Archive for Objectification

Stuff We Forgot

Have you seen the BBC 4 three part documentary “Women”?
If you haven’t, you should. After all, it’s not everyday that we get to see feminism on the telly. And we should really make the most of it while it lasts.

The Guardian has published a critique of the programme’s third part, “Activists”, titled “Enough middle-class feminism” and written by a middle-class feminist. Her words seem to have struck a chord. Her intentions were probably good, as evidenced by this line:

“They have lots to say about the media objectification of women but, bizarrely, little to say about consumerism or capitalism.”

Unfortunately it goes downhill after that.

We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we will be here again. Every time feminists attack the sex industry somebody is compelled to butt in and tell us that “we are not dealing with what really matters”. My opinion on the subject hasn’t changed: the sex industry, especially in it’s everyday manifestation of pr0n, advertising, entertainment, media, et al, and it’s spilling over as the “beauty” industry, that’s fashion, dieting, looks, et al, is the only remaining ideological tool with which women are being oppressed in the realm of the superstructure. (And all this theory is way out of my league!). What on Earth am I trying to say? Simple. The message still is “women, stay in your place”, because women must, at all costs, stay in their place. But now they can’t come out and say it like that. The religious arguments don’t hold much water in rich, liberal democratic societies. The biological determinist idea that women are just not good at the “big stuff” has been reduced to shreds through decades of feminist theorizing, researching and probably Margaret Thatcher. The arrangement of woman as “mother and homemaker” can’t apply anymore, because now every adult human is needed in the labour market to keep productivity high and wages low. To recap. “Women are not as good as men because Christ wasn’t a woman”, crossed. “Women are just not as good as men, they are not rational, intelligent, whatever”, crossed. “A woman’s place is in the home”, crossed. What are we left with? “Women are just good for sh*gging”. Or pretty things to look at.

Back to the article, I have to say it does bring up something that crossed my mind when I was watching the documentary: sure, sure, the sex industry should be killed with fire, but… what about the other stuff? There’s not even a hint of a critique of capitalism. I can’t remember anyone acknowledging that not every human being, or every feminist for that matter, lives in London.

That said, I am getting increasingly tired of everyone and their dog using the “where are the working class women” card to attack feminism, of the second wave or the third one. Feminism doesn’t have monopoly rights over forgetting the working class. And it most certainly isn’t the only movement to forget working class women. To put it bluntly, feminism forgot about the working class just as the Left forgot about women. There’s enough guilt to spread around.
And if we’re going to be painfully honest, the Left has forgotten about the working class as well. Deprived of its core ideology, that is, the economy, it has been left rumbling about like an undead corpse, kept alive exclusively by debates over politically correct language and multiculturalism. Hardly conducive of revolutionary change. And if you ask uneducated, ignorant, old me, this is too similar to what feminism has been reduced to, that is, focus on the culture and the ideas, the “superstructure”, and leave the “base” intact.

What we have in our hands is the conflict of how to go about changing the root of the problem when all we can see is its effect on the surface. Feminists attack the discursive ideas of women as sex objects because that’s where we see misogyny and oppression taking place. In reality it stems from some place else, but what that is or where exactly it’s located, we have no clue.
The traditional Left, however, has known what it needs to do to revolutionize society for more than a century. What’s their (our) excuse?

I’m beginning to think that women’s oppression and worker’s oppression share a common root, and that both should be tackled at the same time. These ideas are too fresh in my mind, however, to write about them as of yet.

Before you go, take a look at this article on a seemingly entirely unrelated topic, “Yes, striking is a human right”. There’s this one word that got me thinking…

“The real question we should be asking is not why do people strike, but why they do not do so more often? To respond by saying that workers are all happy bunnies compared with their forebears would not be the right answer.”

Could the sex industry and capitalism have more in common than we previously thought?

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“Is This Enlightening?”

I have just stumbled across this article from Sarah Montague, from BBC Radio 4 titled “Is This Empowering?”. We feminists know that every so often someone will attempt at commenting on the new “Raunch Culture”, but fall shortly of really saying anything so as to not piss off the masses too much. This doesn’t seem to be justified, since the BBC is financially supported by the state and so doesn’t depend on people “liking” your product and “consuming” it. This attitude makes me cry at the top of my voice “Can you please stop trying to be “neutral”, a.k.a. “morally relativistic”, and give your DAMN opinion on something for a change?”.

This article is the most worthless use of media space I’ve seen in the whole day. The author isn’t:
a) Informing us of anything we don’t know already.
b) Giving us her opinion on that which we already know
or c) Providing us with a wide and varied selection of different opinions so we can think things through under a new light
What she IS doing is drawing attention to something we already know is going on, then failing to take a stand somewhere and give us her opinion on it, but instead providing us with the most mainstream of ideas about the topic there are.
Her whole article could be summarized as: “we know this happens, but bleh. And someone else thinks ‘well, yeah, bleh’”. All so very enlightening!

