Archive for March, 2014

So, it’s been a while. Sorry, folks. I’ve had something of a break from being John Salmon recently. No blogging, no Facebook, no article reading; well, nowhere near as much as before anyway. I’m sure, somewhere down the line, I’ll explain where I went and why I felt the need to do it, but today isn’t that day and, to be brutally honest, that’s not really any of your business.

I’ve mentioned before that I try and write these blogs while they still retain some level of relevance, so that I don’t miss out on the inevitable shift of outrage that happens every few days. I’ve also mentioned that, sometimes, it’s hard to decide which blogs really need publishing and which don’t. If I feel a topic has been done to death I try to stay away, there are so many good bloggers out there that I really don’t need to be pitting myself against them unless I’m desperate to come a distant second. However, if there’s a topic that’s either been missed by people, has been interpreted in a different way than the way I interpret it or it simply just resonated personally with me then I’ll write about it. It’s getting harder to choose which stories to write about because there’s so much outrage generated on a daily basis that I don’t have the time to write about them all.

This video seems to be doing the rounds at the moment:

It’s a prank video showing a man dressing up in tight yoga pants/leggings and fooling male passers-by into thinking he’s a woman, then confronting them about it. This is in response to the ‘you have no idea how hard it is to be a woman’ line that he had heard from his friend.

Generally, I have no problem with prank videos, I don’t particularly enjoy them, I don’t find them funny and I often find the people behind them to be unlikeable pricks. However, this one was causing so much commotion around my Facebook lists (and bear in mind I have two accounts and combined 300+ friends) that I figured I’d watch it. I can’t even remember how I first got to it, but I know it wasn’t directly through Youtube. I’m tempted to say Upworthy, but I generally stay away from that piece of shit site. If not Upworthy then some other vapid, conceited site that fills its titles with hyperbolic words and phrases to ensure maximum outrage is attained.

Anyway, the whole point of the video is, supposedly, to highlight the ‘male gaze’ and how women in society always feel violated when men gaze and them. Of course, it also has a second point; to expose and reveal the latent homophobia that courses through the veins of every man. Of course, as with anything I write about, it’s not as simple as that, but don’t let a little bit of analysis stop you from boarding the outrage train.

I’m going to mention, before I ramble on too much and forget, a metaphor my dad taught me that I’ve mentioned a couple of times. I should mention that my dad and I weren’t talking about mens rights when we did this, just about looking for things generally. For those who haven’t seen me talk about this I call it the ‘red/blue metaphor’.

Put simply, imagine a bookcase full of red and blue items. What the items are is irrelevant; the only thing of importance at the moment is that the bookcase is full of an assortment of red and blue items. Put a minute on a timer and, before that minute counts down to zero, count/identify as many red items as you can. Just the red items. Either count them or try to remember what they are. When that minute is up, turn your back to the bookcase and, without hesitating, try to remember how many/what blue items there were. It’s difficult isn’t it? That’s because you weren’t told to look at the blue items, you were told to look at the red items. It’s pretty simple; you look at what you’re told to look at and disregard things that are inconsequential to that particular task.

If we take a different approach and I was to say that all the red items were examples of misogyny, and all the blue items were examples of misandry does it become a little bit easier to see why I think sexism towards women is not ‘rampant’ in our society?

That’s the red/blue metaphor. It’s a very simple way of looking at it, I know, and it’s a completely unscientific study that my dad taught me in his garage, but it sums up my outlook perfectly. If we are constantly directed to only seeing one particular behaviour, in this case misogyny, is it any wonder we think that it’s the prevailing behaviour? If we are only directed to observe red items does it matter that the blue items, possibly, outnumber the red items? I’m not saying examples of misandry outnumber examples of misogyny, just that it’s almost impossible to take an objective view of society if you are only ever being fed one particular viewpoint.

