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Thursday, August 9, 2012

I don't exist for you

Ian Cromwell, aka Crommunist, tweeted a link today to this: Why Men Love Michelle Jenneke. You know, the 19-year-old Australian hurdler who was recorded doing a little warm-up dance before her event? Who isn't even an Olympian, but somehow everybody in the world has seen this video of her? Well, apparently the fact that this rather ordinary, casual manipulation of her toned and attractive body for her own reasons is titillating enough to allow men to drool over a bit of sports footage-- apparently that is best used by the blog's author, Matt Forney, to illustrate how feminism is horribly misguided and women who want to be appreciated for anything at all, ever, more than they do for their sex appeal are not only delusional, but...well, cunts.
So what’s the big deal? Jenneke’s not hot: she’s cute yes, but not stunning. Her “sexy” dancing is barely PG rated. In a world where videos of superhot, plastic-titted bimbos getting triple-fisted while gagging on horse cocks are just a click away, why would men rather watch an Australian 7 jumping up and down while fully clothed? UTB’s got the answer: 
…Michelle Jenneke’s high-octane femininity triggers an instinctive male hormonal response vastly different from the one seeking stimulation via streaming clips of themed interracial gangbangs. No matter how far one strays from nature, what’s intrinsic is undeniable. Michelle Jenneke is undeniable. She is the scent of grilled meat in the nostrils of a dying vegan. Upon sight, every fiber of the male being tells him it is imperative to deposit his seed in her. In a world of entitled chubbies and pornographic lies, Michelle Jenneke, without saying a word, speaks truth to penis. 
That’s the operative word: femininity. Michelle Jenneke oozes with it. Her youthful beauty, her exuberance, her aura: these aren’t things that can be faked. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have honed men’s tastes for sweet, submissive, complimentary women. As much as feminists and their betaboy clit-suckers wail about “social conditioning,” when it comes down to brass tacks, all men want the same thing
Not only that, Michelle Jenneke has something else that few American/Western women possess: confidence. 
I’m going to keep harping on it until I’m blue in the face, but what most women think is confidence is actually cuntiness. The standoffish, arrogant attitude common to “strong” and “independent” women is a pose they adopt to hide their insecurities. The louder someone crows about having something, the less likely they actually have it. The Anna Assmasters and Jen McCreights of the world pose and front out of fear that people will see them for the neurotic headcases that they are. 
Michelle Jenneke, in contrast, looks at ease in her own skin. Unlike the aforementioned bittergrrls, she’s accomplished something real: training long hours and countless days to compete in a demanding sport on an international level. 
And yet, at the same time, there’s not a cunty bone in her body
She smiles like a normal person, radiating joy and happiness. Her movements are graceful and energetic rather than sulky and surly. Does she look like the kind of woman who would make cheap sarcastic quips or start arguments over leaving the toilet seat up? It’s inconceivable. 
McCreight, her fanboy castrati and feminists in general want young women (and men) to believe that you can’t be successful and confident without being an unlikable, combative harridan. Michelle Jenneke puts the lie to that claim, and that’s why men love her. 
Before feminism, just about every woman was Michelle Jenneke, or at least aspired to be. She’s the kind of girl I’d make sweet, tender love to, then dive in front of a bullet for with no regrets. Femininity soothes the savage male beast. Take note ladies: if you want a “real” man, you better be a real woman. Skip getting your master’s degree and go to charm school instead; you’ll be happier for it
Now, you might be thinking "This is transparent idiocy. Why even blog about it? There are plenty of people who can and do catalog transparent idiocy in their blogs on a regular basis, so why not let one of them tackle it?" Well, mainly because I think it's funny. Yes, partially in a "You have to laugh or else you'll cry, not from hurt feelings but from the stupid" way, but partly just on its own. It's funny to see someone attempt to translate what arouses his boner into an assessment of character, and then turn around and use that assessment to try and shame people who are insufficiently stiffy-stimulating for whatever reason. I know this is obvious, but heterosexual woman-- do not buy this. It isn't even true for him.

There's nothing wrong with thinking Michelle Jenneke is hot. Nothing at all. What's wrong-- crazily, obviously, hilariously wrong-- about this particular commentary is how much it attempts to make out of that attraction. That basic, banal, generic tug of the loins is apparently not only the most important thing in the world, but sums up the entirety of what it means-- or at least, what it ought to mean-- to be a woman.

Wow, right? Who knew?

The best thing about this long discussion of how feminine, how confident, how accomplished, and how generally wonderful Jenneke is, is that Forney has no idea whatsoever if anything he's saying about her character is true. All he knows, based on this commentary, is that she's an athlete who looks graceful and happy. That's it. Oh, and that she's hot. From this, we are expected to understand that she must also be The Anti-Feminist, because she is attractive to our author and our author hates feminists. Feminists are "cunts," so Jenneke is simply confident. Feminists do nothing except complain, so Jenneke is accomplished (accomplishment as an athlete is fine, but don't go getting no master's degree!). And Jenneke "smiles like a normal person," and her moves are "graceful and energetic rather than sulky and surly," whereas feminists are...cave trolls, I guess?

Kill the conveniently all-male collection of
hobbits, dwarves, and humans!
What would be even funnier as well as satisfying, of course, would be if Jenneke turns out to be a raging feminist. The kind of person to respond like 18-year-old Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith did when Twitter trolls complained that she doesn't look feminine enough:
As Hannah pointed out earlier, we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive? What do you want us to do? Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favourably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you?! Cause you are clearly the kindest, most attractive type of man to grace the earth with your presence. 
Oh but wait, you aren’t. This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.
Zoe Smith is not, by the way, a cave troll. She's not even hulking or behemoth-like in the way that a weightlifter would have every reason to be. A Google image search shows her smiling most of the time, and I bet she's at least somewhat graceful though I haven't seen her perform (yet). It doesn't matter, of course-- smiling is not an obligation, and grace and energy are lovely traits to have but they sure as hell aren't the end all and be all. Sarcastic quips? Sounds like she's full of 'em...but cheap, they are not. At least not if "cheap" means "easily made and without value."

Fellow weightlifter Sarah Robles is smiling, graceful, energetic, and likewise in possession of some sarcasm:
Because you see, Robles-- in addition to being the strongest woman in America-- is 5'10" and 275 pounds, which makes her not conventionally attractive, with the tangible detriment of not being able to obtain the kind of sponsorships and endorsements she otherwise might:
“You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy,” she says. The 23-year-old from California became the highest ranked weightlifter in the country last year after placing 11th at the world championships, beating out every male and female American on the roster. On her best day, she can lift more than 568 pounds — that’s roughly five IKEA couches, 65 gallons of milk, or one large adult male lion. 
But that doesn't mean much when it comes to signing the endorsement deals that could pay the bills. Track star Lolo Jones, 29, soccer player Alex Morgan, 22, and swimmer Natalie Coughlin, 29, are natural television stars with camera-friendly good looks and slim, muscular figures. But women weightlifters aren't go-tos when Sports Illustrated is looking for athletes to model body paint in the swimsuit issue. They don’t collaborate with Cole Haan on accessories lines and sit next to Anna Wintour at Fashion Week, like tennis beauty Maria Sharapova. And male weightlifters often get their sponsorships from supplements or diet pills, because their buff, ripped bodies align with male beauty ideals. Men on diet pills want to look like weightlifters — most women would rather not.
I think the title of Forney's post-- "Why Men Love Michelle Jenneke"-- is self-evidently ridiculous, because it clearly isn't love he's talking about, however he might have deluded himself of such. But can you imagine him writing the exact same post about Robles? Neither can I, and it has nothing to do with whether she's a feminist or not, how much she has or hasn't accomplished, whether she's upbeat and cheerful or sarcastic and argumentative. It has to do with a) being able to interpret what a conventionally attractive woman does publicly for her own purposes as b) somehow being for him personally by virtue of appealing to him sexually. Does Jenneke care in the slightest whether Forney would "make sweet, tender love" to her, much less "dive in front of a bullet for [her] with no regrets"? Almost certainly not, and just thinking of it turns the stomach (Guys? This is why the "I'd hit that" discussions are really about you, not the women you're presumably discussing. And they're gross) because it doesn't take her perspective into account at all.

