Katy Perryis at the top of the pop star game with her latest single California Gurls currently at #1. As it turns out, if you have a catchy tune no one really questions or cares about the lyrics which is in this case is good for Katy Perry because she says nothing of any substance. At all. This, however, shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise seeing as her claim to fame was “I Kissed a Girl”, a song that did nothing but sell a girl-on-girl heterosexual male fantasy in the form of a CD. Go figure. Granted, she does write *most* of her own lyrics and therefore is the only one to thank for the enlightening and empowering messages young girls are consuming all over the country right now:
Bikinis on top
Will melt your popsicle
Oooooh Oh Oooooh
To be quite frank, I don’t personally understand the appeal to her music as I find it to be beyond lame. It is a classic example of just how devoid of originality and substance our pop culture landscape is and it does a perfect job of keeping women in an overly sexualized one-dimensional category. It is songs like this that reinforce our ever growing need for more sheroes and a deconstruction of the messages that we are financially supporting and constantly consuming without batting an eyelash.
In a recent Jezebel post by Dodai, the pop message is explained crystal clear:
Tale as old as time: Love me; I’m pretty! Her cupcake boobs and suggestive frosting-licking are campy fun, though disappointing on some level, since the only message seems to be: I am here for your consumption. Eat me.
As if the lyrics weren’t ridiculously dull enough, the cupcake filling shooting out of her cupcake breasts left me at a complete loss, extremely confused and in search for some sort of justification. Upon further investigation and a quick visit to Wikipedia, I learned that Katy Perry had quite the religious upbringing, raised by two Pastors. In fact, she started singing in her church at the age of nine and her first CD was a self-titled gospel album. So, naturally after her tweet blasting Lady Gaga’s new video this past week as “blasphemous” I couldn’t help but spot the irony. I mean, it’s kind of hard to miss in a skintight rubber dress.
The fact of the matter is that Katy Perry (lame music and all) is extremely popular right now. Whether she likes it or not she is a popular public figure and by default a role model for young women and girls. What exactly does it say about our present female ‘role model’ that the best she can come up with are insipid, sexually explicit lyrics that promote her as nothing more than a Candyland piece waiting to be eaten up by Snoop Dogg?
Reality television pseudo celebrities, ultra-thin models and highly polished, high profile film stars are not the only women available for girls and women to emulate and admire. In our continued effort to bring you new sheroes, women past and present, who have made and are making incredible contributions on a political and/or cultural level, we ask you to link to the Women’s Media Center.
If you’re not in the know yet, you should be. What is the Women’s Media Center?
The Women’s Media Center makes women visible and powerful in the media. Led by our president, the former Rock the Vote head Jehmu Greene, the WMC works with the media to ensure that women’s stories are told and women’s voices are heard. We do this in three ways: through our media advocacy campaigns; by creating our own media; and by training women to participate directly in media. We are directly engaged with the media at all levels to ensure that a diverse group of women is present in newsrooms, on air, in print and online, as sources and subjects.
If you don’t know why she is important or have never heard her name, it’s time you know her and know you should.
In our quest to bring you new role models and sheroes, we bring you an excerpt from Kamala Lopez‘s post from September 2008 at the Huffington Post. Sarah Palin’s annoying and repetitive cries of “maverick” prompted Lopez to write a piece on true historical maverick, Jeannette Rankin, the subject of A Single Woman.
On a cold distant November in 1916, a true Republican maverick and reformer became the first woman elected to the United States Congress. Her name was Jeannette Rankin and as an indefatigable champion of peace, justice and equality for all, her ghost stands in stark contrast to the Republican woman being hailed today as a loveable patriot and agent of change.
Should Sarah Palin be voted into office come this November, ninety two years after Jeannette’s historic election, she may well be responsible for change: a change back to a time before the struggles of thousands of women and men succeeded in providing a framework upon which the Women’s, Peace and Civil Rights movements could weave themselves into the fabric of America.
When Jeannette Rankin ran for Congress from Montana, not only were there no women in the US government – women across the United States couldn’t vote. Three years later the nineteenth amendment was ratified granting all American women the Federal right to cast their ballot. Today more than fifty million American women are not registered. Of registered female voters in the last election, twenty two million of us didn’t bother.
It is the most painful irony to watch Palin stand on Jeannette’s shoulders in order to dismantle that which Rankin gave her life to build. At the time that Jeannette was campaigning, there were several states in which it was still legal for a husband to terminate his wife’s pregnancy without her consent. Choice and abortion are not synonyms. Choice is a word with connotations that reach far and deep into a woman’s life – her finances, her sexuality, her body, her opportunities, her control over her own destiny. Rankin believed that these choices should be available not only to all women, but to all peoples.
