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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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50 Responses

  1. norbizness
    norbizness March 5, 2007 at 3:14 pm |

    This needs to be cut off at the knees with a simple proposal: make the word “empower” and its many offshoots a neologism, like “embiggen” or “cromulent” or any number of Rich Hall-penned Sniglets from the 1980s (“potentator” = the largest potato chip in a newly opened bag).

    That way, when people say it, we’ll assume they’re making a joke.

  2. Roy
    Roy March 5, 2007 at 3:24 pm |

    It’s fun, and it’s something that every girl in the world — she may think one thing, but I think inside every girl in the world wants to do it.

    Oh. For gods sakes.

    Yeah, that sounds like a really empowering message- “Look, I know that you think that this is sexist bullshit, but, seriously, deep inside, you really want to strip down to your undies and put on a show for men. You want to be viewed largely as an object. Come on. Admit it.”

    I like that it’s every girl in the world, too.

    I guess if you’re just going to make shit up, you may as well aim big.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah March 5, 2007 at 3:29 pm |

    Well, according to Ms. Antin, you can be a Pussycat Doll and be empowered…but only if you’re really, really hot, as evidenced by the really, really hot women who are also interested in appearing really, really hot.

    Ooo! I bet all the contestants will be really, really hot, too!!

    Wouldn’t THAT be a show, though? Some girls with a few extra pounds, maybe some cellulite here and there, perhaps–gasp!–an A cup or two competing to be the most “empowered” they can be?

    (Alas, I guaran-fucking-tee that somebody’s weight will be mentioned in this show…)

  4. Thomas
    Thomas March 5, 2007 at 3:45 pm |

    In fact, dancing in one’s underwear for a national television audience is so empowering that all of the producers are also contestants … right?

    *crickets*

    Right?

  5. Morgan
    Morgan March 5, 2007 at 3:55 pm |

    This is especially sad because it is replacing Veronica Mars, for now. If it gets better ratings, I am official disgusted with American culture.

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  7. Lesley Plum
    Lesley Plum March 5, 2007 at 3:58 pm |

    They feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a Doll. It’s fun, and it’s something that every girl in the world — she may think one thing, but I think inside every girl in the world wants to do it.

    Which, even if true (beyond highly doubtful), has absolutely nothing to do with gender stereotypes, what men find sexy, and women being brought up to want to please men. Of course not.

    /sarcasm

  8. Thomas
    Thomas March 5, 2007 at 4:02 pm |

    I think there are ways that burlesque shows can be done which aren’t necessarily feminist, but also aren’t straight-up anti-feminist.

    IMO, what it means is mostly determined by the relationship between the performer and the audience. TPD are not even trying to do burlesque ironically, of course … but an act that was trying to be ironic about sexual performance and traditional presentation of female body as sex object would have an awfully hard time doing so for a broadcast television audience, because that audience does not have the tools even to recognize subversion if it smacked them on the collective schmeckle.
    Performers in front of a specialized audience with whom they share a collective frame of reference can do much more to comment and criticize; as in queer burlesque and drag shows.

    I have at times said that, as one end of the spectrum, the relationship between performer and audience is so close that the performance is really interaction (as in the case of an erotic image sent by a model to a single recipient that he or she knows well). TPD is at the other end of the spectrum, casting its performance to the general mass of television watchers. Even if they were trying to do something admirable (which they are not), they couldn’t.

  9. Katie
    Katie March 5, 2007 at 4:09 pm |

    Hey, now! Female Chauvinist Pigs does not say “blame the sluts!” It dedicates page after page, time and again, to differentiating Levy’s judgment of women’s decisions to perform certain behaviors when those behaviors don’t 100% match their own desires from Levy’s judgment of women’s decisions to perform whatever behaviors 100% match their own desires.

    “Slut-blaming” judges women’s decisions to perform certain behaviors regardless of what the woman wants.

  10. norbizness
    norbizness March 5, 2007 at 4:13 pm |

    Morgan: No need to wait for the ratings to come out; Road Hogs starring martin Lawrence and John Travolta made five times as much as David Fincher’s Zodiac over the weekend. Actually, the fact that most network television hasn’t collapsed upon itself into a singularity of hyperdense cultural pollution is a pretty damning indictment unto itself.

  11. ellenbrenna
    ellenbrenna March 5, 2007 at 4:26 pm |

    I do not know that men are allowed to be sexual and serious…they are just not expected to be publicly sexual therefore they get taken seriously. They are not expected to put on displays of their sexuality no matter how irrelevant sex may be to the matter at hand. Women, on the other hand, are expected to be sexual at all times.

