Grunge: an Attempt to Reform Sexist Views

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In "The Body in Alternative Hard Rock," Mimi Schippers discusses the forward movement within the subculture of Alternative Hard Rock—grunge—against the old-fashioned sexist views of American society. Schippers addresses such outdated ideals as the view of women as sexual objects for males to possess, the belief that males are the dominant sex, and the expectation of women to be subservient and submissive. She examines the gender relations within grunge and how they differ from these ideals, going into detail about how women switch themselves from the objects into subjects, go from powerless to overpowering, and not only establish equality, but also become authoritative. Schippers states that, to do this, women of grunge use their sexual appeal to manipulate men and use their clothing to blur the supposed natural distinction between sexes. However, while Schippers argues in favor of this attempt to gender maneuver—using the body to alter gender order—she cautions that this reliance on body adornment is unlikely to bring about serious change, as it is ironically the basis of the current gender norms. Schippers uses comparisons that establish the need for reform of sexist views in America; anecdotes that emphasize the power of women in grunge; imagery and allusions that illustrate gender maneuvering; examples that support effective gender maneuvering; and explicit criticisms of grunge, to argue that the grunge subculture attempts to meet the need for reform of sexist views in America, but that it is ultimately deficient in making significant change. She uses these rhetorical devices to argue that grunge cannot accomplish the goal of total reform of sexist views not only because of its emphasis on body adornment, but also because it ignores active political movements, class, and race. Schippers first, using a metaphor, establishes the necessity for reform of the sexist views in America so that she can then illustrate how grunge is working towards this reform. She addresses the silhouette image of a naked woman leaning backwards, which is "a nameless, faceless, sexually alluring body" that "symbolizes not only feminine sexuality objectified, but also masculine sexual subjectivity" (Schippers 85). She then says that, "the image works as a badge of manhood" (Schippers 85). This metaphor functions on multiple levels. First, as she states, men use the image to boast their masculinity, wearing it around as a "badge." Second, the idea of men wearing this "badge" is again related back to body adornment. Not only is the woman in the silhouette image naked, but she is also placed, by Schippers' metaphor, as a "badge" on the body of a male. The body is a primary reason why the current gender norms exist; it is the basis of the current subject-object order. This metaphor implies that women are being sexually objectified—by the silhouette image—and men are making themselves the subjects—by wearing the "badge." Women, represented by a "nameless, faceless" body, are portrayed as a generic object, lacking individuality—and identity. Because they lack identity, they become objects that, in turn, men can own. But as Schippers emphasizes, it is not just a woman's body; it is her "naked" and "sexually alluring" body. Thus, women are not just objectified; instead, they are sexually objectified. On the other side, men, wearing women as a "badge," have a sense of ownership over women. The metaphor that Schippers uses, calling the figure a "badge of manhood," adds the connotation of power to this idea of ownership. A badge is not just an article of clothing that anybody wears; it is a symbol of authority. Therefore by wearing the "badge," men place themselves in a position of power—the subjects—and make women their property—the objects. Schippers uses the metaphor to convey this sexism and sexual objectification of women present in society today, which establishes the need for reform. However, she also establishes her view of the female body as a...
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