So this week has been dominated by two things. The Rosetta comet landing and Kim Kardashian’s bum.
This week, after a ten year mission, we landed a probe on a comet. The scientific world was in raptures about this amazing feat of science, this incredible thing that Europe had achieved. People were in tears at the enormity of what they had accomplished. And then Dr Matt Taylor came out with ‘The Shirt’. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.
A shirt with scantily clad women, holding guns.
There are two problems with this shirt: the fact that no one thought to stop him from going on world wide television wearing this shirt and the way the Internet exploded with utter viciousness at Matt Taylor.
I am not going to lie. Personally, I do not like this shirt. I do not like the way women are depicted on it. Or the message it gave to the world. Unfortunately, regardless of his intentions, the shirt gives the message that he objectifies women. It sends the message to some women that he believes that this is the role of women is to be object. That they don’t have a place within the world of science. Given that there is a shortage of women within the world of science, maths and engineering, it could be interpreted that this prominent scientist doesn’t think that women have a place. As a feminist and a woman, I was offended. I was offended that no one thought to tell him that it wasn’t exactly appropriate or that it is not ok to show women in this fashion.
As I said a few weeks ago, when I talked about Sarah Silverman’s half-naked photo, it is not ok to view people as purely sexual objects (which is why we are offended by naked boobies, we see them only as sexual) and this shirt did nothing to help that misconception.
However, what was more offensive to me than this shirt was the way the Internet exploded with bile. During the week the image kept coming up so I read around it. The shirt had been made by a female friend of Dr Taylor’s, who owns her own shop and makes these shirts for a living. It occured to me that maybe he just wore it because he thought it was awesome and wanted his friend to get some coverage for her talent. But the Internet didn’t see that maybe. The Internet and the extreme feminists went absolutely spare. They hounded him and hounded him, told him he was all kinds of shit for what he was wearing, dictating that he was a sexist bastard and a terrible human being, a woman hater and an oppressor of women. They sent threats and vile messages. In short, they bullied him. They bullied him into submission and they got a public, tear-stained, apology.
Is that victory? Is that moving the movement forward? In my opinion, it isn’t. We have fought for decades to be able to wear what we want without being slut shamed or attacked. And then we rounded on a man for wearing something he liked, something that brought him pleasure. Now, this is not going to be one of those ‘not all men’ or a feminist apologising for her sisters. This is a post that questions how we go about fighting the fight and changing the way the world works.
If we are going to move forward, if we are going to change how we are viewed and treated, we can not lower ourselves to the same standard that we are fighting against. We can not bully and scream and shout and attack those who wrong us. All that does is fuel the mysoginsts and those who want to keep women in the kitchen or the bedroom. We need to fight but there is a way to do it and it is not by using the same tactics. We need to educate and explain not howl in outrage. Bullshit must be called out, whomsoever spreads that bullshit, it must be stopped. And it stops with us. As women, we are right to be outraged by mysogyny, by the poor treatment we receive, by how our sisters are treated and our brothers trained to beat us into submission, by child marriage, by rape and the lack of access to abortion and the whole host of other issues that plague our gender. But we do not doing by getting into the mud and fighting dirty, by bullying those who make mistakes. We must set a new standard of behaviour and we must carry it high. We will make mistakes and we will stumble and drop the standard but then we pick it up and hold it even higher. The whole system needs an overhaul and to be rebuilt. We need to set the standard and treat others as we wish to be treated. We need to lead by example and be careful how we set that example.
This leads me onto Kim Kardashian’s naked photoshoot
Yes, this photoshoot. In the same week we landed a spaceship on the comet, the Internet was taken over by this image and the other ones from Paper. Nudity, an ordinary thing, overtook the accomplishment of the mission. Again. Or did it?
Go and Google it. Go on. It didn’t break the Internet, although Paper did get 16 million hits on their website. People have stopped talking about it. Two days ago. In fact, when I put her name into Google, her bum did not come up. I had to put her name, Paper and bum for me to be directed to what I needed for this blog.
