Tag Archives: Misogyny

On misogyny in the gay community

[Content note: mention of anti-blackness slur, misogyny and homophobia]

Sometimes I get asked to go on BBC World Have Your Say, an awesome international service radio program that seeks to cover news and opinions around the world. Right before the World Cup I got asked to speak on the ridiculous World Cup song (and video) by J-Lo, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte.

Predictably, the video was full of damaging images of Brazilian women which I have no doubt encouraged foreign men to harass Brazilian women during the event. Brazil has been capitalizing on the bodies of Brazilian women for decades, particularly marketing the image of the ‘mulata’ as sexual, welcoming and easy. This stereotype is damaging in many ways that I won’t go into right now.

During the BBC segment that discussed the video, I was clear about my position: the cheap, lazy representation of Brazilian culture was extremely damaging, especially for women, who are routinely street harassed by both local and foreign men. After a lot of searching for a person who enjoyed the song to stimulate both sides of the debate, the producers of the show were able to find one guy.

After presenting my case, based on real life experiences of harassment (and again, I repeat: both from local and foreign men) and self-censorship because of my nationality’s sexualized stereotype, the guy broke in and said I was exaggerating. The exchange that followed went something like this:

Me: “As a man, you can`t speak on my experiences.”

Dude: “Bitch, I’m gay.”

Yep, this guy was so entitled that he thought it would be a good idea to call me a bitch on international radio. He had to assert his maleness with his oppression, because his sexual orientation somehow means that he can’t silence women (spoiler: he can, because he has male privilege).

This is why, when Rose McGowan said that “gay men are more misogynistic than straight men,” I didn’t bat an eyelash to defend gay men. It was wrong to quantify misogyny in such terms – I can’t do that, to go as far as to say that one is worse than the other. But this is something I have come into direct contact with.

Even if I could say which group is worse, that’s not the point (and it will never be the point). Misogyny in the gay community exists and it has to be addressed. The worst way to go about it is to say: “Wah! But straight guys are even worse!” That’s just shifting blame and denying that, even though you are oppressed in one instance, you were still raised in a patriarchal society that teaches hatred of women and femininity.

This is not, in any way, to deny that gay men suffer homophobia, prejudice and oppression daily. Part of this is perpetuated by straight women, as well – and that’s something we need to work on. We are all complicit to micro and macro aggression in everyday life but dismissing a genuine piece of criticism as ‘homophobia’ (thanks Stonewall) is not helpful to the deconstruction of these prejudices.

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The Dismissal of Womanly Pain and Pressure to be the Strong Woman

When I was thirteen, my fellow classmates made fun of my moustache and bushy eyebrows. The feminist woman I have become would like to say I ignored them and wore my facial hair with pride, but that is not what happened. I started waxing off the hairs on my upper lip and shaping my eyebrows – two things I continue to do today.

There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that. Women all over the world wax, shave, bleach and laser body hair to look smoother and more feminine. As a feminist, I have nothing against women who choose to remove body hair – after all, I do it myself – but it’s important for me to think about why I submit to the pain of waxing every month.

As I grew up from my moustached thirteen-year-old self, I started waxing other places too: my legs, my bikini line and even my toes. And it hurts. Oh, how it hurts. Why do I have to do this every month?

When I recently complained about this, someone told me: “Just don’t do it anymore, then.” That sounds pretty simple right? Just don’t obey the patriarchy. Just go to the beach with a hairy bikini line. Just look unprofessional with your bushy eyebrows. Just wear shorts and let your hairy legs show. Just make your body into a political statement.

The simplicity of that statement made me wonder about female pain and how it is often dismissed as unimportant. Both sides of this situation would bring me pain. If I own up to my body hair, I will be judged by a sexist, misogynist society. If I continue to remove it, I will have to deal with the pain of waxing and shaving and the medical issues that come with it.

This dismissal happens when going through pain to achieve smooth legs is considered normal and even required.

It happens when women are told street harassment is something they have to accept, even though women who are victims of it say they feel uncomfortable, objectified and afraid.

It happens when nine women accuse a man of abusing them, but we are still told to ‘hear both sides’.

It happens when nine out of ten women feel pain when their uterus is contracting to get rid of its lining but talking about periods and period pain is considered gross or ‘making a fuss’.

