Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prostitute or "gold digger"?

As I was reading my fellow classmates’ blog posts, I couldn't help but come back to Leah and Lindsay’s topical discussion of the “gold-digger”.  I am fascinated with this role, because, as we know, it can be played by both males and females.  Additionally, I find this character particularly interesting since one may compare him or her to the prostitute or giglo (a male prostitute), down the street.  That is, the female prostitute is engaging in a non-intimate sexual activity out of her need or desire for monetary payment.  This is not to suggest that she did not whole-heartedly enjoy the sexual act, but it nonetheless highlights her ultimate goal: money.  Similarly, the attractive twenty-five year old female who marries the rich 55 year old male is motivated out of desire for security, luxuries and/or perhaps the fuzzy feelings of being showered with love and adoration, despite whether she whole-heartedly enjoys playing wifey.  She is valued, just as the prostitute is valued; but at what cost? 

Marilyn Frye might suggest that both the prostitute and female “gold digger” are in politically, socially and economically compromising positions, due to the systemic conditions that influence her situated self as a female.  Let’s assume that a sufficient percentage of Americans treat the prostitute’s employment as sexually oppressive, seeing as she is forced to sell her body in order to feed her self and possibly others.  How might this female differ from the female who essentially sells her body into a law-binding contract with a person she is not genuinely in love with, and might have never married otherwise? 

Some might suggest that the prostitute is gaining self-defined power by manipulating the male’s libido to get what she wants.  Yet, according to Frye, the act of a male opening a door for a female is inherently sexist due to the long history of sexist structures and cultural norms.  That said, I would like to suggest the idea that being in power is fundamentally different than being empowered.  Accordingly, although both the prostitute and the female “gold digger” might feel empowered by their abilities to exploit or manipulate their respective male counterparts, Frye might argue that both are only fueling the system that which subordinates the female.  Like allowing the male to prop open the door for you, the prostitute and female “gold digger” are allowing the system to operate smoothly.  They do not think of themselves as contributing to the systemic forces that oppress them as females.  Perhaps this comments on the capitalistic nature of humans, since the Industrial Revolution.  If one assumes the intellectual position of Frye, should he or she actively advocate against the female “gold digger” and prostitute’s choices?  Should we actively force men to cease opening doors for females?  


  1. I believe you are under the assumption that a a gold digger is the one exploiting the mans libido, however isn't the man doing the same thing. He is exploiting the womans greed as well. In this instance i believe that both parties are being exploited. The same thing can apply to the prostitue as well. People are hired for most jobs because they are exploited the needs or desires of others. Because in essence prostitution is doing the same thing i don't think it exploites women.

  2. I'm not sure where the woman's greed is being exploited, Jared. This seems to be far from the mark. Prostitutes usually do not enter the profession for the exploitation of men's desires but rather out of necessity. As women seeking employment as prostitutes, partly because in the current capitalist system either the woman does not accumulate skills through unskilled labor or jobs are simply unavailable to her in her current skillset, some women feel prostitution is the only escape from complete destitution.

    In response to Molly's considerations, I'm not sure what the effect would be if men only opened doors for other men.

    The prostitute doesn't seem to be making the system operate more smoothly but is reacting to the current oppressive system. Yes, prostitution benefits males who want cheap sexual intercourse without the time expenditure of courtship, and some simply delight in sex with strangers. However, the absence of prostitution would not remove the oppression of women. Without supposed sexual vice, sexual oppression would still exist. Gold diggers exist as the current system denies women the opportunity for self-support, for the most part.

  3. Similarly, I would assume that Frye would and should actively advocate against gold diggers and prostitution out of necessity. I'm still unsure what the goal of feminist philosophy hopes to achieve. Upon saying this, I realize the movement is diverse in its specific hopes and means of achieving gender equality. Much like how Rorty's edifying philosophy would lose its goal with its triumph over systematic philosophy, feminist philosophy would lose its telos upon achieving equality between the sexes. Granted, this is a large and complex goal, taking some years for completion, possibly never achieving total success. However, the methods by which feminists hope to achieve these goals are seen to vary widely. Feminist separatist movements seem to be one solution. These movements are often composed of lesbian groups as well, solving the problem of homosexual oppression. With writers such as Audre Lorde calling consciousness raising of males by females a continuation of "sexist patriarchal thought," I'm not sure what else she would recommend. Supportive communities that embrace difference are her obvious goal, but this is a different goal than other feminist scholars. This represents to me a divergence of goals that may have threatened to splinter the movement as well as endanger its success. Should the movement have come together as a whole, such as the Surrealist movement in art and literature, writing a Manifesto, with expressed goals shared by all its members?

  4. I think that it would have been impossible for the feminist movement to create a Manifesto in which all members agreed on certain goals. As Beauvoir highlights, women were never able, and are still unable, to say "we." Women are divided over too many lines, and tend to relate more to their male counterparts of the same class, race, religion, etc, than to other women outside of those who share in their same class, race, etc. That being said, during the Second Wave of feminism, the problem of lesbian representation created another rift between women in the movement. It is because women cannot relate to their sex as closly as they relate to other aspects of their lives that a set of specific common goals can never be achieved.


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