Bronny from Fat Aus wrote a post over at xojane.com a while ago that got me thinking. She spoke about feeling objectified by men with Tumblr accounts overflowing with photos of fat women in short dresses and sexy poses. When her cute outfit blog posts popped up on more than one, then the creepers started appearing on her blog, she decided that enough was enough and stopped posting photos of herself in shorts and from behind because these were the most commonly appropriated for such uses.

Then I thought about the objectification of women online and in blogging in general. Mother’s who blog rally constantly for acceptance beyond the term Mummy blogger, women of all shapes and sizes who chose to share their personal style online often find themselves facing unwelcome advances. I know it has certainly been the case for me. But is the objectification of women happening online because it’s a reflection of society at the moment or is the interwebs a place for the worst of us to hide behind perceived anonymity  and do the things we would never do were we being witnessed?

The conversation on The Project about the access to porn by under age folks and the screwed view it was giving them about sexual relationships. An idea that assault in some form is what it takes to satisfy a woman is a scary point of view. It got me thinking about girls who send naked photos and teenagers who bully and berate via photos taken without another’s consent.  People who use sex as a currency and the things that happen online, in classrooms and in homes because of the access All of it! I couldn’t find the words to express what I wanted to say.

Then Miley at the VMA’s happened.

And instead of saying what a freaking ridiculous performance, totally over the top and awkward she was called a slut and every other name under the sun. We want her to be who we always knew her to be. We don’t want her to change, to be who she is and express that through performance and pushing boundaries. To clarify, it wasn’t my thing I felt awkward the whole time. I think should I have been sitting next to the Pinkett- Smith family my face would have looked similar to Jada’s. But is what we want for her to be 10 forever? Pure, innocent and exactly the same.

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There’s something about that too that sits with me strangely. There’s an expectation on women to be a certain way, behave a certain way and we as a community don’t like it when someone steps outside of that. And sure there’s an argument for Miley being lost, for her not respecting herself and her body. Say whatever you like but I wonder why you sit in judgement when Miley certainly isn’t the first woman in her early twenties who has been those things. She won’t be the last and it’s a shame but growing up is an awkward, wonky, embarrassing and sometime stupid experience. The response to the performance left me feeling pretty gross to be human.

For my two cents I continue to share outfit photos, commentary about my body and ideas of beauty. I have a few guidelines, rules for myself that I use to protest my life and privacy online. I adhere to these and question them all the time. this happens because I am old and wise and conservative basically. I’m much to white bread and I protect myself as much as possible from objectification online but should it be my job?

Should I be personally responsible, as Bronny has become, for ensuring that you {probably not you specifically} don’t see me as a sexual object, someone to be lusted over, objectified and reduced to the equation that is my body only? But isn’t telling me that it’s my job to ensure this doesn’t happen to me sort of saying that if I don’t, that if I chose to behave in a way that draws sexual attention that I deserved it?

Let’s ponder all that for a while shall we? Because what do we tell the girl’s watching Miley and the women who stand in judgement. What do we do in this online community to protect our members. The objectification of women online happens because we stand for it there and in ‘real life’. A bit like the issue with the poor quality conditions of manufacturers I feel small and powerless to effect change. Frustrated with no plan to move forward.

So now what? Where do we go from here? 

  • Sass

    I honestly didn’t see the big fuss in the Miley thing, I was more disappointed in the grown women (some with daughters) calling a young woman disgusting names. Why? Because she humped a freaking foam hand on stage? Please. That doesn’t make her a slut, anymore than me. (and I’m a woman of class, I’ll have you know :P)
    Why weren’t these women jumping up and down about Robin Thicke singing about rape?
    Why is singing “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” ignored in favour of a young girl trying to find her identity that doesn’t have her parents OR Disney interfering in her life?!? I want to know why that’s acceptable.
    Yeah, I get it. Miley USED to be sweet. She USED to be a role model for 12 year olds. She’s not anymore. She doesn’t WANT to be Hannah Montana. And that’s really okay. She’s going to make mistakes. The problem is, the mistakes she will make are documented and lets face it here, not because of her own doing. She was a CHILD. Her parents/agents/Disney put her where she is.
    I hate the slut shaming. I hate the judgement, but more than that, I hate the unbalance of everything. Dancing on stage provocatively doesn’t make you a slut or a whore. Her father shouldn’t be ashamed of himself. It’s people ignoring rape culture who should be ashamed. It’s mothers teaching their children it’s okay to call young girls sluts because they don’t conform to who ‘they’ believe they should be.

    rant/>
    So, in short… GO TEAM MILEY! haha

    p.s
    That photo of Will Smith and his family was actually taken during a Lady GaGa performance. 😛
    xxxx

    • Mandt

      We live in a patriarchal society (unfortunately). So where women are concerned there will ALWAYS be double standards!

