This week I came across three items that spoke about empowerment and I would like to share my thoughts about them in this short blog:
First, I saw an article that purports to suggest that Calvin Klein advertisements neither empower women nor do not. But the author, Peggy Drexler, soon goes on to show her real thoughts on the matter, that sexually suggestive advertising can help women feel better about their bodies. She writes,
“And even if she were holding a grapefruit that resembles a vagina—what of it? Why is that so shocking, so deplorable? A vagina, after all, isn’t dirty. It’s not crass. It’s a body part, one that all women have. Instead, the protesters of these images seem to be suggesting that there is shame in acknowledging this body part—not even a real vagina, mind you, but a fruity likeness of one. This, of course, only serves to perpetuate the notion many women already feel: that their bodies are something to feel embarrassed about.”
So, in spite of her disclaimer, it seems that Ms. Drexler does, in the end, seem to be suggesting, the crass advertising does empower women, and the tone here is that the raunchier the advertisement, the better women will feel about their bodies.
But perhaps this sounds rather serious, even dire. On a lighter note, I turn to the second item. In my inbox mysteriously there appeared an advertisement from Apple computer telling me that I should “empower” my children, if they happen to be graduating from high school or college, by buying them a sleek new Apple computer. The implication is, of course, if you don’t buy one for your child, you’re in fact holding them back from reaching their full potential. “Jump-start their future and give your grad the full notebook experience in the fastest, lightest MacBook yet.”
Now I am not going to complain about the false agreement of the plural possessive adjective “their” and the fact that you only have one graduate mentioned in the sentence, for that would be peevish. But I will say that a phrase like “full notebook experience” is to my mind off-putting. How can one have a “notebook experience”? I mean really, is that what one has when one uses a laptop computer, an “experience”? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against computers or Apple per se, but maybe I am just missing something. Yet I doubt it, as I am sitting here writing this blog on my (admittedly ordinary non-Apple) laptop and I am not having an experience at all, let alone “the full notebook experience” (my italics). But I leave my petulance aside to consider the third item of empowerment. I wish I could say it was an article about turtles being to blame for salmonella and that all we need do is teach and thus empower the turtles with education about proper hygiene to make the problem go away. But it is a topic much more important and serious, even dangerous.
The third appeal for empowerment comes from a piece that has had remarkable staying power (since August of 2014) in a number of Internet news sources. It is an article from The Economist on the sex trade entitled, “Prostitution: A Personal Choice.” To anyone at all aware of the diabolical, even demonic power of the sex trade business and human trafficking, the articles mere title jumps straight off the page as wrong-headed. Yet the article’s lead author even in the first paragraph seeks to reveal that to “many” prostitutes sex is just a job:
“NIMBYs make common cause with puritans, who think that women selling sex are sinners, and do-gooders, who think they are victims. The reality is more nuanced. Some prostitutes do indeed suffer from trafficking, exploitation or violence; their abusers ought to end up in jail for their crimes. But for many, both male and female, sex work is just that: work.”
Now I hate to be peevish twice in one article, but I am about to do so. First of all, would love to know how many that “many” really is. But more importantly, secondly I would question the premise. Can sex ever in fact just be “work”? Just because some people might mistake from a distance skunk for a cat, it can be made clear amply quickly that a skunk is not a cat.
Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that a prostitute is a skunk. I am suggesting that prostitution is. It is something that stinks, and it stinks because despite what The Economist’s cover may suggest, it is anything but empowering. It is degrading. For the woman involved, it tells her that she is merely an object. For the man involved, it tells him that he is a buyer of an object. For the rare reversal of the situation (male prostitution or homosexual prostitution) the same formula may be applied with gender changes as appropriate. In every case, the seller is objectified and the buyer who has the money and therefore the power, is the objectifier. No pragmatic argument can change that, nor can any prevail against it. One need not be a NIMBY (which means, by the way, “Not in my backyard”; I had to look it up), a puritan or a do-gooder to understand this, though a modicum of education and common sense might help. But apparently The Economist’s team of writers have neither of those, but rather come equipped only with a social agenda and mega-dose of pragmatism gone wild.
It is not only The Economist who seems to condone sexual exploitation. The CNN webpage has a 2013 article on female students who seek out sugar daddies so they can pay their college expenses. It is, to say the least, sympathetic to them. The notion of moral backbone, of hard work and, dare I say it, even of having to pay back college loans, is so easily sacrificed on the altar of Asherah.
Ms. Drexler buttons up her Calvin Klein article by stating, “Although it’s tempting to stare only at the poor, exploited, hyper-sexualized models in these images … don’t disregard the campaign’s words. The language, one might argue, is very clearly designed to put the power in the model’s, and the wearer’s, hands. “I [kick it] in my Calvins, ” “I [react] in my Calvins. ” “I [Bieber] in my Calvins. ” “They alone decide what to do in their Calvins.”
I can only respond in this way. It is not tempting for me to stare at those poor, exploited women. Rather, it is forced upon me and all of us, and our children, and grandchildren by amoral bastards who put the almighty dollar over everything else. To Ms. Drexler and any of us who might be inclined to think, “C’mon, this is just advertising; lighten up!” I simply say this. Think. Think about the implications of what you see, what you read, what you say and what you do. If you do not think about those implications, you will be bound, yes bound and enslaved, by the values of a world that attributes value not to people (whether those exploited in the picture or those put upon who wind up beholding it), but rather only to something really quite valueless, money, commercializing people, debasing sexuality, and corrupting the hope of future generations in the process.
And now I am finished with my peevishness. I shall turn to something like turtles next week, turtles and dreams and good memories.