Navigating the Difference Between the Appreciation of Beauty and Sexual Objectification

For the second week in a row, the CFW post is coming to you from Everyday Feminism.  This is, in part, because I have a backlog of work over there that is now slowly getting published.  It’s hard for me to find time to write more than one piece a week, so on the weeks that there is a piece over there, I usually just let that act as my post for both sites.

I’ve written about this topic a few times before, but I brought some new insights to my EF piece.  Hope you enjoy!

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Everyday FeminismAs I come to the end of my first Minnesota winter, I have never been more excited for spring.

Temperatures above 32 degrees!  Sunshine on my skin!  Long walks with my partner and the puppy!  Even just writing this makes me freak out a little in anticipation.

Which is why I was really surprised to see a woman express on Facebook how much she was dreading Spring.

“If it weren’t for the incredible weather, Spring would be intolerable.”

Comments immediately exploded with, “WHAT!?”  “Spring is the best time of year!!”  “Seriously?  Why would you ever say that!?”

She went on to explain, “Don’t get me wrong.  I want to love Spring, but the moment I step out in anything less than a full-length down coat, the street harassment-o-meter goes wild!  I can’t take it!”

I immediately felt incredible shame.  After all, when I am completely honest with myself, I know that I contribute to the kind of masculinity that causes her to dread Spring.

It’s not that I overtly participate in street harassment.  Quite the opposite, really.  Usually I try pretty hard to follow the lead of these guys.

But when I am completely honest with myself, I recognize that far too often, when I meet a woman, my eyes go down.

Every single woman knows exactly what I am talking about, as they experience it on the daily from pretty much every straight man (and even some not-so-sraight men).

And just about every straight man knows exactly what I’m talking about — because we’ve done it.

More Than Just Attraction

When I try to talk to other men (and some women) about this, I often get, “What’s the problem?  It’s completely natural to look at another person’s body with attraction.”

And they’re right.  I don’t mean to communicate that we should experience shame for feeling lust or for checking someone out.

And I suppose if my eyes wandering down existed in isolation, one could argue that it is simply a natural part of attraction.

We want to appreciate beauty, and part of that is taking in the physical beauty of the people around us.

But our actions never exist in isolation.

My wandering eyes exist as part of a daily onslaught women face where their bodies are treated as public property – leered at, jeered at, and objectified in every major media outlet and in the eyes of most men.

Objectified.  Though the word is used on the regular, it is powerful.

Read the rest of the piece at Everyday Feminism.

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Preventing Bullying: Building a Culture of Civility

In my professional life, I have been working with the folks at Global Ascension Productions to launch a series of video seminars designed to help schools prevent identity-based bullying.  What’s identity-based bullying, you might ask?

The video seminar series, entitled A Culture of Civility (stay tuned . . . the site’s a work in progress), is meant to engage the entire school community in discussion and action to prevent identity-based bullying.

As such, bullying’s been on my mind, and like most people who follow the news cycle, I was shocked to see this:

Pretty terrible stuff.  While I was in Chicago this weekend, I crafted a response:

So this is our call to action.  What are you going to do to begin building a culture of civility in your community?

CFW’s 2011 Year in Review

After spending a little time this morning going through my blog and looking back over some of what I had written this year, I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of my top posts from the year.

Thus, without further ado, here are

The Top Posts of 2011 from Change From Within

10. The tenth most visited post that I authored in 2011 was one I wrote after visiting the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial in southeastern Colorado – Cultural Amnesia: The Sand Creek Massacre.  Though it is perhaps easiest to forget that we live on the lands of a genocide, we must never forget what has happened in our own back yards.

9.  The 9th most popular publication that I wrote in 2011 was in response to the oh-so-common idea espoused among White folks that because of the election of Barack Obama, we now live in a post-racial society.  I posit, though, that Post Racial = More Covert in Our Racism.