It happens when women are told they should’ve thought about the consequences of their actions when seeking abortion, even though all kinds of birth control can fail.

It happens when women are paid less but people argue that the wage gap is actually a myth.

It happens all the goddamn time.

While men are taught not to show their pain, women are routinely told their pain is not important. Women’s pain is normal because women are more emotional and hormonal, so why pay any attention to it? Often, women hide their pain away so as to not be annoying or be perceived as weak or too feminine.

We are asked to be the Strong Woman, which is an image I truly resent. No one ever says “He is a strong man” because men are presumed to be strong because of their masculinity – or the societal enforcement of said masculinity. This necessity to be a Strong Woman reinforces the idea that not being feminine and being more like men is better.

And let’s not forget that being the Strong Woman can be dangerous, speaking your mind, as a woman, can be life-threatening – on the internet or otherwise (Mary Spears was definitely strong when she told a man “no” and was killed for it). I see women who are perceived as Strong Women being harassed on the internet every day. Not to mention that a Strong Woman is often mistaken for a Bitch.

Women cannot win either way.

Consent 101

[TW: sexual assault, coercion and psychological abuse]

This post was inspired by accounts of sexual assault and abuse by ex-partners of famous YouTubers. Once the first complaint came out, many other girls reported similarly traumatizing experiences with these men. The most shocking accounts (to me) were that of the abuse of Tom Milson towards a 15 year old girl when he was 22 (a horrifying personal account of these events can be found here) and the rampant sexual and emotional manipulation of Alex Day which has been reported by five women so far (one / two / three / four / five). Although Alex Day has admitted to how much of an abusive, manipulative, objectifying person he is, he has not admitted to any sexual abuse/manipulation that led to sexual assault and actions that led to traumatic sexual experiences for his partners.

Although Tom Milsom’s relationship with a minor who is not old enough to consent is shocking, I feel that Day’s actions are equally, if not more, worrying, considering the amount of women who have written accounts of his behaviour and the type of concealed abuse and sexual coercion that is widely accepted in society. This behaviour is a common one, where men feel entitled to sex with a woman and assume sexual interest because of the woman’s previous interactions, behaviour and other factors. It could be true that in Alex’s mind he simply assumed, because he is a famous YouTube star who is often fawned over, every girl ever would want to sleep with him.

The line ‘Can we skip the bit where you say no before anything happens?’ was reportedly regularly used by him. He has written a response denying allegations however it is my opinion that he does not understand what consent is, how sexual politics should work in a landscape where both sexes are equal, and that his fame, gender and (supposed) good looks do not entitle him to anything.

This is what led me to write a handy guide to sexual consent and inter-partner communication. Feel free to comment and suggest additions to the post. I sincerely hope this post reaches the YouTube community, most importantly young women who are only just entering into their sexual lives. I was once a young(er) woman who let myself be led on, feel guilty for not engaging in sexual activity and give in when I wasn’t ready or up to it.

I also hope Alex Day reads this and further questions his own behaviour so that this does not happen with any other girl that happens to be around him.

What sexual consent is

– The enthusiastic, preferably verbal, manifestation of “Yes, I accept this sexual act”. However, consent can also be given by body language – if the person is kissing enthusiastically one could assume they want sexual contact. However, to avoid misunderstandings it is always recommended that you (a) Ask if they are OK to continue (b) Pay close attention to their body language and do not ignore the signs they are giving you because you really want to get laid and they are not explicitly saying no.

– A retractable factor of a sexual relationship. Once given, it can be taken away whenever the person feels uncomfortable with the act they are performing. A “NO” in the middle of an act that was previously consensual should result in the end of the sexual act. If the other party does not stop, this is sexual assault.

What sexual consent is not:

– The absence of a “no”. Consent is only clearly given when both parties enthusiastically want to have sex. If your partner is visibly giving in to you because they feel guilty or pressured this is sexual assault and you are, in the least, a huge jerk. At the most, you’re an abuser.

– A person who is drunk saying yes. If a person is very inebriated they are not able to consent.

– A relationship between a person under the age of consent with an older person  who is above the age of consent. People under the age of consent (children) are not able to give consent because they are susceptible to manipulation and grooming.

