Saturday, April 27, 2013

Depictions, Mispreceptions, Objectification, Shame, Shamelessness, Progress and Regression.

I started this post recently, and then I stopped it as it was pretty far off topic from my usual fare, and perhaps it just didn't fit in.  It started off as something I heard on XM Radio as a news story.  Later, however, I revived it as I heard a disturbing episode of Talk of the Nation.  One of the things about being a lawyer is that most lawyers have opinions on everything, and that being the case, we often tend to express them, so I'm back again.  However, the post take a bit of a different turn this go around.

Every once in a while, you actually read or hear a news story that suggests that things aren't in a hopeless downward spiral, and that just maybe there's actually real progress on something. And not the social movement of the moment type of progress, which more often than not is a passing fad, but an actual evolution in thought.  Of course, sometimes that's just people coming to their senses and returning to an earlier standard that made sense, was misunderstood, and then returned to as a new discovery.  Unfortunately, you can find plenty of evidence of the opposite as well, and both of these, in the same general area, are examined here.

On the topic of a positive evolution of thought, it seems that just such an event may be happening, and while it's hard not to be laugh a bit at some of the text associated with the story, this really probably actually does indicate a true, and significant, shift in views.  What that story entails is news that a campaign has been launched to take the "page 3 girl" out of the British newspaper The Sun.  Given the double entendre title, "Take the Bare Boobs Out of the Sun" the Internet effort, which looks as if it actually might succeed, seeks to get The Sun, one of the seemingly endless number of trashy British newspapers, to quit publishing photographs of topless models on page 3 of the newspaper.  The Sun started doing that about 40 or so years ago, in an effort to boost readership, which worked, showing, perhaps, that they, or maybe Britain in general, had a mostly male newspaper readership at that time.  Doubtless most women don't really want some topless tart showing up inside the newspaper.

What that significant shift may be is a real change and actually a change that matters.  The Sun is, once again, concerned about readership, but this go around its finding that women count in terms of readership just as much as men, and they're not amused.  Nor should they be. The Sun, a business like any other, is now finding itself the target of a campaign that seems likely to work.  If it does, and I hope it will, it may be the beginning of the end for the trashy Brit fishwrappers.

 It sounds insignificant, but it's not.  What The Sun did was to follow a trend that the US kicked off, or rather Hugh Hefner kicked off, with his one singular clever idea.  "Girly Mags," as they once were called, had been around for a long time, probably making an appearance only shortly after photography itself.  But they were disreputable trash.  Even magazines the crept up on such depictions, such as the World War Two GI journal "Yank," were regarded as a little unseemly.  Hefner's clever idea, and the only really clever one he ever had, was to make his magazine, Playboy, launched in 1953, glossy and slick, like Life magazine, and to hire some good writers to write in it.  And it didn't hurt that he found some lost photographs of Marilyn Monroe to use in the first issue, taken when she was a young starving actress.  Life magazine saved her career by publishing them first, so that the sting would be taken out of it, saving Marilyn from her early indiscretion, or maybe not. 

The impact of that was to make pornography more acceptable.  That's about it, but that's a lot.  All of the other claims for the magazine are baloney.  In terms of a trend setter, it isn't.  It's rarely on the cutting edge of anything serious, and its popularity really is based solely on chesty female 20 years olds.

But that impact has been huge.  It started off the pornographication of American society and, rather than liberalize sex, it demented it.  Much of what has gone wrong in this are since 1953 can be laid at the door of the ossified creep, Hefner.  And amongst the worst impact, is the trinkitization and objectification of women, reducing them from real people to toys.

It's coincidental that feminist movements came up at the same time Playboy did, as they have nothing at all in common.  Most American women, indeed most women everywhere, reject the radical propositions of feminism that suggest there's no difference between men and women, as there certainly are, but it cannot be denied that women's roles have changed enormously in society since 1945, although I'd argue for reason that feminist have very little to do with.  But, as the same time, pornography, which has spread from Playboy into everything, has really set women back.  Women will never achieve real equality with men as long as there are Page 3 girls, or perhaps as long as Kate Upton is willing to go bare chested in Sports Illustrated.  It just won't happen.

Given that, a spontaneous uprising against Page 3 girls is a good sign.  We can only hope that they succeed in getting The Bare Boobs out of The Sun and shed some light of day on women themselves.

So much for the hopeful part of this story.

Back to objectification.  Followers of the news have been the horrified spectators to two suicides of young women who were raped by boys they knew and who photographed it, and distributed it on the social media.  One is the Nova Scotia teen Rehteah Parsons, who in the words of her father took her own life as she was "disappointed to death."  The other was California teen Audrie Pott.  I know less about her motivation, but I suspect it was similar.  Both girls were crushed by the abuse at the hands of boys that they knew, who treated them or at least their bodies like objects. 

At least according to a story I recently heard on NPR, that view amongst males is shockingly common.  Apparently a fairly high percentage of rapist who take advantage of young girls being drunk or otherwise impaired, a situation that has increased with "equality," have no idea that they're doing something wrong, and they don't even grasp why what they've done isn't somehow funny. For the victim it certainly isn't and her trust is forever damaged.  All the more so, as whatever our claims to modernity are, at our root, we remain the primitive people we started out with, whose psychology does not accommodate a "sexual revolution" and which still expects men, at some level, to be their protector.  And men should be, no matter what feminist or academics in Ivory towers wish to be the case.

What's that have to do with The Sun and Playboy?  Well, everything.  Prior to Playboy stripping away the shame associated with being a nude in a men's magazine, it was understood that was a species of fallen state.  Not irredeemable, as no fallen state is. But a fallen state none the less.  After Playboy's influence worked its way into the general culture, however, young women became objects. At some point, the culture began not only treating them that way, but expecting them to behave that way.  The entire "hook up" culture is evidence of that (which is, thankfully, dieing away amongst teens today).   A serious model like Kate Upton appearing nearly nude in Sports Illustrated is another. 

So, back again to taking "the Bare Boobs out of the Sun."  Perhaps they'll not only come out of the Sun, but perhaps this will start of women saying enough is enough on being portrayed as toys.  It takes 100 Condalisa Rices, Margaret Thatchers, or Hillary Clintons to make up for just one topless tart, maybe more.  And women are, unfortunately, participating in that demeaning of their gender..  Once that occurs, and shame returns to being part of such depictions, women will be along ways towards real equality.  Or at least perhaps those who would appear on Page 3 might think of the unintended consequences for their young fellows, whom deserve better.

No comments: