Retro Roundup – 4/15/07

This time last year…

BetaCandy talked about how Guess? Jeans went straight to hell in terms of product quality around the same time as their ads stopped focusing on women and started focusing on men being fawned over by women, maybe on purpose:

At this point, I feel I should mention that Guess Jeans used to be made in the US, and were of high quality back then (I had a pair that lasted ten years). The ads were racy, even though they only featured one woman gettin’ it on with a guy.   Even weirder, she was usually the focus of the ad: if anyone faced away from the camera, for example, it was sure to be the guy.   They had a TV commercial that featured a girl getting bored by   her fling with a cowboy, and shuffling the cowboy off in a taxi.   It ended with him saying in a drawl, “Hey, where you goin’? … Wait, where’m I goin’?”   That was a nice twist on the usual stereotype of men dumping women when they get tired of them.

Then Guess started outsourcing to sweat shops in foreign countries, and their clothes became so cutrate I had to return a pair when a hole rotted through them mid-thigh after maybe four launderings. That was my last experience with Guess.   And that’s about when the ads changed to the new harem format.

scarlett wrote her first of many happy reviews of All Saints:

And when relationships at work flourish (something I would think quite common, given the hours and line of work) it’s not a case of the women waiting for the men to call and simpering when they do. They’re just as aggressive as the men, and give the men hell when they treat them casually.

sbg caught a doctor on Oprah nailing what’s wrong with the current raunch culture:

Then came the young woman who was employed for a time for the yutzes who produce the “Girls Gone Wild” DVDs. This woman was paid to recruit and coerce other women (girls!) to do some rather tasteless and crude things. She felt no remorse about it – after all, she said, “Ultimately, it was their choice to do it.”

Was it? Oprah’s new psychologist (psychiatrist?) Dr. Robin said no. Look at our culture – women are becoming more and more marginalized, made to be sex objects in music videos, print ads…you name it. It’s so pervasive that women are becoming their own oppressors, according to Dr. Robin.

Sidenote: I hope the GGW recruiter is feeling like shit about the various rape allegations against Joe Francis (looks like he’s being tried for racketeering, a charge which, if I’m not mistaken, enables the prosecution to knit together his whole pattern of personal and professional criminal behavior, any single charge of which would probably not win a case on its own).


  1. says

    “Ultimately, it was their choice to do it.”

    Was it?

    This is exactly what I’m talking about here. It’s not feminist to dismiss a woman’s sexual autonomy — treat her own choices about her body as irrelevant — when she chooses wrong according to your estimation.

    To say that “women becoming marginalized” renders them unqualified to make choices about their own bodies — that’s a pretty dangerous road for a feminist to be treading.

  2. scarlett says

    scarlett wrote her first of many happy reviews of All Saints:

    Until it all went to hell in season 9 – but at least s10 has some redeeming qualities…

  3. scarlett says

    CL Hanson, my issues with raunch culture is that it marginalises women who DON’T want to flaunt their sexuality, and it that way, it’s no less destructive then marginalising women who ENJOY flaunting their sexuality. I think our collective attitude towards image and sexuality should be ‘whatever works for you’ but there’s a lot of ‘you should act like this and if you don’t, you’re strange’.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    CL, ditto to what Scarlett said.

    To me, it was obviously their choice, but I think some of them haven’t yet realize ALL their choices. The first two messages girls get are “you can impress men with how friendly and sexually available you are, or you’re a stuck up prude.”

    So are girls making a choice? Sure. Are they making a fully informed choice? Not so much. Neither they nor boys are getting the message that there’s a whole range of options out there, and much depends on your personality and situation.

  5. scarlett says

    To offer an example:

    I think there are a lot of women today who feel they OUGHT to act burlesque like the Pussycat Dolls, even if that doesn’t come naturally to their personality, because they feel if they don’t, they’ll be labelled a prude.

    And to me, that’s no different to women fifty years ago feeling they OUGHT to act like Christian Virgins a la Doris Day even if they genuinely enjoy sex and showing off your body. So you’re supressing women either way.

    The ideal solution would be for people to become open minded enough to think ‘each to their own’. You want to sleep with one person? That’s fine. You want to sleep with a thousand? That’s fine, too! You want anything in between? Yeah, we’re too busy enjoying sex on our own terms to care…

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    You always forget to include sleeping with zero, Scarlett. 😉

    GGW is only about that tiny portion of female sexuality that is about male sexuality. I.E., it can be fun for women to turn on men, and that’s a legitimate part of female sexuality. But it’s the only part getting serious representation in pop culture.

