Sunday, September 02, 2012

'Objectifying men' again

This was a response I posted to this blog post:  Objectifying men

I think the feminist way of looking at things has come to totally dominate all public discussion on these issues, and anyone with a different view (e.g. most straight men) are too nervous to speak out. Saying that we live in a 'male dominated society' (as many seem to believe) hides a lot of things. Just because the TINY percentage of people who work at the top of governments and big companies are more likely to be men, doesn't mean men in general get a free-pass ride through life. On my walk from the tube to my office I pass at least 5 homeless people a day, all men. And incidentally, I've just lost my job through 'restructuring' as has another guy in my office, but all the women have kept theirs. I don't see 'the patriarchy' putting me in a very dominant position there...

Yes there is increasing pressure on men to be young and good-looking if they want to be seen as attractive. The effects on men in general will probably be different, so doing a like-for-like comparison with those on women is probably misleading. (although I think there is a lot of downplaying of sexual violence against men. for example, if a woman slices off a man's penis its treated more as fodder for stand-up comedian jokes than as a serious issue. Recently a woman sliced off a man's penis in Australia and he ended up dying. She only ended up with 3 years jail, and will probably serve a lot less).

I would also point out that, historically, ordinary men (not the 1%) - and hence their bodies - have been viewed as highly disposable. Also, the history that we think we know is highly biased and selective, influenced by pressure groups. It’s a slippery slope to start to justify worse treatment against one group in society than another on the basis of your interpretation of history. Its a bit like Animal Farm, where the 'equality revolution' of 'all animals are equal' ends up with the chilling addendum 'but some are more equal than others'. 

I don't find it surprising that only a small number of men have asked TubeCrush to take down their photos. Statistically, I'm sure most of the subjects of the photos are not even aware that their photo was posted. I am really bothered by the continued trend towards an almost total destruction of the privacy for men in our society (although, tellingly, women's privacy is upheld, a Female TubeCrush site does not exist). Where does one draw the line? What if another site encouraged more cutting/nasty commenting and rating of photos of men in public? One person's sexually lustful comments can be anothers offensive comments. However, I think that TubeCrush is skewed more towards the gay demographic (looking through their twitter followers, and the fact that they use the categorisation word 'Twink' was a give-away; also, a lot of their photos look staged to me).

A more insidious example is Luluvise. This is basically a Facebook app for women that allows them to form private groups and talk about things. All fine so far, but one of their main features is that it allows them to rate men they’ve dated on criteria such as attractiveness and performance in bed. Note that there is, of course, no way of proving they’ve dated them, so the system is totally open to abuse by those with a grudge. Because they don’t allow any men to join, a man is not allowed to see or contest what has been written about him, despite the fact that his co-workers, friends, family etc may be able to. What is particularly insidious about the site is that it goes further than this: it takes the man’s details off Facebook (such has his photo and full name) without his permission, and also posts on a publically accessible (and Google-viewable) page his photo and name and the fact that he’s been rated. Also, the system will email all his female contacts on Facebook to let them know he’s been rated.  What disgusts me most about this site is that they are clearly very aware of the importance and value people place on privacy (their site is based on providing enhanced privacy for women) yet at the same time they cynically invade men’s privacy for profit.

What do I think the overall effect of increasing emphasis placed on men’s and boy’s looks? I think it will undermine the confidence of many ordinary looking boys and men (and there is still a societal expectation for men to make the first moves on a woman, so having the confidence to approach is particularly important for men). There will be an increase in body-image disorders amongst boys and men. Also, young men will feel forced to spend a higher percentage of their time in the gym. I think a far smaller percentage of men than women will be deemed ‘attractive’ in this brave new world of objectification. This is because, more or less, all a woman has to do is avoid getting fat and she will have a multitude of men willing to tell her she is attractive. But many ordinary men can go for years or even their whole life without anyone telling them they are attractive. Either you have the youth and the facial structure, or you don’t. And the challenge of being simultaneously low-fat but high-muscle is a time-consuming one, and one which many body-types of men will just find impossible to achieve.

Lastly, the Ambercrombie and Fitch boys: is it me or is it slightly weird that the mother wanted a photo with the teenage 'hunk' with her baby? Switch the genders if you can't see the weirdness, and think how you'd feel about it then. Now, if the 'hunk' wasn't intelligent and hes facing a life of low-wage work, then once his youthfulness passes he will be largely valueless in the dating game with women (unless hes a bad boy, or has particularly polished 'game'), but a pretty girl who is unintelligent can still be valued. In other words, we're probably looking, in reality, on men having to be attractive AND have earning potential in order to be seen as valuable, whereas women don't need both.


richardwrites said...

Can I use this comment to plug a new men's rights group in London?

Thank you.

Darren said...


Anonymous said...

If you have to look good, you have to spend lots of time in gym, it doesn't matter what gender. I spend little time in the gym and am still considered a hunk by women. The thing is I hated being considered as a hunk, I just wanted to be really smart.

Plus I don't think ONLY men want to be attractive AND have money, valuable. You have some nice general comments, thats why I read your blog!

Darren said...

Hi anonymous,

As I said, its easier and quicker for a woman to look good as all she needs to do it avoid getting fat. eg the most she would need to do is a bit of cardio. Becoming muscular is harder than that. Unless you want to be chubby-muscular, then you have to simultaneously be low fat but high muscle.

Also, I've absolutely no doubt that there are some body-types of men that just naturally find this easier than others. My guess is you are one of those types.

I'm not saying that men want to be attractive and have money just for the sake of it. I'm saying that women want men like that, but men aren't so bothered about a woman's money/professional achievements.