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Empowering or Sexualization?

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I’m for all women feeling empowered in everything they do. I’m also all for women feeling absolutely empowered in what they wear. Why shouldn’t I? I’m a woman too. So when it comes to this fashion phenomenon, “butt cheek shorts”, i.e. butt-less shorts, I’m forced to question how this article of clothing serves to empower women. From celebrities  (here too), to young adolescent girls, to the suite mate next door, I don’t believe this is a step towards women’s empowerment rather than another item of clothing that further serves to reinforce the sexualization of women’s bodies according to masculine ideals of what women “are or should be”.

Take media for example:

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The ways that media, music videos especially, portray women (Dreamworlds 2) are as scantily clad females. They are often positioned in sexualizing poses and dressed in very little clothing. 90% of men direct music videos selling us the ever famous “male gaze“. The problem with this is that media (in any form really) is permeating society with such sexually suggestive messages. Yet the message that women take away from that is this is how we should dress. If we were being honest, we wouldn’t let our adolescent daughters walk out of the house dressed like that. Even Niki Minaj’s music, though in support of women being in control, at times buys into the dominance of patriarchal culture where women’s bodies are only objects for male pleasure. Anaconda anyone?

Other issues:

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It’s one thing to wear short shorts, it’s another to wear a pair of shorts that looks like it’s also serving as a pair of underwear (pic #2). Should I mention the other body parts these shorts are failing to keep disclosed? I thought our shorts (and any other lower body garments) were meant to cover our butts, not expose them. Let’s just be honest too, a pair of shorts going up ones butt cannot be comfortable!

Body autonomy? This is often an argument brought up and relevant too that no one but the person themselves has power over their body. It’s possible to look at a female identifying person and think to myself she is probably wearing that because she feels so liberated that it’s comfortable for her to bare her derrière in public. (In fact, I think any woman, despite age, could wear granny panties and feel empowered too.) I cannot, however, look at the same sight without also being conflicted that her clothing is more reinforcing the sexualization of her body. Butts, like boobs, are a sexual thing! Women assume that exposing or having to expose more automatically means power, and that simply isn’t true. Yes, women are sexy! Yes, women are powerful! And yes, women embody far more value than their body parts. But exposing more doesn’t make a woman more of a women.

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No, I’m not shaming. This isn’t a black and white issue of “for women or against women”. When it comes to clothing–like the butt cheek shorts–it is not as simple as saying I feel empowered to wear these because one wants to. The article of clothing in question cannot be separated from the systemic message that it also carries with it and what it essentially reinforces.

 

 

9 Responses to “Empowering or Sexualization?”

  1. Anonymous

    I understand that you’re not trying to shame but that’s exactly what this article does. Nicki Minaj puts out lyrics for confidence and even if they do end up patriarchal, as you said, it’s not all black and white. Women can literally show any part of them that they want without having to warrant any reaction from people. If their bodies are sexualized it’s more than likely that they know that. I think it’s more appropriate to ask why people have to secualize everything rather than why women expose butt cheeks. This article states over and over again that it’s not supposed to judge but the tone of it does just that; it judges. Again, I get the point that sexualization is bad…but again, we shouldn’t be shaming women for what they wear but shaming the sexualizer for not letting a woman do her no matter what she’s wearing.

    Reply
    • LEMONADEmouth

      Thank you for your comment. Per your comments I went back and read my post, and I have to disagree that actually I’m not shaming women. But I will respond to your comment with each point you bring up.
      -Niki Minaj
      With the power that she has a as a popular artist it is pretty black and white. She has the influence that other women don’t have. It’s quite contradicting for Niki Minaj to put out lyrics that are said to be “rooted” in providing confidence to women while in the same breath breathing out a patriarchal message to the countless women that watch and/or support her as a female artist. I feel that because of this contradiction she has herself bought into the male gaze. I posted the link to Dreamworlds 2 (https://youtu.be/bmgD4S2_gyA) that shows how the male gaze sexualizes women in the media as well.

      -Showing off
      I don’t disagree with you that women can show whatever they want, without having to feel scrutinized by the public. Women are human beings. They can decide what they want to cover or leave uncovered.

      -Quote, “If their bodies are sexualized it’s more than likely that they know that.”
      Women’s bodies have been turned into sexual objects, and that’s the problem. Are you saying that women know they are being sexualized and therefore keep sexualizing their bodies? Or keep sexualizing their bodies because they choose to ignore that sexualization is actually happening?

