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You Are Either A Damsel Or A Superbitch

You Are Either A Damsel Or A Superbitch. No Two Ways About It.

An Opinion Piece by Dayna Berghan
National Women's Rights Officer
New Zealand University Students' Association.

I was sick this week so instead of going out to party like the rest of my flat I thought a spell in front of the television might make me drift into the land of nod. Instead I was rushing to find pen and paper as soon as possible when I caught "Perfect Breasts" (9.30 p.m. Channel one, Friday 20th April).

The British Documentary interviewed a series of women as to why they had got their breasts enlarged and how they felt about it now. The Documentary also followed one woman through her breast enlargement operation. The overall trend for why the women had their breasts enlarged was self-esteem.

Many reported that when they had their breasts done they were assured that their breasts would last at least 10 years, only to be later informed this had dropped to 5. The documentary was most interesting.

There was one thing that made me run to take notes above all else. It was the answer of one of the women, "Fiona". When questioned about breast-feeding if she had children; did she mind that she now couldn't as all her milk ducts had been severed from her nipple. Her answer was simple and direct and one of the most misguided statements about bodies I have yet to see paralleled. She didn't care to breast feed as her breasts were sex objects and not there to have babies hanging off them.

Fiona's statement typifies the media driven world that we live in. To gain self esteem in a world pushing the ideal requires some form of body enhancement only available to those who have the cash. Many of the women featured in the documentary paid between £4,000-£7,000 for their breast operation. Most are still paying instalment plans, or have huge loans (one even spent her student loan). But why would Fiona regard her breasts as sex objects?

In her book "The Female Eunuch" Germain Greer, an early second wave feminist, describes how the most popular image of the female despite the exigencies of the clothing trade is all boobs and buttocks. She describes it as a ".hallucinating sequence of parabolae and bulges." (Chapter: Curves).

How come then, if Greer's book is written in the 1970's with examples of what the media reduce women to that Fiona living in 2001 would regard her breasts as sex objects? My answer: Nothing has changed.

The media may have become more sophisticated but the underlying images are the same. To illustrate these points permit me to talk about female media stereotypes.

Action movies have big budgets and draw an immense audience world wide. The values inherent in these movies are absorbed by millions of viewers. It is with a sense of irony that my first target for negative curvy female stereotypes is the movie 'Charlie's Angles'. The original series would have screened to television audiences in Greer's time and it has recently finished screening in movie theatres and is found on video racks in our time. One man named 'Charlie' directs all three curvy women, one blonde, one red and one brunette. Under his patriarchal direction the three women battle numerous guards, hitmen and assassins to achieve Charlie's objective. This is an action movie, lots of explosions, guns, fast cars and kung fu. Yet there is an emphasis that the women are glamorous and wear revealing and alluring clothing.

Remember the 'Avengers'? That too would have first screened in Greer's time and now again in ours. What do you remember most, the heroic antics of the curvy character Ms Peel or the low cut, tight fitting cat suit she wore in the promotional images?

There is an undeniable trend to make female action stars as feminine and glamorous as possible. I cannot recall any such attempts at great length to make male action movie heroes appear glamorous. Think of 'Rambo', 'Predator' and 'The Fifth Element'.

Then there is the Superbitch. Any female character that is successful in an action movie is a Superbitch. She is unreachable, sexy and ultimately desirable. It is these qualities of the Superbitch that are masculine and ultimately will lead to her destruction. For example conquered by the hero when she became greedy and tried to take over the world. Or saved by the hero when she became proud and made a mistake.

Then there is the Damsel. The female character that the hero has been entrusted to protect, and rescue. She is naive, sexy and available. These are the qualities that lend to the hero wanting to protect this woman. She will fall in love with the hero and they will get together at the end of the movie. Or he will risk his neck to the ultimate limit to save her then refuse payment at the end of the movie. Happy ending for the Damsel and unsatisfied ending for the Superbitch. Place yourself in a young girl's position. Which one would you aspire to be like and which one would you want to be like when the movie ends.

Congratulations, you have just come up against the Virgin Mother syndrome. Think of the Mother of Christ, she was a virgin when she gave birth to him. An impossible image to live up to.

A wonderful example of the Damsel/Superbitch is the character in the movie 'The Fifth Element' called Leelo. She is the perfect being, created to protect man. However she spends the entire movie with one exception being saved by the hero wearing hardly a decent set of clothes. But at the end of the movie the hero saves her and they get together.

Any Manga movie that you pick off the shelf with have a robotic or genetically altered woman posing a threat to the citizens of Tokyo or either a nymph like good girl helping the hero save Tokyo. The character Lara Croft in the newly released 'Tombraider' is widely known for her action hero status and the fact that the computer programmers designing the game that the movie is based on created a special algorithm to make her breasts bounce. Hollywood is obsessed with the ideal and hence all women in action movies are the stereotype of boobs and buttocks.

I feel sorry for Fiona and other women like her. They have absorbed the messages that your body is what makes you worthwhile in society. That your sex appeal lies in whether your boobs are big enough. Without society's acceptance of the ideal image female characters that are negative would not exist. Without her personal acceptance of the ideal image Fiona would not have convinced herself that her breasts are her only good feature, that she is fat and that the list of body enhancements that she has on her clipboard should be completed before she is 25. I just hope that the plastic surgeons making a killing of the capitalist ideal of what the consumer wants sleep at night.

Me, I think instead of turning to the television to put me to sleep I will just begin to count my sex objects that I posses - starting with my brain.

© Scoop Media

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