Girls vs. Boys

via The Awl, this is one of the worst articles I’ve read in a long while. The New York Times decides to take a look at the girls vs. boys TV networks Lifetime and Spike — and concludes that men are sex-addicted idiots and women are fat, fearful and desperate world-savers. No, really:

We can, from these observations, construct the perfect day as imagined by a gal and by a guy.

In the gal’s perfect day she is kidnapped on the way back from putting the kids on the school bus but vanquishes the kidnappers in time to go for a fattening lunch with her single-mom pals, at which they lament their lack of dates before donning designer gowns to go to a school board meeting where they successfully address all major educational problems.

In the guy’s perfect day he awakes and, still sleepy, sticks his hand down a running garbage disposal trying to retrieve the bottle opener he has dropped in it; an ambulance crew made up entirely of strippers rushes him to the Hospital for Advanced Trauma Care and Stripping, where naked but highly trained female surgeons sew his hand back on, then take him home and wash his entire house as well as his car with their breasts while answering questions like: Does being spanked make a woman want to have sex?

So, clearly, members of one sex are living in a sad, unrealistic fantasy world, trying in vain to compensate for the drabness of their day-to-day lives. Members of the other are living a rich life of the imagination, at peace with their self-image and excited by what the future might hold. Which is which goes without saying.

The whole article seems to be a case of the author confirming what he already believes to be true. For example, he asserts that Lifetime is full of true-crime scary-tales, whereas Spike is full of men getting kicked in the balls. Which is kind of true, on both counts. Except that I watch Spike three or four times a week because they play CSI over and over again, right around the time that I go to the gym, and I always want to see who the killer is so I stay on the StairMaster longer. Maybe that’s only because my ass is fat from watching too much Lifetime, but, point being, mainstream and men’s television is chock full of scary-time crime-dramas. I guess Lifetime is just noteable because it’s the only network where women usually save themselves instead of being rescued by whatever dude is playing their cop partner. Which isn’t to say that Lifetime is great and totally feminist — it’s really not. And it does play into the “your gonna get raped!!” culture of fear that women live in by constantly presenting story lines where women are raped, abused, etc etc. But that’s pretty much the entire premise of Law & Order SVU, so I’m still not sure why Lifetime is really breaking the mold.

But anyway, the crime soaps are the least egregious part of the article, and I am in full accord with the author in his characterization of Spike as hyper-masculine douchery (also, yes, I know CSI is a shitty show; it is, however, an unintentionally hilarious show, hence my gym-wating). Crappiness of both Lifetime and Spike aside, though, the article gets even worse:


By “things” here we mean, basically, “women.”

Haha did you see that? He called us fat! Good one, bro.

Plump women are almost never seen on Spike, and hotties are almost never seen on Lifetime. It’s a tough call as to which is the more cynical ploy: brazenly playing to a female audience that probably could stand to lose a few pounds or shamelessly playing to a male audience that likes to fantasize about women more gorgeous than actually exist in real life.

Hmmm, yes, which is more shameless… including actresses that look like actual real women on a network that targets actual real women, or only featuring actresses who are Playboy-perfect because, look, boobs? Clearly those things are the same on the cynical scale.

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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Crime, Entertainment, Fat, Gender and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Girls vs. Boys

  1. Jovan1984 says:

    And this isn’t the first time that the NYT has done this. Two years ago, when WWE switched affiliations, they did a girls v. boys piece concerning the programming on the two newest broadcasting channels — the CW and MyNetworkTV.

  2. Shinobi says:

    Lately sometimes I have picked a good TV show off of the menu without checking what channel it was on, and then been informed during the commercial break that this show was “MEN ONLY” by some commercial going out of its way to other me. (This is my way of saying I think Spike has been a real dbag lately.)

