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Jersey Shore‘s Brand of Feminism

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You’ve probably heard about MTV’s self-proclaimed “Guido” and “Guidette” octet by now. Together, Angelina "Jolie" Pivarnick, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Paul "DJ Pauly D" Delvecchio, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, and Vinny Guadagnino make up the Jersey Shore crew that invaded Seaside Heights this past August.

Aside from self-identifying as the G-word and having a fondness for slick monikers, these kooky kids are full of gentle words. I’m not sure what happened to Sammi’s sweetness when she informed me, via television set, "If you're not a Guido, you can get the f*ck out of my face." As I proceeded to venture further into the shore subculture, it occurred to me that perhaps I should have heeded her advice and gotten the frick out of Dodge while I still could.

In case you were wondering, Mike’s "Situation” refers to his seriously juiced (yes, I learned the word here, along with the rest of the verbal shitstorm I have unleashed on you) tummy muscles. His favorite brand of word play involves seeing how many different ways he can utilize the term “situation.” The answer is: more than you’d ever bleeping believe.

Early on in the series, Vinny separates himself from the rest of the group based on what he refers to as his “generational Italian” status. This seems to mean that he abstains from the GTL ritual, a daily pilgrimage to the gym, tanning salon, and laundromat in the quest to stay “fresh to death” — these are the guys who do this, by the way.

But, have no fear, Vinny’s GTL abstinence doesn't mean he can't "fist pump" with the best of them. Fist pumping, for those of you who don't know, involves, well, pumping one's fist in the air to music, or, as my good pal Pauly D would say, "beating up the beat."

That Jersey Shore is rude, crude, and lewd has already been documented amply. What interests me, however, is the subtle gender reversals that peep their unorthodox heads out of all the machismo and female complicity.

The boys talk more about their hairdos, shoes, and body image snafus and the gals get into just as many fistfights. The guys (or Mike, at least) create Italian feasts while the girls lounge around, possibly fantasizing about the brawls they will participate in later.

They all try to get laid around the clock. Sure Mike spends his every waking hour “creeping” on the opposite sex (I think you can decipher that one yourself), but so does Nicole. The only difference is that Mike is successful.

Far from passive notches on a bedpost, the women are portrayed as heartbreakers and even as sexually fatal. JWoww warns, "I'm like a praying mantis, after I've had sex with a guy, I rip their head off." Furthermore, Snooki’s idea of intimacy is to say of one man she’s after: "He's the kind of guy I need in my life. I think his name is Ron," as Russ's name pops up onscreen under his inebriated mug.

Most intriguing of all, the men’s bodies are far more eroticized than the women’s. Mike likes to stare in the mirror and make yummy yummy sounds; Pauly’s blowout ‘do takes 25 minutes to perfect; and Ronnie spends most of the show shirtless, systematically flexing his Humvee of a body. Whether they are moving or reclining Venus-style, the camera lustily captures the men’s over-the-top physiques.

Unfortunately, striking though they are, these gender anomalies are far from feminism. They seem to point to a current “metrosexual” cultural trend wherein men are far more concerned about their appearances than they were in times past. Yet, all this male primping and preening doesn’t seem to signal any change in the perspective or treatment of women.

Men may be vainer and more sexualized, but women are still clearly second-rate when the Jersey Shore lads refer to them as “creatures” that they want to “choke” (which means to bed down, but come on).

I look forward to the next season of Jersey Shore in which the men are still sex objects, but Snooki has become President of the United States and must find a way to cope with her newfound power. Okay, okay, so that doesn’t happen, but can you imagine? The possibilities are endless.

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About Caroline Hagood