“…a lousy, smelly, idle, underprivileged and over sexed, status-seeking neurotic moron.”

20 07 2010

“If you are a lousy, smelly, idle, underprivileged and over sexed, status-seeking neurotic moron, give me your money…”

Recently, as we have posted below, there has been a flurry of activity by various organizations to clean up the city, and purify youthful souls, while certain discussions such as this one have also been raging idiotically across the local blog world… (although the latter has more to do with local homophobia than issues of morality.)

All this emphasis on virtue and morality is beginning to get me down. Why are we as a nation so defensive about all things sexual? And why is there a special panic button reserved for women and their virtue in particular? Do we need to be policed more than men? (One of the lovelier comments on the indecent hoardings story ran as follows: “Very good suggestion. Rape will drop quite a bit if women do not invite people to rape them by dressing indecently…”)

Now even I, with my limited understanding of feminism, know that the issues surrounding the sexual objectification of women are important in feminist theory. And most feminists would strongly object to sexist or exploitative advertising in any form. Now however I wonder – where does the feminist agenda on this issue cross with that of the moral police who are, as we speak, tearing down every hoarding or billboard in Colombo and its suburbs that has an image of a woman on it, (barring the ones portraying women wearing saris and being traditional housewives that is).

Are the feminists cheering? Or do they mourn another step towards conservatism, censorship and state control? Who decides what is indecent and who decides when it is exploitative and are the agendas simply one and the same? If not, where lies the difference?

Dharshini Seneviratne puts it much better than I could in her article ‘When media mould women’. She says:

‘Fortunately or unfortunately, cultural puritanism has meant that the local media hardly objectify the woman’s body. So even for the wrong reasons, the right thing is getting done. Unlike in the western film and television circles, where women are filmed in a particularly sexist way that focuses on parts of their body, Sri Lankan films largely avoid these portrayals (except in sex scenes) mostly for cultural reasons. Because it is ‘bad’ to do so. Not, mind you, because of feminist arguments that object to the same thing because it demeans the female through the objectification of the body. But beauty queen contests and highly ‘sophisticated’ advertising in Sri Lanka continue to ape the West in this sense.”

So is there then, such a great difference between someone vaguely claiming that advertisements portraying women are ‘bad’ (or ‘against our culture’) and another stating clearly that ‘they demean the female through the objectification of the body’?

When the end result is censorship, it all seems to conspire towards reducing women’s freedom and power, not increasing it.

Maybe the problem is with an unsophisticated and uneducated consumer and people simply need to grow up and learn to view advertising as something generally manipulative and devious; not to be taken seriously and never to be considered as anything more than an appeal to the “lousy, smelly, idle, underprivileged and over sexed, status-seeking neurotic moron” in all of us.

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