Rashida Jones has found herself in the spotlight lately, but it’s not for her movie Cuban Fury or for her work on Parks and Recreation as you’d probably hoped for. Rather, the actress has continued to receive backlash after she attempted to start the #ElegantSelfie hashtag in response to #sexyselfie, as a way to prevent girls and women from exploiting themselves, giving in to the pressures of Hollywood, and feeling the need to be sexy to be liked. Yet in this week’s issue of TIME, the issue only seemed to be made worse during Rashida Jones' interview about the #ElegantSelfie, and perpetuated some problematic arguments.
“It was kind of a joke that came out of a panel I did a couple of days ago for Women in the World where we were talking about the hypersexualization of pop culture and girls,” Jones told TIME. “People were sharing that their teenage daughters, every picture they take is like this sultry, mouth-open picture — and we were exploring the idea of an ‘elegant selfies,’ where it’s not sexual as a top-note, where it’s got other flavors to it, you know? You could smile!”
I understand the message Jones is trying to send and respect that she wants women to recognize the pressures of acting a certain way merely to get attention and to refute it — Jones is clearly an intelligent woman in in no way are we or should anyone be bashing her — but I can’t help but feel these comments to TIME are a bit hypocritical. In a way, it appears as if she’s saying women should only pose a certain way and use specific facial expressions when they’re taking a picture. Isn't the whole point of freedom, feminism, and the celebration of women that we have the ability to choose how we want to act, whether it be choosing who to vote for in a presidential election or posing sexily in a selfie? Furthermore: Does it not seem counteractive to the feminist movement to judge other women on those choices you disagree with?
While I do see how some of us can get a little excessive with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pics, I don’t quite see the logic in Jones’ argument. Personally, I do typically show off a gaping smile in the majority of my pictures online, because that’s what makes me feel good. That’s my flavor, but maybe it’s not for others. For instance, there are some who choose not to smile in their photos, and use what Jones might see as that sultry-pouty mouth closed or mouth just barely open look — likewise, I know girls who do the whole mouth open thing because they feel great doing it and…who cares?
Later in her interview, Jones goes
on to note how she believes this oversexualization of women is caused by a
generational issue because “There is this kind of blanket pressure to be a
certain way, to be sexy in a certain way, to get the attention of men and also
I can agree with Jones here to an extent, as the standards of beauty have drastically changed over the years with curvy bodies being exceptionally beautiful in the past (I still believe they are. Cue Marilyn Monroe and Kate Upton) but are now being frowned upon in the present. The pressure on women to be thin is everywhere, and yes, to a point, the media is saying that you're only sexy if you’re thin, which of course is complete BS. So I can see Jones’ point of view here.
However, it didn’t take long for her to slip up again when she blamed the porn industry for this problem.
“It’s totally rampant,” Jones said. “Porn is fine for adults as entertainment, but your brain is still forming until you’re 26. Your ideas of love and romance and sex are being formed by the things that you watch at a super young age. We had girlie magazines and stuff like that, where you had to fill in the gaps, you had to use your imagination to make things sexy. There’s just nothing left to the imagination now, across the board.”
So basically, porn is unacceptable to watch until you’re brain is fully formed at 26? Legally, we all become adults at 18, and I would maybe stretch that feeling of adulthood to your 20th birthday because you’re no longer a teen, but there’s no reason anyone should be shamed into feeling it’s inappropriate to watch porn. This especially makes it seem taboo to be in the sex industry, which shouldn't be the case. A better response to the prevalence of pornography in media is not barring those under 26 from watching, which is ridiculous, but perhaps promoting better sex education, and teaching teenagers and young adults that pornography is just fantasy — not reality. Education is key. It seems unfair for Jones to imply that everyone is giving it all away because of the way porn has molded our brains.
In her interview, Jones states, “I just think about it through my own personal experience and want better for younger girls,” referring to how she was once awkward as a teenager and didn’t consider herself sexy and didn’t attempt to be sexy. While what she is trying to do is praiseworthy, Jones still needs to work on her argument.
Like she said, there are many different “flavors” for women to try on, but must that flavor only be the one that she believes is appropriate? Shouldn’t we embrace women who feel empowered enough to want to flaunt their bodies and yes, even pose with their mouths open in photos, as well as those who are able to find “sexy” in more conservative ways? If you want to show it all off simply because you love the way your body looks or feel strong in your own skin, you should be able to do it without others saying it's because you're giving in to stereotypes, and vice versa. We should just stop criticizing each other for the way we present ourselves to the public — do what makes you happy.