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Now that we’ve exhausted the decade in masculine trends, it’s time for us to take a look back at the aughts’ many cultural incarnations of femininity. The versions of femininity that have been aggressively marketed to us over the past ten years, from “not that innocent” pop tarts to Sex & the City fashionistas to Kill Bill‘s ass-kicker.
Peak Year: 2000
When Britney Spears‘ first single, “. . . Baby One More Time,” dropped in 1998, Spears’ aesthetics presented a “disturbing mix of childhood innocence and adult sexuality” (according to the immortal words of the American Family Association). By the 2000’s, Spears had abandoned the “innocence” part in favor of shimmying on-stage in nude bodysuits, cavorting with a live python, and frenching Madonna. Soon, Spears was accidentally flashing her genitals, shaving her head, and endangering her children (providing the AFA even more fodder for their campaign against sexual girls). For a time, fellow sexy-innocent (and former Mouseketeer buddy) Christina Aguilera appeared to be on the Spears trajectory—-in 2002, Aguilera began referring to herself as “XTina” and appeared in assless chaps in the video for “Dirrty.” Then, Aguliera got (and stayed) married and had a son. That was the narrative of the pop tarts of the aughts—-her commercialized and sexually-charged celebrity either forced her to crash and burn, or petered out into a more traditionally feminine role—-wife and mother.
Ambassadors: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera
Uniform: Live snake, belly-button piercing, thong or nothing.
Activities: Writhing, belting, riding with Paris
Peak Year: 2001
In 2001, Bridget Jones arrived on-screen to comfort every woman who believes she is too old, too fat, too drunk, and too daft to ever be loved. Hey! Despite all the self-loathing, she comes away with two handsome suitors (and aren’t men the point of life, anyway?) Despite Jones’ more anti-feminist tendencies—-she’s a career girl, but she’s still obsessed with losing weight and finding a boyfriend—-she helped make way for the comedy based on the flawed leading lady. By the end of the decade, viewers were ready to embrace a more interesting flawed character—-Tina Fey‘s Liz Lemon. Amanda Marcotte has this to say about how Lemon’s flaws work: “Over the course of the show, we’ve learned that Liz is lazy, a glutton, anti-social, a bully, insecure, prone to fantasies, and emotionally screwed up to the point where she can’t have normal relationships. These facts have caused some feminists to bunch up, but I’m pretty happy overall with it. If we don’t want women relegated to window dressing in comedy, they have to play deeply flawed characters, because comedy is built around laughing at deeply flawed people navigate the world, making light of our own flaws and making us feel superior.” The difference between Bridget and Liz is that Liz isn’t ultimately rewarded for her self-loathing.
Ambassadors: Bridget Jones, Liz Lemon
Uniform: Granny panties, food stains.
Activities: Obsessive dieting, lying, self-mockery.