Friday, March 30, 2012

Thanks for nothing, Feminism!

 Yesterday Jenn Floyd Engel, Fox Sports Columnist wrote an article about how outraging it is that Tiger Woods' mistresses are writing a book about their sexual exploits with the golf superstar.

The super popularity of "socialites, the girls whose rise to fame started with a sex tape", "The Real Housewives", and mistresses is sending girls the wrong message about "what it is to be truly successful, truly powerful, truly famous."

I actually agree with Engel here. I think that being famous for nothing sends a bad message, but I tend to think that it's equally damaging for girls and boys -- boys, as much as girls, learn how to comport themselves through popular media. This is where our similarities end.

Engel seems to think that women have gotten to this point because of feminism. I could be wrong, but it just seems like Engel goes from making a feminist argument to a blame feminism argument really quickly and it doesn't really make sense because if you read the comments under her article she gets attacked constantly just because she's a woman writer.
"Long live feminism, baby" she writes after describing the many "career moves" that Tiger Woods' mistresses have made. To be perfectly honest though, I don't really think that  feminist culture produced the Howard Stern Mistress Beauty Pageant and I have to say that I don't know many feminists who consume Tiger Woods' themed pornography. In fact, I don't know many feminists or even any progressively minded human being that watches and enjoys Celebrity Rehab.

Engel thinks that the Rush Limbaugh "slut" controversy wasn't really about using the word slut but rather a reaction to Limbaugh saying it.  "Listen to how Bill Maher talked about Sarah Palin, or the lyrics to that Soulja Boy "Superman" song that plays at many arenas?" 

 At the same time that she recognizes how saturated with sexism popular culture is, she ignores the work that is being every single day to combat normative sexism. Despite what she says, the reaction to Limbaugh saying "slut" wasn't "disingenuous": after an organized, intelligent, and thoughtful campaign against the use of the world slut Limbaugh lost 58 advertisers from his radio show. This is exactly the kind of work that is happening all of the time, although usually it doesn't get any kind of media attention.

"What I am afraid this Tiger tale has done is reinforce for young girls that their chance of being famous is better sleeping with Tiger than being the Tiger of their chosen profession. There certainly is less vitriol hurled at the women sleeping with Tiger than say Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton or even a young female private citizen testifying before Congress about birth control."

Engel fails to mention that there are countless articles calling these women sluts and whores, they're not just handed golden goose eggs and being patted on the back. Where's the slut-shaming for Tiger? Who really cares that he cheated on his wife? It's not really anyone elses business, but he has sex with a bunch of different women and he's just a man? They're sluts and whores, but he's just Tiger Woods.

"Of course, young girls are confused....We are selling study hard, promise rings and you can be whatever you want and then talking about and watching and paying big bucks to girls who do otherwise."

This is what really got me.  Promise Rings? So, to be a successful and powerful woman you have to be chaste and adhere to the principals of heteronormativity? Give me a break. Young women are confused because they're told they have to save their bodies for the man they will marry some day and if they don't, they're sluts. Young women are confused because they're sluts for sleeping with more than one person, but the same behaviour is celebrated when men do it. Young women are confused because they're told that if they're good they'll be safe and happy but then they are gang raped and murdered. Young women are confused because they're told to speak their minds and then they're bullied or harassed for being too smart. Young women are confused because people who attack them rarely face punishment for their words or actions. Young women are confused because they're told their whole lives that strangers are dangerous, but then they're abused by their families or partners. Young women are confused because they are never taken seriously. Personally, I am confused as a young woman when I write a blog about something that has nothing to do with my profession(Women's Studies) and I receive comments like this:

Sexless, Joyless, Perpetually Offended, Resentful. Young women are confused because their hard work gets automatically slotted into these categories instead of considered thoughtfully. If you scroll through the comments under Engel's article you'll find a bunch accusing her of being a joyless, sexless creature as well - nobody escapes it and isn't that worse then some ladies writing a book about being mistresses to someone famous?

A 2011 study on National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. The numbers from the study were compared to statistics on smoking with jarring results: sexual assault and violence is more common, statistically, than smoking in the United States.

Paris Hilton and the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills are the least of young women's worries right now and if a certain writer was really so offended and morally outraged by these kinds of trends then maybe they would quit their job with the enormous corporation responsible for disseminating that garbage. Engel writes her article to "chicks only": her "team" needs some real talk because "we are still embarrassing ourselves." What I find embarrassing is that a writer with such a wonderful and wide-ranging platform would start to explore something interesting and then cop-out and make it a feminist bashing party.


Anonymous said...

"Where's the slut-shaming for Tiger? Who really cares that he cheated on his wife? It's not really anyone elses business, but he has sex with a bunch of different women and he's just a man? They're sluts and whores, but he's just Tiger Woods."

Are you suggesting that Tiger Woods has been spared by the media? Because he most certainly has not. I know this is not the topic of your post, but the backlash against Tiger -- of which there's been a great deal -- is fraught with racism, as much as the fallout against the women he slept with has been tinged with sexism (and, even more than that, classism). The media gets a free shot at Tiger because he's a black man playing in a white man's sport, and because he confirms what everyone always worried about -- that he's got an out of control libido, and if you don't watch out, he MIGHT just sleep with all the white women.

tee said...

I don't think that the media has spared Tiger Woods in any way. I totally agree with you about the way he's been treated, actually. It's my opinion that "celebrity sex scandals" have no place in the media, and that our obsession with them says more about the things you mentioned (racism, sexism, classism) then they do about sex.

However, the article I chose to write wasn't about Tiger Woods. I was just reacting to the Sports writers' assertion that Feminism had somehow gotten us into this mess, which I don't agree with.

Thanks for the comment, lots of great points in there!

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