  7. scarlett says

    Ah, I know, my bad. In my defence, everyone I know in RL has slept with at least one person so that tends to be my minimum gauge. Not a very valid excuse for open-mindedness I kn ow, but it’s the best one I’ve got :8

    So I’ll clarify my comment to read:

    You want to sleep with one person? That’s fine. You want to sleep with a thousand? That’s fine, too! Your quite fine not having slept with anyone? That’s cool. You have issues with sex? I’m not judging you, rather, wishing you the best on your journey to sexual liberation, wherever that might see you. You want anything in between, anything I haven’t mentioned (so long as it doesn’t include force or coersion)? Yeah, we’re too busy enjoying sex on our own terms to care…

    That’s how I hope we all end up seeing sexuality.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    That works better. I wasn’t actually referring to people who’ve never had sex, although they deserve inclusion, too (I thought you were talking about how many one currently is sleeping with), but rather people who’ve had it and later decided not to have anymore. That may be the group that’s most perceived as a “threat” to insecure members in all the other groups.

    Why people think anyone’s bedroom habits but their partners’ are any of their business, I will never, ever understand.

    And getting back on topic: as I said before, GGW is only promoting that part of female sexuality that’s all about pleasing men. And there is nothing wrong with getting turned on by turning on a man. What’s missing from the equation are cultural representations of:

    -Women getting turned on BY men
    -Men who really love turning women on (seriously, these guys are nowhere in pop culture!)

    For that matter, where are the cultural representations of:

    -People who are virgins not because of religion or “saving themselves” but because they haven’t met anyone they wanted to risk STD’s with?
    -People who just don’t like sex as much as they like other things?
    -Women who demand than men try to please them with sexy stripping and dancing and so on, instead of the other way around?

    And so on.

    If we had all that, GGW would just seem like one more option, and to each her own. But as it stands now, it is fulfilling the function of helping society LIMIT our choices by burying 90% of them below an imaginary bar.

    Again, I wouldn’t argue they didn’t have a choice or didn’t have the right to make that choice. I do argue that profit and power seekers are doing all they can to limit women’s choices, and GGW is part of that, and Joe Francis is a sick bastard whose motives have more to do with preying on women than with liberating them or enjoying their sexuality WITH them.

  9. says

    I’m not saying the video is feminist. But it sure as hell isn’t feminist to treat women as children, saying “Sure they’re adults and say they consented, but did they really consent? With the patriarchy and all, you can hardly take what women say seriously…”

    Defending women’s bodily/sexual autonomy necessarily means defending the right to make choices you personally wouldn’t have made, just as defending free speech sometimes requires defending ugly statements. Redefining consent to the point of rendering it meaningless does not help advance the cause of women’s rights.

    I agree that women shouldn’t be judged as “prudes” for not wanting sex any more than they should be judged as whores for wanting it — I specifically addressed this point in the post I linked to above.

    I’m ready to stand up and fight passionately for a woman’s right not to have sex or be sexualized against her will, as I discussed in the follow up to my questioning objectification post. I hope that feminists in general are willing to defend the bodily autonomy of women whose perspective is different from one’s own.

    A feminist should be wary of the assumption that because you would find something degrading, all other women must naturally feel the same way (unless they’re hopelessly broken by the patriarchy). That’s insulting and it’s simply wrong: it’s projection. You say this video is all about the men’s pleasure, but do these women see it that way? How do you know that? Are you in their heads with them? If you don’t want people second guessing your supposed “prudishness,” then please afford other women the same courtesy.

    The way to see to it that women are making their own choices for real — not being coerced — is to ensure that as many options as possible are open to them (particularly economic, i.e. if you know you could support yourself if necessary, you’re more likely to do as you please).

  10. says

    p.s. I recognize that this isn’t a black-and-white issue, and there are cases where one adult is taking advantage of another’s ignorance (and really should be prevented from doing it). An extreme example is con artists who trick people into signing over their savings, lesser but on the same spectrum may be the gambling industry. But in all sincerity I don’t think you’re making any effort to understand these women and give them the benefit of the doubt that they might be competent to make their own decisions.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    But in all sincerity I don’t think you’re making any effort to understand these women and give them the benefit of the doubt that they might be competent to make their own decisions.

