Thursday, 31 July 2008

The pornogrification* of mainstream culture

Apparently, I have no sense of humour. I love the Marx Brothers and Bill Bryson and laugh at all sorts of jokes, but, no, according to some, I have no sense of humour. Why?

Mostly because:

– I don’t think pole dancing is an ‘empowering’ activity for young women, let alone little girls.

– I don’t think calling a perfume Putain des Palaces is either witty or charming; it’s a cynical marketing ploy on the part of Etat Libre d’Orange (a French perfume company), aimed at ├ępater le bourgeois, that’s all.

– I don’t think choosing the word ‘brothel’ (albeit in its Latin/French version) as one’s message-board username is cute.

I’m told I get my knickers in a twist for nothing; that I take myself too seriously; that I should ‘relax’. It seems I’m not ‘a good sport’.

But then neither is that old feminist Rosie Boycott, who, a couple of years ago, reported that, in a lads magazine she had been reading, ‘every woman who had achieved something in her own right – other than possessing a great pair of boobs – was routinely dismissed as a boot-faced minger or dyke. Dame Ellen MacArthur, who had just achieved another nautical first, came in for a particular drubbing: “a miserable, sobbing, whining bitch in a boat... basically a frigid dyke-looking, yachting c***”.’

Ariel Levy, who wrote Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, is not amused either. She asks, ‘How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavoured to banish good for women? Why is labouring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? And how is imitating a stripper or a porn star going to render us sexually liberated?’

As the journalist Fenella Souter says, ‘Sexiness has become the new political correctness.’ Woe betide the woman who finds it objectionable!

Well, I would rather be in the company of those humourless ‘harridans’ than that of any ‘team player’, who, brainwashed by men, objectifies herself.


* Does anyone know where the term comes from? I read it first in an article by Ginny Dougary in the Times, but I don’t think she coined it.

Update (2/08/08): If you don’t agree with me, and – obviously – know nothing about the Suffragettes, who fought for women’s equality, back in the last century, go and see Her Naked Skin at the National. You will learn a few things that will make your hair stand on end and possibly make you feel a bit guilty for betraying their ideals (they certainly didn’t fight for women to behave as badly as men). If, on the other hand, you do know what you owe these brave women, don’t bother: apart from a history lesson, it is one of the shallowest pieces of drama I’ve seen for a long time. There is a play to be written about the subject, but Her Naked Skin ain’t it.


  1. The show jumping fiasco is another great example. British Show Jumping Association releases cheesecake photos of top lady riders just before big show in Chester. Sponsor so appalled that they insist on having their brand removed from everything connected to big show.
    BSJA says "there are lots of great looking girls in show jumping" as though that means ERGO! that they should be posing in their knickers. That's today's logic, apparently.

  2. How depressing! It's absolutely everywhere. It's as if the last 40 years hadn't happened.

  3. Oh good grief - this sort of idiocy has reached SHOW JUMPING!? I am speechless. I was just watching a show broadcast from Aachen, Germany wherein the selections for the American Olympic Show Jumping team were announced - three women and two men! The U.S. Equestrian Team thankfully does not try these cheap tricks to popularize the sport over here.

    We do have those same sort of "lad mags" here however - I read them sometimes just to see what we are up against, and then I want to go bash my head against a wall. If this is what is being spoon-fed to young men, we are in trouble. If you are female, you simply don't exist unless you are a pretty, vapid actress or model. Emphasis on the vapid of course. Are men really that insecure, that they want something like that instead of an equal partner?

    And don't even get me started on the pole-dancing, I might jump in front of a bus...

  4. You know, too, what one problem is with making sexual appeal essential for a young woman's success in ANY field? (I mean apart from the obvious that you have already covered, Bela.) It's the time limit on it. Even supposing you are either blessed with conventional good looks or willing to pay to create fake good looks - get to 35 and it's over. Get to 50 and you had better bl**dy disappear. All these cute 18-year-olds with their flat bellies don't know what's coming to them.

    All the things that last - success at work, in relationships, developed interests and things of the mind, concrete achievements resulting from effort or determination, moral awareness - then belong to men again.

    So that means that being 'good sports' means women allow themselves to be distracted by the approval for something that is accidental and superficial, and once more get half a life while men get to have a whole one.

    It seems to me the approval is a sneaky trick. Not, obviously, intentional on the part of any one man, I'm not blaming any individual for doing it on purpose. Just a cultural trick. Approval is so blinding that you can't see beyond the dazzle.

  5. I have so many thoughts on this matter I can barely type!

    Whatever happened to wanting to be appreciated for one's mind? How as a society did we let this happen?

    I recently purchased a copy of Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth. Ms. Brittain enlisted as a nurse during the First World War, and she kept a diary during those years. She was barely in her twenties, and she lost almost all of her close friends and family members during the war. She worked through her grief, and still found time to write. How many people today know of her work? How is it possible that Paris Hilton is known to many, and Vera Brittain to relatively few?

    Objectification is demeaning and degrading. It keeps the object (women, in this case) from reaching their potential. I think it's an acceptable form of violence.

    I know funny, and using a screen name that means cat house is not it :) It takes courage to speak out against pornogrification. Ariel Levy's book should be required reading.



  6. I completely agree. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is spinning in her grave.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.