Popular culture influences the masses, and is also shaped by the way the masses think. There is art for social change, and there is art that goes along with the prevailing modes of thought held by society at large, trading social responsibility for commercial success.
To list female performers whose images exist largely as sexualised ones, it is necessary to clarify that there is nothing wrong with a woman embracing her sexuality. It is, however, important to set down the boundaries between sexual liberation and sexual objectification.What deserves criticism is the objectification of female performers who exist only as their sexual image in the entertainment industries,the world over.
- Sunny Leone : Her roots are in the adult film industry, and she has branched out into other forms of acting and modelling ever since. She also continues to be opinionated in championing causes of social justice. Her image, however, is one largely eclipsed by her former career, and a largely hypersexualised one. This also speaks volumes about the dehumanisation and taboos surrounding adult film actresses, despite the widespread consumption of their labour.
- Silk Smitha : The South Indian film star portrayed by Vidya Balan in “The Dirty Picture”, she was one to rise steadily into superstardom in her time. The hypersexualisation of her image, however,only accompanies the harassment and exploitation she,like many other women in the film industry,had to undergo.
- Dimple Kapadia: She was only sixteen when she created waves with her midriff baring presence in “Bobby”. The audience,however, did not seem to have the maturity to prioritise the teenage actor’s stellar acting skills over the sensation her sexual appeal caused. This is all the more disturbing, and exploitation all the more evident, when one takes into account that she was a minor at that time.
- Jennifer Lopez : Jennifer Lopez’s finesse at acting,music and dance all seem to lose out to her curves, in shaping her image. This plays onto the hypersexualised, often fetishised images of Latina women at large.
- Iggy Azalea : Iggy Azalea has come under fire for both racism, and the explicitly sexual imagery she employs in her music. Her right to embrace her sexuality is undisputed, however, too often this plays into a heavily patriarchal male gaze. The appropriation of African and African-American dance moves as the trend of “twerking” is another worrying one.
- Kim Kardashian : Kardashian has always been forthright about her sexuality. A body-positive, curvaceous woman defining her sexuality on her own terms might be iconic and inspiring for other women,despite other problematic aspects of the Kardashians’ presence. Unfairly enough, her sexually confident image is often co-opted by a patriarchal gaze, or used as pretext to discredit her prowess in various fields-as an actress, as a model and a businesswoman, and even used to justify incidents like her recent robbery.
- Yana Gupta : Google Yana Gupta and Google screams at you to ogle her topless,or in her underwear. A Czech model based in Mumbai, she has also acted in several films. All her contributions are, however, eclipsed by a objectifying gaze.
- Miley Cyrus : Miley Cyrus went the risque way to reinvent herself from the juvenile, girl next door image of her Hannah Montana days. Our society is,however,apparently fundamentally unable to come to terms with a woman being both talented andd sexually confident,even demonstrative. Miley Cyrus’s singing skills are as magnificient as always,her image is,however, governed by her sexualisation.
Also read :- Catalysts of Rape Culture
- Rakhi Sawant : Along with others,including Mallika Sherawat, Rakhi Sawant is touted an “item girl”-an essentially sexist and reductive term for a redundant, crowd-pulling stunt pulled by Indian filmmakers. The most ironic thing is that the “item songs” blare from popular radio stations, and the celebrated,respected heroes often gyrate to these on-screen,while the “item girl” is objectified,often ridiculed and pushed to a corner reserved for them alone.
- Marilyn Monroe: Marilyn Monroe is legendary,but for less than she rightly deserves. As Huffington Post puts it, Marilyn Monroe was the first “serious dumb blonde”. Monroe was not stupid in the least-but popular culture must erase a woman’s intelligence before it goes on to sexualise her,because sexualisation,in the confines of patriarchal society,entails dehumanisation.
How much do we sexualise our female actors? Read here :- The Rampant Sexualisation on the Silver Screen
On the 29th of January, a renowned theatre troupe from Pune is travelling all the way across to Kolkata, as a part of Mad About Drama’s National Theatre Exchange Chapter-2. Natak Company’s play ‘ITEM’ is about the objectification of female actors in Indian Cinema.
Following the life of a B-grade Hindi film heroine, the play is about the male chauvinism, and patriarchy operating in our movie industry. Mad About Drama‘s popular show ‘A History of Butchers’ is returning on the 3rd of February, as the final act of this event.