Object Oriented August 4, 2016 7:16 PM   Subscribe

When is it OK to objectify people? Which people are fair game?

This came up on the Blue with comments about recent pix of Justin Trudeau. When someone called out comments as objectifying him, the response was fairly uniformly that it was OK because such comments don't affect men and women equally. While that's mostly true, where are we trying to end up, and what's the best behavior to get us there?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker to Etiquette/Policy at 7:16 PM (69 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I personally think that it's impossible to extricate this question from the cultural milieu - finding someone attractive, and saying so, has a tremendous different in social weight and connotations depending on whether that someone is male or female. People *will* react accordingly, and therefore we have to mod accordingly.

That said, Justin Trudeau in particular: yes, people find him attractive. We all know this. If people can't stop mentioning it every single time his name comes up, it's going to be (and already somewhat is) a problem. Not because there's anything wrong with him or people's attraction to him, but because it's incredibly repetitive.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:19 PM on August 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


I don't have a strong opinion on the question as asked (I feel it is really not my place to speak to it) but to the extent that this MeTa invokes questions about gender and sexism, it would be really great to keep in mind that there are folks on the site with a lot of different gender identities: nonbinary and transgender people read these threads, and I feel like every time one of these threads opens up we quickly end up in a place where the discussion gets heated and we drive away community members because a lot of hurtful remarks get said (by accident - I'm not suggesting malice!). Again, I have no real opinion on this question, but I confess as someone who finds gender threads on this site massively stressful, I have this huge feeling of dread at seeing this pop up.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 7:48 PM on August 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think it really depends on the context.

The line I believe can be easily drawn at "I'd hit that". That's gross, we all generally know that now.

To say someone is gorgeous, or admiring the way they look or the color of Elizabeth Taylor's eyes, seems well enough.

Commenting on someone's butt, bulge or breasts in a way that reduces them to an object of sexual desire, probably getting to bad places, but it depends on the context.

I guess, where we can differentiate on binary gender is the male gaze. The male gaze goes one way, it is something that happens mainly in movies, magazines, print advertisements and other forms of visual media. The male gaze informs a male culture where it's okay to reduce a woman to an object to have sex with. So in the case of "men objectifying women" (in mostly a cis binary way) then yes, it *is* a meaningful difference that can't be swapped around and still have the same effect.

I guess, it's about reducing a person to the point where their entire self-worth is tied to how fuckable you think they are. That's not a power that's typically conferred to women in regards to men, so when a woman talks about a man looking like "he'd be good in bed" or what have you, that's not, from what I know, reducing the man's entire worth to his willingness and desire to have sex. Typically men are still allowed their other forms of worth AND given additional points for being really fine and sexy. That's not usually how it goes for women from what I can tell.

I'm sure there are ways I have this all wrong and I'm sure I missed crucial details, but I think this is gets to the spirit of answering what I think you are asking.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:24 PM on August 4, 2016 [42 favorites]


I personally found the "it's ok because women are objectified" argument a bit weak, though I don't like "let's flip genders/races/orientations" arguments generally, because context.
posted by zutalors! at 8:57 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Justin Trudeau knows he looks good, and his party knows he looks good, and they use it as a selling point. He's this close to riding shirtless on a horse. So that's something to consider.

My email inbox has been filling up all week with his latest spampaign, so I'm pretty sick of the sight of him, frankly.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm always disappointed when people I know seem to be infatuated with JT's looks. He's the prime minister, for crying out loud. He has an agenda.
posted by My Dad at 9:03 PM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


While I can certainly appreciate the fact that men have been objectifying women for, well, always, I'm not so keen on that then being used as a reason to adopt the reaction by anyone else. The action itself is problematic, not just the person doing it.

That said, I also think there does need to be some room to allow people to communicate about a subject that is so individually and culturally significant. Beauty is deeply meaningful to people and trying to completely tamp down speech about it isn't entirely helpful either.

I lean towards trying to adopt a sensitivity on the subject and avoid reducing any person to their looks since that sort of response has a larger effect on everyone listening. It isn't just the subject that then is being framed that way, but at a remove, everyone else as well who may not feel they fit that standard and are therefore less worthwhile in some important way.

More basically, I also am a firm believer in just asking yourself "Is this something other people need to hear?" A lot of the beauty/sexy comments don't seem to me to be able to leap that hurdle.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:21 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I didn't love it when the Conservatives objectified Justin in their election ads, but I don't particularly have a problem with Joe Random (or, more likely, Joanne Random) doing it, especially now that he's PM. In theory, there's only one person in the entire country more powerful than him, and in practice, that person is powerless, so I'm not overly worried that he's going to be negated as a person because he's just too pretty.

When people stop taking the actions of the Canadian government seriously because it's headed up by the Right Honourable Good Hair, I'll worry about the objectification then. And that will still be about a thousand years before objectification has any significant potential to damage the power structures of the patriarchy as a whole.

All of that said, there's a time and a place. Light-hearted thread about JT explaining quantum computing, sure, whatever, admire his beauty. Serious thread about significant happenings in Canadian government or politics, keep your perving to yourself.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:43 PM on August 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


It certainly has different context when applied to men, which is why there's a lot more wiggle room, but at its essence it does come down to whether your problem is with objectification, or whether your problem is only with who gets objectified.

Considering the last time this sort of thing even kind of came up the argument was that if something's not systemic then it doesn't exist, hopefully we can acknowledge that there is validity to this concern, however mitigated by social context it is.

Beauty also being in the eye of the beholder, it would probably be useful to prevent commentary which disparages the objectification not because that's what it is, but because he doesn't deserve it, as well.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:54 PM on August 4, 2016


Yeah, I'm not totally comfortable with Americans in an election thread talking about another country's leader primarily as a decorative object.

Trudeau's father described Canada's relationship with the US as "sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.". Certainly there is a power imbalance between men and women that factored into the discussion, but it's not the only one at play in the situation.
posted by peppermind at 10:57 PM on August 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


People who seem to insist that treating male people and female people "the same way" is the same as treating them equally irritate me. Deliberate blindness to the unequal status of men and women on this planet is not a virtue and does not magically make sexism or misogyny vanish.
posted by rtha at 11:00 PM on August 4, 2016 [70 favorites]


Yet there are a *lot* of men and AMAB folks who fall within one marginalised category or another. Even if you don't buy the idea that unkindness to the privileged is still unkind, I think there's a strong reason to take care when talking about gender in general. Intersectional concerns are very much in play here I think.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 11:25 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess, where we can differentiate on binary gender is the male gaze. The male gaze goes one way, it is something that happens mainly in movies, magazines, print advertisements and other forms of visual media. The male gaze informs a male culture where it's okay to reduce a woman to an object to have sex with. So in the case of "men objectifying women" (in mostly a cis binary way) then yes, it *is* a meaningful difference that can't be swapped around and still have the same effect.

