I've got one eye on the Mexico-Angola match, and another on the computer. Once I finish this post, I will dive into some serious grading. I'm still wracked with sudden and intense bouts of grief over Matilde, but that is to be expected. No one said this would be an easy time. (I can say that we may be adopting two older chins later this year from Michigan, but that is still tentative. We are committed to these most extraordinary of animals, of course, no matter what -- we just need much more time to celebrate Matilde's life and cope with her unexpected loss.)
I'm taking a break from blogging about my views on teaching feminism; my attempts to explain (even when written after considerable reflection) only seem to exacerbate the gulf between my weltanschauung and those of many other feminists whose work I respect. (Violet's response to yesteday's post is here.) We can continue to be allies even while we mystify each other, and I remain happy to be provoked and challenged by those whose ultimate goals I believe I share.
Frankly, I'm offended by men running shirtless, although it does depend on the situation (it really pisses me off in town but if I were out in the country or mountains I might not be as bothered, I don't know). It's just a smack in the face that I have to be so careful about what I wear and I'll still get hassled, whereas there's some guy running around half naked and confronting me with his naked chest. Of course, I'm not forced to look at him, but a mostly-naked person out of place (in a sea of clothes, sometimes) is likely to attract your attention before you look away.
I am curious as to how the expression "your rights end where mine begin" fits into this. I think you could argue that a man's shirtlessness does actually infringe on other people's rights and thus it's not entirely unexpected that some people will respond negatively. I just try and ignore it when I see it and I'm not defending the person in the car who should have kept his comments to herself, but I thought I'd share my opinion on why that might have bothered her (especially since it was a woman).
Helen makes an important point. As a man, I can (legally) run shirtless. I run shirtless because it's much more comfortable, particularly on longer runs, to do so. I'd rather be a bit too cold than a bit too warm, and I can do without all the chafing issues that even a Coolmax shirt presents on a long run. (And don't get me started on horror stories about bloody nipples.)
But women can't run with a completely bare chest. For many women -- perhaps most -- wearing at least a jogging bra is essential for comfort. But it's possible that there are women who would be quite comfortable running entirely bare-chested, but aren't allowed to do so thanks both to laws about public nudity and to cultural prohibitions. Leaving the sport of distance running aside, it's clear that there's a double standard when it comes to the exposed chest in our culture.
One of the things about privilege is that it isn't always enough merely to recognize it; one has to be willing to renounce it. If I read Helen correctly, she's suggesting that male feminists should think twice about running about bare chested -- not for aesthetic reasons, but for reasons of solidarity. Until women have the same freedoms that men do, men should -- whenever reasonably possible -- avoid taking advantage of unearned masculine privilege.
I can think of a clear parallel to gay marriage. I know two straight couples who have told me that they aren't going to get married until same-sex marriage is legalized. These couples believe that heterosexuals should make a conscious effort to renounce "special privileges" as an act of solidarity with their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. As one of my friends in one of these relationships put it to me, "You can't simultaneously work to end injustice while benefiting from injustice. While we all as privileged Americans benefit from injustice in ways we can't avoid, we do have a choice whether or not to legally marry -- and it's a choice we should choose not to make until that choice is available to everyone."
I think that's what Helen may have meant about men going shirtless in public. I can wear a running singlet without too much discomfort; shouldn't I be willing to do so in order not to enjoy a right that my sisters cannot? On the other hand, it's easy to take this to an extreme quickly: should I refrain from using a urinal in the men's room because only toilets are available in the ladies' loo?
I'll be running up the mountain bare-chested tomorrow morning, mind you, but I'm interested to hear what my readers think about naked chests and unmerited privilege.