Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gay and Human Rights in a Capitalist society: a necessity for consumerism.

In a previous article I have explained how women are being stereotyped and exploited by our modern capitalist, consumerist society. 

Sadly, as the capitalist system requires an ever expanding market, buying and working power to support it, women are not the only group of people who receive such treatment. 

And this is what I am going to analyze with this article.

Gay people, ethnic minorities and immigrants also play a role in our economic model. And this role is the driving force for the campaign for equal LGBT and human rights in most, but sadly not in all European countries.

We have to admit that the struggle for women’s or gay people's equality is partially driven not just by human rights, but also by the need of our capitalist system for more potential spenders. 

When women were not able to educate themselves or even work in most countries, they had no salary for themselves. And so they could not be counted as consumers or a potential market for products. Even if they did have any property in countries like Ireland, Britain or the USA, they had no right to it after they got married. 

But in a consumerist capitalist society, having half of your population idle with no income for themselves or spending power is illogical. So gradually we have witnessed the liberation of women and the establishment of equal rights for both males and females, something that would be unthinkable before.

And while a great amount of praise could be addressed to our leading elites for apparently allowing the promotion of human rights for women, their actions were assisted by a desire for more profit in the capitalist system. Women might have escaped the clutches of a severe patriarchal and absurd mentality, but that does not mean they are equal yet.

Women are still being subjected to stereotypes, though nowadays these stereotypes are not based on their role as home keepers, mothers, pillars of tradition, home-making and thrift for a successful household. Now they are merely a huge market for products that are necessary to keep our economy going. 

If they did not receive equal rights and payment as men, they would not be able to buy all those things that the media, particularly women's magazines are promoting in their pages. By establishing a very profitable business for them, they are creating a new role model and stereotype for females, that is pushed on them since their adolescence. 

On a similar note recently and increasingly, straight  and gay men also find themselves as subjects to stereotypes and role models. The fit, metro-sexual alpha straight male that is not afraid to spend money on his looks, while also spending hours in the gym to achieve the chiseled abs that the media and men magazines promote, is what most young men now aspire to.

This sad reality is even worse and vile in the case of gay men. After being subjected to centuries of ridicule, discrimination, violence and persecution now they are having the same treatment as women. Stereotypes are promoted on them, the so called "gay culture". Such "culture" may have risen from secret symbols and codes woven into an overall straight context, when homosexuality was banned everywhere. And it  began with wealthy homosexual men using the straight themes of these media to send their own signals. (Wikipedia).

Gay women come last as they find themselves in the worse position. Because they are women and gay, there are not even enough stereotypes made for them, as if they do not exist, while it is suggested that female homosexuality is on the same levels as that of the men. With few exceptions like TV presenter Ellen DeGeneres, they escape the attention of the media as society rarely bothers with them

Nowadays this "gay" culture combined with the commercialization of human social groups, has produced a stereotypical image of gay men and their role in a society. If you have any doubt about it, just close your eyes and think of anything "gay."

In case you thought of Madonna, Lady Ga-Ga, camp hair dressers or stylists that want to make naked women looking good, disco and colorful gay prides, then you probably have been watching too much television and you are brainwashed.

Homosexuality is not a "culture", it seized being one since gay sex has been decriminalized. Well at least it should have. It is not uncommon for older men and women divorcees, to be more open to it and exploring their sexuality more openly after being married all their lives.

The also stereotypical institution of marriage and the notion that it is a privilege only for straight people, is ridiculous as it is infuriating. Especially when we are witnessing a crisis in straight marriages in the developed countries, with a third ending up in divorce while another third being dysfunctional, sexless, loveless living arrangements.

You see once you liberate women from the clutches of the masculine hegemony, there is not always room for women's compliance to all the demands from men. And since many married men and women also engage, or have engaged at some stage in their lives in gay sex, it is clear that human sexuality is not a black and white situation, or a culture. All "shades of grey" are available between the two opposites. 

Instead of trying to promote stereotypes for people, we should allow everyone to have sex, love or marry anyone he or she wants. But then our image obsessed world would make no sense to us, especially to our capitalist elites who need stereotypes in order to file people and treat them accordingly. And so we are happy to label everyone, dictating how we deal with them and what he or she should be for us.

If a gay man still needs to go to a gay bar to socialize and find a person to love,because everywhere else is inappropriate then something is fundamentally wrong in our society. If a straight man can identify his masculinity only when he rejects "gay" attributions, habits and sex, or when he has sex solely with a female partner, then I am sorry but his so called masculinity is based on trivialities.

If a straight woman can be called successful and fulfilled only when she has a husband, a house with a mortgage, career, kids, a car just so to fit it with the general public, then also her happiness and fulfillment is based on pure materialism and outdated values.

Humans are not cattle to mate just for procreation. He are developed, emotional and as we would like to think of ourselves, spiritual beings. So why do we bring ourselves to the same level as animals? Even in nature homosexuality is not uncommon, so our whole social structure is based on the need to populate and colonize other continents during the European expansion, centuries back.

This stereotypical portrayal of ourselves leads to the commercialization of our gender, sexuality and race. And it is very important to the capitalist, consumerist societies that we live in, as we are bombarded with myriads of advertisements that are promoted role models for us to aspire. We are all turned into buyers as well as billboards, for companies to advertise their products with. We unwillingly become trade able commodities, as the population and its buying power or habits, are analyzed, categorized and exploited by the markets.

Either gay, straight, male or female, not only we got to play a certain role in our society according to established stereotypes, but we and our aspirations are also examined in order to create a consumer database. This database then creates certain products for certain groups of people and others for members of different groups. 

