You may remember back in October when Our Collective Imaginary Best Friend/”Parks & Rec” actress Rashida Jones gave everyone a big case of the “UGHs” when she took to Twitter to complain about the over-sexualization of female celebrities. In a series of tweets, Rashida mused “she who comes closet to showing the actual inside of her vagina is most popular” with the hashtag #stopactinglikewhores and urged us “to take a look at what we are accepting as the norm.”
I didn’t disagree with Rashida Jones’ observations. But using “whore” as a derogatory term? Not cool. And implying women are “whores” for behaving sexually in ways you may not like? Really not cool.
In the January issue of Glamour, Rashida addresses the blowback to her remarks and how she was “shocked” (really?) by the responses:
“I’m not gonna lie. The fact that I was accused of ‘slut-shaming,’ being anti-woman, and judging women’s sex lives crushed me. I consider myself a feminist. I would never point a finger at a woman for her actualsexual behavior, and I think all women have the right to express their desires. But I will look at women with influence—millionaire women who use their ‘sexiness’ to make money—and ask some questions. There is a difference, a key one, between ‘shaming’ and ‘holding someone accountable.’ So back to the word whore. My hashtag was ‘stopactinglikewhores.’ Key word, acting. Like I said, I’m not criticizing anyone’s real sex life; as George Michael tells us, ‘Sex is natural, sex is fun.’ But the poles, the pasties, the gyrating: This isn’t showing female sexuality; this is showing what it looks like when women sell sex. (Also, let’s be real. Every woman’s sexuality is different. Can all of us really be into stripper moves? The truth is, for every woman who loves the pole, there’s another who likes her feet rubbed. But in pop culture there’s just one way to be. And so much of it feels staged for men, not for our own pleasure.)”
She is, of course, correct that stars like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and (decade-old example) Britney Spears are selling male fantasies of sexuality, not sexuality the way women actually experience it. I wish she had just focused on that point, though, because she ended up muddying the waters of her own argument by judging other women again. Elsewhere in the piece, Rashida Jones explained that it’s not sexual women that she has a problem with, but too much sexual women:
“I understand that owning and expressing our sexuality is a huge step forward for women. But, in my opinion, we are at a point of oversaturation. It’s like when TV network censors evaluate a show’s content. Instead of doing a detailed report of dirty jokes or offensive words, they will simply say, ‘It’s a tonnage issue.’ One or two swear words might be fine; 10 is too many. Three sexual innuendos is OK; eight is overkill. When it comes to porn imagery and pop culture, we have a tonnage issue. … Let’s at least try to discuss the larger implications of female sexuality on pop culture without shaming each other. There’s more than one way to be a good feminist. Personally, I loved the Lily Allen ‘Hard Out Here’ video — a controversial send-up of tits-and-ass culture. She helped start a conversation. Let’s continue it.”
Sure, there’s more than one way to be a good feminist — but setting limits on what’s acceptable behavior for other women and policing with the word “whores” isn’t really one of them, Rashida. That’s a form of control and name-calling is a type of punishment, even if she truly meant her criticism with good intentions. There are ways to critique “raunch culture” — a term coined by The New Yorker writer Ariel Levy in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs — which don’t shame and blame women’s sexuality. Shame, blame and punishment should be the province of old, white Christian Republican men who want to contain women’s power so they can add to their own power, not feminists.
Rashida Jones is still a funny actress and I’m glad a funny, bright, Harvard-educated woman is succeeding in Hollywood. This defense — not an apology at all — was all just a messy disappointment, though. I’m afraid her Glamour essay on made it all worse and I’m sorry to see Rashida just not getting it.