I have to admit I am conflicted by this image and I have another confession to make. I am not a massive fan of nudity in general. I think people should keep their clothes on. However, I still firmly believe that if men are allowed to go topless in public then women should be able to. I may not like nudity but if you want to take nuddy photos of yourself, that’s your business.
So in that respect, ‘I’m like wow, go girl. How brave are you?’ I see a woman, bravely taking hold of and celebrating her sexuality, in a world that condems women for doing so. In another, I see a darker side; another image objectifying women, sexualising women and promoting unrealistic expectations of the human (female) body. I know what will happen. It is a sexual thing and it will be used as masterbation fodder. It is another stick by which women and young girls will beat themselves. Other women will comment on how disgusting she is and how twisted her body looks. How do I know all this? I’ve seen it happen. I work at a school and in the corridors and in private conversations, all of the above have been said from the ‘Pwoar I’d so give her ones’ to the ‘Eurgh isn’t she uglys’ and the ‘I wish I was that thins’.
And it gets worse.
There are serious racist connotations in some of the photos. The original photo was taking by the same photographer, Jean-Paul Goude, of his black girlfriend Grace Jones, a woman he called ‘ a schizo… outrageous bitch.‘
Esk. There’s an article you reall need to read on this topic from The Grio website. Not only does it address all the issues raised from a feminist perspective, it also raises the racist ones. The pictures are reminiscent of Sarah Baartman:
‘Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman (before 1790 – 29 December 1815 (also spelled Bartman, Bartmann, Baartmen) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—”Hottentot” as the then-current name for the Khoi people, now considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love.’
Furthermore, not only is the photo just a rehash of an old favourite of the photographer, the orginal is from a book called ‘Jungle Fever.’ Yeah. Yeah. Gets worse again:
According to a People Magazine article written about the couple in 1979:
Jean-Paul has been fascinated with women like Grace since his youth. The son of a French engineer and an American-born dancer, he grew up in a Paris suburb. From the moment he saw West Side Story and the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, he found himself captivated by “ethnic minorities—black girls, PRs. I had jungle fever.” He now says, “Blacks are the premise of my work.”
Here’s the link to the full article. thegrio.com/2014/11/12/kim-kardashian-butt/ I recommend you read it.
As I said earlier, I am conflicted about this image. I would love it just to be the perfect expression of female sexuality, her taking control of her body and celebrating her beauty. Sadly, it isn’t. It is still objectification, with even darker, racist, overtones.
Yet there has been no outcry from the same feminists who lambasted Dr Taylor, no scream of ‘hang on, this image is sexual objectification, people will use her image to fap to.’ Nothing. I’m really confused. I don’t understand. How is the scientist wearing the shirt with all the ladies on it offensive but Kim Kardashian’s naked spread empowerment? If a woman is allowed to celebrate her body is it not ok for a man to celebrate the sexuality and beauty of women as well? Do we have to go to museums and protest against nuddy statues and paintings? Or is it ok because there are ones of the male form too? He landed a probe on a coment. The culmination of a 10 year project and that is all washed away by a lapse in judgement, a decision that doesn’t really reflect who he is. Just in the same way if Kim Kardashian knew the racial overtones of the images, she wouldn’t have done them.
The problem that lies in both situations is that the sexualisation of women is normal. No one said to Matt Taylor not to wear the shirt on TV and no one considered a naked Kim Kardashian as a controversial image. And there is no dialogue about it. It is either the same for all or for none.
The langauge around women remains violent and mysogynist, attacking and objectfying. But the female response cannot be to use the same language, to stoop to that level. At the end of the day, we need to keep fighting, we can’t let the violence and the nastiness continue but we still need male allies in our broken patriarchy. We need to remind our brothers, and our sisters, that we are people, members of the human race. We won’t get it right every time, it will take time to fix it, but by reverting to extremism we harm ourselves. I want to be equally better, not equally bad.
I understand the outrage and fury and those things are justified. I understand the intention to point out that Matt Taylor’s shirt was inappropriate but as the phrase goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. If we fight back, violence for violence, we start a road down a dangerous path.