The ‘Perfect Body’ Ad And Misogynistic Online Responses Prove The Ongoing Ignorance Surrounding Gender And Feminism
This is an open letter that I have written in response to a hugely offensive and ignorant piece of sexist drivel written by a ‘journalist’ called Rory Pitt in response to feminists (and women who don’t identify themselves as feminists) who were quite rightly offended by the Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ ad. There is a link to his entire article at the bottom of this page, but I would strongly suggest you don’t click on it, as he will benefit from this. You can see the original ads both above and below.
Your article defending the recent Victoria’s Secret advert stank more of ignorant white male privilege than a Hooters boardroom meeting. I didn’t quite know where to start with the cesspool of detritus that you left stinking up the internet, so I’ve chosen a few of the most offensive, misogynistic, sexist things that you had to say in the hope that everyone can see see how damaging and ridiculous they actually are…
‘Reverting to an old phrase, a lot of this is all about “mind over matter”. If I see a hot man in boxer shorts, I don’t think “poor man he is being exploited” and nor do I think “poor me having that thrust into my face”.’
The point of contention is not that women (or men) feel pity for the exploitation of the Victoria’s Secret models (that is a separate issue), rather that Victoria’s Secret is selling an extremely narrow concept of what constitutes ‘perfect’. The anger and disappointment is that there is very little distinction between any of the models who appear in their advert, and that this establishes a depressing paradigm for women about what constitutes femininity and beauty: don’t look like this – then you’re not perfect. Many women are biologically obstructed from ever looking like these women – they are too tall or short, their hips or shoulders are too broad, their faces look different, their breasts are smaller or bigger, their skin is a different colour, all of which have nothing to do with their body weight. This doesn’t make them lazy, or lacking in willpower as is ignorantly suggested in the article; what it does do is make it an immutable fact that they could never look like what is alleged to be perfection. I’m sure even you could work out what that might do to somebody’s identity and sense of self worth.
‘Much like the majority of males, who are powered by years of evolution, I find stereotypical women attractive; thin, blonde/brunette, breasts all of it – I find it enjoyable to have a good old look at these women on billboards or on the net. I like marvelling at them, if not talking to them.’
What a wonderful relief it must be to ‘stereotypical’ women that you find them attractive, and that the height of your evolutionary progression extends to assuming that ‘thin’ women on ‘billboards’ are not worth ‘talking to’ but are worth ‘marvelling at’. Given the level of journalistic prowess in the rest of your article, I’m deeply surprised that you don’t have a statistical source for your assertion that ‘the majority of males’ feel the same as you do. Or maybe it’s because they don’t. Maybe it’s because misogynistic ignoramuses like you assume that such a thing as a ‘stereotypical’ woman or ‘stereotypical’ beauty actually exist, to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of women walking the face of the earth who look nothing like the so called stereotypes in the Victoria’s Secret advert. Maybe it’s because you naturally assume that pretty, attractive, thin women are not worth ‘talking’ to, because it couldn’t possibly be the case that a women could be both attractive AND clever could it? When did these two things become mutually exclusive? Oh, and I think you’ll find that every women on the face of the earth has ‘breasts’.
‘there is a formula for what looks nice in a human. Should we feel guilty? Absolutely not. You can’t deny love and you can’t besmirch attraction. The fact that some clever men AND women at Victoria’s Secret have capitalised on a woman’s desire to be sexy to a man and his natural reaction to the success of this woman in this unenviable pursuit, is not a bad thing. It’s the way of the world and above all, it is natural.’
Your simplistic, impressionistic outlook dismisses the concept of social learning entirely, and even descends into the easily disproved theory that concepts of beauty are innate – if it is the case that men are inherently, biologically attracted to women like those in the Victoria’s Secret advert then why hasn’t that been true throughout human existence, with Tudor, Edwardian and Victorian Britain in particular all vaunting feminine physiques that nowadays would be branded over-weight or obese. The concept of what constitutes what is physically attractive is something that is culturally transmitted to all of us as soon as we are old enough to read or comprehend what we see on a TV screen or a billboard. It also shifts markedly according to culture and context so it is absolutely not ‘above all…natural’ – do you think that isolated communities in the Mekong Delta, or the Tibetan Highlands who have never seen a white woman with big tits spend their days dreaming about being with one? Of course not.I will reserve judgement on how ‘clever’ the geniuses were that worked out that half-naked, disempowered, over-sexualised women = cash, or what the ‘formula’ is for what looks nice in a human.
‘Again, those that decry a patriarchal society are usually unsuccessful or abashed men and women.’
Would you say Emma Watson, Daniel Craig, Germaine Greer, John Legend, Beyonce, Emma Stone, Jon Hamm, Gloria Steinem, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Arquette, Barack Obama, Ryan Gosling and Will Self are ‘unsuccessful or abashed’? Because all of them challenge (or challenged) the notion of patriarchy, and believe that women should be treated with greater respect and judged as ‘perfect’ based on the content of their characters, and the results of their actions rather than just the way they look. Or even better – they shouldn’t be subjected to unfair judgement at all. Actually, millions of people care about the impact that patriarchal dominance has had on successive generations of women – you have made the mistake of assuming that they don’t because you don’t. This is why every self respecting university in the world has entire faculties devoted to gender studies, why the equal opportunities act was passed and exists, and why there are speeches about feminism made at United Nations’ conventions.