That’s one of the problems with the video above, and with the Oppressed Majority video I looked at a few weeks ago, it comes from a societal position that is already saturated with examples of sexism towards women. With absolutely nothing to counter what we see in the video, we are fed a very one-sided, often unfair, look at the world, and then told it’s a prime example of how difficult women have it, leading us to just accept it as truth. As ever, I’m not saying women don’t face difficulties, it just grates on me when I see a video that screams ‘look at how bad every single woman has it’ when there is no appreciation of the women who don’t have it that bad and seems to ignore the plight and troubles that I, and others, go through.

One of the 2 big things that bug me about the above video is the way the man goes about it. Yes, he’s wearing tight yoga pants and, yes, men do walk past and look, but I want to compare the way he goes about it with another video that, quite unsurprisingly, has not been granted anywhere near the same level of exposure, despite being around longer.

I’m not here to make a judgement on any of the people in the two videos, as far as I’m concerned it’s natural to look at members of the opposite sex and I have no problem with people doing it. It crosses the line when people make unnecessary comments, but that’s a point for later.

What I do want to look at is the way the two men go about their videos. In the second one, of women looking at his ‘bulge’ he’s very passive. He makes it clear that he appears to either be reading or asleep while the women are looking at his bulge. Some of the women try to be discreet, some don’t. Either way, he doesn’t make a scene, he doesn’t force it on the women, he doesn’t (or at least he claims he doesn’t) make it obvious to the women, he just observes them staring at his crotch and then posts the video on the internet for people to see.

The yoga pants prankster takes a different approach. Rather than just setting up the camera and catching men looking at his arse as they walk past, he deliberately puts himself in provocative poses that are designed and intended to get responses. He has his rear end stuck out for all to see, while hiding his face.

Compare the two, a ‘woman’ in tight pants is putting her arse out there for all to see, then gets upset when ‘she’ catches people looking vs a man who is just sitting on a train going about his business while women ogle and leer at him. Again, I’m not saying I have a problem, it’s a natural thing to look at members of the opposite sex. I’m simply saying that the presentation of both videos, which produce the same result, are massively different. If you want to consider the pranks as a ‘social experiment’ then I would be lead to believe the ‘bulge watchers’ is a better example than ‘yoga man’. The simple fact, for me, is that yoga man loses credibility by posing the way he does, then lambasting people for their reaction. If he wanted to show examples of the ‘male gaze’ and how rampant it is, he shouldn’t have needed to pose in such provocative ways.

Not only that, he then becomes confrontational and gets animated, challenging the people who had been watching him. Some people I’ve seen comment think it works, think that challenging the men (and two women) there and then is the best way to go about it. I’d disagree, but I’ll talk more about why later.

The difference between the two is simple, the crotch cam is simply set up to try and catch women looking at his crotch, it’s one of the very few ‘blue’ items I could find that highlighted women look at men in the same manner men look at women.  There’s no confrontation, he’s not trying to embarrass the women, just highlight a particular point he finds interesting.

The yoga pants man, rather than simply highlighting a problem in the same way, then goes about trying to provoke the men into some kind of reaction. It’s in this instance that the second observation of the video, the latent homophobia within men, seems incredibly forced and artificial. You’ve pretended to be a woman to catch a man staring, then when you’ve revealed yourself, rather than actually talking to the men to see why they were looking, he tries to deliberately provoke them in to making a reaction, and seemingly succeeds with the last man. How much of that, apparently violent, reaction is down to latent homophobia, and how much is down to simply being pissed off at the harassment you are now getting? It’s hard to tell.

