Friday, June 8, 2012

Objects of Desire

Today we're talking about hot dudes. Yeah, I know...

Actually, we're not doing one of those posts where I just talk about how hot dudes are. It was going to be one of those posts but something happened along the way and it got more complicated than that.

I am always conflicted talking about the attractiveness of men. As a lower case f feminist (while I hold some feminist ideals, I kinda fail at holding a banner and being all FEMINIST. I hate to quote Drake but "oh yeah, that's right, I'm doing me", so causes and having a "feminist ideology" and being pissed off about everything ever as indicated by the Jezebel comments section isn't really for me.), the female gaze is no better than the male gaze. I feel guilty distilling men down to just their looks, the way it is so often done to females. I'd say it should be equal opportunity, but really it shouldn't be done at all. Except is appreciating beauty such a bad thing? And I realize that we are all more than just our looks or any one feature or characteristic. All special snowflakes! Sorry, I don't mean to be trite. I really do believe each person is complex and not defined by any one aspect.

Still, is it wrong to be like, "Look, this dude on TV is super smoking hot. Yes, he's acting and doing his job, part of which is to be pretty. I'm also sure he reads Sartre or whatever, but still: HOT!" That's why some Hollywood casting agent put him in a film.

"Hi, I'm Chris Pine. You may remember my dad from CHiPs but really you're distracted by my blue eyes right now, aren't you?" "And I'm Tom Hardy. You don't remember me from anything, unless you got past trying to parse out the plot of Inception, but I'm muscle bound, tattooed, and distracting you with my British accent, yes?"

Digression! (though, surprisingly, related): You all know I watch every RomCom ever because it is my secret shame that while I have ZERO illusions about what they portray being real, the part of my heart that isn't a vacant black hole loves the hell out of absurd romances. I watch them all. Secretly. By myself. Squeeing at the romance that never ever exists in real life. And now I own a lot of them. Which would be embarrassing but no one will ever see my collection so...whatever. ANYWAY. I watched This Means War, which the pic above is from, and it was kinda adorable. (I obviously know when a romcom is bad. I'm an expert!) I even got past my usual loathing of Reese Witherspoon. The blue on everyone's eyes was dialed up to 11 which didn't hurt things. Couple plot holes, sure, but cute. I also sent Linds a burned copy of What's Your Number? and she said, "I sorta love this movie. Where can we get a 6A?" referring to Chris Evans. Which I responded to with the intelligent, "Iknowright?" My other friend, unrelated, emailed about Chris Evans today too. So: Chris Evans:

Would play strip horse in the Gahden any time with you, Chris, even though that is a completely absurd thing to play

Point being, now that even I'm distracted: is it wrong to appreciate shirtless Chris Evans or any other pretty boy in TV/movies by objectifying them when as a woman I hate that sort of behavior directed at other women and shame myself constantly for not fitting into the ideal that men have placed on beauty? Hypocritical, even? And I could get down the rabbit hole, which I believe Jezebel pointed out, of how putting Evans, Pine, and Hardy as the ideals of male beauty is as complicated for male identity as it is to do the same for female beauty to hold Giselle and Klum and Kerr as ideals. But I won't. (Namely: real people do not look like that. Ever. It's absurd to expect them to/aspire to look like that yourself. Even THEY don't look like that. Cindy Crawford once said she wished she looked like Cindy Crawford.)

Then there's the fact that admitting that we women, to each other quite openly, say things like, "I would do the most vile things imaginable to him." Those comments bring up whole issues of women and sexuality and how we're not supposed to have, or at the very least not talk about, such feelings. That's why Sex and the City, though I'm not a fan, was so groundbreaking. "Women! Talking about sex! ZOMG!" But it shouldn't be that groundbreaking, should it? This isn't the Victorian era. And I live in liberal SF. And still feels somehow odd for women to openly discuss sex and men the way men do. Or as men are portrayed doing in the media. Not sure if the reality is that much locker room talk. Though my perusing of Twitter leads me to believe it's not entirely inaccurate... I always sort of vaguely say something about growing up repressed and Irish Catholic when it comes to not discussing sex and sexuality explicitly, and that's true, for me, but women should be past that and men shouldn't be shocked hearing it. Right? When around other girls, especially my foul mouthed (but alllllll talk) stepsister (Hi Kathryn!) we do say things like, "If I ever ran into him in public, I would slam him up against a wall and..." It devolves from there. There are guys we would like to have coffee with and talk endlessly too. There are guys we would like to spend lots of time with and never ever hear their voice. That women discuss these things isn't news and we shouldn't feel ashamed talking about it even more openly than with just our clique of four friends over expensive brunch. At least I hope it's not news and I would like to feel more okay saying those things.

