I’m going to talk about an important issue which is now subject to a lot of debates and arguments: feminism and sexualisation.
To begin with, it is important to define feminism, because the ideas of what is feminism vary amongst the public. The Oxford Dictionary defines feminism simply as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Meanwhile, Wikipedia has a more complex definition: “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.”
Not every woman considers herself feminist. And there are men who support feminism. When comes to me, yes I am feminist. But before reaching to conclusions, continue reading.
I will clarify that feminism, in my opinion, is not bashing men. A high number of women out there criticise and demonize men through the use of stereotypes, and mask that as “being feminist”. But that is not feminism; that is sexism. And it is as bad as male chauvinism.
When I declare myself a feminist, I don’t mean that women are superior to men. When I declare myself a feminist, I just defend the equality between the sexes; women and men should have the same economic, cultural, and social rights. In addition, I’m also willing to defeat sexist stereotypes affecting both the male and female population.
Said all this, I will discuss sexualisation in relation to feminism.
First of all, there is a wrong idea about women being the only humans who are over sexualised. We must keep in mind that men are also over sexualised. Women are not the only ones who need to have “sexy perfect” bodies to be models. Men are also requested to have 6 packs and tanned bodies.
After clarifying this, I would like to say that there are a wide range of opinions when comes to the sexualisation of women. Some people argue that women should be allowed to be sexual and to have power over their body. Other people argue that women should go fully clothed to avoid their degradation. Women who are sexual are often accused by others of “being objectified and not having self-respect”. Women who are not sexual are often accused by others of “acting fake and being controlled by men”. So, who is a feminist and who isn’t a feminist here?
To explain my thoughts on this matter, I’m going to use celebrities as examples since it will be easier to get my point across. My chosen celebrities are Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
After her 2013 VMAs performance, Cyrus was labelled a lot things, none of them particularly nice. Meanwhile, her partner in crime, Robin Thicke, was free of all charges. The media focused on demonizing Cyrus and calling her “slut, whore, and anti-feminist” between others. This negative feedback increased with the start of her Bangerz Tour, due to her sexualised performances. On the other hand, there is also a high number of people who defend Cyrus, arguing that she is just doing what she likes and explaining how she is being subject to stereotypes and undeserved negative criticism.
Next, I will talk about the contrary case to: Taylor Swift. Swift is a young woman with no sexual scandals and without a sexualised image, who has no interest on posing half-nude nor nude. She has often being praised for going clothed and for not sexualising herself in order to sell her music. However, a lot of people argue that due to her traditional and classy behaviour she portrays “anti-feminism”. And some of her songs, such as “You Belong With Me” and “Better Than Revenge”, have been labelled as “slut-shaming”.
I have presented you two different types of women whose cases are both portrayed as feminist by some people and anti-feminist by other people. This conflict often confuses my thoughts on what is being a feminist and what is being an anti-feminist.
Here comes the moment in which I say that, in my opinion, nor Cyrus nor Swift are anti-feminists. They don’t contribute in anyway to the prohibition of women rights and to the inequality between sexes.
People who say that Cyrus has not “self-respect” make me wonder which their definition of self-respect is. My definition of self-respect is being fine with whom you are, as well not allowing anyone to humiliate you nor manipulate you. Basically, self-respect is knowing what you are worth and what you deserve. Respecting who you are. Moreover, I don’t think that Cyrus objectifies and degrades women with her Bangerz Tour shows nor with her VMAs performance.
The objectification of women does not occur when a woman decides for HER OWN INTEREST, SATISFACTION AND BENEFIT to be sexual. It happens when women ARE FORCED TO BE SEXUAL FOR THE INTEREST AND BENEFITS OF OTHER INDIVIDUALS, and are treated as mere sexual objects while being humiliated. Cyrus’s twerking filled performances do not objectify women; people who force women to prostitute and act sexual while benefiting from it are the ones who objectify women. And you can apply this to men also, because yes, men are also sexually abused and exploited.
When comes to degradation, a woman who decides for her OWN BENEFIT AND DUE TO HER OWN LIKES to dress showing skin IS NOT degrading herself. When men dance sexually and make sexual connotations, nobody shouts at them for “degrading themselves”. But when a women does it, “oh what a slut, she is degrading herself”. The double standards about sexuality are a real problem. Men can be sexual and run away with it, but women can’t? Women deserve to have power over their actions. Men can walk shirtless around places freely, but when a women shows her legs, wears cleavage, or shows her tummy, “oh what a provocative slut”.
Next: labelling Swift as “anti-feminist” is not supportable. As far as I am aware, she is neither against women rights nor the equality between the sexes. “You Belong With Me” is a song written by a teenage girl who had a crush. What Swift is singing about is something lots of girls and boys have experienced. She is just narrating things from her point of view; things that she may have experienced. And the same happens with “Better Than Revenge”. Additionally, except her, nobody knows the real story behind those songs. Saying that she slut-shames with the lyrics “but she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts, she’s cheer captain And I’m on the bleachers / She wears high heels, I wear sneakers. She’s cheer captain, And I’m on the bleachers ” has no sense. Swift herself wears shorts and high heels. And she was not implying that girls who are cheerleaders are “whores”. That is what reportedly happened, we like it or not. And this subject has nothing to do with women’s rights and the equality between the sexes.
Furthermore, just because Swift acts classy and is traditional it doesn’t mean that she is controlled by men. She is an independent young woman who is having a lot of achievements in her life. She lives alone and she makes her own decisions. If she wants to act classy and traditional, she will. That is feminism. Women should be allowed to make their own choices. If a woman wants to be sexual, it is ok. If a woman doesn’t want to be sexual, it is ok. Men are allowed to make those sorts of choicesand nobody complains about that.
On conclusion, this whole piece of writing is a mixture of facts and opinion. You don’t have to agree 100% with it. I don’t expect you to agree 100% with it. I just hope it helps you to reflect about feminism and sexualisation, and the current inequalities between women and men.
When using Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift as examples I just didn’t want to clean their names. I used two extremely different people to portray two different types of behaviour. I wanted to show how both behaviours, despite being very different, are equally judged and condemned. Besides, they are examples to which young girls and women from the general public can relate.
To finish off, I will repeat that I’m a feminist. But I have my own concept of feminism, believing that women should be allowed to make their own choices. I’m also very aware of the fact that sexualisation affects both genres. People should be free to choose if being sexual or not, without being labelled and judged by their choices. There is nothing wrong with being liberal about your sexuality and there is nothing wrong with being modest about your sexuality.
Reflecting and talking about social matters,
Emilie H. Featherington