Monday, 26 September 2011

Keep the Hits Coming!

I'm amazed at where my 'hits' are coming from...

Keep it up.  But feel free to comment.

Monday, 5 September 2011

public sphere

a place
where everyone
no matter 
their station
whether high
or low
can speak
what they think
what they feel
the public sphere
where those in power
are expected to account
for what they say
what they believe
what they do

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Whatever Happened to Respect?

And here are three ads that I, as a practicing Catholic, find particularly offensive:

The first two ads came out in 2010, the first entitled "Immaculately Conceived" and the second, "We Believe in Salvation".
The third ad, "Submit to Temptation", appeared in 2009.

Whatever happened to respect? Freedom of speech should not equate with being able to disrespect other people's beliefs.   

Normalising Domestic Violence to Make a Sale

I found a lot of degrading adverts today while writing my post for next week.
But perhaps one of the worse ones I came across is this one:

The woman depicted is a victim of domestic violence (note the blackened eye) but, if she gets her hair done at Fluid, being beaten by her husband doesn't matter...
The the worst thing... the owner of the salon that commissioned this ad is a woman, and she's refusing to pull the ad even though it's causing offense to many people. 
The ad from a 2011 campaign and is called, "Look Good In All You Do".

Displaying Children as Adults

And while we're at it, why not display pictures of children for consumption by pedophiles?

Is selling a product really worth display an innocent child like this?
Childhood is a fleeting experience, gone before you realise it.  This girl will be a woman soon enough.
For Gods-sake, let children be children. 
These photos are from French Vogue's December 2010 edition.

Stupid Advertisements, or Advertisements for the Stupid?

 Just what the world needs... the promotion of stupidity!

These ads are from Diesel's 2010 "Be Stupid" campaign.

Friday, 2 September 2011

My Uploaded University Postings

When I was working on my posting last week, I found a posting on a blog about video games.  And I enjoyed reading it. It made me think about certain aspects of gaming that I hadn't previously thought about. 
I've uploaded my weekly postings and assignments from my university course as I thought they might make for interesting reading for somebody else. 
I would like to have people comment on them. 

Unchanging Expectations: Femininity and the Women of The Stepford Wives and Aliens

