The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Why bother about a chewing gum when the entire ground is covered in litter?

with 8 comments

I saw a post at a blog the other day which made me sigh.

Under the header “Hot or not”, a fellow film blogger argued in bullet-point style about a few female stars whether they were “hot” or just “attractive”.

While I know now that it wasn’t the intention, it came off to me as quite sexist. However for some reason I couldn’t collect myself to write a proper reply. Instead I just threw away a couple of tweets.

“Feeling a bit disappointed seeing a film blog I like turning into a boy’s locker room at high school all of a sudden.”

And

“Also disappointed at my self for not speaking up about it. Don’t want to come out as an old, grumpy bitch. So I turn away, cowardly.”

I’m not particularly proud of my acting. There’s something passive-aggressive about it. I was just letting off steam without contributing constructively to the discussion. Lazy. That was what it was. Lazy. And also a bit egotistical.

I told myself that no one listens anyway if a 40-something old woman complains about guys talking about hot chicks as items. It would only confirm the image of the grumpy old feminist who just is bitter over not being a hottie herself. Criticism against the article would bite better if it came from young men.

So I didn’t say anything more on this. Then, by a coincident, I came across Ashley Judd’s article about the judging of women’s appearances in media and the whole thing started to grow on me. I couldn’t but see the hot-or-not post, as innocent as it might have been intended, as a part of the same system that Judd was talking about.

The discussion
I went back to the post and found that the discussion already was running. While I had been knitting my fists in my pockets, others had taken action. There were thoughtful comments from Ryan at The Matinee, Joanna at Man I Love Films, Ashley at Pussy goes Grrr and Corey at Just Atad, who wrote an entire post in reply.

All those wonderful people have already said what I’d like to say about this in a way more poignant way than could and I won’t repeat their arguments. Kai, who wrote the post, has explained his point of view, assuring he didn’t have any bad intentions, that he’s not a sexist and that it was just a piece of fun, nothing to take seriously. And I believe him.

Basically I could and maybe should just leave it and move on without adding my two cents. The pile is big enough as it is. Point has been taken, there’s nothing more to see here.

And yet: here I am, still processing what just happened. It’s as if I can’t get it out of my system quite yet.

I’m still thinking about why THIS little post got such a shit storm while so many other posts, FAR more sexist, pass without anyone taking notice. Maybe it was just coincidences, bad luck, bad timing with Ashley Judd’s post.

Like Walpurgis night
I got to think of the Walpurgis night celebrations on April30. In my city, following an old student tradition, this is the biggest party day of the year. In honour of the arrival of spring, people are eating and drinking everywhere and don’t think twice about leaving their garbage on the spot where they were sitting. The entire city is turned into a dump and most people take this as an excuse to litter, arguing that their trash doesn’t make any difference since the ground already is covered.

The hot-or-not post is comparatively innocent to so many other articles on the web. It’s as if someone spit out a piece of chewing gum on Walpurgis, while other people are dumping anything from pizza boxes and bottles to chairs, tables and even sofas. And here we are, obsessing over this chewing gum! It’s unfair!

And yet, at the same time: litter is litter. If we just give up completely about it, shrugging at everything from chewing gum to sofas, arguing that “there’s nothing we can do about it anyway”, where does that bring us? Isn’t it better that people engage and say something, than that we just let everything get a pass since the film industry is so sexist anyway?

Lesson learned
My approach to Walpurgis night has always been to pick up my own litter, regardless of how other people do it. But I’ve never ever called someone out for leaving litter, never picked up the litter of someone else. “To each one his own” has always been my mantra. As long as I haven’t contributed, I’ve been fine.

But maybe I should think this over again. It can’t just be the responsibility of young men to take fights like this. So what if I’m middle-aged and a woman? It shouldn’t prevent me from speaking up.

I learned a lesson from this too. And now it’s finally time for me to move on. Let’s drop the chewing gum. There are armchairs over there on the lawn.

