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October 24, 2005

Comments

The Countess

Sorry, Q Grrl. There are so many comments here I'm having trouble keeping track of who said what. I'm still not sure exactly what that comment meant., though, so I don't have anything to say about it.

No, Mr. Bad, it wasn't Goldberg either. I still can't remember his name. This is driving me nuts. It's worse than having a bad '70s track stuck in my head. ;)

By the way, I started out on AOL as Asherah in the mid '90s. After my articles started getting published, I used my real name with that e-mail address. I still use Asherah, mainly for e-mail. I'm too well-known by that name now to give it up. Plus, it's a cool name. I recently started calling myself "The Countess" on my blog. There's a story behind that, but it's not appropriate to go into it here. I have too many names, LOL. I did think it was necessary to point out that Liz Kates and Liz Richards are two different people. For some reason, lots of men's rights activists think they're the same person. I really don't see how. Their writing style and views are completely different.

Hugo, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a chapter in one of her books about the rise of the Playboy culture in the 1950s. I think the book is called "Patriarchy", but I'm not sure. It's interesting to check out those early Playboys, including the articles, and compare them to Playboys decades later. While Playboy may be porn, I think it also provides some insight on social attitudes present at a given time. You can get vintage Playboys at collectables and comic books stores. They're considered collectibles. It was interesting to compare the Playboy culture to the Man In The Grey Flannel Suit culture. I think those two cultures were occurring at the same time. It's interesting to compare and contrast them.

Hugo

Countess, I use Ehrenreich's stuff a lot, especially from this marvelous book.

evil_fizz

"I understand that choice is just that, choice. However, I don't think that male standards of beauty are innocuous in our society. There is a long and documented history of men viewing (and treating) women as their private property."

Give me a break - women were never considered "private property" in "our society." That's pure hype. Only female (and male) African Americans were considered private property in the U.S., and that was over 150 years ago when the practice was not only common but legal (however immoral). That has nothing at all to do with "our society," you know, the one you mention above.

Not to drag us completely off topic, but laws of coverture (while not the same as slavery by any stretch of the imagination) did exist in the US for ages.

--

All sexual arousal is objectification of one form or another. That sounds very MacKinnon-esque...

Anyway, I think it's particularly telling that we're having a fight about what men find physically attractive/what mass media presents as such, and women's decision (conscious or otherwise) to be involved in it. There's a great line from As You Like It in which a character (who has been offered a proposal) is advised "sell while you can, you are not for all markets." Is that what we're really getting at here?

The Countess

Hugo, that's the book! I was wrong about "Patriarchy". That one is by Phyllis Chesler.

Check out "The Hearts of Men". There is a chapter in there about Playboy. There is also a chapter about the men's and fathers' rights movement.

Uzzah

Uzzah: The majority of rape victims are held accountable for what they wear that might "provoke" a man to rape her. The majority of heterosexual women dress in a manner that tries to appeal to men's aesthetics. Similarly, if women fail to meet standards of beauty they face rape or battery at the hands of men who wish to be/or not be "intimate" with them.

I’m afraid I am not quite following your logic here. True enough, a woman that dresses and maintains herself in a way (conventional beauty norms) that is more likely to attract men is certainly more likely to actually attract men than say someone who doesn’t make this effort. Is that not what she wishes? Otherwise, why wouldn’t she be wearing a burlap sack? I can only surmise that women want this attention. Unfortunately unwanted attention can come with the attention from the men she intended. I’m not sure how a woman can pick and chose who she attracts. Certainly that can be problematic. But not conforming to beauty ideals as a catalyst to rape and battery? I’m not sure I understand that one.. Perhaps you can elaborate.


There is a long and documented history of men viewing (and treating) women as their private property. We have yet to exhaust the generations influenced by this archaic mindset, so I still hold men's standards for beauty as suspect.

How so? Women have been loosely considered property, whether the daughter, or wife of men in the past. Beauty standards only increased the value of the individual woman. Eliminating beauty ideals would not have changed that paradigm. Even beauty standards today, are not causal. They merely aggravate a possessive attitude, since a “beautiful” woman will generally be more prized (as a status symbol/mating partner) than a “non-beautiful” woman. I’m not really sure how you expect to get around this.

