Sex sells and although gender appears to be equally represented in pop culture, for years it has been predominantly women who have felt the pressure to emulate the portrayal of themselves fed to them by the media.
The sad tale of Claudia Aderotimi, a 20 year-old British student who died at the beginning of the year from receiving illegal, silicone butt injections in a low budget American hotel – sent shock waves through the entire entertainment industry worldwide, as the young dancer believed having a bigger booty – similar to the rears sported by Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj – would make her a Hip Hop star.
Though tragic, Aderotimi’s preventable fatality isn’t an isolated case. One recent report found that women and girls are disproportionately sexualised across the media and popular culture and that a driving factor behind this is the mainstreaming of the sex industries, in particular pornography, lap dancing and prostitution.
National Women’s Officer Olivia Bailey recently led a dozen women down to Cardiff to protest outside the final of Miss University GB. Armed with placards with slogans reading ‘Mark my essays not my looks’ the women’s campaign were not targeting the individual students entering the competition, but instead the organisations that seek to profit from the objectification and commodification of women.
Speaking about the event, Bailey said: “Women have campaigned hard over the last century to gain access to University, and to win the right to be judged on the strength of our opinions and not our looks. Beauty pageants such as Miss University GB undermine these hard-fought gains and send the dangerous message that it is ok to value women purely on a narrow conception of beauty that bears little relation to the majority of women.”
THE BEAUTY MYTH
In her bestselling book The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women Naomi Wolf claims ‘because of the new influence of pornography on fashion, millions of women were suddenly seeing “the perfect breasts” everywhere and consequently started to worry about their own, naturally “imperfect” breasts’.
Years later with reality television shows like Sky Living’s Britain’s Next Top Model and Bridalplasty or MTV’s contentious 2004 show I Want A Famous Face, being broadcasted daily advocating ladies to improve on their looks by undergoing drastic makeovers and cosmetic surgery procedures FAB questions whether young women in the spotlight should take more concern of how they are being portrayed.
Young women’s social worker Amanda Lowe whose activism is inspired by the woman’s suffrage movement says the stars in the spotlight have a lot to answer for. “I find it difficult to watch any type of music television with my younger relatives these days as you rarely see anything other then ladies cavorting around in revealing clothing. Even the mainstream, somewhat credible female artists are now bowing down to elitist, industry pressure and I feel it is at the expense of the consumer”
She adds: “I have been working with young women for years, and somehow, when these ladies want to rebel they often imitate the pop singers and famous actresses who are almost always airbrushed or extremely well polished before they are even seen in the public. Freedom of expression should be valued but not taken for granted.”
This year, 23 year-old Bajan born Rihanna has courted plenty of controversy for her outlandish sexual image as she has recently been stepping out on stage dancing rebelliously in very revealing outfits. As well as the sexually explicit music video for her single S&M being banned in several countries it was restricted to night-time airplay in the UK and was subsequently renamed S&M (Come On). In recent years, it appears the racier the outfit; the more column inches are dedicated to the personality.
Lilian Amadi, a 20 year-old student from London is proud of her curves and regularly flaunts what she says ‘her mama gave her’. “I’ve been told on many different occasions from my family and friends that I dress too provocatively but I think it’s just because I have a curvier body shape then what people are used to seeing adored.
“Sienna Miller and Kate Moss regularly wear skimpy clothing but because they are wafer thin, their style is deemed trendy. I think women will be treated with more respect when us women start treating ourselves with more respect and less back stabbing.”
Although it appears as if the sexual discrimination and exploitation of women has been eradicated it is still very much alive in the media industry and females should feel liberated yet not pressured to express themselves.
This year the National Women’s campaign will focus on the impact of violence and objectification towards women.