Just got done reading this piece by Joan Z. Shore at the Huffington Post, in which she states her opinion that women really aren’t liberated today – they are merely sex objects being exploited. This is an argument I’ve seen written by other feminists before, but have neglected to address the topic until now. Shore writes:
Let’s be honest — we have taken women out of the factory, out of the kitchen, out of the maternity ward only to turn them, again, into sex objects. Sixty years ago, they were pin-ups or calendar girls; today, they’re advertising gismos and media bimbos. This isn’t progress — it’s promiscuity parading as freedom. And the biggest danger is that this shallow, cynical view of women ends up making them thoroughly interchangeable, dispensable and, ultimately, vulnerable.
This is not simply a feminist issue; this is a question of where we place our values. As long as we encourage and reward women solely for their entertainment value, we are turning them into dolls and puppets. We are denying their human-ness, and our own. We are creating a seraglio society.
Note the repeated use of the word “we” – it’s used to denote “society”, as in it’s society’s fault these women have chosen the path they have, when the reality is that the majority of women who sell their faces and bodies are doing it because they chose to, not because society forced them to do so. This is yet another all-too familiar example of feminists not wanting to accept responsibility for their actions, or more importantly, what they advocated. The women’s lib/sexual freedom movement of the 60s and 70s helped bring about the voluntary sexualization of women (and I say voluntary meaning that women willingly engage in it) that we see today in part because leading feminists of that time were big on the idea of women being able to do whatever they wanted and whenever ever they wanted with their bodies – including sex with multiple partners whenever and however, sex with other women, sex without responsibility. Anything and everything revolved around sexual freedom. Magazines and books about sex became immensely popular. Cable movie channels showing explict sex scenes would become popular starting in the 80s and continue to be so today.
And nowadays we have some of those same feminists who advocated or believed in that ‘whatever, whenever’ attitude wanting to complain about the fact that hundreds of thousands of women have chosen to use their bodies as sex objects in order to make money. Astounding. While I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that the ‘sex anytime, anywhere, I’ll be fast and loose with my body’ attitude does not equate to ‘progress for women’, I, unlike Shore, am aware of where exactly this attitude stemmed from and it did so, in large part, thanks to feminists of the 60s and 70s who encouraged women to uncover their bodies, shake their booties, and be sexually free to do whatever with whoever. In other words, women were encouraged to be as irresponsible with their bodies as possible, and told not to worry about the consequences of their actions.
What was ‘right’ then, apparently, is wrong today, if what Ms. Shore writes is any indication. Irresponsiblity back then was acceptable because women were just engaging in free love every chance they got as part of their newfound freedom. And for the past couple of decades, in addition to doing that, some of them have also learned to take advantage of their looks by selling them for money via photos, movies, etc. Ironically, back during the time of the women’s lib/sexual revolution movement, conservative female voices decrying what the feministas were preaching were laughed at and called ‘repressed, subservient, old-fashioned, behind the times’ etc simply because they said that the feminist movement was carrying things too far – those drowned out voices tried to get the femmes to understand that what they pushed for would have consequences down the road. They argued that with this newfound sexual freedom came responsibility. They were ignored. Guess what? Those conservative voices were right. The push for sexual freedom without responsibility over time led to an increase in the number of women with sexual diseases, higher illegitimacy rates, and a rise in abortions (once they became legal again).
According to Shore, women are still ‘subjugated’ by men because those men enjoy the sight of the female form (horrors!) and in response, some women cash in. Shore makes the mistake of implying that most of the women who do this do so because they have no choice but to do it, which is a hell of a lot more convenient than admitting to the fact that telling women back in the 60s and 70s that they could be sexually irresponsible with their bodies actually translated into telling women they shouldn’t respect their bodies, which paved the way for the voluntary sexualization of women we see today. Think about it: If a woman respects her body, is she going to share it with just anyone? No self-respecting woman would. Sharing it over and over again – whether it be through sex, or revealing photos, or what have you – isn’t a sign of respect for your body, I don’t care how you spin it. Men don’t respect women who are fast and loose with their bodies, either. They might enjoy looking at them and, ahem, spending a little time with them, but they don’t enjoy coming home to them.
Feminists have always been fond of talking about how women should be empowered sexually, but in the process ignore where the real ‘sexual empowerment’ begins. It looks as though Shore realizes now, as I do, that the real ‘sexual power’ (if it should even be called that) was and always has been in the mystery of the female mind, body, and soul – and holding on to that mystery, not in literally and figuratively putting it out there on the table at drop of a hat. Too bad Shore doesn’t realize that what’s happening today has come about in part thanks to what the feminists of yesteryear – feminists she no doubt admired – pushed for with extreme vigor, because if she did understand and admit to the root causes of the problem, she might be able to come up with solutions better than this one:
We look in revulsion at Muslim women wrapped in scarves and veils. We pity them, and we despise the male chauvinism that imposes that on them. But here’s the catch: they are not caught up in our Western cult of exhibitionism and vanity. They are not openly competing with each other for men and men’s favors. They are even, to a large degree, protected from assault and rape because they are virtually invisible. Home is their domain, husbands are their guardians.
Somewhere, between that repressive culture and our own permissive one, there must be a middle way.
Shore almost seems to be taking the same attitude of western convert to Islam Yvonne Ridley, whose delusional piece about Islam and feminism I discussed at length Sunday. Not a good sign.
The solutions to the problem of sexualization should start in the home, with parents (rather than teachers) talking to their sons and daughters about respecting their bodies and making sure they know that it’s not a toy. The biggest battle comes not so much from getting parents to do that – because I’m sure most do try and instill a sense of values in their children, values that include loving and respecting one’s self – but culturally, through the images we see in magazines, on TV, on the Internet. Cultural reinforcement of good values, like abstinence until marriage, would go a long way towards reversing the social ills that radical feminism hath wrought. Ultimately, of course, the decision on what to do with their bodies is up to women themselves, but if we devoted as much time in this country to encouraging a strong sense of pride and respect in ourselves and our bodies as we did to glorifying sex, think about the positive social influence it could have on society as a whole, and look at the potential for real progress to be made. Sadly, that’s a more idealistic than realistic approach, as I don’t see America changing culturally as far as attitudes about sex are concerned anytime soon, if ever. Even today conservatives get laughed at for preaching the value of modesty. The Janet Jackson Super Bowl boob flash controversy almost three years ago is a perfect illustration of that. Every name in the book was thrown at conservatives after that: “prude” and “repressed” are two that come to mind.
I should also state for the record that I believe Shore way overstates her case and makes it sound like there aren’t many women out there who have been successful based on anything other than their looks. Yes, there are women out there who sell their looks for cash, but I believe there are far more women who have made it using their brains: Nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, CEOs, and so many more. But I won’t deny there is a problem with the voluntary sexualization of women – and I also won’t deny some of the root causes of this problem. You have to be able to recognize what those problems are in order to try and not repeat those mistakes. Along with that I won’t stop advocating solutions that may seem hopeless now. Who knows? One day we may see a modesty revolution – ‘twould be interesting to see the feministas reaction to that one, eh? If there ever is such a revolution, yours truly will be standing on the front lines of it. In fact, I think I already am
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