09 February 2007

sex sells

there's no denying it. it is a well proven marketing strategy, finely tuned over the years.

i should probably think this through before i put pen to paper - or finger to key, as it may be... but i've been mulling this question over in my mind for a week or so now and perhaps actually writing it down will help in my getting somewhere. or not. we shall see.

it all started with a post written by sicily sue, in part talking about a coffee shop called cowgirls expresso. admittedly, at first glance, i was taken aback and a little sick at my stomach. the idea is this - in "order to compete" in seattle's coffee scene (read: compete with starbucks, i imagine), the baristas are all dressed in lingerie while on duty. of course i went a poking about to see if i could find whether or not that place(s) was owned by a man. the owner is a woman. she appears to slowly be building a little empire of drive through coffee huts and is looking into franchising the biz out.

the part of me that was screaming, "hey! it's not right to exploit women and their bodies for the sake of buck!" was quickly retorted to by the other part of me that was saying, "but if these women want to do that, who am i to judge them?"

here's the thing - pornography bothers me. the objectification of women contained there serves to fuel a potentially dangerous fire that needs to be put out, not flamed. same with strip clubs. i find the two professions to be degrading to women, though i wouldn't consider myself a "prude." when this topic has come up in the past, i have been mistakenly accused of being judgmental of women in both professions. not true. typically the person sitting at the top of the heap, making the big bucks is a man. imagine my surprise when i saw that the coffee shop is owned by a woman. and in a way, the coffee shop falls into the same category for me as the above.

so what is my deal? should i be more outraged at the women that are furthering this along because they are participating? is it cultural conditioning that i'm not? have i run in circles with people that judge women by what they are or aren't wearing? women that are called scanks, whore, and sluts so freely? is it the myriad of media messages pushing scantily clad, submissive women at me from every direction for all of my life? have they desensitized me?

i don't think so. more than anything, i imagine that i feel like these are just the symptoms of a dis-ease - blame shifting, if you will. i keep feeling like there is something deeper afoot.

then i stumbled upon this discussion - over at capitalism bad; tree pretty. the author posted up this linked entry, with her own thoughts:

I said at a Mediawatch board meeting this weekend that I feel like it's impossible to get upset with young girls dressing in revealing clothing without also signing onto the notion that it's possible to dress as if you are sexually available. I would like to talk about this, because I feel like most people disagree with me but I can't find a way to separate those two streams of thought.

What I mean is, I feel like people around the table believed that girls were dressing as if they are sexually available, and I don't think it's POSSIBLE to dress as if you are sexually available.

I don't understand how the same feminist women who fought for the idea that the way someone dresses is NEVER a green light for sex can now say that teenage girls are "dressing like skanks" or use terms like "prosti-tots"?

this one stopped me in my tracks, especially the last line. it simply isn't possible to dress as if you are sexually available. i should be able to go about my day nude without notice. i should be able to breastfeed my baby in public without someone freaking out that i'm "flashing my tits" around and being indecent.

maia also added this in commentary, that i think is so key:

Women can't fight this by changing what we look like and particularly not by criticising what other women look like. Instead we need to reject any analysis which buys into the idea that women's sexuality and appearance are one and the same and to talk about women's desires and sexual agency, so that the next generation of girls knows that what they want matters.

i started thinking about the coffee shop again. the coffee shop owner clearly had an idea in mind that links sexuality and appearance, because we all have that cultural norm as an idea in us somewhere. in order to move past that, the big fire must be extinguished or the smaller ones will continue to pop up and burn. yes, figuratively speaking, we can stop buying the coffee that they're selling, but new coffee shops will replace them. kinda like killing terrorists. we are creating more daily as we kill to show them all that killing is wrong. (?) if we lived in a truly equal society where women were considered to be people and respected by men, none of this would even be an issue.

a serious mass paradigm shift must occur. the bottom line is this. objectification and degradation isn't necessarily a woman's problem. i'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the problem lies with the men folk. (no, men friends, i ain't bashing you. i still heart you.)

robert jensen
proposes an idea that i think could get to the crux - men resisting/confronting masculinity. now before you say anything, go over and have a looksee. he writes about it in his short essay, sexuality, masculinity and men's choices.

i urge you to go give it a read, though the first couple of paragraphs are fairly graphic descriptions of various porn materials.


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