Who's afraid of the big bad pimp?

The Body Shop's Anita Roddick sets off a lively debate about pimps and hos.


Sarah Goldstein
February 22, 2006 11:25PM (UTC)

In an interview with London's Evening Standard on Tuesday, Dame Anita Roddick (probably known to you as the founder of the Body Shop) blasted Beyoncé, Britney and legions of thong-flaunting tweens for promoting "pimp and whore" chic. In response, today's edition of the Independent featured a round-table discussion on the cultural phenomenon that some fear is plaguing young women and men around the world. Why is it so damn cool to be pimps and whores, and what are the consequences?

The Independent published six British commentators' responses to the antipimp hype. In general, the pundits aren't too worried that Playboy's targeting of young girls and TV shows like "Pimp My Ride" will actually lead women to prostitute themselves. Of larger concern, it seems, is whether men will pick up on these exaggeratedly misogynist cues, and whether sexed-up pop stars are good role models for young women.

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Performance artist Caroline Coon scoffs at the concern over girls flaunting their sexuality: "How despicable of men to think that if a woman is sexual, she can be labeled a whore, men can do whatever they want with her, denigrate her, rape her, even murder her, and then excuse themselves." And Alexia Loundras, a music journalist, points out that Beyoncé, who is often cited for propping up the ho image, got famous for two quasi-feminist songs, "Survivor" and "Independent Women."

Whether you agree that youth are grossly sexualized, or you think women like Beyoncé and Britney represent a new kind of role model, it's always a good thing to foment debate, and Dame Roddick has certainly done that.

Still, this Broadsheeter wonders if as big a deal would be made if this imitation style didn't evoke stereotypes about black gangsta culture. Is this debate merely another incarnation of white middle-class fears of hip-hop and "ghetto" life? Was Vanity Fair's Hollywood skin party of mostly white bodies any less threatening? Readers, help us out here.


Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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