Published on The Daily Femme – Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
We sexualize women yet we won’t let them be sexual.
That seems to be my feminist mantra as of late and, sadly, it’s entirely true. As I’ve written before for The Daily Femme, we use women as sex objects to sell products or ideals, yet the moment they take control of their sexuality and sexual prowess, we-even some of us feminist–cry foul and chastise them.
This week’s case-in-point: Glee’s Lea Michele and the March 2011 issue of Cosmo (seen above). According to FOXNews’ FOX411, parents of children who watch Glee are up in arms about the amount of cleavage Lea bears on the cover of the magazine (sure, the neckline is plunging and the cleavage is therebut it’s quite tasteful, in my humble opinion). One mother quoted for the article says her almost 13-year-old son was “confused and offended” by the two magazines she posed “provocatively” for, and that she finds it “frustrating as a parent who is trying to teach right from wrong to their kids” when “things like this happen” that, she says, shows “middle schoolers things like sex sells and all that goes along with that.” (Um, ma’am, it’s Cosmo). Another parent, Suzette Valle of the blog Mamarazzi Knows Best, told FOX411 that it’s “irresponsible” to use “an adult who represents a minor dressed in provocative clothes.”
Here’s the thing: Lea is a grown-ass 24-year-old woman posing for a grown-ass magazine not intended for kids–a matter Cosmo publisher Hearst eloquently pointed out in a statement responding to criticism to FOX. Sure, the Gleecast’s GQ spread may have been too sexually-charged for a mainstream publication even for my taste (really, it could have been soft-core porn) but so what? She should not have to tone down her sexuality for the sake of the parents, especially when she is posing for an adult magazine. Why? Because it is the job of the parent to make sure their children aren’t viewing or reading pieces which they deem inappropriate. If they find those photographs “too racy,” then here’s a simple solution: Don’t buy Cosmo for your children because, you know, they shouldn’t be reading–let alone looking–at it in the first place. Don’t even let them pick up the magazine at the grocery store. If they do, and they scream and yell and parade on about how that’s the girl from Glee, you muster up all that parenting knowledge, remove it from their hands, put it back on the shelf, and tell them that, “Yes, she does play Rachel on Glee but her name is Lea Michele and she is posing as herself, not the character, for a grown-up magazine that’s not meant for you. Once you are mature enough, I will explain it better.” Parents should monitor the entertainment their children are ingesting, and that doesn’t go just for television, movies or music, but also magazines and Internet use. But more importantly, they should establish open, honest and productive dialogue with their children, so in the event that they find something “confusing and offensive,” the parent could talk about why they are experiencing those emotions, what they mean, and why they should or should not feel that way. The only way children could ever process these feelings, both exciting and uncomfortable, is if their parents allow for a healthy flow of discourse that give their kids a vehicle not only to express themselves but to establish an understanding of themselves.
But what’s more bothersome, or “interesting” as a Entertainment Weeklyblog mentioned, is a comment made by Cult of Celebrity author and pop culture expert (really?) Cooper Lawrence to FOX411:
“Lea Michelle may be an adult, but to pretend that she doesn’t know her fans are 11 is just ignorance. Why take the risk that even one teenager will get the wrong message of from her idol? Now she is just turning off the parents of these kids who are her future consumers.”
First, as EW queries, could one magazine shoot really cause parents and their kids to cut themselves off from all things Glee and Lea Michele? If it does, then Lea Michele should be glad to no longer have them as fans because those are the ones trying to stifle her personality and impose their own rules on her body. Second, what would the wrong message be? That Lea, an adult, is on the cover of an adult magazine that caters to women and sex that anyone under 18 probably shouldn’t read unless they have the maturity to realize that Rachel is just a freaking character on a TV show? Is that the wrong message?
In any event, Lea Michele doesn’t play on a children’s show. She plays on a FOX show that has a wide-reaching audience from tots to grown men and women (most of my Facebook and Twitter cohorts are Glee-hards and they’re over 25). Rachel is a character on the show, not Lea herself. That shouldn’t confuse anyone. And if it does, it goes back to this: Talk to your kid about what’s going on. Explain to them reality from fiction. Actors–especially female actors–shouldn’t have to keep up whatever “good” persona they play outside of the confines of a show just because parents want a pass at being parents. Plus, I’ve only seen the show thrice but from what I could tell, most of the subject matter is way too mature for anyone under the age 14, so why the hell are you letting your kid watch it in the first place?
Maybe I am being a bit too harsh but it’s frustrating that women entertainers are never allowed to mature and make mature decisions without a flock of parents grinding their teeth. The fact is, Lea Michele shouldn’t be held to anyone else’s high standards but her own. She shouldn’t have to continue playing a “good girl” off-screen if that’s not who she is.
On a side note: It really only seems to be the ones who play “good girls” that have problems when they want to expand and grow up. What about the “bad girls”? Would we just expect a provocative cover like this from them? Or is it that parents (more so than kids) have a hard time distinqushing between reality and fiction, because it’s really starting to seem like that’s the case.