Like a feminist moth to a vapid, materialistic flame, I am drawn to Gossip Girl. I know it's kind of ridiculous, but sometimes I like that in a television show. Besides, I think they push the envelope in a positive way from time to time when it comes to sexuality and gender politics. (Right? RIGHT?!?) However, even the Gossip Girl fan in me did a double take when I saw this Rolling Stone cover:
Whoa! I know Gossip Girl has built an audience based on taboo sexiness, but this two-girls-one-cone shot (done in a decidedly Dov Charney porno style) is a bit much. Is it just me, or have Misses B and S (with the direction of Rolling Stone, of course) gone a bit far in the name of teen sex appeal? Is this a feminist display of women's sexuality, or young girls being exploited as objects of a creepy male gaze?
Of course, there is no one way to answer those questions. There are many factors to consider here, as is the case with most controversial feminist(?) issues. (Otherwise this magazine wouldn't exist, right?) For example, Courtney Fiske has a great article on this topic in the Harvard Crimson that looks at this cover from two feminist perspectives; Libertarian, and Radical. She asks the question (and I paraphrase): Can women be both empowered and degraded by sexual images? How do we decide if something is sexy or sexist? Can an image be both, depending on who is looking?
Our friends over at Feministing point out how the Rolling Stone image illustrates the "highly sexualized and infantilized" notions behind the abstinence-only movement. By showing young women acting both very sexual and very girlish at the same time, Rolling Stone furthers the idea that to be truly desirable, women must be non-adults. Of course, Rolling Stone is no stranger to the perpetuation of this notion. Pop culture consumers out there will remember the Britney Spears cover and the Grindhouse cover, among others.
Not surprisingly, the folks over at Rolling Stone are saying that this was nothing more than a fun photo shoot with some young actors. After all, they were just eating ice cream! (To see some video from the shoot and read the Rolling Stone piece, click here.) Here are a few more images from the shoot, to help you formulate an opinion on the matter:
Blake Lively and Leighton Meester with some licorice (might this suggest more than just candy consumption?)
The cast of Gossip Girl in bed together
Lively and Meester again, this time with photographer Terry Richardson (creeeepy)
So what do you think? Is this another way to force women into a narrow (and virtually impossible) woman-child mold? Is this just a carefree photo shoot promoting a teen drama? If you ask me, the inclusion of childlike props such as licorice rope and balloons makes the whole thing a tad insidious. In a world of sexting and teen pregnancy, perhaps we don't need to blur the line between childhood and adulthood quite so vigorously. On the other hand, as someone who watches Gossip Girl, I am an unwitting participant in all of this teen sexiness, and am clearly someone who enjoys the escapist element of watching young people do each other and spend tons of money.
As per usual, I am confused and conflicted. That's why I need to hear from you! Are these photos a good idea? A bad idea? Do you care? What if they were in a magazine other than Rolling Stone? What if men from the show were on the cover instead of women? Where do we draw the line (or do we draw the line at all)?