Rashida Jones Makes Obvious Statement About Our Porno Culture, Feminist Media Community Calls Her "Whorephobic" (Because, Of Course)

Rashida Jones makes a comment about something just about anybody with a working pair of eyes knows to be true -- and understands is setting the women's movement back by at least five decades -- and she gets accused of being a reactionary for it. She's called "whorephobic." Seriously, fuck that.
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Rashida Jones makes a comment about something just about anybody with a working pair of eyes knows to be true -- and understands is setting the women's movement back by at least five decades -- and she gets accused of being a reactionary for it. She's called "whorephobic." Seriously, fuck that.
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I'll probably hear it for this -- and by "it" I mean cries of white male privilege and the ever-popular "mansplaining" -- but so be it.

Here's my new favorite feminist media neologism: whorephobia. I've seen this appear several times over the past couple of days, all part of the meltdown of a very specific brand of perpetually aggrieved feminist over recent comments by Rashida Jones on Twitter and in Glamour magazine. Back in October, Jones fired off a couple of scathing tweets aimed at the ongoing race among some women in pop culture to see who can turn the lewdness knob up the highest. "This week’s celeb news takeaway: She who comes closest to showing the actual inside of her vagina is most popular. #stopactinglikewhores," were her exact words. A fierce statement tinged with a certain amount of humor -- and one you'd figure would be for the most part embraced by the feminist media community specifically because it's, well, pretty damn feminist. You'd figure that, but you'd of course be wrong. Because -- whorephobia.

Jones was immediately descended upon by the usual voices on the feminist outrage circuit, who accused her of slut-shaming and of being unnecessarily "judgy." The backlash was so intense, in fact, that Jones penned an entire column clarifying her position -- while still lamenting the "pornification" of female celebrities and pop stars -- in Glamour. But still the criticism from some has kept coming, and the general consensus among the outraged, again, seems to come down to this: "You say whore like it's a bad thing." Jezebel, feminist columnist Clementine Ford and a number of people within the Tumblr crowd have pounded Jones for -- grab your Advil now -- impugning sex workers. Because when you hear a famous woman who has a reputation for being pretty cool say "stop acting like a whore" to Miley Cyrus, she's obviously being an ignorant misogynist who's failing to see how she's seeking to rob women of their sexual agency and, moreover, who's insulting people who have sex for money.

Jones said it and I'll repeat it: There's nothing wrong with having sex or with appreciating that you're a sexual being, whether you're a man or a woman. If it's consensual, then do whatever the hell you want. But no one can keep a straight face and say that sex as performance -- the sheer volume of it in pop culture these days, cynically engineered by very rich men with the goal of fulfilling a male fantasy in the name of making more money -- is a positive thing for us and the kids we're supposed to shepherd into the future. I'm not naive. It's all but assured that there's no going back from where we are right now. It's only going to get worse as time goes on. What little is left that's shocking today will be positively quaint in a few years, and that's kind of what Jones is getting at: that we keep amping this shit up, and it's poisonous. This isn't a controversial position; it's common sense. And Rashida Jones deserves credit for giving voice to it in a way that was guaranteed to be heard loud and clear. What she doesn't need is to be condescended to and harangued by people who see persecution in every shadow and around every corner. It exists very much out in the open these days -- you don't have to make up threats that aren't there.

Feminism comes in all shapes and sizes and therefore it would be really dumb to either praise or condemn it as a whole. It's like any other ideology -- it has its good points and its bad, its noble champions and its frenzied radicals. I do feel, though, that thanks to the billion little bullhorns provided by the internet, the brand of feminism that seems to get the most amount of public traction these days is the truly absurdist. This is how it works in the age of social media: the person who says or does the most outlandish or incendiary thing is the one who grabs the attention, and these days there are always those willing to traffic in the work of these people because, well, they bring in the most traffic. So you get Salon writing about a woman who knits garments from yarn that's been stuffed into her vagina and calls it feminist performance art -- as opposed to an inevitable yeast infection -- and another woman making a name for herself by documenting her pubic hair growth and periods on a Tumblr site. This is, supposedly, appropriate and effective feminist empowerment.

Meanwhile, Rashida Jones makes a comment about something just about anybody with a working pair of eyes knows to be true -- and understands is setting the women's movement back by at least five decades -- and she gets accused of being a reactionary for it. This despite the fact that an end-of-the-year video making the rounds right now which documents the media's crimes against women in 2013 highlights exactly the same things Jones complained about: Miley, Rihanna, our "pornofied" pop culture.

On that note, I think the most thoughtful, measured comment on the whole Jones thing came from Pajiba's Courtney Enlow late last week. Like me, she's the parent of a little girl, and her concerns are both familiar and incredibly honest:

I’m torn. I want a world where baring it all doesn’t make a woman a whore. I want a world where people shouldn’t have to feel bad for putting sexuality on display. But I also want a world where a woman’s body isn’t a commodity bought and sold by record companies, music video directors and Terry Richardson for the titillation of the public, used to make these women seem like naughty bad girls because all that does is make them seem like what they’re doing—what they’re being told to do—is bad and naughty. It’s a fucked up, weird situation and I don’t even know where to stand, and as soon as I think I’m standing I fall over because even when I think I know, I’m not standing at all, just leaning and wavering. And I don’t like that. It makes me feel like an awful feminist, like an awful person.

Amen to that.