     Women are depicted in various roles in many movies.  However, just because the roles are changing does not mean that the cultural expectations of femininity are. Within film, Mulvey (1975:757) argues that the hegemonic order of society is reflected in the way women are viewed and because of this their images have “continually been stolen and used” to maintain the status quo.   In The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004) and Aliens (Special Edition), women’s lives are depicted in various contexts and although non-conformity to cultural expectations of femininity is shown to varying degrees, Mulvey would argue that these portrayals are actually complying with society’s patriarchal structure, and that these “contemporary forms of ‘femininity’ have been vested in a textually mediated discourse from the beginning” (Smith 1990:126).  The animatronic women represented in The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004) show the archetype wife of the 1950s – a woman satisfied with her marital and maternal role – in opposition to the pre-transformation protagonist, an outcast due to her non-conformity.  Similarly the protagonist of Aliens is a liberated, independent, warrior woman not conforming to the usual constraints of the hegemonic rules established by a patriarchal society.  The difference being, the other females in the film are also non-conformists.  However, beneath the veneer of self-determination, Ripley is also a product of society just as the animatronic women in The Stepford Wives are, it is just a different straight jacket being worn.  In this essay I will first discuss what denotes femininity and the accompanying connotations, and then explore how cultural expectations of femininity are presented in The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004) and Aliens (Special Edition) through context, the expectation of domesticity and maternity, and expressions of sexuality. 
     According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2011:online), the word femininity, meaning “the quality or nature of the female sex”, dates back to the 14th Century.  Freud (1933) equated femininity with passiveness, and categorized masochism, narcissism, envy, the need to be loved, vanity, shame, and having little sense of justice as female qualities.  He asserted that a woman only reaches normal femininity once castration (the lack of a penis) has been accepted.  Margaret Mead’s 1935 study, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, identified the differences in temperament between the sexes as a result of cultural expectations and socialization rather than biology.  Furthering Mead’s treatise, Simone de Beauvoir (1976:267) proclaimed femininity as being a social construct when she wrote, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” in The Second Sex, discussing the binary opposites of male/Self, female/Other.  As Judith Butler (1986:35) expounded, de Beauvoir was making a distinction between sex and gender ergo biology and social conditioning:  “sex is understood to be the invariant, anatomically distinct, and factic aspects of the female body, whereas gender is the cultural meaning and form that that body acquires”.  In 1963 Betty Friedan (1963:22) discussed “the problem that has no name” in The Feminine Mystique to describe the discontent affecting many American women in the 1950s and 1960s with marriage, motherhood and domesticity, and the ensuing guilt due to the incongruity with societal perceptions of feminine expectations.  According to Tania Modleski (1988:91), “femininity in our culture is largely a male construct, a male ‘design,’ and that this femininity is in fact a matter of external trappings, of roles and masquerade, without essence”.  Consequently, femininity can be understood as a byproduct of society, and is dependant upon what Stets and Burke (2000) describe as the degree of how feminine a woman views herself in relation to what society dictates a woman to be, namely a woman who is happy to put her family’s needs before her own, while keeping the house, and herself, attractive.     
     Femininity is essentially depicted in a similar way in The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004).  The protagonist is a woman who is outside what society, Stepford, considers being feminine.  She is seen in public without make-up, wears comfortable, casual clothing and she has extra-familial interests.  Where the films differ is the treatment of what is deemed as being outside, but this is indicative of the era in which they were made.   In the 1975 film, the protagonist describes herself as a “hopeful, would-be, semi-professional photographer” (The Stepford Wives, 1975) as opposed to the studio executive of the 2004 version.  Both move to the suburban idyll of Stepford through decisions made by the husband.  In the original films the wives of Stepford have been active feminists before transformation, while those in the remake have had illustrious careers in professions normally reserved for men. As the films unfold, the husbands reveal how their emaciation has led them to incarcerating their wives as 1950s styled animatronics to boost their self-esteem and rebuild their masculinity.  According to Anna Krugovoy Silver (2002:60), the themes of the original film “dovetail so closely with those of second wave feminism that the film can be viewed as a popularization of some of the most persistent concerns of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s”, specifically discrimination in the workplace and home.  Joanna, Bobby and Charmaine are dissatisfied with the expectations of being a stay-at-home mother and wife, and their lack of pride in housework is a testament to this.  Their attitudes towards their husbands are also indicative of second wave feminism – there is no unbridled admiration being lavishly bestowed.  Joanna speaks of the men in her life before her husband, Bobby jokes about her husband’s lack of sexual prowess, and Charmaine holds fast to her tennis court even though her husband would prefer a heated pool. 
     The remake addresses these same issues.  Joanna, Bobby and Roger (the homosexual version of trophy wife, Charmaine) are not the homemakers their husbands would like them to be.  Neither are they submissive, nor show reverence, to their husbands.  In both films, the husbands of these three characters have normal familial expectations placed upon them – playing an active role in raising the children and helping with household chores – but this is not the Stepford way.  Gender roles are set in concrete and it is a wife’s duty to adhere to them showing the theme of “sexual oppression in a patriarchal society” (Boruzkowski 1987:1), which is an unchanging expectation of femininity. 
     In Aliens, the context of defining woman’s position remains but gender specific roles are blurred.  None of the women depicted in Aliens is overly feminine.  The most gender specific job shown is that of the nurse but her demeanour is not particularly feminine.  The three women in the marines are treated as part of the team and are not given any special treatment because of their gender.  In fact it is Vasquez that leads the squad into the building indicating that she is a soldiering equal.  One of the most typical portrayals of femininity in the film is from a scene cut from the theatrical release.  When the salvage team approach the alien ship, Newt’s mother asks her husband, “Shouldn’t we call it in” (Aliens, 1986) showing traits of dependence (looking to the man to decide), worry and uncertainty.  She is the one who talks to the children in the vehicle showing her maternity – the father does not speak, as he is too busy in his quest to provide for his family – and it is the man who is attacked by the alien indicating he was more active in the salvage.  The active/passive dichotomy is also played out with two of the female marines holding what could be described as less strenuous or passive positions within the company – Ferro is the pilot and Dietrich the doctor.  Interestingly it is the aliens who provide some of the most feminine qualities in the film, which contributes towards defining woman as Other.  When the marines enter the lab and Burke is peering at the seemingly dead specimen, the alien attaches itself to the glass, by way of vaginal looking suckers. Later Hudson likens the alien leader to a queen bee: “There’s, like, one female that runs the whole show” (Aliens, 1986).  This identifies woman as the enemy – destroy her and life can resume as usual.  Cultural expectations of femininity, as determined by the ruling ideology, would have us believe if woman had remained in her rightful place, none of the carnage would have ensued.  
    The expectations of maternity and domesticity are rigid in Stepford.  According to Maggie Mulqueen (1992:13), “Cultural messages influence a woman’s determination of which of her achievements and attributes contributes to her femininity”, and in Stepford it is her ability to clean, cook, caddy and service her husband on demand.  The original The Stepford Wives treats maternity and domesticity similarly to the remake.  The domestic life of Joanna and Walter is normal with arguments, good-natured ribbing and declarations of love.  Joanna tells Walter, “You pretend we decide things together, but it’s always you, what you want” (The Stepford Wives, 1975), indicating the typical power-relationship at play within the marriage.  However in saying this, Joanna is independent and ensures she does what she wants, when she wants.  An example of this is when Walter is forced to look after the house full of children while she is in the darkroom developing her photographs.  Joanna’s passion for photography is positioned as a force keeping her from her feminine duties.  She is out taking photographs instead of tending to the house, and she leaves her children with Bobby when she takes her portfolio to her agent, signifying bad mothering. Walter’s frustration with this attitude is revealed when he exclaims,  “Look if you paid a little more attention to your family and a little less to your goddamned picture taking” (The Stepford Wives, 1975).  However Joanna is not a neglectful mother and this is evident in the tender moment shared with her daughter over her teddy bear’s unhappiness, and her “aroused maternal instinct” (Bartholomew 1975: 42) as she speeds to the Men’s Association to rescue her children.   Her best photographic work consists of photos of hers and Bobby’s children, connoting a maternal bond, interestingly however she wants the photos exhibited under her maiden name, foreshadowing an eroding marital one.  Bobby has the same distaste for household chores as Joanna, and is equally inclined to leave her children at a neighbour’s house.  Charmaine has a maid to do her housework and has two teenage boys but her lifestyle, albeit devoid of emotional connection, is centred on being pampered, playing tennis and being kept in the style she has become accustomed to.  These three characters are presented as bad wives for their lack of servitude and extra-familial interests.  According to Anna Krugovoy Silver (2002:60), housework is framed in the film as a “service to the husband and family that epitomizes wifely submission by enabling men to pursue their work and leisure”.  They are also the only people in the film that drink alcohol during the day, which is additional verification of their bad mother status.   In contrast, the good wives of Stepford have spotless houses, and feel guilty if they do not accomplish their daily routine of baking.  The relationship of the animatronic women and their husbands is one of servitude.  Their whole purpose in life is to make the house a place their hardworking man wants to come home to.  In defence of her newfound fondness of housework, Bobby tells Joanna, “Dave works hard all day long, and what does he come home to? A slob!” (The Stepford Wives, 1975.)  The self is no longer important after transformation.  A woman’s worth is completely tied up with her husband’s satisfaction.   Betty Friedan (1963:18) describes this traditional perception of the suburban housewife as the notion that “true feminine fulfilment” can only be found when family and home are the only concern.  After Bobby is transformed, she tells Joanna, “I just want to look like a woman and keep my house looking decent too” (The Stepford Wives, 1975).  The husbands, desiring what Boruzkowski (1986:17) describes as “the women ‘contained’ and pressed into non-creative, non-fulfilling non-rewarding labor in service of the men”, is part of the Stepford expectation of femininity.