Moral of the story? If you don’t want men to “possess” you, or desire you, don’t try to make yourself attractive to men. If you are already conventionally unattractive, you got it made.

However, I would think the main concern for conventionally unattractive women (and men) would be that they are valued less than the “beautiful people” and are discriminated against at every turn. Both in their professional and private lives.. Mags like Playboy and GQ set the bar unreasonably high for the rest of us mortals by limiting the bandwidth of the conventional beauty ideal.

Kendra

Uzzah, being one of the plain janes, myself, I have not found it to be a hindrance so far as my dating and social life goes. While I'm not about to say I've slept around, I have had my share of boyfriends and partners in my so far limited life on this planet. I've observed most men appreciate a woman who takes care of herself, who makes an effort to dress up, and who bathes regularly, it's no more so than their appreciation for a business associate who makes an effort to dress properly for a meeting.

I guess I'm saying that putting your best foot forward is appropriate. Whether this if for business, church, school, romance, it is only fitting we do that. With that in mind, though, the most cutting coments I have heard are not from men, but from my fellow women.

Men are visually stimulated, and we all know this. It's why we primp and preen for them, to attract their attention, because looks draw that first look. Those of us who haven't been blessed with a large and well shaped chest, or who are a little heavy in the leg have to resort to other things. In my case, it's called being nice and not assuming the worst of a man because he's a man, and it tends to pay great dividends.

I think everyone is missing the mark here, and trying to create some great male conspiracy where it just plainly doesn't exist. Men like to look, and most of us normal women like to be looked at. It is why we have billions of people in the world.

TestSubjectXP

I find a troubling undercurrent of deep anger at women and the feminist movement that is extraordinarily strong.

So do I, and yet I also see feminists continuing to pull string and push these guys around instead of being diplomatic. So well. Not my loss in the end.

Mr. Bad

Great post Kendra - Bull's eye!

And TestSubjectXP, you also make a good point. Frankly, men have very good reasons to be angry at feminists, and feminists have a hell of a lot to answer for, not just to men, but to non-feminist women as well.

Creeping Jenny

Men are visually stimulated, and we all know this. It's why we primp and preen for them, to attract their attention, because looks draw that first look.

Who is this "we" you speak of?

I'm disturbed by the lack of distinction (in the last couple of comments) between women dressing for their own purposes, as in my dressing in slacks, nice flats, and button-down shirts for class, and women dressing to sexually titillate men. My teaching costume is not intended to make any comment on male sexuality (nor is the fact that I bathe regularly and keep my hair trimmed to a managable length). This failure to see women as anything besides sexual beings is exactly the problem Hugo was worried about in the first place. (Whether Playboy indicates that problem is up for debate, I guess, but clearly it's still a problem.)

james

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned one obvious reason for the change: that men might find tough, independent and ambitious women more attractive than vulnerable, submissive or passive women. I figure they're going to do what ever gets issues sold, and it's more likely they're responsing to consumer demand that devising a nefarious scheme to co-opt male anger or neuter feminist criticism.

Uzzah

Men are visually stimulated, and we all know this. It's why we primp and preen for them, to attract their attention, because looks draw that first look.

Who is this "we" you speak of?

I'm disturbed by the lack of distinction (in the last couple of comments) between women dressing for their own purposes, as in my dressing in slacks, nice flats, and button-down shirts for class, and women dressing to sexually titillate men. My teaching costume is not intended to make any comment on male sexuality (nor is the fact that I bathe regularly and keep my hair trimmed to a managable length). This failure to see women as anything besides sexual beings is exactly the problem Hugo was worried about in the first place. (Whether Playboy indicates that problem is up for debate, I guess, but clearly it's still a problem.)


Obviously there are different ways to dress depending on what you are trying to accomplish and what image of yourself you are trying to convey (one of the great things about variety of dress). I don't quite understand a woman that dresses in a manner that deliberately accentuates her curves and who is trying to "look sexy" yet complains she is "dressing for her own purposes" and doesn't won't to be viewed as a sexual being. What might those purposes be other than to attract attention? This is why we have appropriate dress codes in business and academic settings. And why we discourage inappropriate dress in other settings.

