Celebrity 'Raunch' Culture - Is it Feminism?

Celebrity 'Raunch' Culture - Is it Feminism?

A look back at 2014’s most popular celebrities confirmed the world-wide craze for the country star, turned pop star Taylor Swift. In Forbes yearly ranking of the top-earning women in music, Taylor Swift came in second with an income of $64 million dollars. Her heightened fame naturally led to much gossip.

One of the recent hot topics regarding this pop diva is her staple fashion piece, the crop top. In her December/January cover story with Lucky Magazine, Taylor reveals that she doesn’t like showing her belly button. She said, “when you start showing your belly button then you’re really committing to the midriff thing. I only partially commit to the midriff thing—you’re only seeing lower rib cage.” While this might be meant as a light-hearted statement about gossip, it nonetheless brought the issue surrounding celebrities’ choice of clothing, or rather lack of, into the spotlight again.

“Raunch” culture as labelled by Ariel Levy in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of the Raunch Culture, is the overt sexualization of women. In a popular culture where songs and wardrobe choices are infused with sexual innuendos, it is only natural to question how the hyper-sexualization of celebrities today is justified.

Miley Cyrus has become arguably one of the most controversial singers of 2014. After the release of her music video “Wrecking Ball”, the reason for her seemingly unnecessary lack of clothing and sexual dance movies, such as twerking, was brought to the media’s attention. In response to people’s shock and curiosity, Cyrus told BBC Radio 1 that she is one of the “biggest feminists in the world”:  she believes that women should be confident in showing their bodies. As a result, Cyrus tells Cosmopolitan UK that she is “really empowering to women” when she strips down to a thong suit for photo shoots or waves a giant foam finger between her legs.

However, the question now becomes this: is the explicit flaunting and overexposure of her body in sexually suggestive ways a mark of feminism or an endorsement of the idea that a woman’s worth comes from gaining sex appeal in the eyes of men?

When questioned about the cover art and music video for her new song “Anaconda”, which features images so explicit that it has a parental advisory sticker over the song, rap queen Nikki Minaj likewise responds that bravely and boldly embracing their bodies only shows that women are in control of their lives, which is what feminism advocates. However, the reason behind her confidence indicates the opposite.

Anaconda” revolves almost entirely around how a woman feels confident because the size of her “butt” attracts men. Men have told her that because of her body “like [her] sex appeal” and they “don’t want none unless you got buns”, as lines of the song indicate. Men’s admiration for a woman’s body seems to be the theme of the song. To further this theme, Minaj has performed shows donning nothing but a thong bikini.  Both her lyrics and her performance convey the idea that a woman’s worth comes from having sex appeal and being admired by men rather than being independent.

The increasing hyper-sexualization of female celebrities in the end should not be justified as being pro-feminism. Rather, popular fashion choices, dance moves, and song lyrics illustrate raunch culture, which has become not only the symbol of the rough and radical, but also the gateway to popularity for many singers, artists, and television icons.

Just having that sex appeal has become the source of worth for many female artists.  Downloads of her song “Wrecking Ball” rose 124% after Miley Cyrus’s outlandish VMA performance, raising her income in 2013 by 28.5 million dollars compared to her pre-transformation income in 2010. Maybe the rise in fame by revolting against traditional values is the real reason behind the hyper-sexualization of celebrities.

Living in Durham, North Carolina, Cheryl is currently a junior in high school. She is completely in love with free expression through writing and has a wide range of opinions on various issues in popular culture, politics, and social topics. She is also passionate about women's and children's rights. Besides Her Culture, Cheryl also writes for Miss Heard Magazine, United 4 Social Change, and is a high school ambassador for Her Campus. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, shopping, and 20th century books in particular.

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