Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Female Chauvinists?

Growing up, NPR was always something of a nuisance to me, not because of anything even related to the station itself really, but moreso because of my dad. He’s the biggest news junkie I’ve ever known in my life, and that would be one of the many news stations he’d always have blaring in the house after he’d come in from work, blaring in the family van during those long are-we-there-yet road trip vacations or just blaring, period.
I mean, seriously, if you want to watch my mom or sister instantly cringe in agitation, just start playing the theme song to “All Things Considered.”

Ironically though, I guess the older I get I inherit some of his habits because I’ve actually grown to love the station and am somewhat of a regular listener. I mean, they always have some of the most intriguing stories and interviews and a couple of weeks ago, there was one that especially got my attention.

It was an interview with this young writer named Ariel Levy and her latest book “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.”
Now, to me, the title says it all. Levy takes a look at post-feminist society’s, especifically women’s, attitudes toward and perceptions of sex in contrast with previous attitudes and perceptions held 30 years ago during the women’s lib movement and the sexual revolution.

To make a long story short, it proposes that today’s culture is more hyper-sexualized and unlike 30 years ago, women are mostly doing it to themselves. She examines the whole spectrum and studies women of all ages, including teens who think it’s cooler to aspire to be on Girls Gone Wild than run for Congress. And this isn’t just some talking head or something. I mean Levy actually hung out, talked with and interviewed these people.

Of course I'm planning to purchase the book, once I get past this holiday shopping hump and then I'll have even MORE to say.

As I continued to listen to this interview, I just kept nodding my head like “Yeah! That’s so real!” My mind wandered back to a concert I covered several years ago when the Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera tour came to the CenturyTel Center.

The show nearly sold out. Justin and Christina shined. But what I remember most was how many hundreds of pre-teens and teen girls I saw donning skimpy halters, skin-tight shorts and mini-skirts trying to reveal stuff they didn’t even have. I mean, seriously, I didn't know sexy now came in the form of a 10-year-old body.

Pop culture, to me, is a clear indicator. It was only like 10, maybe 15 years ago when Janet Jackson was one of the hottest stars out there, period. Fully-clothed, dressed in black from head to toe dancing and singing about a “Rhythm Nation.” And if it wasn't her, it was Debbie Gibson, Tiffany or Whitney Houston (Yeah, I took it waaaay back.) And the most you saw them in were denim outfits and fun head bands.
Fast forward even 10 years later and you got Britney Spears scantily clad, sweating and panting about how “I’m a Slave 4 U.”

I’m not saying sex or sexiness is bad at all. Come on now, let's keep it real. All I’m saying is that I think Levy makes a valid point in saying that society is definitely more hyper-sexualized, women are definitely more objectified, and amazingly, it’s largely us women doing it to ourselves.

Look, Levy can explain it much better than I can. Check out this excerpt. Or listen to the NPR interview here.

Now can I get a “Amen”…or a “Hell naw”? Men, you’re welcome into this discussion as well.


Diane Haag said...

Nothing but a hearty Amen from this corner! Somewhere women confused feminism with giving away our sexuality. In the past, women were seen as house-cleaning, baby making machines. Today, we're all to often pieces of meat to be discarded with tomorrow's empty beer bottles. Somewhere in there is balance, which I believe is what we all want.

Joel Anderson said...

You know what I blame? "Sex in the City."

Seriously. I feel like the dialogue between men and women went southerly right around the time that show became popular.

Women and some girls somehow thought it was cool to act and talk like guys. One of my favorite writers, Chuck Klosterman, says the show "seems to imply that it's empowering for women to think like all of the stupidest men I know (myself included)."

Klosterman later writes, "Both Sarah Jessica Parker and Calista Flockhart have turned adolescent girls into adolescent boys."

And, while selfishly as a young man this is more than OK to me, it doesn't bode well for the next generation of women. You know, those women who will become mothers and the girls who will be their daughters.

I can see the short term benefit in this; I love it, in fact. But, as a guy pondering the sort of father I may someday have to become, the future of our girls really worries me.

Donecia Pea said...

Whaaaaaat?! I can't believe Joel and I actually AGREE on something here! Lol, who woulda thunk it?! That was really enlightening insight, Joel. Especially the line about turning adolescent girls into adolescent boys. Although I feel Klosterman teetered on the verge of sounding sexist with that line, I do get his point. I don't know if the blame can totally be on Sex and the City (Hey! I loved that show! Definitely not MY reality, but good TV all the same.) And I'm definitely not ready to blame Calista Flockhart (loved LOVED "Ally McBeal" - watched EVERY single eppy! In fact, I love anything she's in. She reps for us oft-misunderstood females out there!) But I do agree in general that pop cult definitely should take alot of blame for perpetuating and promoting such images.

Diane, thanks for the hearty Amen, and you're right - all we want is balance. You don't have to be Miss Prude, but you don't have to be Miss Skank either to prove your sexual liberation or to prove you're a cool chica. Don't believe the hype young girls - it's not cute or sexy in the long run.