Well, sure it can be switched around. Women and men can both look at each other purely as sexually attractive people, and that's hardly rare in either direction. Also, most women are interested in looking at other women and talking about their attractiveness, so a lot of what you might appear on the surface to be an example of "the male gaze" also represents the female gaze on other women.

I think you should decide whether "objectification" is a bad thing or not. If it's bad, it's bad when it's done to people of any gender. If you go ahead and objectify men, then you're a hypocrite if you complain when women are objectified. You can't have it both ways — not even by pointing out that women have been objectified more over the course of history. Just because one group has been treated worse than another on average doesn't mean the treatment is just fine for the latter group. That would be like saying police brutality is just fine as long as it's done to whites. No, if you think police brutality is bad, then to be intellectually honest, you have to be against it in every instance, no matter how rarely any one group has been subjected to it.

The double standard on objectification is an example of something that happens all the time: folks who think of themselves as progressive have an expectation that men and women should be treated differently (e.g. only men should be objectified). And since they assume their expectations must be progressive, they figure that anything going against their expectations must be regressive. Thus, if you treat men and women the same, then you're considered "sexist"! Once you start noticing this strange line of reasoning, you see it everywhere.
posted by John Cohen at 12:08 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Actually, now that I've found a larger keyboard, I'll have a go at explaining my worry in a little more detail. I completely agree that sexism and misogyny are pervasive and gross, and as a consequence it's not appropriate to do the "genders reversed" thing or to argue that we need to treat men and women "the same way".

However, my concern here is that "male" and "AMAB folks" (because often times people conflate the two) are both very large categories, and there are a lot of subgroups in there that have very good reason to find these sorts of comments distressing or hurtful. When talking about "men" it's useful to remember that you're talking about gay men, PoC men, trans men, men with mental illnesses, men who've suffered sexual abuse, men with disabilities etc. Expanding the net to cover AMAB folks (who often get dragged in when the topic of conversation is "men") you also have trans women and AMAB nonbinary folks. In each case you're talking about a group that isn't especially privileged on the whole, and in most cases there are reasons where the perceived sexual attractiveness (or lack thereof) is very problematic. As a rule, I really feel like it's important to take a lot of care: it's easy to think "wooo, Trudeau (or whoever) is hawt" and think it's okay to say whatever's on your mind because men aren't a marginalised group, but it can have negative consequences for a large range of men or AMAB folks when you do this. In essence, I guess I'm asking that folks be careful about language even when talking about privileged groups because quite often you end up punching down even when you're only intending to punch up.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 12:08 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think you should decide whether "objectification" is a bad thing or not. If it's bad, it's bad when it's done to people of any gender. If you go ahead and objectify men, then you're a hypocrite if you complain when women are objectified.

Ugh. This WHAT ABOUT THE MENS crap again.

You realize you're saying the equivalent of "but what about racism against white people," right?
posted by dersins at 12:24 AM on August 5, 2016 [42 favorites]


The idea that a woman perving on a man represents objectification is bizarre to me. I understand objectification as a wider, systemic thing, embodied in large part by individual actions (men perving on women, women judging each other by hotness, the use of women as irrelevant eye candy in advertising, etc). The individual actions removed from the wider context and underlying power relationships simply do not embody or represent the same thing. A woman saying a man is attractive does not embody the objectification of men, because men are not systemically reduced to sex objects (the work of explaining this has already been done by Annika Cicada upthread).
posted by Dysk at 2:08 AM on August 5, 2016 [18 favorites]


Also, as a trans woman I am bloody sick of people weaponising concern for trans women in defence of men. And of people conflating trans women with men. Whether it's done with the worst or best of intentions, it serves to strengthen the idea of such an equivalence. I don't care if everyone else is doing it, it doesn't make it fucking okay.
posted by Dysk at 2:17 AM on August 5, 2016 [30 favorites]


Every time we have this kind of argument, it sounds a like to me like a bunch of people trying to justify why it's okay to make assholish comments about another group of people.
posted by forza at 2:33 AM on August 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


There is a gulf between "I admire Michelle Obama because she's amazing, & I also think she's beautiful" & "Whoa, I'd like to see that piece without a shirt on, because nyarrr." However, the first statement is still problematic because of gender inequality & the ubiquitessness of the male gaze & has a different power dynamic when directed at a man, so it causes a certain thought tension despite its relative innocuousness. The latter, it should go without saying, is not really acceptable in either direction.

Overall, when I find myself inclined to note that I find someone physically attractive in a comment, I always stop & ask myself "is that germane to the topic at hand, & more importantly, does anybody here care who I find attractive?" The answer is always "No," so I always give it a pass.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:38 AM on August 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


Every time we have this kind of argument, it sounds a like to me like a bunch of people trying to justify why it's okay to make assholish comments about another group of people.

I for one scrupulously avoided any comment about whether or not the behaviour being called out is harmful. If you want to make an argument that it is, great, go for it. But maybe don't co-opt the systemic and societal oppression of women in so doing.
posted by Dysk at 3:01 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Suppose one could show that hearing comments like this was harmful. Would this constitute, to your mind, a good argument against making such comments?
posted by forza at 3:08 AM on August 5, 2016


They're effectively noise and add nothing to a discussion at best, lead to acrimonious details at worst. This argument has been made repeatedly in this thread already. And if we take the supposition that it can be shown that being exposed to these comments is harmful: fantastic! Link us to a study or some data that does said showing, and there is a pretty unassailable argument that stands on its own two feet.

The pushback this thread is generating is largely not people standing up for their right to make drooling comments about men, it is people reacting to the claimed equivalence with the objectification of women. Unfortunately the post wrapped these two things together pretty tightly, by tying the argument against the former entirely to the latter.
posted by Dysk at 3:16 AM on August 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Dysk: "Also, as a trans woman I am bloody sick of people weaponising concern for trans women in defence of men. And of people conflating trans women with men."

