Monthly Archives: September 2005

Conversation with the Comments

Well, the raunch article is getting all kinds of attention, both on our comments list and in the blogosphere. We were going to write more of our own responses, and then we decided that everyone else’s comments deserved a post all their own.

Here’s a fascinating sample.

Jessica at Feministing is the first reference we found.

“It seems to me that Levy is simplifying the issue–it’s like she’s combining the very different views of different women into this big old glob of naive pro-raunchiness. She uses language associated with younger feminists (i.e., empowerment) while describing actions like buying a “Porn Star” shirt at the mall.

“There’s a big difference between a younger feminist who is trying to understand the complexities of sex work and how it informs her politics, and a young woman flashing for Girls Gone Wild cause boys will like her. And this is not even to say that one pro-raunch action is “better” than the other–I’m not going to fucking lecture some 19 year-old about who she wants to show her tits to. I just think it’s a bit condescending to assume that any kind of pro-pornography perspective is uninformed, and that they’re all the same.

“I just think it’s a bit condescending to assume that any kind of pro-pornography perspective is uninformed, and that they’re all the same.”

On the other hand, And Lizzie has a simple, declarative response in another direction: “I find it disgustingly exploitive. But I’m a humorless ’70s style feminist. ”

Jadelennox comments on our site: But on the other hand, they are also designing clothes for men that sexualize, that outline the body, that make men into more Objects of the Gaze. And I… well, I enjoy looking at men, so I enjoy the fact that now men are wearing sexy clothes.

“That being said, I understand that it is not healthy for people to be trained into thinking of themselves at all times as Objects of a Sexualizing Gaze.”

Amanda at Pandagon riffs off of Jessica’s post above.

“I think it’s also perfectly natural that women put on a degrading, objectifying point of view, because it’s not a male way of thinking so much as it’s the way that people in the patriarchy are supposed to view women. There’s a subtle difference, but I think it’s important, because women enforcing patriarchal standards is hardly a new thing or unique to our culture. This is just a different version of it.”

“But I think there’s a way that sexual display can be framed that isn’t degrading, and I have to say that I know a lot of women who found raunchiness to be a great way to overcome certain insecurities. In fact, from my own experience, raunchiness can be a great way to subvert male dominance, especially if you turn that shit back on men and objectify them a little.”

Lynne Murray has a comment on our site that relates to Amanda’s post:

“A Sluts-R-Us t-shirt will get the wearer attention in a more positive way than an in-your-face political slogan that might force the wearer into an unpleasant dialogue with a (possibly hostile) person who disagrees. So you get much more of a certain kind of power (personal power over individuals) with a sexy statement than with an intellectual or politcal statement. From the perspective of age, I can see that this is a brief moment, but a young person high on the attention has no way of knowing that it can (and will) cease.

“Without any context, awareness or alternative avenues of self-development, a young woman can become addicted to this kind of attention and spend a lifetime trying to re-create it. The male equivalent is the high school jock whose life peaked at age 18.”

We’ll be posting more on this; it’s not too late to join the conversation.

Is It Hot in Here, or Is It Me?

Stef pointed us at this article from last week’s Washington Post. Ariel Levy’s feature is based on her new book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.

The going wisdom is that we now are liberated enough to get implants, we’re empowered enough to start lap dancing. Gloria Steinem and her compatriots were either wrong about these things, or just reacting to them in a different time, when different rules applied. … The question is, when we pick up that “Porn Star” T-shirt, what are we really buying?

You’ve seen the phenomena Levy is writing about; we certainly have. And one reasonable way to read these trends is as a positive, supportable rise in sexuality and sexuality in women, a leveling of the longstanding (even when infinitely refuted) myth that sexual desire and sexual urges are somehow essentially male. And beyond a doubt that’s true.

Another reasonable way to read the same trends is more like Levy’s analysis: women, especially young women, are somehow learning that looking and acting “skanky,” raunchy, visibly sexy is their best shot to make their mark in the world — which means defining their mark in the world by their effect on men. And beyond a doubt that’s true.

Even in this commercialized, commodified culture, you can’t turn on all of the people some of the time, but you can turn on some of the people all of the time. And every society has its own ways of doing that–some commercialized and some acculturated in other ways. “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked upon as simply shocking …” and all that.

We want to explore this further, with feedback. Do you this trend in raunch exciting and hot? Disgustingly exploitive? Boring?

And whether you’re teenage now or you were teenage forty years ago, how did you figure out what was hot for you? How much of it seems like it was socially constructed, and how much feels like it would have been inevitable whether you’d been brought up in contemporary America or 16th century Persia? Or on the moon for that matter?