Written by Jessica

April 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. I just checked out that Hot or Not article and I agree that it was pretty moronic. It was like something out of Maxim. This is the kind of thing I definitely try to avoid in my writing. In fact if I ever do mention women’s appearances on my site, I make a point to shallowly talk about men’s appearances even more. Basically my response to the objectification of women is the objectification of men. Whether or not this is the right response, I don’t know. In any event, I try to avoid discussing people’s appearances altogether because it’s not something I really care about when writing about movies.

    Dave Enkosky

    April 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    • I admit to have spoken about people’s appearances. Maybe I did so wrongly. I don’t know. I mentioned the growing size of Gérard Depardieu for instance. I claim by no means to be perfect and I honestly hope that people remind me when I’m being thoughtless, which I’m sure I am quite often. The tongue slips you know.

      Jessica

      April 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm

  2. […] more about the particular problems with the post, read this from my friend Corey at JustAtad or this more personal reaction from Jessica at The Velvet Cafe). Unlike the body’s primal reaction, […]

  3. I love the aptness of your analogy (though obviously both things being compared are things I don’t love). It does often become easier to ignore something when it becomes overwhelming, even though that’s arguably the most important time to push back.

    Bondo

    April 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    • Thanks! The image popped up in my head and I couldn’t get rid of it until I had written about it. As regarding the garbage on April 30 I might add that the city arranges for cleaners to take care of the mess on May 1. So that’s where the analogy ends I guess. Dealing with sexism is more of a long-term project.

      Jessica

      April 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm

  4. Your post here gets close to what I felt when I read the post after Corey linked to it (otherwise I wouldn’t have gone). In the comments it was mentioned that this kind of talk goes on all the time. It’s true. It does. I don’t participate in it (never have) because it seems demeaning both to a woman and to myself, but it certainly happens. I don’t usually complain about it because that is like sweeping the ocean back with a broom.

    But the reason that I think it is worth complaining about isn’t because of the treatment of these women who are wealthy and popular and have made choices to use their sexuality to further their own careers. It has to do with attitudes about women in general. If it is okay to demean celebrities, it is okay to demean THIS woman over here, to reduce that woman to her body parts. It is the same for men– is it ever okay to reduce a human being to a piece of meat? Well, no, it’s not. And if it isn’t okay, then perhaps we should say something about it.

    Yes, this is related to biology, and it may not change. But social conditioning is powerful, and perhaps no one will change anyone’s mind over at the website. But the fact that there are many posts talking about this subject now means that it is the beginning of change. If a society can condition most of the world to think that cutting the foreskin off a penis is a good idea– certainly against the biological norm– then we need to speak against the reduction of human beings to body parts. It may take a few hundred years, but perhaps this is the beginning of change. It’s certainly continuing the process.

    Steve Kimes

    April 12, 2012 at 8:10 am

    • Thank you for your very thoughtful comment Steve. I happen to be one of the very, very few who doesn’t think cuttning the foreskin off penises is OK. Or rather: not Ok when you do it to an infant. Grown-ups is of course a different thing. But that’s an altogether different discussion so I won’t go deeper into that.

      But you ARE right that we CAN make choices and in a very, very long perspective society might change. We need to start somehwere, even if it’s just a chewing gum.

      I also need to say that you’re spot on about what’s the biggest problem about ranking those celebrities out of their hotness. While they might have chosen to be a part of this game, you’re setting a certain standard, making it look acceptable to do so with any girl. Thinking of the origins of Facebook that Corey mentioned. That part of Social Network gave me a really bad feeling. What kind of world are our girls growing up into?

      Jessica

      April 12, 2012 at 9:10 am

      • Unfortunately, our girls are growing up into the same society we grew up into, and our parents. Perhaps their children can grow up in a better one, but I’m not holding my breath.

        Steve Kimes

        April 14, 2012 at 3:09 am


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