I'm a pretty much a textbook third-wave, sex-positive feminist.  I wear make-up and mini-skirts (no high heels though, I can barely balance in my Converse.)  Occasionally for parties, I'll dress up in sexy costumes (sexy Hester Prynne is my masterpiece.)  I even straighten my hair sometimes.   And I don't see anything wrong with that. Now, I recognize that by doing these things, I'm engaging in practices sold to me by a capitalist patriarchal society (say that five times fast).  These industries get off on telling me I'm not quite pretty enough BUT with [insert product name here], I could be the very best version of myself! 


I get that and I'm totally aware of how problematic this is but seriously, I'm a redhead and I need my mascara, else I look like that albino dude from The Da Vinci Code.  And no one wants that.  My reasoning here is that as long as I'm aware of the implications of my actions (yes, part of the reason I feel sexy in my mini-skirt is because I’m conforming to the conventional beauty standards society has given me) then those actions become less dangerous than if I engaged in them without any reflection.  It's my body and I am consciously choosing to wear patriarchy-approved clothing because I want to.  It seems silly to NOT wear clothing that I like simply because society likes it too. I think about it in a Vagina-Monologues-My-Short-Skirt kind of way, “My short skirt is my defiance/ I will not let you make me afraid/ My short skirt is not showing off/ this is who I am/ before you made me cover it/ or tone it down./ Get used to it.”

Okay, I say all this because a sorority girl just handed me a flyer on campus that made my brain explode.  First, she tricked me, “Hi!  Want to help stop sex trafficking?”  

“Sure!”  She hands me a flyer with twelve very sultry women dressed in super short sexy Navy uniforms on it inviting me to a party at a bar downtown.  The theme? “Women in the Forces: Independent Women Get Out on the Dance Floor.  Ladies Suit Up in Your Uniforms.")  I squint to read the fine print at the bottom: “All proceeds donated [organizations that work to stop sex trafficking]." 


And this is when the feminist brain aneurysm struck.  This sorority was inviting women to choose to sexually objectify themselves in order to benefit other women who were forced into positions of sexual exploitation. Clearly, I’m okay with women wearing sexy costumes it but when it's directly juxtaposed with women who are forced into sexual slavery and are robbed of all choice, it just complicates the hell out of it for me. In a world where SO many women are severely sexually exploited (i.e. sex trafficking) can ANY woman choose to objectify herself? Or it is just a false choice? We're exploited whether we like it or not, some of us just have the luxury of pretending that we're free to choose that kind of objectification?  Kind of a “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality.  We’ve taught ourselves to deal with our perpetual sexual exploitation by trying to own it.  “I’m not sexually exploited, I WANT to wear these uncomfortably tight pants!” 


I’ve always that that my clothing choices were just that- MY choices, even if they were mainstream.  But why do I think it’s sexy to wear a miniskirt and fishnets?  Because the media told me so.  Why do I feel sexy when I wear it?  Because I get positive feedback for conforming to conventional standards of beauty.  The only real choice I made in this was to choose to buy into beauty norms.  I guess I’ve always thought that my personal choices were made in isolation- if I chose to dabble in and meet a couple patriarchal expectations, then that didn't effect anyone but me.  And I think that’s why I was so shocked when that world of personal choice collided and intertwined with the world in which women have no choice at all.  A party at which women with sexual freedom flaunt it by pretending to be sexual commodities for the purpose of helping women who are actually sexually commodified products.  There’s just something so icky feeling about that. 


I’m clearly very ambivalent about this whole issue and still in mourning that my brightlines on this subject are suddenly so murky. So I’d love to hear y’all's thoughts on this subject.  I want my sanity back. 

Oh P.S.  The movie they’re showing in conjunction with this is “Taken."  Now, I’d have Liam Neeson’s babies in a heartbeat but as far as accurate representations of the sex trafficking industry go…it’s, um… not.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this video

Tagged in: General   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




blog comments powered by Disqus
Facebook_websiteTwitter_websitePinterest_websiteRSS_websiteTumblr_websiteIG_website

Upcoming Events

AFROPUNK 2014
August 23, 2014 (All Day)
Jessica Delfino with Duckie
August 23, 2014 (9:00 pm - 9:05 pm)
The All Grrrl Grill (NYC)
August 24, 2014 (2:00 pm - 3:00 pm)
View Full Calendar

Shop The BUSTShop