It is illegal for women to go topless in most cities, yet you can buy a magazine of a woman without her top on at any 7-11 store. So, you can sell breasts, but you cannot wear breasts, in America.
Women feel more guilt than men, not because of some weird chromosomal issue but because they have a history of being blamed for other people’s behavior. You get hit, you must have annoyed someone; you get raped, you must have excited someone; your kid is a junkie, you must have brought him up wrong.
Here’s the thing. Men in our culture have been socialized to believe that their opinions on women’s appearance matter a lot. Not all men buy into this, of course, but many do. Some seem incapable of entertaining the notion that not everything women do with their appearance is for men to look at. This is why men’s response to women discussing stifling beauty norms is so often something like “But I actually like small boobs!” and “But I actually like my women on the heavier side, if you know what I mean!” They don’t realize that their individual opinion on women’s appearance doesn’t matter in this context, and that while it might be reassuring for some women to know that there are indeed men who find them fuckable, that’s not the point of the discussion.
Women, too, have been socialized to believe that the ultimate arbiters of their appearance are men, that anything they do with their appearance is or should be “for men.” That’s why women’s magazines trip over themselves to offer up advice on “what he wants to see you wearing” and “what men think of these current fashion trends” and “wow him with these new hairstyles.” While women can and do judge each other’s appearance harshly, many of us grew up being told by mothers, sisters, and female strangers that we’ll never “get a man” or “keep a man” unless we do X or lose some fat from Y, unless we moisturize//trim/shave/pushup/hide/show/”flatter”/paint/dye/exfoliate/pierce/surgically alter this or that.
That’s also why when a woman wears revealing clothes, it’s okay, in our society, to assume that she’s “looking for attention” or that she’s a slut and wants to sleep with a bunch of guys. Because why else would a woman wear revealing clothes if not for the benefit of men and to communicate her sexual availability to them, right? It can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that it’s hot out or it’s more comfortable or she likes how she looks in it or everything else is in the laundry or she wants to get a tan or maybe she likes women and wants attention from them, not from men?
The result of all this is that many men, even kind and well-meaning men, believe, however subconsciously, that women’s bodies are for them. They are for them to look at, for them to pass judgment on, for them to bless with a compliment if they deign to do so. They are not for women to enjoy, take pride in, love, accept, explore, show off, or hide as they please. They are for men and their pleasure.
If a girl is lucky enough to receive any sex education, she will be taught the biological basics. She’ll learn that men have penises and testicles and produce sperm and women have vaginas and uterii and produce ova. She’ll learn that when a man and a woman have sex, the man inserts his penis into the woman’s vagina until he ejaculates. She’ll learn that the semen in the ejaculate will render her vulnerable to pregnancy so she will have to protect herself by using a hormonal or a barrier contraceptive. Hormonal contraception is preferable because barrier methods such as condoms, while safer for women, apparently reduce sensation for men which is obviously a no-no. It’s much better that a woman take a pill every day for her entire reproductive lifespan, or get a painful injection every 12 weeks, or have a copper rod inserted into her uterus, or a silicone rod implanted into her arm. She probably won’t learn that 3 out of 4 women never orgasm from vaginal intercourse. She almost definitely won’t learn how women do achieve orgasm. She’ll learn her place as a receptacle.
But as far as I’m concerned, none of this actually trumps Moffat’s single most baffling achievement as a writer, now successfully accomplished in successive seasons: he is better than anyone else I know at taking a Victorian story, translating it into the 21st century, and making it MORE sexist than the original in the process. That’s a pretty impressively abject feat.
I support men’s rights as much as humanly possible (after all, I’m not a man, so while I do what I can to end discrimination, certain issues like male-on-male violence I cannot affect) and often feel like I support them more than MRAs do. It’s ridiculous.
They are not a movement, they are a hate group.
In pop culture, girls who crush hopelessly on guys they can’t have are painted as just that – hopeless. Over and over again, we’re taught that girls who openly express sexual or romantic interest in guys who don’t want them are pitiable, stalkerish, desperate, crazy bitches. More often than not, they’re also portrayed as ugly – whether physically, emotionally or both – in order to further establish their undesirability as an objective fact. Both narratively and, as a consequence, in real life, men are given free reign to snub, abuse, mislead and talk down to such women: we’re raised to believe that female desire is unseemly, so that any consequent shaming is therefore deserved. There is no female-equivalent Friend Zone terminology because, in the language of our culture, a man’s romantic choices are considered sacrosanct and inviolable. If a girl has been told no, then she has only herself to blame for anything that happens next – but if a woman says no, then she must not really mean it. Or, if she does, she shouldn’t: the rejected man is a universally sympathetic figure, and everyone from moviegoers to platonic onlookers will scream at her to just give him a chance, as though her rejection must always be unfounded rather than based on the fact that he had a chance, and blew it. And even then, give him another one! The pathos of Single Nice Guys can only be eased by pity-sex with unwilling women that blossoms into romance!
