Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dangerously Attractive?

Beauty can often be reductive, especially if you ask men - who seem incapable of accepting that maybe women wear makeup and pretty clothes for
their own satisfaction. Indeed such justifications are invariably met with indignation and scorn.

I have spoken before about a post feminist stance many female celebrities have taken, presenting themselves as deliberately and almost comically seductive. This has always been most evident within the rap/RnB context, and the recent furore caused by UK grime artist Skepta, whose music video tips the buttock wobbling and gesticulations into a full on literal porn show, throws off the last scraps of pretence. Reaction to overstepping a subtle but crucial line has been usually one of outrage. (typical reaction video.)

To me, it seems inevitable that boundaries were bound to be pushed - but apparently the status quo, at the very periphery of voyeurism, was deemed finite. Rappers may have a sideline in the Porn industry (perhaps mostly inspired by Snoop Dogg's success) but this is always regarded as separate. Ironically - as a skit in Family Guy made me realise - although prostitution is illegal, throw a video camera into the mix and it is actors and simply part of the adult film industry. The incredibly arbitrary definitions imply that a deliberately attractive woman is "an invitation to treat" - if not an offer! Is looking attractive a challenge for ownership?

Lyrics grouping cars, money and women, explicitly accounts for them as objects to be bought or at least earned as rewards. Adverts have consistently used attractive women to entice a sale. Famously, Ted Bundy's frenzied sexually motivated slaughter of attractive young women was explained as a route to "possesing" them, just as one would possess a pretty ornament. "La petite mort" afterall borrows death as a term for victory and loss of control... Only in death can the "invitation" be revoked.

Humiliation is akin to la petite mort in its more literal sense, and men shouting abuse - which masquerades as harmless banter or even compliments - have become an unpleasant side effect to feeling attractive. According to "Hollaback!", a new website advising women to cast aside the tried and tested "head down, ignore" attitude and adopt a more aggressive response instead, over 80% of women experience catcalling of some kind. A recent article in Grazia magazine on the initiative sheepishly admitted that the origin of these catcalls was paramount: a rich and attractive city banker is allowed and appreciated; a white van man, not so much. "Hollaback!" also has the inadvertent effect of at times being rather amusing. However, it is a serious issue, men potentially can get extremely frustrated by what they deem as provocation or being ignored; making women feel like objects for derision could be a precursor to more serious assaults.

Conversely, the other objectification of women (perhaps as old as time but never more protected and financially motivated by Law and the Press) is the trend for young "aspiring" models/actresses/singers/delete as appropriate/ to ensnare rich vacuous footballers/playboys/delete as apropriate/ and even to become pregnant as a contingency plan.

Is the quest for beauty always bound up with sexual attraction, just as a beautiful rose attracts a bee, and a peacock struts and shakes its feathers to attract the female? (In nature, often the pressure is on the male to look attractive and fight for a dull coloured female. Perhaps with the boom in male grooming, this will become the standard.)
I had always assumed that preening ourselves distances us from Nature... But if looking attractive means inviting leering and worse, is the only solution to get thee to a nunnery?

Can beauty be an end in and of itself, or does it neccessarily involve the appreciation of "the Other" to be true?

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