A year and a half ago a Brazilian comedian tweeted comments about a woman’s way of dress. He said that if women took photos showing off their asses they should expect to be treated as objects and shouldn’t complain. He concluded ‘They say women are influenced to turn into these sh*ts’.
A few months ago someone posted on Facebook how much they liked a female journalist’s work. The first comment, quite off topic, was written by a man and it said ‘She’d get it’.
There are two things that connect these situations: the blatant objectification of women and the weak justifications that came after. When he was called out on it, the comedian, YouTube star Felipe Neto, defended himself with the ol’ censorship excuse: ‘repressing criticism generates the true discrimination’, he said, after claiming he would have said the same about a shirtless man.
The guy who commented on Facebook never explained himself because I never called him out. But I mentioned it to someone else and he said he didn’t find it offensive because if the status had been about a man and a woman had commented the same thing he wouldn’t feel offended. Ergo, if it’s not offensive to a man, it cannot possibly be offensive to a woman.
Despite the two women having two completely different images, they were both dehumanized. And the explanations for this kind of behaviour reeks of ‘What about the menz?’. Neto, instead of trying to understand why women would be offended by his ‘criticism’, went on about how he was being repressed and why he is allowed to say what he wants. His response was facetious and it pretty much minimized the work and writing of feminists who had, rightly, pointed fingers at him.
As for the Facebook status, instead of trying to think with a woman’s perspective, the question to identify offense was ‘Would a man be offended by this?’, which is never the right question to ask because the man is the oppressor. It would be like pondering on something that offended a black person and asking ‘Would this offend a white person?’ – no, it probably wouldn’t because white people have not been oppressed for centuries. Just like men have not been sexually oppressed and dehumanized for centuries.
Whether you like it or not a history of oppression defines today’s society. ‘Equality’ doesn’t mean being able to equally dehumanize each other, but rather an effort to treat all people the same and not demean them to their sexuality.
The first example is classic slut-shaming and dictating what women should or should not wear. Neto is judging women for what they wear and assuming that they want to be treated as objects because of the length of their skirts. Obviously there is no other reason why they would take photos wearing thongs, showing off their butts, right? Actually, there are several reasons: they want to, they like their butt, they feel empowered or they are self-objectifying.
In her book ‘The Equality Illusion’ Kat Banyard speculates that the pressure of being attractive is so strong that women end up self-objectifying, only finding their worth in their own bodies and nowhere else. Banyard says that women often take photos like that because they are affected by the media, pop culture and other outside factors. She suggests that it is impossible to ignore and not discuss the factors and expectations of society that force women to make the obvious choice of measuring their worth according to their attractiveness.
Maybe Neto has an inkling of what’s going on, since he said women might be influenced into being ‘these sh*ts’ but he is still treating them as objects. He is blaming women for being objectified. He is part of the problem, and he will continue to be part of the problem if he keeps telling women they will be treated like objects because of what they wear because that’s not even true.
Women will be treated as objects regardless, just like that man who commented on the Facebook status proved. A woman can be a good professional, a successful journalists, an intelligent human being – but there will always be a man who says something as gross and as demeaning as ‘She’d get it’.
It’s disheartening for me, a female writer and journalist, to think that if someone praises my work one day someone else will respond with ‘She’d get it’. Yes, it was done on a private Facebook status but I still saw it. I saw with what eyes some men will look at my work and my career and it made me sad. And yeah, maybe ‘She’d get it’ and ‘She’s asking for it’ seems harmless enough, but a recent University of Surrey and Middlesex University study has revealed that very similar statements are made both by lads’ mags and rapists.
“A lot of these stereotypes — that women say no when they really mean yes, or are “asking for it” by going out with a man or wearing a short skirt — have indeed been normalized,” writes Anna North of Jezebel. “and it’s sad but not surprising that they appear in a lot of lad mags. Defenders of such statements like to frame them as innocent, or even helpful, observations. But perhaps the news that they sound just like rapists will make people — and magazines — rethink their words.”
It doesn’t matter if the woman went to Harvard or if she has naked photos being exchanged around the internet: women will always be objectified. Neto’s comment is just one excuse men use to do so. And an excuse to objectify women shouldn’t dictate what she wears because people deserve to be respected regardless of what they wear or where they went to school or what they look like.
If a man says a woman is ‘asking’ to be objectified they’re just trying to make themselves feel better because deep inside they know that they could stop that – but they don’t want to stop, so they deflect the blame. The power to not objectify and dehumanize women is with the oppressor.
Men, the power is, as always, with you.