Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pretty Girls


Some odd things were happening in my social life, too. People I knew (female people) liked going to strip clubs (female strippers). It was sexy and fun, they explained; it was liberating and rebellious. My best friend from college, who used to go to Take Back the Night marches on campus, had become captivated by porn stars. She would point them out to me in music videos and watch their (topless) interviews on Howard Stern.

As for me, I wasn't going to strip clubs or buying Hustler T-shirts, but I was starting to show signs of impact all the same. It had only been a few years since I'd graduated from Wesleyan University, a place where you could pretty much get expelled for saying "girl" instead of "woman," but somewhere along the line I'd started saying "chick." And, like most chicks I knew, I'd taken to wearing thongs. - Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Cuture

Back in the 50s, a pin up photo of a naked pretty girl was not the sort of thing men looked at proudly in public. These days, the magazine stand is littered with pretty girls in various states of undress and the TV is packed full of shows detailing the lives of porn stars, strippers and the young girls who emulate them. Ariel Levy has written an interesting book which I hope to read soon, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, detailing the rise of porn culture and women's relatively new participation in it.

What was going on? My mother, a shiatsu masseuse who attended weekly women's consciousness-raising groups for twenty-four years, didn't own makeup. My father, whom she met as a student radical at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the sixties was a consultant for Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW. Only thirty years (my lifetime) ago, our mothers were "burning their bras" and picketing Playboy, and suddenly we were getting implants and wearing the bunny logo as supposed symbols of our liberation. How had the culture shifted so drastically in such a short period of time? - Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Cuture

Like Levy, I was raised by an actively political feminist who didn't own make-up, bras, or jewelry and rarely deigned to buy new clothes. Our mother didn't watch TV, go to the movies or read trashy magazines. She didn't participate in popular culture in any of its various forms and she certainly did not abide by its rules of acceptable beauty standards.

Thanks to this, my sister and I grew up starved for pop culture and I spent most of my 20s figuring out how exactly to be a girl. I studied my friends to learn how to pluck my eyebrows, dress nicely, apply make-up and flirt. Thus, it seems perfectly logical that I would have an affinity for girly raunch culture, 60s pin up pics and the burlesque.

As does Levy, I have mixed feelings about our new pro-porn culture. In some respects, it is liberating and refreshing and in others, it seems exploitative, artificial and so unsexy. I am all for openness about sex and the body but it gives me the creeps to see young girls emulating these plastic goddesses who take off their clothes for a living.

Once again, it all comes down to commerce. Pretty girls have always been good for a quick buck and once you take their clothes off, the cash just rolls in. I can only hope that the future brings some more options for young girls than the hope of being a porn star, a stripper or having her own webcam show which caters to thousands of horny guys.

But it is hard to be critical without sounding like a tut tutting, finger wagging crone (not that I have anything against them, love you mom!), so I try to walk that thin line between enjoyment of girly culture and acknowledgement that it is a highly complex, convoluted situation for all of us and America has some serious untangling to do.

What was almost more surprising than the change itself were the responses I got when I started interviewing the men and -- often -- women who edit magazines like Maxim and make programs like The Man Show and Girls Gone Wild. This new raunch culture didn't mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We'd earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes.

Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves. - Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Cuture

All that said, please to enjoy this video (embedded below) celebrating girly pin up pics from the 50s and 60s courtesy of Bunny Yeager and her most famous and dreamy model, Bettie Page. Despite Page's intense popularity, she ended up with next to nothing in the way of profits from her thousands of girly pictures.

Once again, it seems like the women in the girly business often get caught holding the short end of the stick while male slimeballs vacation in Bermuda (Joe Francis, I am talking to you). Still, I love these photos and the era they harken back to. One wonders what the future will bring and if we will one day look nostalgically at photos of Pamela Lee Anderson.

"Ah, remember the old days when busty models only had two boobs unlike the four-boobed bimbos of today, how quaint..."

Also, this video includes a segment on the former burlesque dancer, Dixie Evans and her wonderful museum, Exotic World, which Molly Lynch and I filmed in 1999 while driving across the country and making our road trip movie, Tits and Asphalt. Enjoy!

10 comments:

emilybot said...

I apologize because this has nothing to do with your post...but have you seen this yet?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXQO9ypnou0

Pretty intense. YouTube has a wealth of real life issues for all to see...

Eva the Deadbeat said...

wow, who is her husband? did you watch his vids? i am gonna have to look into this, very sad!

steve said...

Was she on the Colbert Report this past week? If so, she's massively hot.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

yep, that was her. nothing like a hot chick to sell a book about the selling of hot chicks...;)

StudentLoanGestapo said...

I'm guessing here, but it seems that this "Raunch Culture" crapola has coasted itself into mainstream acceptance on the backs of pro-sex cultural shitworkers who worked for years to get pornography decriminalized. Plus la Change...

Q_Monroe said...

interesting. paul and i got in a huge fight this weekend because i found a hooters receipt in his pocket. last week he'd been begging me to start helping him make his lunch (at 29!), so i made him this pasta salad that he loves so he can take it to work. and what does he go and do -- he goes to hooters for lunch instead! he knows how much i hate that place and you think he'd at least respect me and go to any other restaurant besides that. i told him i was sorry my boobs weren't as big as the hooter girls and he said "yes they are!" well, i guess wings will always beat out a healthy pasta salad. asshole.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

hooters schmooters. even the most supposedly advanced men just want big boobies rubbing up in their faces. this will probably never change.

casey said...

Wonderful post. It created all sorts of responses in my convoluted, porn-addled male mind.

I'd write 'em down, but now I have to fufill my desires for vintage pinup dames.

PS: I've never been to a Hooters, but I keep trying to get Brooke to take me. I think I'd order the shrimp plate.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

the shrimp plate and big boobies sounds lovely to me. pin ups and porn are such a funny thing...i am "allowed" to like em cause i am a girl but the overaching industry that sells this stuff is a twisted, convoluted thing...

Bettie Page truly is the bomb. i just wish she was able to profit more from her image distribution...

Espinafrina silva said...

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