Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blood boiling over post (the beginning of a long series, I suspect)

Caveat: To anyone offended by foul language, do not read this. I started to self-censor, but quit. Sometimes cursing is necessary.

I just watched a few minutes of the Victoria's Secret "Fashion" Show on tv. It made me almost physically ill. Dick asked "What are they selling?" I answered "the stuff that's on the commercials." My first answer, unspoken, was that they were selling sex, but I realized that sex was only the come-on.

How many girls and women are made miserable by these beauty standards and the presentation of females who are, quite frankly, freaks of nature (and plastic surgery)? How normal is it to be nearly six feet tall and have a body that looks pre-pubescent everywhere except the bustline? I know I once had some statistics about the answer to that question on this blog somewhere. . .

Watching these girls (and yes, they are girls) prance, strut, wiggle their asses and blow kisses to the audience (and who the hell is in the audience?), teeter on eight inch heels, pull their tops off to reveal their ooh-so-secret bras, act as if they have some great power (as if). . .sheesh, I'm all worked up with anger. No, really, I'm not joking. I'm enraged.

I also think of my father, who loves these spectacles. This is what he think women should look like. If he were with me, he'd be poking me in the ribs as if I was a co-conspirator and telling me how much every man truly wants that.

Last week I mentioned to someone how my father told me I better cultivate an interesting personality because I wasn't an attractive female. At the age of 14 or so, I believed him. Now I see one of the few photographs of me as a young woman and see that I was actually quite beautiful. Here's what I thought: I'm so ugly I can't look people in the eye. I wish I could wear a bag over my head. I wish I could have surgery. The only reason anyone is attracted to me is that men will screw anything with a pulse. And, thankfully, I also occasionally thought "fuck you."

On this show tonight, they showed girls who had competed to become a Victoria's Secret model. They went to a kind of boot camp. One man examined a girl's ass like he was looking at cattle. "What do you like about your body?" he asked her. She said she basically liked everything. Now, that's unusual in our society. He grinned and said she was in for a rude awakening. It wasn't good enough. We saw her sweat it out in the boot camp, practically crying, as he yelled "I can't feel it!" He inspected her ass again to see if it looked any better. I have no idea what he was looking for. Perhaps humiliation was all he wanted from this poor girl who deigned to have some self-esteem.

I'm sure it's a rush to be so gorgeous and feel so powerful at such a young age as these models. I feel sad for them thinking of how it will feel when they become faded and they no longer hold the male gaze. Girls do hold enormous power over men when they are young. Even I, a girl supposedly too ugly to do so, enjoyed playing with that power when I was young even as I also hated it. I hated talking to men who stared at my breasts instead of looking me in the eye. I hated the catcalls on the street. But when they stopped, I must admit I felt a sense of loss, and then I felt ashamed of myself for feeling that.

You'd think, perhaps, that I hated the idea of sexual attraction from what I'm writing. No, I do not. Of course we are attracted to each other. Staring at beauty is no crime. So, as is my way, this post is confused. What bothers me is the incredibly small and nearly unattainable beauty standard, which I've railed against over and over and over again.

And to be clear, I'm not even against pornography. Again, what bothers me is illustrated by this incident: Once, I was dating a man who had a big stack of Penthouse magazines in his bedroom. I told him I disliked them. He thought that was ridiculous. How could I dislike them? I was so sex-positive. I threw a bunch on the bed and opened them at random. "See how they all look alike?" I said. Oh no. He didn't see that. He countered with the fact that some of them were black, Asian, Latino, had black hair, blonde hair. . .they were diverse! No. They were not. They all had the same bodies. They could be the same woman, photoshopped (and it would save Penthouse a lot of money if they did that). "So, you're against soft-core porn?" he asked. The answer was no. I would have preferred that he had hard-core porn. At least there, for some reason, there is more diversity. The lesbian magazine "On Our Backs" has had women of all shapes, sizes, and ages (and hair styles) having real fun and being truly sexual, not just "sexy."*

I could rant all night, but I'll stop here. There's been a lot on my mind recently, too much to reign in. My lack of posts has been because of that, not because I've run out of ideas. I just don't know how to pull it all together. To hell with my muddled thinking. I shall post in spite of it.

Image note: Ardhanarishvara-the unity of Shakti and Shiva, male and female energy.

Gorgeous. Poor Ardhanari would be ashamed to have a body like that in this society.

*I've been informed that the print magazine is no longer being published, but the example still stands. Sad to hear it's over and done with.


jmcleod76 said...

Sadly, On Our Backs has been out of print since 2006. I haven't been to the site in a long time, but last time I went, they'd had the same photos up for two years or more. Wonder whether Penthouse struggles to make a profit?

Julie H. Rose said...

I amended the post. I'm sorry to hear it's no longer in biz. Four years of my life have gone by quickly, for I hadn't noticed that it was no longer for sale.

BitterGrace said...

I used to enjoy On Our Backs. I'm sorry to hear it's defunct.

I happened to see about 10 seconds of the VS show, and I had the same reaction--the women look positively freakish. Like you, Julie, I have a complicated, confused set of thoughts about this commodification of the female body. I've also struggled to explain to people (mostly, feminist friends) that there's a difference between the soulless pornography of Penthouse and true erotica.

The one thing I always come back to is that teaching women to think of themselves as sex objects is actually a very effective way of destroying their real sexuality. A young woman who is utterly obsessed with her physical "imperfections" is as sexually incapacitated as a woman indoctrinated with moral shame. The VS show is a paradoxical exercise in prudery.