However, I'd point out that men are quite able to view a woman both as a "sexual being" and as a person intellectually at the same time. One does not preclude the other. Even objectification of women via porn, doe not preclude men from viewing real live women of interest as more than a body with great bumps and curves. Despite the rhetoric, men can multitask.

Vacula

I don't quite understand a woman that dresses in a manner that deliberately accentuates her curves and who is trying to "look sexy" yet complains she is "dressing for her own purposes" and doesn't won't to be viewed as a sexual being.

Why must women's curves, when accentuated, necessarily refer to sex?

Some women are more curvy than others, and they may be more attractive to men, but wearing clothes that make their curves obvious should not mean they are trying to "look sexy". Clothing styles come and go and mainstream style may be percieved as "sexy" even when that isn't what is in the mind of the wearer - look at the ways young girls are wearing clothes that draw attention to body parts that won't fully develop for years.

Blaming women for the effect of fashion on the viewer doesn't make sense, especially in many contexts where there is no defined dress code. If a person is obviously transgressing a business or academic dress code, it may well be that they're trying to draw attention to themselves. It may also be that they are young or naive and simply following a trend that most people view as inappropriate but they don't see that way.

I work in an graduate school where young female students frequently wear "camisole" tops over jeans or under a blaser. Older staff members and faculty have made comments about the way they're wearing "slips" - what is an ordinary outerwear choice to one group is obviously underwear to another group. Both groups may interpret the outfit as "sexy", but one sees it as transgressive and the other is oblivious to this.

Interpretations of culpability or motivation vary a lot based on context - blaming the clothes or, much worse, the physical shape of the woman, is simplistic and unhelpful.

Erin C.

>I don't quite understand a woman that dresses in a manner that
>deliberately accentuates her curves and who is trying to "look sexy"
>yet complains she is "dressing for her own purposes" and doesn't
>won't to be viewed as a sexual being. What might those purposes
>be other than to attract attention?

Because she likes the way she looks.

Gonzman

And a logical consequence of that might also be that someone else likes the way that she looks.

There is no right not to be looked at - or a right not to be ignored. There is no right not to be admired - or a right not to inspire repulsion.

The average man can look on a conventionally attractive woman and admire her attractiveness without having that be where his mind stops. The same is true with the average woman and a conventionally attractive man. In fact, percentage in the ninety percent range are capable of this across the board. And stigmatizing perfectly normal behavior and reactions because of a few extreme reactions from maladjusted people is simply laughable. It's time to reach out with both hands and get a grip.

bmmg39

"Mr. Bad, I had so hoped for your approbation, and am devastated that -- once again-- my commitment to justice for women and girls strikes you as 'asinine.'"

No, what he referred to (and I think you already know this) was your wholesale treatment of men's rights activists; it seems you don't distinguish between the good ones and the bad ones.

"Here's the thing, Mr. Bad: for better or for worse, MRA websites are public. Hugo links to them periodically. If he's misrepresenting y'all, it's right there in zeros and ones for everyone to see."

Not if I'm not a member of those certain sites. I frequent a site where the MRAs are angry a lot of the time, but true anti-woman comments are few and far between. (Except for the troll problem we have now, in which some dunderhead is trying to sabotage our site by repeatedly condemning women's suffrage. I certainly hope you don't read that crap and think that the majority of MRAs espouse such garbage.)

Now, on to PLAYBOY...

Sometimes I wish there were magazines that just celebrated the beauty of the human form in all of its varied glory (and you could include in that variation both male and female forms). PLAYBOY is about "nudity" and how it crosses with sex. (I put that word in quotation marks because I don't really consider a person naked/nude if that person is still wearing shoes, stockings, headwear, sunglasses, and gloves -- which goes back to the point that PLAYBOY definitely is NOT interested in the human form if they're hellbent on covering up heads and hands and feet most of the time.) MAXIM and the like are all about sex with no nudity; I'd be pleased as punch with something the other way around. Because sex isn't my game, I'm more interested in the wholesome sex-free attractiveness of the human form than titillation. PLAYBOY and the more extreme mags aren't my bag, but I won't go so far as to say that every man who picks one up (or women who pick up PLAYGIRL) is engaging in a rape fantasy.

boy genteel

Uzzah

Some women are more curvy than others, and they may be more attractive to men, but wearing clothes that make their curves obvious should not mean they are trying to "look sexy".

