Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Who Will Run the World? GIRLS!

This week in my Facebook newsfeed: Willow Pinkett Smith shaved her head. A seventeen-year-old girl named Ela wore a head scarf around a US mall for an afternoon to learn about discrimination against Muslim women. The e-mail account associated with a fake Victoria's Secret 'PINK Loves CONSENT' campaign was inundated with supportive emails.

These are small things, perhaps, but they give me hope.

Granted, people flipped out about the fact that Willow no longer has hair to flip around. Apparently, members of the general public think that it's their business to complain that someone else' twelve-year-old doesn't look feminine enough.

Granted, Muslim women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive and are now electronically monitored at border crossings.

Granted, the PINK Loves CONSENT campaign was a protest action, not a groundbreaking shift in Victoria's Secret's marketing approach. Victoria's Secret still sells thongs that advertize sexual availability in child sizes and still displays its wares on uniformly and unnaturally shaped models. 



The times, they are a-changing: Willow Pinkett Smith did shave off her hair, and the absurdity of the public's response gave Jada Pinkett the opportunity to point out that women of all ages "are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own" and that people should back the fuck off and mind their own damn business instead of worrying about her daughter's hair (my paraphrase).

Ela, having overheard children at the mall asking their mother if she was a terrorist while she was wearing a head scarf, now reports feeling a sense of empathy with veiled women and girls rather than seeing them as distant Others.

If it's smarter than the boxes its panties come in, Victoria's Secret will recognize that its consumers like the idea of sexual consent and oppose rape, and will immediately release a statement in support of consent and against rape, eliminate "sure thing" from its tween-sized vagina covers, and recruit a runway's worth of models who represent the full range of women's bodies. 

I really, really hated that "Who Run the World (Girls)" song when it was popular there for a few minutes last summer, partly because of the missing helping verb but mostly because girls don't run the world, so pretending that we do is just stupid. And pretending we do while dancing around in the manner that the patriarchy defines for us sexy is regressive, which is actually worse: I'd much rather Twelve think that women have any say at all in how the world is run than to learn what it means to be sexual based on that video. 

It's amazing how one's perspective changes when one switches from just watching a video to considering what one's adolescent daughter would learn from it.

Anyway, I am feeling okay about the future of the world at the moment. Twelve may not care much right now about anything other than which Sorel boots she wants for Christmas, but there are other young women out there who do, and gradually things will change. In fifty years, we'll be sitting around reminiscing about how bad it was in the olden days when abortion rights were in jeopardy, our first nonwhite President was a big deal, men raped women on a regular basis, and marriage rights were restricted to heteros. Veteran women politicians will tell girls about how Sarah Palin's bizarre 2008 Vice-Presidential candidacy inspired them to enter the political arena, just to show that all women are not complete idiots.

There are a few other problems with this video that I remember now that I'm watching it again: What's with this "disrespect us no they won't" bit? Um, disrespect us yes, they do, and all the time. "You'll do anything for me"? Are we asking or telling men this? Because asking hasn't done us a whole hell of a lot of good, historically speaking, and if we're telling them, well, I would need to see some evidence that they're following our instructions. And the whole concept of the video is fundamentally flawed; shouldn't situations in which scantily clad women dance suggestively in front of passive men be the thing we're fighting to end? Can we not (I ask, rhetorically) find a way for women to be strong and sexual that doesn't require a male audience?

Ugh. I'm so glad I'm not watching this with Twelve.

I am fascinated by dance videos: If the dancing is bad, it's fun to think, "Heh, I could do that," and if the dancing is good, I'm mesmerized.

The costuming is interesting too.

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