This is from a pretty old conversation (in internet-years anyway). The original post responded to by Nathan seems to be gone. (Trust me there was a LOT more conversation than this.) However, the excerpts that I posted on Nathans’ blog still exist, so I am re-posting them here.
“You” refers to Nathan. “He” refers to Giovanni Dannato, who wrote the original post that asserted that “provocative attire” was an “assault” against men.
I am going to yield a couple points to him. It is rude to dress provocatively in many situations, for any gender, because it can be a distraction. Some women do (by their own admission) attempt to use sex as a means to power, and dressing in certain ways is part of that. More than one woman I know has referred to her breasts as “power” and we used to joke around that some women had the super-power of “breastatude”. There is a particular reality here that shouldn’t be ignored in the name of ideology (however sound).
Now for more reality:
I was called a “distraction” to fellow male students while wearing blue-jeans and T-shirt.
You made good points about how a women should be able to dress how she feels comfortable without being objectified and harassed. However, the real complete and utter LIE that hasn’t been exposed yet is that it doesn’t matter how the f*ck you dress.
His assertion that the only women who received cat-calls (which, by the way, Giovanni, is a BEHAVIOR!) were the ones wearing low-cut tops (whatever low-cut means), is complete and utter delusion.
If only he knew how many times my “fine ass” was pointed out to me – while wearing a buttoned up jacket. (To be completely frank, that really doesn’t bother me that much – but hey – depends on how it’s said and in what context.)
What upsets me greatly about his post is that through EVERYTHING he writes, it’s obvious that in his world the only power or status a woman has or desires is what a man GIVES TO HER. She is trying to nab a rich guy and she is trying to get men to do what she wants. As someone with two masters’ degrees who worked at a government research facility and is a faculty member, and makes her own damn money – he can kiss that ass that keeps getting complimented.
This is why when women consider their sexuality “power” and their body parts “weapons” – I correct them. When they use that sort of tactic, they do NOT gain respect and all they do is perpetuate an inherently subordinate pathological gender relationship…and when they invariably call me “ugly” and “asexual” it just brings the point home.
The whole attitude is just so painfully typical. When some men are attracted to women, it makes them angry because they aren’t getting what they want. Funny he uses children looking at sweets as an analogy – because yeah, I don’t doubt for a minute that is exactly what this experience is like for him. We’ve all felt that way, if we are honest with ourselves. However, we’re adults so we deal with it and we do our best to treat everyone with respect despite our petty jealousies or unrequited desires.
If we demonize “unavoidable instincts” as being inherently bad and place the responsibility of avoiding those thought and desires on women; we are absolutely necessarily placing responsibility on women for how men may ACT on those desires. It just follows. If you think women are responsible for how you feel, how can they not be held responsible for how you act on those feelings?
The best concept of the hijab, is that it is a dignified way of dressing and attempts to avoid the pathological sexualization of women that some Western women counter-productively attempt to “use to their advantage”. I can respect that to some degree.
However, at it’s worst it is simply a means of control and a fatalistic devaluation of men as mindless sex-controlled flies attracted to sweet candy.
[Please follow the link above – it is a very good read from a perspective that I lack concerning the hijab. For the rest of this entry, “you” refers to Giovanni.]
I think it would be counterproductive to bicker about how prevalent the dynamics that you are describing are, or what the legal ramifications are when various actions are made within the dynamic – because obviously that’s going to vary from place to place. However, it would be nice if you would concede that, although some environments are prone to be hyper-sensitive to how men treat women (but not how women treat men); other environments exists where there is no sensitivity what-so-ever to the point where serious harassment is not just permitted but encouraged, and women who have experienced harassment and assault are marginalized, blamed, and sometime even killed. I have more experience and knowledge of the latter, and it seems you have more experience of the former. Both environments are characterized by poisonous gender inequity and dysfunctional relationships and I hope we can both agree that neither of these situations are good.
We also see the sexualization of women from different perspectives, but seem to agree that women presenting themselves as sexual objects for social gain is bad (we may differ on what specific clothing choices and action constitute this, but it may be helpful to put that aside).
The original post presents this dynamic as completely created by women, for the benefit of women – with men being complete, helpless victims of the dynamic and women being the winners. I would like to present the idea that both parties are harmed by it.
I hope we can also agree that, regardless of what a woman wears, those around her are responsible for how they act toward her. I suspect you have been accuse of believing that she is responsible, because you are putting so much responsibility on the woman for how a man reacts emotionally (as I did), but also simply because unfortunately, blaming women for the actions of men, is a popular and pervasive view held by people who admit that is their stance as well as those who deny it, but still act on that view in ways that are unconscionably harmful to girls and women while denying the culpability of boys and men for their own behavior. I will take you at your word that this is not you.
While your post makes a line between how men and women are actors in this dynamics, I would like to provide a substitute model where there are still two distinct groups within this dynamic, but they are not based on gender. There are those who perpetuate this dynamic, and those that don’t.
As I said before, I do no doubt there are women who use their bodies the way you imagine them to; and men who feel dis-empowered to stand up to the dynamic. However, there also exists men who encourage this dynamic because it devalues women as objects – as things whose purpose is to provide them with “eye-candy” and prance around for their pleasure; and women who feel dis-empowered to stand up to the dynamic.
How do you think women are treated who see make-up as the gender equivalent to black-face and high-heels as torture? We obviously don’t know how to “play the game” – are sex-less ugly and jealous. However, what we really want is for others to stop obsessing about our appearance and relate to us as human beings. When you are in an environment where sexualizing yourself for the pleasure of “the man” is the socially acceptable means of getting what you want; using your body is not a weapon against “the man” it is playing his game. It isn’t the men who are necessarily fighting amongst themselves to gain the favor of the female; but the females fighting against one another to gain the favor of the men in power.
Men who benefit from this dynamic (and women delusional enough to think they do) will mercilessly attack anyone who attempts to change it. I absolutely agree that this dynamic is mired in class distinctions and shouldn’t be tolerated; but I think we differ in how we view the dynamic and who we think benefits from it, simply because of our perspective. So, we also differ on what appropriate responses to this dynamic are.