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Actress Rashida Jones caused controversy last fall when she tweeted her frustration about the over-sexualization of young pop stars. She was immediately bombarded online for “slut shaming.” In response, the actress penned an article for Glamour magazine called “Why Is Everyone Getting Naked?” on what she called the “pornification” of pop culture. In her essay, Jones wrote that she was fed up with overly sexual images of artists such as Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj. “Every star interprets 'sexy' the same way: lots of skin, lots of licking of teeth, lots of bending over. I find this oddly ... boring," she wrote." Can't I just like a song without having to take an ultrasound tour of some pop star's privates?"
On Saturday, the third day of the 5th annual Women In the World Summit, Jones revisited the topic of sexual exploitation with 16-year-old high school junior Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, actress in the encore series Slut: The Play and psychologist Tomi-Ann Roberts. Their conversation was moderated by Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
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Jones kicked things off by addressing her infamous tweet. “I just had a boiling point … they called me an anti-feminist and a slut-shamer ," she said. "I understand the instinct against not pitting women against each other but I was making a very specific comment about public artists who are there for public consumption.”
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Bonjean-Alpart also shared how her peers contend with their own sexuality in a hyper-sexualized culture, saying, “I don't think it's fair to blame young girls who are seeing this. It’s obvious — of course, they're going to try to recreate that because that's what they're seeing gets attention and is attractive." She also points out that teens are taught two different sets of values. “It's conflicting because when we're hearing from our mothers and teachers or role models, 'You need to get a really good score on an SAT or graduate with at least a 3.8' and then we're seeing around us not that, but tongues, it's hard to distinguish — clearly that's not as important as they're saying it is,” she said.
What makes the issue crucial, added Bonjean-Alpart, is that in our modern world, split decisions can be permanent. “Teens are known for being impulsive because it feels good in the moment,” she said. “The problem is technology. We have Facebook and Snapchat. When we make the same decisions that teens made 20 years ago they last forever [online].”
All the women encouraged the conversation to continue — with each other and with men — and Jones imparted this advice to younger generations. “Once, a friend’s mom said to me when I was very young... 'You can't really invest in your looks as the only thing because it's a depreciating asset. I think this is true...it’s like putting money into a stock that’s going down. Put your money, put your effort, invest in your brain and talent which will appreciate and get better as you get older.” Well said!
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