Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dudes: Breast Ogling Not Problematic for Women

That liberal and progressive dudemen can be so utterly clueless and dismissive of feminism and the concerns of lady humans* is not exactly a startling revelation. For a while, I wanted to believe that left-leaning men "got it." Long ago, however, that dream shriveled, dried up, and blew away to that special fantasy dimension where all black people also automatically "get" the struggle for LGBT equality.

Nonetheless, perhaps due to residual hopey hopedream, I still find it disappointing to see those who are allied with progressive, human rights, and LGBT causes to so profoundly not get Lady Concerns.

In a failed attempt to keep things light as his blog, Ed Brayton posted a study (that was later revealed to be fake, although that fact wasn't readily apparent) about scientists who supposedly discovered that men who stare at women's breasts are healthier than those who do not. Har har har.

I had a hunch that the comment section would be quite demonstrative of Liberal Dood Cluelessness Syndrome. Indeed, when I checked it out, it didn't disappoint. Or rather, it did. By the fuckton.

After an array of manly liberal dudemen boasting about how "healthy" they must be in light of this boobalicious study, the first Lady Bonerkill (*not her real name) entered the fray:

"I am filled with a feminist rage at the idea that this study was
A) thought up by a group of probably intelligent people.
B) considered a good enough idea to be written up as a proposed study.
C) actually approved and given funding.

Unless of course it is a lie, created as yet another excuse for dirty old men to ogle jailbait. The alternative is that it is the truth, created as yet another excuse for dirty old men to ogle jailbait.

Creeps: making women feel unsafe since forever."

Before we examine some of the dudely reactions to this comment, let's take a moment to acknowledge the Lady Human Experience of life.

While ogling "fun bags" is certainly quite fun for many a hetero man of any political persuasion, creepy street harassment is a scary reality that women live with. Whilst fake studies "reveal" that ogling breasts is Good For Men, real studies show that the vast majority of women have experienced unwanted male stranger harassment "that has had a large and detrimental impact on their perceived safety in public." In New York City, 64% of female survey respondents reported being harassed on the subway, and 10% reported being sexually assaulted by a man on a subway or at a subway station. (PDF)

So, yes. While men are certainly free to ogle whomever and whatever they want to ogle and do so under the delusion that women should just lighten up and be flattered about it, the reality that many women live with is that we do not know whether any given male stranger who is staring at our "jugs" is friendly or whether he has some other, more malignant, intentions. While Nice Guys (tm) exist and many guys fall into that category, the creeps ruin everyone's fun. Ladies live in fear, and men who only want to stare at some juicy "melons" have to endure getting annoyed when a lady acts all scared and stuff about being ogled.

As Lady Bonerkill so aptly put it:

"Creeps: making women feel unsafe since forever"

And, whether or not a male stranger is a creep is not readily ascertainable and so, as a matter of survival, we learn that it's best to play it safe and, if in doubt, assume that he is one. With this background in mind, let's observe some of the dudely reactions to Lady Bonerkill and her allies who also jumped into the fray.

Vic Vanity, in his own special way, responded:

"if someone looking at you makes you feel unsafe. i suggest perhaps you have some serious issues. I stare at birds,flowers,females ,puppy dogs all these thinsg are visually appealing to me and none fo them are unsafe because of it."

Straightaway, the dudely mandude dismisses the female survival response as being indicative of a woman who has "some serious issues." You see, Vic here stares at other things all the time, he explains, things that like women and their "knockers," are.... things. And what's not fun about that?

Vic goes on to explain: "i wouldnt be creeped out at a gay bar with a bunch of people staring at me. i would probably be a bit flattered...."

In other words, because he, a presumably straight male, would not be "creeped out" if a bunch of gay dudes stared at him, then a woman shouldn't be scared if a bunch of strange men stare at her. In fact, he says, he would be flattered; therefore, women should likewise be flattered.

When men are confronted with the reality that many women are creeped out by strange men ogling them, this is a fairly common duderesponse. Many men do not understand that the experiences of women in the world, especially when it comes to matters of personal safety, are different than the experiences of men. This is not necessarily a matter of such men "hating" women or even disliking them, they just don't understand that women experience ogling differently than do men. And so, as many men do, Vic mistakes his experience (ie- he would be flattered) for objective truth about the matter. He writes as though the experiences of the millions of women (including several women in the comment thread) who feel unsafe because of unwanted ogling do not matter. All that matters is that Vic wouldn't be "creeped out" if dudes stared at him and so, therefore, ladies should get over it and just lighten up.

After Vic's knobjective commentary, dudeman Ryan offered his advice to the ladies:

"Being made uncomfortable is something that will happen in your lifetime; nobody is required to consider your feelings when staring at your boobies....Worry about the real creeps out there - by the way, they don't just come in the shape of ugly cusses who ogle a woman's cleavage - and stop getting bent out of shape over a freaking joke already."

Ryan's overconfident comment ironically underscores the exact reason why women get so "bent out of shape" over such "jokes." For one, they reveal the utter cluelessness of men, even men we sometimes consider to be our political allies. Even gay men, like Ryan claims to be. Two, since when are men experts enough at being a woman to offer oh so insightful advice on what it's like to live in the world as a woman?

Three, this joke is not all that "funny" to many precisely for the reason Ryan notes. Let's say it again, shall we? When it comes to strange men who stare at us, we cannot readily distinguish the good guys from the bad and, nonetheless, all men feel entitled to ogle women anyway. That is precisely why so many Lady Bonerkills are making such a big deal out of this jokey joke study and comment thread.

Unfortunately, when confronted with this criticism, male commenters and even Ed himself offered more oh-so helpful advice. In addition to declaring that ogling is not a problem for women, the general dude theme seems to be that women who are concerned about such ogling and don't find "jokes" about ogling to be funny are Humorless Feminists (tm).

One dude, for instance, jumped in to snipe: "I see Feminism hasn't grown a sense of humour yet. Maybe next year..." before Ed jumped in to "encourage" everyone to laugh at themselves "once in awhile."


I do respect Ed, but my take on his responses to the conversation (which he ended up shutting down) was that while something important and valid was being hashed out in his comment section, he didn't seem to deem it worthy enough to count as serious conversation, perhaps because he intended the original post to be a "joke." Yes, the comment thread turned ugly, but I question whether the best response is really to shut our eyes and cackle away like madmen as though nothing at all is the matter and then move on to More Important Issues.

Aside from the fact that non-feminists use the Feminists Are Humorless trope all the damn time to silence the concerns that women bring up, who the hell died and made men the arbiters of all that does and does not count as funny in the world? What?! Fake Study Finds That Looking At Boobies Is Good For Men?! What are we, 12? How is this hoax clever? It would only be clever if men already didn't feel entitled to look at any random woman's "tits" anyway.

If women aren't laughing at a joke, why is it that men so rarely care to find out, instead dismissing women's non-laughter as proof of our lack of humor? Does it ever cross their minds that the humor problem is them, and not us? I mean, it's sort of a fact that Fake Studies show that 76% of women laugh at men's jokes, not because they are funny, but because they want to massage that ever-so-frail male ego.

Oh my gods, I think I just came up with the real definition of feminist.

Feminist(n): A woman who fails to indulge the male fantasy that he's the funniest funnymaker in the whole entire world.

Now that's frakkin funny. I'm sure the male Masters of Comedy over at Ed's place would agree. Or, perhaps they won't find it quite so funny to be on the receiving end of "humor."

[*Edit: Lady humans are to be distinguished from default humans, whom are men. Some lady humans are vagina-humans and some are not. See also, comments]

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