29 September 2013

women bodies, part 3

As was the inspiration for my last post about modesty, I read an interesting article shared on Facebook: this one's about pornography.

I don't really know much about porn, but I have been seriously wondering: Why isn't there more feminist agitation to change or eliminate pornography? How does pornography help improve equality and opportunity for women? Maybe no one is arguing that it does, and maybe it would be silly to, but it does seem like there is a broad swath of women who think that pornography is a normal, healthy sexual outlet for men, and even boys. Beyond being pernicious for its highly addictive nature, I don't get why so many people think pornography is okay, because disrespect to women seems like a pretty foundational and fundamental component of the industry. Aren't women just generally hurt by pornography?

It is frustrating to me that so many women who claim to be forward-thinking, self-respecting, and independent seem perfectly happy to participate in a very phallo-centric worldview of the nature of sex. I'm not expecting the whole world to agree with my moral code, but it does seem shocking that so many obviously anti-woman values reflected in the media and especially pornography are considered perfectly acceptable.

I'm just confused: can someone tell me why there isn't much of an anti-porn feminist movement? Not to diminish some of the heartfelt and honest movements that exist to improve things for women, but it's strange to me that there is so much emotion and effort going into some issues, and yet there is not a large collective, organized movement to at least combat the way sex is portrayed in the ginormous porn industry. Pornography seems like a much more glaring and obvious feminist problem to me.  

05 September 2013

women bodies, part 2

There have been a couple of articles going around Facebook lately about modesty. Seems like that's always somewhat of a hot topic, actually. In a way, that modesty is even a raging debate seems a bit odd, because it it really anyone's business what I'm wearing? In a way, I think I should be able to walk around naked without drawing any unwonted (and unwanted) attention. But believing that I can is simply naive. Such is the world we live in.

At the same time, I'm actually pleased that this debate rages on, and I am interested and invested in the larger conversation as a woman and (dare I label myself?) feminist. I think we all should think about how we talk to and about women.

I read an article that seems to have instigated the most recent debate, "FYI (If you're a teenage girl)", and while I didn't initially have as much of a response to it (either positive or negative) I got to thinking and decided I both disagree and agree with the overall message.

Allow me to indulge:

I agree that young women should be aware that the way they present themselves matters and that modesty can have a big impact on the way they are viewed. The way women dress can invite objectification and sexualization. That is unfortunate, because I don't think that any woman really wants to be a sexual object. If a woman dresses in a way that draws attention to her sexual features, it does not mean she wants to be raped, star in a porn film, or work as a prostitute. So please let's not assume that any woman desires these experiences based on a misguided appeal for, I assume, some genuine love and attention. Or maybe she just wants to look pretty for her own sake, simply to feel good? Or perhaps she's just trying, heaven forbid, to make it easier and more convenient to FEED HER BABY? (Blargh. That is another topic, perhaps.)

I also agree that young men are biologically programmed to be sexually stimulated by visual cues, which presents some difficulty in the whole attempt to avoid objectifying women. It's an unfortunate fact, but one that has to be acknowledged. The author of the "FYI" article seems to claim that a tasteless Facebook selfie automatically reduces young women to evil objects of lust. While the prevalence of social media can create some problems in forging a very limited identity based on one's digital footprint, I definitely think we're sending the wrong message to women when we essentially tell them that what men think about them and how men treat women are the woman's responsibility ultimately.

I understand the need for men, young and old alike, to exercise some vigilance in actively avoiding salacious material. But to cut off contact completely with anyone who presents themselves in an immodest manner seems also to be problematic. We are not movies to be turned off and on at will. It reinforces the idea that the most important thing about a woman is her body and how she chooses to present herself, and it also refuses to acknowledge the reality that despite vigilance, you are never going to be able to completely avoid exposure to titillating images. Such is the world we live in.

It's a given that young men, or men in general, are not subject to the same considerations when it comes to modesty. There are a lot of people who are upset that the blog post from the mother of teenage boys, in her message about protecting their virtue, included pictures of her sons in bathing suits. Apparently the irony that her boys could freely gallivant at the beach with nary a concern about anyone else's virtue was initially lost on her. I suppose it's a little ironic, though it also isn't. It makes sense. As I mentioned earlier, men are generally stimulated by visual cues. Such is the world we live in. And I think I'm not much amiss when I say that this is not a biological trait characteristic of women. Seeing a man expose himself may actually be one of the worst ways to attract me. (Am I right, ladies?) So we may call it a double standard, but maybe the way women and men dress are not analogous, and we should acknowledge there are different standards applying to each.

I think we do both men and women a disservice: we teach them both to view themselves and others as purely products of their biology. Men are entitled to pursue their sexual desires in whatever format offers the most instantaneous gratification, and women are taught to consider themselves only as far as men can see them.

It is tricky to send a balanced message to both sexes that doesn't reduce an individual to a single-faceted being. But I loved this article written in response the "FYI" article: "Seeing a woman: A conversation between a father and son." Both articles use the line, "You are more than that." The ultimate message we want to send in this conversation is that we are all human and we want to respect ourselves and each other as human beings. Though influenced by our biology, we are who we choose to be.

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