I was once asked if black and white people are equal. I said yes. Then I was asked if men and women were equal. I smiled, but didn’t answer. I was then attacked with a violent argument about my indoctrination by the male gender, and how I sub-consciously saw myself as inferior. My ‘hesitation’ to see myself as equal to a man was seen as proof of the need for feminism. Never mind that my stand is men and women are not equal – they’re complementary.
But then the discussion moved to other topics, specifically, hot men. We were drooling over some man’s perfect pecs and washboard abs. We had no interest in his name, his star sign, his favourite food, his IQ, or whether or not he was gay. We just wanted to see him with his shirt off. For second I wondered … how is this different from men staring at hot women?
Is it okay to objectify this guy, just because we’re women? Some valid arguments came up. Yes, we had reduced this man to a walking set of gorgeous abdominal muscles. But that would never stop him from getting a job. No one would ever force him to wear a long shirt to hide his beautiful body. Nobody would ever grab him, pull him into an alley, or rape him for having a penis.
It was argued that women get propositioned every day. Sex for promotions. A guy in the group said men suffer too, because for every sexually promoted woman, a hardworking man lost his new job. Well, yes, but at least no one ever asked him to sleep with them so he could get promoted. Our male friend had no response to that.
Objectifying a man doesn’t hurt him in any way. Meanwhile, the mass objectification of women has led to sexual harassment, rape, and death. In principle, it’s the same thing, but in reality, it’s a completely different situation. Some of the guys argued that we go beyond objectifying their bodies – we objectify their earnings, seeing them as nothing less than walking wallets, but at this point, I zoned out.
I took the argument a little further, at least in my own head. I’m not above posting topless pictures of Naveen Andrews, Jason Momoa, or Dustin Nguyen. Granted I love their characters rather than the men themselves. Perfect example – I adore Jason in Stargate Atlantis, but feel nothing for him in Game of Thrones. So I could argue that I’m sexualizing the 3D character rather then the abs and gorgeous hair. But is that really any different from men’s fascination with Transformers’ Megan Fox?
As my eyes go hazy over Ronon Dex, should the men in my life feel threatened? Should they bitch that I’m holding them up to an unrealistic standard achieved with personal trainers, beautifully mixed genes (he’s part Irish, part Native American, part German, and part Native Hawaiian), and brilliant lighting? And yet isn’t that exactly what we do when our men go ga-ga over some movie star, video vixen, news anchor, or super model?
On TV, we are bombarded by models, movie stars, TV anchors, and we think they indicate society’s idea of beauty. Lots of women hurt themselves with diets, wardrobe make-overs and other drastic measures to make ourselves more
beautiful like the girls on TV. Yet men are equally bombarded with pictures of perfectly toned athletes, and I don’t see them binge-ing on steroids or stampeding towards the gym.
I think maybe the problem here is perspective. I see a beautiful woman, I see my man admire her, I assume he wants me to be like her. Then I get mad at him for thinking she’s beautiful. I see a certain kind of woman put on TV, maybe the kind that many men think is beautiful. I measure myself against her, and see how different I look. I decide that if my man thinks she’s beautiful, then he must think I’m ugly (even though he’s with me, not with her). Then I get angry at men for thinking that girl is beautiful.
Next, I make ridiculous and sometimes dangerous efforts to look more like that beautiful girl. My man didn’t asked me to change. He probably hasn’t said anything at all. It was all me. So is it logical to get mad at him, at the fashion industry, at men in general, because of a conclusion that I drew all by myself?
I’ve often heard it said that women are our own worst enemies. It’s usually quoted when referring to the behaviour of other women towards ourselves. But maybe the next time we jump to defend our beliefs, or to attack the beliefs of ‘men’, we might need to stop blaming them and take a second and see what’s really underneath all that angst. I might not be fighting ‘society’. I might be raging against my own subconscious views, fears, and insecurities about my body.
For example, I love my hair. So it doesn’t bother me when guys admire some blonde. I do – however – have serious issues with my weight. So whenever a guy looks at a laptop-size (under five feet, tiny lithe body, not an ounce of fat), it’s war cries and claws out. It doesn’t occur to me that if the guy wanted to date that tiny girl, he’d be dating her, not me. Instead I assume that because I’m not tiny, I’m not beautiful. and that by thinking she’s beautiful, he automatically thinks I’m ugly.
Then I attack the tiny woman, saying mean things about her, giving her the evil eye, spreading rumours about her, lashing out at my man … and putting myself through crazy diets so I can look more like her. The problem here isn’t my man. It’s all me. So next time you blame ‘men’ for promoting a warped idea of beauty, remember that your man didn’t actually ask you to measure up to it, and chances are he doesn’t even really believe in it.
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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through threeceebee.com.