After the women’s liberation movement in the 70’s, a group of women including Gloria Steinem founded Women Against Pornography (WAP); feminists opposing the porn industry, violence against women, sex trafficking and prostitution. This group was not as anti-sex as many of its opposers and critics would make it seem like, but they did oppose and actively try to change the way pornography portrays and objectifies women. In the coming years, the feminist line became more pro-sex and sexually liberating, seeing sex as an empowering way for women to become more free, and in the 90’s, the sexualization and objectification of girls and women became even more prominent in the mainstream media.
The raunch culture as Levi describes it is the highly visible sexualized culture we live in today, where both men and women are openly sexualize and objectify women as sexual objects, or as women, objectify themselves. Raunch culture is visible in music, film, TV, advertisements, magazines, fashion, video games and within the political and social world. Raunch culture is a form of backlash from the earlier times before the women’s liberation movement and the sexual liberation, before these events women’s sexuality wasn’t very visible at all, wasn’t supposed to be seen actually, but now with the raunch culture, it’s seen everywhere, from children’s movies to adult magazines! I don’t think (or at least I hope) I haven’t participated much in raunch culture, I don’t think it has anything to do with being a prude, it’s just not something I feel comfortable with. I don’t feel like I’m just an object, I’m more than just my body, and so all this sexualization and objectification and false empowering that the raunch culture ensures just makes me sad. Women are so much more than bodies, so settling for that is just cheap or talking the easy way out.
I don’t think that raunch culture is a symbol for post-feminism liberation, because even though women and girls may now feel more open, liberated, free and confident with their sexuality, raunch culture also makes women seem more like objects, and even more so, it makes it more acceptable because it’s so visible in the media. Flaunting your sexuality does not equal empowerment, raunch culture just makes sexuality less controversial but it is still as problematic from a feminist perspective. Male and female sexuality is still viewed on differently, and raunch culture just makes the differences even more obvious; men = subject, women = objects.
In the video, Anita Sarkeesian talks about the sexualization of some selected female cast members of Glee, a popular family show aimed for kids and adults alike. The female cast members in the photoshoot wear revealing clothes, sexualised pozes and attitudes – all while still looking like their on screen characters; high school kids. Sexualizing these girls, no matter if the actresses are older than they appear, is still harmful because it happens all. the. time. Girls and women are sexualized more than men and boys, that’s a known fact, but that they are doing it with characters who appear to be around 16 years old, living just an ordinary high school life? I agree with her arguments and I too feel like there is a bigger problem within this than just this single photoshoot. When images like these are getting more common, it’s no wonder than girls at younger ages than ever start feeling the pressures of being sexually objectified and conforming to beauty standards, just to “fit it”. That should not be the main goal of high school girls, but when images like these are frequently seen around the media, in magazines, billboards, advertisements, commercials etc it sets the standards; young girls look up to characters like the the girls on Glee and other role models like that, and seeing them being sexualized like that makes it more okay for it to happen in real life too. Raunch culture definitely makes it more acceptable for sexualized images like that to circulate and reach the eyes of young people who may not know better and think this is the norm.
(Originally posted on 2014/12/16 for Melanie Klein’s class blog “Women and Popular Culture”)