Miss Representation? How feminism misrepresents ‘objectification’

Posted: October 25, 2011 in Feminism, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

‘Miss Representation is a new documentary about the relationship between the representation of women in the media and political office’

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/10/20/socimages-contributor-caroline-heldman-in-the-new-documentary-miss-representation/

The trailer, which includes some ‘expert’ women talking to camera and some young women in group interview situations, as well as some clips from news programming, is very clear in its message. These quotes sum it up pretty well:

‘There is no appreciation of women intellectuals- it is all about the body not about the brain’.

‘If what gets put out there that determines our consciousness is made by men, we are not going to make any progress’.

‘The media treats women like shit’.

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.

I may get accused of being a stuck record, but – what about the men? Is it just women who are presented as sex objects on TV? No. Is it just women who are portrayed as stupid, or useless in the media? No. Is it just women who have trouble achieving their ambitions in politics? No.

So there are three main things wrong with this video:

1) It suggests a causal relationship between women’s ‘objectification’ and gender inequalities that affect women negatively.

2) It ignores men’s objectification in the media

3) It denies the complex ways in which people are ‘held back’ in terms of careers and political representation.

One of our regular commenters, typhonblue, asked me recently to identify the link between metrosexuality and the ‘gender wars’ – or the arguments between feminists and non-feminists.

I think this Miss Representation documentary is a good example of how metrosexuality proves feminism wrong. Because metrosexuality shows men to be just as much used as sex objects in culture as women, and these days, maybe even more so. As Mark Simpson has pointed out, even the mainstream media has cottoned onto men’s objectification. So if men are objectified just as much as women, then feminism’s claims that women are the  ‘victims’ of the male gaze, and of men’s (hetero) predatory sexuality is obviously wrong.

Take a look at this promo for a US drama ‘Heart of Dixie’. Posing as a PSA about climate change, it is actually a PSA about metrosexual men’s love of being objects of desire.

Feminism misrepresents gendered bodies in culture and what they signify.

Comments
  1. john smith says:

    “metrosexuality shows men to be just as much used as sex objects”

    Not so much as being “used” but more a desire or need of heterosexual males to be seen and acknowledged as a “sexual object” of heterosexual women. Since males live much of their sexual lives being invisible to women.

  2. macunaima30 says:

    ‘There is no appreciation of women intellectuals- it is all about the body not about the brain’.

    So true.

    Most people I know who appreciate Judith Butler (to just take one ferinstance out of a very wide and deep hat) do so because of her tits.

  3. redpesto says:

    ‘If what gets put out there that determines our consciousness is made by men, we are not going to make any progress’.

    …thus conveniently ignoring any progress made in the last 40 years (or longer, depending on your timescale). Are they really going to rely on a media studies ‘model’ that equates with men having 100% of the power 100% of the time?

    • AOBAG says:

      Fun anecdote time!

      One tale which was popular with feminists I ran into a while back was that there have been no real achievements for women, or by women since time began- because of ‘male privilege and patriarchy which still dominates’- anything that women have achieved have not been achievements by women, but rather have only happened because men as a whole have allowed it to.

      I’m not sure who that’s more offensive to: to women who can’t do anything unless a man facilitates it, or to men who are all enslaving and controlling women.

  4. Jim says:

    “‘There is no appreciation of women intellectuals- it is all about the body not about the brain’.

    What is an intellectual by your definition – anyone here.

    • elissa says:

      Anything that’s not of the “tits and ass” politic – I guess Jim

      I’m not sure why intellectual musings on sexuality are not considered intellectual – Gods only know there is a full bounty of womanly thinkers on this front.

      • Jim says:

        Well thnaks, Elissa, I guess. that doesn’t narrow it down much.

        I just hope the defintion doesn’t come down to Lit crit nit wits. For decades there have been women contributing substantially in some quite demanding disciplines. In linguistics one of the founding lights was Mary Haas of blessed memory who was literally the academic mother of several generations of descriptive linguists and whose field work still pretty sets the standard for excellence. And there are dozens more – it’s not a big field and dozens means bout half of everyone.

