Celebrity Raunch Culture - Is It Feminism?

A look back at 2014's most popular celebrities confirmed the world-wide craze for the country star turned pop star Taylor Swift. In Forbes yearly ranking of the top-earning women in music, Taylor Swift came in second with an income of $64 million dollars. Her heightened fame naturally led to much gossip.

One of the most recent hot topics regarding this pop diva is her staple fashion piece, the crop top. In her December/January cover story with Lucky Magazine, Taylor reveals that she doesn't like showing her bellybutton. She states that, "when you start showing your belly button then you're really committing to the midriff thing. I only partially commit to the midriff thing -- you're only seeing lower rib cage." While this may only be meant as a light-hearted comment, it nonetheless brought the issue surrounding celebrities' choice of clothing, or rather lack of, into the spotlight.

"Raunch" culture as defined by Ariel Levy in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of the Raunch Culture, is the overt sexualization of women. In a popular culture where songs and wardrobe choices are infused with sexual innuendos, celebrities' often lack of clothing naturally leads to the question of how their hyper-sexualization is justified.

Miley Cyrus has become arguably one of the most controversial singers today. After the release of her music video "Wrecking Ball," the reason for her seemingly unnecessary lack of clothing and sexual dance movies such as twerking were brought to the top of media's attention. In response to people's shock and curiosity, Cyrus told BBC Radio 1 that she is one of the "biggest feminists in the world." She believes that women should be confident in showing their bodies. As a result, Cyrus also told Cosmopolitan UK that she is "really empowering to women" when she strips down to a thong suit for photo shoots or wave a giant foam finger between her legs.

However, the question now becomes, is the explicit flaunting and overexposure of her body in sexually suggestive ways a mark of feminism or an endorsement of the idea that a woman's worth only comes from gaining sex appeal in the eyes of men?

When questioned about the cover art and music video for her new song "Anaconda," which features images so explicit that it has a parental advisory sticker over the song, rap queen Nikki Minaj likewise responded that bravely and boldly embracing their bodies only shows that women are in control of their lives, what feminism advocates. However, the reason behind her confidence indicates the opposite.

"Anaconda" revolves almost entirely around how a woman feels confident because the size of her "butt" attracts men. Because of her body, men has told her that they "like [her] sex appeal" and they "don't want none unless [she] got buns," as lines of the lyrics indicate. Men's admiration for a woman's body seems to be the theme of the song. Furthermore, Minaj has performed shows donning nothing but a thong bikini. Both her lyrics and her performance convey the idea that a women's worth comes from having sex appeal and being admired by men rather than being independent.

The increasing hyper-sexualization of female celebrities in the end should not be justified as pro-feminism. It is instead an embodiment of the traditional patriarchal ideal in which women live to please men. These popular fashion choices, dance moves and song lyrics define raunch culture, which has become not only the symbol of the rough and radical, but also the gateway to popularity for many singers, artists and television icons.

Literally, having that sex appeal has become the source of worth for many female artists. The downloading of her song "Wrecking Ball" rose 124 percent after Miley Cyrus's outlandish VMA performance, raising her income in 2013 by 28.5 million dollars compared to her pre-transformation income in 2010. Maybe the rise in fame achieved by revolting against traditional values is the real reason behind the hyper-sexualization of celebrities.

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