PITNB’s NEW popCULTURE CLUB: theoretically putting the “culture” back in “pop culture,” one post at a time…
Nowadays most of us know where babies come from (although some of us, like ‘legitimate rape’ politician, Todd Akin are still a bit foggy on the details), and while I think women, IMO, totally run the world many of us believe that a woman’s body is no longer her own. But is a woman’s body (or a man’s for that matter) ever her own? Three major pop culture stories have been buzzing about (especially in my own brain)– Rihanna’s interview with Oprah and her confession of undying love for Chris Brown, Kristen Stewart’s cheating scandal (and the subsequent, often ridiculous Kristen-bashing) and Representative Todd Akin’s horrific statement about how a woman’s body can totally decide whether or not to get pregnant by a rapist. All of these stories, to me, reflect a society’s unwillingness to allow a woman’s body to be her own and I wonder if the reason our society doesn’t believe a woman’s body is her own is because it isn’t.
In an amazing interview with Oprah, Rihanna recently revealed some very honest, very telling things about her relationship with former abusive boyfriend Chris Brown. Lots of PITNB readers responded with differing opinions. I think we all agreed that she was very forthcoming, but some felt that she was also, clearly functioning under a set of delusions when she claimed to be ‘friends’ with Chris Brown, simultaneously admitting that she still loved him, laughing as Oprah referenced butterflies in her stomach, for her Chrissy-poo. You can probably tell how angry I was about all that, much as I appreciated Rihanna’s candid approach.
One especially interesting moment came when Rihanna told Oprah that the abuse she experienced was hers, and not anyone else’s. She was attacked by Chris Brown, we were not. Another way of putting it is to say that her body was attacked by Chris Brown, and no one else’s. Which means that our attempts to defend, or police, or protect that body might be out of place in a conversation about a woman’s body being her own.
But here’s the thing. Rihanna’s body is not her own. She went on to say in the interview that when she first got signed one of the biggest adjustments she had to make had to do with being an artist and a product for her management. She became an image to market, as opposed to a person or a woman. Her body was not hers, alone. In a way she signed some part of that body over to Rocafella and agreed to share it with us, which is why many of us feel like we can judge that body or be angered when that body is harmed (and when the body is, perhaps, put back in harm’s way).
Part of intimacy (with a lover, or with your fans) requires the great risk that is sharing. Any celebrity will tell you that their life is not completely their own. Just ask ya girl K-Stew.
I’ve been wanting to write something about the Robsten madness for some time. I thought I would write about pop culture’s obsession with cheating; AKA how much we all, secretly (or not-so-secretly) like it. I planned on using all sorts of examples from movies we love where someone is cheating. For example, Rose cheats on her fiancé in Titanic—we love it; we love the cheating in The Notebook; I couldn’t wait for Vera Farmiga to cheat on Matt Damon with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed; the list goes on). Cheating implies passion and we love that! Cheating (in the movies and therefore, in real life) reflects a strong desire to be with someone; so much so that you’re willing to risk it all! This is obviously, the glamourized side of cheating, but don’t we just love it?
Cheating also grants us a villain and we all luuurve a good villain. Enter Kristen Stewart. Kristen did something with her body. Her body. And if we were completely okay with women doing whatever the eff they want to do with their bodies (and if we really believed that what one person does with their body only effects that one person) then what she did wouldn’t have been a problem. And people wouldn’t be obsessing over that effing McDonald’s cup that was in her hands when she was finally spotted the other day and whether or not that cup made her a slut (it totally did, in case you were still wrestling with that).
Kristen Stewart’s body, like Rihanna’s, is not entirely her own. What they decide to do with their bodies—and what other people do to those bodies—is eternally newsworthy and absolutely affects the world of pop culture– a world that consists of real, live people who are looking closely at celebrities (to judge them, to love them, and often, to model themselves after those celebrities).
Here’s the thing though. Rihanna and Kristen aren’t the only women whose bodies are not their own (and please note—I do not mean to align these two based on their stories but based on our collective obsession with their stories which I see as related to a certain interest in the bodies of women). Although they gave up a certain amount of control when they became celebrities, this pop culture obsession with the femme body is not specific to celebrity.