    Actually, no. I was trying to diagnose GGW’s place in our culture and Joe Francis’ sexual predation. I didn’t realize I needed to clarify the following:

    Ask me about any group of people – male, female or mixed – in any situation and I will say this:

    -Some knew what they were getting into
    -Others didn’t

    This is absolutely true of men and boys, too, including sexual situations.

    Here’s a good example of the imbalance. Psychiatry has searched for years to figure out what’s allegedly ailing “promiscuous” girls and women with no concern for “promiscuous” boys. The assumption is that boys normally sleep around and girls don’t. Without making the absurd suggestion that it’s all exactly the same for both genders, I’m sure SOME people who sleep around a lot are doing it for unhealthy reasons, but OTHERS are just doing what works for them and should be left the hell alone to do as they please.

    GGW is part of this culture that sees girls as victims of sex and boys as incapable of being harmed by it. That’s what I’m objecting to. And as long as our society is just freakin’ swimming in these assumptions, I don’t see how even men can be making really truly informed choices. That doesn’t mean I judge individuals for their choices. I’m judging culture for limiting them.

  12. says

    If there is evidence that they were misled (or forced or drugged), then I’m with you. The only point I object to is using arm-chair pshchoanalysis to second-guess the statements of adult women (of sound mind and body)

  13. says

    In the case of the Girls Gone Wild videos in particular, there is some evidence of misleading, coercion, and use of alcohol in a way that could be defined as “drugging” going on behind the scenes with at least some of the young women in the videos. I can try to look up links to articles when I get home tonight if you’re interested, C.L.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s what I was talking about with psychiatry’s obsession with learning what’s “wrong” with women who have a lot of sex, and complete lack of concern for men who do the same. It’s a self-perpetuating double standard: women who are just having fun with sex are strongly urged to doubt their own motives and suspect they are somehow “troubled”, and men who might genuinely have psychological problems which they act out in unhealthy sexual patterns (for them) are told, “You’re normal, you randy dog”.

    Note: there is not one “right” or “healthy” sexual pattern. It’s individual. For some personality types, sleeping around just does not come naturally. For others, not sleeping around would be the behavior to look out for.

    It also seems to me – and this is a tangent, but I think worth mentioning here – that if we could lose this double standard, that would make the available options for both women and men considerably clearer.

  15. says

    Okay, well, I don’t object to any of that. If the women involved were mislead (particularly using a drug such as alcohol), and if after being shown the video they said “No, that’s not what I signed on for,” and the producers responded “T.S., that’s what’s going into the video stores,” then the producers should be prosecuted.

  16. says

    Just one last clarification, based on the above comments:

    Making sure women have a range of choices available to them and understand those choices is very important to me. Coercion (even in subtle forms such as economic dependence or being trained to obey men) should be fought. Girls should be brought up with the idea that their worth comes from their own achievements and not from male attention. Parts two and three of my novel are basically a study in how soul-crushing it is to be trained that your value comes from male attention (and buy into that training).

    My big issue is just that I don’t like it when feminists oversimplify the issue by believing that “slutty” behavior is the grand sign of “self-objectification,” so the girl who dresses modestly necessarily “respects herself” more than the girl who doesn’t. Acting out sexually (even in ways that may look like a male is getting something) can sometimes be a way of taking your sexuality on your own terms. Remember there’s more than one male out there to please. The modest girl may be focused on pleasing Daddy and on attracting the guy who wants his wife to be “pure as the driven snow” (see Love, Mormon Style). Whereas another girl may be getting off on showing off her body when she goes out in the evening and thinking “I don’t care if you think I’m a slut — I’m good at my job so I don’t have to value my ‘marriageability’.”

    Now if that isn’t the issue we’re talking about in the “Girls Gone Wild” debate — but instead the women were mislead and were filmed in ways they did not agree to — then that’s a different debate entirely, and I’m sorry for the confusion. 😉

  17. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, I totally agree with your comment here, 100%. If I made it sound like I disagreed with this bit:

    My big issue is just that I don’t like it when feminists oversimplify the issue by believing that “slutty” behavior is the grand sign of “self-objectification,” so the girl who dresses modestly necessarily “respects herself” more than the girl who doesn’t.

    Then I apologize for the failure to be clear. There are so many elements to separate that it’s always difficult to discuss.

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