Girls Behaving “Badly”? An American Obsession.

Posted: 2011/12/13 in Music, Society/Culture

Over the past few decades and especially in the last few years, it seems as though America’s new “favorite pastime” is the watching of “girls behaving badly”. This trend has taken shape in stripper-pop music , barely there clothing, television shows like “bad girls club”, and our collective obsession with the celebutantes (Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and Lindsay Lohan). Girls behaving badly is now a cottage industry and I had to stop and wonder : Is the fact that we delight and  revel in female debauchery a case of  America celebrating female empowerment? Or is our fascination a passive aggressive desire to watch women be demeaned and degraded under  altruistic armor? We shake our heads at other societies that have women cover their bodies a little more , but at the same time we create an environment where women are primed (time?) for exploitation. Are we really any better than those countries we look down on? Are we actually worse?

Over the past few years,  “party girls” and  “women on the edge” have become “the” popular representation  of  women in America. Of course , “sex sells” (it always has and it always will) but things seem to be going beyond sex and into humiliation/degradation territory  these days.  Look no further than your  own television and you see what I mean.  Shows like “Desperate Housewives, “The Real World”, “The Bad Girls Club”, “The Real Housewives of ____”, all delight in women behaving in “trashy” ways. Women on the edge of sanity and decency seems to be a very appealing image to the general public . Just ask Joe Francis, the owner of the famed “Girls Gone Wild” home video franchise. He has made millions on the backs and “boobs” of scores of young women. Speaking of home video success, even Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian can be celebrities BUT they have to do a sexy video for us first . In other words , they have to take a ride on AMERICA’s  casting-couch. While the older women of “Housewives” and the less monied women of  “Bad Girls” and “The Shore” can be successful AFTER we see them embarrass themselves with drunken exploits on basic cable. It all definitely seems suspiciously like exploitation.

When it comes to popular music it has almost become a REQUIREMENT to be a “bad girl”. “Bad Girl” in a safe, made-for-men sort of way that is. “Bad Girls” that disrupt this boys-club fantasy are still shunned in America: Courtney Love, Sinead O’ Connor, (and more recently) P!nk,  M.I.A  (who should be more popular in this country than she is) and  Peaches (who most pop stars these days have ripped off either knowingly or unknowingly…minus the gender-fuck , folkways and mores shattering philosophy). Hell, even Lady Gaga…the most thoughtful and artistic pop princess to come along in a while had to PRETEND to be a drunken mess to get her first taste of mainstream success and a foothold in our cultural landscape (“love game” , “just dance” & to a lesser extent “poker face”).

Thankfully, Gaga was  a trojan horse of sorts. She flew into the mainstream under the acceptable  cover of yet another “girl gone wild” and out marched the gay-rights advocating, anti-bullying, “let your freak flag fly”- gal. Now it  seems that a handful of the girls (Beyoncé, Rihanna, the aforementioned Gaga) have started using  the sexy trojan horse method. Those examples are TRULY revolutionary. Madonna pioneered the modern way  that this is done….but her sexuality was ALWAYS her own. She has presented it in ways that were/are uncomfortable to the “status quo” and the “powers that be”. That is the real  difference between the exploited and the truly liberated.

But that is where I encounter the problem that led me to write this blog in the first place.

As much as we pretend that  women (in particular) are “liberated” and “free” in  this country, we secretly know that this is not true. What America really does is allow women to behave in ways that excite heterosexual men at the expense of their own dignity (casting couch). We tell them through overt and subliminal social conditioning  to “act like men” to assert their own autonomy (in a move that cleverly/disgustingly  subverts 60s style “free love”). Then at the same time: women still make less money than men, hold fewer positions of real power than men, and they are still judged more harshly for these “manly” actions (heavy drinking, proud sexuality and freedom of expression in all forms). Until women have these  positions of power and these freedoms in a TRUE sense, these things work to undermine all of their hard work and is mere exploitation in most cases.

Throughout this particular blog entry, I’ve simply wanted to pose the question of :”Does America enjoy setting women up to exploit themselves…under the illusion of empowerment.” The fact that I either watched or continue to watch the shows (and listen to the music) I referenced, made me stop and think about what was going on beneath the surface of  this entertainment.  Do we simply enjoy the drama of conflict and the forbidden…or is there something deeper going on in this country’s delight in “female crudeness”?

Now I DON’T want to give the impression that I’m not in favor of a woman’s freedom to do whatever she pleases. I have many female friends who are fabulous and free… And I do believe that women should have the freedom to do ANYTHING they want to do (just like any adult)…..persecution be damned!!!!  As long as any adult is prepared to accept the consequences of  their actions (and it doesn’t hurt anyone else); I say do what makes you feel good (or better yet, do what makes ME feel good). Ladies (and Gentlemen) just make sure that it is genuinely your choice and that you are not a cultural sacrificial lamb.

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