      -Shaming women
      For the sake of the argument, I read through my post again, and again as I said before, I’m not shaming women. As I stated at the beginning of my post which my whole argument is based around, is a simple question. How does this article of clothing that I am talking about serve to empower women more than is serves to reinforce patriarchal masculine ideals of women? I also mention at the end that though women want to feel empowered, as they should, in the end this piece of clothing I feel objectifies women more because of the systemic message that is carries with it. So back to my question, does this piece of clothing further sexualized women according to masculine ideals or does it do more to empower women rather than sexualized them?

      -Sexualizing
      I also agree that it’s far more appropriate to ask people have to sexualized. However, it’s not just “people”, it’s “men”! The majority of clothing companies are headed by male CEO’s making decisions

      Reply
  2. BreakingLinea

    I love your last paragraph. You touch on the other side, wearing those clothes to regain control of their body, but reinforce your point that people will still sexualize it (until we change the institutions which construct and enable the male gaze.)

    I think you’ll appreciate this music video, which aims to call out the absurdity of music videos like Anaconda and others… http://youtu.be/okK4t2a9Huc

    Reply
  3. LEMONADEmouth

    BreakingLinea,

    Thank you for your comment! Yes, women feeling empowered by what they wear is important. Sadly a lot of times it’s not as simple as saying “I feel empowered”–perhaps in a perfect world, yes…that’s the dream! But we also have to recognize that each article of clothing carries with it a message, and what is that message.

    I look forward to checking out the link. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  4. DrKhofemme

    This is another classic, albeit incredibly problematic parody video:https://youtu.be/rwpYApnrpeI
    I don’t think it’s shaming to talk about the multiple meanings in of clothing or a performance of identity, I get nervous about a tendency to blame women for their sexualization. Just because patriarchy and sexism exist in so many cultures, including US American, regardless of what women wear. I appreciate your alternative read of an article of clothing, and would suggest it is most likely some of both empowerment and oppression, as most things are.

    Reply
    • LEMONADEmouth

      DrKhofemme,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, there is certainly a fine line with some issues, and sexualization is one of those issues. And again, sexualization, like many other issues, there can be and at times is a lot of grey area as well. Overall it’s a sensitive issue! I agree also that clothing serves both to empower but can also oppress.
      I look forward to checking out your link! Thanks!

      Reply
  5. littlefembot

    Really loved this piece! Especially the part where you mention the “male gaze” and the tendency for the music industry to hypersexualize women just to sell music. However, I disagree that butts and boobs are inherently sexual. Why is it that women’s nipples are seen as sexual but men’s aren’t when the only difference is that ours actually serve a purpose (feeding our offspring)? The whole censorship of women’s nipples is so blatantly sexist and I kept wanting you to go in that direction in this article. The problem isn’t that women are showing their chests or their butts but that they are being unduly sexualized for it. A butt is just a butt. Yeah, it can look damn good, but it’s a woman’s own decision to wear that. If a guy sexualizes her for it, that’s on him, right? Anyways, a very interesting topic and I’m probably not disagreeing with you as much as it sounds like I am haha. I think it’s really important to explore these issues and I think you’ve done so eloquently. I would just caution against shaming the women instead of society for female hypersexualization. The fact is, if a man goes for a run without a shirt on, he doesn’t have to worry about creepers hypersexualizing him, but a woman would. Heck, I can go out and run in a hoodie and sweat pants and I still get creepers hypersexualizing me/cat-calling. So are the clothes really the problem here? Or is it society’s insistence that women’s bodies are somehow inherently sexual just by existing?

    Reply
    • LEMONADEmouth

      Littlefembot,

      Thank you for your comment. Sorry for my untimely response. All the points you brought up are absolutely relevant. I like your candidness in the questions you present as well. Yes, society is definitely the problem. Fix society…fix every problem that ever existed!!!!! My reason for bringing up the clothing is that society also ascribes meaning to our clothes and generally speaking we buy into that–which you may or may not agree with (that’s totally okay). I think we also assign new meaning to clothing, which is a good thing. And yes, so many double standards for women than men. This really is a hard-knock life!
      Concerning boobs, you might have seen this video, but if not you will like/be maddened by it https://youtu.be/sOEHRsRIodI

      Reply

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