    Men are allowed to mask their sexuality for other purposes but if men dressed, or were pressured to dress or act the way women act in public (i.e. emphasizeing their secondary sex characteristics but not TOO MUCH) they would be taken a lot less seriously. .

  12. Thomas
    Thomas March 5, 2007 at 4:44 pm |

    ellenbrenna, YES!! The only patriarchally approved expression of male sexuality is predatory/acquisitive. Guys at the watercooler are expected to be circumspect and euphemistic about their wives’ sexuality, and to simply refuse to acknowledge that their daughters are sexual; but they don’t get any funny looks for referencing women as prey or possessions. Men, in professional circumstances, have leeway to say some pretty shockingly misogynist things. Other men have space to point out that those references are crude or unprofessional, but criticizing those remarks as woman-hating or sex-negative draws funny looks. Depressingly enough, when a man is willing to make feminist critiques of this discourse, if he’s not in a position where counterattack is possible, he just gets written off as too far from the mainstream to matter: “eh, that’s just Thomas. You know. Women’s Studies and all. Dude, don’t say stuff like that around him. He gets all offended.”

  13. Hugo
    Hugo March 5, 2007 at 4:50 pm |

    Echoing Thomas and ellenbrenna. This is why it’s so vital that men do this brave and often disheartening work. And it’s why getting allies is so vital — winning over one man at the water cooler at a time…

  14. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 5, 2007 at 4:50 pm |

    “There’s a reason why people like Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz have all been so interested in what Pussycat Dolls is all about,” she said. “They feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a Doll. It’s fun, and it’s something that every girl in the world — she may think one thing, but I think inside every girl in the world wants to do it.”

    I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I’d rather be an astronaut first. Being a Pussycat Doll is actually pretty far down my list of fantasy jobs.

  15. defenestrated
    defenestrated March 5, 2007 at 5:01 pm |

    The Pussycat Dolls. Dolls. Dolls, fuckers! (not you guys)

    How empowering can it possibly be to actively pursue a role that’s explicitly described as that of an object?

  16. RacyT
    RacyT March 5, 2007 at 5:19 pm |

    Fun with Oxford online!

    Ah, language. How telling it is, no?

    pussy• noun (pl. pussies) 1 (also pussy cat) informal a cat. 2 vulgar slang a woman’s genitals. 3 vulgar slang women considered sexually. 4 slang a weak or effeminate boy or man; a male homosexual

    doll• noun 1 a small model of a human figure, used as a child’s toy. 2 informal an attractive young woman.

    empower
    • verb 1 give authority or power to; authorize. 2 give strength and confidence to.
    — DERIVATIVES empowerment noun.

    As they used to say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other…

  17. arielladrake
    arielladrake March 5, 2007 at 5:23 pm |

    “There’s a reason why people like Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz have all been so interested in what Pussycat Dolls is all about,” she said.

    Yeah, cos everyone knows Gwen Stefani knows all about empowerment. Like how she ‘empowered’ the AsAm girls who are contracted to never speak English and dress identically and follow her around. Stefani’s interested in the Pussycat Dolls because she has ‘dolls’ of her own, who she refuses to treat like real, breathing, women of colour.

    I don’t think that retort achieved what Antin intended.

  18. Roy
    Roy March 5, 2007 at 5:26 pm |

    RacyT – good point. It doesn’t hurt to point out that “Pussycat” is generally “one that is weak, compliant, or amiable.”

  19. Ipomoea
    Ipomoea March 5, 2007 at 5:49 pm |

    Morgan Says:

    This is especially sad because it is replacing Veronica Mars, for now. If it gets better ratings, I am official disgusted with American culture

    .

    I was going to say the same thing. Replace Veronica Mars, arguably the best female role model on TV (with the exception of President Roslin, maybe?) with… the Pussycat Dolls?

    Hmm. One fights crime (and to stay on the air) using her smarts and not her body. The others fight… I don’t know what. I can only hope the ratings are awful, they pull it early, and show some VM reruns from first season.

  20. meggygurl
    meggygurl March 5, 2007 at 6:40 pm |

    I think it is telling of our culture that a show like that will most likely have ratings that blow a (brillant and feminist) show like Veronica Mars out of the water.

    Is watching a tiny blonde girl use her brains and resources, not dress like a hooker, and not need big strong men to justify her role in life really so hard for young girls to watch? What kind of message that I know 5th graders who are excited about the Pussycat Dolls show and I know 22 year olds who think Veronica Mars isn’t sexy or boy crazy enough?