‘It is for the same reason that I feel “feminism” is slightly paradoxical. The last thing I would do in a fight is complain about being weaker. I would find my own ways of making the superiorities that I have, count for more, and win that way. And women, being equal, have lots in their favour.’
As for believing that feminists’ issue is that they believe they are weaker – this is possibly one of the most laughable things I have ever read online. I’ll use your analogy of a fight to help you out – two people are in a ring, one is given a shield and a gun, and the other one is given nothing, the entire crowd are in majority support of the person with the shield and gun, unsurprisingly, the person with the shield, gun and all the support wins. Was the other person weaker? No. Was the gun-wielder given the tools and conditions to succeed and have their strength accentuated? Yes. Not a single feminist perceives themselves as weak, though they may be frustrated, furious and fatigued at living in a society that despite legislation to prevent it, is riddled with hatred for women, glass ceilings, and constant pressures to conform to a limited notion of what constitutes femininity, as well as being tired at being in an endless battle with people who are given every advantage that they are not. As for using the advantages that you have to win the fight – what if you have NO advantages? What if everything you have to do, you have to do twice as well to be considered half as good? Feminists are trying to create advantages in a world that frequently refuses to give them to women, and that blinkered commentators like you are obstructing them from.
‘I read the newspapers every day and constantly have to hear about some new entrepreneur selling his business for millions or some banker receiving an absurd bonus. I wish slightly that it were me but I do not write to the newspaper explaining that this has ruined my self- esteem. Actually I rather like it. In a slightly sadistic way, it spurs me on. Much like David Gandy. The only reason it would upset me, is if I resented it, which I don’t...One would hope that the artist and the banker would appreciate one another’s talents but realise they have different outlooks on life.’
The asinine analogy drawn between you reacting to a successful business being sold, and women reacting to a Victoria’s Secret ad is another piece of short-sighted foolishness. So, somebody from your demographic (most probably a white, middle-class man) has been intelligent enough to be incredibly successful in business and astute and savvy enough to manage to make a fortune from selling their company. Let’s see which traits are being praised here, and which qualities men are being encouraged to replicate via the aspirational role model of the businessperson: intellect, entrepreneurship, business acumen, ambition, power, wealth, single-mindedness, determination, I could go on. Let’s see what the women are being praised for: being pretty and skinny. So YOU, are envious of somebody that has achieved success through a number of richly varied personal qualities, and feel motivated to aspire to those qualities. Whereas women get to aspire to looking good in a bra. Yeah – that’s totally the same. Your banker-artist analogy is slightly better, but still moronic, because again you’re assuming that both of them have been able to undertake their professions and indulge their passions in a ‘live-and-let-live’ environment of parallel opportunity and equality; men and women do not live in that kind of world.
‘Again, those that decry a patriarchal society are usually unsuccessful or abashed men and women. I suspect the majority of women who have carved their way to the top, are the first to say they did it on merit alone. And they are absolutely correct’
I am absolutely positive that every woman who has made it to ‘the top’ has done it on ‘merit alone’, just the same as I am sure that cronyism, nepotism and positive discrimination have propelled many many men into positions that they didn’t deserve, were under qualified for, and hadn’t earned. Just the same as I’m sure that the sexism inherent in industries such as tech, computing and science gives men a greater chance of success than women. Would you suggest that in the history of the US for instance that not one single woman has been born who was capable of leading the country, that could have gotten there by merit? Or is there another reason?
‘If the adverts aren’t for you, avoid them. Here comes another analogy but it is fitting; it is similar to the couple where one of the partners refuses to let the other one buy chocolate because he or she doesn’t want to be tempted into eating it. That symbolises a wider issue of a lack of willpower and it is completely your own problem and not at the feet of your spouse to alter his or her buying habits because you are so weak. And I bloody love chocolate.’
How exactly do you ‘avoid’ an advert? Never watch TV again? Never drive down the motorway again? Never walk down a highstreet again? Never pick up a magazine again? Never go on the internet again? Never go to the movies again? When a form of oppression is inescapable then the concept of choice has been removed. The partner who is offered chocolate against their will has the choice not to eat it, you are right, however, women have no choice but to live in a world where they are bombarded with damaging images, debilitating messages and sexual threats that come at them from all angles pretty much from the moment that they are born and they have a pink bow put on their heads so that everyone knows they are a girl. It has absolutely nothing to do with weakness or willpower whatsoever, and your concept that there is a ‘choice’ is an illusion.
‘like the ban on advertising cigarettes has not stopped people smoking, or curtailed it…Without wading into a whole different kettle of poisson, I put the above misogamists’
Free writing lesson: ‘misogamy’ means hatred of marriage. You can also find things out if you research; for example, even a cursory piece of research would show you that the advertising ban on smoking, and the smoking ban itself have led to a reduction of the number of smokers, and a reduction in the volume of first time smokers. A quick click of ‘feminism’ on Google would have explained the concept of the movement to you, rather than leading to your inane, generalised assumptions about what it means.
Lastly, I suggest you look up the meaning of irony before writing things like ‘neither is right or wrong, neither need be castigated online and you would hope, in the main, both are happy with their lot in life’ when you have just spent an entire article castigating people online in a fashion that would most certainly lead to unhappiness. Perhaps you should take your own advice and leave things alone next time you come across something that is ‘not your cup of tea’.