Borderline Exploitation

When it comes to the news, television, fame, advertising, the whole lot, I like to give credit where credit is due. I think that the primal coverage of the events that took place on September 11, 2001 was done well. Peter Jennings was amazing, giving the American people the perfect mixture of professional and human reaction. I love watching basketball games and the sportscasters always know exactly what is going on, no doubt. I am thrilled that Matchbox Twenty (the band) is finally getting the recognition that I think they deserve. But when I think about whom in the media I actually respect, it is all coming up men!

A woman could not have done as good a job as Peter Jennings because she would have either been too young and not esteemed, or she would have already been forced into early retirement because she was beginning to look too old. And in sports casting, all those women need to know is how to read. So many have even admitted that they dont know much about sports. And they chose to admit that in an issue of Maxim where they also all posed in rather scantily clad outfits and not exactly in reputable positions. And of course, fame. All Britney Spears has to do is take off her clothes and shake her derrire, and she is suddenly a millionaire.

Lets not worry about whether she actually has any talent! Bands like Matchbox Twenty, Blues Traveler, and Barenaked Ladies are only now finally getting some of the recognition that they deserve, after years and years of hard work and honing a brilliant talent. Why is it so difficult for a woman to get respect in the media? Because people like Anna Kornacova, Britney Spears, the actress that plays the older daughter on 8 Simple Rules to Dating My Teenage Daughter, cars show models, Jennifer Lopez, the Coors Light twinsexist. These women possess little or no legitimate talent, yet they are all financially successful!

But these women are not respectable. These women are all selling their bodies and good looks, not their talent. Perhaps because their talent is lacking, but either way it sets a precedent that even if a woman is intelligent or talented, she must be attractive. Well, the thing is, if we all had nothing to do all day but eat exactly what our private chef has made, do exactly what our personal trainer says, and were constantly surrounded by hair and make-up professionalswe would all look like Elizabeth Hurley. But there are real women who exist, and they are having trouble getting into any form of media.

Except maybe radio, newspaper, and internet. Those all have something in common, dont they? When legitimately talented or intelligent women do break into the media, it is a very big deal. We do not show less attractive or slightly overweight women in a positive light (hello? The Anna Nichole Smith Show). So it is an important thing that no one asked Camryn Manheim of the television show The Practice to lose any weight (although producers probably did until her This is for the fat girls speech given after winning a Golden Globe) and she was still a success. It is rare.

And it was not until around 1998, I believe, that America embraced the first well-known plus size model, Nelle. She is not like Carmen Electra, considered a plus at size 8! She is a real plus size 14. I would like to give respect to the women who ignored pressures to conform: Ani DiFranco, Camryn Manheim, Bette Midler, Rosanne Barr, Winonna Judd, Ellen Degeneres, etc. The way America uses women is borderline exploitation. Whether the individual is paid or not, they are still being used and setting an unrealistic precedent for the every day, average woman.

Women are used sell a product: To sell alcohol (The Coors Light twins, St.Paulie Girl, all the Budweiser and Jeiger Meister servers, shot girls at bars), to sell mens products like deodorant or cologne (Axe deodorant), to sell mens accessories (Dockers pants) etc. And once women have even stepped their big toe into the entertainment industry, they feel the pressure. Pressure to lose weight, change their hair, change their style, wear more provocative clothing, say and do more provocative things, find a high profile boyfriend, etc. My favorite kind of woman is so insecure with herself, she sticks up for Britney Spears by saying to a Britney hater, If you had that body, you would dress like that too.

Fact is a lot of women would. A lot of women do. But a lot of women dont. And more importantly, most women dont have that body. And even some who do have phenomenal bodies also have enough self respect and morals to keep it covered up. It is like the Doritos model, it is false advertising. I want to see a Doritos commercial with a huge fat woman thigh expanding on her couch. It is a lot more accurate than some hot model pretending like she eats Doritos. And if she does, pretending that she does not vomit them later.

Some women, already great, have the healthy drive to do the above said things (make changes): Sandra Bullock, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, and Helen Hunt. Some women have the extra time and feel the pressure so strongly they make the above changes rapidly and we dont know whether it was a healthy change or a harmful one: Renee Zellwelger, Minnie Driver, and Leanne Rimes. Some women take an obviously unhealthy route: Whitney Houston, The Barbie Twins, Nikki Taylor, and a million nameless models and actresses. And yet some women have shared their struggles with the women of America.

Talk show hosts like Rikki Lake and Rosie ODonell went public with their goal of weight loss. And they went up and down and no one really knew how. Talk show host Jenny Jones went public about her breast implants. And when they leaked and caused her physical harm, she wanted the public to know. She was looking out for others. Its been Oprah, however, that has really shared with us her struggles in life. From dieting to dating, she gives it to us straight. And she is not one to compromise. Not when it comes to getting married or rapidly losing weight. She is setting a good example for the young women of our society.

Even while we have women like Oprah, those Britney Spears girls will always exist. Their defense, It is my choice. You dont like it, fine. I am not doing any harm. But in essence, harm is being done. Whether they like it or not, women in the spotlight are role models. When they lend themselves to societies obsessions (50s-80s legs and tight sweaters, late 80s-early 90s big breasts and big hair, late 90s midsection and sporty clothing, and early 00s small waist and bumpin BOOTY! ) it puts pressure on all women. And whether we like it or not and whether we admit it or not, it affects us.

The last time my boyfriend saw his cousin, he told her how amazing she looked, raving about how she had lost weight and looked great. That was 5 years ago at a wedding. She died a month after that wedding of Bulimia. No one noticed how pale she was or how her eyes had bags under them and the sockets were sunken in. All they noticed was how thin she was, and that made her more attractive. My boyfriends story is not an uncommon one. If women in media do not respect themselves and do not demand respect from others, it leaves the women of American society searching for how to do it themselves.

I understand that it is all relative, and times may change, but it is hard for now. And I understand that there are pressures on men, just like there are on women. But we are a far way off from going to see a movie about an older rich, gorgeous, successful woman falling in love with a young, lost, low income male prostitute or guy from the Bronx? And for the same reason, we will continue to go see movies about naked women. I say that the nudity is what they are about because usually its the only good part of the movie. (Or the music video in the case of Jennifer Lopez.

Because with few exceptions, women willing to make movies like Showgirls and Requiem for a Dream have about the same amount of talent as a half-brained cockroach. We will watch a movie like Striptease and get to see more than we bargained for. But with a wonderfully hilarious movie like The Full Monty, we see the bare minimum, not the Full Monty. The movie Fast Times at Ridge Mont High was initially rated X. It had full frontal male nudity. Why is full female nudity rated R and full male nudity rated X? The male form is more offensive, says Universal. I am speechless. Is my view jaded? Maybe.

But in the last two months, I have talked to my customers 4 nights a week about this topic. And I work in a bar, so I get the worst of the worst when it comes to chauvinists. I have even been told that I am not going to get as big a tip as I would if I were wearing a lower cut shirt. But even in their misogynistic haze, most have agreed with me on this topic. They dont have a problem with Jennifer Lopez, but they would if it was their daughter or girlfriend. While they may want to sleep with her, they would not want to date her. And the women that come in, they have more to say on the topic than I do. Nice to know I am not alone.

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