– A person who is passed out/asleep/incoherently inebriated cannot give consent. If a person is touched sexually while unconscious they are being sexually assaulted. Even if someone is on the couch, passed out, with their legs splayed open this is not an invitation. The only invitation that allows furthering sexual relations is an explicit one from a conscious person who is able to give consent.

– The assumption that a person wants sexual contact despite repeated rejections because of previous interactions between the two parties. Previous actions done by survivors that are typically used to victim blame: (a) flirting, (b) the fact you are in a relationship, (c) ‘provocative’ clothes, (d) making out a few minutes ago (a YES is always retractable) (e) gossip that calls your partner a ‘whore/slut/hoe’ or any bullsh*t names of the sort. What matters is the person’s wants at that moment and time, nothing that happened previously counts as a reason to force sexual intercourse.

Do not

– Insist on a sexual act after you are rejected. More often than not they are not playing hard to get. Respect their abilities as a human being to make mature, thought out decisions that do not benefit your wants for sexual contact. The world doesn’t revolve around you and not everyone wants to sleep with you.

– Assume anyone owes you sex because you paid for dinner, bought them a drink, gave them flowers, made a huge romantic gesture, etc, etc.

– Think you are entitled to sex in ANY WAY. Nobody owes you anything regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation and previous behaviours.

– Push your partner toward your crotch. Ask them. And respect them if the answer is no.

Do

– Ask if your partner is OK to proceed.

– Be aware of and try to read body language.  Many times people feel uncomfortable and guilty about stopping sexual contact because of previous ‘promises’, acts, behaviour and the belief that one party (mostly heterosexual women in relation to men, due to the patriarchal, sexist society we live in) owe their partner sex.

– Talk to your partner even if it is a one night stand. Always ask if a particular sexual act is acceptable. Do not, under any circumstance, spring a sexual act on them – communication is key. Communication is the only way to make sure both parties are protected from sexual abuse/coercion/manipulation.

Statistics & facts

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network):

Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted. (…) According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey –there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

On the reality of who rapists actually are (not a man in a dark alley way):

Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.1
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.1
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.1
28% are an intimate.1
7% are a relative (source)

On harassment:

“31% of female employees report being harassed at work.

70-90% of harassers repeat their conduct.

About 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed by men has more than tripled in recent years. (source)”

On sexual coercion:

Verbal Sexual Coercion: often words are used by someone using sexual coercion in an attempt to achieve sexual relations out of someone who has previously said no to sexual advances. The words that are used may be flattering, outright begging, calling names, arguing, lying or deliberately misleading. Examples of verbal sexual coercion may include the following: (a) “You know you want it.” (b) “I’m so hot for you.” (c) “Don’t make me stop now.” (d) “Don’t be a prude.”

Emotional Sexual Coercion: In this type of sexual coercion, a person takes advantage of trust, intimacy, or emotional instability to garner sexual favors. Emotional sexual coercion may include the following: (a) Exploitation of emotions of the other person, (a) Using emotional pressure, (c) Threatening that if sexual encounters do not occur, the friendship will be lost. (d) Using guilt for not being involved in a sexual activity, (e) Wearing one down through constant, emotional-laden phrases, (f) Saying things like, “If I don’t get sex from you, I’ll find it elsewhere.”, (g) Saying things like, “If you LOVE me, you’ll have sex with me.”, (h) Saying things like, “You’re not a virgin – why not have sex with me?” (I recommend you read this page thoroughly as it is an excellent definition of sexual coercion)

I hope this post has clears up any doubts about consent. In our present society sexism, rape culture, male entitlement and misogyny often interfere in sexual relationships that should be built on a landscape where both genders are 100% equal.

As to men who act like Alex Day has reportedly acted, I hope this post has educated you. I like to believe that all humans are capable of changing and acting in good faith. However if you have acted this way in the past do not expect forgiveness or sympathy from anyone. Even if you were previously uneducated about the above mandatory consent etiquette, you were still a jerk in the past and probably traumatized someone who trusted you with sexual intimacy.

And to all victims/survivors who have reported this kind of abuse, stay brave and thank you.

UPDATE(14/03/2014):

my response to an ‘admission’ of guilt from Alex Day
ways Alex Day ignored ‘NO’

If you have been sexually assaulted please contact RAINN for help and guidance.

