The Pussycat Dolls: Clothing Optional

I put this article in ‘Women Musicians’, even though I would not consider the Pussycat Dolls to be musicians, or artists, or anything else that denotes credibility [admin’s note: then we changed the category to “women in music video”, which does not exclude the talent-free]. I recently saw the clip for their single, Wait a Minute. It mainly consisted of them starting out fully clothed, before prancing onto a train and taking off their clothes, using the poles to perform a strip routine against. They end up strutting down the street and draping themselves provocatively over a car, all while the group’s token male acts like a pimp.

And the disturbing this is, this clip was little more then a carbon copy of the Dolls previous clips – you could interchange it with Buttons or I Don’t Need a Man. Everything I’ve seen of them involves them stripping and posing provocatively, with the lone man running the show.

Now, I don’t actually have a problem with provocative behaviour. I’ve seen Pink and Madonna pushed the boundaries of sexuality and image. The difference to me is that they’ve always seemed in control of their sexuality, making their audience think and question their values on image and sexuality. Instead, groups – I refuse to call them artists – like the Dolls appear to be conforming to male expectations of sexuality; coy looks, submissive stances despite purposeful striding – as if to say I may appear independent, but really, I’m all yours.

And of course, we never see video clips where stunning men prance around in next-to-nothing, acting submissive and coy. Because, you know, that would be beneath their dignity.

Pity it’s not beneath the dignity of the Dolls and their ilk.


  1. sbg says

    It disturbs me greatly, too, that they’re apparently putting out a reality show contest in search of a new Pussycat Doll.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oh, but you see, these things are retro now! It’s just good clean fun, now that feminism is done making everything equal, and women have everything they need. Now women are free to act in the way white upper class men have defined as sexy! Isn’t it wonderful?

    That IS the main justification I’ve gotten for the “raunch culture”. Raunch is what some women claim feminism freed them to do. I’d be all for it, if I really thought it was a female-inspired form of raunch. All I’m seeing is women freed to conform to Hugh Heffner’s idea of a woman.

    To which I say, “Honey, if you didn’t feel free to act like a Playboy Bunny in the 80’s, ain’t nothing ever gonna make you free.” You have to say it in the Southern accent like that – somehow that just makes it sound sarcastic and grass-roots logical, simultaneously.

  3. SunlessNick says

    And the disturbing this is, this clip was little more then a carbon copy of the Dolls previous clips – you could interchange it with Buttons

    I vaguely seem to recall Buttons is about how Snoop Dog is such a stud he’s going to bed all six of them. Or something like that.

    as if to say I may appear independent, but really, I’m all yours.

    Even the name says it.

  4. Maartje says

    See, I believe in legalising prostitution. I believe that people should be in control of their own bodies and as long as it is illegal, prostitutes will be subject to pimps and forgo medical check-ups. It also makes it easier to resue the sex slaves.
    Of course I also believe that people who have been selling their body voluntarily will eventually come to their senses and choose another career path. Legalising prostitution will make it easier to get out of it because of the lack of pimps and the (hopefully) lack of shame.

    Having said this you will see my problem. I don’t like the pussycat dolls. I don’t like the fact that half the time I turn on my tv I am subjected to women prancing around sexily. It annoys me. The continues celebration of the ‘perfect’ body annoys me. I believe the artists have the right to show their body whatever way they need to properly exress themselves and their art. Nakedness is not always ugly (in my opinion) or sexy or pretty or inapropriate. My problem with the PCD is that they always seem to express the same thing. This makes them one trick ponies who need a new hobby besides getting naked.

  5. MaggieCat says

    I just saw an ad for the reality show search, with one of the contestants interviewing that “[she] wants to be a Pussycat Doll because they stand for female empowerment”. I cannot even begin to parse out all of the things that are wrong with that sentence.

  6. thisisendless says

    I vaguely seem to recall Buttons is about how Snoop Dog is such a stud he’s going to bed all six of them. Or something like that.

    Ugh Snoop Dogg. Don’t even get me started on that guy.

  7. scarlett says

    I think raunch culture has done no more for women’s sexuality then the idea that we were supposed to be chaste virgins. It’s just saying ‘women’s sexuality should be this’, when it fits a very narrow ideal of sexuality. And ultimately it comes down to ‘you’re in control of your sexuality, so flaunt it’, as if that was proof you controlled your image and sexuality.

  8. says

    I believe the Pussycat Dolls actually started out as a burlesque act, not a musical group. As close as I can tell, they accidentally wandered into a recording studio. Which explains a lot, though it doesn’t excuse it.

    The whole thing makes me want to go take a shower. Ick ick ick.

  9. scarlett says

    Yeah, I remember the Dolls being a well-known burlesque act too – when I heard ‘Doncha’, I was surprised, because that’s how I knew them, as a burlesque act, not a group. Which says a lot about teh falling standards of music :(

    The thing is, if you listen to the lyrics of I Don’t Need a Man and Wait a Minute, they’re actually quite female-empowering – paying your own way, being able to enjoy sex without being labelled a ‘ho’ – but the way it’s packaged has entirely the opposite effect. Really, it’s a huge feat for the patriarchy, to have financially sucessful, beautiful women who could have any man doing the whole ‘sexy submissive’ act.

    I still say Shame on the Dolls for going along with it.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    Scarlett, you made a very good point there, and it was akin to the one I was trying to make. These women aren’t being raunchy THEIR way for THEIR reasons because it’s what THEY want. They are merely pandering to one standard of sexuality instead of another.