    Sorry. Tangent. I don’t normally comment, but I am so annoyed by this crap pile taking up my Tuesday nights at 9. I think I’m just gonna watch Smarter Then A Fifth Grader.

    Screw you CW.

  21. Ismone
    Ismone March 5, 2007 at 7:13 pm |

    I’m with Katie about Ariel Levy’s book “Female Chauvanist Pigs”–I think what she is really opposed to is a sort of compulsory, homogenous sexual display. Not sluts, but women engaging in slut-shaming by pretending to be “one of the boys.” Not having multiple sex partners as a young teenaged girl, but having multiple sex partners as a young teenaged girl because it gives you status even though YOU DON’T EVEN ENJOY SEX. Does she paint with too broad a brush? Sure. But I think she does a good job pointing out that sex-positivism has been commercialized beyond recognition, and that feminism is supposed to be about choices, not about one type of appropriate sexual or gender expression.

  22. Tobes
    Tobes March 5, 2007 at 7:19 pm |

    Amen! I am so pissed about my beloved Veronica Mars. Here I go tooting my blogging horn but I must link…

    http://tobestalks.blogspot.com/2006/07/more-tv-and-films-for-feminists.html

    HOW CAN THEY GET RID OF VM for the PCD!! SO FREAKING MAD.

    Also… I would like more discussion on why we are dissing Female Chauvinist Pigs– I really enjoyed that book!

    ~Tobestalks.blogspot.com

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  24. Natasha Yar-Routh
    Natasha Yar-Routh March 5, 2007 at 7:28 pm |

    I had mercifully forgotten the Pussycat Dolls completely. My first reaction on seeing them on Vegas (I like James Cann OK) was how boring and unoriginal. Just another girl group with interchangeable woman set up to make money for some male producer. Sort of a bad flashback to the Ronetts but with out the distinctive voice.

    The men behind this are so full of it it’s amazing. Empowered and its derivatives have been totally drained of any meaning by now and need to be retired for a decade or two. It can’t be a coincidence that the Spice Girls may be going back on tour soon.

    Kudos to the one reporters 17 year old daughter though. Too bad she wasn’t there to call bullshit on Antins’ answer.

  25. Daisy
    Daisy March 5, 2007 at 7:57 pm |

    Reiterating some other folks: I don’t think it’s fair to say that Female Chauvinist Pigs comes down to “blame the sluts.” In fact, I think Levy was saying the same thing you did — that women play roles like those of the Pussycat Dolls because there’s something in it for them and they know it.

    Other than that, though, very well said.

  26. Marya
    Marya March 5, 2007 at 11:01 pm |

    They feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a Doll. It’s fun, and it’s something that every girl in the world — she may think one thing, but I think inside every girl in the world wants to do it.”

    There’s something empowering about dressing up as a thing, as an object?

    I couldn’t bare to finish reading the article.

  27. Jessica
    Jessica March 5, 2007 at 11:39 pm |

    How innovative: the Spice Girls + a catfight + Fergie-style male fantasy wardrobe + grrrl power.

    This coming from a gal who works out to their craptastic pop music (including Don’t Cha), dresses similarily for costume parties/drag shows, and knows full well that none of it is remotely empowering.
    Fun? Yes. Influenced by the patriarchical society we live in? Of course. Feminist act? Rarely.

  28. JM
    JM March 6, 2007 at 12:34 am |

    Of course, Veronicas Mars had a subplot about evil feminists making false accusations of rape, didn’t it? So maybe the two shows aren’t completely dissimilar.

  29. Isabel
    Isabel March 6, 2007 at 12:46 am |

    Of course, Veronicas Mars had a subplot about evil feminists making false accusations of rape, didn’t it? So maybe the two shows aren’t completely dissimilar.

    This is up for debate, but… it worked in the context of the show, because it wound up being not about OMG FEMINISTS HATE MEN AND WANT TO DESTROY THEM, but this specific group of feminists wanted to seek revenge on one specific frat for actions they saw as largely responsible for putting one of their best friends in a mental institution. So while I had the same misgivings at the beginning of the season, the fact that the motive was revenge, and not some abstract ideology, turned them from caricatures into characters.

    Plus, as has been said before, Veronica kicks ass on many, many levels (the original opening of the show featured a voice over by her, as a 17-year-old girl, saying “I’m never getting married”! what other show on TV would go for that? she CARRIES a TASER!)

    I couldn’t bare to finish reading the article.

    This is one of the funnier typos I’ve seen :)

  30. icy
    icy March 6, 2007 at 2:15 am |

    umm.. I just picked up Female Chauvinist Pigs, and as a young women who grew up right as the hyped up sex culture started up, I have to say, it was an eye opener. I don’t mean as a “blame the slut”. I didn’t take that away from Levy’s book at all.

