July 31, 2008

Review of a Mama Mia! review: In which being sexual and sexy are conflated

Posted in feminism, film, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 12:00 pm by LB

GRRRRRR

This is a pet peeve of mine: where a woman’s sexuality and her sex appeal are conflated. Sure, sex appeal or a woman performing what we think of as “sexy” could be part of a woman’s sexuality or her being a sexual person, but all too often they are horribly conflated, hence misrepresenting women-as-sexual-beings. In the end, my ire is with the idea that sexual display, performance, or one’s being sexually pleasing to another is what defines or indicates that a woman is being a sexual agent. It’s the classic “women are defined as sexually liberated in that they can prance around naked.”

So this is what make my stomach turn. Jessica at Jezebel reviews Mama Mia! and says the following:

Well, I saw Mamma Mia! on Friday night, and though it’s admirable that the trio of 50 to 60-something women (Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) are shown as sexual, something irked me about the portrayal of their sexuality — the movie made them into caricatures […] it bugged me that Streep, Baranski and Walters were all given choreography that involved grabbing their breasts and crotches repeatedly. It seemed to be mocking their lustiness rather than celebrating it.

Did you catch that sleight of hand? The women are shown as sexual (they has sex and experienced pleasure and from it), but the “problematic” portrayal of their sexuality is in the caricatured performance of it. Why is mocking the male-centric manner of “performing” sexiness a refusal of their sexuality? In order for that to be true, being “sexual” would have to be necessarily equivalent to representing one’s sexuality in a way that identifies with hetero male pleasure.

Isn’t this was feminism criticizes-that being validated by that male-centric sex culture does not define a woman’s sexual agency and is not what give a woman license to be sexual

(disclaimer: I didn’t see the movie, so my critique is on their commentary, not on the film)

2 Comments »

  1. A.Y. Siu said,

    Well, given the whole campy nature of the movie and how fun/funny the songs and performances were, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them being caricatures or of them “mocking lustiness.” Particularly the supporting characters were all about the mocking.

    Mamma Mia isn’t about celebrating sexuality. It’s about finding a flimsy “plot” to string together 20 Abba songs and allow the actors to dance around and be silly.

    I think it’s great that the storyline provides no retribution against Streep’s character for sleeping with three men within a month. No “slut” stigma or tragedy ensues. In fact, it’s a happy ending for everyone.

  2. […] Lindabeth at Smart Like Me gets frustrated with the conflation of sex and sexuality. […]


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