     The Stepford remake has the same framing of domesticity and motherhood as the original film.  The film starts with 1950s–1960s footage of advertisements with women Betty Friedan (1963:18) would describe as “Occupation: housewife”, promoting the latest gadgets designed to make housework even more enjoyable.  Before transformation, home life is volatile, and the wives seek friendship outside the family.   After transformation the relationships the women have are within the family unit, not with each other, and although they meet at the spa and attend a book club, the relationships are superficial, not supportive.   Stepford men do not require relationships with their wives outside domestic servitude in private and fashion accessory in public.  Adherence to the process of transforming a wife and implanting nanos into her brain reveals resentment of her intelligence and rejection of her personality. To the emasculated husband, the transformation is a necessity in creating a wife who fits the cultural expectations of femininity.   Joanna, Bobby and Roger are the bad wives because they do not adhere to the strict feminine code of Stepford.  Although Joanna attempts to fit in by baking copious amounts of cup cakes, and Roger is always immaculately dressed, along with Bobby, they all continue to put themselves before their families.  Housework is fetishised in The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004) because of its unequivocal link with femininity.  The housework itself becomes a reassuring routine for the animatronic women whereas for the pre-transformation characters it is a suffocating, mind-numbing drudgery keeping them imprisoned in the home.  According to Pat Mainardi (1970:165), men think of housework as being beneath them, seeing it as a woman’s domain, which leaves them free to “deal with matters of significance”.  The man is out in the professional sphere actively providing for the family and the woman is in the domestic sphere passively looking after them.  Not only is keeping a spotless house paramount to expectations of femininity but also is the pleasure derived from doing it.
   There are only two occasions showing traditional scenes of domesticity in Aliens.  The first occurrence is from a scene cut from the theatrical release, showing the children of Hadley’s Hope playing in the work environment.  The second instance is when Burke and Gorman enter Ripley’s accommodation.  Ripley’s apartment is in a state of disorder and indicates a disdain for housework.  This is significant as it sets Ripley outside the cultural expectations of femininity.  It is interesting that all acknowledgement of Ripley’s biological motherhood is eliminated in the theatrical version of Aliens.  Ripley’s attachment to Newt makes more sense after the conversation with Burke concerning her daughter’s death and the promise that Ripley made to return for her eleventh birthday.  On the surface, women in this film are endowed with the male characteristics of being independent, career-oriented, courageous, and intelligent, which makes them equal (if not at times superior) to the male characters.  However maternity, a major theme of the film, is where the unchanging expectations of femininity enter the narrative.  Apart from her greeting of the cat after her extended hyper sleep, the first time Ripley appears feminine is when she is called upon to coax Newt out of the air duct and the connection between the two is established: “Ripley’s nurturing impulses are redirected from the cat to the girl child” (Taubin 1980:95).  To remind the viewer of what being a good mother entails, Ripley’s maternity is contrasted to that of the alien’s.  In the climatic “cat fight between the good mother and the bad” (Taubin 1980:95), the regal looking alien keeps her soldier aliens at bay knowing that Ripley has the capacity to kill her eggs.  This nurturing mirrors Ripley’s return to rescue Newt: “The Amazonian Ripley reluctantly dons the girdle of male aggression to protect the family and to correct injustice, corruption and excessive violence in the patriarchal order – the traditional ‘civilizing’ influence of heterosexual femininity” (Graham 1994:206).  When Ripley destroys the eggs, the alien mother screams out in pain, and detaches herself from her birthing-canal to avenge the killing as she views Ripley’s motherhood, with Newt in her arms, intact.  The two maternal styles epitomize the differences between traditional and modern mothering.  The alien mother is representative of the stay-at-home mother, nurturing her young whereas Ripley, balancing career and home, leaves her only biological child to advance her career.
     Sexuality is an important theme in The Stepford Wives (1975). The pre-transformation Joanna has an androgynous physique and, disrespecting her husband, shows her sexuality by speaking of premarital relationships.  She refers to one particular relationship as the one who got away implying that her marriage to Walter was not her first choice.  Although Joanna wears clothing that is often drab and casual, and appears in public without makeup, her sexuality manifests itself through her demeanour.  When she does put effort into her appearance, it is due to attending an event as opposed to beautifying herself for the sole benefit of her husband.  The figure hugging dress, revealing an absence of underwear, she wears when the New Projects Committee visit the house is an example of this.  After her transformation, she has been remade “into the fully fetishized and idealized, ‘constructed’ object of male desire and male ‘design’” (Modleski 1988:96) possessing a more womanly physique with an hourglass figure. After transformation, clothing becomes a uniform consisting of a long skirt, large brimmed hat, and gloves – even while supermarket shopping.  The length of the skirt is interesting considering it is often matched with a low-cut top.  The skirt acts like a shield against liberation – against the hot pants and tennis skirts seen earlier in the film.  Anna Krugovoy Silver describes this “relentless focus on the constructedness and artificiality of female beauty” (2002:60), as one of the issues second wave feminists were particularly committed to promoting.  The immaculately, overdressed, perfectly adorned Stepford wives embody traditional notions of femininity.  Bruzzi (1980:236) states that “Clothes traditionally signify restraint and conformity”, therefore it is ironic that Joanna is killed by her animatronic replacement wielding an item of clothing that is particularly restrictive, pantyhose.  However “while the woman is sexual, she must at the same time seem a non-threatening little girl who belongs to her husband” (Boruzkowski 1986:17), and is available for him alone, finding ecstasy with his sexual prowess.  The Stepford husbands have created a fantasy based on a centrefold model of femininity, but in their desire for perfection, they have created a town of homogeneous women, devoid of personality and spirit. 
     In the Stepford remake, Joanna possesses masculinized traits.  She is successful, tough, and puts her career before family.  The television programmes she has produced, Balance of Power and I Can Do Better!, are anti-marriage and as an extension, anti-family.  She is portrayed as being apathetic to sex, with her clothing and behaviour revealing little sign of her sexuality.  After moving to Stepford we learn there has been no intimacy in her marriage for over a year.  What is worn is often indicative to sexuality, with clothing conveying “a meaning to others, which is socially constructed and understood” (Marshment 1997:40).  In Stepford the clothing is reminiscent of the 50s, featuring dresses and skirts of gingham and pastels. This is in direct contrast to Joanna who favours wearing black, until Walter admonishes her for this preference, claiming it to be the colour of  “high powered, neurotic, castrating, men-hating, career bitches” (The Stepford Wives, 2004)A major element of the transformation process is the robotically enhanced bodies the women receive.   These perfect women are paired up with mousy, unattractive (and in the original film, impaired) men but are satisfied in every sense.  The animatronic women scream with pleasure in bed, making their husbands feel like sex-gods. The Stepford wives are beautifully dressed at all times in clothes that enhance their sexuality.  After transformation, clothing is a feminine prison of perfection.  According to Marshment (1997:128), “if definitions of femininity and heterosexuality demand that women wear make-up and high heels in order to be attractive to men, then not only might women wear them for this purpose, but they may well come to feel more confident, more beautiful, wearing them”.  The bombardment of images depicting cultural expectations of feminine sexuality have become so ingrained that those viewing them accept them as truth. Although monogamy is an essential aspect of femininity, the sexuality of the animatronic women is not limited to their husbands.  When Joanna and Walter are approached at the picnic by four of the Stepford wives, the women openly flirt with him.  The flirting is not aimed at ensnaring him but to boost his ego – a public service considering the state of his marriage and the browbeating he receives from his wife. The traits portrayed in The Stepford Wives (2004) adhere to society’s notion of femininity.   Unfortunately the people in society defining femininity are men and the decisions they make “serve their interests rather than ours” (Marshment 1997:125) preserving the expectations of femininity. 
    In Aliens, Ripley is depicted as being fairly asexual.  Her androgynous physique is clothed in masculinized clothes and she displays both masculinized (anger, intelligence, competence) and feminised (fear, sorrow) emotions.  The only signs of her sexual desires, albeit momentarily, occur with Hicks.  Of all the relationships depicted in the film, it is only the one between Ripley and Hicks that shows the potential of developing into somethingThey often exchange eye contact and are regularly positioned next to each other.  When Hicks is teaching Ripley how to use his gun the body positioning is quite suggestive and as she leaves to goes back for Newt, they exchange first names accompanied by a prolonged, tender look.  Ripley’s character is constructed in a way to appeal to both male and female viewers.  Her strength and independence court female identification and yet she remains available for male consumption due to the value of her  “to-be-looked-at-ness” (Mulvey 1975:750).  Ripley appears twice in underwear – when she wakens from her hyper sleep (the other women wear army t-shirts) and when she is readying Newt for hyper sleep at the end of the film – which invites male gratification of the female body being displayed. The Ramboesque Ripley is noticeably braless when she is preparing for battle with the alien mother.  Once again this is for male consumption and is characteristic of the unchanging use of female images in media texts.  All the female characters in the film are dressed in some type of uniform, or outfit resembling a uniform.  In addition, the women in the marines, Dietrich, Vasquez and Ferro, have very mannish hair.  Of the four women on the rescue mission, Ripley is the most feminine.  However, oddly enough it is Vasquez, the most masculine of the women, that wears makeup, black eyeliner.  Vasquez’s sexuality is extrinsically linked to her weapon, which owing to its fetishisation, acts as a “substitute for the penis” (Freud 1927:153).  When she uses the rocket launcher in the later stages of the film, the firing of the rockets is accompanied by a pose verging on post-coital.  In the character of Vasquez, “The lacking female is effectively endowed by her armouring and her sadistic-controlling violence” (Graham 1994:212).  One of the most memorable lines from the film deals with Vasquez’s sexuality: “Hey Vasquez. Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” (Aliens, 2004.)  Whereas Vasquez has a “masculinized female body” (Graham 1994:212) throughout the film, “Ripley’s ‘missing’ phallus is more than generously supplied” (Graham 1994:205) when she dons weaponry to take on the alien mother.  The sexuality of the women in Aliens is outside cultural expectations but the bodies of Vasquez and Ripley are displayed for male consumption, objectifying the women, and therefore meeting cultural expectations.
    The way women are being depicted in film has changed over the years but the same messages promoting conformity are still being disseminated.   These messages help keep patriarchal order and ensure continuance of hegemonic ideals.  Film is a powerful conductor of such messages, and we learn what is acceptable from watching.  Just as the messages woven into film can enlighten us, they can also perpetuate our entrapment.  The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004) and Aliens are three films that have protagonists who are on the periphery of what society dictates femininity to be and, “In patriarchal culture, women are defined by those who subordinate them” (Marshment 1997:127). However after closer analysis, the non-conformity of the protagonists contributes towards maintaining the expectations of femininity.  These cultural expectations are presented in The Stepford Wives (1975 and 2004) and Aliens (Special Edition) through context, the expectation of domesticity and maternity, and expressions of sexuality.  The films are making the same case to the audience that Dis makes to Joanna when “He attempts to convince her of the justice of submitting to the standard of feminine conformity and oppression as determined by the patriarchy” (Boruzkowski 1986:18).  In 1963 Betty Friedan advocated women having autonomy in defining their own femininity, but until the hegemonic status quo shifts, men will continue to define themselves in opposition to women, maintaining the patriarchal order.   In the films discussed, the monster is not the animatronic wife or the alien, but the “liberated woman, the repressed, the Other, who questions the norm and standards of the patriarchy” (Boruzkowski 1986:19). 