Fair enough, and as the person who brought trans women into this I'll retract. Instead, maybe I can use my own experiences, if that's okay? I'm AMAB and genderfluid (or maybe agender, I'm never quite sure). My wardrobe has a mix of men's and women's clothes. I wear my hair in a bob pinned back with clips and a fairly obvious beard. If I thought I had any reasonable chance of not having the shit beaten out of me *again* I'd wear dresses to work. But I am not a trans woman, and I don't want to be one. I am nonbinary, but if I'm forced to pick one of the two stupid boxes I'll pick male. I live in fear of violence from cis men, and when I hide my gender identity and pretend to be a cis man everyone under the fucking sun lectures me on how much more privileged I am than them, and then I have to live with everyone acting like my gender identity doesn't even exist. Metafilter is one of the *worst* fucking offenders for that.

So. I hope I have some credentials to complain? And yes, I find this shit gross, and I wish people would stop it
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 4:28 AM on August 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


And just so that we're clear - when I say I find this shit gross I mean that I find it utterly infuriating that I have to spend my entire life constantly managing binary people. Cis men are the most dangerous, but cis women aren't safe either quite frankly. I try really hard to avoid saying mean things to binary gendered trans folk because I know that one is a really rough gig too - and with that in mind I really, really want to stress that I don't intend to be aggressive to you all in the slightest. Heck, I don't even intend anything negative to cis people either. Just... please don't throw me under the bus here okay?
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 4:44 AM on August 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Stating that you find someone attractive doesn't objectify them per se. It often has the effect of objectifying that person, by causing their sexual attractiveness to overshadow their basic humanity. This effect happens much more often and much more easily with women than men (in part because there is such a long and sordid history of objectification of women as compared to men) and with people who are in roles where they are less powerful or where their power is drawn in whole or in part from their appearance, than with people who have power that stems from some other source.

It's not never OK to say that you think someone is hot. Just, before you do it, you have to consider what effect your saying so is likely to have on the way people perceive that person. What will be the effect on the conversation? Will it take away from the person's essential humanity, or will it add to it? As in everything, one has to consider the context. And if you're less than 100% sure that your voicing your feelings of attraction will be OK, best not to go there. It's a tricky subject. Doesn't mean it should be totally verboten, it's just hard to work one's feelings of attraction into a conversation without objectifying the subject of that attraction. Sometimes it can be done, but it really depends. Someone like Trudeau is more objectification-proof than most people, but if his hotness inevitably becomes a topic every time something even peripherally related to him is mentioned, then yeah I personally would find that objectifying and boorish.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:45 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


What about if you think he's hot not only because of his physical appearance but also because of his values? It's not only about the aesthetic. I try to steer clear of anything smacking of 'I'd hit that' but you know, sexy is not always just about appearance.
posted by h00py at 5:23 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, it's complicated. I don't think it's a situation that can be reduced to an easy set of criteria. I think you just have to ask yourself "Given the context, both immediate and historical, and given the way my words are likely to be read and interpreted by my audience, and given my best guesses as to how my subject would feel if they knew I were talking about them this way and in this venue, does what I want to say seem like it would add to or subtract from my subject's basic human-ness?" and then use your best judgement. And if you're not sure, give it a pass—even if not harmful, statements about someone's attractiveness rarely add much to the conversation.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:34 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


lot of what you might appear on the surface to be an example of "the male gaze" also represents the female gaze on other women .

There are perspectives within feminist thinking that view this phenomenon as an internalized male gaze.* Because when you grow up in patriarchy constantly bombarded by messages that women=Sex and women exist to be on view and evaluated, everyone Is subject to internalizing those beliefs. So the fact that women sometimes turn a sexualized gaze on one another is not proof that the male gaze doesn't exist, or that turnabout is fair play - it's an example of the pervasiveness of the patriarchal system. There is no equally powerful "female gaze" or "female-on-female gaze."

*not everybody agrees with this in such simple terms but it is not a new idea, it falls within "male gaze" discourse.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on August 5, 2016 [32 favorites]


As a transmasculine person, here's my experience:

1. One thing I've learned on metafilter, after saying some dumb things, is that it really is never okay to bring comments about an individual woman's looks (or evaluative statements about women's appearance generally) into a metafilter-style conversation (as distinct from sitting around with friends watching a movie and saying "wow, Louise Brooks was so pretty" or something). That is always toxic and always misogynist, no matter where you're coming from or how clever you (meaning me) think your analysis is.

2. I recognize that when we're talking about dudes, you just literally can't objectify men-as-men, because objectification is a power dynamic.

3. A few times on here, I've read some comments about trans men and transmasculine people that have been pretty uncomfortable to me and that I think have been objectifying - usually coming from a positive "it will make people feel good if I say something flattering about trans male bodies!" place, but also usually reifying the "we are all attracted to trans dudes because they are so dapper and broad-shouldered and young and so on". This isn't some kind of horrible trauma for me to read, but it is something I would like not to encounter. (I add this one to illustrate how I think some men can be objectified according to a marginalization.)

4. In re JT and his never-ending hotness...look, I have spent my entire life hearing from people that I am ugly and unacceptable. Some of my earliest baby notebook scribblings from when I could barely spell document my feeling that there was something "wrong" with my appearance. Some of that is endemic - I do not have classic features by any means - and some of it is social, because many cis people think that gender-non-conforming people like me are ipso facto ugly and weird. For much of my life, the knowledge that most people think I'm ugly and bizarre was hard for me to manage. I'm at an okay place about all that right now, but one of the ways I stay at an okay place is by avoiding a lot of hot-or-not chatter on the internet.

In sum, I wish that the whole "JT shirtless on a horse - so hot!" thing and related appearance discussion could stay in threads that are actually in some way about appearance or are just idle chat. It's not that I don't want there to be a space for people attracted to men to talk about men (and I mean, in strict technical terms I too am attracted to some men, sometimes) but really, getting dragged out of my careful "appearance doesn't matter la la la" bubble is a drag because it's such a big part of how I manage life with cis people.

I guess my wish would be that we all didn't make evaluative statements about appearance in threads where that's not germane.
posted by Frowner at 5:36 AM on August 5, 2016 [30 favorites]


What about if you think he's hot not only because of his physical appearance but also because of his values? It's not only about the aesthetic. I try to steer clear of anything smacking of 'I'd hit that' but you know, sexy is not always just about appearance.

If the problem is a class of people being reduced entirely to their sexiness, or having their value judged entirely or predominantly in terms of their sexiness, then it kind of doesn't matter why you find them sexy, centring that will be inextricable from that wider trend.
posted by Dysk at 5:36 AM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Frowner: "I guess my wish would be that we all didn't make evaluative statements about appearance in threads where that's not germane."

