Main Monday Musing:Since GQ published its cover spread on the three main Glee actors/singers, public reaction has lashed out in torrents, but not for the right reasons. I’ve been reading a few of the articles and they all read the same: people are responding to the fact that Glee actors are acting as teenagers on a show; they represent the voices and faces of teenagers in High school, even though they are in their twenties and some in their thirties. It’s a TV show that teenagers watch, parents rebut, so these actors should behave accordingly, displaying a clean public image. The actresses each respond in defense of their behavior. They are in their twenties, and they have every right to dress provocatively on a magazine cover if they want. The parents, they cry out, should make it their business to ensure their children don’t get their hands on a GQ magazine since GQ is for male readers.
But these are all the wrong arguments that are being made. I am a parent. I have two children, and I am not afraid my kids will get their hands on a GQ magazine. That said, I am still bristling with the cover. Why? Because I am a woman, and this is yet again another example of gender stereotyping, of sexism, of prostitution of the female flesh, of unfair and unequal treatment of women in the media. This issue is greater than the one that is being focused on. GQ does not have an audience for kids and Glee is not intended for an audience of children as much as for teenagers.
I began to watch Glee a few months back, and I liked the show. I liked watching about a teacher who failed as a singer but who taught his students that finding their voices as singers, as Glee rejects, would empower them. Mostly I loved watching Lea Michele because she wasn’t beautiful and because when she opened her mouth to sing, I had chills running down my spine. Her voice, the emotion in it, reached out to me, and touched me in places I don’t ever talk about. Her singing brought tears to my eyes, and her songs made me wish I had such talent. Her voice is haunting and in possession of such great emotional depth. The first time I heard her sing, I became a fan of Glee, and I had to watch her sing every week. But a few weeks ago, the cast decided on a slew of songs by Britney Spears, and I noticed a change in the show. That episode focused on empowerment and confidence, and although the adults on the show were against Spears’ songs because she represented lewdness and reeked of sexuality, each time a student attacked a Britney Spears song, they came out of it freed by social restraints, liberated, confident, and in touch with their inner strength and power. A Britney song empowered every single one of the characters, as well as the teacher. Having these characters pose on a GQ cover was just the next step.
What’s disturbing to me is not that these young people play teen characters; what’s disturbing is that these young women, Lea Michele and Dianna Agron, feel that they have to sell themselves in this manner when they have talent that goes beyond their sexuality and sensuality. What’s disturbing is that having already proven themselves as talented and successful individuals, these girls feel that they have to parade their bodies on male-dominated venues and resort to being perceived as sexual objects. Before the GQ spread, they were singers, and talented ones at that. They made a successful show based on their abilities to open their mouths and grace the world with song and emotion. This was their gift. But then they reduce that talent, that pure, God-given gift to meaningless objectification. Being talented is not enough; they have to be sexy as well. What’s disturbing is that GQ, a more refined and modern-day version of Hustler, is allowed to expose women’s bodies and faces to its audience of men as erotic and sexualized versions of themselves. And what’s even more disturbing is that young, talented women, like Agron and Michele, feel that they need to sell their faces and bodies as erotic and sexualized products for public male consumption in order to be successful. And yes, Corey Monteith (28) is in the picture too — but he is fully dressed, and his hands are pressed against the buttocks of his peers as if he owns them, as if he’s lucky because he gets to play with them on the set and off.
What’s disturbing is that these images of the sexualized female perpetuate the notion that it is OK for women to use their sex. Men love it, girls want it, and all is good with the world. After all, Agron and Michele don’t regret posing with their legs open, straddling a hot young male between their thighs, his hands upon their butts as if they are his possessions. They were paid lots of cash for these poses, these spreads. And they feel good about themselves. They feel sexy, liberated, more confident and self-assured. So why does this bother me? Because women should not feel good about themselves by stripping, by selling themselves. They should not gain confidence because a man appreciates their bodies, their breasts, their legs. Lea Michele should feel good about herself because she sings like an angel. She has power, strength, talent that most people would kill for. Her voice alone, her talent, should empower her. But it doesn’t.
Corey, the male in the GQ spread, doesn’t have half the talent she does. Not even a quarter. But he’s fully dressed. He grins like a fool in the picture, and he knows that he does not have to expose an inch of his skin to get a raise, to get fame, to be successful because he’s a guy. But the most talented girl on the show, the only talented person on the show, she has to show her sultry side, her slutty side. She has to sing like a God and look like a slut to get ahead. By posing for GQ in this manner, straddling a boy or a bench in the locker room, wearing next to nothing, exposing her crotch, she is servicing the sexual needs of men instead of paying tribute to her talent. She is enslaving herself to the harem-like images perpetuated by patriarchy and the male-dominated controls of the media instead of empowering herself. And yes, she is getting paid a great deal of money and this GQ cover shot will make her even more famous and beloved among her male fans, but at what cost?
Selling her body and her image as an erotic and sensual entity is not empowerment. Empowerment is using your talent, and when offered to pose for GQ, saying ‘No.’ Empowerment is relying on your talent — not your body — to make you feel good about yourself. Empowerment is being aware of the corrupt and sexist machine that reduces beautiful and talented women to sexual objects of masculine desire and saying, ‘If you think I’m going to stand for that, you have another thing coming!’ That’s power.
Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.