Review: Lulu

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First I was appalled. No human being deserves to be treated as an object and publicly rated for their worth as a date, partner and/or hook up. After reading countless rants with the usual argument of ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’ and how this wasn’t a good move for feminism I decided to take my own conclusions and review the app myself.

This is how it works: all reviews are anonymous. The only thing other people will know about you is your level of intimacy with the boy being reviewed. He can be your crush, ex-boyfriend, former hook up, boyfriend or friend. Your questions will be based on your relationship to the boy.

And as expected the questions are pretty dumb, unrealistic and out of touch. It seems like the developers of this app objectified the users as well as the men being reviewed: what do girls want? Obviously they all want a wealthy, well-dressed, always-picks-up-the-tab, beautiful man. So they based their questions on this rather limited definition of women’s wishes.

Some examples of the questions:

What does he do on the internet? A) Pornography B) Look at Tiffany’s engagement rings.

When he makes jokes I… A) Feel sad for him B) Practice my acting: Ha Ha C) Chuckle D) Can’t stop laughing! E) Wonder if I should date him

Eeesh. Well, at least it’s not just a flat one to ten hotness rating à la Zuckeberg.

Lulu assumes that men themselves fit into boxes. He can be funny or not funny – he can’t be funny just sometimes. He can be fit and beautiful or ugly, there’s no space for any other kind of attractiveness except the conventional kind.

My verdict? It’s an app that will be made fun of for a while. Then people will get bored and stop using it. Simple as.

However I think this app raises pertinent questions about the sexist world we live today. It’s pretty clear to me that men being objectified can be an eye-opener for them. Maybe they can put themselves in the shoes of women and see how bad it feels.

One thing that annoys me about the men’s reaction to this and other objectification of males is the amount of coverage it gets though. I’ll give you an example.

A few years ago, here in Brazil, there was a commercial that depicted fat, hairy men as disgusting. Guess what: loads of fat, hairy men had a good ol’ cry about it, as if that was the worst thing in the whole world.

Aw, boo-hoo!

Try centuries of sexual objectification and repression. And when women complain about it we are called man-haters and killjoys. Yet, this stuff is given more attention to.

We can compare this ‘hairy’ commercial with a yogurt advert that went on Brazilian television last summer. It had a skinny woman fretting at the camera, and a voice asking “Are you ready for the summer?” The girl looks depressed and shakes her head – but don’t worry! This yogurt will help you lose weight or something.

I don’t know if anyone complained about it. There were no controversies. Nothing to see here! Just the usual objectification and misogyny brainwashing of women for the sake of capitalism.

My point is that even though men are completely right in complaining about Lulu there are instances where women are objectified that go completely unnoticed because it’s so normalized. And feminists like me have to point it out.

But then, we hate all men, amirite? I have no sense of humour.

I think one of my Facebook friends summed it up well on one of her statuses: “Is there anyone already saying that if men didn’t want to be badly reviewed they shouldn’t have sex with someone they don’t trust or this kind of idiotic excuse only comes up when naked videos of women leaks on the internet?”

Men: always the victims.

Women: always the guilty ones.

Lulu is not good for anyone. Neither gender should be objectified. So all of us should stop.

Men, you’ve got the power

smash it

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.

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Why don’t we call out Justin Timberlake on his rape culture songs?

justin-timberlake-the-2020-experience-photo-shoot-tom-munro-main

Let me preface this blog by saying that I love Justin Timberlake’s songs. He headlined the third day of the Rock in Rio festival and he oozes with talent and charisma. It’s truly incredible to see him on stage with his band, The Tennessee Kids – who are marvellous by the way, and looked to be having a blast dancing and playing.

But during a very challenging conversation today I realized that Justin doesn’t get nearly as much criticism as Robin Thicke when he sings songs that perpetuate rape culture. Of course Blurred Lines was designed to demean woman (as it was admitted by the lovely singer of the song) – as a woman I was deeply disturbed by the music video. I have never been offended by any of Justin’s videos but after thinking about it – though still admitting I love his music – it’s clear to me that he is another artist that has to be called out for being misogynistic and sexist.