It may also be that they are young or naive and simply following a trend that most people view as inappropriate but they don't see that way.

Both groups may interpret the outfit as "sexy", but one sees it as transgressive and the other is oblivious to this.

Transgressive or not, the point is that both, whether naive or foolish, know that the dress is provocotive or "cool" and likely to draw [sexual] attention. I think that saying women don't know they are dressing "sexy" is disingenuous at best. Most women know that their dress (or lack thereof) can define how they are perceived by others, especially men. If women do not wish to draw the attention of others, it is relatively easy to not do so.

Interpretations of culpability or motivation vary a lot based on context - blaming the clothes or, much worse, the physical shape of the woman, is simplistic and unhelpful.

Certainly physical shape is beyond most people's control ( I don't recall implying that is was not), but dress is a choice. Choice of dress, and the message that dress conveys, is the responsibility of the person. We all make choices everyday how to dress, based on how we want others to perceive us. Simplistic and unhelpful, yes. But true. Thats not blaming the cloths, its placing responsibility on the person.

otterick

James: I'm surprised no-one has mentioned one obvious reason for the change: that men might find tough, independent and ambitious women more attractive than vulnerable, submissive or passive women. I figure they're going to do what ever gets issues sold, and it's more likely they're responsing to consumer demand that devising a nefarious scheme to co-opt male anger or neuter feminist criticism.>>

You have quite the flair for the obvious there, James. One might say you don't have to rethink your ways of seeing.

But, I think what Hugo's saying is that when Playboy states that a certain playmate is strong and self-determined but portrays her in vulnerable postures it elicits in men fantasies of defeating her strength.

So, this is what I'm wondering. If Hugo were to find that women are attracted to men who are strong and confident but also have touches of vulnerability would he come to such negative conclusions about them? In poker parlance, I'm all in.

For those who have lived and don't have to rethink their seeing (or think about seeing at all) it's plainly obvious that PEOPLE like PEOPLE who are generally strong and confident but have touches of vulnerability. People don't like people who are always strong. People don't like people who are always weak.

Hugo, I've read your board for quite some time while rarely posting and I do so because your postings are generally thought-provoking and the more so because I usually disagree with you. But this post, Hugo, is dumbass and that's giving you the benefit of the doubt that it's not reflective of self-loathing and/or man-hate.

But, I can't give you that benefit regarding your notion that "the girl next door" is some kinda revenge-fuck fantasy. That's over the top. As uninteresting as it might be, the obvious answer is once again the correct one. The girl next door is appealing because she evokes feelings of commonality and friendship. It's healthy. I hope you don't find that disappointing.

And James is right - Playboy doesn't give a flyin' frog's fatass what feminists think. Are you kidding?

Vacula

Most women know that their dress (or lack thereof) can define how they are perceived by others, especially men. If women do not wish to draw the attention of others, it is relatively easy to not do so. Choice of dress, and the message that dress conveys, is the responsibility of the person.

Of course people are responsible for the choices they make, but that doesn't makes them responsible for every person's perception of their choices.

a woman that dresses in a manner that deliberately accentuates her curves and who is trying to "look sexy"

This is where I have trouble with your idea of intention. I don't think you're really looking at the way the fashion trends have changed the way women's bodies are emphasized and the ways many girls/women think about words like "sexy." Again, look at the ways young girls are wearing clothes that draw attention to body parts that won't fully develop for years. Talk to preteens. Listen to the way they use "sexy" as a synonym for "cute" or "stylish" - they aren't being salacious Lolitas just because they accept what the fasion industry gives them.

And it isn't just preteens. What I was trying to point out in my other example was that there is a generational divide when it comes to acceptable, ordinary standards for things like satin and lace in scantier combinations. Of course they are being marketed as "sexy" - but they are also being marketed as "ordinary business garb" - not just date or party clothes, but clothes to wear when you're trying to look put together in order to feel accomplished.

"Sexy" in this sense doesn't have to be about the male gaze: as Erin said, it can be about appreciating your own shape and trying to feel well-dressed. I think "sexy" is a stupid word to use for that, but what else is there? When a woman's particular physical shape is equated with her sexual attractiveness (as you did), it's hard to enjoy adorning your own body without people getting confused about your intentions.

