I first came across Java Divas on Pursuit of Harpyness a few days ago and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since. Basically, this new coffee shop has set itself apart from the competition by being sexist. Its staff of all young, attractive girls, dress in skimpy outfits, ranging from bikinis to slut-o-ween get ups to sell lattes and Mexican hot chocolates (perhaps with a whipped cream crown?).
Now, any good little feminist’s brain would have started beeping and flashing and making all sorts of racket with the “objectivism! objectivism!” warning. So of course mine did, and I posted a discussion about it on the Feminist Atheist group over at Atheist Nexus wondering if anyone else also thought the women that worked there were being objectified.
A few intelligent and interesting comments have come up, but there have been two exasperating responses that basically went “Pshah. Those women choose to work there so more power to them!”
To which I roll my eyes and quietly seethe because this business about “choice” is bull crap. The problem isn’t whether to choose or not to choose to work at a job that required you to bare your navel, but that our society promotes the commodification of women. Consider:
1) Economics: confusing “choice” with ultimatum
All jobs are not equal. To use paying for school (whether it’s law school or an average four-year university) as an example: how many options do students have to pay for their education? Work for tips at a diner? As a telemarketer? Work in retail? These hardly seem like viable options when you can make twice or triple that amount of money by removing your clothes, regardless of whether you want to or not.
Further, when one of the few jobs you can find (especially in today’s economy) requires you to remove your clothes (whether it’s at Java Divas or a strip club, or becoming a prostitute or anything else) taking that job isn’t a “choice” but an ultimatum. If you don’t like it, how easy is it to say “I quit” if it’s one of the few jobs you can get?
It’s certainly revealing of how screwed up our society is that to make a large enough wage to pay for an education or just your daily living expenses you are required to objectify yourself. Which brings me to point two:
2) This isn’t even about a woman’s “choice,” it’s about heterosexual male desire
The women at Java Divas conform to a specific body type, as do the majority of women in pornography and strip clubs. Where are the overweight women? What about women with disabilities? Women of color? These venues remove a woman’s agency and promote the buying and selling of a certain standard of “beauty.” Her character, her personality, her intelligence are irrelevant.
That a stripper, for example, can make more money to pay for school than at another job further shows that if you want to get money, you gotta look and act a certain way. How does this promote choice? It doesn’t it takes away choice, especially for other women who do not look and act that way. She can’t get a job at Java Divas if she’s a little overweight because who would want to look at her in a bikini anyway?
What’s more, women (and men) who are considered attractive make more money than plain-looking women and men- and that’s in “normal” jobs where revealing clothes are not required. Places like Java Divas is a more extreme example of rewarding women who sexually appeal to men.
So there’s my rebuttal to the “yeah choice!” clamorers. Thought I’d also ask what you thought of the divas. Are they being objectified?