Aspirations of the Top

To all the women: keep strong…
To all the men: Make sure you choose the right one….

Michelle and Barack in Restaurant


One night President Obama and his wife Michelle decided to do something out of routine and go for a casual dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too luxurious.  When they were seated, the owner of the restaurant asked the president’s secret service if he could please speak to the First Lady in private. They obliged and Michelle had a conversation with the owner. 
Following this conversation President Obama asked Michelle, why was he so interested in talking to you. She mentioned that in her teenage years, he had been madly in love with her.  President Obama then said, “so if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant”, to which Michelle responded, “no, if I had married him, he would now be the President.”

What I find most interesting about this piece is that it brings to mind the saying, “Behind every successful man is a tired woman.” In both the caption of the picture and the above phrase, a woman is serving as a support system. Nowadays, girls are encouraged to step in to the spotlight and be their own support system in pursuit of shinny aspirations of the top, center stage, page one headlines, etc.

Of course, this message of, “don’t let him get in your way and be a do-it-yourself woman” are positive messages to instill in young women. However, I wish to pose the argument that the feminist movement may have gone too far and in trying to guide women to the top have created the illusion that being a support system to a man and not being the CEO but the next step down means that you have failed. Just because Michelle isn’t the President doesn’t mean that she isn’t inspirational; it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t lead and influence the masses; she has by no means failed. Nor have stay-at-home mothers, secretaries, and all of those women who do not have aspirations of the top!

I think that it is crucial to avoid bringing those that were, or are, comfortable with life on the sideline down in the process of breading starters and MVPs. These roles are different, and while it is vital that women have the option to fill either, I think neither one is necessarily more important than the other.


Mad Woman: Suzbob vs. the Advertising Adversary

After finally finishing my mid-term month (yes, month), I realized that I could deal with some good old fashioned giggling. So I turned to one of my favorite comedians–Sarah Haskins. Sarah Haskins was featured on Current TV a few years ago with her fantastic mini-series, “Target Women” focusing on the absurdity of advertisements intended for (but clearly not produced by) American women. It’s a riot, but don’t take my word for it.

In one of my favorite sections, Sarah Haskins (who graduated from Harvard in History and Literature (America Field) what -what) takes to task the yogurt industry. Didn’t know that yogurt was an industry? It’s ok, let’s listen to how yogurt (a fairly innocuous food in my book) has been transformed into a highly toxic gendered project.


See what I mean? Giggle-inducing. Funny thing is, I don’t know if Yoplait meant it to be that way. As Haskins points out, the women who are eating the yogurt look foolish, as if this miracle product could solve any and all problems–including the ultimate–finding a man! (Along with only being consumed by women, it appears that this exclusive product is only available to straight single individuals.) For someone who hasn’t seen many commercials since arriving at Harvard, watching Haskins commercial parody is funny but not too out-of-the-ordinary. But, of course these commercials don’t make sense, they are based on irrational logic. However, I can’t pretend that I am immune to advertising. But really, how many times have I gone for the more expensive shampoo because of an ad that I have forgot that I had seen months ago. How many times have I seen someone carry a Starbucks cup across the Yard and then have “random” urge to go go grab a latte? How many times have I flipped through a magazine looking at a perfume ad and making a note to check it out at the Mall? (Truly, the perfume people are the true advertizing geniuses, for how else could they make a visual image promote a olfactory stimuli.) So you see, selling yogurt, the food of children, old people, and apparently women, perhaps isn’t as light hearted.

During the spring of my freshman year, I met a junior who had just returned from a semester in Cuba. Posing a rather obvious question, I asked her what she thought of the differences between Cuba and the US. “I remember one of my roommates mother’s sent us some women’s interest magazines. We flipped through it, laughing so hard at the ads, that to us, didn’t make any sense. In Cuba, sure there was propaganda, but this magazine was ridiculous.”

To be sure, most of the insecurities that I have about my body stem from advertisements. My lashes aren’t long and thick? But they also aren’t curly and defined? They are supposed to be bold too? Although the world of advertising has been glamorized  through shows like “Mad Men,” the fact remains that ads often make profit from reinforcing insecurities. With the previous example, I didn’t know that my eyelashes were deficient until I was told so by L’Oreal, Revlon, and their friend Maybelline. This constant messaging that my body is somehow defective is definitely dangerous, but how are we going to stand a chance?

My diagnosis is to create some smile wrinkles–aka laughter. Indeed, I think that is the real reason why I love Sarah Haskins’s “Target Women” so much. She observes, parodies, and eventually dismantles the destructive power of advertisement over American women. So sure, I’ll take my yogurt with a smile on my face but that’s just because I just finished laughing at it.

Black Ivy

Well, folks, the Harvard-Yale game is right around the corner, which means more blog posts about things that make us scratch our heads in confusion.  As we’ve discussed before, this yearly event seems to magically summon problematic representations of gender and sexuality without fail.  Somehow school spirit never ceases to turn into something akin to sexual aggression (we’ll see what the t-shirts end up looking like this year).  Still, I was taken aback when I saw this poster advertising an event hosted by the Black Student Alliance at Yale:

The Showdown
Continue reading “Black Ivy”