What if being turned into a product is the new form of female empowerment?

According to Megan Fox, or “one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities,” as she is described by the June 19 2009 issue of Entertainment Weekly, being commodified is empowering, not degrading.

As Fox states in an interview with Chris Nashawaty in this issue, “I think all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. That what our purpose is in the business. You’re merchandised, you’re a product. You’re sold and it’s based on sex. But that’s okay. I think women should be empowered by that, not degraded.”

Yeah, because being turned into a product is SOOO empowering. What more could a woman ask for than being merchandised based on sex appeal. How uber-empowering!

And all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols? That is their purpose? Really? So Meryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Tandy serve no purpose beyond  being commodified into sexualized eye candy? Huh, I didn’t get that message from Sophie’s Choice.

In another part of the interview, Fox discuss that she felt being sexualized at age 15 was “awesome,” adding “I wasn’t a feminist yet.” This indicates she is a feminist now. Pardon me for asking, but what part of wholeheartedly cheering female objectification is feminist? Guess I missed that in the handbook.

10 thoughts on “What if being turned into a product is the new form of female empowerment?”

  1. Megan Fox is terribly misinformed about what feminism actually is, as are so many women today, unfortunately. The media hands us these brainwashing pills, and we take them without really thinking. It really disheartens me when someone calls herself a feminist, but clearly isn’t. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    How is being treated as purely a sex symbol empowering? I really don’t understand that train of thought. Sure, I enjoy looking/feeling sexy and knowing that other people find me physically attractive, but to be judged solely on that one superficial factor cheapens our true talents. I’d like to be known more for what I can do rather than what Mom and Dad gave me.

    I’d like to fast-forward the tape 25 years later and see if Ms. Fox will say the same thing. Hopefully by then, she will have matured.

    1. While her comment was ill-informed, she actually hit on what some call the third-wave feminism, which includes owning (as much as one can) hyper-sexualized personas.

      Many women do feel empowered by being the center of gravity with men caught in their orbits mindlessly throwing resources their way. This may not be in line with liberal or radical feminism, but empowerment comes in many ways.

      There is no denying that Halle Berry is sexy. She’s not the most talented actress around yet she commands vast sums of money and attention based upon her looks. Do we think she hasn’t used to this to her advantage?

  2. I don’t see anything anti-feminist about a woman capitializing on her sexuality. I would love to see more actresses being given better leads and starring in roles that reflect the breadth of their talent and not just their appearance, that would be more in line with my defination of empowerment. But obviously Fox has a different idea of what personal empowerment means and I don’t think it is fair for you to judge her for that- it seems a bit like slut-shaming to me.

  3. Atomica,
    Thanks for your comment. I love your metaphor of “brainwashing pills” that “we take them without really thinking” — so true!

    As for the whole “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” seems there are a lot of these types of feminsts — esp those that the media features in front page images and interviews!

    Sundjata,
    I agree that certain strands of third wave feminism sell the whole sex-as-empowerment mantra — and there is some merit to this. I think, though, that we need to claim more than our sexuality to be empowered — also, it is a double-edged sword because so often the very ‘sex-empowerment’ moves we make are then used against us. And for the claims that “girls gone wild” is any form of empowering? Um, no!

    I agree with you that women can use their sexuality to their advantage — but that does not mean it is feminist to do so… Relying on one’s appearance and sexuality is very shaky grounds on which to stake a feminist revolution. Might this have something to do with the youth of the third wave movement — when third wavers get older – like the 2nd wavers some of them decry — will they still be singing the “sex is power” mantra?

    Oleander,
    Well, we disagree. I think framing female power in terms of sexuality is extremely limited. I disagree with Fox’s view but I am not slut-shaming her for it – there is a difference between celebrating one’s sexuality, making one’s own sexual decisions, and being, as she calls it “a product.” If I were an actress, I would feel insulted that she says all actresses are no more than sexually objectified products.

  4. I think how sexiness is defined is also a part of the critique. I think of sexiness in terms of personal empowerment, strength, liking oneself, shaking up the status quo.

    But this is not how sexiness is sold to us. Sexiness (capitalist version) is about women being defined by their looks, being passive objects (versus active agents), looking a certain way (thin, young, white) etc. Sure, there are women who may be considered sexy who don’t entirely fit this version, but when we are flooded with certain body types, and women being treated as objects, I call misogyny.

    As for blaming the women who are part of the machine, I suggest blaming the machine (which I believe is being done by the good prof).