There’s a video on Youtube of Penn Jillette (apologies if I’ve butchered his name) talking about how televised magic isn’t ‘real’ magic. It boils down to this – you can edit it. His point was simple, if you take a deck of cards out on to the streets of New York and do a card trick for two hours, the law of averages states that at some point the trick will work. What you see on the final television programme is an edit of the times the trick worked. Watch from 2:00 onwards:

The point is the same here. Both of the above videos benefit from the power of editing. For all we know there could be more examples of the prank not working, yet we are only presented with the ones that do work. There could be more examples of women looking at the man’s backside than men, but in the video we only see one example of that. I’m not saying I know what’s right, I’m simply saying that, as always, it’s never as simple as it seems. An edited 5 minute video showing you everything you want to see in order to confirm your own views on a certain subject is in absolutely no way a cast-iron indicator if rampant sexism, no more than the video of the bulge watchers is proof that all women are cock-obsessed whores.

The telling difference is the reaction between the two videos. Yoga man seems to have taken on a lot more of a personality than the bulge watchers. Despite it being around for less time it’s managed to find its way on to sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, sites that have an inherent feminist feel to them, and has gone viral. It’s being presented as absolute proof of the male gaze, despite being filmed in one parking lot, in one location on, seemingly, one day. It’s just one more in a long line of videos and memes that seems to promote the idea of the male gaze as oppressive, harassing and derogatory. It’s seen as something dangerous, something that women should fear, something that leads to rape and abuse and all other manner of evil masculine traits that need to be obliterated.

From the responses to the bulge watchers video I’ve encountered something interesting. Completely predictable but interesting nonetheless – the ‘woman’ in the yoga pants video is a victim, but, get this, the women in the bulge watching video are also victims. I know, insane isn’t it? But, that’s exactly the response the video got when my friend posted it on his Facebook feed.

Apparently, the difference between male and female objectification is very simple – men are not afraid of being raped by the women objectifying them. Yeah, my friend and I had a discussion about that line of thinking when we next saw each other and, unsurprisingly, we thought it was an absolutely ludicrous point of view. He explained to me that he’d posted it as a light-hearted example that ‘women were pervs too’. It’s a viewpoint I agree with, it’s not unhealthy to find attraction in the opposite sex, and to promote the view that a) men do it more and b) it’s somehow dangerous is applying, yet again, an unnecessary sense of victimhood. Implying that women are in constant fear of being raped and assaulted by men who ‘objectify’ them is applying an unnecessary sense of victimhood.

The most interesting, and perhaps most ludicrous, comment from said commenter was that because the women didn’t know they were being filmed while staring at the man’s crotch, effectively being ‘tricked’ into looking, they were actually the victims of the piece, not the man being leered at. Yeah, explain that one to me. Women being leered at are victims, women leering are victims. Watch out, we’ve got a White Knight over here! Can you tell me the reaction I’d get if I went public with my claim that the men in the yoga pants video were ‘victims’ because they’d been ‘tricked’ into looking at what they thought was a woman’s arse? I can hear the laughter building now!

When it comes to objectification, we are constantly told that women are sexually objectified, treated like ‘sex objects’ or ‘fuck toys’, things to be used and then cast aside, objects to satisfy male desires, holes to be fucked and then discarded, cast aside. We are lead to believe that ‘objectification’ actually means ‘sexual objectification’ and it only applies when men do it to women.

Funnily enough, that’s not what the dictionary states:

So objectify is simply to treat as an object. ‘Sexual objectification’ doesn’t actually exist in the dictionary; the word is simply ‘objectification’. So, in essence, anything and everything can be objectified to some degree. Do I discount the experiences of women that are objectified? No, of course not. Do I deny that men objectify women? No, of course not. The point I’m making, as ever, is very simple – ‘objectification’ is a natural thing that occurs in both sexes.

I could do a huge Google search of sexual objectification of men, but a) I don’t have the time or energy and b) I can guarantee my search would serve pretty fruitless. Yeah sure, there’s stuff out there, like this:

But, compared to the examples of sexual objectification of women, I know they’d be thin on the ground. Not because I believe it doesn’t exist, just that no-one seems to care enough when women objectify men. No-one seems to acknowledge its existence, let alone see it as sexist, or dangerous, or dehumanising, or any of the other words and phrases assigned to the male gaze. In fact, female objectification of males seems to be positively encouraged. I’ve seen 60+ year old women objectify 20 year old men playing rugby. Switch the sexes and that becomes very sinister, doesn’t it?!

