Sabina Spigner | Guilty pleasures


The Critical Consumer | How the O.C. has fostered my personal conflict between feminism and entertainment




“S he has fake boobs.” “Those are Botoxed lips, for sure.” “She’s not a real blonde.”

This is just a sampling of the phrases that I commonly use while watching some of my favorite summer shows. Growing up in Orange County, Calif., has had a huge impact on how I view certain things — specifically women. A woman in the O.C. is expected to be white, blonde, have big boobs and be thin. As a biracial black and asian woman, I am not white, I don’t have blonde hair and I am not thin. Growing up being different from my friends has caused me to have a critical outlook on a lot of the women surrounding me. A day spent at the beach often consists of me casually pointing out the women with augmented breasts, dyed hair and fake tans. I’ll even stoop so low as to comment on how some women shouldn’t be wearing bikinis because it just doesn’t look good, projecting my own reason for not wearing one.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a feminist. I’m anti-sexism, pro-choice, and I advocate equality for all. In addition to promoting the tainted thoughts my mind has adopted, Orange County has played a part in my development as a feminist. As a child who was clearly different from all her friends, I was forced into seeing the differences between how I was treated versus how other women were treated. While my friends discussed how they were going to do their hair for the school dance, I would listen with a jealous ear because all I could do was leave my bushy, curly hair as it always was because there were no salons that could cater to my type of hair.

In line with my drastically unique hair, I had boobs and a butt years before some of my other friends. This lead to me having to buy clothes from the women’s department since the fourth grade and being cat-called on the street at the age of 12. I quickly realized that the stereotypical “California Girl” was just not me. At heart, yes. But physically — definitely not. This realization made me understand the great emphasis that is put on women’s looks, especially where I grew up. I hated how I felt bad for being different even though I hadn’t done anything to warrant these feelings in the first place. That’s when I knew that it wasn’t me that was wrong, it was the way that women are treated.

On the other hand, I have been obsessed with Hollywood for as long as I can remember. The movie industry, the celebrities and the glamour are all a part of one of my greatest interests. Along with this comes my love for reality and celebrity TV shows. Some of my favorite summer shows include “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Fashion Police.” The former follows the Kardashian family’s life, and the latter scrutinizes celebrities’ looks. Sometimes while watching these shows, I’ll comment on their bodies; other times, I’ll mention their clothes. The point is that I’m quick to judge. I think that my upbringing has a lot to do with this because in order to make up for my differences, I felt as though I had to comment on other women’s bodies. Judging became my defense mechanism.

The fact that women are so often criticized for their choices has been at the forefront of my sense of feminism because I understand what it means to be judged and to feel that pressure to fit in. No one should have to go through that torture. However, I cannot deny that growing up in Orange County has also had an impact on how I view others. Obsessing with Hollywood and criticizing celebrities are guilty pleasures of mine. I’m only human, after all. Still, I do not believe that it should be the norm to feel judged or to be criticized. As such, I have an internal struggle between what I find entertaining and what I know to be wrong. But I believe that as long as I keep my judgments silent and continue being self-aware, I can maintain the integrity of my feminism while indulging in my guilty pleasures every now and then.

Sabina Spigner is a College junior from Orange County, Calif., studying the biological basis of behavior and gender, sexuality and women's studies. Her email address is sabs@sas.upenn.edu.

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