Saturday, April 12, 2008

All the naked ladies


I think that the human body is beautiful in its many shapes and forms, and I think that it should be respected. I think it's great that people can love their bodies enough to want to take photos. Even nude photos. But I wonder if Hollywood feels the same.

The ABC website featured this slide show of women who have taken off their clothes for magazine covers, and it really makes me wonder: In Hollywood, do women really have a choice about whether or not to keep their clothes on?

I sort of touched on this issue in my post about Miley Cyrus, but I will admit, I don't know Hollywood that well. But all these pictures of young, nude, female stars make it seem to me that it might not be so much of a choice after all.

I know that there are women who love their bodies and would be excited to do a nude cover shoot. I also know that taking one's clothes off in front of other people could possibly be a liberating experience. But when we look at all these magazine covers in context, do we really see these nude women as being empowered?

In American society, I would say, it is rather common to see famous young women dressed provocatively, and covers like the ones I linked to are not uncommon at all. The reason that these covers are so commonplace is that they help sell magazines. It's true. So if a a naked young female star's body on a magazine means that a magazine will sell more copies, doesn't it also mean that if a female star wants the most exposure to the most people, she should take off her clothes?

Women in Hollywood are not dumb. Many of them know what will sell easily, and that happens to be, very often, at least near-nudity. And when things sell with their bodies associated with them, it means that they will make more money. So is it really a choice, then, for women to take their clothes off? Perhaps. But it seems to me like it may be one of only a few choices that Hollywood allows these women to make if they want to make money.

As a side note: It bothers me that women's bodies are what people focus on in Hollywood, because it means that a lot of times we only see perfection, not reality, and that does not send healthy messages to girls who look real (click on the porfolio link at the top - thanks to Shakesville).

55 comments:

apclypseishere said...

Male Idols are also objectified for commercial gain. I am not calling for tit for tat, I think that objectification of people for profit is unethical at best. Also I am not certain that young female popular icons always benefit (in terms of revenue) by exposing their flesh to the hungry horny Hollywood lenses. In fact quite the opposite, many young women may loose endorsements if they "soil their image" or overstep the bounds of what the entities they hold contracts with find to be appropriate. I suppose I would cite the whole public reaction to the Vanessa Hudgins photo scandal as evidence.

apclypseishere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OutcrazyOphelia said...

I think a lot of it has to do with branding. Usually for shows that have the good girl character, it's expected that the actress remains unsexualized (I'm thinking of Melissa Joan Heart, Hillary Duff, and the like), but the music business requires that you sex up your image to sell product. I mean Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera started off looking like their age and as they rose in popularity, their look matured and sexualized. In order to stay relevant, they have to be something to look at, which translates to sexualized. It's hard to parse who is doing this because it's what they want, and who is doing it because it's the only way to stay in the spotlight and maintain a career. Male sexuality sells product too, but it generally has to be packaged that way. In my experience as a past teenybopper, sometimes guys get the most attention for being non sexualized and non threatening--like that Zac Efron kid. He's not really sexual so much as cute, meanwhile his costar Vanessa Hudgins got the two faced treatment of people salivating over her looks while tut tutting over nude photos (which they quickly forgave).

Amelia said...

Just so you know, Ophelia, the link I provided does show a picture of Melissa Joan Hart topless, except for a towel/blanket thing...

Although I do agree with the idea of branding, very much.

I will be commenting more on this tomorrow.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

Yeah I caught that, I hadn't realized she ever did something like that but I thought the tag "Your favorite witch without a stitch" meant it was from her Sabrina days.

Amelia said...

So did you mean that during her earlier roles (I can only think of Clarissa Explains It All) would have benefited more from her un-sexuality than her Sabrina days?

Just checking. And I really am going to bed soon. :)

Mana said...

(I think she was only in Clarissa explains it all before Sabrina but I could be wrong) I think during Clarissa she was under 18, but during Sabrina she was over 18--so maybe she was trying to assert her adulthood? I think the Sabrina character was meant to be less alternative and quirky and so she wore more conventionally attractive clothes, maybe it was an attempt to jump start a more adult career path, but I don't think she would have benefited from sexualization during her Clarissa days--it didn't really mesh with the character and would have been too jarring (I remember the Clarissa character as rather child like in her concerns and schemes and things). I would think it'd be something like Hillary Duff doing a semi nude cover during the run of her Disney show, I think it would have been too much of a contrast to work, then again I could be wrong but I'm not sure I've ever seen it work. As in, once you go down that sexualized/adult path you can't really go back into a so called innocent character without some problems of believability. It's a kind of typecasting, and people can't separate the actor from the character.

Mana said...

Just responding to myself--This is still Ophelia, just accidentally logged into teammate's account somehow o.O;

apclypseishere said...

Clarissa explains it all = girl who likes Pearl Jam = <3 :-D

Lindsay said...

As in, once you go down that sexualized/adult path you can't really go back into a so called innocent character without some problems of believability. It's a kind of typecasting, and people can't separate the actor from the character.

I think sometimes the actress might pose for such a photo precisely because of that break. If her audience always sees her as an innocent, young girl, it might be harder for her to get more "mature" roles in the future. A casting agent isn't going to cast someone with a persona of innocence for their sexy female lead. I think some actresses think it's a good career move to pose for a nude photo shoot.

Also, the magazines probably court these good girls because they know it'll help them sell copies.

In the much loved, too-quickly canceled show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Harriet, one of the main characters is a Christian. A magazine wants her to pose for them and she's thinking about doing it. Two of the other characters, Simon and Tom tell her that the only reason they want her for their magazine is because they want to get the good Christian girl to take off her clothes. It's a good episode and gets to the heart of exactly what we're talking about here.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

I think sometimes the actress might pose for such a photo precisely because of that break. If her audience always sees her as an innocent, young girl, it might be harder for her to get more "mature" roles in the future. A casting agent isn't going to cast someone with a persona of innocence for their sexy female lead. I think some actresses think it's a good career move to pose for a nude photo shoot.

I thought that was the motivation behind the Sabrina shoot and also that girl from Seventh Heaven, as in it's an attempt to show that they have adult/sexy marketability too.

La Pobre Habladora said...

A big problem with these photos is that they don't show real women - they are airbrushed and stretched, etc. So what these images end up selling is really a false idea of what we are supposed to love about women's bodies. This encourages women to try to attain a false, unnatural ideal. This is, of course, great for the beauty industry because if you can't ever reach that ideal, you'll have to keep buying as you keep trying.

Tyler said...

Honestly, I have a thing for "innocent" girls. To me, it is a girls choice (although she has to accept the consequences) to take off her clothes, sleep around, whatever. I just hope she does not expect me to respect her as much afterwards. My view might seem old-fashioned or downright sexist to some of you, but I really don't care. I can respect a woman who has had sex, but not when they flaunt it... a girli can respect, but not a whore.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is a woman's choice to be able to take her clothes off - it's america. if she wants to take nude photos of herself and place them on the cover of a magazine, that's her decision. As long as the woman is willing to accept the consequences of what will happen if she acts in that way... and the stereotypes and lables she will recieve for doing so.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

"a girli can respect, but not a whore."

If a whore means someone who has sex and isn't ashamed of it to you, I'm afraid that is sexist. I don't hear the same language lobbed at the men who these women are sleeping with and it appears to be a judgment applied only to women with language created to shame women.

Additionally, how do you walk the line? The post is about the idea of having to present yourself as sexually available to be considered attractive, if this is the standard, why is it so two faced? It's okay if you dress sexy but only if you don't enjoy sex, or if you dress or behave a certain way, you must be a certain way.

The problem is in the stereotypes. How can one presume to judge to content of another's character based on what they wear or don't wear?

I'd like to hear more about these "consequences" since it sounds like the age old addage about "well maybe if she wasn't dressed that way then..." that train is never late.

Amelia said...

As long as the woman is willing to accept the consequences of what will happen if she acts in that way... and the stereotypes and lables she will recieve for doing so.

Is it really a free choice if a woman has to fear whatever these dreadful consequences are? I'm pretty sure she didn't help decide the rule that Tyler says: that having sex and not being ashamed about it = whore.

Tyler said...

Ok, to me a girl who has sex with random people is a whore. a man-whore is the exact same thing, only a guy. If a girl is in a relationship, idk about how much she has sex. The difference to me is the relationship. By consequences, I meant the girls who get the reputation of "naughty" or "sexy" from her actions.

FeministGal said...

Tyler said "Honestly, I have a thing for 'innocent' girls. To me, it is a girls choice (although she has to accept the consequences) to take off her clothes, sleep around, whatever." and Anonymous said "I believe it is a woman's choice to be able to take her clothes off - it's america."

1. "innocent" girls? That makes me think of 12 year olds... And you seem to be over 18 ... Ew... that's just creepy.