Reference List
Bartholomew, D.  1975, 'The Stepford Wives'. Source: Cinefantastique. Vol. 4, no. 2, Summer, 1975, pp. 40-42.
Beauvoir, S. de.  1976, The Second Sex, ed. and trans. H. M. Parshley. Alfred .A Knopf, New York.
Boruzkowski, L.A. 1986, ‘The Stepford Wives: The Re-Created Woman’. Source: Jump Cut, no. 32, April 1986, pp. 16-19.
Bruzzi, S. 1980, ‘Jane Campion: Costume Drama and Reclaiming Women’s Past’, in  Women and Film: A Sight and Sound Reader, eds P. Cook & P. Dodd, Scarlet 
Press, London, pp. 232-242.
Butler, J. 1986, “Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex”, in Yale French Studies, No. 72, Simone de Beauvoir: Witness to a Century (1986), Yale University Press, pp. 35-49. 
Aliens,  1986, Directed: James Cameron.
Freiden, B.  1963, The Feminine Mystique, W.W. Norton & Company, INC, New York. 
Freud, S.  1927, “Fetishism,” The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents’, Vol VII of The Complete Psychological Works of
Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson, The Hogarth Press, London,  24 vols, 1953-1975: 149-157.
Freud, S. 1933, New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis: transl. by W.J.H. Sprott, Norton, New York.
Graham, P. 1994, “Looking Lesbian: Amazons and Aliens in Science Fiction Cinema’, in The Good, the Bad and the Gorgeous, eds D. Hamer & B. Budge, Rivers  Oram Press, London, pp. 196-217.
Mainardi, P.  1970, ‘The politics of housework’/ Pat Mainardi  in Making sense of women’s lives: an introduction to women’s studies, eds M. Plott & L. Umansky, Collegiate Press, San Diego, 2000, pp.163-168.
Marshment, M.  1997, 'The picture is political: Representations of women in contemporary popular culture.' In: Introducing women's studies : feminist theory and practice, 2nd edn, eds V. Robinson & D. Richardson, Macmillan, Hampshire, 1997, Chapter 6, pp. 125-151.
Mead, M.  1935, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, Dell, New York. 
Merriam-Webster 2011, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Retrieved 25 May 2011 from
Modleski, T. 1988, ‘Femininity by design’, in The Women Who Know Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory / Tania Modleski. Methuen, New York, 1988, Chapter 6, pp 87-100, 134-136.
Mulqueen, M. 1992, On our own terms: Redefining competence and femininity, State University of New York, Albany.
Mulvey, L. 1975, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975)’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th edn, eds G. Mast, M. Cohen & L. Braudy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992, pp. 746-757.
The Stepford Wives.  1975, Directed: Bryan Forbes.
The Stepford Wives.  2004, Directed: Frank Oz.
Silver, A.K.  2002, ‘The cyborg mystique: The Stepford Wives and second wave feminism’, in Women’s Studies Quarterly Vol. 30, No. 1/2,
Looking Across the Lens: Women’s Studies and Film, Spring, 2002, pp. 60-76.
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Taubin, A.  1980, ‘The ‘Alien’ Trilogy: From Feminism to AIDS’, in Women and Film: A Sight and Sound Reader, eds P.Cook & P. Dodd, Scarlet Press, London, pp. 93-100. 

