Voyeuristic Americans

By Jessica Englund

During a recent conversation over coffee with some of my favorite women, our topic, once again, strayed to American culture. Most of us count ourselves among the feminist movement, and the others are incredibly pro-women. As we have found out through our coffee dates and in day-to-day life, there are quite a few women in society who are anti-woman. Many feminists, not surprisingly, believe that if you aren’t pro-choice, you can’t possibly be a feminist. Some go as far as to say that those who aren’t pro-choice are anti-woman. I wouldn’t go that far, but I detest those who make women feel guilty or bad for exercising their right to choose.

Back to the topic at hand, I move to state that Americans are becoming much more voyeuristic nowadays. Although I can understand some level of voyeurism with movies and television, but when people go to court to watch a rape trial and see the drama, we’ve gone too far. Why is it that people seem to think that it is perfectly acceptable to involve themselves so deeply in others’ lives? When a woman has been raped, that is her life and her pain, not entertainment for the neighbors.

But it becomes more disturbing. Some have even passed the line from voyeur to participant in terrible events and situations. I offer a sobering example: a gang rape in Madison, Wisconsin. Two men drag a woman into an alley where they begin to rape her. Two more unrelated men pass by and ask to get ‘in on it’ where the first two proceed to pimp the woman out for $20 each. Understandably, this is quite an extreme example, but what I move to question is where do college students get the idea that such actions are acceptable?
There are so many potential answers to such a question, and the answer changes based on the situation or personal experiences of the rapist. I believe that many rapists do not believe that the acts they commit are wrong. Is that where such crimes become acceptable? Suppose then, that what was necessary is a transformation of the societal norms and portrayal of acceptable behavior. Other than the media’s interpretation of rape, where do we begin? Then wouldn’t changing the media’s interpretation need to be changed? And now we are back to the age-old question – what should the media ‘look’ like?

If you are looking for an interesting read on a feminist perspective of the role of the media, try here.

*This from one of my blogs…thoughts?*

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6 thoughts on “Voyeuristic Americans

  1. For some reason your post reminded me of a different post in a feminist community that I lurk (haha) at on livejournal (As a disclaimer, it might have some triggering material): http://community.livejournal.com/feminist/2852839.html#cutid1. This post was about a photo shoot on the popular show, America’s Next Top Model. The subject matter was “looking pretty while being murdered/abused/committing suicideâ€? amongst other things. I mean wow, not only do I have to worry about what I look like alive, but now I have to also worry about looking beautiful while dying a horrific death. Anyway, although the majority of the members were like “omg I’m so shocked!â€? “disgusting!â€? what I found more interesting were those who didn’t see anything wrong with it at all.
    I guess I am one of those people that blame everything wrong in this world including bad weather on the media (Sometimes I expect shine and I get rain…unacceptable). But in all seriousness, I believe the media is a huge force from brainwashing, setting us back… to, if utilized effectively, becoming a positive force in bringing about change. We live in a time period where what we eat, drink, wear, watch, listen to…etc are all products of what we are told to be “in.â€? I mean don’t even deny it, unless you live under a rock or something. However, I am not saying that we should also remove our own sense of responsibility, because although the “media says soâ€? we “CHOOSE to do so.â€?
    One of the shows that I can’t get enough of is Law & Order: SVU, and although I appreciate the justice driven team, coupled in with my girl crush on Benson (Mariska Hargitay), I find myself angry sometimes and shocked at how I have become so numb by all the sexual violence. I remember a time when I use to feel along with the characters enough for me to be barely able to watch. But more and more recently, “it’s just dramaâ€?….it’s “entertainment.â€? Argh…and then I realize just how much I have started to trivialize sexual/domestic violence, so that it started to take a lot for me to be shaken up by real events on the news (Hell, even the news is now “entertainmentâ€?)
    Ever since I have downgraded the number of hours I’m connected to the tube (thanks to selling my soul to college), I find myself able to be the angry and quite the ranting/raving young lady again. Point is, sometimes we need to take a break and just think…because even the most critical of us can easily be absorbed into the masses.
    As for that small portion about feminist believing that a real feminist (what is a real feminist?) has to be pro-choice. I have to admit that I used to be one of those. Simply because my definition of “pro-choiceâ€? was having the choice to become a mother or not becoming one, I have to admit that I haven’t taken the time to truly explore the pro-life stance, to my understanding it’s “motherhood. PERIOD.â€? Hmmm. But now I realize how silly that is.
    I read the link. I love it, and I agree whole-heartedly…change can be the most effective coming from that source. The media needs a head to toe makeover. A feminist makeover 😉

  2. I agree! A media makeover is just what society needs, because that is where most of our crazy societal norms come from like looking skinny and having big boobs. Although, I do not completely discount pop culture. Artists like India.Arie, Lauryn Hill, and even Pink have contributed to the make over with their music and their music videos. My favorite is definently the I Am Not My Hair video by India.

  3. Hey Jessica,
    I love me some India Arie. She is my hero. And that song is my new Anthem (okay one of many anthems). 😉 You have no idea (or maybe you do) what it’s like to have a woman who is not ashamed of her natural beauty (especially hair…hot spot for black women). I about cried when she made that song. haha and I tear up every time I see her photos with her natural hair, because it’s like wow, someone who looks just like me!! YAY! 🙂 She has another song called “video” that song was my first love.
    Yes, we should highlight such women! The media is not all bad, I just dislike that the negative aspects of it seems to be the more prevailing force.

  4. Oh of course! I loved the “video” song as well. Like yourself, I have many anthems at a time. Right now, I’m in a new music phase with Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and others, but Ani DiFranco will always have a song or two that are on my playlist 🙂

  5. OMG huge girl crushes on Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. I just want to hang out with Amy W., and Lily’s song “Friday Night” is, like, my EVERY friday night. And I really think that “Everything’s Wonderful” is the anthem of our generation- except nobody wants to admit it. I’m entering a very brit-punk-pop-princess phase that also includes Lady Sovereign. Anywho…

  6. I LOVE “Everything’s Wonderful”!! I totally agree with you about it being our generation’s anthem! I also love “Alfie” and “Knock ’em Out” because they are just so f***ing funny! I love playing this song while I’m driving with the windows down cause everone looks at me like I’m crazy. TOTAL crush on Amy Winehouse….very very…cute? Can you call her cute? Or can you only call her sexy? Hmmm…..

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