2. yes, it's America but no, lots of time it isn't necessarily the woman's choice. when you talk about things like nude modeling or even stripping sometimes decisions that seem to be a "choice" really aren't for systematic reasons. Take for example a single mom with 2 kids who needs enough money for day care so she can work her two/three jobs. Yes she has a "choice" whether she works at a burger joint making $5.45/hr or strips for a living, making way way more. Is it a choice? Well, not really (at least i don't see it as one) because any parent would chose the job that makes more money to support their family and it's not just a simple choice for which she should deal with the consequences, ya know?

Also,
"As long as the woman is willing to accept the consequences of what will happen if she acts in that way..."
What consequences? Like being raped? Wow. Way to victim blame...

all american girl said...

Feministgal- Your example of the single mom with two kids stripping to make ends meet ALMOST convinced me. But you forgot to take into account that there are people in America who have morals. If they believe that selling their body is morally wrong, then they more than likely will not do it, but instead find some other job in which the pay is comparable and the work is more to their moral tastes.

Also - I believe there was already a discussion about being raped and victim blaming...

OutcrazyOphelia said...

but instead find some other job in which the pay is comparable and the work is more to their moral tastes.

This presumes there is work like that. I'm not sure of any place where you can leave with hundreds of dollars for a few hours work. Waitressing may be close but you'd have to work at an incredibly busy restaurant that may not exist in their town. Not everyone lives in a bustling city, some have to make due with the jobs that are available. For instance, if you have no money for a car, and no one to carpool with and depending on how far out from a city you are, you may not have the option of public transportation. Additionally, morals are a poor point to argue since they're so variant. I would not normally strip but if I had two children to feed, I'd say it was more moral to make sure they had food, a home, and clothes than to choose not to do those things because the method is immoral.

Additionally the example provided didn't include that there were equal paying jobs nearby--you inserted that so you could argue that point and not the one offered.

all american girl said...

And you assume that there are not jobs you can support a family on nearby. Although your arguement does have a few valid points, you're assuming way too much of the situation. The story you're telling is of a single mom with two kids, no car, no public transportation, and the only nearby job that pays decently is the stripclub across the street. Where is that the only option? I've known single women in similar situations who did not have to resort to stripping to make ends meet and support their children. Some had to work two jobs, it's true, but they didn't have to compromise themselves in order to make money. Some even went on to become respectable things such as nurses (and they were not the kind found at bachelor parties).

OutcrazyOphelia said...

It's the only option because that's the hypothetical situation. Additionally it's called making ends meet, sometimes we have to work jobs we would rather not to get to where we want to be, for some, that means going against their moral code (furthermore, not everyone finds stripping to be morally wrong and you're presuming the mother in question even feels guilty about making a choice that will provide for her children). I posited a situation that is likely if you live in a more rural area/any area where the major industry has moved to clarify a situation where it was entirely possible that stripping provided the most money and the most flexible hours. Again, working two jobs may not be something that's possible if the children are young enough to be out of school, or if they're old enough to where they come home in the afternoons from school. And again, there may not be enough places in town to get two jobs in the first place. For every person I've known who's managed to acquire two jobs, I've known someone who wasn't able to find one so I can't judge on that basis.

I could get into a lot more variables such as background checks, available transportation, and more that could explain why someone would have trouble getting traditional retail jobs as well. Everything isn't black and white.

Amelia said...

As I was reading the e-mails containing the comment updates, OutCrazyOphelia and Feministgal ended up making the points that I felt were most important.

Thanks to everyone who has commented!

OutcrazyOphelia said...

"a man-whore is the exact same thing"
If it was, the same word would be used instead of the necessary "man" prefix to differentiate them from regular "whores". Sorry, linguistic irritation.

margaret t said...

"man-whore" and "whore" are the same thing. They mean the same thing, it's just putting a gender on the word... other languages do this all the time (Spanish: Chico/Chica, Feo/Fea, Simpatico/Simpatica)

Amelia said...

