Rashida Jones is Wrong About Thongs
So we probably all know by now that Rashida Jones — who came under fire two months ago for her controversial Tweets telling pop stars to #stopactinglikewhores — thinks too many pop stars dress up too sexy. Last Friday, she decided to continue her Twitter rant in a much more thoughtful piece in Glamour called, "Why Is Everyone Getting Naked? Rashida Jones on the Pornification of Everything."
Yet again, she missed the point.
Rashida suggests telling female celebrities to "perhaps every eleventh song or video, do something with some more clothes on? Maybe even a song that empowers women to feel good about some other great quality we have? Like, I don't know ... our empathy, or childbearing skills, or ability to forgive one another for mean Tweets?"
Hold on, here's some more.
OK, sure, Rashida calls out record executives too, saying, "When you market young pop stars, can you please try to apply some of your own personal moral parameters?" I'm glad she mentioned that. But this comment feels more like an afterthought, or possibly a Glamour editor's sound advice to move Rashida's haters away from the lingering sting of "#stopactinglikewhores."
Make sure pop stars get those messages across and there, you've ended sexual objectification of women! It's that easy!
The fact that Rashida tells pop stars what to do at all with how they show their sexuality perpetuates the real problem.
Telling women what roles they should or shouldn't be taking on, especially sexually, constitutes blaming women for their own objectification, which is rooted in sexism. You can't overhaul society by telling women to put some clothes on.
Our popular resentment against scantily-clad hypersexualized female celebrities isn't new. I've been seeing it everywhere, including on the very pages of PolicyMic itself. The need to tell women how to behave, or to passive-aggressively look down on women who express their sexuality differently, isn't new.
And I completely understand it. I've been in that spot before.
In middle school, I was the nerdy girl who swore she'd never have a boyfriend until she was 18, who planned to "save her virginity" until marriage. My hair was a mess. I didn't shave my legs. I tucked my shirt into my pants out of habit. You can bet how popular I was. You can also bet how much I hated every other "hot girl."
After years of going through the gauntlet and being told I wasn't pretty enough, wasn't interesting enough, I had had enough.
In high school, I did everything I could to make up for middle school. I wore low-cut shirts and push-up bras, short skirts with thigh-high socks. I excitedly purchased my first set of thongs at Wet Seal, each with superfluous lace and impossibly thin G-strings. I always made sure to keep up my end of the conversation when talking about sex and porn with boys.
Then, suddenly, I was trying too hard. I was over-the-top. I was showing off, said women. I was loose, said a few men. (Others incorrectly and boldly assumed I was down to have sex with them.)
One time, a boy took a Post-It note and slammed it hard onto my buttocks in front of two other men, who did nothing to stop him. Trying not to burst into tears, I pulled it off and read it.
While it's been a while since I've been called "slut," I've often received unwanted attention, particularly when I dress scantily. At parties in college, men would slap my butt cheeks as they passed by. I've had a complete stranger come up to me and squeeze my breast hard. One female friend even stopped speaking to me after she saw me wearing an outfit that would have rivaled any of Miley Cyrus's. For years now, I've gone back and forth trying to figure out just what the right amount of sexiness is, based on what I've been told is right.
And at many points in my life, I felt a growing resentment toward women who did flaunt their sexuality, who used it for attention — because after going through the gauntlet of not being good enough, it was difficult not to see these women as ruining the playing field.
Today? Frankly, I try not to give a damn, because I'm done.
But it's difficult not to give a damn. My case isn't an isolated one. It's systemic.
Women across this nation have grown up feeling like they have to wear sexy clothing, or feeling like they have to stay innocent, to stay pure, or to at least not ACT too sexy.
After growing up going through the gauntlet of being told we're just not good enough, it's difficult to not up and do what Rashida's doing and tell other women to change so we can even the playing field. For all we know, Rashida's been part of that gauntlet, even if she didn't quite admit it in her article.
In fact, a recent study showed that a conventionally attractive woman was more likely to be scoffed by other women if she wore more appealing clothing.
But it's no better than scoffing a woman if she's covering up — and we have to remember that prude-shaming (as this is called) is just as harmful as slut-shaming. Peas in a pod. The pressures put on women to be sexed-up goes hand-in-hand with the pressure to not be too sexed-up.
Look, I'm no saint either. I would be lying if I didn't (at one point) call girls who wore less clothing than me "whores," like Rashida did, or refer to girls who looked at me in disdain for dressing scantily as "sad virgins." Female competition is insidious, something we learn young in preparation for continuously comparing each other and being compared to each other for years to come.
But by telling a certain set of women that they may be setting a bad example, we're only reinforcing this system of comparisons.
We can and should be self-critical. We should be critically reflecting on the images we consume from the media. We should be pointing out when Miley Cyrus and Lilly Allen use black, nearly-naked back-up dancers in objectifying ways. We should be wondering the causes behind why Lady Gaga used her butt as cover art, or why Rihanna twerked in a denim G-string. But costume changes won't end sexism.
My point to Rashida (and all you others) still stands: Stop telling women what to do with the way they present their sexuality, even if you think that's not their sexuality. Stop even making suggestions. For once. Stop it.
As Gloria Steinem said, "It’s ridiculous. But that’s the way the culture is. I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists."