I remember visiting London in the 90s–the phone booths were plastered with T&A ads. I was the stereotypically shocked American, raised on “goodness” and “Catholicism.” We can all see where that went. Anyone catch the flick “Spotlight”?
It was quickly explained to me by my British friend that sex isn’t nearly as much of a big deal in Europe as it is in the States. My reformed catholic wasn’t ready to let it go, however and I was judgin’, but I was just starting to get deep into third-wave, Riot Grrrl liberation. Objectified females for the soul purpose of male consumption makes me about as comfortable as sitting on a porcupine, which is probably why I felt conflicted by the ads. I frequently have this inner dialogue with myself-“girl, who you puttin’ make up on for? Who you being sexy for? Ayyy, I’m human, but I love my self too. That’s the only paradoxical conclusion I can come too. I’d be lying if I said I give zero fucks about my appearance. We would ALL be lying. Hashtag #selfiegameonfleek. That said, it’s good to question your motives. Some of us need to be under a therapist’s care for codependence or straight-up narcissism, but that’s a blog for another day.
So I’m totally feeling this fourth wave, feminist “call out” culture. Shows like I Love Dick and Broad City are totally pushing female sexuality out of the taboo realm, out of the hyper-fantasy realm, out of the “a-woman-can-only-be-sexual-if-she’s-insane-realm“. PREAACH, sisters, preach. Sexuality has gotten very matter of fact in many representations of women in media. We definitely have a LONG way to to go as misogyny still runs deep and strong, powerful roles (especially for women of color) are still few and far between, but we’re owning that shit in a very real and humanistic way. I’m drunk in love — with all of it. I love it all. It’s women saying “fuck it, I go where I want and do as I please. Can I get a dash of Salt n’ Peppa, please:
What’s the matter with your life?
Why you gotta mess with mine?
Don’t keep sweatin’ what I do,
Cause I’m gonna be just fine – check it out.
And as with any “call out,” it’s freeing up our voices. How else can I relish in Ciara’s commitment to remain celibate before marriage and also shake my ass to Rihanna’s “Work”? It’s because feminism is all about freedom of choice, damning the hell out of double standards, embracing imperfections and allowing women the freedom to make mistakes, to live in paradox and to flourish, just like men do.
This just means that I don’t get to define what women do with their bodies and neither do you. I remember Catharine MacKinnon’s anti-porn politics and yes, we can all agree that 99.9 percent of porn is curated for the male gaze, but I also a remember Kathleen Hannah’s adamant refusal that women can’t be strippers AND also feminists:
“You can have those contradictions exist and it doesn’t mean your feminism is invalidated,” Hanna said. “It doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist because you expose your legs and wear a leotard … I’m just happy there’s more of a conversation about feminism now.”1
All this means is that we’re equal to men. Some y’all still got us consistently confused with ball-breaking man-haters. The woman in the thong, the secretary, the house wife, the celibate, non-dating, woman. We get to choose. That’s all, folks. Simple as that. And now that “slut-shaming” is now a part of our everyday vernacular because of the power of mainstream social media, it feels like Bikini Kill’s Riot Grrrl message is coming back, just in a different way.
The verdant soil for being yourself continues to be tilled and watered and transformed.
Let’s keep watering it.