I only whish they had asked me to write about this. I could literally come up with a whole book on the topic. Some of my many opinions on this in bullet point form:
1) The ability to titillate men is not a high moral purpose, ergo it is not, or should not be, desirable.
2) Women’s confidence, sexual or otherwise, shouldn’t be tied to male approval.
3) If we go from thinking that women ought to be “virgins” to be “sluts” we are not really changing anything.
4) Women shouldn’t be reduced to sexual objects. And reducing themselves to sexual objects doesn’t make it one bit better.
5) Making money out of presenting yourself as a sexual object doesn’t make it morally right.
6) The bogus sexual “power” women could have over men by presenting themselves as sexual objects, the source of the so-called “empowerment”, is not morally right or desirable.
7) Women’s sexuality shouldn’t be reduced to appealing to men’s sexual fantasies.

But I guess the author couldn’t expand on any of these points because that would mean expressing truly unpopular ideas.

So, to summarize, I would like to let everyone out there who might feel the itch to discuss about the new “empowerment” that women feel when titillating men in this most extreme ways. Either inform us of something new, express your opinion on it or describe other people’s opinions on it. And try to remember that the easiest approach to something, or the most popular for that matter, is not always the best one.

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The “F*ck Me” Look

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 What is “The F*ck Me Look” you ask? I only have a vague idea. But Gail Dines knows this stuff much better. This is an excerpt of what she said about it at the “Pornography and Pop Culture” Conference. (Please keep in mind that this was a live speech and I’m quoting it verbatim)

“She’s speaking to the presumed spectator who of course is male and what she’s saying is very clear: “F*ck Me”. (…). The problem with this is that males in our culture are socialized in a society in which they are bombarded with the “F*ck Me” look, where it offers visual entitlement to ownership of women’s bodies. And what is rape and sexual assault if not taking them up on that offer that she’s offering. The only trouble is that she’s not walking down the street, WE ARE. This has tremendous implications. When Madonna goes out, and talks about women and puts out the message that women are exactly as men thought they are (pornographic men), it’s all right for Madonna to say that, cuz’ you know what, she travels with beefy guys who protect her. It’s you and I walking in that fucking parking lot at night that have to deal with the guys who believe this. So that’s the problem when women talk about their choices is that every single one of us suffers in some level.”

Feel free to use the picture for all your feminist purposes.

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Gee, I Wonder Why You Choose To Look Like You Want To Get Raped

In this article, Leslie Goldman writes about that American Apparel billboard ad, with the woman with her back to the camera, her legs spread out, in which someone has cheekily sprayed the words “Gee, I wonder why women get raped”, the question mark between her thighs.
She criticizes the practise of using sex to sell, which is of course always demeaning to women. It all goes well until she says that the picture in question was the self-portrait of a real woman, implying that that kind of makes it ok. The author-model is quoted saying

“the fact that some people chose to project ‘victim’ onto that image — an image that I took of myself — is only an indication of their own distorted perceptions about women and sexuality.”

It’s good to know that no woman in the whole history of human kind has ever contributed to her own oppression, de-humanization, sexual abuse, and the like. Really, it is good to know. No woman has ever stayed with an abusive husband. I tell you, the minute a man was raising his hand upon his wife she would be at the door stopping a taxi. And no woman has ever contributed to promote her inferior status. This is why generations of mothers would raise their girls in politics and science, convinced that this would make their daughters more attractive to potential husbands. Oh, and a woman has never, ever presented herself as a piece of meat because, say, she would be able to get food that way. Also, the minute that women the world over realized that they should have the right to vote that men have been enjoying for centuries, they all leapt to their feet and became suffragettes. Not one woman opposed the suffragette movement, not a single one.
Serious, now. Following patriarchy’s well defined path for a woman’s life is rewarding. Pandering the patriarchy is more rewarding still. There’s nothing men like more than a woman who actively embraces her inferiority status; and nothing titillates men more than a woman who loves to present herself as a sex object. This is why whatever a woman chooses to do is NOT OK simply by the fact that she’s a woman and she’s choosing. Because she’s not free to choose. None of us really is, when the price of deviating from that chosen path is so high.

To that model who has chosen so freely and, may I add, wisely, I would say:

1) It’s indeed your right to present yourself as sex on legs to all men in New York who could potentially see the ad. Really it is. The message you are giving with you body, as “dude from company” has said is “Here’s my arse, fork me”. Just one thing. When and if a man spots you walking down the street, recognizes your arse and demands the sex you so eagerly offered, you should have to comply without a peep.
2) Would you have the kindness to present yourself as sex on legs in a way that makes clear it’s only YOU the one doing the offering? Because as this ad stands, it gives the impression that everyone with a vagina in the city of New York is actually suggesting so. You see, this is how the media works, by representing the world and therefore, women in it. It would be very impolite of you to give men the impression that all women are offering up their arses, when in reality is only you. Because if men did indeed get this idea and started demanding the sex we didn’t offer well, it would be considered rape.

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Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women

 

I’ve found a great video titled “Killing Us Softly”. It’s about advertising’s image of women. It’s enlightening, funny, entertaining. It’s only 35 minutes long, which is a shame, but it gives a very good idea of what the problem is. Ideal for women who don’t think advertising is “not important”.

One line I found hilarious:

” ‘Does your husband whish you had larger breasts?’. And if he does the implication is clear, you better change your body, … as opposed to changing your husband.”

Jean Kilbourne is the author of the movie. She has just published a book “Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel“. Her website Jean Kilbourne

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