This notion has been on my mind since the start of the year, and watching season three of Jersey Shore got me thinking about it again. So, are the fake-tanned, fake-boobed and fake-nailed women of Seaside feminists?
On the one hand, while Vinny, Pauly D, Mike “The Situation” and Ronnie spend 20 minutes blowdrying their hair and plucking their eyebrows each morning (okay, if they’ve been out clubbing the night before, it’s the afternoon), followed by GTL (gym, tan, laundry), and frequently cook “family” dinners, the girls lie around the house, get in fights and try to score with guys at the club. If this isn’t throwing gender norms on their head, I don’t know what is.
As Tracie Egan Morrissey writes:
“… so much of what these people do actually challenges old school notions about gender-appropriate behavior: Men who wax their eyebrows? Men who place that much of an importance on hair products? Women who fistfight? Women who drink so heavily?”
But on the other, JWoww, for example, subscribes to the stereotypical sexualised female body: fake boobs, fake hair, and done up to the nines when she hits the clubs. If she’s got it, should she flaunt it?
I’ve always been a big believer in this, so more power to her. In fact, despite their meteoric rise to fame in the last two years or so, the guidettes haven’t changed a thing about themselves. They’re still the trash-talking, ugg-boot-in-public-wearing, pussy-flashing white Italian trash they always were, even after Harper’s Bazaar attempted to make them over under. The problem with that was that millionairess socialite Tinsley Mortimer acted as the guidette’s teacher, insinuating that “richer… mean[s] ‘classier’ or better or nicer”. Especially considering “… the socialites of the last ten years have done everything they can to prove that ‘trashiness’ appears at every income level.”
Paging Paris Hilton, who’s never been accused of being classy or well dressed.
If being a feminist means not changing to reflect the views of mainstream society and The Patriarchy, then so be it. After all, Snooki “seems real precisely because we can’t believe that anyone would actually try to look that awful.”
In strapping their boobs up and wedging their short-shorts further into their buttcracks, the mating dance the guidettes perform each night (which has nothing on the aforementioned regimen of the boys!) seems to subvert the very look their trying to achieve: sexiness. I don’t believe this is done purposefully, so in that sense it’s not very feminist-like, however the brazen bedroom talk the girls engage in—or rather, lamenting the lack of bedroom action, especially when it comes to Snooki—makes them highly relatable. As Sady Doyle writes, “we are all Snooki”.
I’m sure all women can relate to slut-shaming, regardless of how many sexual partners they’ve had, and that’s something the Jersey Shore females have to deal with on a seemingly episodic basis. Egan Morrissey puts it best, after Pauly D voices his views on sexual double standards (“She’s [Angelina] brought all these random people home. She’s a girl. You don’t do that. That’s a guy thing. Guys do that, not girls.”):
“Shouldn’t Pauly and The Situation be grateful for sluts? If there were no sluts then they would never be able to have sex. Do they think for one minute that they would even want to live in a world in which all girls acted the way that they’re ‘supposed’ to?”
Still with sex, feminists are either viewed as sex-negative man-haters, or insatiable sex machines who throw away men once they’ve got theirs. JWoww certainly falls into the latter category, who says in the opening credits, “I’m like a Praying Mantis: after I’ve had sex with a guy, I will rip their head off.” If Jersey Shore were a scripted show, JWoww’s bad breakup with Tom, who steals her hard drive, which contained naked pictures of the reality star, amongst other things, would be payback for her independent woman status. How dare a woman step outside of the stringent guidelines The Patriarchy has set for her?!
Speaking of bad breakups, if there’s one guidette who falls furthest from the feminism tree, it’s Sammi. While she finally plucked up the courage to leave Ronnie after their tumultuous on-off relationship ended in a very realistic fight in season three, in which Ronnie trashed Sammi’s bedroom and her belongings, including breaking her spectacles, reports about the fourth season seem to indicate that Sammi took Ronnie back.
While we can never understand the dynamics of each individual abusive relationship, and feminism can’t realistically be applied to them when a woman (sometimes a man, but mostly women) has had all of her resources—family, friends, employment, finances, access to a car etc.—taken away from her and therefore has limited means to escape, Ronnie and Sammi’s relationship may have some benefits to viewers of the show. Because Jersey Shore is marketed as “reality TV” (although, after The Hills and the revelation this week that one of the “geeks” on Australia’s version of Beauty & the Geek is an actor, its dubious how “real” the show is), female viewers who may be involved in an abusive relationship at some stage in their life can see that the relationship is being portrayed in a negative light, that Sammi’s housemates, friends and family are telling her it’s not healthy, and that she should get out. We can only hope that the one in four women who will have an abusive partner will take heed.
A little too deep? How can we derive all that from something as asinine as Jersey Shore, a show that, grammatically, should have a “The” at the beginning of its title?
Take what conclusions you want from the overtly sexual show, but one thing’s for sure: the guidettes are “empowered sexually, that’s what I’m seeing on Jersey Shore… The women seem to be making their own decisions about who they sleep with [Scarlett Woman note: or don’t sleep with] and when.
“Almost by definition ‘guidette’ is a derivative term. It is a male-based subculture… The women were always defined as sex objects. And I think that’s something that they’re reversing.”
So, guidettes as sex subjects? If talking about “hairdos, shoes and body image snafus” and “preen[ing] and put[ting] on lipgloss” is a stereotypically female—and therefore weak—trait, then the guidos are certainly the background characters of Jersey Shore.
Related: Extreme Makeover: Jersey Girls.
Images via The Gossip Wrapup, Harper’s Bazaar.