Janesville58.8°

War on women, Part II

Print Print
Esther Cepeda
April 8, 2012
— Everyone’s talking about the Republican “war on women.” But while women’s organizations across the country are steaming mad about powerful men trying to, as many feminists have referred to it, “put them in their place,” few women seem to be interested in talking about the war on women that’s being perpetrated by women themselves.

Not sure what the heck I’m talking about? The crux of my complaint can be neatly summarized by the following comment made by Lee Aronsohn, the co-creator of the CBS show “Two and a Half Men,” to The Hollywood Reporter last week at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference. He was referring to the explosion of female-centric entertainment aspiring to be every bit as raunchy as manly-man programming.


“Enough, ladies. I get it. You have periods,” Aronsohn said, even as he applauded comedians such as Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler for making it socially acceptable to talk about taboo lady subjects on TV. “But we’re approaching peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation.”


I couldn’t agree more. I’m all for portraying women in a realistic light and for ushering in an era where women’s private parts and processes can be referred to by their anatomical names instead of infantile euphemisms or vulgar words, but that utopia is not what I’m referring to.


Countless books, magazine articles, movies and TV shows are presenting women as one of “the boys,” happy to talk about their body parts, raging libidos and empty desires in the basest way possible.


The people who create, portray or otherwise exploit this new female archetype for financial gain—and, of course, the women who buy into the grossly distorted images—are complicit in projecting a new feminine ideal of women who aren’t merely willing to talk dirty, but ready to spout bathroom humor and look hot while they’re at it.


OK, some male readers might quibble with me about how sexy the cast of “Bridesmaids” looked while experiencing an explosive bout of food poisoning in lavish gowns, but you get my point. By the way, that movie is a perfect example of the young, loose and crude variation of sailor-swearing sexy—both women and men loved it so much that it made $300 million at the box office.


Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday recently vented about the newly widespread preponderance of female genital jokes in reference to the new film “Friends With Kids,” which falls into a category comprised of supposedly more mature women behaving lewdly. She wondered if the “V-bomb” is becoming the new “F-bomb,” and decried as “lamentable” this odious trend that “has made women’s most private part a favorite go-to gag.”


The New York Times, describing the phenomenon, said: “These quips have become de rigueur in a certain kind of entertainment directed primarily at women, badges of progressiveness that often serve only to veil the retrograde themes lurking behind them.”


The sexually liberated she-wolf in scanty sheep’s clothing seems to be everywhere in varying degrees of comedy and dead seriousness. You can blame men—as everyone always does—for demanding such images, but women are in the driver’s seat an increasing amount of the time.


For example, “Girls,” the soon-to-debut HBO series created by a young woman, has been widely described as a post-college version of “Sex and the City.” It isn’t going to be a magnet for guys—no more, anyway, than the endless stream of “reality” TV shows that feast the eyes of mostly female viewers on dysfunctional relationships, material excess and distorted body images.


Sure, women can choose to get angry anytime a prominent man implies that their reproductive rights are somehow contingent on their personal sexual choices. But not without admitting that women condone a certain societal view by giving their money, time and attention to countless entertainments that feed into men’s degrading views of them.


Women can choose to simply avoid the steady stream of female-demeaning media as much as possible—though it’s tough considering there will always be a grocery checkout line filled with vulgar magazine come-ons for learning “naughty” sex moves packaged as “fashion.” Such sacrifice might be less satisfying to some than just bashing Republicans for their political views about reproductive rights.


But, ladies, if this is what coming a long way looks like, we’re in big trouble.


Esther Cepeda is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Her email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

Print Print