Tuesday, April 21, 2009

S Factor is ok

I have seen the advertisements, the shorts, the clips. I have also heard and read comments about it.

S factor. But I have yet to watch it on television.

Of course, there is YouTube.

I feel the show is all right. Yes, there is the exploitation of women and their bodies. But almost every show on television does that, and men are not spared either. Furthermore, you do not need to watch television to experience these, as they happen on daily basis. People unknowingly reproduce this discourse about their masculinity/femininity through their behaviour and body image.

But what is interesting is how human and how Singaporean these women are.

That is what reality television brings out, the best and worst in people. It functions as a social commentary, as reflection of the persons that we are and that we mix with. Why should we deny this? Why should we control/censor representation?

At the same time, these women possess something most of us don't, and that is the courage to go on national television and be part of a contest. The most of us only participate with words. They may have fun, feel comfortable and uncomfortable being on screen, say nice and nasty things, but that is all part of who they are.

Sure, there may be a movement that resists "dumb" depictions of women, but mind you, just like men, there are different kinds of women. Some do not bother putting up with appearances, some do not bother about speaking well or clearly, and some have a good laugh at themselves once in a while, and to some extent, playing the "bimbo" (coincidentally or not).

We are too obsessed with looking at dominant discourses and masculinist/patriarchal structures of oppression, or focusing on how the male gaze is guilty of shaping a breed of hegemonic femininities, in the end, portraying these women as helpless and agentless in such an oppressive domain (and jungle of androcentric institutions, like the media).

We forget to see/appreciate the perspective/position that these women have the agency to create their own discourses. What I'm saying is that we should consider another perspective, which treats these women not as objects or subjects, but actors and agents. Becoming or playing the stereotype "vacuous chick" may invoke the common discourse that situates the female victim in the masculinist domain, but it can also invoke newer discourses that primes the female as the agent. There are other views.

The unhappy gaze on the "bimbo" stereotype is often through the learned middle-class lady lens. In reality, like men, not all women receive higher education, not all women are fully articulate, not all women behave like ladies (that is unfortunately a European construction, ladylike-ness). The battle against stereotypes exists at the same time of the battle against this singular view.

You battle an "ill" because you have in mind an "ideal". But do not impress your "ideal" on other women, who may have their own "ideals".

Bikini, cream and jelly, a flesh parade and all. Yes, these women are bound by contract and all to play these games. But to indicate that this is oppressive, results in the non-consideration of these women as agents.

A woman may strive to achieve traits and characteristics she believes best to define herself as a woman, or a female, or as feminine. It just so happens that some traits may be contentiously male-constructed, or hegemonic cultural femininity. This scenario should not only invoke the criticism of partriarchy and masculinism because we ultimately forget about the woman's choice. We become too eager to locate her choice as subjugated to masculinist discourses and hegemonic femininities. I am not saying there exists agency, but I would like to show that there are other ways of looking at the same thing.

To summarise, a girl in bikini playing with cream, acting in a childish way that might suggest her inferior intellect, may invoke many discourses:
1) She is a subject of patriarchy, controlled and agentless.
2) She, via socialisation and consensus, adopts these hegemonic cultural femininity. Still a victim.
3) She is her own agent, navigating through the plethora of femininities, hegemonic and subversive, chooses what to be and what to perform.

Interestingly, a woman (20% overweight) wearing a bikini yields a different reaction/discourse as compared to a woman (5-10% underweight) wearing a bikini. This is because of how we rationalise body image and fit into whichever feminist discourses that appeal to us most.

Ultimately, the invocation of the (first 2) discourse that women are being oppressed, actually reinforces the conceptualisation of women as agentless and subjects/objects of partriachy and masculinist oppression. Next, the discourse also forsakes the individual histories of the women as integral to their respective identities, never mind the make up of these identities (hegemonic or not). By situating performances of femininity in structures of domination and axes of oppression, we leave no room for their individual histories and experiences.

While the discourse I am talking about may have its limitations, I believe its consideration, along with the invocations of the common discourses (used to criticise S Factor), will provide a discursive balance. Do think about it.

I will try to catch the show.


the little eastern heretic said...

in class when the prof showed us a documentary of how women were 'objectivified' in the media, there was this one moment which was the most memorable. it was a skinny model (are there any other :P) dressed in girlish clothes (pinafore, blouse) and had her hair in pigtails. and the host of the documentary asked, does she look empowered to you?

naturally i did not agree, because inherent in that question was an ideology which says that there is a certain way to dress before you can be empowered. but why should this be the case?

so i posted my dissent on ivle but got slammed by a rather rude modulemate. and the prof replied, but she didn't really get what i was trying to say.

i think you said what i wanted to...

carol® said...

i enjoyed your post :) nice thoughts well written down opnions ~!