Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sex, Money, And Gender Equality: The Third Wave Of Feminism (Extended Comments)

"Teaching The Conflicts: (Re)Engaging Students With Feminism In A Postfeminist World"

By Meredith A. Love and Brenda M. Helmbrecht

For this post, I chose to examine Ariel's blog and the points he makes about this article and its connections to Allan Johnson's article. First and foremost, I have to say that Ariel's post was at times harsh and at times hilarious, but all in all, it was just very honest.

Ariel talks a lot about money and how this has a huge effect on the way women (and really, all people) behave in our culture. He argues that we need to push aside our greed before we can make any real progress towards equality and the empowerment of women:

"We need to change our greedy, self absorbed, perception and start caring about morals, values, equality, and acceptance in order to embrace feminism" ("Food for Thought").

I think this is a great point and one that Love and Helmbrecht would definitely agree with. They discuss in their article the way that activism and consumerism seem to come together and sometimes become so intertwined that it is unclear which is which. For instance, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty uses images of normal, everyday women to entice other normal, everyday women to buy their products. Thus, women come to believe that by purchasing a product from Dove, they are taking action against the notion that women must be thin and wrinkle-less to be beautiful. However, Love and Helmbrecht argue that there is a very important distinction between buying something that supports a cause and actually going out and fighting for that cause.

"In creating these spaces where consumerism and activism mingle awkwardly, Pink and Dove implicitly argue that women's empowerment and advancement lie within an individual's buying power, not within a larger cultural cause or movement" (Love and Helmbrecht 52).

In his blog post, Ariel also talks a lot about how sex and sexuality sell in this culture. He especially focuses on women showing off their bodies and acting sexual, claiming that they do this because they know that sex sells. He says that if women were as interested in sex as men are, men would be showing off their naked bodies just as much as women do. This is where I have to disagree with Ariel because I do not believe that it is the levels of interest in sex that causes women to do these things far more often than men. I think that women often are just as interested in sex as men are, if not more in some cases. However, because we live in a patriarchal society, women are expected to be the givers of sexual pleasure while men are the takers. If a woman wants to be a taker instead, she is considered abnormal, or slutty, or too domineering. She is stepping out of her role, which is something that usually causes one to be ostracized. It works the same way for men. A man who wants to dance around half naked will likely be called gay or feminine. He is stepping out of the man's role as the voyeur, the one who sits back and receives the sexual pleasure.

This is not to say that women don't enjoy getting to show off their bodies and their sexuality. I'm just saying that I don't think it is their lack of interest in sex that makes them do the showing off while the men keep their clothes on. I also do agree with Ariel that sex sells, and this is a lot of the reason why women in the media tend to use their sexuality to a great extent. Nicki Minaj is a great example of a woman who markets herself as powerful and empowered by her sexuality, but in most of her videos, she is dancing in sexual ways for the pleasure of men who are just sitting and watching her. To me, she shows that even when women feel empowered by their sexuality, they are often still feeding into the male-dominated culture.

I am glad that Ariel brought up the idea of generation differences because this is another important part of Love and Helmbrecht's article. Ariel says that he is a part of the so-called "third generation movement" and that the issues that applied to people in generations before ours do not necessarily apply to us today. Love and Helmbrecht want their readers to recognize that this is true--there are different issues for women today than there were many years ago. However, they stress that it is important to understand that the issues of both generations are connected in many ways and cannot be viewed as separate.

"'Attributing our differences to generation rather than to politics sets us firmly into psychologized thinking, and into versions of mother/daughter relations--somehow, we are never sisters who might have things to teach each other across our differences...'" (Love and Helmbrecht 43).

Ariel recognizes that the generation we live in is much more open and accepting of different types of people and different ways of living. But he also understands that our generation is like this because of the work that has been done by people in the past. Love and Helmbrecht refer to this as "paving the way," and this is a very important step in continuing to make change for future generations.

Point to Share:
I want to talk about this new campaign for Lean Cuisine called "Culinary Chic." It basically combines losing weight with being fashionable, and by its website and commercials, you can see that it is very clearly targeted only towards women. Why does everything women do have to be turned into a fashion statement? Why is it assumed that all women will want to buy something more if they believe that it is fashionable?


  1. I really liked how you defined superficial empowerment vs genuine empowerment (big, important difference (personal change vs. institutional change)). I too think context is important for the Third Wave to understand.. Although the Second Wave ran its course and is now over, it is definitely, as L&H said, "a usable past". And on your point of being fashionable: ...its fashionable to fashionable these days.