A few days ago this piece by Natasha Walter was in the Daily Mail: Land of the living dolls: Feminism aimed to liberate women. Instead, it’s spawned a promiscuous generation who believe that their bodies are the only passport to success:
Aspiring night in the Mayhem nightclub in Southend. About a dozen girls, all in tiny hotpants and towering wedge heels, with dark fake tans and shiny, straightened hair, made their way over to a group of men who were standing by a large, empty bed.
The men’s job was to choose who should enter a Babes On The Bed competition.
Of the hundreds of women selected to pose on beds in nightclubs all over Britain for this contest, one would be given a modelling contract with Nuts magazine.
In this context, modelling means glamour modelling, the coy words for posing almost naked for men’s magazines.
It shits me to tears that feminism gets blamed for boob jobs, skimpy outfits and fake tan. For quite a few years now, popular culture has had a thing for women who look like porn stars – a look co-opted from movies that are made by men, and then repackaged by companies run by men and sold back to us. It’s bullshit to blame feminism for this.
As I saw for myself that evening in the Mayhem nightclub, and as one can see any night of the week in clubs up and down the UK, images that a previous generation often saw as degrading for women have now been taken up as playful and even aspirational.
For more than 200 years, feminists have been criticising the way that artificial images of feminine beauty are held up as the ideal to which women should aspire. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman in 1792, to Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth in 1991, brilliant and angry women have demanded a change in these ideals.
Yet far from fading away, these ideals have become more powerful than ever. What’s more, throughout much of our society, the image of female perfection to which women are encouraged to aspire has become more and more defined by sexual allure.
See, it doesn’t follow that feminism caused this. The logical conclusion is that (and I dislike this term because it’s so loaded with hate) the patriarchy fought back and won. So far.
Part of the hand-wringing over young women is simply a generational problem: the idea that because we didn’t do that when we were young, it must be wrong. But I think we have to allow all young people the opportunity to do silly things – even things they will probably regret. Many many years ago in a psych lecture, we learned that teenagers and young adults who don’t rebel against parents, who don’t push boundaries to work out who they are, are more likely to have a mid-life crisis. It’s better to go through this when you’re young, before you have responsibilities like a partner, children and a crippling mortgage. Take Lady Gaga, for example. In the past she has said many anti-feminist things, but has recently become quite feminist in interviews. Surely it’s our responsibility as “no longer young people” to allow young people the opportunity to change their opinions as they grow. Can you imagine your opinions being dismissed at work because of something idiotic you said as a teenager?
Anyway, back to Walter, who also blames body image problems on feminism:
Recent surveys have discovered that nearly three-quarters of adolescent girls are dissatisfied with their body shape and more than a third are dieting; one study found that even among 11-year-olds, one in five is trying to lose weight; another study found that most six-year-olds would prefer to be thinner than they are.
It always surprises me that people want to dismiss feminism. Do they really believe women shouldn’t have the same rights as men?