I have an ex-boyfriend I argue with about issues of misogyny and sexism. He says something sexist, I call him out on it, he defends it, we argue. It’s not very healthy for either of us, so I have decided to stop and start blogging my frustrations out instead.
Let’s start with the most recent problem.
(French text reads: “Well, come on girls, go for it!”)
This “article” was shared in a Facebook group we are both a part of. It’s called “Happy Time” and is the designated space for co-ordinating with friends from our home town. So if I remove myself from the space he has tarnished with misogyny then I am also removing myself from possibility of contact with friends from my hometown who are not yet ready to think on this issues and will inevitably side with the hegemonic point of view of “Oh, it’s all right, it’s just for fun.”
Once more I find myself torn between speaking out for what I know is right and subduing my voice so that I may still be a part of an established dynamic… A voice in the back of my mind tells me “Well, if they are either engaging in sexism or letting it slide then you don’t want to be friends with them anyway!” but it can’t quite cover that quiet little fear of “what if one day you end up all alone?”
There has to be a way to engage a discussion. I haven’t found it yet. So let’s get some practice by explicitly addressing why this is a problem.
Nolan, once more I am disappointed in you. You know why this is a problem, you know someone like me (an intellectual, a feminist) will find this upsetting. And yet you still post these things.
Why is it upsetting? Let’s take this opportunity to talk about sexual objectification. Objectification is when we come to consider another person, who would usually be considered as another subject, as an object instead. Someone who exists according to us, dependent upon us and our whims, and also as something to be acted upon… by us the only one considered as subject in the paradigm. Treating everyone else like an object is a narcissistic trait in which one does not look past themselves. Things take a turn for the worse when we look at sexual objectification in particular…
Let’s at least start with saying that it’s not your fault. At least, not entirely. It’s not your fault that the phenomenon exists. It precedes you, and our whole society is steeped in it. It is your fault, however, for not taking the opportunity to think on this fucked up way of functioning… even when the opportunities have been presented to you time and time again (by me… and by others… mostly by me…)
Who is the woman in the picture for this link? Do you have any idea at all? Her name? Her values? Her voice? How can you know about even a single one of these things when she doesn’t even get to have a face. She is presented in a single cut-off part. As if a seperated piece could stand in for a whole individual and still render them authentically and complexly. You broadcast this image of a piece of this woman’s body so unthinkingly. What has a full individual become to you? What function is she fulfilling here? She is nothing more than link-bait now. And you circulate that function, thus condoning it and reinforcing it. I understand that you might not be immediately be shocked when coming across this… but maybe that is because you hang out on the sort of websites where this content is so common. You are filling your brain with putrid rot, and I want to address that.
Look at this faceless, nameless picture again. Look at your incitation for other girls to do the same. Whether joking or no, it traces a dichotomy. Am I to hear myself addressed in the “les filles”? Is this what you think of me? That this is a suitable way to spend my time? I myself have no qualms with taking nude or near-nude selfies… what I resent about this article is that the authors re-appropriate these images for themselves, taking them completely out of the context of the personal post and personal right to one’s image. Instead they are a uniform commodity, indistinguishable in origin. The women are made interchangeable, one random body part is the same value as any other. Should anyone, male or female, ever be treated this way? To have their images circulated globally without a single thought for their identity? We are more than bodies, and our bodies are much more than stock to be cut up and re-distributed as the interest of others seem fit.
Something particularly upsetting is that these are women’s bodies, and that this doesn’t shock us because our society’s opinion of women is just that low. Women are constantly forgotten as individuals in favour of gratifying imagery of their bodies extracted from their personal life and generalized to the use of the masses.
You may not realize in your pseudo-innocent unthought circulation of this article, but you are taking a stance and making a commentary on society’s way of functioning. You are sharing with us that you think it is OK to consider women as cut-out, cut-apart bodies to be appropriated by others.
This attitude contributes to a problem that is waaay bigger than you and me. Sexual violence. So you have never assaulted anyone yourself? Great! Sorry, there is no medal for that. But don’t go congratulating yourself too quickly, because there is still a lot of responsibility to live up to. Yes, I stand by this. Sexual violence is everyone’s problem. You live in this society, don’t you? Then its problems are your problems. If you don’t help to stop injustice, then you are condoning it. I am not asking that you race to the front of every rally and hold the banner, I am asking that you at least commit to thinking on your actions and their relations to those around you. I ask that you, in yourself, do not maintain and proliferate oppression. … I am basically asking you (here, in this case) not to make sexual violence any easier to get away with.
When you normalize the partialization of women’s body parts and destroy their unity as an individual, you make it easier to consider ALL women as objects. Not just in these pictures but out on the street, in the workplace, in the home… Dehumanizing an individual is the first step to justifying violence against them… And here you apply the process to the whole category of “woman.” If a woman puts forth a sexualized aspect of herself she is associated to this imagery and the underlying ideas of objectification. The association happens because of people like you who circulate this type of article unquestioningly.
You really upset me.
You have no problem thinking of these women in this way… I am a woman. What do you think of me? Am I the same to you? Or am I not worry because I’m nothing like “those girls”? Either way, it’s a huge problem. It’s a huge MISOGYNISTIC problem.
I wish I could get through to you, or at least one day see you step back and think on what you’re doing. In the mean time, I’ll blog.