A contribution from one of our readers – Civilized Riot Grrrrl
I’m one of those 20 year-olds who don’t read the newspapers. Why? I think I’m desensitized to the world and all of its darker aspects. I see stories about genocide, murder, rape, unfair treatment and inequality, the system falling apart slowly at the seams and I just don’t seem to react anymore.
It could be that I’m used to it now, or it could be a defence system that so many of us have set up so the terrible, darker nature of society doesn’t destroy us with all of the twisted occurrences that show up on a regular basis.
Today, however, something happened. My sister sent me a link to a news story about a small Nordic country. Iceland and its female prime minister (who, incidentally, is a lesbian) has criminalized lap-dancing clubs and strip bars.
Usually, something like this might warrant a cynical once-over from a lazy eye, expecting some man-bashing (people generalization of the entire male gender is actually sexism too y’know) and stereotyping.
However the article detailed a lot of things I didn’t know about the country and its sex industry, and I decided to throw away my veil of cynicism and disparagement and give the piece a fair look. And suddenly, something happened. I became annoyed. I became restless. And finally, I cared.
I read the whole article and took in what it said, and realized, we, as women, have lost so much respect for ourselves in so many ways that we don’t even notice it. I’m not saying every single woman has, but many of us have decided to go along with the over-the-top objectification of women and just fob-off filthy comments with a tired wave of the hand.
As a woman who usually avoids the “battle of the sexes” debate that rages on, despite society’s acceptance that that women have achieved equality, I finally found my inner Amazon after reading the article. I was extremely proud that the PM of Iceland was pushing the criminalization of these places forward, and was unrelenting in this pursuit. I was proud that the idea may inspire other governments to do so.
Then I realized I was angry. I was angry because in this day and age, we are so used to the idea of a strip bar, a lap-dancing club, a rude and sometimes very sexist remark being passed, women being expected to dress a certain way and act a certain way, that we never even realized this is some bullshit.
My generation of females is generally a hard one to figure out. I refuse to generalize as that would be unfair and rude, but many of the females in my age group that I have encountered, spoken with or just seen at random, are in the mind-frame of the objectified woman.
Music of varying genres beams out the image of the large-breasted, tight-everywhere made-up super-hot female, and many young men feed into this and impose the idea on females of the same age group. Shockingly, women in the music industry also impose the idea upon us all and one massive frightening cycle ensues. Let me put it this way: if Alicia Keys put on a pair of hotpants, a bikini and made her next song about how lovely her lollipop tasted then shot the video in random slow motion shots of her gyrating to an addictive beat, would she or would she not receive a hell of a lot more album sales and scale the career ladder even faster?
More often than not, if a woman is sexier, wears nice makeup and a has a tighter, not-as-clothed body, she will receive more attention and possibly get further in the world. I’m not ranting about the women who do this, by no means, I’m pointing out that they get the higher vote as they appear more attractive.
They may just be enjoying the attention as any woman should, or they may be utilizing their sexuality. Is it only me that finds it saddening to think that the only way a woman can get ahead in some industries is to sex herself up a bit? Is it not infuriating to know that if a woman wants a position in a career, she may have to get dolled up a bit to be considered? And is it fair then, to get mad at the women who do this all the time anyway without batting an eyelid? Should we be mad at them for allowing this to continue, or should we realize there may not be another option?
The idea of sexism can be split down into so many “Ifs” and “Buts” and so many different situations that there is no easy answer to most of it. We can’t tell the heads of the music industry to stop playing videos that uses women as an avatar for sex, lust and the like. We can’t tell the heads of businesses that they have to let women dress down a bit and not judge them off their appearance. We can’t walk into a bar and tell all the men there not to pick the prettiest, sexiest, least-clad or tightest woman there. We can’t walk into a strip club and order the performers to get down and leave and tell the customers to get out. We can’t just tell people to knock this shit off because it annoys us or upsets us, because everybody has the right to free speech and the right to their own opinion.
However. As Iceland have proven beautifully, if you are in a position of power or if you push with a large force behind you, you can get something done about exploitation and objectification. I understand that many women work in the sex industry to get money like the rest of us, but how many can honestly say they really enjoy it there? How many can say they’re fine with seeing an ocean of people watching them with a mix of lust and god-knows-what-else in their eyes and spattered all over their faces? I have heard of women saying it “empowers them”, that they’re the ones with all the cards in their hand as the “men are paying just to see us get naked”. That’s fine as it’s their opinion and I can’t very well say “no, that’s wrong, you’re a moron” etc. as that would just be close-minded and get us nowhere.
But here’s my opinion: If you’re being empowered and you’re in the seat of the power and you’re enjoying all this objectification, what about the rest of us? What about those of us who are uncomfortable with this kind of behaviour? What about those of us who have partners going in there and watching the acts? What about those of us who know that there will be no getting rid of sexism if strip clubs are still an accepted part of society. Maybe the women who think they’re calling all the shots by grinding against a pole and taking money from a drooling mess could be one of the first obstacles to achieving equality on a whole new level? We need to educate ourselves and out sisters and show that we’re worth more than that. That they can feel empowered in a much more healthy way.
Many may think I’m against poledancing and stripping and this is a personal vendetta, but it isn’t. I admire burlesque dancers but now I’m starting to wonder if they aren’t a huge problem in etching a role in society for women that doesn’t include suspenders and numerous feathers.
I’m starting to question so many things I accept as normal because maybe they aren’t normal, maybe they’re just accepted as such because we didn’t know we were being exploited all along.