Every October is both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The simultaneous events mean that domestic violence (DV) victims' advocates spend the month trying to compete with the "Go Pink" commercialization of breast cancer activism. The charts below, show that DV advocates aren't imagining the significant hurdle they must climb to reach public consciousness. According to Google Trends, the number of searches on breast cancer far surpasses google searches for domestic violence (see graph below).
Yet, to put the challenge of generating DV awareness in greater context, interest in Chris Brown is much greater than either women's health issue (as measured by google searches- see graph). Domestic violence barely even registers and breast cancer only seems to get a bump in attention during October. It's really not surprising that DV activists latched on to Chris Brown perpetrating domestic violence as an attempt to create some awareness.
Follow #DVAM on Twitter this month for more information about DV and how you can do your part to raise awareness.
I was watching the 20/20 episode "Wedding Confidential" about a week ago which was supposedly about insider tips for wedding planning; the hook was to save engaged couples money. What caught my attention the most with this exposé was the focus on grooms. Even though my research on wedding books for grooms was published in 2008, this episode continued to depict many of the findings 5 years later.
What was lauded as a creative new tool for grooms, turned out to be a website that was mostly just about consumption: The Man Registry. They promoted it as a site with advice for grooms, such as what colors are trendy. Take a look at the website: it's hard to get past the commercial ads to get to the advice. I guess that makes it the equivalent to websites for brides.
The framing was consistent with what was found in the books targeted to grooms. The increase in the grooms interest in the wedding is explained as a "Battleground for the Sexes". Whereas the voice over labels the wedding planning as the "first challenge in marital compromise", they go on to divide the tasks by gendered stereotypes: she picks her dress, they compromise on the food and venue, and the groom is in charge of entertainment and transportation. Everything else can just be doubled: the registry, the cake, etc. And, as demonstrated with Evan and Erin, the groom ultimately has veto power over a lot of the decisions ("Evan, won a lot of things"). This veto power is then repackaged as "chipping in" and as a "major contributor" because, in case you missed the quick reference, "he's paying for the it (wedding)".
Now, I am so for groom involvement in wedding planning. But, does it have to be gendered? And, what if we could envision actual compromise and collaboration through the process, rather than constructing gender differences in the tasks and dividing them up. Also, it's not a big win for equal partnerships to just double the consumption (his and her registries, his and her cakes, etc.).
There's a new wedding trend that has been emerging the last few years, often referred to as "Trash the Dress". I'm not quit sure what to make of it. A quick google search of the trend yields a few different opinions on how the fad got started, with some consensus that it took off after wedding photographer John Michael Cooper promoted it. Regardless, the trend consists of the bride, and sometimes the groom, meeting with the wedding photographer the day after the wedding to take artsy pictures, usually involving destroying the wedding gown by submerging it in water, mud, or ripping it.
My initial distaste for this new fad is that it reeks of conspicuous consumption. According to Knot.com, the average price for a wedding dress is about $1,100. This expense is for a dress worn once. ONCE! And, now it's becoming popular to just destroy the expensive dress. I concede some of the popularity of this trend is to get more for your buck- brides don't just wear the dress once and put it in a box in the closet, but put it on again the next day to at least get some artsy photographs out of it. Wikipedia echos this rational and offers that couples use it as a pronouncement that the wedding is over and the dress will never be worn again. (Although, aren't couples now paying the wedding photographer more for their time and printing of the photos?) Good Morning America on ABC suggests that "....some brides are celebrating the end of their wedding (and the stress associated with it) by mutilating and trashing their dresses after the ceremony". I have to wonder if maybe a better solution would be to question why the wedding ceremony was so stressful in the first place (planning it alone, pressure to be perfect, consumerist nature, etc.).
Also, this fad screams of Facebook-esq documentation. As if the wedding ceremony were not already objectifing of the bride, now women are pressured to produce artsy photos the day after the wedding as well. Must everything be documented these days? I also wonder how much of this new trend is part of the current social practice of appearing to not be a "bridezilla", showcasing how much you can be NOT into having everything perfect (see my previous post on Bridezilla's here). And, is it just me, or does the thought of spending the day after your wedding with your wedding photographer, rather than romantically with your partner, sound both a little tasteless and vain? In fairness, some brides are taking up Trash the Dress events as a fun thing to do with their new spouse as a celebration of the previous day and as a fun event to do together.
However, some of these photo shoots take a turn from the fun and artsy to the dark and creepy. Who wants a framed photo hanging in their hallway of themselves with dead looking feet sticking out a trunk of a car? What about posing next to bullet holes? This is not "new", "artsy", "interesting" or "original" art; it's simply romanticizing violence against women. Nothing says "I Do" quite like it!
Check out the video below for some "real time" images of a Trash the Dress photo-shoot. And, take a look at this website for more images of Trash the Dress photography and come back here to let me know what you think of this new fad.
Given the multitude of conversations relating to the recession and recovery of the US economy, it's not altogether surprising that the discourse has involved speculation about marriages and divorces. A few folks have speculated about the rise and decline of marriages and divorces during the recessions (Do the rich get more recession divorces?).
What really interests me though is the juxtaposition of dialogue that suggests on the one hand that marriage is the cure for children living in poverty and on the other hand marriage is the "End of Men" because wives are becoming more successful than their husbands.
Let's look at the thesis suggesting women should just get married to solve child poverty. At the beginning of September 2012, the Heritage Foundation proclaimed that the solution to child poverty was marriage. For some great responses on debunking this claim, check out Professor Stephanie Coontz's response on CNN and the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence's blog. What women really need to support their children is access to resources and a stable paycheck. As WIFE.org proclaims, "A Man Is Not a Financial Plan". We can do better for women and children in society and offer families and girls real empowerment.
In contrast to this notion that somehow all of our problems will be resolved if damsel's in distress every where could just find their prince on a white horse, we see competing narratives that suggest women are doing so much better than men. Hanna Rosin is coming out with a book titled, "The End of Men: And the rise of Women". In it she pronounces that for some classes in society, women are more likely to be the breadwinner in married couples (See her article in the Atlantic here) and that women are rapidly outpacing men in the workforce due to them getting more education than men and their ability to be adaptable to change. Obviously, this proclamation is not sitting well with everyone, given that the majority of statistics would just not support her thesis that women are taking over. Check out a review of the book by Jennifer Homans in the New York Times and the many blog postings by Dr. Philip Cohen on Family Inequality for some counter argument.
I'm not entirely sure how both of these things can be true at the same time: women need a man to support themselves and their children AND women are ending men as we know them because they are just so much more successful than men. How can women both need a man and NOT be the primary breadwinner at the same time?
What this really does is say to women, your place is married and in the home. Make sure you have a man in your life but don't emasculate him. Really, what we're seeing is just the double edged sword that women experience in multiple facets of their lives. Be thin, but not too thin. Be fierce, but don't be bitchy. Be strong, but don't be arrogant. Be a wife, but not one that makes too much money.