By Jane Smith
A couple of months ago Rashida Jones (American television and film actor) felt like doing some venting on Twitter. Anyone that has an account with the microblogging service can tell you that it’s a nice place to go and engage in some good ol’ fashioned real talk with millions of digital strangers. As such, it seems like the ideal place to go when you want to vent and feel like someone is listening.
It seems that by 4:29 PM on October 19, 2013, Rashida Jones had become so fed up with the “pornoficaiton of everything,” that she was compelled to share her views with the world. Jones wanted to herald what she thought most were already thinking. She tweeted:
That’s the tweet that set this whole thing into motion. It’s an honest opinion that I can appreciate and besides, I sort of agree with her. Women (and men) can be pretty outwardly raunchy these days and it gets to be too much, at times. Today’s popular culture already feels overly sexualized and it seems unnecessary to sprinkle poon juice and dick pics on everything. Notwithstanding, I believe that if poon juice and dick pics are legitimately your thing and / or you’re a hyper sexual person by nature, work that shit until you’re sore.
What I’m saying is, the problem isn’t the hyper-sexualized pop stars—they're more of an effect. The problem is that we’ve built a society where entire industries (e.g. marketing and entertainment) traffic female sexuality. The problem is that it’s 2013 and I’m still worried about women’s rights. The problem is that, when people see a woman expressing herself sexually, they still tend to write her off as a slut.
It seems the problem is bigger than just a bunch of “whores” behaving badly.
All in all, Jones’ tweet isn’t awful, but man, that hashtag: Stop acting like whores—that is pretty fucked up. It’s slut shaming in it’s purest form: calling the overtly sexual female, a whore. Jones makes the comment indirectly, but she makes it nonetheless.
I still wonder, though, what exactly is a whore? I should go look that up, right?
Taking the definition of the word into account, It feels a bit excessive to call strangers and fellow females, whores. “Whore,” isn’t just a word, it’s a pretty strong slur to sling around—a large stone to throw. Perhaps it was the weight of Jones’ word choice that nudged her to reflect and follow up her initial message with these tweets, twelve minutes later:
Finally, closing with:
Now, you might be asking yourself, why I waited two months to write about my dissatisfaction with Jones’ tweets. Welp, contemplate no further. I’ll tell you.
About a week ago, Jones wrote a piece for Glamour magazine:
I didn’t read it at first because I had been put off by the narrow-minded nature of her controversial October tweets. To me, it was clear. Jones is a feminist that doesn’t fully grasp the concept of slut shaming and the detrimental effects of this phenomenon on female youth. I figured, why get myself riled up again by someone that just doesn’t get it?
I actively avoided it, but the Glamour piece kept creeping up into casual conversations and commentary. I heard about it on T.V. and even a friend or two mentioned it. Finally, I had to read it for myself. I wanted to know what Jones thought of the wrath she unleashed by telling a bunch of women on Twitter to stop acting like whores.
I went searching the internet for the article, eventually found it, made myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my laptop and clicked over to Glamour.com to see what Rashida Jones had to say for herself. I wanted to know how the world had reacted to the tweets that put me off so severely. And so I read.
I knew I was probably going to dislike it, but I didn’t think my brain would react so violently. Now, before I get into my reasoning behind the fury that erupted in my mind after reading Jone’s Glamour piece, I’d like to talk about her offending tweets:
Firstly, when you tell women to “#stopactinglikewhores,” you’re shaming them into conforming to some sort of universally accepted (and nonexistent) sexual standard. What I mean is that, unless you’re charging for sexual favors you’re not a clear-cut whore.
If we look back to the definition of the word “whore,” you’ll see that in addition to prostitute, it means a promiscuous or immoral woman (That’s right, woman; not man or person.). This same dictionary defines promiscuous as “having or involving many sexual partners.”
Who then, determines the numeric value of “many?” Is four many? Twenty five? Sixty four? How many is “many,” exactly? And so, if one doesn’t know how many people a woman has slept with, how could one rightfully declare her a whore?
I think we can all agree that calling out another women’s level of perceived whoreishness, is just a dick move. Even if you’re doing it indirectly, on Twitter.
Maybe, there is there some sort of Magic Whore Measuring Stick® Rashida Jones knows about that I don’t know about. A stick against which people are to judge all women (but only women, because only women are devalued when they choose to engage multiple sexual partners). Maybe…but probably not. The reality is that whoredom is purely subjective.
Seeing as whoredom is subjective, telling women to “stop acting like whores” is exclusively judgmental. With that said, I can agree that our culture has been sexualized to the point of desensitization, I can’t, however, concede that anyone should stop acting like whores.
Jones got me back on her side briefly with her 4:42 PM tweet on October 19, 2013:
She’s right, we—all of us—need to take a serious look at the culture we’re perpetuating and decide, for ourselves, if we’re helping or hurting. She’s pleading with folks to quit making it harder for us females to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, she’s not capturing that some of us insist that equality is our aim and securing it, supersedes saving face.
Later still, she brings up her concern for the youth. Again, I agree, there is “a generation of young girls and women watching,” but I still don’t think pop stars need to leave things / body parts to the imagination, unless they feel so inclined. We really ought to be less freaked out by the naked human form anyway. It’s weird and concerning—this preoccupation with vilifying our bodies.