Please yes, this. I don't always agree with everyone else who isn't quite perfectly cis (why would I, we're a bloody diverse bunch?)... but so much this. Making strong comments about people's appearances, regardless of their gender identity is a bad idea unless there is some reason why their appearance is directly relevant to the context. When people do this there are a lot of unintended consequences, because you really don't know -- can't know -- who is reading the comment and what their life experiences are. The kinder thing to do is just show a little restraint. It's not really that hard.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 5:44 AM on August 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think you should decide whether "objectification" is a bad thing or not. If it's bad, it's bad when it's done to people of any gender.

If your system of ethics doesn't account for context and outcomes, it is not really ethical.

The thing I have noticed is that the people who gun for context-neutral, outcome-blind ethics tend to be the exact people who are pretty sure that the context and outcomes fall hard in their favor.
posted by nom de poop at 5:52 AM on August 5, 2016 [17 favorites]


objectification is a power dynamic.

Exactly. You can say someone is hot or attractive or a person is sexy, but unless you're coming at it from a position of societal power, reducing them to just looks or sexiness, that's not technically objectification.

As someone who fought for a good while here to stop people saying "I'd hit that" about women who were scientists, engineers, astronauts, athletes and other things where looks were not germane, I understand it can be incredibly frustrating to see this popping up again over and over. I try to remove someone's looks from my discussions of them (though the use/mention thing comes up, the fact that other people talk about Trudeau's looks all the time is in and of itself an interesting data point) and it seems to be a useful way to keep the conversation on target.

Sometimes the threads are pretty specifically about how someone looks which ... I tend to not think those make good threads to begin with, but at least talking about appearances isn't a derail.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:17 AM on August 5, 2016 [21 favorites]


Thus, if you treat men and women the same, then you're considered "sexist"! Once you start noticing this strange line of reasoning, you see it everywhere.

People use this "strange line of reasoning" because they are aware of context and history and power dynamics and patriarchy and feminism.
posted by Mavri at 6:30 AM on August 5, 2016 [24 favorites]


I don't think this summary from the OP quite captures the conversation from the Blue:

> When someone called out comments as objectifying him, the response was fairly uniformly that it was OK because such comments don't affect men and women equally.

That's not what I'm seeing. It looks more like, someone called out comments about a man specifically and solely on the grounds that they would be inappropriate if applied to a woman, and the response was fairly uniform that the comments might not be a good idea, but that the simple gender-flipping argument in particular is invalid because comments about men and women work in a different context. (Warning, links to massive American election thread.)

And of course that pushback makes sense, because the gender-flipping argument is so frequently used to try to deny actual harms against women. ("I don't see why women don't speak up more / claim credit for their ideas / negotiate for better salaries / feel flattered by the attention / etc. That's what I would do!" Or, "What's the big deal? People are always telling me things I already know." Or, "People call me a guy, what's wrong with calling women 'girls'?" Or ...)

So I guess I feel like things were pretty much resolved in-thread -- the answer to "where are we trying to end up, and what's the best behavior to get us there?" is (a) be more thoughtful about commenting on people's appearances, and (b) also be more thoughtful about deploying gender-flipping arguments. Was there more you were looking for, ChurchHatesTucker?
posted by john hadron collider at 6:32 AM on August 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


So at this point I feel I should mention I've had a couple of glasses of wine and probably ought to take a nap, but...

jessamyn: "but unless you're coming at it from a position of societal power, reducing them to just looks or sexiness, that's not technically objectification."

... I feel this is really important and deserves to be expanded on. One of the difficult things with societal power is that it's not always obvious who is wielding it. As someone who is AMAB and can fake cis pretty well, I find I often am the person in the position of considerable power -- when I choose to play that part. But when I drop the act and just do what comes naturally I end up vulnerable to almost everyone. I've been beaten by men, sexually abused by women, and lectured endlessly about my sociological privilege by pretty much everyone. Even so... I do have the option of faking cis man, and from that perspective I can do a tonne of harm to people.

So do I count as someone who has the power to objectify? Do I count as someone who is vulnerable to objectification when people throw around careless comments about dudes? I feel like the answer to both of those is "yes", and I honestly don't know what to do with that. I genuinely don't want to start throwing around the male privilege that I'm still holding on to, because that's totally gross and frankly counterproductive, but at the same time I'd like to ask people to maybe not be shitty towards dudes because I'm in a terribly vulnerable position myself and it really puts me at risk if that kind of behaviour becomes normalised.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, to me there's a difference between a rhetorical "gotcha" which is framed as "so you feminists are willing to objectify men, I see, why is that okay?" and the idea that individual men or masculine spectrum people who have had crummy stuff happen about their appearances might not want to encounter a lot of "look at this super-hot super-normative straight guy" stuff in random threads.

I think it's tricky because it's two kind of things - there's marginalization of and social violence against women and femme people which happens to women and femme people generally as a group even if it does not literally happen to every woman or femme person in every social situation; and then there's individually crummy things that can happen to some men in some social situations, even though that does not reflect structural violence and inequality and does not happen because those people are men or masculine spectrum.

And then here on metafilter we pay attention to those things in different ways - like, there's the specific political struggle to call out and stop the deeply structured and pervasive shitty treatment of women and femme people that happens here, and then there's also the "we recognize that individual people have individual experiences which do not map neatly onto their structural position, and those individual people have individual hopes for how they will encounter the site". The second is not the first and is definitely a secondary concern, but I think it's okay to bring up if there's social space for it.

So, like, if a cis woman says says "I'm so attracted to trans guys, they're like guys but without all the baggage, it's great!" (which one doesn't hear so much anymore but used to be pretty standard in my world), that's structurally kind of gross and I would feel confident in making a strong political critique.

If someone says "people with strong character who were bullied as children grow up and get over it", I don't really have a structural critique, but I would feel like that's not an attitude that I want to encounter on the site, and I'd tend to make an individual "here is why I personally feel like that's not a good understanding of the world" statement.

I think those are two separate kinds of concerns. If I had to pick only one, I'd be concerned with structural violence, but I also think that we as a site have a place for people expressing individual concerns about how they encounter the world.
posted by Frowner at 6:43 AM on August 5, 2016 [25 favorites]


do I count as someone who has the power to objectify? Do I count as someone who is vulnerable to objectification when people throw around careless comments about dudes? I feel like the answer to both of those is "yes", and I honestly don't know what to do with that.