  3. Politicalguineapig says:

    I think if I found out that a guy watched a program on Spike (Other than CSI. I was converted in college.) that’d be the end of it. D’bags watch d’bag T.V. Also if he thought Adam Sandler was funny..
    And Lifetime, ugh. Heck no. I wouldn’t watch it for the same reason I don’t watch romantic comedies- too much mush. It’s why the whole month of February makes me want to projectile vomit.

  4. ThankGoddess says:

    You realize the author of the piece is not saying that’s how real life is, or mocking women or men? It’s the content of the programming, which on both networks is terrible by all accounts, even yours:

    For example, he asserts that Lifetime is full of true-crime scary-tales, whereas Spike is full of men getting kicked in the balls. Which is kind of true, on both counts.

    And it is that content that is being mocked. Honestly are we going to stand up for the terrible programming on either of these networks, or for that matter just about any other network? There’s a reason some of us gave up years ago and refuse to pay attention to the drone inducing phlegm that is the Telly.

  5. Thomas says:

    I watch mixed martial arts on Spike. I just wish that their marketing strategy was something other than assuming I’m a bunch of things I despise. Hey, I’ve got an idea … maybe I’m a complex person, who can segue effortlessly from Ultimate Fighter to Project Runway to Dexter?

  6. Lurkin Merkin says:

    By “things” here we mean, basically, “women.”

    I believe the reverse is also true.

    [insert long string of curse words here]
    This literally gave me a headache to read.

  7. The Chemist says:

    Back when I had cable I used to watch Lifetime almost every other day for Fraiser reruns. I almost never watched Spike- and I’m pretty hetero-normative (I also hate CSI). Spike to me has always been a bastion of trash-TV except when they showed movies and martial arts (like UFC). Then again, maybe I’m just prejudiced against it because of the marketing. God knows I (and I know I’m not alone in this) wouldn’t be caught dead using/purchasing Axe deodorant just because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m still insecure about my sexuality.

    I think the issue here is mainly whether or not we choose to believe what the marketers want us to believe.

  8. Cha-Cha says:

    Wait, did I miss something? This tripe qualifies as New York Times worthy news?

  9. KJ says:

    I’ve only recently been “enlightened” by Spike’s programing after discovering “1,000 Ways to Die”.

    It is without a doubt, the worst show I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like a Sick Sad World on Daria. Acting, writing, “facts”, are all complete and utter BS.

    I morbidly can’t stop watching it. I wish I taught a media course so it could be used as an example of how NOT to do it.

    The douchebaggy misogyny is actually the least of it’s problems. That’s saying a lot. Pointing out dbaggery on Spike is like pointing out derivitive lyrics on a country station.

    I wondehoof most of Spike’s viewers genuinly enjoy their crap, or just enjoy it on a “so-bad-i-can’t-stop-watching” level.

  10. KJ says:

    Pardon my typos. iPhone typing…

  11. elle says:

    Um, I agree with ThankGoddess and hortense at jezebel that this NYT article was intended to be mocking of both networks – and was a pretty ham-fisted satire at that.

  12. Meg says:

    In undergrad, I didn’t have a TV. The only tv ownership of any of my friends-group was a dedicated Halo machine. So the only time we ever watched TV was when we were in hotels, which happened roughly every weekend in January/early february. Why? Fencing Season.

    And Spike was definitely the team’s channel of choice. Given the option between a romantic comedy and an action flick, the group response was “No! We’re going to watch Samuel Jackson eff-someone up with some effing golf-clubs!” (unless the Olympics was on).

    We were typically 60/40 women to men. The point is that sometimes Spike is just the right level of brainless mush. The last thing you want to wind down to is yet another anorexic-teen movie (some of which you were forced to watch in middle-school health class). Besides, who needs complicated plots when you’re only going to be watching in one-episode chunks? Explosions are better for those situations. The marketing didn’t bother me too much, probably because I was just glad it wasn’t pink and sparkly. … and yeah, having just spent approximately 10 hours stabbing people might have had something to do with these preferences.

  13. ThankGoddess says:

    “The douchebaggy misogyny is actually the least of it’s problems.”