I was flipping through my weekly research in the form of People Magazine when I came across an article on Jessica Simpson and her latest project, exploring the “Price of Beauty,” a new VH1 reality show.
I used to hold up Jessica Simpson as the poster girl for good press because she “followed the rules.” This was years ago, obviously. This was when she was “thin,” proclaimed her virginity until her marriage to Nick Lachey and played the stupid but sweet nice girl. While Christina Aguilera was getting all sorts of bad press during her Dirrty chaps phase and other wild, hot young things of the time were getting equally negative and judgemental coverage, Jessica was flying above the radar. To me, she represented the new young woman of the Bush Jr years, a sort of virginal throwback to the 1950s in the form of a nonthreatening and loyal (to her daddy and her husband) good girl. It was about this time, approximately 5 years ago, that I had begun to notice ever increasing mediated messages that focused on staying home, baking brownies and seeking marriage as the ultimate forms of female fulfillment. Yes, that’s always been a theme for women but I had begun to notice a ratcheting up of these values throughout the media culture and Jessica Simpson was the epitome of this new young female role model being offered to young women and men.
Yes, I watched The Bachelor finale last night. Jake’s final pick, Vienna, the young and controversial self-professed “princess,” got the tabloid tongues wagging. But, I’m less interested in Vienna versus Tenley or Gia or Ali than I am interested in the lack of real kick-ass role models for young women and girls. As I search the cultural landscape, with it’s endless cheaply produced (and asinine) reality show fodder, I see few female icons that contribute anything meaningful to women’s and girl’s lives as a whole.
Hawking the latest diet pill, discussing how they got their bodies back 2 minutes after baby or how they lost weight and transformed into someone entirely new and entirely better is not exactly a pro-woman message and is lacking any sense of collectivity. Unfortunately, we have too many Heidi Montags, Viennas and single gals looking for some guy to “put a ring on it” on a variety of reality shows serving up played out and unrealistic gender roles. Most young girls and women know more about celebrity dating and diet habits than they know about the women (and men, of course) who made personal sacrifices and ushered in changes that many take for granted, from voting rights to reproductive rights.
So, it is time to resurrect the Featured Feminist (see previous posts for names and information) which was an effort to bring the names, faces and lives of in-the-world feminists to light. In celebration of 30 years of Women’s History Month, we’ll be bringing you feminist bios on some of our favorite feminists through history in a continued effort to raise consciousness and banish the collective amnesia that trades real effort and change for lap dogs in pink sweaters and diet secrets.
Check out Jezebel and Claire Mysko’s pieces on the hypocrisy of women’s health/fitness magazines and the problem with body image role models of celebrity status. Mysko states:
Whenever an actress or pop star comes forward to talk about her struggle with an eating disorder or poor body image, I say a little prayer that she will find true health. I also hope that she’ll speak responsibly about recovery and self-acceptance. Unfortunately, I’m usually disappointed.
The fact is that getting over an eating disorder (or the murkier but more common problem of disordered eating) involves getting away from an obsession with weight, and that’s darn near impossible to do if you happen to be a celebrity–a job that requires you to go on the record about your exercise and diet “secrets” if you want to stay on the publicity train.
As the Jezebel piece notes:
The hypocrisy of women’s “health” magazines becomes fairly obvious just by looking at their covers. For example, this month’s Self magazine features one cover line, “Be Happy And Healthy At Any Size” tucked below a much larger cover line:
“3 Easy Ways To Lose Weight.”
What seems common knowledge to the cultural critic, the sociologist and the person recovering from disordered eating or an eating disorder is often less obvious to most. And one of those things is that magazines hailed as health magazines or gyms euphemistically called “fitness” or “health” (yeah, right) clubs are more about aesthetics and profit. I mentioned this in my December 2008 post:
I’ve known for years that gyms are not health clubs. As Lester Burnham declares in American Beauty, he works out “to look good naked.”
Equinox Fitness is quite candid about it’s true aim with it’s tag line “It’s not fitness. It’s life.”
Our culture increasingly sends contradictory and mixed messages. An ad for ice-cream you can indulge in on one page and an ad for diet pills on the next. While many celebrities are applauded for speaking frankly and candidly about their fight against a distorted body image and unrealistic expectations in the industry, their venue (magazines, television) overshadows their message with a plethora of insecurity boosting themes. Their voice is lost in the cacophony of voices whispering “you’re too fat” or “too flabby” while whispering “eat,” “indulge” (Haagen Dazs tagline “the longer lasting pleasure”) and “enjoy” in the other.