I think that's why intersectionality is something people talk about a lot to try to untangle these things because of course the conflict between those two ideas you're working with is real, and tricky. And, at the very least, when we can be mindful of some of this stuff it can help inform our "Yes, shit is complicated" viewpoint on not just our own conflicts but the ones of other people as well.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:09 AM on August 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


So do I count as someone who has the power to objectify?

Context matters and oppression can live in the realm of gender presentation only, so the answer is "yes", if you're presenting as a cis male and you act in an oppressive way then the person you oppressed has a valid claim to oppression.

Now, as to how that affects you internally gets into where being a trans woman gets really hurtful and can easily veer into self harm, dysphoria and all sorts of other shit. That's where being a trans woman is definitely a unique axis along the intersections of gender oppression and one that I'm trying to understand better in myself even.

The objectification of trans women comes down our value as women having zero, perhaps even negative amount of currency on the "is she fuckable" misogyny market. So the objectification we face as trans women is tightly bound in transmisogyny and is a unique hell unto itself.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:10 AM on August 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


For the most part, when people talk about Trudeau's (and even Obama's -- seriously there is a awful lot of bromance-diplomacy slash type stuff out there) attractiveness they aren't also doing the following things that would happen to an equally attractive female leader:
  • Implying that he only got the job because he's pretty (obvs the Tories tried to stoop to that, it didn't work)
  • Calling him a slut for being seen less than fully dressed (remember that bikini photoshop of Sarah Palin?)
  • Accusing him of parading his sexuality around everywhere and diminishing the office of PM
  • Looking for pictures where he doesn't look so pretty and deciding that "he's really an ugly bitch anyways"
  • Looking at the "ugly" pictures and talking about how "I'd still rape him"
  • Threatening/enticing rape of him when he does something that they disagree with.
Like, I'm sure you could find individual examples of all of those things happening to Trudeau (it's a big Internet), but it's not anywhere near as widespread as it is for women. So in the context of all of that shitty stuff that would happen to a similarly situated woman, commenting on her looks (even in a complementary manner) is significantly more charged than similar comments about a man.

And, as a cis het woman, I'll admit that there is something a little funny about flipping the script. Like, with all the talk about the ubiquity of the boobs-and-butt pose that female action stars get put in, it was fun to start seeing shots of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye posed that way.

That being said -- in a thread about politics, I'd rather not see comments about how pretty JT is. In a thread about say, world-leader as celebrity (e.g. Obama's birthday, Trudeau at pride, etc.) the swooning seems more appropriate.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:22 AM on August 5, 2016 [23 favorites]


So, yeah... I really want to stress the extent to which I agree with jessamyn's last comment and Annika Cicada's. More than that: it's jessamyn's hard work fighting boyzone that made me consider signing on to MeFi in the first place, and it was one of Annika Cicada's comment's pertaining to the recent Trans Thread of Doom (doesn't really matter which one) that made me stick around after that mess unfolded.

With that in mind, I really strongly want to endorse jessamyn's point that intersectionality is really critical here, and unless you think you've mastered all forms of intersectionality (which none of us has) it's better to be kind, even when you're ostensibly referring to privileged folks. And I want to strongly agree with Annika Cicada's point too... not everyone has the option that I have of retreating into the land of cis male privilege, and in that sense it's harder to be a trans woman than an AMAB nonbinary thingy (or whatever the fuck I am).

tl;dr - if you're cis and aren't sure about this conversation, it's okay just to be nice to people. It helps.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 7:23 AM on August 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


the existence of stars below the horizon: "comment's"

Sigh. Why does the edit window always close right before I notice my fuckup?
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2016


So do I count as someone who has the power to objectify?

Well yes, literally everyone does. You don't have to be a cis male to participate in and reify societal misogyny, that opportunity is open to everyone regardless of gender.
posted by Dysk at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


So I'm gonna take some blame here, because I was the one who posted the link to the article about shirtless Trudeau in the first place. I really really regret posting it now, because it was a stupid attempt at lightening the mood a bit. In fact, I was reminded by a friend and fellow MeFite that he'd recently signed off on a pretty shady weapons deal with another country, and that stories like the one I posted minimize that. So, mea culpa.

However, I don't think that the Trudeau thing is evidence of some sort of wider trend w/r/t men in general, nor do I think it's "Metafilter being Metafilter." Gross comments objectifying women are still depressingly common (albeit deleted fairly quickly), and men are not getting anywhere near the same treatment now, and certainly not in equivalent numbers and permissiveness as female MeFites have dealt with here in the past. It's not some sort of sign that the era of the boyzone is over and that it's time for the girlzone to take over, and I really hope that's not the direction this thread is headed.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Dysk: "Well yes, literally everyone does. You don't have to be a cis male to participate in and reify societal misogyny, that opportunity is open to everyone regardless of gender."

Agreed, and very much so at that. I should probably STFU because it's terribly late here in Oz and I'm slightly drunk, but yes... objectification is a thing that we can all do, and it's awful whenever we do it. Still, it's not at all the case that everyone is equally capable of doing it. The sheer power that accompanies a cis male identity is just... overwhelming. You can use it to do horrible things to almost anyone. The things that I am most ashamed of in my own life are almost invariably things where I used the cis man identity to do awful things, and the victims of my shitty behaviour have almost always been women. And to state the obvious - there is zero justification for anyone saying gross things about women, be they cis or trans. I mean... duh. "Don't be a fuckhead" is an awesome life goal, and the misogyny built into our society is pretty much designed to turn one into a fuckhead.

That said, the thing I'm trying to say in this thread (and trying to do so as gently as I can manage) is that turning one's anger on cis men is a tricky thing to do with safety. A lot of very, very vulnerable people can get caught up in it. Again, I return to my main claim - if you're in doubt about the right course of action, kindness is usually wiser.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 8:08 AM on August 5, 2016


Unfortunately, anything remotely resembling gender equality is going to seem like a girlzone to some people. When you're so used to being in the dominating group that it feels totally normal, being "reduced" to a position where you are merely on an even footing with other groups can feel like marginalization. This can be cured with a little introspection and self awareness, but men as a group are not great at that, since society rarely requires it of us and to some extent we are trained to avoid such things as being sissy or gay or feminine. It's something we all see all the time both here and in the rest of the world, and something that will need to be continually policed and dealt with even after the goal of gender equality is reached. (Assuming that we ever get there, which I remain hopeful that we will despite knowing that there's such a long way to go that few people even agree totally about what that goal would look like if achieved.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:17 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The things that I am most ashamed of in my own life are almost invariably things where I used the cis man identity to do awful things, and the victims of my shitty behaviour have almost always been women.

