What it Means to be Female in 2008

by Alexandra Fish, , December 3, 2008

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While researching an article for NeoVox, I stumbled upon a wealth of information about our current economic recession. Obviously, this is something that is going to be in the news for quite some time. I wanted to see how the slump is affecting college students, who are my age. Clicking around, I found a story about the increase in applications at a brothel in Nevada. At first, I laughed it off. I brushed it off as an insignificant piece of news.

Later on in the day, I picked up some leisure reading that was recommended by a peer of mine. Rent Girl is the graphic novel that I decided to try (and by graphic, I mean both literally and figuratively). Also, a friend who shares reading with me had given me a book titled The Secret Diaries of a Call Girl. It was really ironic how all of this information (the books, the news stories) was thrown at me in the same time. It really left a mark and made me think about feminism in a whole new way. For some reason I was saddened by reading all of these materials. I was profoundly affected by the choices these women had made. I got to thinking how they were led to these paths, and would anyone I loved or know have similar thoughts. I really needed to think about what it meant to be a woman at my age to answer my questions.

The feminist movement gave women the right to vote, reproductive rights, allowed women to cast aside our bras and demand to be seen as equal. Thinking about this makes me feel proud to be a woman. I wish I could go back in time and demand my rights be reconsidered with the likes of the greats like Susan B. Anthony or Gloria Jean Watkins. These events were historic and monumental.

As I read up on the history of women, I began to think about how the female “culture” has changed. I was thinking of the role models that young girls like all my little cousins look up to: Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cirus, Britney Spears. I called them to ask whom they would want to be if they had the chance to switch lives for a day. Resoundingly, those were the people they told me. Lohan, a recovering addict at age 22, Cyrus, pictures of her scantily clad body leaking at age 15 (!) and Spears, a mother of 2 at age 26, also in and out of rehab. My four small cousins aspire to be like these women. Not that it is the personal fault of these three people: they are entertainers and they do their jobs quite well. Could it be society pushing these sexy and skinny images on us? Or could it be men, the people lusting after these “perfect” specimens. Maybe there are underlying issues that people choose not to think about, like prostitution. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever know. What I do know and can appreciate are my values and my view of self-worth.

After reading Rent Girl and The Secret Diaries of a Call Girl I can understand why marriages are failing at rapid rates and young girls are failing to see their inner beauty. Most of the clients (or sometimes called tricks or johns) are married. Both women whom were professional call girls state this in their non-fiction accounts of their profession. So it goes without saying that these men are being unfaithful to their wives. By all means, call me old fashioned but this can ruin a woman and a family. Feelings of inadequacies and failures must bubble up in these women who married men that are not staying faithful to their vows.

In discussing each book further, I can see a difference in the attitude of both women. Michelle Tea, the author of Rent Girl, gives the perspective of a grimy world that pays for sex. She lives in sub-par conditions, contracts STDs and involves herself in drugs. Not that I have any authority to pass judgment, but this doesn’t seem like the life anyone would strive for. I do, however, applaud her candidness and bravery in her accounts. Michelle is an excellent writer and tells effectively that the call-girl lifestyle is nothing to aspire to. She adds humor and graphic illustrations, which detail her sex life in a condescending way.

The Secret Diaries of a Call Girl make hooking seem like a glamorous lifestyle. It is a non-fiction diary of Belle, who lives in London. Belle is a pen-name and it was written anonymously. Belle writes as if being an escort is a hobby, instead of a profession. She has only men as friends, and these men talk of nothing but sex with her. Maybe that implies something deeper. What was interesting to me about this first-hand account was that we were never really given the chance to delve into Belle’s feelings about herself. I wonder what kind of person in on the inside. If I could talk to her I would ask her questions about her, not her job. She possibly doesn’t realize was that although she holds one of the oldest professions in the world, she is putting herself in the role that women have been fighting to change for centuries.

So this is where I’m making the connection. I wanted to define for myself what sexuality means today. And perhaps more specifically, what sexuality means to the feminist perspective. I believe that the notion that women are objects, just like Belle and Michelle were, is the “idealized” image of women today. I draw similarities to the pop-tarts because they have the lifestyle which young girls aspire to. Essentially, they are using their looks (at the cost of talent, unfortunately for us) and sexuality to reach the top. It has become apparent to me that protitution is very similar in that looks are going to push you ahead instead of your mind.

I asked some female friends of mine what they thought prostitution meant to women. One says “It’s like these women are just objects, like materials that can be sold. It makes me sad that we haven’t moved away from that yet.” I couldn’t agree more.

As I take a look around me, I realize that we still aren’t where we should be. Of course there are some advancements that cannot go without the credit they deserve. A television show like "Sex and the City", allows women to see what it would be like if men were at our disposal. Whether you like the premise of what’s going on or not, it’s still empowering to women.

I realize that not everyone can see my point of view on this subject. I was so inspired by my intense feelings while I read and researched this topic. I had to put myself into the shoes of a wife or daughter whose husband or father had an affair with an escort. I watched as Elliot Spitzer’s wife stood by her husband in his moment of indiscretion. I could feel her pain. Life offers temptation at every turn. My advice to women my age and really, any age, is to be true to yourself and remember what it means to be a female.

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