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Let’s put our breasts together for …

Submitted by Claire Baker

I’m surprised no one else has written about this topic. Perhaps it is too trivial, or perhaps our contributors have been momentarily distracted by what the day has to offer. I’m even more surprised to find myself writing about it. After all, I don’t look that bad in a Wonderbra, so I really shouldn’t have anything to gripe about.

I have considered the fact that this is really just supposed to be a fun day and that I’m being a terrible killjoy. At the very least I’m doing the mountain/molehill and storm/teacup thing. But I’ve been easygoing about this sort of thing for most of my life, and I’m finding that I’m finally starting to get a bit irritated by it all.

“Oh, here we go,” I hear you sigh. Here comes another hairy-armpitted (in the words of one of the illustrious contributors here), raging feminist. For the record — not that it’s any of your business, I guess, but just so that we can dispense with any stereotypes in advance — let me just say that I shave my armpits regularly. OK, I’ll admit, sometimes I’m a little lax in that department around the middle of winter.

I also shave my legs. I haven’t ever burned a bra; not my own nor anyone else’s. I quite like lingerie, actually. I have a lot of it. I even have a couple of Wonderbras. I wear make-up to work. I’m a bit of a flirt (much more so when I’ve had a few). I have long hair. I’m a mother. Although these are not all characteristics limited to the female of the species, the point I’m making is that I’m a woman, and absolutely happy to be one. For the record, I have also been, at various times, an athlete, an attorney, a teacher, a writer and an executive. But a woman all the same.

I’m not a woman who wishes she were a man. I’m not a woman who hates men either.

At the moment, however, I am a slightly annoyed woman. Annoyed and heading towards angry. And I’m also going to own up to the fact that I’m a feminist. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone can be a woman and not be a feminist.

An angry feminist.

I’m guessing this is where some people are going to stop reading.

You’ve probably realised by now that the insignificant event that has ignited my ire is this silly National Cleavage Day thing. Yes, it’s just an overblown marketing campaign, but it’s also not just that. There are those who will argue that it’s just a bit of light-hearted fun; don’t take things so seriously, for heaven’s sake! Some will even say that it’s an event that actually promotes women; it’s a positive thing, it’s not as if it’s saying bad things about women, it’s not sexist or anything …

If you’re a man, this argument is facile.

If you’re a woman, you need to wake up.

Have you noticed what the Big Topic on Thought Leader is? It’s Racism. With a capital R. Racism is widely accepted as being a Very Bad Thing. A posting on racism will immediately inspire a flurry of energetic responses. The mere hint of a race debate will be snatched up by the readers like a dropped chop-bone by a hungry Rottweiler. But sexism? Hmmmm. Not so much. Sexism just kinda slides on by, right under the radar — where it can just keep on going without anyone really noticing it or saying, “Just hold on a minute there, mister.” There are the odd occasions when it is so blatant that everyone has to sit up and take notice, but it has to be pretty overt, unlike racism, which can simply be hinted at in order to provoke a response.

What’s my point, I hear the less patient of you grumble.

My point is that sexism is alive and well and thriving in South Africa. And we spend so much time vociferously denouncing racism (and rightly so, of course) that sexism is allowed to thrive unabated. When women (mostly) do express concerns over it, they are frequently dismissed as “bitter” and vague comments are made about their physical attractiveness, or lack thereof; the underlying, and incredibly insulting, suggestion being that they’re obviously only angry because they can’t get a guy.

South African men are developing some very bad habits these days. Apart from the ridiculously high incidences of rape and domestic abuse that have become so prevalent in this country, did anyone notice the more interesting developments like lesbians being raped (to “straighten” them out)? Or were you too busy being outraged by that one student pissing in the stew? And the ongoing harassment of women by taxi drivers? Well, that made the news right up until some fellow somewhere called someone a k … oops! I nearly said it. That would have got me into trouble!

