The New Times (Kigali)

23 February 2011

Libya: The Veline - Post Modern Feminism At Its Best

opinion

Gadaffi is in hot soup. The rumour mill has begun in Tripoli with some people thinking he's fled to Venezuela while others believe that he'd run off to Paris.

In fact, it got so bad that he made a 20 second appearance on Libyan national TV, called foreigners "dogs" and then, with umbrella in tow, he jumped back into his jeep and drove off into the night. His fighter pilots are flying his jets into Malta and asking for asylum while his own UN ambassador is calling for the good Colonel's ouster.

The tall oaks of North Africa are being felled right, left and centre. The only ones left are Bouteflika of Algeria and King Mohammed VI of Morocco. And even they are reforming their governments so fast that the populace don't know what to make of all the changes. Pretty exciting stuff; and stuff I was going to write about in my column this week. That was, until I got into a feisty debate with a Swedish friend of mine.

The argument was about a Swedish documentary on Italian television called 'Videocracy'. The movie documented the negative effect of television in Italy to the entire population; or attempted to, at least.

The gist of the movie was this: television is a drug that has hooked everybody. It sells impossibly glamorous lifestyles and its addiction has destroyed the lives of millions. One aspect of Italian television, that obviously infuriated the Swedish director, was the concept of the 'Veline'. While it infuriated the director of the documentary, I found the whole thing intriguing.

The Veline are two young women in their early twenties, one blonde, the other brunette. Initially, they came onstage to hand the news to the hosts but today they perform short dance breaks orâ-¯stacchetti, always finishing up on the news anchors' desk. Usually performing in swim-suits or tank tops and singing pop tunes as they dance, the girlsâ-¯have become the most popular female icons on Italian TV. The names of theâ-¯velineâ-¯are announced after a long beauty pageant during the summer.

My friend, who calls herself a feminist, believed that those girls were brainwashed by the society they lived in and that they didn't know better. I, on the other hand, refused to look at it as a black and white case of male chauvinism. Feminists should scream bloody murder because, truth be told, these women are being used as sex objects. However, I must ask, what is wrong with these women being so used?

It's not as if they are being trafficked from Eastern Europe or Africa. It's not as if they don't have a choice in the matter. These are young women who, after thinking long and hard about their life choices, have made the decision to partake in the silliness that is 'veline'. Why? For the same reason that many of us end up in certain professions while avoiding others, money. For while we are frowning at the chauvinism of it all, they are raking in big bucks simply by looking pretty and dancing a bit.

I say this: These women are the children of the feminist struggle. Feminism shouldn't be only about fighting the masculine status quo.

When I became of age I was allowed to vote. This gives a citizen the right to cast a ballot, or simply choose not to cast one. Either way, the citizen chooses freely which way he/she wants to go. Feminism should be a bit like that. Either a woman can choose to compete with the men in industry, academia and politics (like many Rwandans) or they can choose to be bimbos (like the Veline).

The right to choose your way in life is what I believe true feminism should be about. If a girl wants to be a nuclear scientist, she should be given as much support as the society gives a boy. And if a girl wants to be a go-go dancer, she should not be looked down upon as a victim. It's all about the choices she makes.

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