The Power of the Spectacle: Who are the Powerbrokers in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?

     Howard Hawks’ film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is an interesting mix of females as spectacle and spectator. Traditionally, women have been used as spectacles within film due to what Laura Mulvey describes as their “to-be-looked-at-ness” (1975:750), a result of hegemonic patriarchy.  Laura Mulvey believes women occupy the passive (powerless) role of being looked at whereas men possess the active power of looking.   Gaylyn Studlar believes that the pleasures derived from viewing are available to all regardless of gender, and that multiple forms of identification allow all members of the audience to become submissive in front of the screen.  Both theorists accredit the pleasure derived from viewing to scopophilia but while Mulvey sees it as being male owned through sadism (voyeurism and fetishism), Studlar attributes the pleasure to masochism. The degree of power attributed to spectators and spectacles depends on which theory you support. 
     The female protagonists of the film, Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are used as spectacles not only in the stage numbers for the diegetic audience, but also for the audience in the cinema concurring with Mulvey’s description of the use of females being twofold: “as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the audience” (1975: 751). Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was Monroe’s first major film, but audiences knew her through modelling (especially the infamous nude calendar pose which became Playboy’s first centrefold) and numerous bit parts (Stephan, online).  Jane Russell, who has top billing for the film, was plucked out of obscurity by Howard Hughes to star in The Outlaw, which although made in 1941 was not granted general release until 1946 due to censorship battles (Jackson, online).  Monroe and Russell were cast on their power to appeal to the audience, particularly the male contingent.    It would have been easy for Hawks to humour the audience by clothing the leads in revealing garments, however he did not overplay the objectification angle and it is because of this that spectators are able to identify with the characters, especially that of Dorothy.  In accordance with Studlar the appeal of these women is not confined to the male members of the audience – their appeal is trans-gendered.  Men obtain pleasure from “a sadistic voyeurism (demystification) or through fetishistic scopophilia” (1975:783).  For female spectators the pleasure is identificatory or voyeuristic, depending on sexual orientation.  This corresponds with P. Graham’s opinion that,  “The lesbian resists passive objectification by adopting ‘phallic’ agency, yet desires a woman as sexual object” (1994:201).  Therefore both spectacle and spectator hold power.
     Within the diegesis of the film, the character of Dorothy has an almost predator-like way of entering a scene, whether it be walking through the Olympic team, walking down the cascading staircase to dinner, or walking down the aisle.  As she moves her eyes are constantly scanning the observers in a forthright manner.  This attitude reflects what Arbuthnot and Seneca see as one of themes of the film, “women’s resistance to objectification by men” (1990:116).  Infiltration of a space is a privilege usually held by men, but when Dorothy and Lorelei, to a lesser degree, enter a space, they hold the power by scouring the crowd or ignoring them respectively.  When Dorothy enters the gym where the Olympic team is training, it is the men who are on display for her.  This is in direct contrast to Mulvey’s belief that due “to the principles of the ruling ideology…the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification” (1975:751).  Even the flesh colour of the swimsuits contribute to the objectification of the men. Dorothy also initiates the kiss with the detective.  These occurrences are indicative of the power held by the characters, and identification with the characters allows this power to be shared by the spectators.   
     The second theme of the film, according to Arbuthnot and Seneca, is “women’s connection with each other” (1990:116).   The two women are friends who support each other with an “absence of competitiveness, envy and pettiness” (1990:120).   This friendship gives the characters the power to resist objectification and “invites the female viewer to join them, through identification” (1990:113).  This invitation gives power to the spectators.
     The power bestowed upon the two main characters is not accorded to all the female characters in the film.  The chandelier is problematic for its sadistic qualities with the female chorus being objectified as stage fixtures, which dehumanises them.  Interestingly, their faces are not covered whereas the dancers have black netting over their faces, once again in order to dehumanise them by making them faceless.  These details have the double effect of dehumanising the chorus, while showcasing Lorelei as the ideal woman.  According to Richard Dyer, “To be the ideal Monroe had to be white, and not just white but blonde, the most unambiguously white you can get” (1987:42-43).  Lorelei is blonde, white, vulnerable and on display for male consumption.  However, this does not make her powerless.  Her power lies in the fact that she is in control of the situation both onstage and off.  However, some audience members also gain power through objectifying her due to a need to possess her (1975:753).
     Another avenue of power that the female leads have is that they advance the plot.  Mulvey maintains that it is the male protagonist who has the role “…of forwarding the story, making things happen” (1975:751), with the female characters incorporated, only to be viewed: In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the female characters are imperative to the narrative because they dictate what happens therefore they hold the power.  
     At first glance, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a film that objectifies women, but the film is actually a lot deeper than that.  The friendship between Lorelei and Dorothy is a prominent factor in controlling the power on screen as it allows them to withstand objectification.   Additionally, Russell’s character is one who can be easily identified with for a woman today because she is strong and independent, and this affords power to spectators.  Therefore there is a degree of power held by both the spectacles and the spectators of this film.  

Reference List
Arbuthnot, L. and Seneca, G.   1990, ‘Pre-text and text in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ in Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, ed P. Erens, Indiana University Press,  Bloomington, pp. 112-125.
Dyer, R.  1987, ‘Monroe and Sexuality, in Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society. BFI Cinema Series, Macmillan, London, pp. 42-45.
Graham, P.  1994, “Looking Lesbian: Amazons and Aliens in Science Fiction Cinema’, in The Good, the Bad and the Gorgeous, eds D. Hamer & B. Budge, Rivers Oram Press, London, pp. 196-217.
Jackson, D.  The Internet Movie Database, Jane Russell Biography.  Retrieved 24 March 2011 from
Mellencamp, P. 1995, ‘Sexual Economics: Gold Diggers of 1933, in A Fine Romance: Five Ages of Film Feminism, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, pp. 50-73, 294-295.
Mulvey, L. 1975, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975)’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th edn, eds G. Mast, M. Cohen & L. Braudy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 746-757.
Stephan, E.  The Internet Movie Database, Marilyn Monroe Biography.  Retrieved 24 March 2011 from
Studlar, G. 1992, ‘Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema (1985)’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th edn, eds G. Mast, M. Cohen & L. Braudy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 773-790.