The problem, Margaret, is that in the history of the English language, "whore" was generally a female-gendered word. It wasn't until much more recently that the prefix "man" came to be associated with it. And I think that speaks of the hypocrisy of holding the female accountable for her sexuality while letting the male roam free, that has been a problem in many societies for a long time.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

In English words tend to be gendered (when not directly referencing gender or sex) due to implication and popular meaning, rather than grammatical necessity. We don't have different endings that must be attached/dropped to signify gender or words like table, chair, or car that have gender. So when we attach gender to a particular word, it's supposed to mean something. If you believe whore to mean someone who is sexually promiscuous (with or without profit) then it should be gender neutral. The fact that it's targeted towards women alone is problematic and using "man-whore" only emphasizes that there's regular whores and men who behave like whores. Slurs that are meant for women are not suddenly neutral because there's a "man" prefix in front--if they were, the prefix wouldn't be necessary.

Long story short: sexual promiscuity doesn't have a gender, and promiscuous suits the niche of "whore" just fine, but whore carries additional connotations against women and so is the default when referencing a woman. It carries the idea that "you should feel bad for being this way" in a way that promiscuous doesn't I suppose. Man-whore doesn't really carry the same indictment because by virtue of the wording its saying "you're ordinarily exempt from this designation but still".

Amelia said...

Thanks, Ophelia. You managed to say what I meant to in a much more precise manner. ^_^

OutcrazyOphelia said...

I'm glad someone understood that, I thought I was taking the meandering trail through Verboseville.

Lindsay said...

Nice working making the point about whore/man-whore. I was all over that until you beat me to it.

It reminds me of the Bugs Bunny in drag syndrome... What's the difference between Bugs Bunny and Bugs Bunny in drag?

High heels, eyelashes, lipstick, a skirt.

The addition of these gendered markers implies that male is the default sex and to be a female requires you to add on high heels, eyelashes, lipstick, a skirt, all marking which gender you are.

Likewise, whore is the gendered default and man-whore adds specifically that the whore is male = making all whores female.

Colt said...

There choice, there freedom and none of are business. The choices we make are our own and no one else makes them for us.

dutch said...

amen colt.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

But isn't it a fundamental question at hand? To what degree are our choices completely independent of the society in which we live? If you eliminate the possibility of personal choice, you're eliminating the possibility of agency. Give too much credence to individual choice and you ignore the affect societal standards have on individuals.

Would they take off their clothes if they had a choice? Or, would taking their clothes off be such a big deal if society was alright with it? It's naughty because it's not allowed but it's encouraged because it's naughty. Weird.

Amelia said...

I don't think you completely understand the concept of "freedom" I am thinking of, Colt. Sure, this is America, and no one physically forced these women to take off their clothes, but in American society there are certain standards that are in place, and certain markets that make it very profitable to do certain things. So if the end goal is to make money, do women really have the "freedom" to choose any option they want? No. They often get forced into options (often dictated by the larger society - which is largely male-driven) so that they can make money.

I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm trying really hard to do some reading for my classes and respond to comments.

Colt said...

Nope, your free to make decisions. Peer pressure or not; You can't put responsibility of your choice on anyone but you.

Amelia said...

People are not necessarily free to make decisions, Colt. If their choices of ways to achieve their goals (be them fame or just making ends meet) are limited for whatever reasons, it is not completely a free choice because other options are not available.

Yes, women have the agency to choose among their often limited options, but who is responsible for them being limited in the first place?

Colt said...

Yes they are free to make decisions.

Amelia said...

Thanks for refusing to acknowledge more than just a small portion of what I said, Colt. Good for you.

Colt said...

I can't wrap my head around the idea that people's choices are anything but there own.

meg said...

Women are totally free to make any decision they want to. I know this is a lame example, but on America's Next Top Model they were doing a naked photo shoot and one of the girls refused to get naked. She stood by her decision, and was respected for it. She did not get sent home that week, and she made it to the final two. So yes, women do have choices. It is just the fact if they choose to stand by their decision, and some women just like to show their bodies off, its their choice. No one said they had to or not.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

"I know this is a lame example, but on America's Next Top Model they were doing a naked photo shoot and one of the girls refused to get naked. She stood by her decision, and was respected for it."

From what I've heard, the modeling world is rather harsh and if you want to make it, you don't have the choice to turn down work if you want to get your name out there. I remember hearing about that show and one of the models was supposed to be done up to look like Grace Jones and she was a poor sport about it and that was cited as the reason for her booting. Although you should have the right to choose what work you think is appropriate, its not always rewarded.

Amelia said...

I agree with Ophelia, because one time I was watching that same show and they said something almost exactly like, "You can't turn down work if you want to make it in this business."

...not much of a choice there.

meg said...