Trust me when I say this, you are not alone.

(the rest of this applies mainly to all the colors of the trans spectrum and is not specifically related to this thread at all, so bear with me, thanks.)

It's like, how do we carry the behaviors of our past in a way that we own it while at the same time forgiving ourselves? How do we recover from mistakes? How do we learn to "detoxify" our gender expressions? Are trans people responsible for even trying to fix the toxic hell that is associated with the gender binary? I say no, that we are allowed to make mistakes, fuck up, learn and grow. Trans people are not solely responsible for fixing what's broken with cisworld. That's a group effort.

You're allowed to not know. You're allowed to make mistakes. You're allowed to ask for forgiveness. You're allowed to grow and not have your time in cislandia lorded over you as an example of why you are a bad person who did bad things for which you now must spend the rest of your life atoning for. Nonbinary and Transfemme people don't solely own the burden of fixing misogyny on behalf of cis men.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:24 AM on August 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


Catching up on this after a busy day of not-working, just wanted to add a couple thoughts and responses. But in general I think folks have covered the territory pretty well in here in terms of the space between talking-about-shirtless-Trudeau as an example of the kind of systemic sexual objectification that's historically been an issue on the site (it doesn't seem like a very good example of that at all) and talking-about-shirtless-Trudeau as something that's maybe not a great idea anyway just because it's not great conversation and stumbles into minor weirdness even without the systemic weight behind it.

My personal feeling is that I think it makes it a lot easier to encourage a site culture of non-objectification if folks just try in general to avoid going there in terms of casually rolling (a) someone's appearance or (b) their personal tingly-feelings-down-there reactions to same into discussions. Drawing a fairly consistent line there across the board is helpful not because there's a perfect equivalency in cases but because it avoids prompting bad feelings even about non-equivalent cases and avoids derailing a random thread into an argument about that flipping the script, non-equivalency, etc.

In general, erring on the side of caution when you're trying decide whether to share with MetaFilter your personal assessment of someone's appearance/hotness/whateverthefuck or how that makes you feel seems like pretty good community-minded process, even if you're otherwise not sure you agree about one or another of the details of the larger, super complicated set of ideas people have summarized in here. That doesn't mean you have to agree with anyone in particular or that you can't make different decisions about that sort of thing in different contexts. It just means you're thinking about how what you're saying is going to effect the folks around you on MetaFilter, specifically.

Of which, a couple things I wanted to chime in on:

Gross comments objectifying women are still depressingly common (albeit deleted fairly quickly)

I don't want to get in an argument about how common "depressingly common" is and nor do I want to suggest that "doesn't happen much" is the same thing as "totally not a prob", but I will say that looking back on where we were several years ago, the frequency with which we have to actually take action on this stuff has plummeted. Like, not a subtle or gradual decline. I think this may partly be a sort of paradoxical thing where the result of very responsive moderation can be the perception that a kind of crappy stuff is just being cleaned up very quickly very often, versus the reality that for the most part it's, thankfully, just not showing up much in the first place anymore.

When it does, it's still crappy, and it sticks out in memory. But while I can't think of a great way to run numbers on it without a lot of manual labor, it's really a night and day thing. The community has changed a lot in this respect; it feels really, really baked in to the site culture as a whole at this point that nobody wants to hear somebody's opinion on how fuckable or just gosh darn pretty some woman who happens to be existing in the context of a MetaFilter thread is. When we do see it at this point it's almost always from someone who isn't particularly engaged in the community. It's significant progress; it's heartening.

The that-dude-is-hot stuff never happened on anything like the same scale, though it did and still does happen now and then as well. And when folks flag it and I see it I take a good hard look at deleting it as well. There's contextual wiggle room there but it's something that is on the mod radar.

For the most part, when people talk about Trudeau's (and even Obama's -- seriously there is a awful lot of bromance-diplomacy slash type stuff out there) attractiveness they aren't also doing the following things that would happen to an equally attractive female leader:

This gets to the systemic heart of why arguing an equivalence always feels weird to me, yeah. And I don't want to dig into that further myself because, like I said, I think folks have covered it well above already.

One thing I will say in terms of just trying to contextualize this discussion and the thread on the blue, is that because the bullet point list of super awful and way too common stuff that happens in the larger internet context is basically stuff that just doesn't get to fly on MetaFilter at all at this point, we have the advantage as a community of trying to pick at this sort of discussion from a better starting point, one that's less a nuclear-grade "hubba-hubba-ing shirtless dude vs. threatening women with sexual violence" dichotomy and more of a "hey, this stuff is complicated but there are some contextual differences even if hubba-hubba isn't really a great look". And I guess I'm basically glad that that latter discussion is the one we were able to have in this thread, though I do understand why the nuke-level stuff ended up coming into that discussion as a matter of putting some of the arguments here in a larger context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:04 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just about this one specific Trudeau exchange in that thread -

So, there was a discussion the previous day in the thread about Trudeau as a cool/dashing leader and how Americans would like to trade for him in the draft, and how after years of killer robot Stephen Harper, Canada has painfully earned a heartthrob/goodguy leader. The discussion was all -- or initially all? -- between men, the link to pics was posted by a man and the "he can wear as little as he wants" comment was by a man too.

I came to the discussion well after the pic link was posted and didn't see that until well after the fact, but I did see the "as little" comment come in -- I wasn't crazy about it but was sort of shruggo on it in light of the context I just mentioned. Maybe I should have deleted it; I've deleted other similar comments about men by women in the past. That kind of comment certainly isn't something I feel needs strong defending.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:05 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right, so one last desperate plea before I drown under the lake of wine that's been required for me to join this thread - there's a lot going on here. I've been the grumpy whiny fucker throughout a lot of this one, and I've ended up picking fights with my own bloody allies in the process, as well as talking at cross-purposes with the mods (to an extent) who are lovely, thoughtful and kind people, trying desperately to make one of the few non-fucked up places on the interwebs. If my opinion is worth anything, as a (fucking drunk) AMAB nonbinary person with no freaking clue how to make gender work as middle age approaches... please be kind. Even to the arseholes. They don't deserve it, but you can make so many people happier if you're careful.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 9:23 AM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I got 10 pounds of hugs in a 5 pound sack for whoever wants em.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:30 AM on August 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


While I certainly agree about talk of difference between the systemic objectification women have had to endure and how that is fundamentally distinct from speaking of men in terms of their looks. I would also remind people that judging people on their looks can also inform other power dynamics. Adopting a look oriented assessment can further the culture of ableism, fat shaming, gender norming, and just generally lowers the bar of discourse around what makes any person valuable in our society. Objectification can also work along side lines of class difference, where, for example, a server is not actually a person merely an object there to be ordered around for your needs.