Mulvey and Studlar: Similarities and Differences in Analysis

   Laura Mulvey’s article ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ was the groundbreaking feminist perspective to viewing film, a perspective that up until that point had been overlooked.  Gaylyn Studlar’s article ‘Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema’ was written ten years later, providing an alternative perspective.    
     Mulvey uses Freud’s pleasure principal to examine the degree of power held by the male spectator by examining the scopophiliac pleasure they derive from viewing.  For Mulvey, scopophilia has male ownership only.  She asserts that it is only male viewers who bestow the overvaluing of fetishism and devaluing of objectification when viewing films.  Mulvey states that due “to the principles of the ruling ideology…the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification” (1975:751).  Studlar on the other hand sees these things as trans-gendered.  She agrees with Mulvey on the importance of scopophilia with regard to the pleasure obtained in watching films, but believes that both male and female viewers are able to obtain pleasure from viewing a film, and that therefore the act of looking is not purely a male domain.   
     Studlar uses Deleuze’s treatise of masochism as a starting point for her article.  Where Mulvey views the female as having no power, in a masochist reading, the woman is powerful due to possessing what the male lacks, so pleasure is not gained by “mastery of the female but submission to her” (1985:782).  This is in direct contrast to Mulvey’s view, which centres on voyeurism and fetishistic scopophilia being a defence mechanism to castration anxiety.  For Studlar, there is not always a connection between looking and control and therefore the process of looking, or obtaining pleasure from looking, is not always about objectification.  If the viewer is getting pleasure through identification, then there is equality between the spectator and the subject being looked-upon. 
     Scopophilia is used by Mulvey to explain the viewing dichotomy of active/male and passive/female.  She ascertains that women “connote to-be-looked-at-ness” (1975:750) which reflects the hegemonic order of society.  This to-be-looked-at-ness is not only for the benefit of the scene partners on screen but also for the audience in the darkened theatre.  Mulvey agues that the female is extraneous to the narrative, which is forwarded by the male protagonist, and therefore the sole purpose for the female character being included is to provide something pleasurable to look at. The binary opposites of active/male and passive/female do not enter Studlar’s argument, as she believes that all audience members derive pleasure from a passive, masochistic perspective regardless of gender.  In fact she contends all viewers share the same degree of passiveness and sees all viewers as submissive before the screen.  
   Women, according to Mulvey, are always the objects never the possessors of the gaze.   She claims that because the camera assumes a male perspective, the male viewer is able to identify with the male protagonist.  Alternatively, Studlar claims that the multiple forms of identification available are not gender specific.  She argues that it is possible for a male viewer to identify with a female on the screen and vice versa, and with the cinema being a darkened space, this trans-gendered identification can be achieved in safety and anonymity.   
   The fact that Mulvey sees the male as always being the observer and the woman as the observed is problematic.  Her theory treats all spectators as male without taking into consideration the perspective of female or gay viewers.  It also favours the theory that scopophilia is a male domain, with cinema providing a forum for men alone to express their desire to look at women.  This view is outdated.  The desires of women are being met today, not only in film but also in music, television and advertising.  It is true that there is an inequality in the number of images being presented for consumption, but the female viewer is being addressed.  According to Rachel Abramowitz, “If you want to have a huge blockbuster, you have to have a movie that appeals to all audiences, not just young teenage boys” (cited in Goodwin 2002:35).  When Mulvey bestows power upon the male spectator alone, she is ignoring female spectatorship.  Exclusivity does not allow for the range of spectators, ergo perspectives, when viewing a film.   It cannot be denied that women continue to be used for their “to-be-looked-at-ness” on the screen but this does not mean that the females in the audience can take no pleasure from viewing. 
   Studlar’s theory is more inclusive; however her premise that spectatorship is an act of submission is one that could be argued. No doubt there are many people who do watch films in a state of submission, but this assertion is as generalised as many of Mulvey’s.  If the binary opposites of active/male and passive/female are to be argued, so is the generalisation of all viewers being submissive.  According to Alfred Hitchcock, “Watching a well-made film, we don’t sit by as spectators; we participate” (1995:109).  Admittedly the degree of participation, or submission, is reliant on the extent of identification, but it is only natural that identification with a character on screen ensures a certain level of activity.  Judith Mayne’s book, Cinema and Spectatorship, takes the viewing dichotomy down a different path by distinguishing between spectators and viewers, the former being active and the latter being passive. In agreement with Studlar, Mayne excludes gender from the viewing equation altogether.  However, Mayne disagrees that all viewers are submissive: “Spectatorship is not only the act of watching a film, but also the ways one takes pleasure in the experience, or not…” (1993:1).  Following that rationale, if watching a film is a “passion” then the spectator is active and submissive before the screen, whereas if watching a movie is purely a “leisure-time activity”, the viewer is passive.
    The article by Laura Mulvey obviously has its merits, and offers a seminal perspective on feminist theory. However, many of the arguments raised by Mulvey, relevant in the 1970s are not as applicable to feminist theory today.  Gaylyn Studlar’s article also contains elements that can be debated, but in general is more useful to feminist theory in the twenty-first century. 

Reference List
Goodwin, C. 2002, ‘Warrior Women’, in The Australian Magazine, 3-4 March, pp. 34-36.
Hitchcock, A.1995, “Why ‘Thrillers’ Thrive”, in Hitchcock on Hitchcock, ed.
Sidney Gotlieb, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Mayne, J.  1993, Cinema and Spectatorship, Routledge, London.
Mulvey, L.  1992, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975)’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th edn, eds G. Mast, M. Cohen & L. Braudy, Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 746-757.
Studlar, G.  1992, ‘Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema (1985)’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th edn, eds G. Mast, M. Cohen & L. Braudy, Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp. 773-790.

