I picked up the latest issue of Glamour magazine recently and flipped through it nonchalantly as I got my roots done at the salon. That is, until I happened upon an article about female celebrities who have a penchant for dressing “sexy.”
You see, a few months ago Rashida Jones went on this epic Twitter rant about her celebrity peers “dressing like whores.” While she may have had good intentions behind said rant, it came off to many as slut-shaming. Jones went on to explain that she just wanted to hold these powerful women accountable for their actions and (in so many words) their choice of wardrobe.
Glamour saw fit to revisit this in their March issue and while reading it, I became so offended I almost whipped the magazine across the room. Of course, since I was in a public place I refrained. The folks at Glamour rounded up a panel of women, from singer Amanda Palmer to Rosalind Wiseman (best known for penning Queen Bees and Wannabes, upon which Mean Girls was based). And for the most part, I found the piece just as finger-pointy as Rashida’s original rant.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the sexy girl. As I matured into the woman I am today, it was surefire sexpots like Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow and yes, even the young Britney Spears who I identified with. I remember watching TRL as a teenager and thinking very highly of Christina Aguilera, even in her chaps-and-black-highlights phase. When you’re a teen girl, you wake up one morning and you’ve grown into this body you don’t know what to do with. It feels foreign. You get attention from everyone, but especially men. You have no idea how to navigate it. It shocks you. All of the things that can happen as a reaction to this body are scary and overwhelming.
It took me a hell of a long time to learn how to navigate mine, but it was beautiful, innocently sexy Marilyn AND in-your-face Christina who helped me figure it out. When I saw Christina Aguilera wearing only scraps of fabric in her videos, it didn’t shock me. It fascinated me. She went from a tiny blonde popster to this rampant diva who dyed her hair black, gained weight, took off her clothes and called the shots. She made the album SHE wanted to make. She was sexy, yes, but the best part was that this girl was clearly in control of her image. She was barely in her twenties when she made Stripped! I see echoes of this in Miley Cyrus; who cares if she’s nearly naked onstage every night? It’s just a body.
That’s the problem, I think, about being a female celebrity. Your body is no longer your own. Your body belongs to E! News, to In Touch, to MTV, to the radio and to the newspaper.
You give it up when you get famous and then, for the rest of your days in the spotlight, you hear about it. If Kim Kardashian wears a tight skirt, it’s news. Why? Because she has hips and a butt? Apparently. A female form presented in such a forthright manner is still shocking to the world, and that’s crazy.
You’re too naked or you’re not naked enough. If you’re someone like Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez, who sprang forth via children’s TV shows, well, girl, you’re accountable to those children for the rest of your life. You have to be a role model! And what for? You’re an adult now; you shouldn’t have to answer to that. These young popsters have very little freedom to experience the drinking and smoking and sexing we all do as young women without the critical eye staring them down. When I was in my early twenties, I found great power in shimmying into a tight dress and high heels. I relished the way I looked. I felt powerful, untouchable like that. I didn’t care if someone thought I looked too sexy, or “slutty.” I felt good. I still do feel like my best self in a pencil skirt and pumps.
Why do we have to lay blame for the sexiness of female celebrities? Why should it matter? I think Rihanna would wear exactly what she wears regardless of the pop culture climate. She’s young, she’s beautiful and she has a body she is eager to display. Glamour piece was quick to place blame on handlers and marketing, making it seem as though these women aren’t capable of presenting themselves as they want to be seen.
Even though it’s been months since Rashida’s Twitter rant, I still cringe when I think of her referring to other women as whores. I cringe every time I hear a woman refer to another woman as a slut or a whore. Is it your problem if that girl wears a short skirt? No, it isn’t. That’s her choice. All of us have used those words, sure–but we shouldn’t. And we shouldn’t justify using them as a way to call any other women out on the way they choose to present themselves.
The problem is, of course, that for young girls to navigate their bodies, their brains and their futures, we have to raise them to think for themselves, to figure out who THEY want to be and not who they think they must be. And that’s impossible in this finger-pointing culture.
No young girl like the one I was is ever going to feel OK in her skin if someone is calling her a whore.