Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On Not Being a Prude or a Predator, and Instead Being a Humane Person: music videos, skirt-chasing, and Andrea Dworkin

 [this classic image of Marilyn Monroe, 
who paid the price called "her life" for trying to be 
what misogynistic men wanted her and paid her a great deal to be, 
is from here.]

This is a cross post from *here*. This post of mine consists of a white man's somewhat (but, relative to what I find online, actually refreshing) writing followed by my comment to him posted to his blog.

I'll add that I dislike the caption he chose to put with the image of Andrea Dworkin, but as I've seen so much worse done to her image, and in some ways he's making fun of himself there, I'll leave it in, as it does appear that way on his blog site. I did remove a video from his post, however.

Onward, A.R.P.-readers, onward...

JULY 12, 2010 3:51PM

Suppressing my inner prude

My name is Skeptic Turtle and I'm a prude. 
Everybody please say it together: "Hi, Skeptic."

Thanks. Hi. Yes. I admit it. Growing up Catholic must have been part of it. My folks were pretty open minded, but then again my mother would mutter about men with long hair needed to get hair cuts and about girls who dressed too provocatively.

 Starting with that upbringing, I added feminist theory in college. I read Mary Daly, Catharine MacKinnon, and Andrea Dworkin and took their theories to heart. How does a young heterosexual man with hormones reconcile Andrea Dworkin? Let's just say I didn't date much for a couple years.

Andrea Dworkin mocking me
I was the campus radical who was also anti-drinking, anti-drugs, anti-sex.  Yeah, real fun at a party! Since those days when I had everything figured out, I've loosened up some. My inner prude still rules.

So when I hear a six year old singing Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back, I don't know how to respond. Initially, I find it troubling. Little kids. Sexuality. Body image problems. Entrenched gender norms. I find this confluence troubling.
[Here is where Skeptic posted that video. I'll spare you.]

I check myself. Is it really a big deal that a kid is singing about big butts? Does it do harm to her or others? Am I being a hypersensitive, humorless bore?

Sure that song encapuslates messages I don't wish to direct to my children. Is the solution to get offended and try to suppress? Kids are going to get all sorts of undesirable messages. Perhaps the focus should be on counterbalancing with other messages that deal with body image and sexual roles. Is it really a big deal that some guy likes to talk about how big butts get him hot and bothered?

This morning a friend brought to my attention a local event coming up called the Skirt Chaser 5K. It's a promotion for a sportswear company that makes sporty skirts. All women participants are required to wear the skirts and get a three minute head start. The men get to try to "catch" the women.  Get it?  Ha! Ha! Ha... Wuh?

  "The post-race Block Party includes happy-hour style food and drinks, dating games and a fashion show- all the way down to the skivvies!"

Nothing like finishing up being literally chased by dozens of sweaty men for half an hour and then engage in some cheesy dating games! Now that's icing on the cake!

Am I just being a humorless prude again? So what if someone wants to organize a consensual event that involves some light battle of the sexes meet a dating game show?

It's a question of degrees, but this run crosses the line. Violence in relationships and workplace sexual harrassment continue to be problems in our communities. How can a public event that celebrates "skirt chasing" not be a slap in the face of women in the community who have undergone unwelcome advances from skirt chasers or dealt with men who have figuratively or literally run them down? Didn't the phrase "skirt chasing" stop being funny about 30 years ago?

I get it. It's a clever idea to promote skirts sportswear, but that doesn't make it inoffensive. Maybe I'm a prude. But I wish the PR people for this sport skirt company had a few more scruples.

Oh, and kids under 13 can participate and it costs more for women to enter (because they get a skirt!)

Baby, you've come a long way!

Post Script
The Skirt Chaser 5K has already been held in 5 cities this year and will be held in 7 more. To see if your community is hosting one, check out the website.

A total of 3,174 people have participated in the first five races of this year.  Women have outnumbered men almost 2 to 1. In all but one race at least one woman has been able to outrun all the men.

I did a scientific poll of Facebook friends on the matter. People were split on whether it was offensive, but they overwhelmingly thought it was stupid.

Hi Skeptic.