The internet can diffuse direct lines of power dynamics since the status of the commentator and the reader is in some ways invisible. Because of that, speech on the internet can inform cultural behavior in ways that aren't simply along a one to one relationship as our discourse can spread far beyond our intended purpose. So while acknowledging the histories of objectifying women and men are vastly and undeniably different, I can't agree with that then meaning there is no ill effect if men are reduced to an object status or spoken of as valued primarily for their looks.

If there were any upside or positive effect of this sort of commentary, other than turnabout is fair play, it may be a different matter, but as I can't see that as being the case, I respectfully suggest much of that sort of comment isn't beneficial unless specifically germane to the topic at hand.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:47 AM on August 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


I feel ya, the existence. I think Let's Be Kind is a pretty good baseline for just about everything.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's worth pointing out that black men's bodies are sexually objectified in our culture in ways that white men's bodies are not, and that this is so demonstrates how objectification functions within the context of structural injustices like sexism or racism. So I'm in full agreement both with the arguments that the social context (i.e. power relationships) is crucial and that this isn't accounted for outside of intersectionality.

It's easy to view other people instrumentally -- I think we unavoidably do this to some degree every day. But I think that there's something not good about doing so, we should interrogate ourselves about this, and we should strive to do it less. This includes the sexual objectification of other people.

I think what matters in practice is the degree to which we functionally deny someone's personhood by relating to them instrumentally. Even when all else is equal, it's quite possible to do this to harmful degree to another individual person. What makes the structural context so important is that structural sexism, for example, makes it very easy to do this -- or even makes it very difficult to avoid doing this because it's culturally implicit. Structural racism and sexism are both built around the premise that some kinds of people only have instrumental value, their bodies do not belong to themselves. But even outside those contexts, objectifying other people is something to avoid.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


One thing I've learned from MetaFilter discussions, ranging from Justin Bieber to the Beatles to One Direction to James Deen before he was revealed to be a grade-A shitlord, is that expressions of sexual desire towards famous and attractive men serves as a safe way for people to toy with revealing those feelings.

This is true on two levels at once. First, it serves as a venue in which enough people—mostly women—are expressing the same thing that it's harder to individually shame them for having those feelings. Sexual repression is overwhelmingly a thing, for men and women both but primarily (of course) for women. To this day a lot of would-be feminist men still sneer at women who openly admire, say, Tom Hiddleston, as if finding a man attractive is somehow beneath a person.

(I think that those men are behaving that way at least in part due to their own repression, for what it's worth. Some of that discomfort stems directly from men being turned off by other men's crass objectification of women, and internalizing that as disliking all expressions of attraction regardless of power lines. As with virtually everything else patriarchal, sexual repression fucks up both genders, but when men are fucked up by it they turn around and fuck women up some more for good measure—even when they think of themselves as liberated allies.)

The other factor at play here, of course, is that men themselves are dangerous, as a blanket rule. So choosing famous men as a vessel for some amount of sexual fandom allows people to open up about their feelings and play with their desires, without the multifaceted dangers that reside in actual men. Which is a different dynamic than exists for men, even if group objectification among man definitely also serves as a so-called "safe place" in a really gross way. (See my above parenthetical.)

For those reasons I simultaneously:

— am all for people making comments about hot shirtless men

— would love to see society become a bit more open about feelings of sexual desire in theory

— but, in practice, can see that there's a huge difference between that and forms of "open expressions of feelings" that just serve as an excuse for men to say shitty things about women

Even as a cishet man, I can pretty easily tell the difference between offensive and less-offensive comments, and it's equally pretty clear to me that comments directed towards men are far less frequently awful than comments directed towards women.
posted by rorgy at 10:23 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


after years of killer robot Stephen Harper, Canada has painfully earned a heartthrob/goodguy leader.

I think this is a LOT of it. We have almost no national heroes, or any history of creating them (Tommy Douglas and Trudeau senior excepted. Jack Layton. Romeo Dallaire, in a tragic way), and leaders (as good guys) are important anchors for people when it comes to politics (like it or not; whether it's connected with the actuality of government or not), the cult of personality is just a thing. (The degree to which we equate "good" with "attractive" is another can of worms, ofc)

(And now I'm thinking of that Bonnie Tyler song)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2016


(Also of Putin and his hunting selfies)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2016


man, off today - not supporting Putin. (Or wanting to discuss him.) Macho-romantic posturing, whether totally cynical or rooted in something authentically theirs, isn't unheard of among political leaders. Sometimes there is an appetite for it, whether we agree with it or not.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:36 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


— would love to see society become a bit more open about feelings of sexual desire in theory

I think where and how that plays out on mefi is tricky though.

I've got other places on the internet where I can talk about that super fine guy in Her Story.

I think of mefi the same as if I were in a crowded room full of people from all walks of life. Is that the place to be loudly talking about my feels about that guy and the disgustingly delicious intrusive thoughts I have about him? Probably not...
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:41 AM on August 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


"First, it serves as a venue in which enough people—mostly women—are expressing the same thing that it's harder to individually shame them for having those feelings."

For my part, I don't equate "expressions of sexual desire" with objectification, which is why I was careful in my comment to start from the presumption of objectification per se. That's also why I noted the sexual objectification of black men -- because racism provides the context within which that sort of thing becomes unambiguously sexual objectification and not merely the expression of sexual desire. Sexual desire does not require that one view another person only instrumentally, but it's implicit in sexual objectification.

This distinction is relevant to this discussion in that in practice it's the degree to which it's clear that an expression of sexual attraction is not an objectification is the degree to which it can be acceptable. When someone here talks about how sexually attractive they find their partner, the presumption is that this expression of sexual desire is not exclusively or even primarily a reduction of that other person to an instrumental object. In contrast, given the sexist cultural context, when someone writes "I'd hit that" about a female politician, it's quite clear that such a reduction is exactly what's going on. The inherent acceptability of the expression of sexual desire is not really what's at stake here.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:54 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Recently, Obama, Trudeau, and Enrique Peña Nieto took part in a big photo-op that the press really loved. North America's leaders are so handsome and cool, and all that. As the GQ article I linked says, "Between these two bro-tastic hotties and the fact that they'll be meeting with the obviously cool and attractive bro President Obama today, I think it's fair to say that things are literally looking good for NAFTA." I admit that's an extreme example, but I don't think it's an unrepresentative one.