What I have found, though, is that males are objectified in another way as well, one that women seem to escape. If women are seen as sexual objects to be used and then discarded, then men are often seen as walking wallets, walking ATMs, walking wealth indicators. They are judged by their material worth, their material possessions, their ability to provide for their woman, their ability to sustain and care for their woman, to allow their woman to live a life of luxury and elegance.

These videos highlight what I’m talking about, yet, again, they seem to be making very small ripples in the online community, much smaller than Mr Yoga Pants in the above video:

Yeah ok, so the last one is a mini-film, but the sentiment is exactly the same. We aren’t told about his kind of objectification, we aren’t told about men being judged by their wealth, their influence, their power. We are told about women being judged by their bodies, we aren’t told about men being judged by how much money they make.

I saw this pop up on my Facebook feed today:

Are you interested in seeing how popular it was? I thought you might be:

Over 100,000. Of course, there are women in the comments disagreeing with the picture, I would expect that from any meme, but regardless, those numbers are pretty impressive. Since I took that capture it’s probably increased, but I didn’t save the link, for some reason, so I can’t go back and take a look. The point this raises is one that I’ve been putting across this whole blog – sexual objectification is not the only way to objectify someone. Men get sexually objectified too, but it’s very rare, if ever, to see a women being objectified on how much she earns, or how much power and influence that brings.

I’ve seen this a few times as well, a comparison between the way men and women are objectified on the cover of GQ magazine:×349.jpg

There are various forms of that particular image on the web, but the question remains the same: why are the men fully dressed while the women are naked? The question is worded in such a way as to present the women as the victims, to highlight the inherent sexism within men’s magazine, to imply that women are only worthy of going on the cover of a magazine when they are in some state of undress.

All questions of consent and willingness aside, the meme posted above explains this very well; both are being objectified. The women are being shown to be sexually available, sexually free and liberated, the men are objectified to show their level of wealth and the power and influence it brings.

So, why do we only seem to focus on women being objectified? Simple, because a) we are only ever told sexual objectification happens to women and b) we are only ever told sexual objectification of women is a problem. When men are sexually objectified nobody seems to give a damn, it’s simply good-natured fun for women. When men are objectified according to their status, their wealth, their power and influence no-one even seems to realise what kind of objectification it is.

Do I have a problem with it? No, honestly I don’t. As I said earlier in the piece, the problems arise when simple objectification, or admiration, of the opposite sex crosses over into harassment, but simply enjoying the beauty of a woman, or a man, I don’t see as indicative of inherent sexism within society. If it truly was a male gaze problem I’d concede there was some semblance of a point, but there is proof out there, no matter how limited, that women objectify men on the same level as men objectify women, just in different ways. I’d wager that a few more ‘social experiments’ focusing on women would yield entirely unsurprising results.

Completely by accident, I found another video, showing another way in which men are objectified; their strength and power:

Tenuous? Probably, but it just goes to show how you can apply objectification to pretty much anything. Picking men to help you simply because you judge them to be powerful enough to complete the task you require completing is objectification. You are seeing them as an object to use and exploit, a tool to complete the task you are unable to complete yourself.

Of course, this is a setup and you could argue that it doesn’t count. You could also find videos disproving the ‘gold digger’ prank (and trust me, you only have to look on Youtube to see people trying) but the
point that raises stays the same for all videos of this ilk – if you can disprove the gold digger video, or at least prove the prank fails more times than it succeeds, then it also stands to reason that you can disprove, or at least provide the same idea of fail-to-win ratio, the yoga man’s video. How many times did he have to stand with his arse pointing in the air before someone looked? The power of editing can make a video seem as good or bad as you desire.

Objectification – it happens all the time, but apparently it’s only a problem when men do it. Thanks, feminism!