Johanna Blakley

Media | Entertainment | Fashion

Archive for feminista

Women of Silicon Valley

TimeSandberg270

Since last fall, I’ve been working with Cognizant on their Women Empowered initiative, which has created a community for female executives interested in increasing workforce diversity — in particular, attracting, developing and promoting female employees. It has been gratifying work, yoking together research that I’ve done over the years about women and social media with Cognizant’s effort to increase the number of women in leadership positions in IT.

Although women are the key drivers of the social media revolution (you can check out my TED talk about this), several studies have indicated that women are reluctant to use their social networks – online or offline – to promote themselves professionally.

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Media In Our Image

Kate, photographed by Jasmine Lord.

I was delighted when the editors of Women’s Studies Quarterly asked me to submit a piece to them about social media and gender. They had seen my TEDWomen talk on the same topic and suspected (correctly) that I’d be interested in pursuing those themes in print. They made another request as well: might I think of a way to add a visual component and a social media campaign of some sort?

Now that’s the kind of thing that takes a village. Thankfully, I have one! I immediately turned to the Lear Center’s terrific in-house designer, Veronica Jauriqui (who designed the visuals for two of my TED talks) and my trusty intern (and social media expert) Sarah Ledesma. Through Sarah we met the tremendously talented photographer Jasmine Lord, who immediately understood what we wanted (you can read about all of them here). I’m incredibly proud of the results, which you can check out on Pinterest and Tumblr.

Now for a little backstory: Read the rest of this entry »

Remixing Mad Men

One of the highlights of a recent trip to New York was attending a Mad Men Remix party hosted by Pop Culture Pirate Elisa Kreisinger. I’m a big fan of the show and so it was great fun to watch the season finale from last year with a group of knowledgable viewers, and then to see Kreisinger’s provocative remixes of the show.

Her Internet-ready Mad Men: Set Me Free is a clever remix of the women of Mad Men singing the Motown standard “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Devised to be spreadable on social media sites, I suspect this video – which was co-created with Mark Faletti – will quickly communicate to a broad audience the painful gender issues explored in the show.

And that kind of commentary is pretty desperately needed. I recently attended a screening of Missrepresentation, a thoroughly laudable documentary about problematic representations of women in film and TV. I was dismayed to see clips from Mad Men woven into its visual tapestry of media misogyny. I had believed that most viewers of the show recognized that it was quite critical of 60s sexism, depicting it as an appalling problem and creating sympathy for the women who suffered from it (including our own mothers and grandmothers). But just a few days later I found myself having exactly this conversation with a male friend who felt guilty about loving the show because it was so sexist. He said he felt terrible for the plight of women in the show, but it never occurred to him that his response might be the one the show was hoping to elicit.

All too often, I’m afraid, people equate the representation of something with its endorsement. I often used the TV show Married With Children in my pop culture classes to address exactly this issue: the selfish and reprehensible Al Bundy was not depicted as a role model for viewers – instead we laughed at him for being a bad father, and for bringing into stark relief what a “good” dad ought to do. In many ways, Married With Children was as effective at endorsing ideals about the nuclear family as The Cosby Show was.

Pop culture remixers like Kreisinger have a tricky task on their hands, remapping cultural memes in order to draw attention to things we might not have noticed in the slickly produced pop culture objects that make up our media landscape. It is their task to shake us by the shoulders and say “What if?” Such is the case (in spades) with Kreisinger’s QueerMen: Don Loves Roger remix. Whether you believe that the remix reveals a “subconscious” sub-plot of the show or not, it gives viewers the opportunity to imagine it. This has long been the strength of fan fiction, which has been taken to entirely new and enticing levels due to ever-expanding access to bandwidth and the rise of robust social media platforms.

One troubling side effect of remixes  is that the original can seem a bit less itself after viewing them: or, at least, that was my experience watching the much-anticipated season five premiere of Mad Men last night. Where were the subtle psychological insights we’ve come to expect? Maybe we have to wait for a remix to reveal them.

Sheryl Sandberg & Social Media Matchmaking

Perhaps my favorite talk at TEDWomen was the one by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. I was prepared to give a talk on social media and when I found out she was in the line-up, and basically providing a keynote for the conference, I was worried that my presentation would feel like stale news by the time I hit the stage during the last session of the last day.

I was relieved when it became clear that Sandberg wasn’t going to talk social media at all: instead, she took the harder road – explaining to a group of successful, driven women why women were still underachieving in global politics and business. The video of her talk has caught on like wildfire and now the venerable New Yorker has published a thoughtful profile of her by Ken Auletta that provides some great food for thought about Sandberg and the future of social media. Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty & Brains

Business professor (and competitive rhythmic gymnast) Dai FeiFei accompanies me on the list of "Hottest Female Intellectuals."

Last week was punctuated by a delightfully hilarious new development: yours truly was named one of the  15 hottest female intellectuals by SuperScholars.org, a site that promises much more than just college admission advice:

…SuperScholar isn’t just here to match you with a degree program. We are also here to help you get the most out of your educational experience.

Including, apparently, hot teachers!!

The site overflows with remarkably diverse top 10-style lists including my favorite, 7 Sinister Crypts Hidden Underneath the World’s Greatest Universities. But I can’t for the life of me find the Fifeen Hottest Male Intellecuals . . .

Women, Fashion & Social Media

There were several reasons I was happy to be invited to speak at the Fashion140 event last week: first, it was in the brand spanking new Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center (wow!), and second, it gave me an opportunity to talk about two things that I think quite a lot about these days: fashion and social media.