Millions of women who are not celebrities are demanding control over their own bodies and are expressing outrage over the fact that others refuse to relinquish control over a woman’s right to an abortion. Most of you have, by now, heard or read this quote, but in case ya missed it:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
So that happened and then this happened on Jezebel:
I LOVE. THAT. PICTURE. And I loved the article that went along with it, titled ‘Rape Fatigue And You: When There’s Just No Anger Left.‘ It took me quite some time to read the actual Akin quote (and the Jezebel article) because I, too, was suffering from rape fatigue. Which is another way of saying sometimes you just get tired of hearing people say awful ish about women and then having to actually address those awful things, further legitimizing them, in some way.
But I finally got caught up on the bullshit ‘legitimate rape’ comment and, although I loved the article (passionately and intelligently written by Erin Gloria Ryan), I disagreed with some of the points.
I’ve said before that I struggle with the abortion question and the idea that every woman has a right to abort whenever and how often she chooses under whatever circumstances. So let’s not go there right now.
Let’s just talk about the idea of autonomy over the female body. A woman, like a man, does not exist in a vacuum. A woman’s body is, I’m pretty sure, the very thing that makes the world go ‘round. But it doesn’t do this– it doesn’t create life– alone (much as I hate to admit this, lol). The reason I am ultimately pro-choice is because I would never tell anyone what to do with their body. I don’t even make my own kids hug their Grandma if they don’t want to, lol. But I understand ‘the other side’ because I do believe that when a woman is with child she is not the only person involved and her body is not entirely her own. The act of getting pregnant itself requires that a body be shared.
Rape is the exception to this idea. Rape means, among other things, that a body has been taken. And rape is not a sexual act; it’s a violent act and an act of power. Incidentally, it involves sex. And yet, the sexual nature of the crime changes everything, in terms of how we understand it.
A woman’s body is too big of a deal to be her own. Plus there’s the part where it can become a home (essentially) for a whole other human being. As usual, I’m talking about baby-making. People who want a woman’s body to be hers alone forget that women control the population and the family (and, well, men) and so women control the world. And when we ask that a woman have complete control over her body we forget that no human being is an island and part of being human is sharing that body. Sharing, my friends, is a public act even when it’s done in private (P.S. ‘sharing’ means ‘sex’). This is more true for celebrities, but it is, in a way, true for everyone.
So what do we do? First of all we say EFF Chris Brown, EFF Todd Akin, and EFF whoever made these shirts:
And then we accept that our bodies are not our own entirely, and we still say eff em! And we still fight for the illusion of complete autonomy. But more than anything, as a feminist and former dabbler in lipstick lesbianism that I once was, I want for women to recognize that their power lies outside of the body. Yes, I read Vagina Monolgues and I effing loved that book when I was 15, and still love it now and can’t wait to read it again when I finish writing this—but the fact that women’s bodies are shared, the fact that every one of us is capable of sharing our body literally with another human being (a baby)– even if you never have a child or never want to or have perhaps lost that ability the fact that you are born with that capability IS magic and is effing crazy!!! I don’t know what to do with idiots like Akin or Breezy but I kind of know what to do with women, and I do believe that if more women took great pride in their intellect and in their energy and– yes– in their vaginas, then the world would be a better place.
When I watched that Rihanna video I couldn’t help thinking that there was no way Rihanna really, truly thought highly of herself. And I bet that somewhere, Kristen Stewart is sitting around, not thinking too highly of herself. And I’m not saying that I always do; what I am saying is that collectively we have a lot of work to do and (in this conversation) it has nothing to do with men and what they think of us, or conservatives or liberals and what they think. It always starts with the self and our selves. Bottom line: we (women) all need feminism. Badly.
*I remember learning that many years ago, people believed women were gods based on their ability to give birth. Before people understood the correlation between men and women and doing the damn thing in the bedroom, people thought women just popped up pregnant. And so they were worshipped as gods. I like that story :)
A woman’s body is not her own, but that doesn’t make it less awesome or less divine or less deserving of respect and protection. In fact, I think it makes it more of all of those things.
P.S. There is no direct correlation between this video and the post. Or is there? Shouts-out to my bff Michelle, for showing me this vid.