One of the most remarkable features of Richard Cohen’s regrettable treatise on twerking was the assertion that Miley Cyrus’ booty dance set feminism “back on its heels.” I give Richard Cohen credit for pretending to give a shit about feminism, but I think he’s being unrealistic here. If feminists got all wee-wee’d up about every sexy photo or dance featuring a female model or entertainer, we’d literally–LITERALLY–be angry all the time. Plus, the issue is a nuanced one.
Sure, we are saturated with sexualized images of women. They’re everywhere. Can’t escape it. Sometimes it feels a little smothering. And I don’t think this is something does a great deal of good for feminism. I mean, the idea that women have to adhere to ridiculous beauty standards and are mainly here to serve as decoration is pretty darn troubling. On the other hand, as long as attractive people exist, people will enjoy looking at them, and I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. I enjoy the hell out of looking at sexy images of attractive men. Then again, sexy images of men aren’t plastered all over every available blank space in the universe. Still, the point stands: people like looking at purty people. I can’t do a damn thing about that and I’m not sure I’d want to even if I could.
And then there’s the fact that entertainers are going to trade on their looks because a.) it’s profitable and b.) it’s fun. Let’s face it: it’s fun to have people think you’re hawt. (In most–non-creepy–contexts.) IT’S FLATTERING. And I suspect even the most well-meaning feminist or feminist-sympahizer can understand that.
So, thanks, Richard Cohen, but I’m not going to worry about Miley Cyrus trying erase her saccharine kiddie star image with some badly-executed twerking. And I’m not going to clutch my pearls and retire to my fainting couch when Beyonce struts the stage in some skimpy get-up. I have mixed feelings about these women trading on their looks for fame and validation, but they’re hardly alone in doing so. Furthermore I’m allowed to have nuanced feelings about such things. I decide for myself how to do feminism, men. You don’t get to tell me how to do it.
Also, if feminists got upset about all the sexy twerking and annilingus and the other sexy things the kids are doing these days, we’d be accused of being fat, jealous prudes.