, she had not expressed these important concerns about her future fertility. Maria appeared relieved when the doctor assured her that the abortion would not affect her chances of becoming pregnant in the future. As Maria was leaving the clinic, I asked her why she hadn’t asked whether the abortion would negatively affect her ability to have children before the procedure when she was clearly worried about the consequences. “I needed it,” Maria said simply, before she walked out to the car and back to her family. Continue reading

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Filed under Health/Medical, Reproduction

Subordination in Home Service Jobs: Comparing Providers of Home-Based Childcare, Elder Care, and Cleaning in France

by Christelle Avril and Marie Cartier

Home-based service jobs have developed considerably across Western societies. In fact, chances are high that a working-class woman in France today will, at some point in her life, be a house cleaner, home-based childcare provider, or home aide for the elderly. Political, scholarly, and everyday discourses, saturated with the double prejudices of gender and class, treat all these home service occupations, which require little prior training, the same. In our article (here), we illuminate the variability of the forms of subordination experienced by women in these occupations in France. Continue reading

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Filed under Care Work, Work & Organizations

Disney’s Frozen–A Lukewarm Attempt at Feminism

by Afshan Jafar

Jafar_blogimage_September 2014Disney’s 2013 film Frozen is now the highest grossing animated film ever and the fifth highest grossing film regardless of genre. In May 2014, the Disney store announced that it would hold drawings for people wanting to purchase Frozen costumes.  In addition to its mass popularity, Frozen has also garnered critical acclaim for its gender representation and is often hailed as the most progressive and feminist Disney movie yet. Continue reading


Filed under Culture, Masculinities, Media & Communications, Sexualities, Uncategorized

Neoliberal Mothering and Vaccine Refusal

by Jennifer A. Reich

“Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers. You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC. Measles was considered eliminated at the turn of the millennium. Now it’s back, thanks to the loons who refuse to vaccinate their children.”

This was the lead of a story this spring on the Daily Beast. Although this impassioned post communicates fear and frustration that accompany threats of vaccine-preventable infectious disease, it doesn’t accurately characterize the parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. In this study, published in October in Gender & Society, I interview mothers who reject recommended vaccines for their children, either by opting out completely, consenting to only a few, or reworking the schedule to meet their own preferences to understand how they make sense of the choice. These mothers care about their own children and aim to make the best decisions for them, which they believe requires questioning medical information, educating themselves from sources they see as more reliable (and independent from medical or public health sources), and actively managing their children’s lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Health/Medical, Politics/State/Nationalism

Broadening Educational Opportunities for Women

by Catherine Riegle-Crumb

A recent study that has been receiving attention on the web (here) concluded that as educational opportunities for women across Europe expanded over many decades, so that women earned the same number of years of education as men, there was a corresponding decrease in gender gaps in cognitive tests of numeracy. Simply put, when women had the chance to attend school for the same length of time as men, men’s advantage on math tests dramatically declined. This new study adds to a large body of academic research which finds that gender differences on standardized tests are found to be larger or smaller depending on a host of social and cultural factors, including the educational opportunities that societies offer their young men and women. Continue reading

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Filed under Adolescence/Children, Education

(Trans)gender Culture Clashes: Social Recognition and Determining the “Real”

by Carla Pfeffer

When I first spoke with Teresa, she had been dating her partner, Jess, for a year and a half. Over the course of our two-hour telephone call, she spoke to me about both the struggles and rewards of being a cisgender (non-transgender) woman partner of a transgender man. Teresa and Jess started dating a year after Jess began taking testosterone. Jess had top surgery while the two were partnered. Teresa described herself as strongly lesbian femme identified and she had primarily dated butch lesbians in the past. Because of her feminine appearance, she was often assumed by others to be unremarkably heterosexual, rendering her lesbian femme identity invisible. She found that one of the powerful aspects of partnering with butch lesbians was that her own lesbian femme identity suddenly became visible as strangers would “read” her partners as masculine women, but women nevertheless. Continue reading


Filed under Family, Sexualities, Transgender