The Sexist

The Decade In Femininity

Now that we've exhausted the decade in masculine trends, it's time for us to take a look back at the aughts' many cultural incarnations of femininity. The versions of femininity that have been aggressively marketed to us over the past ten years, from "not that innocent" pop tarts to Sex & the City fashionistas to Kill Bill's ass-kicker.

POP TARTS.

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Peak Year: 2000

When Britney Spears' first single, ". . . Baby One More Time," dropped in 1998, Spears' aesthetics presented a "disturbing mix of childhood innocence and adult sexuality" (according to the immortal words of the American Family Association). By the 2000's, Spears had abandoned the "innocence" part in favor of shimmying on-stage in nude bodysuits, cavorting with a live python, and frenching Madonna. Soon, Spears was accidentally flashing her genitals, shaving her head, and endangering her children (providing the AFA even more fodder for their campaign against sexual girls). For a time, fellow sexy-innocent (and former Mouseketeer buddy) Christina Aguilera appeared to be on the Spears trajectory—in 2002, Aguilera began referring to herself as "XTina" and appeared in assless chaps in the video for "Dirrty." Then, Aguliera got (and stayed) married and had a son. That was the narrative of the pop tarts of the aughts—her commercialized and sexually-charged celebrity either forced her to crash and burn, or petered out into a more traditionally feminine role—wife and mother.

Ambassadors: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera

Uniform: Live snake, belly-button piercing, thong or nothing.

Activities: Writhing, belting, riding with Paris


NERVOUS WRECKS.

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Peak Year: 2001

In 2001, Bridget Jones arrived on-screen to comfort every woman who believes she is too old, too fat, too drunk, and too daft to ever be loved. Hey! Despite all the self-loathing, she comes away with two handsome suitors (and aren't men the point of life, anyway?) Despite Jones' more anti-feminist tendencies—she's a career girl, but she's still obsessed with losing weight and finding a boyfriend—she helped make way for the comedy based on the flawed leading lady. By the end of the decade, viewers were ready to embrace a more interesting flawed character—Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. Amanda Marcotte has this to say about how Lemon's flaws work: "Over the course of the show, we’ve learned that Liz is lazy, a glutton, anti-social, a bully, insecure, prone to fantasies, and emotionally screwed up to the point where she can’t have normal relationships. These facts have caused some feminists to bunch up, but I’m pretty happy overall with it. If we don’t want women relegated to window dressing in comedy, they have to play deeply flawed characters, because comedy is built around laughing at deeply flawed people navigate the world, making light of our own flaws and making us feel superior." The difference between Bridget and Liz is that Liz isn't ultimately rewarded for her self-loathing.

Ambassadors: Bridget Jones, Liz Lemon

Uniform: Granny panties, food stains.

Activities: Obsessive dieting, lying, self-mockery.

  • Former Staffer

    what about hipster girls? emo girls? why the focus on pop culture as opposed to real peoples culture? is it just the corporate sale that makes it "official"?

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  • http://kelly.hogaboom.org/ Kelly

    Marcotte's quote you cited is interesting:

    "If we don’t want women relegated to window dressing in comedy, they have to play deeply flawed characters, because comedy is built around laughing at deeply flawed people navigate the world, making light of our own flaws and making us feel superior.”

    I agree witht he first half of the sentence - I long to see (and love to see) flawed women as (s)heroes in films. I long to see women as real characters in films and not just a Supermodel/Mom to - as you've put it - apatovian losers.

    But even in comedy, I don't always feel we're "feeling superior" to enjoy a comedy. I like the flawed women in comedies when they're accepted and celebrated and loved, despite being - gasp! - real people. God knows the many versions of the male trope - the Homer Simpson-eque bumbling buffon - has been given enough affection and tolerance.

    Oh and I love how you say it's "petering out" to become a wife and mother! This feels awesome to read.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    FS, Amanda avoids discussing hipster chicks & emo girls b/c she isn't into self-revelation. Amanda Hess likes to make fun of other women, & men in general, but Amanda is too big a pussy to come close to anything that affects her personally. Those of us who know Amanda know that she likes to be a robot-like observer, outside the scene, just taking notes. Even while she's having sex this is true.

    Amanda Hess is smart, but scared, so becomes remote & robotic. That's the story behind the story.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    If you want to know the real Amanda Hess, read this entry.

    Amanda avoids discussing hipster chicks & emo girls b/c she isn't into self-revelation. Amanda Hess likes to make fun of other women, & men in general, but Amanda is too big a pussy to come close to anything that affects her personally. Those of us who know Amanda know that she likes to be a robot-like observer, outside the scene, just taking notes. Even while she's having sex this is true.

    Amanda Hess is smart, but scared, so becomes remote & robotic. That's the story behind the story.

  • Richard

    "However, hipsters often compensate for the perceived femininity of their alternative lifestyle by adopting a series of hyper-masculine traits, only “ironically”—ironic mustaches, ironic racism, ironic Pabst consumption."

    I do think its odd to exclude a feminine figure like Zooey Deschanel (500 Days or Yes Men), Rilo Kiley, or hell even MIA.

    "her sex-obsessed, marriage-ready, Manolo-wearing, brunch-eating, Cosmo-swilling coterie of overgrown city girls, there are some women who take the lifestyle to heart"

    Reading and rereading this quote made me really think. I wonder if there really is a way to condemn hyperfemininity without sounding as though you are attacking women and femininity more generally. Is the danger of Sex and the City that people take it to heart or that people really do like frivolous things?

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