Push-up bras are becoming the hippest thing with the five-year-old demographic. Given time, these girls can hope to be the newest eye candy for various shows that elicit toplessness with the promise of a free t-shirt or subjects of billboard advertisements featuring their gaping crotches just hidden by a tiny swatch of 100 per cent organic blend cotton.
Downstage's Raunch: Rise of the Female Chauvinist Pigs looks to examine these and similar images, all inspired by a new movement, one that sees self-objectification as liberation. Based in part on Ariel Levy's novel, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, creators and performers Jacqueline Russell and Alice Nelson were shocked and appalled by the issues being raised, prompting their examination of the topic.
"Alice and I talked about the reality of being girls in this society and as we did that and talked about the show, we started to read more books and we found The Lolita Effect [by M. Gigi Durham], which talks about the sexualization of young girls," says Russell. "We were surprised by the fact that, the more we looked for it, the more it was everywhere. It was blatantly apparent how much there is and we walk around and pretend that it isn't really happening."
Russell and Nelson take their production to a satirical level in order to poke fun at the ridiculousness of raunch culture, conversing as two larger than life breasts and promiscuous pre-teen puppets as well as doing monologues as motivational speakers for the growing female chauvinist pig audience. After researching websites like myfreeimplants.com and watching Girls Gone Wild videos in the pursuit of understanding the raunch movement, Russell says they have come to a startling revelation.
"I think it doesn't make sense to blame men anymore for what's going on because [raunch culture] has become such a commercial pursuit that women are buying into it," she explains. "It's been reversed because we're kind of doing it to ourselves. We're not slaves, we're not being repressed, so we're kind of repressing ourselves. It's scary."
After mentioning the production's premise, the pair got a large response, bringing to light the opposition to raunch culture and what it represents for the feminist movement. Russell says that while there is concern, those with reservations are fighting an uphill battle, possibly because of some archaic, preconceived notions.
"Nobody wants to be the prude or seen as uptight or oversensitive, so if they say, 'I don't know if this is right,' they get immediately slammed by other female chauvinist pigs for not being cool with it," she explains. "It's a vicious cycle."
With the project, Russell and Nelson hope to at least entertain by playing out a serious but seemingly far-fetched issue in a humourous light, but also spark interest and movement in the debate on raunch culture.
"I think you can argue both sides of the raunch question," Russell says. "For me, it's not about whether some girls feel the sexiest if they have blonde hair and implants-- if they do, that's great-- but it's that we're being sold this one type of empowerment and they're saying that there is one way to be sexy, when there are a million ways to be sexy and to be a powerful woman. To me, that's not empowerment and it's not a post-feminist [perspective, saying,] 'Haha, we get it,' and we can laugh. What are we really doing to ourselves?"