    Just Amazing. Why not just call it the c*nty misogyny? Am I the ONLY one that gets SICK AND TIRED TO THE POINT OF VOMITING when I see misogynistic language used to complain about misogyny? Honestly can we just BE DONE WITH IT?

  14. Anonymouse says:

    I read the article as mocking the whole ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ motif of these two gender-stereotype-themed networks. I didn’t get the sense that the author believed the stereotypes the networks put forth are accurate. I got the sense that he thought they were kind of ridiculous. Hence, the mocking.

  15. karak says:

    If I recall correct, Blood Ties was on Lifetime–a show about a woman who was a former cop who left the force because her serious vision problems and formed her own private investigator company. She was pretty, strong, and took no shit from the two men in her life, both of whom she was attracted to. And neither one of them told her to do Jack shit, or could tell her she couldn’t date both at the same time.

    Awesome show. There were also vampires and supernatural elements.

  16. Banisteriopsis says:

    Wait, what? My fantasy is to have my hand chopped off? But I need that… for… stuff.

  17. melancholia says:

    There is one program I like on Spike called “How to survive” or something. It’s a former Navy SEAL showing you what to do in insane situations (plane hijacking, school shooting, earthquake, etc.).

  18. La BellaDonna says:

    Hey! I LOVE my TV! It brings me How The World Was Made, and it brings me Life After People !

    Of course, two of my favorite shows don’t involve actual people at all – that probably says something about me. (And what it says is that I like geology and, apparently, decay.)

  19. southern students for choice-athens says:

    Besides all that’s been written above that’s critical of this article, let’s add the following gem:

    This month Lifetime offered a new movie called “The Pregnancy Pact,” an earnest film inspired by a spate of pregnancies among high school girls in Gloucester, Mass., in 2008. The movie, which stars Thora Birch, takes a forthright look at serious issues like peer pressure, the lack of opportunities for young people and the role schools should play in providing sex education and birth control. It is a commendable effort to educate about and generate discussion of a subject with far-reaching implications for teenagers and society as a whole.

    Hmm… “an earnest film” … “takes a forthright look” … “a commendable effort” … “generate discussion” … “far-reaching implications for teenagers and society”

    Considering our last post tried to see some good on balance in the movie “Twilight:New Moon” in how it stimulated the media to run stories on problems related to teenage depression and abuse, it’s hard to automatically criticize an attempt to see the upside in a possible similar situation with the Lifetime movie “The Pregnancy Pact”, but all that’s been written about this movie that we’ve seen is that it takes the more lurid and likely mythical elements of the so-called “pregnancy pact” and packages it as dramatized fact.

    Unlike the media coverage of concerns with “New Moon”, the so-called pregnancy pact coverage (the Lifetime show included) wasn’t for the most part insightful and tended to repeat some of the worst stereotypes of teen moms and their judgment skills. Maybe we should be glad that Lifetime didn’t do a similar story on “sex bracelets” and “rainbow parties”, but we doubt they’ve ruled it out, so let’s hope they don’t read this post and get ideas.

  20. norbizness says:

    Was there anything about their following the herd down to Greece?

  21. Lee says:

    Also, ThankGoddess, did you miss the part where they said that the audience of Lifetime could stand to lose a few pounds?

    I also hated how he implied how ridiculous it was to put normal-looking women on tv. What nerve Lifetime has to show women people that look like them.

  22. Athenia says:

    When I want to watch “How I met your mother” on hulu it either redirects me to CBS or Lifetime.

    Robin and Lilly are totally hotties to me!!

  23. Ismone says:

    I used to love Spike. Love, love, love. Not because I liked all of the programming on it, but because it played a lot of CSI, law and order, etc. I also like some of the shows on G4 (ninja warrior is awesome). I’ve actually never watched a lifetime movie, but I did get into Blood Ties for a while, which someone mentioned upthread. I used to complain that it wasn’t fair that guys get spike while we’re stuck with Lifetime. Boo.