Yes, the modeling world is cruel, but that isn't anything close to the real world. From the time you can make your first decision, you will choose matter what. A two year old will choose whether he wants to listen to his parents telling him no or not. The exact same way that a 97 year old woman will choose. Everyone makes their own decisions, thats just how it is.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

But your argument was essentially that we're all free to make our own decisions, citing an example where someone went against the grain and was rewarded.

"A two year old will choose whether he wants to listen to his parents telling him no or not"
--It's not really a choice to listen to your parents when they're the ones feeding, clothing, and disciplining you. You may think you have a choice but you will have to behave or face consequences.

If going against the grain is punished, how much of a choice do you actually have to do what you want? Is it a viable choice if say you're making the decision between eating and not eating or succeeding and failing in your industry?

meg said...

"-It's not really a choice to listen to your parents when they're the ones feeding, clothing, and disciplining you. You may think you have a choice but you will have to behave or face consequences"

That is a choice right there. You choose to behave or have the consequences. That is a choice.

Amelia said...

Again, Ophelia beat me to the point with pretty much just what I wanted to say.

The problem is, Meg, that if, say, someone CHOOSES to become an actress, and she wants to make the most money possible. That is a choice. But what if the only way to make a lot of money is to take off one's clothes? If your choice was to become a model and make a lot of money, how many options do you have?

Perhaps my argument could be better framed as options? Women who choose certain careers often are so limited in the paths they can take to success, that they don't really seem to have much freedom to truly...choose.

meg said...

"Perhaps my argument could be better framed as options? Women who choose certain careers often are so limited in the paths they can take to success"

That does make more sense, but still. A model or an actress can still be successful, and keep their clothes on. Yes, it might be a bit more challenging, but it is still very possible.

Amelia said...

I agree, Meg, that women can still be successful when they choose to keep their clothes on, but the problem is that sometimes the level of success that comes with different options is not the same.

Why should a woman who decides to keep her clothes on be treated differently than a woman who decides to take them off anyway?

meg said...

It shouldn't be but it is because our society is so full of sex, and sex sells. Its sad but thats how it is and I don't see it changing for awhile

OutcrazyOphelia said...

"the problem is that sometimes the level of success that comes with different options is not the same."

This. I can rattle off the names of female actresses and musicians who never really got off the ground as the next big thing because their image just wasn't sexual enough for the popular market. It's annoying, and maybe if women weren't rewarded for falling in line and punished for failing to, I'd be more inclined to believe in true choice.

meg said...

You still do have the choice. Like Amelia said its the option, not the choice. I think the real question is will the actress, model, women, etc. choose the option of not revealing themselves?

OutcrazyOphelia said...

I think the real question is will the actress, model, women, etc. choose the option of not revealing themselves?

I think that if that image was worth as much as the sexy one is, I think they might. In some of the interviews I've heard about the actresses choosing parts with nude scenes etc., it's considered a career move--not that they're uncomfortable with their bodies or simply would never get naked otherwise, but that it's part of their job. Maybe they would rather not, but to keep the job, to gain popularity by having work out there for consumption--they kind of have to. So there is a choice, in the abstract, but if you want to prosper you have to play by the rules. Now if the choices were equal, either sexualization or not would lead to the same exposure, the same popularity, I'm sure there'd be women on both sides of the fence making those choices, but I can't feel comfortable deeming it a real choice if the results of those options are obviously very different.

I think of it as in, I can study for a test, or not study, but the only option I have if I want a decent grade is to study. It's only a true choice if I don't really care what my grade is in the end, if I do care, I have to make a particular decision and I feel its similar when it comes to media exposure and popularity. There are options but only one for those who want to succeed.

Tyler said...

how about this: they chose to become an actress or a model. Nobody forced them. They just as easily could have been a secretary, nurse, or teacher. Just like modeling, all of those are traditionally female dominated jobs. If they don't like what happens in the industry, they could have not entered, or at any time they can make the choice to get out.

meg said...

Tyler makes a good point. It is the choice in a career. Still the fact remains the same and always will. Bottom line, sex sells. They chose the field where they knew they might have to show something to get some cash. If they didn't want to show it, they should have chosen differently.

Amelia said...

The problem is not that entertainment industries are always absolutely sexy or sexist. Our society has created them that way.

Why should women have to be limited in their choices? Why can't the industry change so as to not require women to take off their clothes in order to make the optimal amount of money? That way women can have the freedom to choose any career they like, not merely the traditionally female-dominated ones...and that way, if they decide to take their clothes off, it will be because it's really what they want.