The New Emirati: Young, Ambitious and Willing to Work

He finishes his degree, returns home and is a CEO by the time he’s 23.  A fantasy for most people, but not if you’re Emirati.
     There is a perception amongst many of the Western expatriate population of the United Arab Emirates that Emiratis are overpaid, underachievers.  The kandora clad local population can often be seen in a Mercedes or Porsche cruising the Corniche, or shopping for Prada or Gucci in one of the spectacular local shopping malls.  What isn’t as often seen is an Emirati hard at work.  It’s no secret that it’s the foreign labour force that is doing the majority of the work.  This isn’t surprising – after all, it’s the reason why we’re all here.  The country just doesn’t have the population to achieve all the goals it’s set itself.  What frustrates many people is that it’s the Emirati manager who reaps the benefits of the bulging pay packet, shorter hours, longer holiday, and the kudos for doing the work.  Emirati engineer, MM, says he knows guys who work two or three hours a day and get a ridiculous amount of money.  You can bet the person employed to assist (perhaps an apt acronym for All Support Supplied In Set Tasks) the two or three hour working Emirati doesn’t get a ridiculous amount of money or many thanks for doing most of the work.    But there is a new Emirati out there. 
     Forty years ago in Abu Dhabi there was nothing but sand as far as the eye could see.  In a remarkably short time, the sparse landscape has been transformed into a sprawling metropolis thanks to the black gold found in the bowels of the Emirate.  Since then the country has not only had a scenic transformation but also one affecting the makeup of the population. According to the Ministry of Economy’s 2005 census, foreigners make up 79.9% of the country’s 4,104,695 population.  The social cost of having the majority of work done by foreigners will not be apparent for many years to come, but one instantaneous by-product of importing workers is the high rate of unemployment among the local population. 
     A quick search on the Internet will present unemployment figures ranging anywhere from Trading Economics estimate of 20.60%, to Recruiter UK’s 4% estimate, and finally to the lowest estimate to be found, 2.4% in the CIA’s World Fact Book.  But whichever way you look at it, with the country’s Emirati population numbering around 800,000, even the lowest estimate found is too high to ignore.   However the high rate of unemployment wasn’t causing sleepless nights until Mohammad Ezz Al Deen revealed in 2009 that the World Bank identified unemployment as being a major factor holding the country back in an article for Gulfnews.  It was then that the affirmative action policy of Emiratisation was put into overdrive. 
     Emiratisation was established approximately a decade previously in a bid to ensure the country’s citizens were being incorporated into the workforce in a significant way.  It’s not there to get Emiratis working at any cost. You won’t come across Emiratis driving taxis or serving behind a shop counter as a result of Emiratisation.  It’s there to promote higher education and jobs that require tertiary qualifications. 
     Emiratisation is a policy that falls under the mantle of affirmative action.  Affirmative action was a phrase first used publicly by President Kennedy in 1961, but according to the National Organisation of Women, it wasn’t until the Johnson Administration that the policy actually became legislation for the first time.  Since its conception, many countries have engaged affirmative action policies to ensure minorities are provided opportunities in higher education and the workforce.  
     Victoria University’s Catherine Iorns Magallanes cites 1977 as the year that New Zealand first included affirmative action into legislation to ensure that Maori were given equal opportunities. These regulations were updated in 2004 under the Bi-Cultural Action Act.  As with all universities in the country, the Faculty of Law at Wellington’s Victoria University reserves 10% of places for Maori and although this quota is generally not filled, it is there in an attempt to facilitate more Maori graduating as lawyers. 
     I’ve fallen victim to New Zealand’s quota system when I applied for a higher-level position at the Maori radio station where I was working as an announcer.  It’s pretty tough being turned down for a position based on race but I rationalised it by approaching it from an empathy angle.  I finally had a taste of how it had been for Maori for so long. 
     The first jobs to be Emiratised were secretarial and human resource positions across all industries.  Any expatriate working in those positions did not lose their job per se, but contracts were not to be renewed.  The banking and insurance industries were the next to fall under Emiratisation with a slight change in direction.  They were required to hire Emiratis in any suitable position that became vacant.  The next area to undergo Emiratisation is the justice system. According to Samir Salama, Associate Editor of Gulfnews, the Ministry of Justice expects to ‘emiratise the judicial system by the end of 2012’.    
     The government has changed the mandates surrounding the policy several times over the years and recently introduced penalties for failing to employ Emiratis in the designated positions in order to ensure compliance.  But word on the street is that many companies prefer to face the fine for continuing to employ their experienced, skilful expatriate as opposed to employing an Emirati who demands more money and shorter hours.
     Dr. Kasim Randeree of the British University of Dubai claims that it’s the Ministry of Labour’s wish for 50 percent of the workforce to be Emirati by 2015.   However, this goal is hindered by a number of things: the preference of Emiratis to work in the public sector; the perceptions private sector employers have of Emiratis not being as efficient as expatriate workers; and the difference in salary between Emiratis and expats affecting profit margins. 
     In the past, Emiratis flocked to the public sector because of the higher salary and benefits such as cost of living allowance, allowance for children, pension and other retirement benefits.   In fact it’s been estimated that 80 percent of Emiratis in the workforce, work for the public sector.  It’s not surprising when rumours circulate of pay increases of up to 70 percent.  In an attempt to create more interest in the private sector, Maktoob Business explains that the government has put forth a bill compelling the private sector to offer UAE nationals the same benefits as offered in public sector job.  Labour Minister, Saqr Gobash told the Khaleej Times in February that companies offering benefits along the same lines as the public sector tend to employ the greatest number of Emiratis.  But attracting Emiratis to jobs is not the only obstacle.  Retaining Emirati employees in the private sector has also been a struggle.  The longer hours and realisation that promotions don’t generally come without merit are all detractors.   It is unfortunate that this plays into the stereotype some expatriates have of Emiratis wanting to be managers or nothing.
     In the Gulf region Emiratisation is not alone – Oman has Omanisation, Qatar has Qatarization and Saudi has Saudization.  It’s not merely another avenue for the government to heap unearned rewards on an undeserving citizenry, it’s actually an honest attempt at motivating the nation.  However, in a country where the CIA World Fact Book estimated the 2009 GDP at US$38,900 per capita, it’s hard to understand the necessity for such a policy.  In most countries with an affirmative action policy, the need is obvious – the under-representation and marginalisation of minorities is apparent.  Although Emiratis are completely outnumbered in the workforce, describing them as being marginalised is a far cry from reality.  In fact, according to some, many of those unemployed are so out of choice… why work when the government generously provides you with everything you need. It’s no secret that being Emirati is a passport to an easier life than most people experience.  ‘I would not have the same opportunities in any other country’, says MM.  ‘As an Emirati, the government provided me with a generous scholarship to study abroad and then when I returned home, I was provided with an attractive job in the oil industry where I was earning a very good wage.’  
     The benefits available to Emiratis include a piece of land if you are a male with an undergraduate degree, interest free loans, a lump sum for marrying an Emirati, free undergraduate degrees, free water, free medical care from the best hospitals in the country and knowing that whatever you do at work, or what you don’t do as the case may be, you can never be fired.  Sounds attractive.  But are these initiatives helping or hindering the country?  Why work hard when you can have all that for very little effort in return.  Who among us would work hard if we really didn’t have to?