While the press enjoyed the extremely Win virality of this story, Trudeau had sold arms to Saudi Arabia for its catastrophic war of aggression in Yemen, and Peña Nieto's police were in the middle of shooting down indigenous left-wing teachers protesting his government's attack on the teachers' unions.

Now, as hikers run into Trudeau emerging from a cave, it turns out that Trudeau's government, breaking Trudeau's campaign promises, has quietly pushed to build a dam against the wishes of two First Nations.

For me, at least, these Sexxxy Trudeau stories are less bad for objectifying men and much worse for obscuring the reality of these men's effects on the world.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:59 AM on August 5, 2016 [17 favorites]


A lot of insightful comments here, much appreciated.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2016


For me, at least, these Sexxxy Trudeau stories are less bad for objectifying men and much worse for obscuring the reality of these men's effects on the world.

I think that highlights a piece of what's wrong with the focus on looks and "oooh shiny" without having to point a finger and call anyone sexist: it obscures the fact that people are complicated and focusing on any one facet is dumbing down the overall story to make it unrecognizeable in the interests of virality, palatability and (maybe) accessibility. You can also point to a lot of good Trudeau has done, he's not just an evil bastard with long eyelashes, Obama as well. And since he's a politician for a job, people should be scrutinizing his actions and not his looks. We've sort of gotten used to the horribleness of people doing this with female politicians and athletes and scientists, which is crappy because it's objectifying them, but also crappy because it's capturing people's limited attention to pander.

As Annika Cicada said, there are a ton of places you can talk about how sexy or cute someone is but that's usually not a topic for general discussion among people you don't know very well who come from varying cultural backgrounds. It's just a testament to how weird the media has gotten about this generally (and societal privilege etc) that it's become something you can read about day in and day out.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


, I can't agree with that then meaning there is no ill effect if men are reduced to an object status or spoken of as valued primarily for their looks

Does this often happen (when we are speaking of political leaders especially)? Even though someone may comment on this or that physical aspect of a man, sexualize it, it's against the implicit , taken-for-granted, near-universal background understanding that he has a subjectivity, and is primarily defined by other values. (As was said better by others above.) Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin - swingers, characterful men. Marilyn Monroe - object, screen for fantasies. JFK or Trudeau playing on perceived charmer status only contributes to the mystique of their power. People responding to it, and injecting their projections with other hopes ("finally, a liberal hero", for Canadians) - maybe not appropriate here and that's worth discussing. (Personally, have never bought into T2's bit, find it a bit gross, but I get why people are into it.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:08 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


One the things I genuinely don't understand about how people do gender - and the norms about objectifying people that seem to come along with it - is that the extent to which I am considered a valid target depends on nothing more than a tiny bit of metal. My default appearance IRL is pretty ambiguous (if I can be bothered with shaving, that is): I usually wear men's clothes (and very bland men's clothes), but they're all at the most feminine end of the range, so if I don't do anything to explicitly code as female, most people ignore me and I look like a regular cis man. When I present like this I get all the advantages of being a cis man, and people IRL aren't gross to me. Then if I decide to put a bobby pin in my hair, everything changes. Now suddenly people reinterpret everything about my appearance. Now I code as feminine, and people are kind of terrifying. Just one tiny piece of metal in my hair, and I switch categories, and *everyone* changes their behavior. As a cis man, I get privilege IRL and people are gross to me on Metafilter; when I go femme people are gross to me IRL and I guess I come across as more sympathetic on MeFi? Or maybe not? I really can't tell any more. I don't understand why people on this site think it's okay to objectify someone who presents "like me without the stupid bobby pin" but totally gross to objectify someone who presents "like me with the stupid bobby pin" (nor do I understand why people IRL show the opposite pattern). It's just a tiny bit of metal, and I honestly don't understand why it means so much to everyone. I feel like a human Necker cube sometimes.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 3:34 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ugh. Okay, I sort of wish I hadn't joined this thread. I think I might take a break from MeFi for a bit. My apologies to all if my contributions have been unhelpful.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 4:35 PM on August 5, 2016


Gender is a stochastic model with regards to how we are read and attached to a socially apparent biological sex. That process is weird, binary constructed and frustrating as hell but I hesitate to call the split decision process of determining social sex as objectification. I think it's more complicated than that?

I'm reading what you've written and from my perspective I see that you've found one variable, that when placed on top of ten other variables, causes the stochastic model to fall a particular way in a particular location at a particular time of year.

Also, I find it a little bit reductive and overgeneralized to say "the world objectifies me because of a stupid little piece of metal". It treats you like that for a ten thousand conflicted and unpredictable reasons.

Think of gender presentation as a socially unspoken language. What are you trying to say? How do you say it? For as much we own our internal gender identity and how we choose to express that, we also share a common social gender space with a totally separate set of rules that our expressions mingle, interact and shift with. One of the harshnesses of our world is that speaking a social language of gender is relative to the constructed world we operate in so at some point social gender breaks down to "do gender as the Romans (where you're at) do". The difficulty trans people face with learning how to wield control of the unspoken language of gender to make it work better for us to say what it is we want to say and be read correctly should not be discounted. This shit is hard fucking work. Compromises have to made with what you wear and how you present and yes that sucks and it's not fair but them's the breaks when rolling a trans gender expression in normalized spaces. We just don't get cis privileges at all. And...I don't know that we ever will?

I understand that being non-binary (or perhaps agender even) in a dominantly binary gender space is painful and difficult, and it's one of the reasons I chose to medically transition and live as a woman, some days I feel like "what the fuck did I do this for?" But for me being read as a non-binary girl centered on a tomboy femme space felt closer to my genderfeels than being read as a non-binary boy centered on a transfemme space. So I started HRT and now I have boobs and everything is much better now...
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:37 PM on August 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't have anything to add to the fantastic conversation here, but I do want to offer the existence of stars below the horizon a hug, either tangible or intangible. I hope you feel better, and I wish I could help.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:07 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regardless of whether it reinforces systemic issues and therefore counts as objectification or not, this sort of "publicly identifying someone as an object of sexual desire" feels *really*gross. It's nothing I'd want to be on either side of in any case/circumstance , and it's something which makes me uneasy about the community. So... +1 for less of this for any permutation of people/bodies/identities. though I can probably only speak with credibility to some subset,so ignore what doesn't apply, I suppose
posted by CrystalDave at 9:56 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


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