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Baring Boobs = New Feminism? I don’t think so

December 20, 2007

I read an interesting article this morning at BBC News, titled: Is this empowering?

Here is the lead quote for the article:

Once women burned their bras, today they send photos of their breasts to lad mags and call it liberating. Is this really a new form of feminism or just the old objectification, asks Sarah Montague, of BBC Radio 4’s Today.

How effed up are we as a society, that we think that taking off your top, and objectifying your body to leering men, willingly, is EMPOWERMENT?

Sex, it seems, has become a double edged sword. On the one hand, we want to be free to use it as best suits our needs and desires; on the other hand, if we do use it, it can be viewed as using our newly gain freedom to sell ourselves back into male dominated bondage, by solidifying what many man have said/thought for years: that women are only good for sex.

As women today, we want to be on equal footing with men in all ways – including being able to express our sexuality as a natural extension of our being, without getting all tied up in knots over ancient, constricting Victorianesque protocols and gender roles.

I admit that sex and sexuality, in and of themselves, are neutral.

But, it’s how that act is used, or manipulated societally that causes me to get hives.

In my mind, sex should be a private act, between consenting adults. It should be an act of release, of intimacy, and of trust – not a public broadcast message. Even if you are doing things that others might consider immoral, it should be a deliciously secret event, to be enjoyed only by those invited.

Using sex and/or sexuality as leverage or as a manipulator, is certainly a way to gain power and get attention, but is it empowerment? Or is it really selling out? I mean, can anyone really consider Girls Gone Wild behavior to be a GOOD thing? Is that the way a self-respecting person acts? I mean, if so, where are the Guys Gone Wild videos? Nobody wants to watch a bunch of guys mooning and shining and rubbing each other up while they are all drunk or whatever. That kind of behavior just doesn’t seem powerful to me, it just seems, well…classless, tacky, exploitative, lewd, and raunchy.
And what exactly is gained for women for behaving like this – more earning power? more equality? I don’t think so.

It has been reported that women who feel attractive and sexy have more confidence. Feeling sexy is fine for the bedroom, but should it even be a consideration in the boardroom? Or is this just another way society can keep women down? Plenty of unsexy guys are CEOs, and while there are also a fair number of rather sexy ones as well, it doesn’t seem that NOT being sexy keeps men down.

Nor does aging.

The same can’t be said for women. Even in this day and age. Especially in this day and age.

Choosing to be sexually free is far different in my mind, than choosing to objectify your sexuality for manipulation or societal gain. The former allows you control of who, what, when, where and how: it doesn’t require you to follow societal norms. The latter, to me at least, seems to get you to buy into age-old sterotypes which have been repackaged and rebranded as liberation.

That isn’t empowerment at all – it’s fancied up enslavement to the idea that women have nothing of value to offer outside of their sexuality. Way to set us back a hundred years!

This just gets my hackles up! Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe it’s just a sign that I’m a prude.

If this kind of sexual inhibition is empowerment of any sort, I guess it’s the sort that empowers you to act like an asshat if you so choose…

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie+ permalink
    December 20, 2007 1:31 pm

    You have said, and said well, everything I’ve thought about this trend. One of my sons said in response to an ad for GGW, “geez, that’s pathetic.” He was right.

  2. December 20, 2007 4:19 pm

    Preach it!

    And what’s with this crap about bra burning? It is a fiction someone made up and become accepted mythology. Check “bra” on It didn’t happen; why do people think it did? Sheesh.

  3. Moma permalink
    December 21, 2007 5:18 am

    This applies to transgender poepl to who think gender identity with breats ort whatever is empowering but it only reinforces gender stereotypoes. I mean a real woman doest have to have double-d’s and a real man doesnt have to have hard muscles and facial hairs. I am a lesbian and I get so offended that transpeople think we GL wants their T in our group. Nice smart and thought out article you wrote.

  4. December 21, 2007 7:21 am

    Boobs = Power!!

    LOL!! Power to smother some sick SoB into Forest Lawn!!

    My friend says her BOOBS are her bait,..and with the size of em’ I’d agree …..even though she’s rather thin . . .for a rack like that!!

  5. December 21, 2007 7:43 am

    The Today programme’s usually a wonderful thing for waking up slowly and gently. Usually they talk about Iraq and Afghanistan and Gordon Brown and inflation and suchlike. So when I heard this item live and it really jolted me upright. as an utter WTF. I think they must have been urgently short of real news…

  6. December 21, 2007 8:51 am

    “To be enjoyed only by those invited.” Ha! How incredibly right on you are, Eileen. Magnificent. You hit the nail on the head with objectification. You should be a priestess. 🙂

  7. December 21, 2007 9:29 am

    Stuff like this leaves me beyond speechless… or typeless…


  8. December 21, 2007 1:32 pm

    Well said. Well done, my dear.

