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sexualisation

I know, I know. Those two words are practically synonymous in a lot of cases, but today there was an ad in particular that irritated me enough to make me want to blog about it. I have written about advertising before, but those examples were probably less brazen than the one I came across in the Daily Mirror while having my breakfast today at McDonald’s.

The perpetrator of this wonderful piece of ingenuity is Abans, and either they were out of cash to pay for a good ad, or they got one of their repair men to through something together for the papers.

I probably should not be so nasty, but if you look at the ad, it compares a big tv to a big woman and a flat tv to a slim woman and says that the choice between them should be obvious. Ergo a big woman and tv is unappealing compared to a flat woman and a flat tv. If I were a big woman, or a man who likes big women, or even someone with any sense of propriety, I would not be buying a discriminatory flat tv from what looks to be a sexually skewed company. I would expect a bit more sense from such a big brand, and not what looks to be an ad made by some horny old men.

Everywhere.

There used to be a time when wearing mini-skirts was considered risque, where bikinis were bigger than my handkerchief, and where the only panties you saw were on the clothes line. But now, wandering around topless is perfectly normal, short have become smaller than underpants and underpants are no longer under the pants. I don’t want to sound like a prude, nor am I a grandfather, but why is the human body on display like it has never been before. I wrote a post on the sexualisation of women once, and I know that the first reaction to this post (besides the guys saying, ‘naked people? that is cool man’) will be that it is freedom of choice, and that they are being themselves. But I have always believed that it was a rather twisted choice with no real result other than attention.

Protesters who protest naked will gather some attention for their cause, but mostly it will be guys gawking at their bodies. Raunchily dressed girls may do it to feel good about their bodies, but guys just view them as objects to be scored. What nudity (or near nudity) attracts is simply attention to the body, where the eyes send signals straight to the balls bypassing the brain completely. It achieves nothing except sexual drive and voyeurism.

I have never been able to adequately articulate my thoughts on this matter, but an insightful post by Pretty Dumb Things put most of what I felt in words far better than my own.

Strip Nation is the place where little girls wear body glitter for fun, where pole dancing is a fitness pursuit, where chicks have standing appointments for monthly Brazilians, and weekly tans, French manicures and matching pedicures. It’s the place where women purposefully show bra straps and g-strings. It’s where average women have the lower-back tattoo, body piercings, and t-shirts that read “Diva.” It’s the where women get breast implants, labiaplasty and anal bleaching. It’s a place where family restaurants have waitresses wearing orange short-shorts, and where drag-queen restaurants have banana deep-throat contests, and where eighteen year-old girls win them.

Strip Nation is where we live now. It’s not a bad place to live. Strip Nation gives us Carmen Electra and body butter. Strip Nation lets us shake our booty with abandon. Hell, Strip Nation, combined with Hip-Hop Nation—it’s a unified country of dual principalities—has given us the word “booty.” Without Strip Nation, we’d still be pogoing and wearing flat shoes and high-waisted pleated pants.

Strip Nation can be a lot of fun, but it’s a deeply problematic kind of fun. I am proud to have been a stripper, but I know that stripping is best kept in the strip club because stripping is about serving up a fantasy based on the most simplistic heterosexual male’s formulation of an uncomplicated woman. Most simply, Strip Nation provides a dreamscape based on a model of a two-dimensional woman and men’s desire for them. And while that is all well and fine for an eight-hour strip shift, it has major issues when it goes rampant, out into the streets, and disseminates like a virus into the culture at large.

This ‘Stripper-Vogue’, this idea that an attractive woman is an anorexic vixen with the skills of a lap dancer and a Brazilian backside (and wax), this idea that you have to flaunt your body to be cool is as unnecessary as it is absurd. In a world where people are like sheep led by the media-shepherd, it is so easy to influence young people.

A commenter, Paul Davis, on Pretty Dumb Things had this to say:

having watched my 16 year old step daughter step out today in an even more titillating and unabashedly “i am a sexually active female and you know you want me” costume this year than last, i read this and loved it. i don’t even know how to begin to think about grown women who do this – my thoughts are mostly centered on their younger counterparts. what frightens or saddens me most is the lack of awareness of what and how men, including teenage males, actually think. sometimes, i don’t even know if the all-wise-having-done-the-stripper-thing CG fully grasps the horror of the contemporary male mind. I see my step daughter and her friends engaged this with as though it were a kind of fun game that nobody will really take *that* seriously, although it would be kind of cool if that guy in 11th grade thinks i look hot and/or cute in this. But thats not what men (and especially not 11th grade boys) think, ever.