    In fact, from Levy’s book, I took away that the message of feminism has become completely warped and misunderstood, “look, shiny!” and “empowerment” are just completely entangled. Years ago, we used our sexuality behind the scenes, now we tramp it out. And worse. And now, its young women who don’t know what we’re doing but we’re trying. And we’re floundering.

    I saw her book as a commentary on this next generation of young women who sorely lacks strong guidance on femininity and womanhood.

  31. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth March 6, 2007 at 6:41 am |

    The Pussycat Dolls have a television show?

    The revolution has come!!

    Sisters, we have won out!

    /kidding

  32. Hedonistic Pleasureseeker
    Hedonistic Pleasureseeker March 6, 2007 at 8:51 am |

    Oh, GAWD. It’s freaking Orwellian. White is the new black?

    One of the primary message of feminism, is that women are treated by men as consumable/disposable objects instead of human beings, and this is a BAD THING. Even in the “modern” US women are still members of the Sex Class whose services (sex, caretaking attention) are rented, leased or bought and then USED. So how, exactly, do the Pussycat Dolls advance the cause?

    That said, I love burlesque. It’s complicated. Both masculinity and femininity are mostly artificial constructs that are fun to play with, which is why movies like Torch Song Trilogy are so moving/endearing/entertaining. I’m also a dancer and love playing dressup and being sexy (by this culture’s definition, which requires a great deal of artifice). I love the attention I get from men who place a high value on what I look like in drag.

    (I also get VERY noisy when these men forget my humanity and start behaving as though they’ve just made a high-end purchase, but I notice this only confuses them.)

    I’d never call my sexbotty behavior feminist, not in a million years. Any cash-for-flesh exchange (even if the consumption is only visual) is antifeminist by definition. Still, self-described feminists do antifeminist things all the time, and if the PCDs want to call themselves feminists I’m not going to get in their way because watching them perform is a lot like looking into a trick mirror (one that makes me taller, skinnier and more XXXtreme). There but for the grace of the Goddess go I.

    It’s a wonder our heads don’t all explode.

  33. Jewess » Blog Roundup: Purim Talk, Loss and Love, the New Feminism and the God-Body connection

    […] his post about the origins of the term “politically correct” and discusses the New Feminism as perpetuated by “Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the N […]

  34. Morgan
    Morgan March 6, 2007 at 9:45 am |

    isn’t Gwen Stefani already a pussycat doll?

  35. Frumious B
    Frumious B March 6, 2007 at 10:16 am |

    It also benefits the dudes who put groups like this together, market them, direct their videos, and profit from their record sales.

    What about when women put together groups and make money off them? Is the exact same dance in the exact same costume suddenly empowering when women are the marketers? Lots of women these days put together their own sexually-charged dance troupes and perform in clubs calling it feminist. I think they are off their rockers but I’d sure be interested in hearing a cogent explanation of why they are not.

  36. exangelena
    exangelena March 6, 2007 at 10:28 am |

    I’ll join the chorus that Female Chauvinist Pigs and Ariel Levy have been unfairly maligned. First of all, while she does cite a lot of anecdotal evidence, some of the “sluts” that she criticizes are Paris Hilton, a woman who works with the camera crew for the ever-feminist Girls Gone Wild, and the lovely Judith Regan, who attempted to profit off the murder of a battered woman. People who have influence/power in society and promote antifeminism, should be criticized, even if they are women. And although she doesn’t write about men in the book that much, she cites some pretty disgusting examples, like men who start screaming at some random women to strip for Girls Gone Wild and plenty of asshole misogynists. Also, even though raunch culture is supposed to be “empowerful” for women, it’s really a display for men’s gratification and they get to do the same antifeminist thing they’ve been doing for millennia.
    One thing that I thought was interesting in her book was something like, “If you’re the exception to the rule, the rule is still that you’re a loser”. So women who act like they’re like a male chauvinist pig, are still buying into the idea that women are inferior. I think a lot of the book was a wakeup call, that women should stop collaborating with the patriarchy, even if it’s cool and fun.

  37. exangelena
    exangelena March 6, 2007 at 10:29 am |

    In the second sentence, the woman who works for GGW is *not* Paris Hilton.

  38. Spatterdash
    Spatterdash March 6, 2007 at 11:48 am |

    I hate the word empowering and the rhetoric that accompanies it, as it’s just a case of co-opting the language of feminism to support the structures of patriarchy.
    And if dressing up like a sexual fantasy gave you power, George W. Bush would make speeches in a leatherman outfit.

