Unreal drunk-dials a PR flack, checks in on a depressed local blogger and gets schooled at sexy semiotics

Recently minted a Mensa member and patiently awaiting our Jeopardy! callback, Unreal was feeling quite scholarly when we received a press release announcing that an academic conference entitled "Sexing the Look" is to be held April 3 and 4 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The conference will "explore the use and impact of sexualized imagery in popular culture."

Unreal, who happens to be somewhat of an expert in, ahem, using sexualized imagery, put on our smoking jacket and got on the blower. Kathy Gentile, director of the Institute for Women's and Gender Studies at UMSL and the organizer of the conference, was happy to give us the lowdown.

Unreal: Why "Sexing the Look"?

Kathy Gentile: A lot of feminist film criticism refers to the male gaze, and most mainstream films are constructed from a male point of view and tend to sexualize women. Sexualized women are seen as a threat, and in most of these films the women have to be kind of put down or invalidated or castrated so that they don't pose a threat to that male viewer.

But you won't be castrating any male viewers at this conference?

Not literally, no. We have a lot of guys participating and presenting.

Why not "Looking Sexy," or something a little more spicy for the title?

You don't like "Sexing the Look"? It's not a how-to conference. At least — well, I don't know, people will take away different things.

The press release comes with a disclaimer that says, "Due to the theme of the conference, presentations and discussions may be explicitly sexual." What's the deal?

Well, I really didn't know what to expect when I sent out the call for research papers. In some [film] clips there will be frontal nudity and some simulated sex acts. At the beginning we're just going to remind people, so they can leave if they're uncomfortable.

And this is at UMSL? Why not hold it over in Brooklyn or Washington Park?

We were just advised that it might be a good idea to put out that disclaimer.

One of the papers being presented is "Arousing Suspicions: Contemporary Anti-Pornography Feminism and the Politics of Style." Anti-pornography?

Well that's more the traditional feminism, primarily coming from New York. There's some old-school feminists, [for instance] Susan Brownmiller's book [Against Our Will], that says any kind of sex act is rape and that pornography is — not that it's responsible, but it certainly is influential in perpetuating that view of women.

I've known some women I think would qualify as anti-pornography feminists.

Yeah, it's kind of a contentious issue. Some of the papers that we took, they took the porn issue on. They're critiquing that anti-porn piece.

So you're actually pro-porn?

Well, no. It's completely up to that individual person. There are arguments on either side. In academic conferences, you allow arguments on both sides.

There's a free screening of Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. Was the first Dreamworlds the one that stars Shannon Tweed?

Who is Shannon Tweed?

She's an, um, actress. 

The King of Press Kits
The other day Unreal received one of the most ginormous press kits we've ever seen. It came from our good friends at Anheuser-Busch and it came in a big carton. The occasion: the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

The carton was so big, it made us a little nervous, in a Trojan horse sort of a way, and also because we value our journalistic integrity.

Inside the carton was a hinged wooden box. Inside the box was a CD-ROM of historical documents and images for our educational pleasure, and a six-pack of Bud and a bottle opener for our other pleasures. The Bud was warm, but so what?

As we sipped our warm Budweiser, we got to wondering: Are all breweries this generous to journalists? So we made a few calls. Miller didn't call back, but our other good friend, Schlafly, in the person of Susan Haberer, did.

"We're curious about your press kit," we explain. "We got this wooden box from A-B, and...."

"Oh, we don't have anything official like that," says Haberer. "We just send out press releases, no packages."

Then, apparently, her curiosity gets the better of her. "What did they have?"

We tell her.

She laughs. "No, we don't have that kind of stuff. We have e-mails, and that's about it."

Don't worry, Susan. We still love you.

Local blog o' the week
"Where's Mommy's Prozac?"


Author: Jennifer L. NYOB

About the blogger: "I'm a 30-something (actually I am 39, but 30-something sounds better) mother of two daughters (ages 18 and 14) and a teenage son (age 18). I read obsessively and I like to scrapbook, watch movies and spend time with my family. I also struggle with depression and anxiety, hence the name of this blog. Welcome to my world."

Recent Highlight (March 6): 13 of My Favorite Chain Restaurants (and what I like to eat when dining there) [note from Unreal: After the first six, we were no longer hungry.]

1) Red Lobster — I love almost everything at Red Lobster — lobster tail, crab legs, coconut shrimp, crab fettuccini alfredo and, of course, their Cheddar Bay Biscuits!

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