8.  The 8th post popular post on my site was also the most popular post among our White Supremacist buddy over at Unamusement Park who decided to hijack the comments section for his White Supremacist ramblings. The blog, though, was a reposting of a profound piece by Ewuare Xola Osayande in a critique of Tim Wise (and other White Anti-Racist activists such as myself).  On White Anti-Racist Activists by Equare Xola Osayande

7.  Coming in at number 7 is one of my posts that was republished at the Good Men ProjectMy Take On Sex was a response to a young man who was interested to hear my perspective on sex and relationships, as he couldn’t find many perspectives outside of the Christian one he heard in his church community.  The comments section also turned into a rousing debate on abortion, a debate that is still continuing.  I would love to see some comments from more of my readers!

6.  Rounding out the latter half of the Top 10 is a piece that ruffled some feathers locally and got some national traction in the #Occupy movement.  Occupy Denver has a Race Problem criticized the local iteration of the #Occupy movement in its lack of responsiveness to the needs of communities of color.  It posited that if Occupy Denver doesn’t work to be more inclusive, it will quickly become irrelevant, something I fear is happening.

5.  The 5th most popular post on Change From Within in 2011 is one that still saddens me incredibly.  It was my last-minute plea to join in the multitude of voices trying to stop the execution of Troy Davis.  Injustice Anywhere: Stop the Murder of Troy Davis called on my readers to join in the activism that ultimately failed to save the life of a man who was convicted of a murder he very likely didn’t commit.

4.  The 4th most popular post was another repost blog from White Anti-Racist activist Tim Wise that I posted right before attending the White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis, MN.  Tim Wise and White Privilege reposted one of Wise’s pieces where he critiques the racism often present on the American Left.

3.  It’s notable that the 3rd most visited post I authored in 2011 was only written on the 1st of December, and it holds the record for the most single-day hits on Change From Within.  Profitable Objectification: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show problematizes the perspective from which the “fashion show” is presented and how this can not only affect women’s body image but can drastically impact the way that men see women.

2.  The second most visited blog that was published on Change From Within in 2011 addressed the issue of immigration and the English-Only movement in the U.S..  Speak American” – Multilingualism and the English-Only Movement looked at the ways that English-Only as a mindset and policy is not only unconstitutional but actually works to the detriment of the United States and its citizens.

1.  Finally, the single most popular blog post of 2011 was authored January 26, 2011.  It’s Not Just Rap – Misogyny in Music looks at the way that violent misogyny is not a problem solely in rap music, as often asserted, but is actually simply a problem in MUSIC.  From Kanye West to Avenged Sevenfold, from NoFX to Trace Adkins, misogyny is rampant in our music culture, and it’s time for us to do something about that!

Thank you to all my readers for helping to make 2011 such an incredibly successful year at Change From Within.  I look forward to what 2012 will bring, but in the mean time, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Did your favorite post not make the list?  Feel free to post in the comments!

Profitable Objectification: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

On Tuesday, 10.3 million people were united in a common cause, wrapped in attention around one very important event.  Were 10.3 million in the streets in an #Occupy or Tea Party show of people power?  Were they watching Obama give a speech about the progress of a 10-year debacle in Afghanistan?  Were they participating in a national debate about the financial crisis and its effect on the average family?

No.  They were watching this:


I hadn’t actually realized that this event was taking place until I logged into Twitter and saw the following tweet posted by my young cousin:

Though the young women who tweeted this are clearly being sarcastic, what caught my eye is that they are very much paying attention.  And how can anyone (but particularly young women) pay attention to this and not be affected by it!?

  

In the words of Victoria’s Secret Casting Director John Pfeiffer, “There is a very clear Victoria’s Secret woman. They all have the self-confidence, expressiveness, joy, and womanliness.”  Wait . . . what?  Womanliness?  What women does he know!? Well, it’s clear what women he knows.

But that show is in no way reflective of the “womanliness” I know and value.  The women in my life don’t look like the women in this parade.  The women in this parade project, by in large, unhealthy body standards, and they project onto women everywhere a tiny box of beauty into which the show says, “You must fit.”

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Confessions of a Male Feminist

More and more lately, I’ve been hearing revulsion to the term “feminism.”  I’ve heard folks (both male or female) called a feminist, only to respond to the effect of, “I’m definitely not a feminist!” I’ve heard guys saying, “I don’t think I could ever date a feminist.”  It’s left me wondering: What do people think Feminism really is?

