Ooh Boobies! And more boobies!

28 02 2009

In “Stupid Boob Behavior” Cosmo wonders why there seems to be an increasing trend of young women exposing their breasts in public whenever and wherever they want. In the second paragraph author Michelle Stacey writes:

At concerts, festivals, college parties, and athletic events, chicks are grinning and baring their boobs. Which begs the question: Why are so many young women making their breasts public property? And who really ends up getting the best end of this deal – the girls who say all this flaunting makes them feel empowered and free or the men ogling them?

Calling women “chicks”? It’s supposed to be a cutsey word but it’s just belittling, condescending, objectifying and offensive. The questions that she poses are legitimate and relates to the whole issue of whether women are being active, autonomous agents when they exhibit their bodies. However, there are many things about the article that irk me and I do not think that Stacey does a good job of critically addressing the questions she asks.     

Also, as I scrolled down while reading the article I couldn’t help but cringe at the side bar that linked articles like “30 Things to do with a naked man,” “What his body language is telling you,” “What men really like in bed” and “How to snag a rich guy.” Not only is this extremely heteronormative, but it also completely eliminates female desire from the picture. For a magazine that’s supposed to be for “fun, fearless females”, one of the most popular magazines that women read for sex advice, why is there nothing about female pleasure? (And don’t they run out of ways to drive him wild? It seems like there’s always something about how to please your man on every cover.)

Under the heading “Why Girls Go Wild” Stacey writes, “All you have to do is turn on the TV or cruise the Internet for a few minutes to observe the current exhibitionistic climate.” What she completely forgets to mention is you know, just browse through Cosmo. If you look at their cover models or just the models in the magazine, the women are generally hypersexualized and bare their cleavage. A professor cited in the article also notes that women these days “are exposing themselves more, with very low-slung pants and very skimpy tops that show the belly”. Again, open any issue of Cosmo and you’ll see models wearing exactly what he describes, and sometimes even less than that.

Stacey does a poor analysis of how alcohol factors into the equation. She writes:

…there is no question that being “drunk and stupid” is indeed often another key element in the process of “going wild.” The AMA [American Medical Association] spring-break study firmly put the blame on booze for girls’ misbehavior during what the AMA’s president characterized as “a dangerous binge fest.” But which comes first, the alcohol or the desire to flash? “Alcohol may partly enable some of this behavior,” says M. Lynne Cooper, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at Columbia and an expert in alcohol use and risky behavior.

 There have been many conversations about the role of alcohol in hook-up culture and boobie-flashing culture, but one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is how many young women feel the need to alcohol as a social license in order to be sexual. The larger issue here is that we live in a misogynist culture that not only simultaneously devalues and overvalues sex (sex scandals always make headlines and it’s what sells, yet why is abstinence-only sex education dominant?) but also sends women contradicting messages about their sexuality (like the whole virgin/whore dichotonomy). Women may feel unable to explore and pursue their sexual side unless they are under the influence and may use alcohol as an excuse for their sexual behavior because women aren’t supposed to be sexual anyway (we’re supposed to be sexy but not sexual, we’re supposed to be desired and desirable but “pure” and virginal).

Perhaps the best part of the article is the part that says:

“Young women today are children of the sexual revolution,” says Donna Lisker, PhD, director of the Duke University Women’s Center, “and many have grown up with the explicitly feminist message that they should be proud of their bodies. So they can cast their behavior as a form of feminism — as girl power, being in charge of their own sexuality.”

Are you really in charge of and owning your sexuality when your actions are influenced by patriarchal, heteronormative, misogynist, objectifying ideas that equate a woman’s beauty and worth to simply what your body looks like? Are you really in charge of and owning your sexuality when you flaunt your body expressly for the male gaze and to get male attention?

Don’t get me wrong – I wear make up sometimes, I wear high heels sometimes, I even wear skimpy clothes sometimes, but I don’t think that you can equate feminism with buying into patriarchal standards of beauty and offering your body up for (male) objectification and consumption. Is it feminist to consign yourself to being just a sexual object to please the ogling eyes of men? It’s feminist to love your body and embrace it the way it is without objectifying it as a way to get sexual attention.

My main problem with this article is the hypocrisy in it: how can Cosmo question why women are so into publicly baring their breasts when the whole magazine is basically all about telling women (even the ones who go around flashing people in public, the very women whose motives they are questioning) that it is empowering to display themselves as sexual objects. The whole magazine is dedicated to the public consumption of female bodies which makes it so hypocritical to feature an article that so innocently wonders gee, why do women like to show their breasts so much? Well Cosmo, take a good look at yourself and you’ll find out why.



One response

28 02 2009

I think Cosmo just uses its “feminist” articles to try and legitimize itself and widen its readership/mainstream acceptance while pushing an anti-feminist agenda through the perhaps more subtle messages found throughout its ads, photos, and other articles (which far outnumber the “feminist” ones or perhaps claim to be empowering while actually promoting gender stereotypes and/or heteronormativity). As you said, Cosmo as all about how to change yourself to get a man, how to please your man, and how to look “good” (extremely skinny, heavily made-up, and dressed in expensive clothing that is far from accessible for most women) in order to be an object of the male gaze. Oh, the many reasons I hate Cosmo and everything it stands for!

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