Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 01/14/2011

Snooki: An Emblem of Female Polarization



There is probably nothing that depresses me more than walking into a bookstore – to me, a sacred institution – and coming face to face with the most recent attempt of a starlet to write a book (because apparently literacy is now the only requirement for authorship). First there was Nicole Richie with The Truth About Diamonds, who, even though she wrote a “novel,” couldn’t help but put her own image on the cover. Then Lauren Conrad (who I still don’t get. Like…as a person) wrote L.A. Candy. After those two made their way to shelves across America, my eyes would always travel in bookstores from Twilight to these winners and a sob would inevitably rise in my chest. I considered wearing black and prostrating myself on the ground in the “YA” section at Barnes & Noble, surrounding myself with candles and incense to properly mourn the decline of literature and ultimately society’s faith in our generation. But I held off, somehow sensing that these books weren’t the end of the random celebrity-dabbling-in-writing phenomenon.

I was right: the end is apparently not in sight. In case you haven’t heard, Snooki wrote a book – “A Shore Thing.” Haaaaa. Shore. Get it? Because she’s on the Jersey Shore. *Julie bangs head against wall repeatedly.*

Obviously, when I first heard this news I felt the need to shuffle through my closet in the hopes of finding something suitable for literature’s funeral. But then I took a second to think about it (as I often do for all decisions with the exceptions of those involving food).

It would be obvious to point to Snooki as an example of a less than positive role model. We could easily hold her up as the epitome of, to put it bluntly, the dumb whore of society. I mean she’s orange, she’s got huge boobs and her makeup rivals that of a two cent pirate hooker. She has admitted to only having read two books in her entire life (Twilight and Dear  John…*feigns shock*). She is famous for getting irresponsibly and disturbingly drunk and hooking up with guys who consume steroids like they’re gummy vitamins. From a feminist perspective, it’s easy to say, “See, there really aren’t any suitable role models for girls out there. Just look at Snooki!”

But, on the other hand, I just can’t help but ignore how Snooki is a great example of how they way we evaluate women in the media is still polarized and stereotyped. Though I disapprove of a lot of Snooki’s actions and worry that girls will start to replicate those actions – if not because they admire Snooki and want to be like her then because they believe her behavior is normal / what they should be doing because, well damn, they’re doing it on the Jersey Shore – there’s still a lesson to be learned from the way we see her.

For one, people slut shame the hell out of Snooki. Just look at the treatment she got while being interviewed for the Today Show. When it comes down to it, I think it could be legitimately argued that Snooki’s just expressing herself sexually. And while the taste level involved of doing so on TV is questionable, and I have always had a problem with TV shows depicting sexually active characters without  making some reference to protection, who are we to judge Snooki based solely on her number of sexual partners?

Of course, when somebody has a lot of sex, it’s easy to jump to the “low-self esteem” or “lack of self-respect” conclusion. And yeah, I don’t know Snooki. But it’s pretty hard to deny that at least from what we see on T.V., Snooki is just thoroughly being herself. She seems to be self-aware (to some extent) of her own ridiculousness and embraces it. She seems to have high self confidence and is comfortable with herself despite certain physical aspects mainstream culture would put down (her height, for example). And isn’t that something to be admired?

And Snooki does have some redeeming qualities, even by a socially acceptable definition. To defend the book that I just insulted, it’s being said that Snooki actually tries to accurately depict the guido culture that she comes from, which has even elicited comparisons to Jane Austen. We could also consider Snooki an entrepreneur.  Of course, who knows how much of her opportunism is forced on her by MTV, a company that I’m sure is more than willing to take their share of the profit, but if she’s able to milk these 15 minutes, in all honesty, why shouldn’t she?

So do I think the culture of drink-til-you-black-out, (possible) unprotected sex and admitted ignorance Snooki promotes is a good thing? No. Do I think the world would continue to exist without “A Shore Thing”? Absolutely. But I also happen to believe that our society’s tendency to polarize famous female figures (virgins or whores, classy or trashy, etc.) and deny them the multidimensionality that is, in fact, a human quality is possibly just as damaging as boozing and whoring – our puritanical society just has difficulty recognizing that.

Snooki may not be the greatest role model, but I think it’s unfair to refuse to recognize any of her other qualities, because in effect we’re telling girls to choose a stereotype – one side of a full person – and that not only sucks for America’s favorite Jersey Shore cast member, but for all of us.

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  • A @ at 3:19 pm, January 14th, 2011

    very well put, julie!!
    i also have contemplated staging a funeral for the downfall of literature… it’s so very sad…

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 4:28 pm, January 14th, 2011

    Reading Julie rants can be very depressing, although you do make a good point about slut shamming Snookie. There are plenty of other reasons not to like her….such as her total lack of fashion sense, illiteracy, and really really bad taste in men.

    But as for literature, like many other brick and mortar retail outlets, book stores carry what appeals to the local populace. As you are out in suburban gawd’s country,statistically speaking the only 28% populace has a college degree, of which most probably from a local state university or 2 year community college.

    The local book stores are not going to be stocking the shelves with the works of Imre Kertész or Franz Kafka, and I’m fairly certain that your community considers Thomas Kinkade a great artist :D :D :D

    Fear not! IF you apply to the right university in the right local, all that will change.

  • Katherine C. @ at 6:12 pm, January 14th, 2011

    Very nicely put, Julie :D

  • Quinc @ at 8:37 pm, January 14th, 2011

    I can’t help but think that the reason MTV execs chose her, and why she’s so popular in the public consciousness is because she fits the stereotype so well. I believe it was MTV’s goal to bring forth people that the viewing public could love to hate. Paris Hilton and Tila Tequila served and serve similar roles, based on the same stereotype. The book is on the shelves thanks to MTV’s patronage, as part of their effort to promote their newest “I-hate-you-slut” star. If she has an intelligent side, that means MTV chose a less than perfect candidate, and will be downlplaying as best they can.