Don’t be so quick to walk away, dance with me
I wanna rock your body, please stay, dance with me
You don’t have to admit you wanna play, dance with me
Just let me rock you ’til the break of day, dance with me

Rock Your Body, by Justin Timberlake

Though this song is about ten years old it seems it has a tone that is similar to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines – a man insisting on harassing a woman who has made clear she doesn’t ‘want it’. It’s the sense of entitlement men feel, that women are there to dance with them, to entertain them and if they don’t want to it’s okay to insist. And that’s really not okay.

Talk to me boy
Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song

Rock Your Body, by Justin Timberlake

That’s always the end game, isn’t it? It sounds like Justin is saying ‘I’ll have you naked after exhausting you with my attempts to seduce you and pressure you into bed with me’. This is where men get that if you’re pushy and if you believe that woman wants you, she will actually want you. That’s not how it works, pushy men are sexual harassers. I hate pushy men. Learn how to take no for an answer for God’s sake.

Once in a nightclub a man came up to me with one of the most awful lines I have ever heard. He said ‘Would you rather die or save yourself by farting?’

What does that even mean? I didn’t answer and walked away, but he followed me. And he tried again with a similar question to which I responded with an awkward, uncomfortable expression. I finally had to say I didn’t want to talk to him.

His response to this was call me a frigid bitch and pull down his trouser to show me his bottom. At the time my friends and I laughed it off – it’s pretty funny to be fair – but in hindsight that wasn’t only out of order but a show of complete male entitlement, which is something that is often present in Justin Timberlake’s lyrics.

I know you like it, I know you like it.

– Tunnel Vision, Justin Timberlake

I know you want it, I know you want it.

– Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke

These two lines are incredibly alike, which is a real shame because I really like Tunnel Vision and I don’t feel that the rest of the lyrics are in any way problematic. But similarities go beyond the intro of the song; JT’s video for the song is also full of naked women being sexy for him. Unlike Thicke’s video for Blurred Lines, this was considered art, but why? How are naked women in a video different than naked women in another video?

Perhaps it is because in Thicke’s video the women look completely submissive, dancing with toys, humping stuffed horses, dancing like clowns. It’s deeply disturbing to me, it’s creepy, and the intention of it wasn’t art it was to literally demean women. So maybe that’s why JT gets a pass in this instance – after all, what is the real difference between objectification and artistic nudity?

Or maybe Justin gets a pass because he is more talented and very good-looking. If a good-looking  male singer talks about objectifying women  and that’s allowed, isn’t that society proving that men are entitled to this behaviour by not calling him out on it? Isn’t that saying he can objectify women as long as he looks good?

Justin has also been slammed for calling one of his songs Take Back The Night, which is also the name of an anti-rape non-profit. As the song has sexual connotations and as a mainstream tune it has stolen the name of what has been, for 40 years, a campaign against sexual harassment.

Katie Koestner, executive director of the organisation, told Radar: “The lyrics are definitely very sexual and not at all clearly anti-sexual violence. ‘Use me,’  for example, is not a great phrase for anyone affiliated with [this] organisation.”

Of course it could be that Justin didn’t know that Take Back The Night was anything but a phrase – which I do think is the case as I had never heard of the organisation before. But even so he has kept his silence on the matter.

In 2003 though he made pretty clear what he thought about sexual harassment.

“The Mirror reports *NSYNC star Justin Timberlake looked in sheer ecstasy on stage at last night’s Brit Awards as he got to grab the behind of Kylie Minogue. “I didn’t just touch it, I copped a feel,” Justin said after the show. “On a scale of one to 10, it was like a 58.” Justin explained the pairing saying, “I met her when I did a radio show with her and thought she was gorgeous but we didn’t get a chance to talk. I was then told I could choose someone to duet with and I knew it had to be Kylie. I’ve heard people in Britain are obsessed with Kylie’s bum and I can totally see why. I’m pretty obsessed with it now, too.” “– popdirt.com

So he basically asked her to do a duet with him because he wanted to feel her up? That’s not creepy at all.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t listen to Justin Timberlake’s music because that would be hypocritical of me. But I shouldn’t ignore the fact that, like Robin Thicke, he is someone who supports the culture of harassment and rape.

I don’t think Justin does these things to hurt or because he likes demeaning women and the reason for this is the video below. He was part of a campaign against sexual slavery along with Sean Penn, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and others. He has credit for that, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have to call him out on his sexist, misogynistic mistakes.

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Is feminism in a thong possible?