I’ve given a TED talk on each of these topics – one was about the lack of copyright protection in the fashion industry and the reasons that that might be very good for business and for the artistic craft. (The response I received to this argument from working designers at Fashion140 was exclusively positive.) My more recent TED talk, which I gave in December, was about social media and the transformative impact that I believe it will have on traditional media industries and global popular culture, including the representations we see in magazines, TV, film, games, toys … you name it.

At the Norman Lear Center, which is based at the University of Southern California, I’ve been doing a great deal of research on social media and its impact on the television industry, in particular. As I was combing through data, I kept stumbling across articles about women’s dominance of various social media platforms, including Flickr and Facebook, and Twitter, where 57 % of users are women according to the most recent data from Ignite. I wondered if I could find some global stats and lo and behold comScore put together a very nice report in June of last year called Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet. In it, they demonstrated that women outnumber men on social media in every region around the world, and they spend a LOT more time on these sites than men do: women spend 5.5 hours per month on social media sites compared to 3.9 hours for men.

It didn’t surprise me that women were flocking to social media sites – there’s quite a lot of academic research that explores why it is that women tend to be more social than men. But I must say I was shocked that this trend wasn’t just appearing in rich, first world nations, but in every region around the world, where, I had thought, women’s access to the Internet, and the hardware and software that they need to participate in social media, might be pretty limited.

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Women, TV & Social Media . . . Down Under

 

On stage with David Speers, the chief political reporter for Sky News.

I had the great fortune to be invited to the ASTRA conference in Sydney, Australia, this week. ASTRA is the organization that represents the subscription TV industry there and it was fascinating  to not only discover Sydney (it’s absolutely gorgeous) but to get a fresh look at an industry I understand pretty well in another petrie dish over 7000 miles away. (You can find tweets about the conference using #astra2011.)

The subscription industry in Australia is quite young – it’s only been around for 16 years or so, and several people told me it is much more progressive and modern (and friendly to women) than the Free TV industry in Australia, which parallels our broadcast industry here in the states. 

I got a good long look at the changing demographic in the Australian TV industry when I climbed on stage to give a talk about social media and women at the popular Women in Television Breakfast. When I heard the title, it never occurred to me that there’d be a room filled with almost 600 women.

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My MSNBC Interview about Social Media & Gender

I often get calls from cable news networks, but they usually want me to weigh in on the latest trashy celebrity non-news: When they have stories about Paris or Lindsay, they think of me.

Well, I always say no.

But this week, I finally had the chance to talk about some of my own research on MSNBC. I thought for sure they would want to grill me about the provocative thesis I presented at TEDWomen: Social Media & the End of Gender has raised quite a few hackles on the TED.com site, and the last time I checked, the talk had received more thumbs down than thumbs up on YouTube. So I prepared myself for attack.

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Black Swan / White Swan

One gift my mother gave me for Christmas this year was a rolled up page from a magazine: it was an Yves Saint Laurent ad for their men’s cologne, L’Homme, featuring one of our favorite hotties, Olivier Martinez. (You remember him, right? The guy that Diane Lane cheated with in Unfaithful? Oooooh yes.) Anyway, a few days later I flipped the page over to find a simmering Vincent Cassel promoting the other Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, La Nuit de L’Homme.

I had just seen the film Black Swan, in which Cassel plays a machismo ballet director who helps drive his frigid star (Natalie Portman) insane by demanding that she portray both the virginal “White Swan” and the naughty “Black Swan” in his production of Swan Lake. Needless to say, the virgin/whore dichotomy is pretty relentlessly pursued throughout the film; a sultry Milan Kunis embodies the sexy swan that our starving heroine can’t seem to summon up for Cassel. Although it’s hard to tell what’s really happening in the film (our heroine is prone to hallucination), I got the impression that Kunis might be the only happy ballerina in Manhattan. She actually enjoys dancing, she parties heartily, and we never catch a glimpse of her throwing up her lunch. God knows we’ve seen tragic virgins before, but happy whores are a rare breed. It didn’t occur to me until I saw these two ads that the new twist we see on the virgin/whore dichotomy in Black Swan is simply the way it would play out if you applied it to men. A male virgin is always tragic (or at least comic). A male whore is the guy every other guy envies. 

I have no idea whether YSL has some sort of merchandising tie-in with the film (I noticed in the final credits that Rodarte made all the Swan Lake costumes, which I thought were delicious), but there’s no way they could have used one of the stars of the film without realizing the parallel they’re suggesting. I just wonder if anyone mentioned this to poor Olivier. Does he realize he’s occupying the crazy tragic virgin slot in this tawdry little advertising drama? He was so hot, right? Until now . . .

The Atlantic Devotes a Piece to My TEDWomen Talk

On stage at TEDWomen

I gave a talk at TEDWomen last week called “Social Media & the End of Gender.” Before the event, I was having a really hard time giving people the cocktail party version of my argument — there were just too many steps between “social media” and the “end of gender” to fit in a 30-second summary. I began to worry that the talk wouldn’t work: that I needed more than the paltry nine minutes allotted me on the TED stage to lay out what I thought was a rather groundbreaking connect-the-dots idea.

Thankfully, I was wrong. That audience — mostly composed of women who are hyperactive in the social media sphere (so much so that the event was plagued by bandwidth issues) — understood exactly what I was talking about. Social media will help wipe out banal assumptions about gender? And transform our media environment? Of course! You bet. We all knew that!

Thankfully, The Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson got it too. He mentions in his piece that my talk “was greeted with less skepticism than it seems she was anticipating.” (Got that right.) He proceeds to do an excellent job of providing all the examples that I didn’t have time to lay out and to flesh out portions of my argument that ended up on the cutting room floor.

So the video’s not up yet, but I encourage you to read his piece and let me know what you think!

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