Post-feminist Celebrities and the Price of Self-Interest

Yesterday in class we discussed the overwhelming presence of negative images of women in the media (as we always do) and touched on the fact that, now more than ever before, these images are being produced and distributed by other women. We attempted to analyze the significance of women being a driving force in creating this new “generation of women who hate themselves and each other,” but of course, like in most conversations about the pros and cons of post-feminism, we could not come to a definitive conclusion. Throughout the history of mass media, women have been depicted in a certain way–with a specific emphasis on their (sexualized) bodies and their (sexual) relationships with men–and this is obviously so, so problematic, but is it not better that now, finally, women are the ones who are making a profit off of this business?

Someone mentioned the Kardashians and how, though half of their business revolves around people making fun of them, they have made of brand of themselves.  They can make money from pretty much any thing by attaching the Kardashian name to it.  This family has somehow managed to take complete creative control of their lives and what they produce.  This reminded me of the interview we watched with Christina Aguilera at the beginning of the semester and how much she (and most other young female celebrities) had to fight to be able to create an image that she felt was her own.  The Kardashians are criticized for everything (i.e. being too sexual, being gold diggers, being too fat, getting plastic surgery, etc.), but at least the image they are sharing with the world is what they want it to be and what they’ve worked together to create.

I’ve been reading through Girl Culture, the book by Lauren Greenfield that I wrote a post about a few weeks ago, and I came across a really interesting quote by a 19 year-old model named Sara that really illuminates our post-feminist, capitalist society. She said:

There’s a café-bar on Spring and Broadway that gives models at my agency a VIP card…They want to get more people in there who want to be around pretty girls…You definitely feel used. But, at the same time, if I can get 75 percent off, I’ll go for it, you know.

That is related to my feelings about being in the modeling industry; I don’t think my modeling is good for society…I’m making a bunch of little girls feel bad about their bodies and go anorexic. I don’t think I’m doing the world any good. But if a client is offering you ten thousand dollars to do a shoot for the day, are you going to say no? You kind of have to have your own self-interest at heart.

Obviously money should not be more important than sending a positive message to the youth of the world, but, at the same time, it is important and promising that mass media is providing women with so many opportunities that were not there before. Ultimately, survival is dependent on money to a certain extent and having it provides a means to being independent and powerful.  The problem is, should women have to give up feminist ideals to have a platform where they will be seen and heard?

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