    Virgin or whore – if you let it be the patriarchy’s call what you are, you don’t own yourself.

    In the Victoria’s Secret thread, I responded to a comment that said all women are part “vixen” with the response that if by vixen the person meant “sex kitten/tiger”, that’s not me. That’s not to say I’m not sexy – I’ve been told I am on an occasion or two 😉 . It’s just my sexiness is not that “vixen” VS ad style, which kind of proves there are multiple ways for women to be sexy. Honestly, I have no clue why anyone finds me sexy – not saying that to be modest, I just really don’t know. But it’s definitely not from vamping around or being coy.

  11. scarlett says

    That’s why I made note of Madonna and Pink (and one of these days, I’m going ot get to that article about the way Pink plays with image and sexuality!!) – they seem so in control of their sexuality, as if to say ‘this is who I am, and you can take it or leave it, it makes no difference to me’. I get the same feeling from watching the old stars like Mae West and Marlene Dietrich.
    Sadly, I think we’re rather short on the Maes, Marlenes and Madonnas these days :(

  12. crystal says

    a man can sleep around and be called a stud and a women is a slut
    PCD are just saying that we women are hot and sexy just dont see it i dont see the songs as you do young people dont see it as a cheap porn as you do we see it as a hot new band that are going for the top ok they may die down in 5 yrs but to us young girls they are telling us we have the will power to be strong and not let a man hold you down just cause your with a guy does not mean he owns you

    PCD make me want to get a group of my girl friends and go dancing cause we dont need a man to have a great time
    anywhy modonna in a few clips feels a few guy up and some of her clips look like orgies
    if you dont like PCD y not turn off or change the station the songs only last 5 min.
    if they give girls the power the so be it its a world on image so sexy hot women make young women see they can be sexy dont have to dress slutty to feel sexy
    PCD are incontrol of there sexuallity and so can we

  13. scarlett says

    If the PCDs are so empowered, then what’s with the passive posture; high heels, arched backs, jutted-out chests? That’s an extremely difficult position to hold, and I don’t think anything which requires being uncomfortable and off-balance to appear sexy is particularly empowering.

    if you dont like PCD y not turn off or change the station the songs only last 5 min

    If you disagree with what this site’s about, you don’t have to come here. We don’t go onto your fan sites and blast the PCDs there.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    Crystal, you’re allowed to express your opinion, which I appreciated hearing, but we have a rule against using the argument “just turn it off”. Because you can “just not read our articles”, it becomes a moot point. 😉

  15. Jenchol says

    I was watching the finale of the PCD Reality TV show (the one looking for a new PCD)

    One of the comments that the judges told the girls was “you look really sexy, but you’re not a sophisticated sexy like the Pussycat Dolls are”

    I thought it was really funny that the Pussycat Dolls could be considered anything close to sophisticated.

  16. Stellar says

    The PussyCat Dolls represent women that are confident enough to be sexy, and they don’t need men, they even say that in their songs. Saying that they’re sluts for dancing and singing like this is idiotic, since rappers out there are deprecating women as well. Why should the Pussycat Dolls be dissed?

  17. Jennifer Kesler says

    No one said they were “sluts”. Did you even read the article, or did you just decide to spout off a script?

  18. scarlett says

    I think male rappers are just as repulsive, and if I stumbled across one of their clips, I’d probably write about that as well. The issue I have with the PCDs is that the behaviour contradicts what they’re saying – they say their strong and don’t need men, but pose and dress in such a way that it’s physically difficulkt to hold the pose, and drape themselves over the lone guy. How is it ‘not needing a man’ when you dress and hold yourself in a way that’s physically uncomfortable and ‘share’ the only guy?

  19. scarlett says

    Stellar, this site actually has a policy not to use gender-based terms, particularly insults, like ‘slut’ ‘whore’ or ‘bastard’ unless quoting something. I said I thought it was hypocritical for them to spout off the lyrics they do while maintaining poses which are designed to look submissive. Since I can’t think of male rappers who spout off about independant women, a similar example for men would be Bill Clinton spouting off about family values and screwing everything in a skirt.

  20. Jennifer Kesler says

    Thing is, we’re not debunking the idea that sexiness and empowerment can go together. We’re debunking the idea that the PCD are a legitimate example of this. There’s being sexy and enjoying it, and then there’s pandering to patriarchal stereotypes and convincing yourself it was your idea.

  21. SunlessNick says

    A couple of days ago, the final of that search for the next Doll hit UK screens. There were three judges – one of them being the Dolls’ something (I didn’t see the start, so I don’t know what she does with the group, but she works with them in some fashion).

    Anyway, she was praising the final three in fulsome terms, saying they’d reached the “true meaning of the Pussycat Doll,” when the male judge interrupted her to present his own opinion (which was also positive, but apparently more important than that of the woman who actually works with them).

    Which is, I think, rather telling.

  22. SunlessNick says

    Hit post too soon. Rather telling about the “true meaning” I mean.

    Pink would have shut him up.

  23. a horny male says

    Pussycat dolls have NOTHING to do with female empowerment. Their very name proves this alone. Really, neither does Madonna, but the issue is not as clear. They are all corporate acts that appeal to a male fantasy image, which might not be so bad were it not for the fact that whole industry is extremely exploitive, criminally so in many cases.

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