Monday, 23 July 2012

Who is Exploiting (or being Exploited by) Whom?

The question of the exploitation of women, particularly in the media, is raised from time to time. Is the way in which they are portrayed degrading? This question sometimes goes hand-in-hand with that of 'who is exploiting whom?' (Or, as I have put it here 'Who is Exploiting (or being Exploited by) Whom?') Are men manipulating women for their own ends or is it really the women who are manipulating men for their own ends? While there are some clear and undeniable cases of exploitation, the question is not always simple and can, in certain cases, seem intractable. For example, in the so-called 'Feminist Sex Wars', carefully considered but opposing views on pornography were contested in equal measure.
If those 'exploiting' and those being 'exploited' have different but complementary objectives (albeit unconscious), it is not simply a question of members of one sex exploiting or being exploited by the other. If there are men who want women to look at and there are women who want to be looked at, surely both are using (call it exploiting and being exploited, if you wish) the other simultaneously for their own personal ends.
Dolly Parton once said that 'it takes a lot of money to look this cheap'. Certainly a great deal of effort can be expended trying to attract the attention of others. (Not to mention a lot of money on cameras to make a record that attention!) Consider the picture of Annie Sprinkle (below) that I used in a talk I once gave at the University of Cambridge in 2003. She certainly calls into question the simplicity of the exploiter/exploited question.
(NB I wrote this a few weeks ago, but noticed that 23rd July is Annie Sprinkle's birthday. So, I left posting this until today for no other reason than it would coincide.)