Sadly such attitudes also promote the eternal discrimination and injustice upon these groups in our society. If I am expected to act, behave, socialize and love in a certain way, do certain professions or engage in certain hobbies and activities in order to be accepted into the society I was born, then I am still not free and my human rights are merely rights to consume while I am being categorized by my choices.

And it gets worse. People of ethnic background or other races are also being categorized and exploited by such stereotypes. The immigrants usually do the jobs that the native population does not want to do, they work days that the mainly Christian European population would not want to. 

It is mainly the Muslim immigrants that work on Christmas Day for example, a holiday that is revered in many countries like Ireland and it is them that keep the shops open. A day that the market of a country is closed is lost revenue for the capitalists and so they promote multiculturalism in order to create a more vibrant working class.

The more variety in a population, the more things are to sell to them as their preferences differ and can be manipulated or categorized. I am not against multiculturalism, capitalism, gay people, straight women or men, but I wish we had the guts to proceed with true equality and not a skin deep one. 

And I also wish that stereotypes in our societies changed for real, not because they are necessary for capitalism but because it is not in our nature to live with them.

Women as a market from a Capitalist point of view.
We live in a consumerist society, in which our aspirations are defined by a collective set of values. These values are often either expressed or defined by our media, together with the numerous revenue enhancing advertisement campaigns that they run. 

That set of merits is ever changing according to the social, political or economic changes that a country goes through its history. By examining or studying a nation’s history of media, we can create an accurate profile of a society or the values its people adopt and why.

Print publications are the oldest form of mass media, with magazines playing a significant role. Their importance, form, content, narrative and "commerciality" have drastically been altered through the years, reflecting the changes taking place in our world.

As societies evolved, the role of men and women comprising them also did. Women in particular have been the focus of most major reforms. Gaining voting rights, or the right to work and own property, have been the most significant landmarks in the evolution of our modern societies. 

But according to many, that does not mean that women are not being subjected to pressure to conform to a different set of ideals. Their role this time is to be the driving force of the consumerist and capitalist system, by turning them into bigger and better consumers. 

This idea was expressed by an iconic feminist, Gloria Steinem. She is a political activist, author, editor, and all-around advocate for equality. Her ideas on the role of the media, especially those of the women’s magazines, help us understand that the reason women’s magazines look the way they look, is much less about readers than it is about advertisers. (1)

Advertisers simply won’t place advertisements in women’s magazines unless they write about their products. Other magazines may be punished if they write negatively about some product area, but only women’s magazines have to write positively or they don’t get advertisements in the first place. (1)

A lot that women liked very much has gone out of women’s magazines, like fiction and articles that just aren’t about products. Women’s magazine editors have to sneak in a couple pages here and there about something that isn’t a product. They are more like catalogs and should be given away free, according to Steinem. (1)

Fashion in particular has generally been conceived as a form of hegemonic oppression, exerting an obligation to conform that weighs heavily on the female population. Fashion photographs generate enormous dissatisfaction among women, because they create unrealistic expectations that most women are unable to meet. (2)

Feminists argue that media images of women are always directed at men and that women are encouraged to look at themselves and other women, the way men do. This view of hegemonic femininity, as the feminists believe, is incorporating masculine standards for female appearance that emphasize physical attributes and sexuality. (3)

Young girls in particular, often express unhappiness and dissatisfaction that the magazines portray an unrealistic female image, especially in terms of body shape. (4) The magazines’ editors’ claim, is that they cannot control the choices of photographers and art personnel. (5)

These artists allegedly perceive that a certain look will create the best image aesthetically and will be well received by their peers in the art world. So in addition to the advertisers who manufacture and sell beauty products, there are others in the industry that influence the images appearing in the media, especially photographers who want their pictures to be beautiful. (5)

There is also a lack of editorial control based on the direct and indirect influence of advertisers. The editors report that there is a strong connection between the editorial pages of the magazines and the advertisement ones, which are purchased by corporations to sell their products. (6)

Ultimately, advertising is the vehicle through which magazines and other media exist and they could not survive financially without it. So when the magazines are dependent on pleasing the advertisers, they struggle between the organization and the advertisers over how women should be portrayed. (6)

In this way, modern women are bombarded with myriads of advertisements that are promoted as role model for them to aspire. A role model who requires a lot of money to spend on cosmetics, plastic surgery, hair products, clothes and accessories, in order to fit in with the dominant image of a woman in our era. 

And so the struggle for women’s equality is partially driven not just by human rights, but also by the need of our capitalist system for more potential spenders. Ultimately women are perfect for that role, as to maintain the image that the media are promoting requires an ever increasing salary. 

In fact the late modernity unshackles women from the patriarchal past, when they had limited freedoms, rights, money and spending power. In post industrial times the “feminization” of labor, holds young women in high esteem as flexible, presentable and capable worker. Now the new feminine subject is economically independent, liberated from the domestic sphere, realizing the possibility of “having it all”. (7)

This commercialization of our gender, sexuality and race is very important to the capitalist, consumerist societies that we live in. We are all turned into buyers as well as billboards, for companies to advertise their products with. We unwillingly become trade-able commodities, as the population and its buying power or habits, are analyzed, categorized and exploited by the markets.

1)      Gloria Steinem. Women who made History. Miss Omni Media
2)      Gender, Race and Class in Media. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications. 2003. Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines. Page 314.
3)      Gender, Race and Class in Media. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications. 2003. Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines. Page 315.
4)      The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 371.
5)      The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 372.
6)      The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 373.
7)      Gender Youth and Culture. Global Masculinities and Femininities. Anoop Nayak and Mary Jane Kehily. Palgrave MacMillan Publishing. 2013. Gender relations in Late-Modernity: Young Femininities and the New Girl Order.