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A few months ago I wrote an article about the faux feminism that Beyoncé is threatening the music industry with. While I still think all of those arguments are valid, a recent discussion about her GQ cover spread has sparked my need to speak about sexualization and sexual empowerment in the media – mainly in the music industry.

If you missed it, Beyoncé is staring at the camera with her mouth half open, wearing a tiny thong. Inside, she tells some hard truths about gender equality.

She said: “You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do. I don’t understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat? I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”

It is groundbreaking that a major star like her endorses feminism – we need more people to come out and say “Hey, I am not being treated equally and that has to change.” Beyoncé is one of the most powerful women in the world, and even if sometimes I detect signs of faux feminism in her actions, she is still a good role model girls can look up to.

The music industry has never just been about music. It’s also about image and style, particularly for women. Going back a few decades, it is easy to see there are always trends and styles women developed; beehive hair, fluffed bobs and thick eyeliner, way too much black eye shadow and messy, angry bed-hair, underwear as outerwear, thick hair, straight hair, ripped clothing, flower power, etc.

The post-Madonna music industry has seen women extremely sexualized for the sake of selling music. As my friend Grace wrote a while ago, women have to fit a certain shape, size and attitude to make it big – if they don’t, tough luck. From sexual empowerment we have jumped right over to giving the power of our bodies to men and the industry once again. And seemingly, Beyoncé is still a victim of this, despite her feminist stances. Her opinions  have been completely overshadowed by the photo of her in a thong.

Though it’s fair to say that being sexy, alluding to sex or at least having a pretty face is now mandatory in the music industry, I must confess that I sometimes wonder if these women – though perhaps damaging the industry for others – feel empowered by their bodies, their outfits and style. And often, I think I have no big problem with that.

The music industry has never been just about the music. What about the rebel look of the Runaways? Diana Ross’ diva hair? Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” look? And Aretha Franklin’s soulful image? How many fake eyelashes does Adele stick on her face? What about Cher’s crazy style? These are all images that go with the music, the band, the singer. If it makes the performer happy, who cares what they are wearing, as long as you enjoy their music?

Image

Maybe Beyoncé’s image has been a bit misguided as it encourages and permeates patriarchy. It has been widely criticized by feminists around the world. But what keeps coming to me is that maybe – try to think with me on this one – just maybe Beyoncé wants to be portrayed as beautiful, she wants to pose in a thong and declare she’s a feminist, maybe she’s a different kind of feminist who also wants to be sexy. Maybe this is Beyoncé just being herself. She knows sex sells and she’s using it with all her power. So what?

Feminism is about choice and awareness. Beyoncé clearly knows that she dresses herself up because of an idea of beauty much constructed by the patriarchy. But the same goes for you and probably most women – why do you put on make-up? Why do you hide your ‘imperfections’? Why do you wear the clothes you wear? I’ll tell you why: because of a culture of patriarchy, perfection and consumerism. That being said, I don’t think you have to stop doing what you do to express yourself, or make yourself feel good about yourself because of this. I think we need to be conscious of where the pressure is coming from and why – and act on it in our own way.

The sexualization of the media is not Beyoncé’s problem – if this were the case it would be every woman who ever posed for a magazine cover’s problem too. The issue lies with the people who make the media such a misogynistic place to be, who make it a place prone to this kind of marketing. The real problem are the people who ignore talent over shape and size of body, the people who see women artists as less because they take time putting on make-up, because they take care to perform, not just sing. The people who shun artists who look different and don’t fit into a standard of beauty; those people are the problem.

We have to stop blaming each other, judging each other, and strive for unity between ourselves – all women are different and all women make different choices. If Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and whoever else use their sex appeal to sell music, I don’t see a problem with it. The way you dress, the way Rihanna dresses – none of it matters if you understand the issues behind it, if you understand that the world isn’t perfect for us just yet, and that there are equality issues we have to work on. I am 100% guilty of judging Beyoncé for trying to look so perfect, so beautiful. But with her recent feminist rant I realize she is not so far from reality as I previously thought. I was wrong: she knows girls don’t run the world! And it seems that she wants them to.

So please, do not devalue a woman’s statement on equality because she is sexy, confident and powerful – and isn’t afraid to show it.

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Photos by mp3waxx.com and pinkBEAT / Flickr Creative Commons License.