Crommunist replied to me saying:
Probably. There are women who don't mind being "complimented" by the suggestion that they are attractive because their appearance is agreeable enough to a male observer that he's able to construct fantasies about how she must be "feminine" (defined here as sexy but not overtly sexual, not powerful or attempting to gain power, smart and capable but no more of either than he is, and never disagreeable) enough for him, based on the most superficial of knowledge about her such as a few seconds' worth of footage from a warm-up before a hurdle race. But nevertheless, I think this post would cause even the most flattered object to recognize that she's being treated as just that. 

Objectification-- that tired old feminist complaint? Yep, I'm going to go there. I kind of have to, having read all three parts of an article on the topic recently. The part that specifically comes to mind here is:
1) Stop seeking male attention.  
Most women have been taught that heterosexual male attention is the Holy Grail and its hard to reject this system of validation, but we must. We give our power away when we engage in habitual body monitoring so we can be visually pleasing to others. The ways in which we seek attention for our bodies varies by sexuality, race, ethnicity, and ability, but the template is the “male gaze.” 
Heterosexual male attention is actually pretty easy to give up when you think about it. 
  • First, we seek it mostly from strangers we will never see again, so it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of life. Who cares what the man in the car next to you thinks of your profile? You’ll probably never see him again.
  • Secondly, men in U.S. culture are raised to objectify women as a matter of course, so an approving gaze doesn’t mean you’re unique or special, it’s something he’s supposed to do.
  • Thirdly, male validation is fleeting and valueless; it certainly won’t pay your rent or get you a book deal.  In fact, being seen as sexy hurts at least as much as it helps women.
Lastly, men are terrible validators of physical appearance because so many are duped by make-up, hair coloring and styling, surgical alterations, girdles, etc. If I want an evaluation of how I look, a heterosexual male stranger is one of the least reliable sources on the subject. 
Fun related activity: When a man cat calls you, respond with an extended laugh and declare, “I don’t exist for you!” Be prepared for a verbally violent reaction as you are challenging his power as the great validator. Your gazer likely won’t even know why he becomes angry since he’s just following the societal script that you’ve just interrupted.
This is why I said earlier "It isn't even true for him." Even Forney wouldn't be happy with a woman who satisfied his every criterion for being the ultimate in femininity, not that any woman should want to. When someone (male or female) honestly believes that the most important thing a woman is her ability to be sexy, that person will never be satisfied with any woman. It is never possible to be sexy enough, and the sexiest person in the world cannot maintain it for long. That doesn't mean there is no point in trying to be attractive, much less that women who try to be sexually attractive are somehow traitors to feminism.

I don't exist for you. That's the important part. Everyone in a relationship exists in part for the other person in that relationship, regardless of what kind of relationship it is. People who want to be in a relationship exist in part for the person they want to be in a relationship with. But Zoe Smith does not exist for people who care less about any of her accomplishments or her actual character than whether she's sexually appealing to them personally. Neither does Sarah Robles. And neither, I hope, does Michelle Jenneke.

We choose the people for whom we exist. It's just fine to exist for plenty of other people besides ourselves, and all of us will in many different ways, but we must exist for ourselves first. And the ability to do that is awesome, right?

ETA: From John Scalzi's post today on how not to be a creeper at conferences:
4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use. 
Yes, I know. You know that. But oddly enough, there’s a difference between knowing it, and actually believing it — or understanding what it means in a larger social context. People go to conventions and social gatherings to meet other people, but not necessarily (or even remotely likely) for the purpose of meeting you. The woman who is wearing a steampunky corset to a convention is almost certainly wearing it in part to enjoy being seen in it and to have people enjoy seeing her in it — but she’s also almost certainly not wearing it for you. You are not the person she has been waiting for, the reason she’s there, or the purpose for her attendance. When you act like you are, or that she has (or should have) nothing else to do than be the object of your amusement/interest/desire/use, the likelihood that you will come across a complete creeper rises exponentially. It’s not an insult for someone else not to want to play that role for you. It’s not what they’re there for.

2 comments:

  1. You know the big issue? He writes better than you.

    "Grilled meat in the nostrils of a dying vegan" etc.

    "Entitled chubbies" hit a little too close to home?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The point of this post-- you missed it.

    ReplyDelete