    • Awesome comment Sass. I think we might share a brain. All of this and more was swirling around in my head and I just couldn’t get it out. It was just a mess of what the hell people. Thanks for sharing.

      And good to know re: the Pinkett-Smiths. Funny how these things get used out of context.

  • pioneerpat1

    From the male baby brain: Our society is moving faster than we can keep up. With all the new technology in the last 15 years, our society and norms have not kept up. Teaching and having two teen-agers it is amazing what they know in terms of sex and they have been exposed to.

    But that does excuse the fact that some people are just morons and have no class. Instead of taking secret pictures of women from street corners, they just use the Internet and people’s blogs. Is it right-hell no but it has always existed in some form. We need to continue to educate folks and always remember about 5% will never get it.

    As for Miley Cyrus, I do not really care. She is a grown adult and let her do what she wants. She is not hurting anybody, Disney is just pissed because they can not make any more money off her.

    As for Will Smith and Jada, if they better shut up. From all accounts, they have an open marriage.

    • It really is about what they are exposed to, right? Or is there a way we can explain it to them, help them understand what they are seeing? Maybe honesty, brutal honesty is the key… But then do kids get to be kids? Do they anyway?

      And you’re right, it has always existed. Always. It’s very much in our face now. For women like me anyway, because we’re online I suppose.

      • pioneerpat1

        The world has really changed. Even if you try not to expose them to some things they are exposed anyway.

        Here is an example: The State of California passed a law this year that says students can play on sports teams, use bathrooms and locker rooms not based on biology but on what gender they identify as. I have been very careful of being modest in the house because I feel that there are some things that my daughter should not see until she is ready. A couple of weeks ago school started and she is sitting in the locker and this transgendered person walks in the locker room dressed as a female, sits down near my daughter, gets undressed and (as my daughter says) the person has the male parts. So, my daughter is forced to see it. There is nothing I can do but to try to explain it to her. Even though she is a senior in high school, she felt “creepy” about it.

        I had to be honest and explain it to her.

        I know it might seem off-topic but it seems that the world is try to expose a lot of things to our kids.

  • Amy Freshfield

    Although I felt really embarrassed for Miley – because, let’s face it, her particular way of expressing her sexuality wasn’t exactly classy – what she did was no different to what Rihanna/Lady Gaga/Madonna have done in the past. Its just, as you said, that because she’s previously beem the giggly, sugary-sweet, adorkable Hannah Montana…. Some people just cant cope with the idea that little girls grow into women, and that possibly finding that ‘little girl’ sexy now is a bit confronting.
    That Rihanna had the gall to tweet about it really made me snort – pot calling the kettle black anyone?

    • I agree, it’s not my version of things at all. But it’s a version of things and year after year we are outraged by women being sexual while men who beat women are celebrated. It makes no sense to me.

      Yes! Rhianna. Oh my goodness. Pot, kettle indeed!

  • PrincessEatsPeaSoup

    There are a lot of issues here and I would like to comment on them all but don’t want to get on my soap box too much.

    I feel bad for Bronny going to the fashion equivalent of a burqa because she felt violated online. You have to protect yourself however you can when you are exposing yourself online, putting your image and yourself out there. You expose yourself to the behaviours and the reactions of the general public. It is one of the reasons why I hesitated even starting a blog for years and why I am very careful about even the smallest amount of personal information. Mostly because I am not sure how thick skinned I can be and I am wearing an online burqa too, just in a slightly different way. I wish it wasn’t so but there are elements of people online who can be vile and persistent. But then I am only blogging recipes.

