The Equality Continuum

When I stand in front of a classroom, I tell my students that I assume they are all feminists. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in the room. The females, many of whom don’t think of themselves as feminists, are there because they believe they have as much right to education as the males. The males, most of whom don’t think of themselves as feminists, are there because they accept the presence of a female professor. At some basic level, they are there because they are not at point zero on the equality scale.

There has been abundant discussion this week about the sexism of Seth McFarlane’s various comments, songs, monologues, on Sunday night. Lots of people say oh lighten up it’s all in fun, and lots of other people say it was straight up misogyny. I don’t plan to get all strident about it, but there was a time not long ago that men could grab buttocks or breasts and if a woman minded she should lighten up because it’s all in fun. He doesn’t mean anything by it. Well, yes, he does. He does mean something by it.

Satire is the mocking of a group to itself, and it requires a moment at which it straightforwardly declares its point. Otherwise, it’s just a reinforcement of a norm. So, “We Saw Your Boobs” was not satirical. At no time did it chide filmmakers for tirelessly asking that female actors bare their breasts. Instead, it reduced female actors and their performances to a juvenile litany of Girls Gone Wild flashes for the camera. But I should lighten up because it’s all in fun.

What could be more fun than bulimia and the suggestion that it’s what got those same female actors into their dresses? Or how hilarious, I mean seriously hilarious, is it to suggest that a nine-year-old female is ripe for the picking? In effect, that’s what was said. Taken as a sum, it’s the relentless reinforcement of anti-female attitudes that wore me out. That’s why I can’t lighten up. It isn’t that I can’t take a joke. It’s that those things aren’t funny. If we’re laughing at those things, we aren’t thinking. If we laugh, we’re letting them slide by.

I could laugh at the list of famous boobs, if at some point there were a comparable jibe thrown at something male actors do. I wanted to ask if Adele and Queen Latifah and Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer didn’t look beautiful because they aren’t of the stick woman set. That was the implication, you see. Only the thin ones looked great. There was no balance in the skewering. Makes me think of a time when people would tell hilariously racist jokes and we should lighten up because it’s just a joke. It isn’t. It just isn’t.


Filed under On Thinking

4 responses to “The Equality Continuum

  1. Linda

    Good points, all. The sentence “It’s just a joke” is often used by cowards to avoid taking any responsibility for their words.

  2. dorgrease

    I was not free to watch the Awards. After reading your comments, glad I missed the show.

  3. The audience in the theatre didn’t seem to be with him, either. He was not in his element.

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