'Skating, for Tonya, is her ticket out of the gutter.' That's what figure skating coach Diane Rawlinson said of rising teen star Tonya Harding, who she had plucked from a broken Portland home and shot onto the ice in the mid-1980s. 'She lives in a terrible rental house. There’s no supervision at all. She has no direction. Tonya would have nothing in her life if it wasn’t for her skating.'
We all know what happened next. Harding’s husband, Jeff Gillooly, conspired to whack Nancy Kerrigan out of competition at a practice session before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the event that would determine the American delegates to that year’s Winter Olympics. Kerrigan recovered and won the silver medal, then reigned over Disney floats, game shows, TV specials, and charity spokeswoman gigs. Harding biffed her Olympic routine, pled guilty to conspiring to hinder the prosecution of the attack, and was barred from competition for life. She turned to exploitation films, celebrity boxing, and landscaping work. She never got her ticket out[…]
As Nanette Burstein’s documentary makes clear, the Kerrigan-Harding affair unfolded in a commercial landscape in which economic potential hinges on appearance as much as it does athleticism. By the early ’90s, Kerrigan and Harding were toe-to-toe in American figure skating competition, but when it came to monetizing their skills, Kerrigan was skating on an elevated plain. Though both athletes emerged from working-class backgrounds, Kerrigan was blessed with patrician good looks and a sophisticated air that easily courted corporate sponsorships and Hollywood attention. “Nancy looked like she was wealthy,” is how Boston Globe reporter John Powers puts it in the documentary. Harding, counters Connie Chung, was the “girl with frizzy blonde hair from the wrong side of the tracks.” And their performance styles reinforced the divide: While Harding powered through technical routines, Kerrigan danced.
And so Kerrigan’s face soon became as famous as her feats on the ice. She began raking in endorsements early in her career, filming spots for Campbell’s soup, L’Oreal, and Reebok; in 1992, she starred in a televised Christmas special. But even when Harding became the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition, in 1991, no one wanted her to sell anything. “She was a great skater. I was a great skater. But she was treated like this big queen,” Harding says in the documentary. “She’s a princess, and I’m a pile of crap.” At one point in the film, Harding recalls wearing a bright-pink costume in competition that she had sewn herself. “It was really pretty!” she says. But “one of the judges came up to me afterwards and said … ‘If you ever wear anything like that again at a U.S. championship, you will never do another one.’” Harding shot back that until the judges gave her $5,000 to buy a designer piece, “You can get out of my face!” Meanwhile, Kerrigan had Vera Wang designing her costumes gratis.
As competition heated up before the 1994 Olympic Games, Harding pinned all of her athletic and economic hopes on the gold. If she cinched the medal, she believed that “someone would ask her to endorse something,” as Chung, who covered the scandal for CBS, says. While Kerrigan could profit off of personality and appearance without taking the gold (she won a bronze in 1992 and a silver in 1994), Harding needed to defeat everyone else, at any cost, to collect anything from her skating prowess[…]
But what would have happened had Harding won? Perhaps she had miscalculated. Even if she had managed to neutralize Kerrigan at the Olympics and take home the gold, it’s unlikely that Harding would have inherited all of Kerrigan’s endorsements, too. She might no longer have been dismissed as “crap,” but she’d never be the queen. And the numbers suggest that, for female athletes, winning still isn’t everything. Last year, Maria Sharapova earned almost twice as much endorsement money as Serena Williams—$23 million to $12 million—even though Williams has racked up twice as many points as Sharapova in singles competitions over the past year and has beaten Sharapova 14 consecutive times. Twelve mil is still a decent amount of scratch—and Sharapova is also an excellent player—but the fact remains that Williams has to work harder to make less money.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a popular male athlete who doesn’t also have physicality and sex appeal,” Kevin Adler, founder of Engage Marketing, told Women’s Wear Daily last year in a piece about the tenuous marketability of women in sports. “But that comes second to winning for guys, whereas for female athletes, looks come first.” And for women, having the “look” requires appearing feminine enough to neutralize the masculine connotations of athleticism in general by dressing in pageant-ready costumes or hitting Playboy-esque poses. As my colleague Hanna Rosin observed during the 2010 Olympics, the marketability of female athletes continues to hinge on fulfilling either a virginal ice princess ideal or a bikini-clad ski bunny one.
This weekend, the US Figure Skating Association made a rare move by naming 22-year-old skater Ashley Wagner to the Olympic team [instead of champion skater Mirai Nagasu], even though Wagner failed to crack the top three at the national figure skating championships that traditionally serve as the unofficial Olympic trials. Was the decision to boost Wagner a calculated choice based on her skating record? Or was the decision influenced by the fact that the figure skating association—and NBC—had already begun framing the lithe, blonde Wagner as their media darling?
Amanda Hess, “Tonya Harding Thought Skating Would Make Her Rich. It Never Would Have”