So I’ve been thinking about this National Cleavage Day. It is not just an ad campaign. It is yet another insult that we’re letting slide because it’s “not that serious”. Like the Teazers ads aren’t that serious. I thought we should try to have a National Packed-Package Day. (That whole thing about size not counting? We all know that’s rubbish, don’t we? It’s something said by merciful women to insecure men.) Should we start taking a closer look at how much a man really has to offer? Since men are so willing to admire women’s breasts, let us return the compliment and give you points on your tackle.

It’s tempting in a get-your-own-back sort of way. But of course I’m being facetious. By doing that we would be missing the point. We would be perpetuating yet another damaging stereotype and encouraging the detrimental effects of the already rife over-emphasis of physical attributes.

No, what I’d like to see is people just taking a little more notice of what is said or written. We’re so damned sensitive about race. Our race radar is extremely fine-tuned. When it comes to sexism, it’s as if we’re looking down the wrong end of the binoculars. I would be interested to see what would happen to a Thought Leader contributor who posted an overtly racist blog. Yet there are one or two around here who are quite brazenly sexist.

I’m not going to single them out. I’d like you to find them for yourself. And while you’re at it, could you also explain to me why, out of the 134 contributors on Thought Leader, only 36 are women?

Claire Baker is many things too numerous to mention. She writes because she has to. She argues because she likes to

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85 Comments

  1. LordFoom LordFoom 10 April 2008

    @Odette

    “What rankles about publicity stunts like National Cleavage Day is that they are cheap and lazy” I can’t get to work without seeing men and women wearing basically nothing and staring down at me. Fine, it’s cheap, sure, showing a pair of tits is easy. And, so what? I fail to see how it says that women are in any way worse or inferior to men. All I can possibly get from it is that society considers cleavage to be attractive. And so what? The cheap and thoughtless objectification of women to sell products is just part of the cheap and thoughtless objectification of anything to sell product, from love to faith to fidelity.

    In fact, the ability to display cleavage is one of the things that feminists have been fighting over. Folks keep mentioning the “taxi rank” incident and that was about women wearing clothing that was seen as too “revealing” or not feminine enough; basically getting dressed too sexy.

    So, fine, there’s a focus on boob’s from a bra company. This same company makes a bra that the writer of this article admits to owning pairs of. This bra is meant to make women’s breast’s perter and “sexier”. How can one go from buying garments to draw attention to the breasts to reviling campaigns that do the very same thing?

    And, finally, by picking on trivial matters like this, Feminism is being opened up to scorn, justified or unjustified. You want to discuss feminism, then talk about the horrific female abuse in rural areas, or about how to prevent rape effectively, or how to help women who have suffered female circumcision. These are vital issues, that truly have to do with actual liberation, and actual freedom, and not just fashion and taste. To pretend that National Cleavage day is important at all is to trivialize over a century of Female Struggle.

    At the end of the day, National Cleavage day is nothing but a pumped up piece of corporate puffery; it’s fashion, nothing more. If you don’t like it, then don’t partake in it. To get all in a twist because a product that women buy to “improve” their breasts has a campaign to draw attention to these self same breasts is, like the campaign itself, nothing but a distraction from the genuine issues that remain in society.

  2. Claire Claire 10 April 2008

    Just in case I was in any doubt about the day’s legitimization of open lechery, I have to tell you that my own brother (*sigh*) and his two male housemates actually went to Sandton City last Friday with the express purpose of checking out the women. I even heard 5fm’s Sam critising DJ Fresh for doing the same thing. So I’m not just imagining things.

    @Haiwa – of course I tricked you. I did it because I wanted men to read this. And I thought it highly unlikely that men choose to read an article titled “Down with Cleavage Day!: Another Feminist Rant”. Because you see, if you take the trouble to look around this particular site, you’ll find that most of the readers (at least those who comment regularly) and by far the majority of the contributors, are men. I’m sure that many unevolved, sexist fools like yourself will have read this and dismissed it, and so be it. But if I managed make just one or two men (or women) give a little thought to something that they otherwise would have allowed to pass unoticed, then I will not have taken the risk of writing this in vain.