  • Niamh @ at 5:38 am, January 15th, 2011

    I think some prime examples of female polarization are the transitions of Disney teen stars into young adults. Oftentimes, these starlets – usually female – are transformed by the media from puritanical paragons of American wholesomeness into raging harlots overnight, based on one minor event.

    It’s a definite virgin-slut dichotomy.

  • Erica @ at 5:51 am, January 15th, 2011

    I enjoyed this :)
    But please don’t rant on about the downfall of literature when you spell Jane Austens name completely wrong.

  • Nereida @ at 10:24 am, January 15th, 2011

    I agree that the media polarizes women; they are either sweet and virginial or crazy sluts. MTV especially promotes this, which is very disturbing because it’s a network watched by many many teenagers who are beginning to form their own identities and self-images. I can see it in teen culture in my own school; girls are categorized as “she’s a slut” “she’s a bitch” or “she’s a sweetie” Sure, sometimes people can be slutty or bitchy or sweet, but one trait shouldn’t characterize their entire personality…that’s unfair to them and us.

  • Garen @ at 1:00 pm, January 15th, 2011

    *Jane Austen

  • marta1 @ at 3:01 pm, January 15th, 2011

    Great piece! I was worried this would be one of the many slut-shaming articles about Snooki, but you seemed to put across my opposing thoughts about Snooki’s book very succinctly – I dislike the downfall of modern literature, but I also dislike how Snooki’s choices can be completely disregarded because they are not what some mainstream society deems appropriate. Very well written.

  • Kelpie @ at 4:58 pm, January 15th, 2011

    Snooki kind of makes me want to cry. BUT I think she is very much herself, and that alone is a good thing. She gets a lot of shit, too, that she definitely doesn’t deserve. She may not be a good “role model” but that doesn’t mean she deserves to be ridiculed on every hand. Also, a lot of the time all I hear about her is how ugly and fat she is, which alone is screwed up.

    Also, the dudes on Jersey Shore don’t get as much flack as the girls, which ticks me off.

  • jULIET @ at 7:31 pm, January 15th, 2011

    i find it kind of ironic that the OP calls Snooki a “dumb whore” then goes on to lament how the media slut-shames her…

    but besides that this is a great piece and I completely agree on many points.

  • Marisol @ at 8:32 pm, January 15th, 2011

    I, too, have also contemplated a funeral for the downfall of literature. :D
    I completely agree with your statement of Snooki! I’ll never behave like her because that’s not me, but she can go behave like Snooki all she wants to. I kind of wanted to whack Kathie Lee in the head with my virgin-whore-dichotomy-smashing hammer when she said, “Want some motherly advice? Have more self-respect.”

  • Marie @ at 8:29 pm, January 16th, 2011

    Julie spelled Jane Austen the exact same way everyone commenting did…

  • Emily @ at 2:33 am, January 17th, 2011

    @Juliet – The OP says that Snooki could be held up as the epitome of the dumb whore of society, meaning that she’s the embodiment of the “dumb whore” stereotype, and she wasn’t actually calling Snooki a “dumb whore”. I think she could’ve maybe made phrased it a little more clearly, though.

  • Niamh @ at 4:27 am, January 17th, 2011

    @Marie.. I’m not sure how it was spelled in the original post, but the tag is (still?) spelled incorrectly as Jane AustIn.

  • Becca @ at 10:19 am, January 17th, 2011

    I thought this was very well put. Snooki is an excellent example of the conflicting messages women (particularly young ones) are sent in our society. She’s both simultaneously encouraged and mocked for her sexuality, to the point where it’s nearly impossible for her to win.

    I do think it’s worth pointing out, though, that Snooki has been very straightforward about having a ghostwriter write her book, so I’m not sure she can really be given credit for that.

  • Jessica @ at 7:40 pm, January 18th, 2011

    Though Snooki may not seem like the very best role model, shouldn’t we cherish the fact that she’s not afraid to be who she is? Sure you may disagree with her lifestyle, yes Snooki drinks and parties quite a bit, and she might not be the best writer, but the important thing is that she knows who she is and though you may not like what she does, she still has remained true to herself (or what she exaggerates) throughout the entire Jersey Shore and her “15 minutes of fame.”

  • Liz @ at 11:27 pm, January 19th, 2011

    You can find the book at my university’s bookstore! I may or may not buy it in the future. Watching the clips of Snookie Karaoke on Jimmy Fallon was intriguing. Sometimes you just need to laugh/be horrified.

  • Julie Z @ at 11:35 am, January 23rd, 2011

    @Juliet – as @Emily pointed out I was not calling Snooki a “dumb whore” but WAS trying to point out that that is the stereotyped role society has boxed her into. I’m sorry that wasn’t clearer.

    Thanks for the feedback everybody! If anybody actually does bite the bullet and read “A Shore Thing” please let us know what you think ;)

  • Renee @ at 6:09 pm, June 14th, 2011

    I might get a lot of flak for this but every person on Jersey Shore is trashy and the only remotely decent one is Vinny (and yes I am ashamed that I know there names) first they do stupid stuff one of which is booze til your shit faced and the guys are sleazy as hell I mean are the girls just to drunk off there ass to realize it….and they say that they love their mothers but if my mom caught me acting like an out of control drunk shed smack me in the mouth for making it look like she didn’t raise me right(and that would go for all her children regardless of sex)…i guess what I’m saying about them is that they have no class…

  • Jasmine @ at 5:01 pm, September 6th, 2011

    There is a really high value placed on literacy and class (read: privilege) in the article and the following comments that make me uncomfortable.
    Would people feel comfortable making the same comments had Snooki been black?

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