I appreciate your post. What with women I know being harassed on the street and all--particularly and especially Black women by men of all colors--with a few white men being especially persistent with their assumptions that if they are attracted to a Black women that means she automatically must become "his" in some way; he feels entitled to follow her in his car; he feels entitled call out to her repeatedly--in overly sweet terms or overly bitter ones, even while she's talking (to me, one of her friends) on her cell phone; he feels entitled to yell at her for being "one angry b*tch" for ignoring him--and for having the audacity to continuing to talk to me on her cell phone (I can hear these what these guys are shouting out at my friends as they walk and talk); and he feels entitled to drive around the block so that after she's felt, out of safety, the need to duck into a shop to escape the guy, he emerges once again, sometimes leaning out of his car this time and getting much more hostile at that point, because she's now "overtly rejected" him--this total stranger to whom she owes nothing at all, except in his very entitled, racist-misogynistic mind.

This is a normal day for many women I know who work in the city and then make their way to their cars to drive out of the city.

And, add to that the reality that almost every women I know has been repeatedly harassed or "come on to" at work in ways she neither invited nor welcomed--both in racist and sexist ways, or groped on public transportation. And, add to that that most women I know, of any race or class, were abused sexually at their home of origin by a male family member, or in the home where their "beloved male spouse" also resided.

And, as you identify in your post, we add to all that the plethora of public advertisements, videos, and other media that reinforce an idea--a very dangerous one to be sure--that "women exist for men's pleasure", for men to visually or physically violate, or to just follow and call out to, and the less-than-funny aspects of both the video and the skirt-chasing race come into sharper focus.

It has nothing at all to do with "offence" to me. The women I know are not offended. They are irritated, angered, and too often frightened. There's no sensibility being crossed; there are, however, reasonable human boundaries being crossed.

For me and for the women I know, it has to do with women's human right to be free of harassment and violation from men.

That anti-misogynist message wasn't anything any Baptist preacher or Catholic priest I know ever sermoned about. They just reinforced old time religious ideas that women were evil, dirty, and that *their* power to lure men into sin should be avoided at all costs. And then they'd either abuse children, rape nuns, or pay for prostitutes. Go figure. So much for integrity.

So I'll only add that nothing about being concerned about women's human rights makes you a prude. Nor does wanting women to live without dudes' violating intrusions founded on men's mutually reinforcing entitlements--that they learn from male peers and from male-owned media, not from genes or hormones. You'd be a prude if you didn't want to talk about this subject at all because it had something to do with what these misogynistic men call "sex" (that they confuse with corporately produced and sponsored sexxxism).

Check out Byron Hurt's video, Beyond Beats and Rhymes, for one responsible man's attempt to engage the musical artists promoting those dangerous messages. It's a great film. Check out Sut Jhally's work in his series Dreamworlds (I, II, and III), on the themes in the videos on MTV. He tells it like it is.

And anyone who has read Andrea Dworkin and come away thinking she was a prude, better get new glasses! She was a very witty (often missed by the reader) and brilliant human rights activist, not a Puritan. I just read online a piece by a woman who would read Dworkin's book on pornography while her husband looked at pornography, and she finally realised what was going on, instead of blaming herself--and divorced him, realising the way he made her feel like a thing during sex didn't feel very loving--or arousing or fun--to her.

Many of Dworkin's socially conservative male detractors have even accused her of writing pornography in her book about the subject.

You can't win for losing.

Which perhaps ought to be the motto or caption to your post.

Again, thank you. I found it to be really well-written and refreshing to read from a fellow male. Let's make this the way to demonstrate our humanity as male human beings, not acting as if women are body parts, or by running after them as "a sport".

Men can put on skirts and run beside the women, if they want to support that particular cause. But why can't women wear trunks or loose-fitting shorts like men? Why does women's attire have to either be form-fitting or something some violator can "look up"? There's a reason men's sports wear isn't designed that way, after all.

Just look at what women and men each wear to play beach volleyball. I rest my case.

I look forward to supporting the company (let me know if there is one) that markets loose fitting and also supportive, comfortable sportswear to women of all sizes, and that promotes the idea that regardless of what women wear--whether tight-fitting or not--women don't exist for men's visual "entertainment", either to gawk at or to stalk.
Julian Real