SINGER MILEY Cyrus poses backstage after winning Video of the Year for ‘Wrecking Ball’ during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, California in August..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
All around the world, New Years is a celebration of family, friends and love. Following the tradition started by Adolph Ochs, the owner of the New York Times, tens of thousands had come to Times Square to witness the 11,875-pound crystal ball drop. I stood and froze in the numbing New York City weather for nearly three hours. Waiting for the ball to drop and with out much else to do, I had plenty of time to look around. There was a lot to see, but nothing stood out quite as much as this: Times Square was a celebration of the female body.
We have seen thousands, perhaps millions get up, and protest. Women around the world are demanding a change, and the phenomenon has gained momentum. They seek to close the wage gap, secure freedom over their bodies, attain an equal voice in media and politics, and receive the same respect as is given to men. I’ve been hearing this feminist reel nearly non-stop throughout 2014, and I solute those who have fought long and hard make the world a better place for women. Still, it boggles my mind to think that we’ve neglected the very issues that stand right before of our faces — literally.
We find ourselves constantly beset on all sides by displays of half-dressed women. And as a sixteen year old woman, I’m in a unique position to tell you just what a profound and tragic effect these visions can have on the human brain. I am a religious Jew and was brought up by parents who taught me and my five sisters to be strong and confident women. Still,this is hardly enough to fall back on. The pressure placed on us women — whether young or old — to be lusted after, is constantly counter-acting all the work that we have put into this gender-equality war. On the contrary, at the rate we’re going, we’re paving a long and treacherous road for those girls and boys behind us.
Young women like me are taught to be feminists. The problem is that we teenagers don’t pay particular attention to traditional feminist figures like Susan B. Anthony or Emmeline Pankhurst. Instead, we look toward the female figures of today, most of whom call themselves feminists. Miley Cyrus, who has had her fair share of attention this past year, told the BBC last November, “I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything.” She then said to Cosmopolitan, in December 2013, that “I’m a feminist in the way that I’m really empowering to women, I’m loud and funny and not typically beautiful.” Maybe. But there are some holes in this feminist’s story. First, she forgot to mention that she weighs close to one-hundred pounds. Also, I wonder if any mother, father, or dictionary editor who watched Miley’s 2014 VMA’s concert would agree with the feminist definition she assigns herself. Miley Cyrus uses the title feminist to do whatever the hell she wants and calls it social activism. My take is that there is nothing “feminist” about prancing around in your bra and underwear in front of a thousand twelve-year-old girls.
Another one of the self acclaimed “feminists” graciously granted to us by the modern world is, of course, Beyoncé. She’s quoted in British Vogue: “I guess I am a modern day feminist, I do believe in equality.” She later told the Shriver Report “We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet.” I could have laughed when I read that. Here was Beyoncé Knowles bemoaning the lack of real gender equality when her own music videos could best explain it. Yes, even her videos which claim that girls “Run the World” completely objectify women — and that’s clear even with the thin cloak of empowerment. Her sexualization of femininity is appalling. Worse yet, our desensitization to these offenses has fooled us into thinking that this is what a powerful woman looks like — complete with a tiny waste and a boom-boom booty (NOT SERIOUS — mendy). Knowles, along with so many other celebrities, knows exactly what will catch the audience’s attention and takes advantage of it. She then brands it “feminism” or claims she’s “being a strong woman” and expects us to buy it. Would her videos get millions of views if she were wearing more clothing? I think we can all agree that they probably would not. To be sure, that’s a larger societal problem, one we can’t blame squarely on Beyonce. Still, it’s a problem that she’d rather succumb to it than actually fight.
I disagree with Beyoncé’s game-plan for gender-equality. When she dances nearly naked on stage and in videos — working out for hours a day just to look the part — I see only weakness and desperation. I see it as only damaging the prospects for a world in which men and women are truly equal. And when Miley Cyrus tells us that women shouldn’t be scared of anything — well, I disagree with that path, too. Twerking on stage in your underwear will only reinforce the notion that women are, at best, strong and independent bodies. That’s certainly something to be afraid of.
One does not have to read an article to learn about the ever-growing sexualization of young girls. Just download Instagram and hit the browse button. Who is to blame? Society? Irresponsible parents? The eleven-year-old girl who sent a nude to some boy in her class? Is it the men who subtly force girls to dress and act like they do?
Sex sells. Nobody knows that more than Hollywood. Unfortunately, in our day and age, Hollywood has a life force of its own. So many of the women in Hollywood promote their image by jumping on the “feminist” bandwagon. They sell, we buy. Slowly but surely, all of the disgraceful stunts they pull off in public are looked at as strong and independent. They show the world through their music videos, pictures, and concerts, that all we’re good for is our bodies.
Maybe I am sick of hearing teenage girls cry about how they are not pretty enough, or, like myself, wondering if I should eat that or not. It could also be the sight of teenage girls walking in below freezing weather in mini skirts. I’s bad enough when young girls are dependent on the attention of boys; it should not, by any means, continue into adulthood.
Feminism today does not mean the same thing as it did during the time of the suffragists. The word “feminist” has been hijacked, and we are all falling for its fraudulent meaning. Yes, you can claim that you are strong, and that you stand for feminism, but the proof is in the pudding. The fact that on New Years Times Square was under attack from all sides by seductive woman on massive screens is a dire truth. The fact that almost all advertisements have a woman’s body part, stuck somewhere on the billboard, is definitely a problem. We women have fallen weak, and have fallen victim to our world’s brutal expectations of how we ought to look, act, and be.
If society won’t change — and it seems like it won’t — then women must take change into their own hands. Not just for their sake, but for the sake of their sisters around the world and their daughters to come. Let’s try to demand respect and attention a different way this year. Let’s get the world’s attention, only this time with our clothes on.The author is a junior in high school. Some of her passions include Israel, the Jewish people, feminism and world domination.