Additionally, I’m not 100% on this because I’m not raising any kids, but shouldn’t parents / guardians be setting boundaries for their children? Don’t parents discuss what clothing is to be considered appropriate? Isn’t that part of the whole parental job description? I feel like it is; I’ve got plenty of friends and family that are raising great kids (i.e. kids that don’t act like whores) and they handle all the above, with their children directly.
Needless to say, by the time I read Jones’ last tweet requesting all men show her “dat ass,” I was livid. I was mad because she bamboozled me. She had me on her side before I had a chance to think about what I was agreeing with.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind it if we lived in a society with a little less ass n titties and a little more depth of soul. Like I said, I was with Rashida up to a point, but she lost me with all that back tracking and rationalizing.
It comes down to this, you’re free to believe whatever it is you want. This is, after all the United States of America: land of the free and home of the brave. So, if you’re going to go through the trouble of pulling out that soapbox, climbing up onto it and giving the world a dose of your medicine, then at least stand behind your words.
Sure it’s a perpetual struggle to say what you mean and stand behind what you say, but that seems to be the point of the exercise. I will say that it took a good amount of ballsyness to say what Rashida Jones said. It’s too bad, however, that she fucked it up by telling folks to quit acting like whores in order to rectify the situation. Actually, it would have been all good, even with the whore hashtag, had she not tried to diffuse the situation with a final, sarcastic tweet asking men to show her “dat ass.”
To that I say, WTF Rashida Jones? If you’re going to have the nards to speak your mind, don’t half-ass that shit. Backing down with a deflective joke and an awkward laugh, isn’t funny or cute, it’s counterproductive. We’re the only ones that can give our words weight and you negated that when you asked to see that ass.
The same goes for the Glamour article, Jones penned. In it, she explains what it was like to give the world a piece of her mind and then face an unexpected digital retaliation.
“I'm not gonna lie. The fact that I was accused of "slut-shaming," being anti-woman, and judging women's sex lives crushed me. I consider myself a feminist. I would never point a finger at a woman for her actual sexual behavior, and I think all women have the right to express their desires. But I will look at women with influence—millionaire women who use their "sexiness" to make money—and ask some questions. There is a difference, a key one, between "shaming" and "holding someone accountable."
So back to the word whore. My hashtag was "stopactinglikewhores." Key word, acting.”
I tell you what, I’m not gonna lie either. When you instruct women to stop acting like whores on Twitter, you’re indirectly slut shaming. It’s cool if you did that mistakenly. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, but as a feminist, I try my darndest not do it anymore. See, I get that there is no Magic Whore Measuring Stick®. I know there’s no real standard against which to measure the likes of Miley Cyrus or that girl you work with, or that chick you know, or your BFF, or your Mom—nope, life’s not that simple.
I don’t, however think that the answer to pop culture’s hyper-sexual state is to impose some code of decency (i.e. modesty). Nah, if you want to be 2-Live-Crew raunchy, do that—revel in it. If you wanna class things up and refrain from sacrificing your body to public consumption—live it. Anyone with the conviction to live life aggressively will usually have my support, regardless of the direction they take.
You see, the major difference between Miley Cyrus and Rashida Jones isn’t just that Jones is the markedly more modest entertainer, no. The major differing factor is that Miley stands behind her shit, regardless of how silly she might look to some of us, she doesn’t give any fucks. She’s twerking her ass all the way to the bank. She's writing her page in pop history, annotating it with thrusting hips and wagging tongues.
Maybe the record industry is manipulating her, maybe she rolls deep, half naked because she simply likes the way it looks; we’ll never know for sure. The kicker is that it doesn’t really matter all that much, anyway.
It doesn’t matter because if there’s a demand for sex, industries will continue to provide it in their commercials, music, movies, books, etc. Even worse, we’re all to blame for the hyper-sexualization of popular culture. You, me, your mom, Rashida Jones and anyone else that actively participates in our consumerist society.
Should we blame the entertainers that have evolved to peddle flesh alongside beats and catchy choruses? No, we should blame ourselves. If we’re buying into it, we’re perpetuating the objectification of female bodies and sexuality for profit. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go. What’s more, we’re past the point of singling out the girls that “act slutty” and blaming them for the questionable state of our feminist nation.
I’ll say this again and until I don’t have to say it anymore:
We’re all on the same motherfucking team ladies. The pretty girls, the ugly girls, the smart girls, the athletic girls, the conservative girls, the liberal girls, the sexually open girls and even the sexually repressed girls—same team, all of us. Tearing one another apart with stereotypically catty comments simply undermines our campaign for equality.
How about instead of attacking, we focus on how to adapt to this new culture that we’ve cultivated for ourselves? Lets work to change it, so that it more accurately reflects the power and influence of the feminine mind and not just the feminine form.
Finally, I say to Rashida Jones and anyone that drops the whore bomb, instead of looking deeper and tackling the real problem:
Quit telling me everything’s the whore’s fault and tell me instead how we can work together to ensure that we’re represented, protected and empowered—all of us.
That I might actually be inclined to listen to.