Miley’s ‘twerking’ tells us nothing about female sexuality

“Sex is one of the most interesting things we as humans have to play with, and we’ve reduced it to polyester underpants and implants. We are selling ourselves unbelievably short.”

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

The furore surrounding Miley Cyrus’s making of history by ‘twerking’, licking hammers and propping herself on a giant metal ball – although sexually provocative – tells us nothing about female sexuality. Also, instead of inspiring women, it seems to be driving more women to hate women.

Again, we’re met with the same boring, plasticine images of a female celebrity jumping around with no clothes on, in the name of ‘making history’. What I really don’t understand is how Cyrus intends on ‘making history’ post Madonna or Rihanna, without even taking the Wife of Bath into account. We should spare a thought for John Aubrey’s ‘young wenches…who get upon a table-board and wabble to and fro with their buttocks as if they were kneading of dowgh with their a-’, back in 1868, or the controversy surrounding Manet’s Olympia in 1865. This display of wanton sexuality in public is definitely not new.

Cyrus’s behaviour also doesn’t really tell us anything substantial about how women want to express themselves sexually today (if she intended to spark that debate). As feminist icons such as Germaine Greer have stated countless times, with all its make-up and thin bodies, air brushing and great lighting, Cyrus licking a hammer is unreal sexuality; posed and distorted. If Cyrus tells us anything about female sexuality in 2013, she only emphasises just how conformist we are in our attitudes to it and how accepting we are of reductive sexual imagery. In a time when we’re sold Fifty Shades of Grey and it becomes a worldwide bestseller when critics ridicule it, it’s time our mainstream media feeds us something with more substance.

I’m sure lots of young women admire Miley Cyrus and her music because she is rebellious, in the same way as Rihanna or Lindsay Lohan might be. It’s not true rebellion though, is it, when this kind of behaviour is now becoming the norm in the mainstream pop and fashion worlds. She could be truly rebellious by sending out useful messages to young women about exploring their potential through their intellect and talents, instead of through their looks (cue Lily Cole). As Sinead O’Connor rightly pointed out, Cyrus sending out the message that young women should be valued more for their sexual appeal than their creative talents is not a message of empowerment or liberation for women.

Media reporting on Cyrus is also turning women against women, as tabloids scrutinize everything she does and focus in on her ‘eccentric’ behaviour in typical freak show style. More and more women then find themselves commenting on this media reporting and saying negative things about her personality and her body – all in the name of women’s liberation.

We definitely shouldn’t live in a world of censorship and sexual expression is something that should feel natural for everyone. However, when The Sun’s Page Three still exists, women are still harassed in the street and women constitute almost two-thirds (62%) of those on low pay and are not given senior roles in work, a female role model, like Cyrus, should consider sending out positive and meaningful messages to her fans.

Rather than seeing images of female desire or that cater to female desire, we see mock-ups of living mannequins, made to contort and grimace, immobilized and uncomfortable under hot lights, professional set-pieces that reveal little about female sexuality. In the United States and Great Britain, women rarely – and almost never outside a competitive context – see what other women look like naked; we see only identical humanoid products based loosely on women’s bodies

From Naomi Wolf’s 1991 text, The Beauty Myth

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Celebs take off their make-up (and everything else) for Children in Need

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It’s really exciting to see Children In Need asking women to go make-up free on Friday November 8th in support of its BearFaced campaign. The only thing is, why is it necessary for all the women to not be wearing any clothes alongside wearing no make-up? The ad campaign portrays slebs such as Sheridan Smith, Alex Jones and Jo Wood raising money for disadvantaged children, and (tongue-in-cheek), I hope they don’t expect us to go completely naked as well?

It’s great to see photos (that may be photo-shopped anyway) of known women going without make-up and that sends out a positive message about body acceptance. However, all that positivity is demeaned when, within the world of advertising, women still need to go in the buff to get attention. Did this campaign even need sexualising?

Gok Wan and his ‘bangers’ rhetoric is offensive and degrading

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It’s seem that Gok Wan has finally been called to question for calling women’s breasts bangers while he pinches them into a Dorothy Perkins tummy-tuck dress, sealed with a big belt at the waist. Rightly so, I say.

Gok Wan’s Fashion Fix has always been a bit of a strange concept to me. He finds women who are obviously quite vulnerable (for reasons which are only vaguely explained with Coldplay sinisterly playing in the background), counsels them on a comfy sofa with a cup of tea, dresses them up in what’s usually the same clothes each week (dress that pulls you in at the waist – check, big ol’ belt – check), and then pisses off while they look into the mirror at their new self, pretending that if they smile and look nice then everything is OK.

