How Did We Go From Riot Grrrls To Girls Gone Wild?S

In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, depression diarist turned Yale law student Elizabeth Wurtzel lamented the failure of feminism in the aughts. In her typically rambling-though-insightful style, Wurtzel careened from the Spitzer scandal to Girls Gone Wild to Entourage, concluding that women are still "left choosing between, yet again, the madonna or the whore." In today's paper however, gender studies professor Hugo Schwyzer rebuts Wurtzel, reminding her that, "suggesting that feminism has failed because it hasn't eradicated misogyny is like complaining that the Civil War was for naught because racism still endures." Although Schwyzer makes a good point (and calls out Wurtzel's ever-present self-absorption), the Prozac Nation author's op-ed did get me thinking - just how did we get from the riot grrls of the early 90s to the Girls Gone Wild?Or rather, when did female sexual emancipation become not about pleasing ourselves, but about pleasing men?

Here's where Wurtzel's self-absorption is most evident, but also where she makes her strongest argument. As one of the "third wavers" of feminism who included Katie Roiphe and Susan Faludi, Wurtzel says that she and her sisters promoted "Do Me" Feminism. "I appeared topless on the cover of one of my books, a decision I stand by still," she writes. "But I don't think the idea that you could own your own orgasm was ever intended to teach college coeds that it is a good idea to spend spring break in a shower with your roommate in a motel room in Daytona Beach having a lesbian encounter for the cameras of Girls Gone Wild. That's not feminism!"

As Dodai pointed out earlier this week, Wurtzel is right: those spring breakers are not embracing feminist principles when they lose their shirts. I am not of Elizabeth Wurtzel's generation — I am of the generation that Hugh Schwyzer praises for such "optimistic" feminists as Feministing's Jessica Valenti and Amanda Marcotte — but I agree with Wurtzel that things were better in the halcyon days of the 90s.

Take the Real World as a cultural barometer. When the show debuted in 1992, there were three women on the show, Julie, Becky and Heather. Each one had career aspirations: Julie wanted to be a dancer and took classes constantly; Becky was a musician who played at clubs in the city; Heather was a rapper. The women went on dates and had both relationships and hookups, but they were not getting wasted and competing with one another for male attention. None of the three were conventionally beautiful. Flash forward to Season 19 in Sydney, Australia. Besides the young Iranian woman, Parisa, who is derided about her looks by the other female cast members, the other ladies are interchangeable bleached blondes with fake tits or empty-headed brunettes with long, flowing hair. Kelly Ann got on the show because in her audition video she stripped down to her undies, on which she had written, "Make it Hott: Pick Me!" Shauvon left the show to get back with her boyfriend, whom she had originally broken up with because he was making her choose between him and her career.

Again, the question is: what's happened in the intervening 16 years? Is it the pornification of culture because of the internet? Did we become inured to the idea of women as objects because of the Starr report? Can we blame Britney for this one? Can't we have sexual freedom without flashing a camera?

Bitter Ashes Of Burned Brassieres [Los Angeles Times]

It's Not All About Wurtzel [Los Angeles Times]

Ashley Dupre In Girls Gone Wild Video [New York Post]

Related: Some Young Women Maybe Be Confusing Confidence With Carnality

The Real World: Female Empowerment Is A Stranger To The Seven Roommates