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cross-posted from Tribal Writer

I posed topless for a female photographer who specializes in boudoir. I’m lying on the bed in a man’s velvet smoking jacket, hair blown across my face. I look at the camera. It’s a beautiful portrait (the photographer is very talented) and I’m proud of it. It reminds me slightly of Manet’s Olympia. That painting caused a scandal at the time (1863) — not because the subject was nude — but because of how she stares at the viewer instead of looking away demurely.

It’s that act of shameless eye contact that makes her – according to the moral dictates of the era — truly “bad”.

I once said to someone, “I don’t know if I’m a good girl with a bad streak, or a bad girl with a good streak.” But I was being ironic. My real point was that, like any other woman (or man), I am both and neither.

In fact, it’s kind of amazing to me that the good girl/bad girl dichotomy still exists. It came up again when movie star Reese Witherspoon accepted an award on television and took her speech as an opportunity to slam other, younger women for being “bad”.

“I understand that it’s cool to be bad, I get it,” she said, in that tone of false camaraderie women sometimes use before they slip in the knife. “But it’s possible to make it in Hollywood without being on a reality show….And when I was coming up, a sex tape was something you hid under your bed…And when you take naked pictures of yourself, you hide your face! Hide your face!” She finished off by declaring that she was going to try to make it “cool” to be a “good girl”.

But imagine this:

Instead of criticizing the same young women for the same things that everybody else is already criticizing them for, she could have slammed reality shows for their misogynist (and monotonous) depiction of women.

She could have criticized the kind of media that turns a girl like Paris Hilton into a celebrity in the first place.

She could have pointed out how advertising – which is so very everywhere that we no longer notice it as we’re breathing it in – co-opts rebellion and sells it back to girls in the “you’ve come a long way, baby” pseudo-liberation supposedly found in a package of cigarettes.

She could have criticized a culture that trains girls to define themselves by their sexual appeal only to punish them for it.

She could have echoed Laurel Ulrich’s famous comment that “well-behaved women seldom make history” and pointed out that ‘bad’ doesn’t have to mean shallow and self-destructive. It can mean cutting against the traditional good-girl dictates of passive and pretty and pleasing and quiet. It can mean speaking up against the status quo, the double standard, the beauty myth. It can mean rejecting the idea that your moral nature depends not on what you do, but on what you don’t do (have sex).

It can mean revolution not rebellion.

She could have said: If you’re going to be ‘bad’, make it MEAN SOMETHING…other than self-sabotage.   read more at TW

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
Love it! Blogging it.
Jun. 11th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
Great post. To me, Reese seemed kind of bitter that all the reality stars are getting so much exposure, and she, an Academy Award-winner, is not getting as much publicity or as many magazine covers. I have no idea how she really feels, but she kind of seemed pissed at these other women. Even though I agree that a sex tape isn't exactly something to be proud of, I think Reese seemed more annoyed that someone could become a famous celebrity merely for having a sex tape when she had to prove herself as a talented actress before she could have that same kind of fame. I'm honestly not surprised at her comments, because I've noticed lately that a lot of women judge other women very harshly. It's almost like women hate other women as much as some misogynistic men seem to hate them. It's so weird.

P.S. I love Britney! I'm such a huge fan of hers. Just wanted to say that.
Jun. 21st, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
*applause* Especially this:

>She could have criticized a culture that trains girls to define themselves by their sexual appeal only to punish them for it.<

Jul. 2nd, 2011 07:47 am (UTC)
There was always a sort of prissy, tsk tsk, air about Reese Witherspoon that rubbed me the wrong way.

(Anyway, after internet connection troubles and this and that it's good to be back here!)
Viviana So
Jul. 4th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
Great post. I agree. Why slam other women when we should be pointing out the issue with media... It's unfair.
Helen Zuo
Nov. 10th, 2011 02:54 am (UTC)
Thank you!
This is amazing, I am so so glad I read this. Bravo.

Have you seen the Miss Representation trailer? It's very much related to your post.


Aug. 15th, 2015 09:15 am (UTC)
Thoughts on Kim Kardashian and her recent things then? I'm on the fence of what you would think.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

I'm the author of three published novels: the dark fantasies BLOODANGEL and LORD OF BONES (Roc/Penguin) and the YA supernatural thriller UNINVITED (MTV/Simon&Schuster). I also have stories in the MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE 2 and ZOMBIES: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HUNGRY DEAD. I'm working on a psychological thriller called THE DECADENTS. I am divorced, with sons, and live in Bel Air.

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