Those who collude in the public degradation of gifted young women are beneath contempt.
Who doesn’t love to speculate about good girls gone bad? Well, people who like and respect women don’t. Nor do people who recognise that the rules prescribing what constitutes a “good” female are bigoted and hypocritical. A good girl is charming and comely, and never does anything to upset the status quo. A good girl does not dare to challenge the position society has put her in. A good girl is the ideal helpmeet for a man, with neither a hair nor a thought out of place.
So it’s a nasty shock for reactionaries to see Lindsay Lohan’s latest police mugshot, in which she sends a fabulous look of “Yeah, I’ve been arrested. So what?” straight through the camera into the miasma of prurient dreck that is pop culture. So Lohan likes a drink. What’s the problem? Women get drunk, fall over and hit the double standard face first. Further proof that womankind is pushing things a step too far is the news that Britney Spears acted brattishly at a recent photoshoot, wiping her hands on one dress and letting her pooch defecate on another.
Again, so what? Male power players have been abusing subordinates ever since they created the first hierarchies. Nobody points out that male violence is destroying the world. A drunk young rich guy is a crazed creative genius and cultural messiah who lives on the edge; his female counterpart is a sad strumpet. Or, in Britney’s case, it’s all put down to her ongoing “meltdown”.
That is not to say that I want to even things up by watching talented women sabotage themselves with as much dedication as men. There is no glory in substance abuse or depression. They are debilitating conditions, deeply saddening for any friend, family or fan who must watch, wondering how they might help. But the avid readers of What Lindsay/Britney Did Next are not wondering that. The people who like to see a good girl go bad do so not because it provides young women with a vicarious means of joyful rebellion, but because they like watching a gifted woman get destroyed.
The strategy is the same whether we’re talking pop princesses or actual ones. First, the target is goaded, speculated about. She is said to be too fat, too thin, unstable, unprofessional, a bad mother. Then, understandably, she begins to freak out and unwittingly vindicates the gossip. Then she is hounded some more until something – an arrest, an accident, a scandal, an eating disorder, a suicide – degrades her so much that the public finally sits back, satisfied that another promising female has been taken out of action.
The media that deal in pop freakouts don’t report these stories so much as create them. If Britney Spears has had any kind of meltdown, who can blame her? She is followed wherever she goes by stalker-violators: some have cameras and call themselves paparazzi; some have notebooks and call themselves journalists; some have vaginas and call themselves concerned women of the world. All relish the harassment that they perpetrate. It is women (writers and readers) who are enjoying and encouraging the exposure of Lohan’s drink and drugs hell or Spears’s identity crisis, while saving space for a snide comment about their outfits. It is women who are getting off on other women’s difficulties, while men in power carouse, abuse (and self-abuse) with impunity.
Who are the real “bad girls”? Not Lohan or Spears. The gossip magazines may be as punchy as a dose of Splenda, but they offer evidence that women have obediently taken on the values of a woman-hating world. We must recognise the part women play in the degradation of women: the ultimate betrayal.
Source: The Guardian