    @Afrodite, I have a hell of a sense of humour. And you can ask my friends and they’ll tell you that I am quite frequently the life and soul of the party. I once went to a sixties party wearing nothing but bodypaint. I assure you, I have no problem with lightening up and letting it all hang out when I want to.
    But as Odette says, you have missed the point. The fact is that women do not enjoy the freedom to just “celebrate their bodies.” If they do, they are harrassed, often to the point of rape. I am fortunate – I am tall and strong and have been able to deflect the many unwanted and overly physical advances that I have been subjected to, both in social and professional environments. But not all women are that fortunate. What country are you living in?? Did you not read about what the taxi drivers did to the mini-skirt-wearing “celebrating-her-body” woman? They digitally raped her while security guards looked on. Later, at the protest staged against this the men sang that g-ddamn Zuma anthem at her. And you want me to lighten up! I am one of the most soft-core feminists that I know. I have female friends who are probably embarrassed at how “light” this article is.

    @Dave, I’m not even going to attempt to argue with you. You’ve got some issues man. You should see a therapist. I’ve been called many things in my life, but a jackal? Wow. That’s a first.

    @Ahz, for us to be regular contributors, we would have to be invited. And as I pointed out, there are quite a few more male than female contributors here. Maybe the editors are having difficulty finding willing female contributors. Maybe all the women are too busy. I am sure that they searched very hard for them. How else can we explain the disparity?

  3. LordFoom LordFoom 10 April 2008

    @Claire

    “Did you not read about what the taxi drivers did to the mini-skirt-wearing “celebrating-her-body” woman?”

    Yes, that is a real feminist issue. And your response is to criticize sex- and body-positive female imagery? I’d say the country needs more, not less of this.

  4. Odette Odette 10 April 2008

    @ LordFoom

    Yet another man who just doesn’t get it.

    “Fine, it’s cheap, sure, showing a pair of tits is easy. And, so what?”

    So what? So what? Are you actually seriously asking that question? I hate to get personal but that question is so dumb that I can’t get stupid enough to answer.

    Cleavage Day is SUPPOSED to draw attention to breast cancer (it’s not about bras). What the day ACTUALLY achieves is that it makes men think it’s ok to openly leer at women and ogle their breasts. Therefore it doesn’t achieve its aim. The cause that it claims to promote is not even a blip on the horizon. It is silly, stupid and demeaning and women (and men) have the right to say, “we don’t like it and we don’t want it”.

    Cleavage Day is but an EXAMPLE of the objectification of women and the manner in which women are viewed and portrayed in the media and elsewhere.

    Feminism is not only about the physical and sexual abuse of women. Feminism is about women being viewed and treated as complete human beings, with equal standing to men. That encompasses all aspects of a woman’s being, included the way she is viewed in the media. So raising issues like National Cleavage Day is in now way trivialising the issue.

  5. Dave Dave 10 April 2008

    SWP -I can dig up the stats if you like. They are a lot worse in the third world, although the recording of them is not reliable or similar. However it is not politically correct to point that out. I think something like 1:4 SA women are so abused, which is totally unacceptable. Further research points out that the abusers are not 25% of males, but a far smaller proportion, who I would cheerfully have hanged. In other words about 90% of men here are not abusers. A bit of research will show the vast majority of men (even in SA) are also very opposed to such mistreatment of anyone. Some of us have also been victims of this, and the treatment of such victims has been appalling too. I have no sympathy for rapists or wife/partner abusers. However feminists are doing the racist trick: ie. ‘almost all violent crimes in SA are commited by black perpetrators, therefore all black people are criminals’ – which is patently as untrue, as the assumption that all males are abusers because a despicable small percentage are. Abuse is certainly worst in countries like Saudi. Now if feminists want to protest about that – especially in a country with strict Sharia law – I would be applauding them as the most couragous and wonderful of people. If this article had been about abuse, rape or even compulsion to wear a headscarf or forced marriage I would have applauded it. As it was a whine about trivia which no woman is forced to participate in, I thought it worth shredding. It’s like a whine about someone opening the door for woman. I do that. I do it for older people. Disabled people. I do that for people with a load of groceries. My buddy Fred, who is none of the above. Does that make me a chauv – or polite and considerate? If cleavage day is the worst that women have to complain about, then they really have nothing relevant to moan about. Yet there are REAL vicious crimes against women -rape, abuse, second class citizenship to be opposed. To ignore those and complain about cleavage day is pretty weak, isn’t it? It’s like a policeman ignoring a murder (because he might get hurt) but pouncing on a litterbug.