  39. Dan S.
    Dan S. March 6, 2007 at 12:48 pm |

    This is one of the funnier typos I’ve seen :)

    I saw one a while back somewhere about ‘looking for the sex discrimination angel’ (=angle). – that was pretty good too . . .

    And if dressing up like a sexual fantasy gave you power, George W. Bush would make speeches in a leatherman outfit
    .
    Not that it does, but still: one word – codpiece.

  40. James Robinson
    James Robinson March 6, 2007 at 1:38 pm |

    Splatterdash: Remember the flight suit? Remember the talking heads falling all over themselves to talk about how it emphasized that certain part of his anatomy? The breathless assertions that one look at that package would silence any criticism of Bush as leader and commander-in-chief? It was one of the more pathetic displays that the teevee’s talking heads have put on in some time.

    It was the most hamfisted assertion of male virility as authority that I can remember, addressed to men as well as to women. I was astounded at how well it seemed to work, at least on the beltway types.

  41. Robert M.
    Robert M. March 7, 2007 at 8:53 am |

    Everything you need to know about this article, and the show, is right here:

    …said McG, the music producer and film director who is an executive producer of “Pussycat Dolls Present.”

    This egotistical cobag upstanding representative of post-modern manhood got his start directing mainstream rap music videos, which are well-known for presenting positive views of women and female sexuality; from there, his big break was directing the groundbreaking feminist manifesto Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

  42. Laurie
    Laurie March 7, 2007 at 12:11 pm |

    And if dressing up like a sexual fantasy gave you power, George W. Bush would make speeches in a leatherman outfit.

    Thank you SO much. I so did NOT need that image in my head. *sigh* Now I gotta go wash my brain….

    The only other thing I have to add to the discussion is that I’ve heard the Pussycat Dolls. Once. (On “Dancing with the Stars”.) I had to fast forward through it — the combination of pseudo-disco (lived through it once, thanks) and pseudo-sexual gyrations made it impossible for me to watch/listen to. Gah! Empowerful, my ass. (And NOT just because the word makes my grammar bump ache.)

  43. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl March 7, 2007 at 9:01 pm |

    Huh. That “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me” song… now, I’m just a hyperchicken from a backwoods asteroid, but really, the only time I’ve ever heard it has been in the following television spots:

    The spot for the new season of American Idol’s “best of the worst” auditions where an overweight woman in a bad wig and clunky glasses murmured it to an appalled Simon.

    The spot for Norbit oh, you know, that movie Eddie Murphy was nominated for an Oscar for. The one where he dresses in drag and a fat suit to tell the daring story of how disgusting fat women are.

    The spot for Wild Hogs that movie with Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen and John Travolta and William H. Macy about a bunch of men who go riding motorcycles across country to prove they’re not gay (seriously, if you read the NYT review, it’s a tired rehash of some of the most canned Hollywood homophobia themes you’re likely to see). In said television spot, some overweight, balding dude is singing it during Karaoke at what appears to be a street fair to the dismay of Martin Lawrence.

    Yeah, that song just reeks of empowerment.

  44. mythago
    mythago March 8, 2007 at 4:05 am |

    What about when women put together groups and make money off them? Is the exact same dance in the exact same costume suddenly empowering when women are the marketers?

    Is a pimp not a pimp if she’s female?

    The article would bother me less if it weren’t for the straightfaced bullshit of the promoters.

  45. arielladrake
    arielladrake March 8, 2007 at 9:27 pm |

    that movie Eddie Murphy was nominated for an Oscar for.

    Um, wasn’t he nominated for Dreamgirls? Or is my sarcasm meter broken today?

  46. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl March 9, 2007 at 6:29 am |

    Check your sarcasm meter :)

  47. zincink
    zincink March 9, 2007 at 10:29 pm |

    “every girl in the world wants to do it”

    Pussycat Dolls Present” is about female empowerment, the show’s producers explained:

    I think the producer might be on crack.

    Lets me ask you this question…If it is “Empowerment”..why did they cancel the making of the Pussycat Doll which was supppose to be available at your local Toys R Us?…

    Is their next show going to be Drag Queens USA for the gay male population?

  48. the Hathor Legacy  » Blog Archive   » I Read the Internets - 3/10/07

    […] ycat Dolls’ new reality TV show.  I think Jill of Feministe has a good assessment in “The New Feminism”: In theory, there’s nothing wrong with […]

  49. C. L. Hanson
    C. L. Hanson March 10, 2007 at 8:21 pm |

    Please see feminist sexuality.

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