     Affirmative action is a bit of a double-edged sword.  To some it’s nothing more than reverse racism, disadvantaging those that actually want to work and earn a decent living.  But for many, the bottom line is that it’s an unfair world out there and any help afforded to those who are marginalised has to be a positive move.  Whether Emiratis fit into that category or not, the crux of the matter is that it’s their country and they are free to put whatever policies they see fit into place.  
     It’s not all doom and gloom though.  Looking at the opportunities available for Emirati job seekers on the various government backed websites, starting salaries of AED35,000/month are not uncommon.  While experience is required for some positions, many require absolutely none, even though they are termed ‘senior’ positions.  Take that, add a pinch of wasta, and you’ve potentially got yourself a winning combination.  The wasta factor goes a long way to securing a top job requiring very little, if any, effort.  Every country has a networking system but usually it’s what gets you the interview not the job.  In a capitalist environment, everybody has to be able to bring something to the table.  But in an oil rich setting, where there is more than enough money to hire somebody to assist you, no such prerequisites are required. However all is not equal across the seven emirates that comprise the UAE.  The most attractive jobs in the country are those attached to the capital.   Abu Dhabi, having 90% of the country’s oil reserves, can afford to pay their citizens well.  
     What impact has Emiratisation had on the country so far? There has been a visible increase in Emiratis in the workforce.  If you go into a bank you’ll probably come face-to-face with an Emirati.  If you go to pay a parking fine, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with an Emirati.  And let’s not forget the recent addition to the Etihad Airways cabin crew.  Nevertheless as far as statistics go, unfortunately there’s not a lot to be found.  It’s interesting how there can be so many assertions as to the success of Emiratisation when there are very few statistics to back up the claims, but the evidence is in view.  Despite that, perhaps the million dirham question should be… is employing an Emirati good for business?
     An expatriate with 30 plus years in the construction industry describes the Emiratis he works with as not being able to make decisions without going through a million and one hoops.  ‘They bring this wealth of knowledge from all around the world but don’t seem to want to listen to them.’  He says they are very reliant on people they can trust because they can’t trust their own decisions because of lack of experience.  
Another Westerner, LH, has a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and 14 years experience.  During his time in the UAE, he experienced two very different types of Emirati worker.  Many of the management team had never seen a functioning industry before, much less worked in one.  ‘They don’t listen.  They don’t ask.  They don’t do teamwork. They give commands.’ However one particular Emirati that stood out for LH was MM.  ‘If this country had more men like him  they could really do something.’  The difference with MM was that he wanted to work and to learn,  ‘He never wanted to get more than he deserved, and I really appreciated that.’  
     This is MM's second job after studying in the States.  MM, an engineer, is presently working 10 – 12 hour days leading up to meeting his deadline.  ‘There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day at the moment.  Even when I get home I’m still thinking about work.  I work more hours than anyone I know’.  He admits that he tends to associate with the expatriate workers in the company more than the Emiratis and puts this down to the camaraderie.   ‘For some reason Emiratis don’t do the teamwork thing very well.’ The thing MM really loves about his job is being able to stand alongside the Westerners working in the company, and being able to hold his ground.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  It took a while before he was accepted as having the know-how for the position.  ‘At first, I wasn’t taken seriously; I had to earn that right!  It didn’t bother me.  I enjoy my job.  Not only because I’m good at it, but also because now I’ve proven to everybody that I deserve it.’
     And there are more like him.  Luckily there is a new Emirati out there.  An educated, hard working, motivated and ambitious set that want to compete through skill rather than handouts.   AK and FM are two individuals who want to make a difference.  
     AK is a project co-ordinator.  ‘At times people were a bit reluctant to give me responsibility.  They didn’t know me or know what I’m capable of.  Then they saw my work – the quality of my work is good.’  AK believes that Emiratisation is very important but he thinks its implementation could be better: ‘Companies are bringing people in, not because they want to give them responsibility, but to boost statistics.’ 
--> In his view, not integrating Emiratis fully into the company is bad because it kills their ambition.  ‘A person starts losing motivation and knowledge.  I’ve seen it happen.  It happened to me.’  A positive side to Emiratisation is the increase of women in the workforce.  He sees this as beneficial because they influence men with their professionalism and hard work.   Ultimately AK would like to have his own company, and is presently studying towards an MBA to add to his engineering degree. 
     Another aspect of Emiratisation is to encourage Emirati women to enter the workforce.  FM manages to juggle married life and working in a Public Relations Unit.  After earning a degree in Communication and Media Sciences, she entered the workforce ‘wanting to contribute to the establishment of the country’.  When asked if she considers herself ambitious, she is very quick to answer yes. “I love my job in PR and I do see myself in a higher position in the future".  Although she doesn’t know how it will be when she has children, at this stage she intends to keep working. 
     It’s nice when you find yourself in the position of witnessing change – especially when it’s stereotypes that are being changed.  The stereotype of the inefficient, self-serving Emirati will probably be around for a long time to come, but the new breed of Emirati worker is starting to make a dent in it.   There remains division amongst many Westerners as to whether the Emirati attitude towards work will change.  But Emiratis want to run their businesses just as they wanted to run their country 39 years ago.  It took commitment back then to remove the foreign influence, and it will take commitment now to learn what needs to be known to run all aspects of the public and private sectors.  Can it be done? Look around Abu Dhabi – could anybody have imagined that any of this was possible.  Out of the desert sands grew skyscrapers, a 7-star hotel, multi-storey shopping malls, and resorts.  Yes, anything is possible on these sun-drenched shores. 
Reference List
Al Deen, Mohammad Ezz, No more emiratisation quotas soon, Gulfnews, 12 July 2009.   Retrieved 15 September 2010 from
AK, interview conducted, Wednesday, 27 October 2010, Dubai.
Arafa, Adel, Public sector benefits for private sector Emiratis, Khaleej Times, Wednesday, 04 February 2010.  Retrieved 17 October 2010 from
CIA, World Fact Book (updated 20 October 2010). Retrieved 15 October 20101 from
Construction interview conducted, Saturday, 23 October 2010, Abu Dhabi.  (Interviewee wishes to remain anonymous.)
LH, interview conducted, Saturday, 23 October, Abu Dhabi.
FM, interview conducted, Tuesday, 26 October 2010, Abu Dhabi.
Magallanes, Catherine Iorns, Application of Affirmative Action Law in New Zealand: Uncertainty in Coverage, Definition and Results.  Retrieved 13 October 2010 from
Maktoob Business, Govt benefits for Emiratis in private jobs, Thursday, 04 February 2010.  Retrieved 17 October 2010 from
Ministry of Economy, ‘Census 2005 U.A.E’. Retrieved 8 September 2010 from
MM, interview conducted, Friday, 22 October, Abu Dhabi.
Nagraj, Aarti, How will emiratization succeed?, Kipp Report, Friday, 12 February 2010.  Retrieved 15 October 2010 from
Randeree, Kasim, 2009, ‘Strategy, Policy and Practice in the Nationalisation of Human Capital: Project Emiratisation’, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 17(1), 71-91.  Retrieved 18 October 2010 from 
Recruiter, UAE unemployment rises to 4%, 13/7/09.  Retrieved 15 October 2010 from
Salama, Samir, Ministry plans to emiratise system by 2010, Emiratisation.Org, Wednesday 20 January 2010.  Retrieved 14 October 2010 from
Sykes, Marquita, National Organisation for Women, The Origins of Affirmative Action, August, 1995. Retrieved 13 October 2010 from
Trading Economics, United Arab Emirates Unemployment Rate.  Retrieved 15 October 2010 from