Full-blown cultural emergency

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Bodies, Gender, Music, Pop Culture, Sex & Sexuality, Sexism
Tags: ,

Just read an opinion piece by Janice Turner in the Times about the idea of pornification as universal empowerment and how screwed up it is. (I use articles as sparking points for my own ideas; this isn’t a commentary, this is my opinion.) She makes the interesting point that many parents are seeing it as a phase, as a fashion akin to grunge or punk.

I can see where this idea is coming from, if indeed people are thinking of it like this. Every generation comes up with a fashion statement that their parents disapprove of, and it does indeed seem like, for girls, this porny image is my generation’s. But look at how pervasive it is. I don’t think that ever before a fashion aesthetic has permeated to this degree; for those who identify as girls or are seen as girls, there is very little escape from the relentless fashion for tits’n’ass (and the sexual objectification, assumption of sexual availability and all the rest of the stuff that goes along with it).

Look at the ‘alternative’ subcultures. Women in metal. Hyper-femininity. Breasts always on show. Makeup. Conventional beauty standards. A lot of legs. Perhaps less of an ass mentality than some areas of music, but the same old slim thing. That’s not alternative. That’s mainstream with more black and awesome music. (I’m a metalhead… doesn’t mean I approve of everything under the metal banner, though.) The idea of a punk girl is mainstream but with more anarchy symbols, unusual hairdye colours and ripped clothes. Ditto virtually every youth subculture that contests the mainstream. There are small scenes that aren’t that… but they’re rare. And of course, in all these scenes, there are the women who defy all that; White Skull are a band that stands out as a metal band with a kickass metal singer and frontperson who just so happens to be a woman.

I’m not contesting that many of the women who present in this way in music and pop culture do find it empowering… but I’m also wondering how many of them see only women who present this way getting success and emulate it for the good of their careers. And then there’s very little recourse for girls to find role models and heroines who aren’t like this, so they may take on board the message that the only way to be a woman is to be like this.

So no. It’s not ‘just a trend, just a phase.’ It’s a full-blown bloody cultural emergency.


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