Thursday, August 05, 2010

Visible girl, invisible girl

Porn is ultimately not very liberating for women. The 70s being long past, a feminist voicing such an opinion is not such a rara avis anymore. Indeed, Dr. Gail Dines is a long-time activist against what she sees (disclosure: and me too) as the pornification of our culture.

The Stepford Wife image that drove previous generations of women crazy with their sparkling floors and perfectly orchestrated meals has all but disappeared, and in its place we now have the Stepford Slut; a hypersexualized, young, thin, toned, hairless, technologically, and in many cases surgically-enhanced, woman with a come-hither look on her face. We all recognize the look: slightly parted glossy lips, head tilted to the side, inviting eyes, and a body contorted to give the (presumed male) viewer maximum gazing rights to her body. Harriet Nelson and June Cleaver have morphed into Britney, Rhianna, Beyonce, Paris, Lindsay and so on. They represent images of contemporary idealized femininity – in a word, hot – that are held up for women, especially young women, to emulate. Women today are still held captive by images that ultimately tell lies about women. The biggest lie is that conforming to this hypersexualized image will give women real power in the world, since in a porn culture, our power lies, we are told, not in our ability to shape the institutions that determine our life chances, but in having a hot body that men desire and women envy.

Okay fine, so far as that goes. But this rubs up against my dissatisfaction with feminism as a Compleat Theory of Everything, which some advocates seem to want it to be. Reducing all the rich pageant of men and women and home and work and life and love to mere politics is as barren, in its own way, as reducing it to mere carnality, as porn does. I wonder: what would she think if one of her students were a chaste, home-schooled, moral, prairie dress wearing virgin? "That's not normal" would be one of those thoughts, I'd wager. And if "That's not right" were another, I'd despair of her & her counsel altogether.

Feminism makes use of conservative moralism to further its own ends. This is akin to, and actually part of, the fatal old alliance between traditional conservatives and radicals, which has had such far-reaching effects for more than a century. They had nothing in common but their hatred of capitalism, the conservatives looking back to the revival of throne and altar in the various European nations, and to piety, the radicals looking forward to the universal, homogeneous society and to freedom — reactionaries and progressives united against the present.
-- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 1988

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