ironic sexism: GQ's Glee cover not funny or cute

You’ve no doubt seen or heard about the Glee actors posing suggestively and ‘unGlee like’ on the cover of this month’s GQ magazine shot by creepy ‘sexual exploitation is liberation’ photographer Terry Richards.  On Tuesday night, I posted the cover photo to my Facebook wall and coversations ensued there and all over the web.

I kept coming back to men who are constantly baited with these types of images that reinforce oppressive norms. But then I realized, “Wait, most men LOVE these norms!”

Here we have an example of ironic sexism, a modern phenomena in advertising and mass media that has been flummoxing feminists because we know we’re being toyed with but we can’t quite put our finger on what it is because we’re obviously too busy complaining about women or advertising or the women in advertisementsDefined as modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in a mocking way, ironic sexism is always tough to pin down because it’s never easy to determine if it’s a parody or if it’s just reinforced sexism. If we guess ‘parody’, we might be forced to give up our feminist card and if it’s sexism, not many people will want to listen. It’s a dilemma.

But here, GQ illustrates an important aspect of ironic sexism: they “talk the talk” of the target audience. In this case, it realizes the fantasy of GQ’s target 33.4 year old audience – school girl and/or girl-on-girl porn – and recreates the images in a way that makes you feel as if you’re seeing these characters in a male fantasy. Would these men watch the original high school drama/musical TV show? Only if it involved high school girls playing ‘teachers pet’ and striping in the locker room.

GQ knows that men will respond to these images because it’s an obvious yet ironic portrayal of porn: previously squeaky clean high school teens playing in a man’s fantasy.  But GQ also knows that you’ll think these images aren’t so bad because the women are self-objectifying.  For the record, self-objectification is harmful not only to Leah Michele and Dianna Agron who participated in the pseudo-porn shoot, but also to other women who realize that this is completely sexist but have to go along with it in order to be ‘one of the guys’ and/or to avoid being called a feminazi.

So: Parody or Sexism?

GQ isn’t making fun of kiddy porn, they’re recreating it to sell products to men, and in a self-realized turn of events, even hired alleged pedophile photographer, Terry Richards to shoot it.


One of the best points in the feminist blogosphere was brought up over at The Broadsheet where Mary Elizabeth Williams said

…playing off the setting of the show, it essentially keeps its stars in character, thereby then allowing its readers — median age 33.4 — to ogle them as porny teen fantasy characters — all spread legs and underpants in the locker room… And knowing that it was shot by a man with a long, storied and reputedly unpleasant history involving teenagers makes the whole thing just that much more repugnant.

Richards, 44, is known for his pedophilia-like advances on the young models he photographs and moreover, he’s loved and adored in the industry for it. Doesn’t this sound similar to American Apparel CEO, Dov Charney? That’s really interesting you make that comparison because it just so happens that the Glee stars are wearing all American Apparel clothing.

All this song and dance in an effort to sell these stupid products, which BTW you probably don’t need or want anyway. Here’s the contact information for the people who made this whole thing happen. Because we can’t just go on writing/commenting on blog posts and not do anything. Our fingers and wrists are starting to hurt and carpel tunnel can be an early onset disease.

Here’s what Leah Michele’s looks like advertising to women:

And the amazing ironic sexism Vlog post:


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