Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I'm going with hell to the no

This is what a feminist looks like?!

THIS article from the New York Times is rIIIIIdiculous. If I wrote letters, I'd write a letter.

Parents looking for role models for teenage daughters: Finally there is a show for you. “Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll,” which is to have its premiere on Tuesday night on the CW network, may look like just another reality show with attractive, slinkily dressed women preening for the camera in the hope of a shot at stardom. But “Pussycat Dolls Present” is about female empowerment, the show’s producers explained to a group of television writers and critics here in January

The article suggests that the Pussycat Dolls are 'clad in feminism' due to their sexual empowering performances. Sexual. Empowerment. Sexual empowerment comes in nudity and child-like characters?!?!

“They feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a Doll. It’s fun, and it’s something that every girl in the world — she may think one thing, but I think inside every girl in the world wants to do it.”

This article links the Dolls to third-wave feminism. I agree. And while I think there are libratory functions to be had within the third-wave, examples like this make my head explode. If this was a truly feminist text, the show would be talking about ways advertising/male-dominated entertainment constrain women. The Dolls wouldn't perform (on a stage!) to music that refers to sexually empowered women as Freaks. It raises another question--why is it that when middle/upper-class, white women strip they are seen as provocative and liberated but when lower class women have to perform to survive it is seen as dirty and degrading?

Thumbs down NYT. And thumbs down to all people who think feminism has boiled down to this.

Parents?! If you're looking for role-models for your teenage daughters, turn off the television and give them a book.

Holy cow...head exploding....



Blogger Matt said...

Of course I don't have the rhetorical background that you do, but I guess I'm confused. If you agree that letting women own the agency over their bodies is a good thing, why does this not qualify as an empowering act in the name of feminism? Is it an all or nothing game, that the show absolutely HAS to talk about "ways advertising/male-dominated entertainment constrain women"? Why can this not qualify for a pro-feminism act as well? Because surely allowing young girls to see that its okay to take ownership over your sexuality is a good thing.

It seems almost like a catch 22. If you're comfortable with your sexuality, people can always say that you're allowing men to objectify women. But if you hide your sexuality, people say that there's something wrong in the world that you can't own it and feel proud of it.

Blogger kristen said...

I think there are many who would agree with you, Matt. Lots of third wave feminists (sex positive feminists) argue much of the same thing. HOWEVER...I question that view of feminism. It is not enough to be sexually empowered. Rather, women need to be sexually empowered for themselves...not sure if that makes sense...let me unpack it a little more.

At the point that these sexually liberated women are being compared to dolls, animals, freaks they cease being liberated. So a better message would be--take control of your sexuality in a way that you don't become a characture.

My second wave nature woudl prefer that they also talk about material issues that women face...That was always my big problem with Sex in the City--the women were sexually liberated but they never confronted things like wage earning, balancing motherhood/workplace, Identity politics, etc, etc, etc....BUT even if I put those influences aside, I would argue that there *can* be liberatory aspects of being sex positive but being dressed like a school girl and dancing to music that almost makes fun of your sexual exploits is not liberatory.

And, finally, I would argue that these women don't have agency over their own bodies. I guess they h ave the choice to go on the show but reality t.v. isn't very real (i think we can all agree with that) thus, the women are being controlled by the financial interests of the show. They are a commodity.

Blogger Matt said...

Just a quick question regarding "At the point that these sexually liberated women are being compared to dolls, animals, freaks they cease being liberated."

Aren't they the ones that have voluntarily taken that stance, though? Its not like its just the media that attaches that label; they themselves embrace the label "doll" and lyrics of "freaks." Sure, you can always say that producers and managers coerced them into it, I guess. But it seems like the band members are coming out and speaking publicly about being proud of what they are and what they represent.

In the same vein, when blacks use the term "nigger" in rap music or casual conversation, is progress towards reducing racism also set back? Because people usually view that as the movement reclaiming the rhetoric and using it as an empowering catalyst.

Blogger kristen said...

well...my argument about choice is two fold
1. structures of control and power circumvent choice. they are playing the interests of others not their own
2. if they CHOOSE those labels, i would argue that that view of sexuality is not empowered NOR feminist. choice over one's body is not enough to qualify as liberated and femist

next, i don't really get your connection to the african american community...you don't really choose to be part of a racial group but you choose to be a feminist. that means to be part of a feminist community you behave in a certain way, respect certain values, etc...and while there is variation about those values/goals/etc i would argue that the pussycat dolls and the theme of this show violates all of those basic premises. but if i'm going to answer the racist inquiry on face, i would say it is empowering AND a setback...i feel about those words the same way i feel about irony...when you use either of these tools (reclaiming words and/or irony/humor) you have to account for all the stupid people out there. most people don't look at the word bitch and think 'gee, i bet that woman is reclaiming it...how empowering' therefore, i shy away from using it. BUT i get the choice to use it since i'm a woman. the same holds true for the 'n' word. if people in the community want to use it and view it as empowering then they should...i just disagree with the ends it produce.

Blogger Privatjokr said...

Some women have the intelligence to take over the world.

Some women have the good looks to take over the world.

Not everyone can have both like you, Kristen (brownie points?). Stop being so greedy and let the poor girls use the talent and gifts that they have been given to make a living. It may objectify them in your mind, which is why you don't do it. But it is subjectively reasonable to them, which is why they do.

Blogger kristen said...

peter...i do agree with you. BUT i would thank the media very much to NOT call what they do feminism. what they do is use their looks to get into the entertainment industry..that is not inherently feminist.

oh, if only the world could be filled with more women like me. hehe.

Blogger kristen said...

and here i thought peter would comment on my recent book post! i should have known better...;)

Blogger Privatjokr said...

I haven't read Franzen. But I may or may not be a fan of women who flaunt themselves as Yin to my testosterone-laden Yang.

Blogger Becky C. said...

Couldn't agree more. In fact, I do consider myself Third Wave, postmodern, neo, whatever--but I was pretty ticked off by trying to wrap a strip tease in feminist respectability.

So much so I blogged on it today also.


Blogger kristen said...

Becky, thanks for posting! I'm going to check out your blog...I'm interested on a third-waver's take!

Blogger Privatjokr said...

Wait...Becky, doesn't the picture in your Blogger profile page completely contradict any argument you make on this issue?

Blogger kristen said...

I bet Becky is going to say (and I would concur) that sexuality is a-ok and controlling one's sexuality is a-ok....thus, the problem with the dolls is not their overt sexuality but their lack of control over the issue.

Blogger ICONOCLAST said...

All hail third wave feminism. They're the only ones getting it right in Africa and India. I like it when the second-wavers stick to the states. As this show proves, there's plenty of domestic material. So I say rant on...

Anonymous Nicole said...

It IS a problem if the only way that women can feel empowered is through their sexuality... and an animalistic sexuality at that. Just because they ostensibly make these "choices" does not mean that it is not problematic for all women. The fact that the show exists at all is a slap in the face to feminism... like it or not. Women who are celebrated for acting like dolls and animals are not liberated, they are the opposite- so, if we do agree that third wave feminism might hold the potential to change things for women, this is not what it looks like. This is sexism (and exploitation) in a new dress.

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