They don’t admire the aesthetics – that’s for gays (he says in his most slanderously generalizing remark so far this year). They admire the flesh and they are consumed by the want. The girls appear to have some inkling of this, but in truth even 20 years from now, most of them won’t understand the depth (or is it shallowness) of the want, the objectification of it, the utter, total disconnect from their person that it is really based on. And oh yes, there are a few exceptions, a few nice young men who look past the pert breast, the tight ass, but they merely prove the rule.

So – this is a game being played by women, but a game where the rules as understood by the men are totally different.

So, keep your clothes on, and keep your pride. You don’t have to be part of the crowd, and you don’t have to portray yourself as an object. Life is so much more than being part of this Strip Nation.

Women long to break free. They’d love to wear whatever they want to, and break away from whatever societal code that restricts them to skirts or to saris or any other form of clothing that keeps them all covered up. But is the bikini, really as liberalising as they think.

Body Image

An article on BBC caught my eye recently.

Half of the women questioned said there was “lots they would change” about their bodies – and more than 10% “hated” what they looked like.

When one takes a look at Fashion TV today, one is bound to see runways full of ultra-thin pre-pubescent models flaunting the latest impossible-to-wear fashions along with their ever so ‘sexy’ bones. Honestly, whenever i look at them I have an urge to sit them down and give them a good Sri Lankan rice and curry. But having these models in such glamorous shows, with the world’s most famous designers does have an impact on how people begin to view beauty. Such an impact was recognised in fact, and at one point culminated in a ban on overly thin runway models in Madrid last year.

Taking America as an example, most women would love to be models. But consider that the average American woman is about 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds while the average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. The only thing this is good for is the dieting industry, which is approximately a 40 billion dollar business. They get ‘fat’ by telling you that you will become ‘thin’. In 2003, Teen magazine reported that 35 per cent of girls 6 to 12 years old have been on at least one diet, and that 50 to 70 per cent of normal weight girls believe they are overweight. Whatever happened to being happy with what you are. I struggle to comprehend how a 6 year old girl would want to diet. To me, the equation is simple. 6 year old = ice cream.

Sexualisation

The blame for this immense shift in the value system for beauty lies largely with the media and entertainment industry. Anyone who reads comics or manga could tell you how the female figure is exaggerated to the most unreal proportions. Video games have female characters with bodies that defy physics (and i am not referring to their super powers either). Women’s bodies are used to sell anything from cars, to car washing liquids, from men’s razors to men’s briefs. Advertising campaigns use women mercilessly. The end result is at times more derogative than attractive. Take a look at these offensive adds for instance. Media has been so consistent with regards to the sexualisation of women that women themselves have started believing these thin (pun intended) concepts of beauty.

Britney Spears, dressed as a raunchy school girl singing out, ‘Hit me Baby One More Time’, Christina Aguilera went from being a ‘Genie in a Bottle’ to bing just plain ‘Dirty’, and Paris Hilton, need i even talk about her! Going commando had a completely different meaning when i was younger, mostly involving guns and camouflage. All of this spells big trouble for parents with teenage girls.

“We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.” said Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, chair of the group and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

What ever happened to healthy pursuits, like playing ‘pittu’ with the boys under the tamarind tree at school? Now it is Myspace and American Idol. Whatever happened to gorging on raw mango and salt, and the occasional ice cream? Now that extra pound has become scarier than a mid-term exam.

The teenage world revolves around sex. And to be on the top, you have to ooze the most sexuality. Beauty is who you are, not what you look like. What does it matter if you have a chest that would make Lara Croft jealous, but have the conversation skill of a chipmunk? Does it make a difference if you can turn all the boy’s heads, but not shift a single heart? Beauty may be only skin deep, but boy have people become thick skinned. It takes media awareness, and individual strength to bring back true beauty. I loved Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. I doubt any other program had as wide a reach as Dove had.

I tell you all ( women i mean), stop struggling to fit yourself into that narrow concept of beauty (which was probably created by a man anyway), just keep yourself healthy, love yourself and be confident that you are beautiful no matter what anyone tells you.