  6. Odette Odette 11 April 2008

    @ Dave

    “However feminists are doing the racist trick: ie. ‘almost all violent crimes in SA are commited by black perpetrators, therefore all black people are criminals’”

    I’m a feminist and I’ve never held this opinion. Neither has any woman I know. You’re making a gross generalisation based on your own experiences and presenting that as fact. State it as your opinion because that is what it is – not fact.

    “Yet there are REAL vicious crimes against women -rape, abuse, second class citizenship to be opposed. To ignore those and complain about cleavage day is pretty weak, isn’t it?”

    No one here has elevated the issue of the objectification of women above rape, abuse and murder. You are making an assumption that has no basis in fact. One of the aspects of feminism is that we are more than capable of deciding for ourselves what causes we want to take up. We don’t need anyone to prescribe to us what we should and should not care about. So thank you for pointing out the error of our ways but we are quite grownup enough to make our own decisions and form our own opinions.

    Abuse of any kind is abhorrent to any right-thinking woman (and man). I dare you to find a single woman here who is not incensed at the level of crime against women in this country (or elsewhere for that matter). This topic happens to be about the portrayal of women in the media and the objectification of women through silly campaigns like National Cleavage Day – hence the comments. A post on rape and other forms of abuse would draw comments in response to that topic. Do not make the shallow assumption that because women are against NCD that they don’t care about more serious topics.

    “It’s like a whine about someone opening the door for woman.”

    I love it when a man opens a door for me. I think it’s good manners and I always respond with a smile and a thank you. Women who respond rudely to such a gesture suffer from a lack of manners, so please don’t blame that on feminism. True feminism espouses respect for all, including men.

  7. James Tobias James Tobias 11 April 2008

    Is it just me getting some pretty nasty visuals from this blog??
    Think I need to lie down.

  8. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @Odette

    “Cleavage Day is SUPPOSED to draw attention to breast cancer (it’s not about bras). What the day ACTUALLY achieves is that it makes men think it’s ok to openly leer at women and ogle their breasts.”

    I’m pretty sure that the Playtex actually wants to sell bra’s. When giant corporations are in the picture it’s all about the profit, I find. But that’s a pure aside.

    Why are none of these comments being directed at Wonderbra itself? Surely Wonderbra is a product that’s designed, whose very reason for existence, is to make breasts more visually attractive. But, somehow, Cleavage Day, a marketing gimmick, for that bra, is somehow worse than the bra itself?
    You claim that Cleavage Day is a license for men to ogle women and treat them like objects; somehow, this isn’t what filtered down to me. You also say it’s supposed to draw attention to breast cancer; it seems then that the real quibble you have is that you consider it’s creative execution poor.

    The breast is a secondary sexual organ, attractive to the male psyche. Wearing a flattering bra is not unfeminist and noticing an attractive pair is not unfeminist. It’s only when you value a woman based on her boobs, and not the content of her character, that you begin to be unfeminist.

    I think it disingenuous in the extreme to state that the Cleavage Day campaign promotes or even condones the ogling of women. Believing that a man could think that casts us in an unnecessarily harsh light, and makes us defensive. If a man is going to ogle a woman, he is going to do it whether or not it was national cleavage day. Raging on about national cleavage day is not going to change the culture that allows ogling. I fear I differ with Ms Dworkin and am strongly in the Lipstick Feminist camp.

  9. Odette Odette 11 April 2008

    @ LordFoom

    Yes I do consider the creative execution to be very poor and I stand by my opinion that the campaign encourages men to behave lewdly. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to only mix with highly enlightened men who would not dream of behaving like hormone-fueled adolescents but the men I work with viewed the day as a licence to openly stare at women’s breasts. Other women have reported the same experiences. How is your experience more valid than ours?