  5. Jay Generally says:

    My comment got so long I made it a blog post.

    I guess this is really the only QRG specific part in case the post is too long to read: “Finally, there is a very brief glimmer of an instance of a leather clad woman spanking a maid in this video. I recognize the movie as what I believe to be one of the ‘American Pie’s’, but I do know the smiling man in the background is gay and wearing assless leather pants. I thought that might tickle QRG a bit. “

    • An excellent post Jay – better than this one in fact! Your point about sexy and/or objectified presidents reminded me of Mark Simpson’s piece about Obama:

      http://www.marksimpson.com/blog/2009/04/30/the-obama-model/

      • Thanks QRG. :) I’d personally summarize my writing style as ‘Too wordy; too nerdy (trying not to be dirty.)’ And some day all of those commas are going to come back seeking revenge.

        I remember that article. Y’know, inherent human bisexuality or no, sometimes I wonder if the rise of the metrosexual male doesn’t relate to the sheer ease of being able to bask and play around in someone’s sexual prowess without walking through a social minefield. Evidently the world’s just going to treat it like it’s not even happening.

        • out of interest when and how did you get to know the work of Mark Simpson, Jay? I am interested in how people find out about him as I am helping promote his next book.

          • Jay Generally says:

            Curses and fist shakes upon you, QRG. I was plumbing Mr. Simpson’s archive to try and see which of his articles I could recall being the first one I read, and I lost over three hours re-reading some of my old faves.

            Anyhoo, I found it. : Manlove for the Ladies.

            I think it’s pretty easy to tell that femdom is never far from my mind. I was trying to concoct a defense of slash-fic for a discussion I was having with some friends. My case was how it’s good for women to grab a sense of control in the construction of their fantasies. Slash-fic is a perfectly good way for someone to break out their mental Ken dolls and play the Puppet-Mistress. But the thing was, the pro-slash camp was largely defending their kink by tying any criticism of it to gay-bashing (a little of the criticism was gay-bashing, but most of it wasn’t.). They were making their kink more PC and thus morally better. There were pro-slash authors out and out saying things about how their fiction was pushing tolerance and understanding so it had more meaning than het kink. So, in my defense of slash I wanted to sort of chip at how that defense of slash was inane, and I wanted the homosexual male perspective to the best of my ability to get it. Mr. Simpson was one of many posts I found, but he was the only author bright enough that I kept revisiting him.

            So, long story short, I found Mark Simpson from a Google search for gay opinions on slashfic. To your credit, QRG, I started reading him much more frequently because you so often linked him in your comments in the Men’s Rights Reddit and the GMP. You escalated him from a Misc. Links folder where Mr Simpsons was talented enough to survive several audits, to my Media Folder that I read much more often and never drop links from.

          • Thanks Jay that’s useful info. And it confirms my belief that going on about Simpson’s work has some results!

          • … and yes I like his Manlove for the Ladies post. I’d love it if he wrote something more substantial on slashfic as like you say he has a more refreshing take on it than many.

            On Sat, Oct 29, 2011 at 6:10 PM, Elly wrote:

            > Thanks Jay that’s useful info. And it confirms my belief that going on > about Simpson’s work has some results! > > >

  6. Paul says:

    I have a sneaking suspicion that people who argue about the objectification of women will zero in on that ten seconds of the woman walking down the street in her underwear, completely ignore the rest of it, and claim that the aforementioned ten second span negates your point.

    Or, alternatively, they will say that it is just one thing nd is nothing compared to the “millions” of ads that objectify women.

    Personally I’ve always found “objectification” to be a stupid concept anyway. nobody seems to be able to define just what exactly it is.

    • yep I think you are right about the scantily clad woman in that vid.

      And about ‘objectification’ which is a vague term. mark simpson, expert in the objectification of men, prefers the more technical phrase ‘tartiness’

    • typhonblue says:

      “I have a sneaking suspicion that people who argue about the objectification of women will zero in on that ten seconds of the woman walking down the street in her underwear, completely ignore the rest of it, and claim that the aforementioned ten second span negates your point.”