Women are being told to be all things at all times, and it's very confusing. I do think the designers have invitation in mind, but that isn't necessarily the message they're giving women in the advertisements - women are being told they are more independent and strong minded when they choose to look "sexy" in non-sexual situations. But this supposed sexual "empowerment" puts them in a vulnerable position when their intentions are completely misinterpreted.

And otterick, Hugo wouldn't be against anyone being both strong and vulnerable - but being viewed as a vulnerable sexual object is very different than being emotionally or relationally vulnerable.

Erin C.

>And a logical consequence of that might also be that
>someone else likes the way that she looks.

Well, certainly, but it doesn't make that person any less of a jerk if he decides that his liking the way she looks entitles him to treat her however he likes. His reaction is his own responsibility.

On a more general note (i.e. not directed at Gonzman), the conversations on this blog are really something else. On one hand we have MRAs disparagingly describing feminists as "hairy-legged," and on the other, we have the same MRAs saying that women are responsible for how men respond if they dress up to look nice. Which is it -- are women supposed to dress up or hide themselves behind a burlap sack? As Vacula said, it's the same old catch-22. If you're unattractive to men, you get hooted at on the street, while if you're attractive to men... you get hooted at on the street.

This is the nature of objectification -- being treated like a thing without agency of her own, only there as a piece of sculpture for the viewer to react to however s/he likes regardless of how the viewee feels about it.

Patr

I think women who dress to show off their bodies are trying to weed out the "wrong" men. At least the men that are "wrong" in the women's perspective. They are showing off to men they think are desireable while trying to intimidate men they feel are weaker.
So in a sense it is men being objectified. Hugo says he is willing to not let women off the hook and that men should be accountable. I would say that everyone had to be accountable as individuals. Anyone can be objectified.

Erin C.

>I think women who dress to show off their bodies are trying to
> weed out the "wrong" men. At least the men that are "wrong"
>in the women's perspective. They are showing off to men they
>think are desireable while trying to intimidate men they feel are
> weaker. So in a sense it is men being objectified. Hugo says
>he is willing to not let women off the hook and that men
>should be accountable. I would say that everyone had to be
>accountable as individuals. Anyone can be objectified.

I've never gotten the impression that this is a motivation for any significant percentage of women, but supposing it is... how is this objectification? Am I misreading something?

By no means do I think it's impossible for a woman to objectify a man, BTW, whether it takes the form of valuing a man for his bank account, full stop, or intently checking out a guy's rear end and making comments to her girlfriend, but what Patr describes sounds like something else entirely.

Vacula

Patr, where on earth do you get that? How could you possibly prove that women who dress attractively (I assume that's what you mean by "show off their bodies" - blegh) are doing so to put down "weaker" men?

I completely buy Hugo's argument in "Sisterhood Is Easier in Winter" that women sometimes dress attractively in order to intimidate less "acceptable" women, but your statement is much less about competition with women and much more about competition for women.

This is a perfect example of my point to Uzzah that women shouldn't be held accountable for the range of reactions people have about the way they dress.

Anthony

There was an article in Cosmopolitan some time ago, which breathlessly hyped a rather interesting phenomenon - men are beginning to look for women who are success-objects, too. I think that Playboy's highlighting of their models' toughness is more about portraying them as potential success objects (potential, because most are too young to already be very successful yet) than any direct attack on feminism or changing gender roles.

ALso, I disagree with Hugo about the poses in Playboy - I only rarely see "vulnerability", I usually see "relaxed and willing", which is an entirely different emotional state. And sometimes I see "laughably silly", but that's not pernicious, either.

Q Grrl

Patr: 100% of women are not 100% heterosexual 100% of the time. Sometimes women wear clothes just to wear clothes. Has nothing to do with men at all. Or men's sexuality.

Patr

My point was that some women, not all, will dress a certain way in order to attract "certain" men. They could also be dressing the way they do for more than one reason. I understand Qgirl's point about women not doing that 100% of the time but one can say that no one does a particular thing 100% of the time.
As I said before, ANYONE can be objectified.

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