Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Girl Power" Turns Ugly

I was never quite sure about the concept of "girl power" in any event. The only demonstration I could readily recall of any such thing was Geri Halliwell randomly yelling the phrase on stage when performing with the Spice Girls. She was always wearing the hand-towel sized Union Jack dress at the time. Books such as Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, however, let me in on the fact that there were more pervasive examples of exploitation being cast as empowerment, sometimes under the banner of "girl power".

While the merits of pole-dancing as liberating and powerful perhaps leave some room for contestation (a brilliant PhD candidate I know currently takes pole dance classes), there is apparently a new strand to girl power that is in all respects disurbing: violence. While part of the supposed trend may well be unsubstantiated (relying on the highly reliable statistical tool of the participants on reality TV show Ladette to Lady and whatever travesty Amy Winehouse is now involved in for source material), Criminologist Paul Wilson says that about ten to twenty percent of "glassing" incidents in nightspots are now perpetrated by women. Eruptions of violent stiletto attacks (I jest not) are popping up regularly in a way that Wilson argues rarely happened four or five years ago. Part of the "trend" is wanting to fight "like a man" and also have sex "like a man". I'm just wondering precisely who is suggesting that this kind of violence is perceived as empowering in the same way that sexualised displays are being considered. If the power of these displays is in their attraction of and control of men, what power does rampant hair-pulling and eye-gouging confer?

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