    I feel sad that a woman would use the language of objectification to define herself. And I will be damned if this kind of message which affects not only Fox but other women out there goes unchallenged!

  5. Being sexy is fun but as long as its not all you are. if your whole identity revolves around it you are in for a disappointment as it is fleeting. Its like make-up. Fn to wear as long as you know its not you and you are comfortable with people seeing you without it.

  6. Today’s female (according to patriarchy) is all about being a sex product. And to be sexy, we don’t celebrate mental or physical strengths: rather, we must constantly ward off flaws.

    I just saw a commercial for a “feminine scent” cream called something like Vagiphem. “Use it after being intimate,” it said, implicating that your partner might be offended by your alleged scent. Admittedly, infections can cause unnatural odors. However, now I must be reminded that even my natural “scent” is disgusting and must be warded off at all times, along with all the other female plagues.

    Immediately afterward a make-up commercial appeared, talking about dull eyes and how such-and-such mascara could bring back the light. Soon after followed a weight loss commercial, showing women “overweight” by 15 pounds and how much better life was once they got rid of the “excess fat”.

    It got me thinking about all the things that are wrong with natural female body according to marketed products to correct all of these decidedly female imperfections.

    -Make-up. Your face is disgusting and must, not should, be painted to hide your female flaws. No male is so ugly as to need this paint; in fact, they can’t use it according to society.
    -Weight loss. A beautiful woman is a skinny woman. A talented woman is a skinny one. Can you imagine a female Jack Black, Will Ferris, or Kevin James? In fact, can you imagine any female making it to Hollywood with any amount of natural padding on her stomach?
    -Laser hair removal. Get rid of unsightly (but naturally occurring) leg, armpit, and pubic hair, which the female cannot have and must either shave or zap. Men can remove beards, but they are’t ostracized as beasts should they choose not.
    -Vaginal rejuvenation surgeries. Make your vagina tighter and more pleasing to males. Male enhancement surgeries, while they do exist, are rarely practiced, and certainly not enjoying explosive growth rates.
    -All other plastic surgeries. Way more women than men feel the need to cut themselves to perfection.
    -Feminine scent. We’ve always had douching and now Vagiphem(?), but I’ve yet to hear about “masculine scent” products.
    -To lump a bunch together: teeth whiteners, fashion, etc.

    On the other hand, I can think of only one male imperfection equivalent: muscularity. Even then, it’s not pressed nearly as much.

    Note that I have nothing personal against the above products/services. In fact, I sadly admit to have used or have considered using many of them – which I’ll blame on social conditioning. Despite what hard-core “true American” capitalist might say, the individual is not the end-all be-all, and one cannot “choose” to ignore thousands of advertisements and suggestions. At least, modern psychology suggests we’re susceptible to repetitive suggestion, however false. I do have something against being made to feel that I and other females are hideous nothings without them.

  7. Good.
    I knew I wasnt alone when I thought Megan Fox looks more like a cheap street hooker than an actress. Something about her poise is off. They keep tring to compare her to angelina jolie as “Jolie 2.0”–but she is not even close. Jolie has a kind of grace that would allow her to play multiple roles. “Jennifers body” bombed because Fox is NOT trained to be multi-dimentional.

  8. Asada, I am sure you didn’t mean it to be condescending but the term “cheap street hooker” is really derogative towards sex workers and a patriarchal framing of women’s presentation (which we can thank the patriarchy for!)

    Personally, I think it is better to focus on the examples of the social mechanisms that CC mentioned above, versus women who fall into their traps. (Because we all do, to varying degrees).

  9. CC,
    So true that being “natural” is not conducive to living in a consumer capitalist culture — and because this culture is also patriarchal, women are deemed most in need of “fixing.” Sadly, males are becoming more targeted with such a fix-it paradigm — this is, as Jean Kilbourne notes — not the kind of equality we are looking for.

    Asada,
    Your point about her as Jolie 2.0 reminds me of the way our society is so into “typing” women — you know, we only come in so many varieties so we have to be labelled as “like” someone else – as in “she is the next J Lo” or whatever. Gag. I guess having more labels is at least preferable to the angel/whore dichotomy…

    Monika,
    Your comment reminds me of a message I got from a friend yesterday in which HE bragged “I am such a slut.” Sad that only males get sexual bragging rights and that we frame sexuality and sexual activity in terms of male desire.
    And, I so prefer the term “sex worker” to any of the other terms — it is non sex/gender specific, it doesn’t carry too much historical baggage, and it is far less derogatory than most other such names.

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