      How about the final fifteen seconds when the guy, acting uncomfortable and not a little vulnerable, asks if he can put his shirt back on?

      What the hell is that? It’s sort of sinister actually.

      As for objectification. I like to refer to it as the process by which women’s femininity is made more valuable then their personhood and their agency is scrubbed from existence.

      Like, oh, when women are pimped as perpetual victims. By certain groups unnamed.

    • Heck, it’s actually more like five seconds. Even the commercial itself equates five seconds of one woman walking in a bathing suit with the other 70 seconds of men stripping, frolicking, and getting wet, being hosted by a guy. That CW commercial is, and this is not a bad thing, a 75 second tribute to androsexuality with one brief wink to gynosexuality. It’s fine. I assume the show targets women. I actually don’t know why the bathing suit is in there at all. Is it some sort of visual ‘no homo’ for any possible male viewer to defend himself with? I can remember being an oversexed pre-internet juvenile desperate for spank fodder, but there’s no point in my life I would bother to wade through a show for a fade-cut, fast pan that borders on shakey cam of five steps in a bikini.

      • tu quoque says:

        This is how feminist can justify complaining about the supposed ever-more-prevalent female nudity; for them, an ounce of female nudity is worth a pound of male nudity.

        There’s a thousand times more male nudity in the media, but you can ignore it with the simple trick of not counting male nipples or pubic hair.

  7. kb says:

    I think you’re missing the overarching consequences of objectification. Men can pose for playgirl and run for public office. Women who have done modeling are criticized when they even try to take pictures of those in public office-specifically thinking of a story about Putin-who is not a model of feminism, but my point is in reactions, not him.
    Women can and do objectify men. But the men are less likely to be confined to it for the rest of their life. And that matters.

    • typhonblue says:

      ” Men can pose for playgirl and run for public office.”

      Like whom? Do you mean Scott Brown? Who, as far as I can tell, mocked for posing mock nude in Cosmo?

      “But the men are less likely to be confined to it for the rest of their life.”

      Why?

      • kb says:

        my guess would be culture. Men are assumed to be multi-dimensional in a way that women aren’t? Men don’t have to deal with “are you hot or smart” It’s not something inherent, absolutely. But in US culture today, men aren’t told that if they sleep with many people, their chance of later marriage is shot by pop culture sources.

        Also, you’re right, it’s cosmo not playgirl. that said, nobody was making the same kind of uproar about “models for our kids” that a women who take similar pictures get.
        the answer to why is society treats men and women differently. there’s no good reason for it. That doesn’t mean these differences don’t have real effects.

        • typhonblue says:

          “Men are assumed to be multi-dimensional in a way that women aren’t?”

          I dunno. I don’t find that men are assumed to be more multi-dimensional then women. It’s just that they are reduced down to their effects on _others_ whereas women are reduced down to how others affect _them._

          The end result is the same. One-dimensionality.

          Also female politicians won’t be judged as harshly for a lack of military career or draft dodging or stuff like that as men. Nor will they be judged as harshly for sexual and relationship indiscretions. After all Hillary isn’t referred to as a domestic abuser nor has NOW called for her resignation. And there is at least one female CEO who delights in sexually harassing and assaulting her male employees with abandon. Again without any censure (in fact the piece I read on her seemed to laud her sexually exploitative behavior.)

  8. tu quoque says:

    “Also, you’re right, it’s cosmo not playgirl. that said, nobody was making the same kind of uproar about “models for our kids” that a women who take similar pictures get.”

    Being mock-worthy is far more damaging to a politician’s credibility as a leader than causing an uproar. Causing uproars is so part and parcel of a politician’s career, it’s not even noteworthy. That’s why satirists are so influential on the political battlefield. Elizabeth Warren openly mocked and slut-shamed Brown, and then he was attacked and called a sexist when he’d dared return fire with fire.

    “But in US culture today, men aren’t told that if they sleep with many people, their chance of later marriage is shot by pop culture sources.”

    That’s because men are virgin-shamed. The male virgin, especially past the age of 18, is considered some maladjusted weirdo that should be viewed with suspicion.

