Monday, September 18, 2006
what feminists have wrought
By Mary Grabar
In one piece of footage shown on prime time television an eighteen-year-old woman jumps out of a birthday cake with nothing on but pasties and a g-string. Applauding her are two sister girlfriends of the 80-year-old birthday boy for whom this cake act is being performed. Both of the other girlfriends are attired in skimpy lingerie that pushes up their surgically altered breasts. The birthday boy is attired in his customary silk bathrobe.
In another piece of footage Bible-clutching people head for church. They could be on the set of “Little House on the Prairie.” Men are dressed in black pants and white shirts. Women and girls are covered in yards of cotton fabric from neck to wrists to ankles. There is no make-up, dyed hair, or exposed cleavage.
Footage of both groups was shown on CNBC and on other stations. The reason for showing the footage was the sexual practices of a man with multiple women.
Which man was deemed offensive by the talk show host? No, it was not the silk-pajama-clad octogenarian, Hugh Hefner, who has built a fortune by pimping young women and selling their naked images.
It was Warren Jeffs, the leader of a splinter cult of the Mormon Church.
And although I firmly believe Jeffs should be prosecuted (in Nevada he faces two counts of rape by accomplice for arranging marriages for underage girls), I find it interesting that talk show hosts of “smart, sexy, hip, irreverent television” (as Donny Deutsch’s “The Big Idea” promotes itself), become apoplectic about a man who goes back to the Old Testament to justify his polygamous practices. Words like “abuse” and “exploitation” are spat out in such a manner that you’d think these men are at the verge of defending the honor and chastity of women with fists and firearms. Not for the lisping eighteen-year-old sister who has jumped out of the cake in the dirty old man’s mansion.
The indignation is for the fully clothed women on the way to church.
It’s the Bibles.
That’s what makes them angry.
But whenever Hefner makes the talk show circuit with his three girlfriends, he is treated with awe and envy. The three giggling young women, who admittedly are paid “allowances” to live with and bed the old man, are presented as liberated women. The host Donny Deutsch gushes, “It could not get any better than being you”; a caller gets advice from Hefner about introducing another woman to his girlfriend for a ménage a trois. Much congratulatory talk goes around for this liberator and businessman on what ends up being free promotion for his new reality series “The Girls Next Door,” where viewers can be entertained with such sights as the three thong-bikini-clad women going down a water slide.
The difference in reaction to the two polygamists, Hugh Hefner (I’ll apply the second, zoological definition of mating with more than one individual of the opposite sex) and Warren Jeffs, encapsulates the difference in attitude at large. What is considered women’s subjugation these days?
If an eighteen-year-old high school student receives plastic surgery, poses naked, performs sex acts before an audience, and has sex with a man older than her grandfather for money, she is seen as liberated. In fact, one segment of “The Girls Next Door” showed the mother of Hefner’s eighteen-year-old “girlfriend” joining the festivities in the Playboy Mansion.
If a young woman gets married (as the only wife for life), belongs to a church, stays home and raises children, she is viewed as subjugated. Feminists have been quick to jump on Saint Paul’s injunction in Colossians 3:18: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” But they have ignored the second part: “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.”
The public reaction and attitude by the media towards these two polygamists reflects the attitude that reigns in academe. While feminists argued against pornography in the 1980s, in the twenty-first century, professors write papers for journals and conferences on pornography and teach classes on the “rhetoric of pornography.” It began with the touting of Madonna as a symbol of female empowerment. The “performative acts” (performance as more in line with feminist thinking than the “linear” male writing) became more extreme until we got to the point where we currently are: Pornography is deemed a legitimate subject of academic inquiry.
While I feel that Warren Jeffs should be prosecuted, I would argue that Hugh Hefner’s brand of polygamy has had a far greater reach. Warren Jeffs, while he may have harmed hundreds of girls and women, is viewed as a fundamentalist kook. School boys are not likely to look at him as someone to emulate.
But Hugh Hefner made smut respectable. He brought glamour to pimping. Through the decades, since he launched Playboy, his impact has been far and wide. Every woman of the Western world has been affected by it.
As a result of the respectability granted those like Hefner, we have nine-year-old girls dressed like hookers, teenagers getting “breast augmentations,” and mothers frolicking with near-naked daughters in a playboy’s mansion on prime time television. In 2006, according to the wisdom of the sophisticates, polygamy is just fine--as long you’re the bunny playmate of a dirty old man, the “ho” of a gold-studded thug, or the breast-baring groupie of an aging rock star. But whatever you are, young woman, don’t be a Bible-reading wife.
Your point is well taken, Mary. Thanks!
Has Jeffs been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List because his religion reads the Bible?
You think Warren Jeffs should be prosecuted. Do you think Hefner should be prosecuted for something as well?
There are plenty of people in American culture who share your values. I'm glad we pretty much agree that consensual sex between adults is OK and rape isn't.
The question isn't about what is illegal.