AFTER A HARD day of reading the newspaper with my legs in the air, wearing hold-up tights, a lacy corset and a grandiose hair-do, I can finally sit down in front of the computer and try to breathe through the tight garment squashing my breasts into two perfectly round balloons. What a relief! I was almost suffocated by my own internal organs right there, but there’s nothing like up keeping the ideal of feminity and sexiness in society.
But let’s come back to reality: it would be such hard work to follow the very vague idea of sexy in society. In reality, I usually read my morning newspaper wearing loose, old, cosy pyjamas, with tangled hair and probably some remain of yesterday’s make up smeared all over my face. As I read the news, I stuff myself with pancakes, full of fat that will go straight to my thighs. And I love it.
Women have conquered much in the history of feminism, and we don’t take our rights for granted because we had to fight for them. But there is something that just hasn’t budged since pin-up girls pulled on their hold up tights and pretended to rip them when holding a hammer and holding up their skirts. As much as I love to build a desk in my underwear and a full face of make-up, pin-up was, undoubtedly, the start of the outlandish, idiosyncratic poses women are photographed in.
The debate around pin-up and feminism are divided into two particularly persuasive schools of thought. The first one is that pin-up brought about sexual empowerment, the end of bodily shame, and respect for the female form. The second is that by being sexualized, women were lowering themselves, setting a bad example to younger women.
So what is the difference between empowerment and objectification?
It’s the same difference between being able to choose between having babies or having a career – or doing both at the same time: choice. Choice is something women have grabbed at with triumph, but all these choices are always tightly bound with the double standards that are rooted in patriarchy.
These double standards cause people to say things like ‘Can she have it all?!?” or ‘She’s just bitter’ or ‘She is such a bitch’ or ‘Calm down, dear’. These sentences stand for one thing: you have rights now, but please shut up.
Magazine covers and photo shoots rules also change with gender. I have defended Beyoncé and her thong before, and I still maintain she had the right to pose as she did – as it was her choice. She’s a grown woman who has been in the business since she was 17. She just had a baby, she’s launched a new tour and is coming out with a new album – this cover was not about seduction of men, but about power.
But why is it that power to woman means wearing less clothes and posing with a sensual expression, and to men it means wearing a tuxedo and standing with hands in their pockets like they mean business? Beyoncé is enforcing this double standard by posing like this. My question is, why do men get to be photographed in a normal, gala-worthy position with lovely clothes and women have to pose.
The idea of successful isn’t the only one that is represented by ‘sexiness’ and sexualized images. When teen stars become adults and are ‘all grown up’ their bums seem to morph into attention-seeking pets. Look at Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Lana Del Rey – they all must have felt compelled to show they have a sexual side to their persona to show they are ‘real’ women.
This is another vague idea that follows both genders in a Tom & Jerry-like situation. Pink for girls, blue for boys. If you think I am reading too much into it, this will prove me right – why are there no ‘sexy’ male magazine covers in this selection of sexiest magazine photos ever? Why can’t we have more men holding their modesty, or holding their chest like it’s about to fall out just for some equality?
Even ‘naughty’ magazines that feature naked men are also designed for other men, gay men. That’ all fine and dandy, but they still don’t have to pose as a damsel in distress. An exercise is needed, inspired by Caitlin Moran – if you please imagine Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, Ryan Gosling, or any other man you find attractive in the following poses.
Don’t we all stand around holding our boobs like that? If you don’t you’re just not sexy. Let’s compare, shall we?
Men, looking dapper, of course, even sexy perhaps, in suits – exuding their success, right? One last comparison to Rihanna’s GQ Woman of the Year Cover.