So where does this leave me/other women? Women should be allowed to openly discuss our own sexual urges and desires but objectification is bad with objectification of women by men being doubly bad? I don't know, you guys. I just don't know!

I find this dilemma even more difficult when I watch sports. Every damn time I want to point out that Adam Henrique or Zach Parise is hot, it feels like I am somehow diminishing any sports street cred I've accumulated. Yes, yes, pretty post season game winning goals, incredible athletic talent, all of which is truly why I tune in and watch sports in the first place. However: wouldn't kick 'em out of bed.

I pause even more in the wake of CBC's While the Men Watch utter freaking debacle, the summation of which is: the ditziest women in the world, with no actual interest in hockey, made it lowest common denominator stupid in order to please their men. That would have been all well and good on it's own, there is much stupidity on the internet, but the CBC, a publicly funded channel, gave them a national platform. A national platform to spew idiocy and continue perpetrating stereotypes that are no better than your average episode of Two and a Half Men. I have lots of outragey feelings about it but others have said it better so instead of me talking, read a sentiment very very similar to what I would have said here.

As a friend pointed out, my appreciation of hot athletes is a minor point to my generally insightful sports commentary. That I even have to question every time I want to comment on looks in a way that men don't bothers me. And I wish men would pause more. Very few things are more rage inducing than the way Twitter reacts to a hot female athlete. Even worse is how they react to a not hot female athlete. My heart breaks thinking about what Brittney Griner would find should she ever google her name. (Google's third autofill option is her name followed by "man".) But am I allowed my righteous indignation at the way men react to women in sports if I do the same to men? Is my reaction the same? Are they assholes for requiring a heavy dose of super model beauty with their female athletes while I'm just happening to mention, and appreciate, the good looks in association with loving the actual game? Is that a hair splitting difference of an argument?


All of this was supposed to be a fun post on the new season of True Blood but got wrapped into the complicated relationship I, and likely many of the smart people I count as friends, have to traditional ideals of beauty and the problem of objectifying that beauty. This post started because I was laughing hysterically at us girls discussing how we all watch True Blood because it is basically lady porn. The "plot" is absurd. Linds was excited that Christopher Meloni was going to be in it. Lex watches it, and I quote, "because Joe Mangie something is naked in it. I would stalk that mother-fucker!" Linds said she didn't even care how stupid the show got (so so so stupid), as long as Meloni was in it, she was on board. I said if the naked Swede shows up, I'm in. Is the take away, "Women! We can be objectifying assholes just like men!"? It might be. And I might be kind of okay with that?

Sorry, I hate when I write and don't have a conclusion (some professor somewhere is pissed I didn't IRAC better). But...well...I'm really curious what everyone else thinks. What say you? How do we rationalize, or not feel so much guilt about, liking pretty things when those things are people?

1 comment:

  1. I realize this is an older post, but just wanted to share my opinions and experiences about the topic. I don't have a blueprint answer either, and of course complexity increases when there may be different standards for the two genders, but my experiences tend to indicate that there are less "implications" for men who are objectified compared to women.

    I think that social implications for being objectified may be more severe for women than for men, and it's actually something we could see in my company. I work in a fairly regular firm, but each year we have a tradition of making a charity calendar portraying employers. Women in jeans and bikini tops, men in jeans while shirtless. So far pretty equal and this lasted for a few years. But then feedback started to come in and among other comments many readers found images of female employers to be a bit sexist. Also, many of the female employers felt uncomfortable being part of the calendar afterwards, as they have received comments and negative feedback. We also had an internal anonymous survey that showed that the female employers felt more pressured than men to join and some unease about the male photographers. The men (including myself) did not have such negative experiences and the readers generally liked the male models (probably because most of them were found to be female). I know it's hard to make any scientific conclusions on our experiences and findings, but personally I think it shows that women's objectification is not necessarily confined to the context in which the objectification takes place but continue to be objects outside that context also, which makes female objectification more problematic.

    Anyway, without digging deeper into the findings and experiences, it suffices to say that the calendar and use of employers was discussed and it was even considered to drop it entirely. However, that would be a major blow to the charity program so it was decided to keep it with changes. Female employers would now wear jeans and then a sweater or blazer to "lessen objectification". It was discussed whether male employers should be depicted wearing a sweater or jacket too, but this was actually dismissed due to our findings and not to push away female readers which were found to be the majority by far. Obviously this is not an equal objectification situation and I know some have reacted to that. However, the feedback to this arrangement has been much more positive . Whether it's fair for men or not is up to discussion, but the difference in our findings is what it is and at some point one should accept that and move on, and we're doing just that by making calendars to support a good case.