Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Inspired by Jessica’s post about what to wear as a Labour woman, I wanted to write something about the broader context we are operating in.

For me the most extreme symptom of the anti feminism backlash is the sexualisation of popular culture. Almost any product is sold using an image of a woman, and Playboy logos are used on stationary that is marketed at children. This is something that women have contended with for some time, and now the “beauty” industry is trying to extend its reaches into men’s wallets as well, via their insecurities. Still, it remains the case that women’s bodies are used to sell all sorts of products to us, mostly women have eating disorders, most of those actually selling sex as prostitutes or other parts of the sex industry are women, and almost all of those buying sex are men.

One of the most depressing discourses around sex object culture is that of empowerment. Research done by the Poppy Project demonstrates that most of the women in prostitution were sexually abused in childhood, and many have been trafficked. Drugs are the other factor that get woman into the sex industry, or keep them there. There is nothing empowering about that. Individual women may enjoy selling sex or appearing in porn, but they are not making a contribution to freedom for the rest of us.

This sex object culture has an impact on us all. We all, including women, look at women and judge them and ourselves according to a platonic ideal of attractiveness that is informed by the images of thin, young usually white women with big breasts that are everywhere we look.

In this context, it’s difficult to think about how to present ourselves. We are the product of the world we live in, but if we feel like we have to wear high heels to be taken seriously, even when they hurt our feet so we can hardly stand without crying, who are we dressing for? Are we perpetuating a culture that does us no favours?

Every woman has to make her own decisions, how to win friends, maybe win votes, whilst being clear about what we are doing and why.

There are good campaigns on these issues, http://www.object.org.uk/

http://www.eaves4women.co.uk/POPPY_Project/POPPY_Project.php has facts and figures on which I base my argument

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catharine_MacKinnon is someone I don't agree with on everything, but is the innovator behind many of these arguments, along with Andrea Dworkin and others.

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