Nearly everyone is familiar with the girls gone wild phenomenon. This phenomenon manifests itself in the videos of that name, bad behavior by unknown women and very bad behavior by famous women like Paris Hilton.
Some theorists attribute the wildness to the empowerment of women. They point to the fact that when women become more liberated, such as during the 1920s, they begin to go wild. In the 1920s the wild women were known as “flappers.” They smoke, drank and dressed in revealing clothing (well, revealing in the context of the 1920s). Today, the wild behavior is much the same-only updated a bit for new drugs and fashion trends.
This sort of bad behavior often leads some people to think that empowerment is a bad idea. However, this is not the case.
Empowerment is not itself a bad thing. This is because being empowered simply means having the freedom and capacity to make and act upon choices. On the face of it, the empowerment of women is a good thing. This is because freedom itself is a good. However, while freedom of choice is a good, this does not entail that all free choices are good choices (in both the moral and prudent senses of “good”).
While the empowerment of women does allow the freedom to go wild, most wild behavior seems bad (in both the moral and practical senses of the term).
From a moral standpoint, the irresponsible behavior is unacceptable because of the harm it can inflict on the woman being wild and those she affects (including other women). For example, feminists have long argued that certain types of wild behavior (like wearing very revealing clothing or exposing oneself) serve to help objectify women. This objectification, feminists argue, has a wide variety of negative consequences in terms of how women think of themselves and how men think of and treat women. Ironically, the empowerment that enables women to decide to bare as much as they dare in public and on the web also serves to reduce their power by transforming them from full persons to objects to be ogled.
Of course, it might be objected that a woman still retains all her empowerment even when she elects to post half naked photos of herself on Myspace. Perhaps this is true.
From a practical standpoint, such behavior is a bad idea. Such behavior can have various adverse consequences. For example, as people have been finding out, potential employers often find out about such behavior-especially if it is blatantly posted on places like Myspace and Facebook. While some people might enjoy hanging out with a drunken, half-naked party girl they generally do not want to hire them for positions of responsibility.
As another example, people who behave wildly (or create the impression of that behavior) can expect to attract other wild people. I find it sadly funny when I hear woman complain about attracting crude guys on places like Myspace. They lament the fact that these “pigs” are simply interested in sex and not in them as a full person. It is sad because these women want a better class of person and are not getting what they seek. It is funny because they post photos that are within throwing distance of soft pornography and write about being wild party girls. Woman who complain about this sort of thing are like people who leave garbage out and complain they are attracting flies.
Some conservative types respond to the problems of wildness by endorsing a return to conservative values. Some even advocate using political and social force against women to “get them back in line.”
While I do agree that people should behave modestly in public and responsibly at all times, I do not think that women should be forced to be “mild.” Naturally, I do accept that limits should be placed on behavior, but women should not be subject to more limitations then men-and these limitations must be sensible and morally defensible.
Women should certainly not be forced to stop being wild. It is a bad idea to go wild, but it is a far worse idea to deny women the freedom to make such choices. Freedom to choose is a large part of what makes life valuable-to rob someone of their freedom is to take away something very precious indeed. This should not be done just because some people choose poorly.