    Yes, breasts are sexually attractive to men (and some women too) and I think there is nothing inherently wrong with admiring them. I admire them too and I love my own. None of the women who posted comments (including me) has advocated against women making themselves look and feel attractive so trying to tie that into your argument is pointless.

    What some of us object to is the gratuitous use of the female body in the media. It has become such a part of our lives that to most it is merely a backdrop now but that doesn’t make it right.

    And as to why none of the comments have been addressed to Wonderbra – I will email them with my thoughts on the matter and encourage other women to do the same. What will you do?

  10. James Tobias James Tobias 11 April 2008

    I say everyone should expose Wonderbrau.

  11. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @Odette
    “And as to why none of the comments have been addressed to Wonderbra – I will email them with my thoughts on the matter and encourage other women to do the same. What will you do?”

    Mostly what I do is stand up for women when some guy says, never when there’s a woman around, that, eg, women make worse businesspeople. What I mostly do is insist, loudly and clearly, that men and women are equal and egalitarian. What I won’t do is waste my time on trivialities and “write emails” to uncaring corporations over non issues. I address my concerns to the men acting badly around me, where I CAN make a difference.

    “…the men I work with viewed the day as a licence to openly stare at women’s breasts. Other women have reported the same experiences. How is your experience more valid than ours?”

    The men I worked with didn’t even notice it was cleavage day. None of the women I know, and I’ve asked them, based on this, experienced any kind of ogling of any sort. How is your experience any more valid than theirs? Personal anecdote is not an argument.

    Laying the problem at the feet of Cleavage Day is blindly missing the obvious problem, yours being that the men you work with think it’s alright, under some circumstance, to ogle a woman in a professional situation. Perhaps your time would be better spent addressing these men directly, indicating in no uncertain terms that it’s unacceptable, than railing against the utterly unimportant.

    And, finally, you may have noticed that the men responding to this thread feel threatened and demeaned, relegated to the position of “dogs” that can’t help but “hump”. Focusing on flim-flam like national cleavage day unnecessarily puts men and women into conflict and endangers the very cause, Feminism, that you purport to espouse.

  12. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @Odette
    “None of the women who posted comments (including me) has advocated against women making themselves look and feel attractive so trying to tie that into your argument is pointless.”

    It certainly seems that you are espousing a society where the depiction of women as sexually attractive (and/or active) beings be limited or prevented. My impression, from what I’ve read, and hey,I don’t know you, is that you’re advocating censorship, a censorship that centres around images of attractive women or women parts.

    Seems to me a central part of the discussion.

  13. Odette Odette 11 April 2008

    @ Lordfoom

    “Mostly what I do is stand up for women when some guy says, never when there’s a woman around, that, eg, women make worse businesspeople. What I mostly do is insist, loudly and clearly, that men and women are equal and egalitarian. What I won’t do is waste my time on trivialities and “write emails” to uncaring corporations over non issues. I address my concerns to the men acting badly around me, where I CAN make a difference.”

    Why do you assume I don’t do the same? I am, in fact, one of the most vocal women in my circle of colleagues and friends about the subject of how women are treated. Why not address it with the corporations? Are they not staffed by men and women too? If you do not feel it achieves anything then don’t do it. But please don’t tell me what to do.

    “The men I worked with didn’t even notice it was cleavage day. None of the women I know, and I’ve asked them, based on this, experienced any kind of ogling of any sort. How is your experience any more valid than theirs? Personal anecdote is not an argument.”

    Yet you view your personal experience as an argument.

    “And, finally, you may have noticed that the men responding to this thread feel threatened and demeaned, relegated to the position of “dogs” that can’t help but “hump”.”

    I hadn’t noticed that men in this thread feel threatened and demeaned. Maybe you feel that way and are projecting your feelings onto others. If what you say is true then I have even less respect for those men because they curl up and sob at the far from radical criticisms expressed here. Are men that soft that they cannot handle a plainspoken woman? Why are men so uncomfortable when women express an opinion that runs contrary to expectation?

