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Dual Meanings

May 12, 2007

In the October 2006 issue of Cosmopolitan, there’s an article titled, “Stupid Boob Behavior.”  The questions the article tries to examine are: “Why are so many young women making their breasts public property?  And who really ends up getting the best end of this deal–the girls who say all this flaunting makes them feel empowered and free or the men ogling them?”  These questions parallel the same questions I’ve put out there and have been trying to answer.  And the second question being asked definitely applies to Christina Aguilera and other women (famous or not) who are exposing their bodies in some way. 

The article mentions how this generation, my generation, is probably the most sexual generation in history, and quite possibly the most open about it.  This generation is so sexual because the women are the children of the sexual revolution.  Many of today’s women, as Donna Lisker (director of the Duke University Women’s Center) says, “have grown up with the explicitly feminist message that they should be proud of their bodies.  So they can cast their behavior as a form of feminism–as girl power, being in charge of their own sexuality.”  I do believe women should be proud of their bodies, but when it comes to body exposure, the message being sent does become complicated.  The woman feels the empowerment, but others may read the message differently.  There is a very real disconnect that exists between the woman and the audience because of the dual meanings.  The article specifically focuses on women flashing their breasts in public and how that could affect them.  Lisker comments on flashing by saying, “even if you believe that flashing is a sign of your power, the guys watching you are not interpreting it that way.  You are allowing yourself to be made into an object, even if that’s not your intent.”  The double standard does still exist and women’s behavior is going to be interpreted differently from men’s’ behavior. 

In this same issue of Cosmo, there is an interview with Christina in which she is quoted as saying, “I don’t think a woman should be afraid of her sexuality.  It’s not a bad thing for a woman to feel confident and show her body in a way that’s right for her.”  Christina’s message here isn’t a bad one.  Women should be able to be just as confident as men when it comes to their sexuality.  Yet, how a woman chooses to show her body can still have so many interpretations and that’s where the matter becomes difficult.  Once again, who really has the control or the power when a woman is exposing herself?  There is always an audience.  There is always someone being watched.   

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