Gok tries to make the fashion world seem more human in his programme, but it just merelh highlights how shallow it is. Telling women that presenting themselves as happy, beautiful and confident on the surface, when really there are major self-esteem and confidence issues at play, is surely quite damaging? Maybe a fashion make over would lift your spirits for a while, when at the same time your emotional baggage has been spilled out on national television, but surely that would only provide a short-term boost? Word to the wise Gok, wearing a pretty new top will not solve your problems.

The programme is also hugely patronizing to women, and engrains all the familiar stereotypes that exist about women in the media. We all love bags and shoes and we just love taking our clothes off (I see so many women taking their clothes off in magazines – so we must love it?).

As well as his Trinny and Susannah-esque grabbing of the boobs and calling them ‘bangers’, which only serves to objectify the poor women who he’s servicing, he’s also asking them to strip on live television, as if that’s all that women can do to boost their self-esteem.

Women and men, even if they are slebs, shouldn’t have the right to grab women, objectify them because of their physical attributes and talk to them as if they’re slabs of meat. It is actually broadcasted abuse, but we don’t think of it that way, for some ungodly reason. Would you stand for it if a man or woman called your breasts ‘bangers’ in an objectifying way?

Hopefully programmes like Gok’s Fashion Fix will become woefully out-of-date, and we can all go to sleep safe at night with the knowledge that his grabby hands will never be televised again. I wonder what happened to the women in his shows…

The No More Page Three campaign has an amazing 113,193 supporters

ba30b555e86c0dbd448976760d1f1004Don’t forget to take ten seconds out and join them by signing the petition yourself. You’ll be joining a number of figures in the public eye, such as Lauren Laverne, Caitlin Moran, Jennifer Saunders, Rebecca Front and Fiona Bruce.

It seems like momentum is really growing for the campaign, especially after Mary Beard, Caitlin Moran, Hadley Freeman and Grace Dent and others have received a number of hideously abusive tweets over the past few weeks and the Conservatives are focusing on banning online porn. Government and media attention is currently on representations of women in the media, so now’s a great time to get behind the campaign.

The Guardian are really championing the cause, and Roy Greenslade is one new addition to the number of Guardian journalists covering this. You can view his to-date write-up of the campaign’s successes here. Lucy-Ann Holmes, who leads the campaign, is doing amazingly well, we all just need to continue to spread the word in any way we can!

Tweet: @Nomorepage3 or visit the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/NoMorePage3 

What do ‘boys’ like about ‘girls’?

What do 'boys' like about 'girls'?

My friend found this feature in an issue of Jackie magazine from the 1980s, and sent it my way. The content is, frankly, shocking. One ‘boy’ (even though they look adult (the magazine is aimed at young teen girls) said: ‘I hate fat girls who don’t look after their figures – there’s no excuse for it…’.

Great message to send out Jackie! Also, I don’t think anything much has changed, men do still critique women in women’s magazines (maybe not as obviously as this).

Dispelling the myth that men are promiscuous and women prude

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I loved this feature by Zoe Williams (@zoesqwilliams) at the Guardian, which offered a refreshing stance on women’s relationships to sex, sparking thoughts on why the stereotype prevails that men are more sexually promiscuous that women.

Daniel Bergner’s new book, ‘What do women want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire’ argues that, while women are still portrayed as the monogamous sex, we might actually be ‘more naturally promiscuous’, more ‘predatory’ or more likely to ‘objectify a mate’.

Laying all that sensationalist language aside, Bergner’s arguments really struck a chord and made me think about the mysticism around male and female attitudes, and behaviours, towards sex.

Surely women who do have casual sex and enjoy it, without wanting to marry the other person the next day, aren’t cold, or sluts, or wavering their duties as child-bearers? In 2013, surely our attitudes to the way that women can operate sexually (post-50 Shades of Grey) are more progressive?

Sadly, comments like those issued by Stephen Fry in 2010 don’t help: “The only reason women will have sex with (straight men) is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want,” he said. “Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?”

It seems that women now, still, I think, are not truly believed when they say they enjoy sex for what it is, without emotional ties. I have female friends who say that women can’t do this. Perhaps these sentiments, and, arguably, the skewed portrayal of male and female sexual behaviour in the media, prevents women from feeling like they can admit they like sex for its’ pleasure. Perhaps we’ll always own the guilty subconscious and conscious feeling that they’re not pursuing their biological duty.

Bergner’s first argument poses that ‘women experience a loss of interest in sex within a marriage – commonly ascribed to low libido, but actually more a thwarted libido’. The age-old tale that women often kick their pestering partner away might actually tell us something – that women get bored with having one option for a long time, sexually.

The second is that wasted desire builds up over time and becomes particularly potent. There have been countless times when female friends have talked about sex and shared particular interest in it, just like a man would. Is that sexual repression? Does that show that women aren’t as interested in sex as men?

Zoe Williams’s article has definitely adjusted my way of thinking about the double standards we allow when looking at sex, and men and women.