    I feel bad for Miley and the slut- shaming that is going on around her performance at the VMA’s. I couldn’t watch it for very long because for me, watching was an awkward experience. She is basically being attacked in the media for being perceived as engaging in sexually provocative behaviour in a performance. Shame on the media. She has deliberately transgressed the code of acceptable behaviour and I am sure she is getting some predictable puritanical backlash. She crossed that line and people don’t like it – slut-shaming at it’s most obvious. I am with team Miley.

    Can you control if other people see you as a sexual object? You cannot control every aspect of how you are perceived. You’re aware of it. You draw a line. You say this is my line that I will not cross and you there you stand. There may be some weird little person just trawling fashion blogs to look at feet and what have you done to draw that attention? Shown your feet? You just can’t control how you are perceived by others. You put yourself out there every day on your blog and you are somewhat vulnerable but you can’t be blamed for the poor behaviour of others. Nor do you have to justify your own behaviour. If people are objectifying you without regard to the purpose or content of the blog, you just can’t control that completely. You just do what you can by your own standards. But you have to try and stand your ground and not allow the bad behaviour of others change the way you feel about yourself or the way you blog.

    We are all more than our physical attributes and no matter how much the general culture celebrates it and focuses on it, we should all remind ourselves that the openly judging of people for their bodies in a sexual way is not about people’s real value.

    • THIS. IS. AN. AMAZING. WONDERFUL. AWESOME. Comment. So well considered and articulated. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation like you have.

  • Cara Hann

    Unfortunately women who are in the public eye (whatever the scale) will always be judged by those who view them. As a generic figure, people will want to categorize them into nice simple black and white definitions, be it ‘mother,’ ‘innocent,’ ‘whore,’ etc.
    Even when an individual is recognised as such, their viewing audience will still expect them to conform to the standards to which the audience has become accustomed. Do something radically different and there will always be somebody who gets upset because they now don’t fit into that nice little box with its clear definitions.

    As for Miley – I was more bothered by her ‘performance,’ because to me it could barely be defined as such. It seemed far more like the sort of drunken dancing you would expect at a nightclub than a professional performance. Also – it saddens me to think that this is what young people consider ‘sexy’ to look like these days.

    • You’re right about those boxes. Conforming to them can be a hard enough task for a regular woman, let alone someone who has to find their feet in the public eye.

      Yes Cara, let’s talk PERFORMANCE. I’m happy to talk that. It did come off as badly planned and lazy. To me anyway, maybe that’s the impromptu look they were going for. Who knows.

  • I had a lot of the same reactions as well. I was really put off by her performance, but I read an article by an evangelical father of two little girls about what a poor job her father had done raising her and how broken and sinful Miley was. That struck a chord with me. He claimed that this version of her was somehow wrong, but the innocent, young version of her was right. I wouldn’t promote Miley’s behavior or tell my future kids that she is an appropriate role-model, but she’s a young women looking to find herself and her place in the music industry and pop-culture as a whole. Great post, Sugar.

    • Thank you Erin. I didn’t see that article, but I saw plenty of similar ones. You sum it up perfectly by saying ‘He claimed that this version of her was somehow wrong…’. So true.

  • We shouldn’t have to think so much about online privacy… but we very definitely do. I hate that, and it’s like saying women shouldn’t walk alone at night – the problem is not women’s behavior, but that there are people out there that might hurt them for doing acting in that way. Ugh, it riles me so. Slut shaming is a complex and hairy issue and I don’t feel qualified to comment on it, but I love that you’re talking about it. We need to have these dialogues, because these issues are important!

    I had an instagram friend who always posted pics of her awesome shoes and hashtagged the hell out of them. she would get SOOO many creepy comments from foot-fetishists. But she still did it, because it didn’t bother her and she loved shoes.
    Putting bits and pieces of ourselves online (whether pics, or words!) shouldn’t result in objectification, creepiness, or misogyny, or trolling – but sometimes it does. Worth remembering, and worth trying to find a solution for it!

    • YES! That first couple of sentences is exactly what I was trying to say at the end there. If I don’t protect myself {by not walking at night like your example states} is it MY fault that someone acts disturbingly towards me? No. No it isn’t. Not in my view of the world. Great way of putting it Sarah.

      I agree. I love posting photo of myself, my outfits and my shoes. Do the perves stop me? No. Would I rather they weren’t interested in me? Heck yes. Haha.

      Worth trying indeed!

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