I actually didn’t self-identify as a feminist until a course I took Freshmen year of college at the University of Denver.  On the first day of class, the professor asked us to raise our hands if we considered ourselves a feminist.  About 8 hands went up in a class of maybe 30, and they were all women.  The teacher then asked us to raise our hands if we:

  • Think women should be paid the same amount as men for equal work.
  • Think women should be able to wear whatever they like without fear of sexual assault.
  • Think women have the right to withdraw consent for sex at any point in a sexual encounter.
  • Think women should be able to make their own decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health.
  • Think women should be free of leering and cat calls at all times.
  • Think women should have equal access to jobs and educational opportunities as compared to men.
  • Think women should be equally represented in business and political offices.
  • Think that both men and women are hurt by restrictive gender norms that define how we should act, dress, and talk.
  • Think that above all else, men and women are equal and should be treated as such.

I raised my hand to all of them.  In fact, almost everyone in the class raised their hand to just about every statement.  The professor then said, “If you’ve raised your hand to any of these statements, you are a feminist.”

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Silence is Not Always Golden

As I am in the middle of some HOBY craziness (having just returned from 4 HOBY seminars this past weekend and since I am getting ready for my 7th total of the year in the coming weekend), I’ve decided to have my first ever guest blogger on Change From Within!  This is the first of hopefully many submissions by amazing people who have something powerful to say about justice, power, oppression, and community.

This week’s submission comes from an amazing HOBY Ambassador from Kentucky HOBY.  Nick Dill is a senior at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.  He recently posted this submission in a “note” on Facebook, and I asked him if I could republish his work here.  With his enthusiastic consent, I present to you:

Silence is Not Always Golden

By Nick Dill

So, I went to the movies today and watched the “Silence is Golden” commercial for the 800th time.

But today I started to really think about it, and I realized something.  While yes, this philosophy is great during a movie, I can’t help but think about the vast majority of Americans, and citizens of the world for that matter, that live their daily lives by this simple saying.  This fact makes me want to vomit. It sickens me. Whether  it be intentional or not, the fact remains true: Millions of Americans remain ignorant and force their friends, family, and neighbors to live in silence.

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Weight and Health – The Dehumanization and Degradation of Those Who are “Overweight”

I don’t know about you, but I want to be healthy, and I want my friends and family to be healthy!  It’s super important to me.  More and more I find myself reading labels on food packaging, trying to find the products with the fewest, simplest ingredients.  I find myself trying to cut back on fatty foods while eating more nutrient-dense foods (Yeah Kale!).  I find myself thinking a lot more about the amount of exercise I am getting.  I also find myself encouraging those I love to keep an eye out for their health as well.

As I have conversations with friends about healthy living, though, so often I find that the conversation comes back to one thing: lbs lost or gained.  When the conversation turns to weight, I definitely start to feel uncomfortable.  After all, I have always been taught and felt that health has a lot more to do with how you feel and how you live than how much you weigh, yet our society seems to focus almost exclusively on dropping those pesky pounds.  I had never paid much attention to the array of weight-loss television shows (The Biggest Loser, Dance Your Ass Off, Weighing In, Celebrity Fit Club, etc) until I received an email from a family member, asking if I would like to join a local version of “The Biggest Loser” where we would weigh in at the beginning, commit to working out and eating regularly, and then win prizes for those that lost the most weight.  I thought this weird, so I started to look around, and I started to notice it everywhere!  My apartment complex is even hosting its own version of “The Biggest Loser!”

Now, this is troubling to me on the base level that weight loss can, in most cases, be a really crappy way of measuring healthy living, especially as different people gain or lose weight differently in ways that can be both healthy and unhealthy based on their lifestyle choices, their body type, and their family histories.  In fact, someone can be making an amazing transition to a healthy lifestyle (eating really well and exercising regularly), but their weight may not change – as they build muscle which weighs significantly more than fat or because they have a genetic constitution that does not lend to weight loss.

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