Monday, March 29, 2010

Peaches, young women, sex, drugs and drama

According to the lingerie company Miss Ultimo, the following images are marketed toward a "young female audience."

Web gossip today tells us about the most recent celebrity drug/sex scandal. Miss Ultimo apparently fired their cover girl, Peaches Geldof, this morning after rumors surfaced about a heroine-induced one night stand.

I enjoy a little celebrity gossip just like the next person, but what's notable to me about this situation has nothing to do with what was put in Geldof's body. What's notable to me is that a company publicly acknowledging that they market the images above to "a young female audience" is less newsworthy than a dime-a-dozen, celebrity-gets-partied-out story.

I'm not pro-censorship and I'm hardly a prude. But certainly I can't be the only person who thinks THESE IMAGES are NOT APPROPRIATE for a target audience of YOUNG FEMALES?!?!? Why isn't this a bigger deal?! (To quote Zoolander: "I feel like I'm on crazy pills!")

Let me be clear, I am not in favor of promoting drug use or unsafe sexual practices to young women. However, I think it should be noted that it is hypocracy for Miss Ultimo to both sell highly sexualized images of what-girls-should-look-like to young women AND fire their model for having a less-than-prudent sexual encounter. And the fact that Geldof was apparently high on heroine should not further condemn her as unvirtuous. Rather, it should help us call attention to the fact that a person cannot legally give consent while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is a teachable moment that we, as a culture, are ignoring.

The way I see it, young women are caught in the ultimate Catch-22. On one hand, they’re expected to work to be attractive and sexual. On the other, if they meet these expectations they’re susceptible to being called a “slut” or a “ho,” rejected by girlfriends or worse, in the event of sexual assault, abuse or harassment they may be held accountable by peers and media who suggest, “you were asking for/deserve it.” (Even though sexual violence is NEVER the victim's fault).

We see this played out in the Miss Ultimo drama. The lingerie company was comfortable projecting highly sexually suggestive and passive images of Peaches Geldof. But when Geldof put those projections to practice, she was fired. We either need to show young women healthy images of sexuality and support their decisions to engage in healthy, age appropriate sexual activity, or we need to be consistent in the message that they're too young to engage. Personally, I vote for the first of these approaches.

We tell athletes to run fast -- they win games when they do. We tell children to study hard, they may get "A"s when they do. We tell men to act tough and they "get the girl" when they do. But what happens to girls who do what they're told?

They get fired from Miss Ultimo.

Something is terribly wrong here.

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