Some years ago a friend of mine posted a naked picture of Beth Ditto, the “Curvy” lead singer of the band Gossip on her Facebook wall. Underneath she had written “She is so beautiful, I don’t understand how some men find her unattractive”. Someone else had written “Kill it with fire” but mostly there was a consensus that men were either stupid or blind to not find her appealing.
I wasn’t foolish enough to join in and have their wrath turn in my direction but I can’t say this didn’t irk me a little. Firstly, who is anyone to tell others who they should be attracted to? It isn’t as if any of us has any choice in the matter. You are either physically attracted to someone or you are not, this isn’t a question of morals. The point, I think, that was being made was that she was a strong woman who had inner beauty, strength and charisma. Aside from the fact I think people often mistake volume for personality and ignoring subjectivity for a moment, the fact is obesity is not physically appealing to most men or women, despite what one’s own insecurities might lead us to wish to be true. Unfortunately the problems of resentment and insecurity are not only confined to wishful thinking.
On many occasions I have heard otherwise intelligent women say abhorrent things about others who dare to be healthy, slim or even underweight. “I could snap that skinny bitch in two” or “Only a dog wants a bone” are far too common an utterance. The problem is the women who are at the receiving end of such spiteful resentment often have their own difficult relationship with food or body image and those that wish us to celebrate a body misshapen by food seem to lack empathy for those which are misshapen through lack of it.
It is clearly the case that the media, in its many guises, reinforces damaging ideals of body image from the age of zero and of course these are always seen as fuelled by men and their narrow minded perversions but like all stereotypes, it isn’t true of most.
Men, in my experience, far prefer a healthy curve to the sharp contours of the human skeleton. It is also not men, or at least not straight men, that design clothes for catwalk models and Hollywood stars. As insidious as the letching tendencies of male sexuality can be, too high a percentage of women perpetuate the misogyny by turning their ire in the direction of victims with a different shape while celebrating the anorexic form by obsessing about celebrity and fashion.
It is surely below the dignity of a culture in 2014 with such wealth and knowledge that women are treated in such a way and is something that should unite a population in disgust. Instead it is exasperated by our species preoccupation with vanity, celebrity and a compulsion to make enemies of comrades born out of our own insecurities. Unfortunately, unlike most prejudice, the pendulum is swinging in the wrong direction as TV, music and film inexplicably move into the realms of soft porn followed by a backlash of spite. Again, it isn’t straight men that are buying into Miley Cyrus or leading the often-false debate that followed her performance with a foam finger and a tone-deaf tool. I say false debate because anyone who qualifies their statement with “She’s clearly a very talented young woman” is pedalling an agenda far removed from the world I live in.
This is not to say that men are innocent of the sickening influences of objectification, far from it. If I were inclined to apportion blame to a group of people I’d be a fool to claim men were anything but the primary source but this is missing the point. We all objectify, both men and women, we are built that way and being the owner of my own dose of testosterone I make no apology for my nature. Taking responsibility for the darker sides of our primal urges is important but I do not apologise for finding Beth Ditto physically repulsive any more than I apologise for my dislike of Jaffa Cakes.
Being male and talking of misogyny automatically puts me under suspicion for most people, as if not having a vagina means I have no say in how my mother, sister or girlfriend are viewed and treated. I always want to say to men who claim a male feminist is someone who is self-righteous and attempting to ingratiate themselves into a pair of knickers, “Wow, your mother must have been a right cunt.” But this would be yet again blaming the wrong person, although it is not a coincidence that those men who are a little too close to their mothers seem to hate the rest of womankind.
Objectification of women has probably remained at a similar level for a long time but the undisguised hatred of women has reached new levels in the last 20 years and that isn’t just because of the influence and media acceptance of the abhorrent likes of 50 Cent. Feminism is still looked upon as something to be mocked and dismissed by men and women alike and is easy to disregard when men are uninvited and a large amount of women are derided by those that think they have a monopoly on injustice.
I do not need anyone’s permission to stand up against the treatment of half the people in my life that I love and I invite anyone who has a mother, sister, friend or wife to do the same. Feminism isn’t the property of feminists any more than misogyny is the property of men.
© Copyright Dean Stephenson 2014