Wednesday, 18 November 2009

How to Attract a Man: The Daily Mail Way

Here’s an interesting one. The Daily Mail has an article on a psychological study that says women who bare 40% of their naked, womanflesh in nightclubs are more likely to attract a man than those who don’t show enough or those who show too much.

So what? Well, as usual, it’s the way the Mail reports on these issues that makes them so ludicrous.

“It is the question that has troubled many a young woman as she dresses for a night out: How much should she dare to bare? After all, if her clothes are too revealing, she may catch the eye of the wrong kind of man. But too prim and she may attract none at all.”

Insert your own DUN DUN DUUUUUN here.

Ah, that age old question. Now, obviously there’s no point in a woman going to a nightclub if she can’t attract a man. And, more importantly, she must do everything she can to appeal to a man. We all know women don’t ever go to nightclubs to have fun with friends or – god forbid – attract other women. The article continues.

“Seventy hours of recordings revealed that a man was much more likely to ask a woman to dance than vice versa. While this may not seem surprising, it is important because it meant that the female clubbers had to compete against each other for male attention. And clothing - or lack of it - was one of the factors that helped them stand out.”

It paints a pretty dismal view of nightclubs doesn’t it? Women are reduced to nothing more than passive sex objects whose sole function is to stand out from the pack in order to be “rewarded” with male attention. While sexism from the Mail is nothing new, is it really necessary for the article to use this sort of language? There no place in the article for anything other than an essentialist, heterosexist mating ritual.

But wait – there’s more.

“Suitable outfits might include a sleeveless dress that skims the thighs. But showing off any more flesh than this could be counterproductive. Dr Hendrie said: 'Any more than 40 per cent and the signal changes from "allure" to one indicating general availability and future infidelity. 'Show some leg, show some arm, but not any more than that.'”

Yes, Sir, Mr Science Man! What Hendrie is really saying is that showing any more than 40% of their skin means the woman is a whore, a slut, a slag, and any other insult men fling at women. More worryingly, perhaps, are the hints at something more sinister; we’re all aware of the sexist argument that rape victims’ clothes or behaviour means they were “asking for it” and now that idiotic notion has a pseudo-scientific study to back it up – you were showing more than 40% of your skin, they’ll say, what did you expect?

As a lesbian who doesn’t particular like clubbing (I’d rather go to the pub instead) I’m probably not the target audience for this information anyway but it doesn’t change the fact that it paints such a negative image of women being subject to and seeking men’s approval. As far as the article explains, the study was observational and none of the people in the clubs were actually interviewed, so Hendrie is putting his own patriarchal values onto the data – it is he who thinks that a woman showing more than 40% of her flesh is a bad thing and indicates that the woman is easy or likely to cheat in the future, all the data shows is that these women were asked to dance less frequently.

The fact is women at nightclubs don’t dress solely for men’s approval and nor should they. This study and article fails to take that into account and instead paints women as desperately motivated by the thought of attracting a man, and doing anything they can to gain male approval and attention. The article seems intent on shaming women for their sexual behaviour. While never said explicitly it seems to belong to the same ideology that says that while men who sleep around are studs, women who do the same are slags. Sadly, I’d expect nothing less from the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

So once again the masses have voted. Once again we’ve been made to feel like second-class citizens.

I don’t even know what to say at this point.

On the upside, early reports indicate we’ve ‘won’ in Washington. The good people of Washington have voted to uphold domestic partnership laws, meaning that gay folks now have everything but the word ‘marriage.’ Um, yay?

I’ve already blogged about the semantic bullshit these sorts of laws are based on, and while I should be happy that gay folks are making any sort of strides towards equality, the fact is I’m pissed off.

Why should my right to marry be voted on by someone who has never even met a gay person and believes every scare-mongering horror story the religious right comes out with?

“It’s about protecting traditional marriage!” Which tradition exactly? The tradition of treating your wife like property? The tradition of not being allowed to divorce? The tradition of black people not being able to marry white people?

“If gay people get married, pretty soon a man will be able to marry his dog!” Well no actually he won’t. Ignoring the fact that I’m pretty sure you just compared a queer relationship to bestiality, and that slippery slope arguments are hyperbolic and often ludicrous, the main issue here is one of consent; both parties are able to consent to a queer relationship/marriage whereas the dog can’t. Plus bestiality is illegal in the majority of the US; ‘sodomy laws’ were struck down as unconstitutional by Lawrence v Texas in 2003.

“If gay people get married, it’ll affect my marriage!” How? I’m genuinely curious. Does your neighbour getting married affect your marriage? Did black people getting married affect your marriage?

“The purpose of a marriage is to provide a stable unit to have and raise children!” And yet there are many single parent families, step-families, and gay families that all have children. Oftentimes the person advocating this view will then go on to clarify that they mean have children ‘naturally’ or that are biologically related to both parents. So infertile heterosexual couples who adopt shouldn’t be allowed to get married then?

And finally, my favourite argument: “Gay people getting married undermines the sanctity of marriage!” Really? The near 50% divorce rate didn’t do that already? A rate which rises with every subsequent marriage, I might add. Do I really have to mention Britney Spears’ 55 hour just-for-fun marriage at this point?

I don’t want to put my life to the popular vote. Governments are supposed to protect their weakest citizens, not incite a hostile majority to vote them down time and time again. In the space of a week LGBT Americans have seen The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate-Crimes Prevention Act pass - a law that finally offers legal protections for victims of hate crimes and their families - and then today another vote repealing the laws granting gay marriage rights in Maine.

For every step forward, we take two towards the back of the bus. We’ll keep fighting, but this war won’t be won in referendums or propositions. It’ll be won through legal battles and court decisions, like African-American civil rights were. While we wait for that one Supreme Court decision that will turn the tide in our favour we have to keep coming forward so the steps back don’t seem as far back as before.