I’ve taken a bit of flak for yesterday’s article. Some people have accused me of selling out as a feminist (You know who you are!) for implying that Miss Cyrus made the wrong choice with her gyrations on stage at the VMA’s. That as a woman, it is her prerogative to do as she pleases. Yes, I agree with that. Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a ‘sex object’……..apart from the message it sends that women are useful only for their sex appeal and little else.
Being treated as a sex object happens naturally to very attractive women and can be extremely frustrating especially when a woman is working as hard as she can to assert herself as a highly educated, intelligent and successful individual who wants to make a statement in this world not only as a woman but as a professional but isn’t taken seriously because of her looks. She’s a ‘bimbo’ or a ‘babe’ which may explain why some professional women dampen down their sexuality in a bid to be seen as an equal in what is still very much a man’s world.
But let’s go back to Miley. Okay, so she’s established herself as a sex object in order to sell albums. Good for her. The problem arises when she wants to be taken seriously as an artist. Somewhere down the line she may change course in her musical career and then demand that people not see her as a ‘sex object’ but as a singer. A woman, not a bimbo.
Being taken seriously after you’ve sold yourself as a sex object is very difficult. Brook Shields, American actress, model and former child star who garnered much notoriety in the early 80’s for her risqué modeling career is more remembered for her nude modeling than for her diverse acting career or for her Bachelor’s Degree in French Literature from Princeton University. Singer Madonna has frequently re-invented herself in the vain attempt to distance herself from her “Vogue” persona and that sex book but is still regarded by some as a talentless bimbo and it’s not just women. Mark Wahlberg has tried desperately for years to be taken seriously, switching from singing to acting and has succeeded for the most part but lots of people still remember him as ‘Marky Mark” on billboards wearing nothing else but Calvin Klein underwear.
Locally we have Sheena Deepnarain, news anchor for ANN7, who you may know as the lady berating us all for laughing at the 24-hr news channel. (How very dare we?) In her bio, Sheena lists herself as “Producer & Presenter for HashTag - ANN7 405* *Actress Gaenor Artist Management* *Owner & Model Jozi Model Management*” . “FHM top 20 2011 * Face of Placecol”. Take a look at her Social Media pages and there she is, gorgeous, scantily clad in bikinis and the like. She’s obviously a highly intelligent young lady but are people going to take her seriously as a hard hitting news anchor? (As an aside and another example of sexism in the work-place, many of the ‘ANN7' presenters are quite literally models, or aspiring models. The Sunday Times reported that an “insider” told them the decision to hire models was taken with intention, seeing as “they believe that men will enjoy watching the news when they see pretty girls”.) ***
The problem, as I see it, is: can we have it both ways? Can we be seen as sexual objects and still demand respect? Can women bare their cleavage and then slap men’s faces for looking at it? Can men strut around in speedos and then get offended when women ogle them? If we label ourselves as objects, can we really expect to be treated as people?
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