BEYOND: Redefining “Sexy”

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An upclose shot of an eye with a rainbow | Photo Credit: Harry Quan on Unsplash

There are currently 909.9 million views in the #wapdance hashtag on TikTok. Seeing that people between the ages of 10-19 are most likely to use TikTok, it goes without saying that many of those videos in the hashtag were made by underaged girls. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit single may have started a global conversation about the sexual liberation of women, but it also encouraged many young girls to consider themselves a part of a movement that even the most devout feminists still have yet to understand.

It is good that a woman’s right to her own body has come such a long way. Women in most states have the right to an abortion and to receive contraceptives. Women can report domestic violence and sexual harassment as a crime. Every year, women fight for more agency over our bodies and more choice in situations that involve them. It seems like we are ready for that next step – aren’t we?

One version of this step is for women to start calling attention to social issues that are ever-present. Why shouldn’t women be initiators of sex? Or have multiple sex partners? Why must dressing in form-fitting or revealing clothing means that we are “asking for it”? Why must labels like “whore” and “slut” exist only for women? All of these are valid questions that need to be asked. Several feminists have decided that these answers lie in reclamation. As women, we should reclaim our bodies and sexualities and do what we want with them.

So, Doja Cat can build her career off of her sexually charged music, Ariana Grande can make a hit song revolving around a sexual innuendo, and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion can break rap records with WAP. All of these women are well within their right to do so – but let us not ignore that we, as a Western culture, glorify this idea of “sexy” in the name of reclamation and liberation, while still having it be so undeniably tied to the patriarchal constructs that kept us down in the first place. We tell men to stop objectifying us, but then do and wear the things they objectified us for in the first place. Feminism is in need of a reawakening – and it is showing through our youth.

98% of girls have felt an immense amount of pressure to “look a certain way.” Influencer culture and social media pressure girls into thinking they have to look “perfect.” Girls as young as 7-years old have felt pressure to be “pretty.” Something is wrong with this picture, and it starts with the emphasis our society has always placed on looks for women. Of course, young girls look up to Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. Of course, they would want to emulate their dances on TikTok! This is what they have been told is cool, fun, and attractive – and it is okay because it is “female liberation!”

I am not calling for any of these female artists to put a stop to whatever they are doing – they obviously do it well, and it ultimately is not up to them to be role models for anyone. But what I am calling for is a total shift in perspective. It is time to separate the idea of femininity from the concept of “beautiful” and divorce “sexy” from traits that contribute to the male gaze. It is time to rethink what we consider sexy, and in a way that can be enjoyed by everyone. A sexiness that comes from the mind or soul is not easily observable and teaches young girls that their worth comes from somewhere other than their bodies or looks.

Young girls discovering their own bodies and sexualities is a part of growing up – every girl goes through this bizarre and awkward phase – and it is totally normal! I push and encourage others to make moves toward devaluing the notion of beautiful – for the children’s sake.