I’m not a stereotype–the paradox of female representation

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In one of my classes the other day we talked about how to correctly represent women in advertising, the media… everywhere, really. While it’s easy to answer that question with “just the way we represent men,” that doesn’t solve anything. Personally, I don’t want to be objectified–I don’t want to feel like my body and my face and my outward appearance is being scrutinized rather than my character and the things I do, but there’s another element to that as well.

I’m a multi-faceted human being, as is everyone else in this world. Which means, while I don’t want to be portrayed as a sexual object, I don’t want to be portrayed as the sexless homebody either.

That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with asexuality–and no, that doesn’t mean like the plant. Asexuality is a completely valid orientation, but I am not asexual. I want to be shown that my sexuality is just as important to who I am as my intellect, as what I do for fun, as my passions. I am not the oversexed-succubus-vixen, dumb and distant, but I neither am I the polarized sex-phobic-cat-lady that is only interested in intellect and doesn’t own a mirror.

While these stereotypes differ depending on culture, race, class, etc., the two polars can be loosely described as the Good Virgin and the Bad Whore. And it’s always been that way. Look at the Bible–The Virgin Mary was the ultimate woman. She was the mother of the so-called savior, and abstained from sex her entire life. Then there is the representation of the prostitute, or the sinner. The one who has demons in her.

Honestly, it sounds much more fun to be the demon lady.

I care about what I look like and my sexuality is important. I also value my character, my schoolwork and pay attention to what’s going on inside my head. And that’s not some wild, crazy concept–women are multi-faceted and have many interests.

The solution to sexual objectification is not to remove my sexuality nor is it to make me out to be some hyper-intelligent android woman who rolls her eyes at the advances of any man. That’s ridiculous–women are humans, too, and we deserve the correct representation.

Young girls need to know that they have the freedom to care about what they look like and to pay attention to their sexuality. Stifling that important part of a person is both unhealthy and unrealistic.

College girl life 101: Own your sexuality

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When I look at the most influential female celebrities (especially musicians) in my life, I realize I’ve grown up listening to a lot of women who own their sexualities and haven’t given any shits. Starting with Britney Spears, then Christina Aguilera, then the Pussycat Dolls, to Amy Lee of Evanescence and Pink, to Shakira, to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé and finally to the most risqué and bizarre of them all, Yolandi from Die Antwoord, I’ve been letting sexually liberated women subliminally teach me how to be a bad bitch since I was six years old. And I think that’s awesome.

 

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(my parents are actually pretty stoked that I went with the Sinead over the Yolandi)

While there is a lot of controversy surrounding whether feminists should be trying to reclaim the label “slut,” similar to the reclaiming of “queer” and the use of the n-word in black communities, I think we should be trying to at least reclaim the topic of our own sexualities. Our bodies belong to us. We should do what we please with them.

However, there’s a confusing intersection between self-objectification and owning one’s sexuality for some. The question of Beyoncé–is she objectifying herself and holding back the feminist movement, or is she owning her sexuality and moving it forward? In my opinion, the former argument is so weak it can barely be made. The line blurs more when one thinks about women like Rihanna and Miley. Miley has been getting a lot of hate, especially after her performance with Robin Thicke. Many claim that Rihanna and other black artists (Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj to name two) suffer from internalized misogyny and are overly sexual, which have extremely racist roots in themselves.

Owning one’s sexuality can look different from Lady Gaga’s “do what you want with my body” and “I wanna be that girl under you” consenting but sex-saturated ideology. Being empowered doesn’t mean you have to sleep with every guy who shows interest in you, but it can mean being free from sex, or asexual. It can mean putting on your Freakum Dress every now and again for a significant other. And it can mean you just want a Rude Boy (or boys…). As long as it’s, again, consensual on both sides and the other party is totally down for all of that–because owning your sexuality doesn’t mean objectifying anyone or expecting sexual favors from them.

Nobody should feel ashamed for the sex or lack thereof that they’re choosing to have. Nobody should shame anyone else for it. And it’s not just men who are shaming girls for perceived sluttiness: A study called “Birds of a Feather? Not When It Comes to Sexual Permissiveness,” shows that women, even those who have more sexual partners, are less likely to befriend a girl who has a number of sexual partners. And that really bites.

So let’s take the advice of our beloved female pop stars and own our sexuality. Don’t feel ashamed of your sexuality–whether you’re not that into it or you’re the nymphomaniac 50 Cent referenced in Candy Shop. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with what you got goin’ on; only you can decide how you use your sexuality. And that’s pretty damn liberating.

The “Friend Zone” Isn’t a Thing, and You’re Not a “Nice Guy”

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Thankfully, I’ve heard less and less of the “Friend Zone,” lately–but still have heard enough of it to feel the burning rage of Smaug in my stomach when I hear the term. What is the Friend Zone? It’s the place self-proclaimed “nice guys” claim to be when their close female friend doesn’t want to have sex or be romantic with them. And it doesn’t exist. WHAT!? We’ve all, at some point, been accused of Friend Zoning a guy friend. We’ve all, at some point, felt guilty of allegedly doing so. And we’ve all, at some point, realized how idiotic that idea is.

 

These “nice guys” can be picked out by tell-tale phrases like, “Girls only date assholes,” “Nice guys finish last,” “But I’m such a nice guy!” Pro tip: If you’re manipulating a person just to get sex or romance out of the deal, you’re probably not a nice guy. I know, I know, shocking. Buckle up, nice guys, it’s about to get uncomfortable.

 

These Friend Zoned “nice guys” bitterly objectify women, reducing their female friend to either her body or her ability to give them affirmation. Women aren’t a game, and they make their own choices. Real choices. The Friend Zone assumes that women are unable to decide for themselves, and can somehow to coerced into sex or a relationship if the “nice guy” just tries harder, buys her more things, desperately breaks down every other man she finds interest in. Both types of coercion, are, like I said above, manipulation and not the acts of a nice guy. The Friend Zone implies that women and men are unable to have a strong, healthy friendship without sex. It also implies that the ultimate goal of every male-female relationship is sex or romance.

 

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Oh Urban Dictionary, you’re so charming.

 

It can be summed up in three words why a woman doesn’t want to have a romantic relationship with you or doesn’t want to have sex with you: she just doesn’t. It’s not because she’s some crazy psychobitch who only has sex with rock stars and models and quarterbacks (collective sigh), it’s not because she thinks you’re ugly, it’s not because she wants to be wooed and wined and dined more. It’s because she doesn’t want to. It’s all very hard to swallow, but trust me on this.

 

The Friend Zone isn’t only perpetuated by men, however. Oftentimes women will accuse their female friends of Friend Zoning a guy because they think the girl will be happier with him, or they feel bad for him. “But he’s so sweet! Why don’t you like him?” And the only real answer to that question is “Because I don’t.” If there’s a way to force yourself to fall in love/lust with someone, I have yet to find it. She’s not trying to Friend Zone you. Is her friendship not enough? Trust me, she’s really sorry she can’t devote all of her love, attention and libido to you, so please stop trying to make her feel guilty for not being sexually or romantically attracted to you. You freakin’ jerk.

 

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Princess Bubblegum sums it up so perfectly.