  24. lilacsigil says:

    women more gorgeous than actually exist in real life.

    Yes, the actresses on SpikeTV aren’t even human so it’s okay to humiliate them! Hurr hurr hurr. If real women were that hot, they’d like being humiliated too! Hurr hurr hurr.

  25. Princess Rot says:

    One of the rare times Family Guy gets it right:

    At home, Peter switches on the TV.
    Announcer’s voice: Spiketv! Stuff men like!
    *orgasmic woman*
    *racecar engines*

    So true.

  26. Princess Rot says:

    By “so true”, I mean that the channel is really that stupid, not that men all like that stuff.

  27. ThankGoddess says:

    Right, Douchbag does not = Cunt. That’s not the point. The point is that is that you’re using language aimed to dehumanize and insult, via a feminine twist. IF we’re going to insult based on gender (which douchebag actually is no matter how any *particular* person uses it, its roots are gender based violence language), then the net effect is no different than using cunt or any other term. The defense in the post linked to doesn’t cut it.

    Any time we use language which is aimed to use feminine aspects as insults, we’re being misogynistic and demonstrating an incredible capacity for self hate. I refuse to accept that under all circumstances. Most especially though such anti-woman language should be rejecting when we’re actually complaining about woman hating.

    Finally it’s a trigger for many of us that come from a different time. If you told me that a certain term was a trigger and I should not use it as an insult, I’d STOP. Just because some feminists do not feel as hurt by it as others of us do, when those of us that have experienced A GREAT DEAL OF PAIN by being tossed around while being called such things, does not mean that you should continue to excuse your privilege of having been safe from that language.

    I’ll emphasize again calling someone douche or douchebag to insult them is using anti-woman violence language constructs which those of us that have experienced refuse to be told by others that our experiences and pain are invalid.

  28. Bagelsan says:

    Just because some feminists do not feel as hurt by it as others of us do, when those of us that have experienced A GREAT DEAL OF PAIN by being tossed around while being called such things, does not mean that you should continue to excuse your privilege of having been safe from that language.

    I understand what you’re saying, and I’m really sorry you’ve been hurt, but I don’t think that just because certain language has been used against a woman in a violent situation that necessarily makes it intrinsically gendered or violent. While I certainly wouldn’t object to cutting down on using the term “douche” as an insult around people who aren’t comfortable with it (I don’t swear around my mom, either!) I personally like having a term that so neatly encapsulates the idea of a tool that is bad for women but thinks it’s the shit — it’s hard to more accurately describe a lot of guys. I think it’s a valuable kind of word to have.

  29. Robin says:

    “actual real women on a network that targets actual real women”

    Hey now! Just because women are skinny doesn’t mean they’re not “real.” You should be accepting of all body types, not just the ones that are disparaged in the media.

    Overall, the article is extremely crude and often dismissive, but it’s basic point is sound: gender-targeted media makes outlandish assumptions about its intended viewership, creating fantasy worlds that do not represent the feelings of most people in their demographic. The difference is that Lifetime is not criticized as often, despite presenting odious misrepresentations of womanhood, because it’s marketed as “empowering.”

    That’s how I feel about Sex and the City: sure, it’s great to see a show about women who put friendship before men, are comfortable with sex, and have their own motivations and needs. However, it would be a lot more great if they weren’t so shallow, careless, and selfish.

  30. ThankGoddess says:


    While I understand your points I strongly disagree.

    “I understand what you’re saying, and I’m really sorry you’ve been hurt, but I don’t think that just because certain language has been used against a woman in a violent situation that necessarily makes it intrinsically gendered or violent.”

    As well it does not make it intrinsically not gendered or violent.

    The concern here though is that this is supposed to be a safe space for us. Any time someone tells me that the terminology I am using hurts them, I seek to remove it from my vocabulary. It is not my place to continue to use the privilege that I have in not being hurt by any word and thus continue speak such words in a safe space and continue to hurt those that are telling me it’s hurtful.

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