    • I think I agree with tuqoque (arctic jay) here.

      what about that politician Weiner and his ‘weener’…

    • kb says:

      and women aren’t virgin shamed? Women are too, except when they aren’t virgin shamed, they have the extra heaping of slut shaming.

      • typhonblue says:

        “and women aren’t virgin shamed?”

        Not in my experience, no. Women aren’t shamed for their lack of sexual experience in the same way men are.

        A virgin woman is considered sexually desirable while a virgin male is considered undesirable and a very poor potential sexual partner.

        • AOBAG says:

          Indeed- in fact quite the opposite, female virginity is taken as a sign of purity and desirability- you only need to look at religions and cultures all round the world. Plenty of promiscuous girls out there mind, and what is said about them varies a huge amount. Although nowadays I find that men aren’t really bothered about it (mostly comes about worrying about diseases and childbirth), but women really get into slagging them off and are quite fond of carting out the slut and slag word. I hear the words bitch and cunt coming a lot from men but the two s words and related mostly from women. Ironically, a lot of them get really angry with men when they use words like slag, but have no problem calling men man-slags. So actually, we have men being virgin-shamed, as well as being slut-shamed (on a related topic, slut-shaming is, most of the time not but instead feminist hysteria), while women are virgin-praised.

      • Ginkgo says:

        What virgin-shaming of women have you observed? It would not surpise me to find that this has developed in he culture. I doubt that it has developed ot the point that women are gay-shamed if they cna’t get laid, and I doubt that it can be very hard for a woman to get laid anyway – i don’t mean finding the man of her dreams, but just going to a bar to find someone to get off with, after all there’s always some desperate man hanging around. I know women get stigamtized for not having boyfriends, but d they get stigmatized for failing to get one-night stands – you know, get called “losers’ because they can’t get a man to fuck them?

  9. Rita says:

    @KB, thanks so much for being a voice of reason! I’m amazed that people here can question the fact that women in the U.S. have unequal ground in politics, considering the low numbers of women in government here.

    Actually one issue I have with some in the MRA is that they try to make equivalent the slut shaming of women with the virgin shaming of men. There are HUGE issues with trying to compare men being virgin shamed with women being slut shamed. They are not equivalent.

    I don’t think that virgin shaming, be it of a man or a woman, can compare to slut shaming. (And I’ve experienced both.) How scary that these distinctions are not seen by some in the MRA movement. Even though I think gender studies is a wonderful thing, this is why I do think there needs to be a distinct category of feminist and women’s studies that continues.

    As far as I know, a man has never been killed for being a virgin. Women have been killed for being “sluts.”

    Plus, it certainly wasn’t feminism that created the idea that men should have tons of experience. That idea was in force long before the woman’s movement ever came on the scene.

    And yes, women are absolutely virgin shamed, too. “Prude,” “man-hating lesbian,” etc, etc.

    When I was 22, I was told by a guy that I was dating (he was actually worried that I might be a virgin b/c I didn’t talk about my sex life) that he would’ve thought something was seriously wrong with me if I was a virgin.

    A few years ago, in my early 30s, a male friend I knew looked at me in horror when I told him I’d slept with three men in my whole life. He thought something was wrong with me because the number was low. Because of what he felt was a low number, he immediately thought I was not well-adjusted. Because women who are have a higher number, don’t you know? Since then, I’ve learned not to really be open about the amount of guys I’ve been with.

    On the other hand, damned if you do, damned if you don’t because–

    I was also called a slut, whore, etc, etc. by my parents when they found out that I was having sex with a boyfriend when I was 19 and kicked me out on the street as night. But I guess that must’ve just been my “feminist hysteria” right? I’m sure if they’d had a son they would’ve called him a slut and whore for sleeping with his girlfriend, right? I’m sure he would’ve been kicked out of the house in the middle of the night for being a “slut”?

    Again, thanks KB for your comments. It’d be completely demoralizing reading blogs like these without some voices of reason like yourself.

  10. [...] and women!”)The term “othering” is key here. Feminists LOVE to talk about sexual objectification, by which they mean the sexual objectification of women. But I know that in the 21st century, men [...]

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