  9. December 21, 2007 1:54 pm

    yep, yep, yep. With you all the way on this. Just read an interesting book called, “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both,” examining the “hooking up” culture where women are supposedly sexually empowered to have what Erica Jong called “The Zipless F*&k” in an earlier generation. She basically came to the same conclusions as you in this post. Not so empowering, after all.

  10. NancyP permalink
    December 21, 2007 2:58 pm

    Moma, most Twomen I have seen have A or B cups, depending on their genetics and adiposity, generated entirely by the hormone treatments. True, the Twomen from poor minority backgrounds or those who get thrown out of the house as kids may end up supporting themselves by turning tricks, usually with so-called “straight” men, and try to get augmented because D-cup prostitutes make more money than A-cup prostitutes. But the Twomen with standard jobs are fine with whatever estrogen gives them.

    Some sort of gender physical stereotype is useful if the individual doesn’t want to live “genderqueer” or androgyne.

  11. December 21, 2007 3:01 pm

    Eileen, sometimes I feel sexy outside the bedroom. Is that a sin? Sometimes I don’t wear a bra either, but I don’t burn mine. They’re too expensive. But I don’t mail nude pictures to laddie magazines. What fucked up laddies would want to see nude pictures of me?

    Sex is for sharing pleasure and intimacy with someone you love. Using sex for any manipulative purposes whatsoever is just plain wrong, not empowering, but debasing.

  12. NancyP permalink
    December 21, 2007 3:02 pm

    The drunk high school and college student women on GGW don’t think of themselves as “feminist” even when sober. They do like attention, and will do a lot to get it. People will make asses of themselves, willingly, in order to get “into the movies” or on TV – just look at the degrading reality shows.

  13. episcopalifem permalink*
    December 21, 2007 3:20 pm

    Mimi – I want you to feel sexy anywhere you want to feel sexy. I don’t however want it to be 1) required of you for any reason; 2) part of getting ahead in the world. Now, feeling sexy is one thing, but showing off your boobs in public, even if they are really nice ones, is just, well…boobish.

    2) Nancy – Thanks for ringing in on the Trans thing. That area is vastly outside my expertise, but, I don’t want to see flashing trans boobies either. That can’t be good for self-esteem.

    Also, agreed regarding the GWW thing…BUT, there are women who are doing this, who say that it is an expression of their freedom and that it is liberating and empowering to women and women’s sexuality. Maybe not the GWW girls, but, those out there emulating them.

  14. December 21, 2007 5:43 pm

    Interesting post Eileen! (Got here from our friend Madpriest.)

    I’m not going to argue that “girls gone wild” etc. is a good thing.
    And I find frat-boy humor annoying no matter who’s doing it.

    But how does one speak against it?
    By reiterating statements about what women SHOULD and SHOULDN’T do with our bodies?
    Is that just returning to schemes of societal (male) control over women’s bodies?

    How can women make decisions about our own sexuality without being censored as “objectified” or “promiscuous” on the one hand or “prudish” on the other?

  15. JCF permalink
    December 21, 2007 6:55 pm

    Thanks, NancyP, for your good word on Trans women.

    Just FYI: there ARE, in fact, Guys Gone Wild videos. As you might imagine, they are primarily marketed to gay men (or even moreso, “curious” men).

  16. Nina permalink
    December 22, 2007 11:06 am

    Exhibitionism and sexual acting-out are frequently a response to early sexual abuse.

  17. December 24, 2007 2:27 pm

    You might enjoy Ariel Levy’s _Female Chauvinist Pigs_.

  18. December 26, 2007 4:29 pm

    Aaaargh… Plus, women never burned their bras! People never get that one right, and the myth just goes on and on — I always wonder where my undergrads get their notions of what feminism means and how the 1960s/70s phase of it got started. In any event, gratuitous boobishness isn’t liberating unless of course it is at a nurse-in (can you tell I lived in California for ten years?) – which leads me to remembering that there are cultures where breasts are not sexualized to the extent that they are here.

    Sexuality: good. Exhibitionism: bad. Or unhealthy, anyway. I just don’t get the “Girls Gone Wild” thing.

    I’m all for affirming the beauty of women’s bodies and the human body in general, in any of its forms and varying abilities. The more of that the better. But what you’re talking about plays into the steotypes of what is beautiful, perfect, attractive and so on, not to mention the commercialization and commodification of everything. It doesn’t have anything to do with feminism and if anyone says it does, they’re lying, so there.

    Hmph. And thanks for this.

  19. December 26, 2007 4:31 pm

    P.S. Need I say that I define myself as a feminist? Just in case it wasn’t clear. And again I say, this commercialized body-display has nothing to do with feminism. (Human rights for sex workers are another matter.)

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