    “Focusing on flim-flam like national cleavage day unnecessarily puts men and women into conflict and endangers the very cause, Feminism, that you purport to espouse”

    So what you’re saying is, “shut up and don’t make trouble”? I have news for you, men and women are in conflict in a myriad of ways every day. That is no reason for any woman to refrain from voicing her opinion about anything. If anything, voicing an opinion loudly and clearly remains true to the principles of feminism.

  14. SWP SWP 11 April 2008

    I cannot disagree with you more LordFoom. Why is it do you think that women make up 90% of the cases relating to eating disorders? why is it that so many woman have self esteem issues and low body image? could it possibly have somthng to do with flim flam like this which you dismiss so readily. How easy is it do you think to raise a girl child in this day and age to be comfortable with her body and herself and to be confident when she is constantly exposed to half naked women in pretty much all types of media, media which glorifies beauty and suggests that this is what is required for a woman to be successfull?

  15. Claire Claire 11 April 2008

    Lord Foom, Dave

    Cleavage Day was used merely as an example for pete’s sake. I don’t have the time and space to cite the many many MANY other examples of overt and covert sexism that I have encountered. You are failing to see the wood for the trees by going on and on about cleavage day.

    Lord Foom if you honestly do as you say and confront blatant sexism that is admirable and I salute you for it.

    But please, don’t think for a minute that the small things don’t count. Small things add up. I recommend that you read the works of Ayn Rand if you are not already familiar with them. In considering the nature of evil she has shown that the evil is the irrational, willful denial and evasion of the facts of reality.

    It is dangerous to write off seemingly small things as trivial. It is the apparent triviality of these sorts of things that is their most damaging quality; their ability to pass by unremarked because they are seen as being of little consequence. When others percieve something as being too trivial to bother with, that is when that thing is allowed to flourish unchecked.

    I applaud the men who stand up to blatant unfairness, in any form. But that is the manner in which you have chosen to fight this evil. Please don’t undermine the efforts of others simply because you don’t see their cause or their opinions as being important enough.

    Your final paragraph speaks volumes. The men feel threatened? Excuse me for not feeling particularly sympathetic towards them. Not all the men felt threatened here. Only the men who didn’t agree. And perhaps only the men who are guilty of this themselves. There were plenty who supported the argument and they didn’t come across as feeling threatened at all. If the cap fits….

  16. SWP SWP 11 April 2008

    I am not suggesting that what you do in your daily life is unimportant, of course it is, there are probably many feminists who would agree that complaining about issues like this is also a waste of time, probably the same feminists that believe it is a waste of time to try and change men’s attitudes, because they wont change, that resources and energy should rather be concentrated on assisting women who have been victims of abuse. What you do is important, but objecting to this bit of flim flam is also important, more so when you see how many men and women really see nothing wrong with it.

    I do not think that men should so readily feel threatened by this type of complaint but should rather examine it a little more closely, take the emotion out of it and examine what it is that is being said here. It is obviously a concern to women in general, not militant raging feminists, but ordinary women, mothers, wives and sisters, the type of people responding here. It did not seem to me that the posts are trying to be hurtful, but are rather trying to point out why it is that the media, in engaging in this type of campaign, and generally, are doing little to advance equality of treatment of women.

    If we want to alter social mind set, the clearest way to do this is to stop objectifying women through the media. The fact of the matter is that half naked women in ads apparently sell things. Not half naked men, but women. Now whether that is because the bulk of buying power is concentrated in the hands of men or not I don’t know I suspect it has something to do with it. If we stop portraying the so called ‘ideal’ woman as a beautiful (and naked) body and face and rather portray her as a smart, educated and accomplished woman we will be moving in the right direction.

    It’s great that we have people like you in the workplace to do what you do, but it’s not enough. There are hoards of men out there who do not think like you do, and it is these men who are encouraged to believe that a woman is merely a sexual object through campaigns like this, please just look at the stats relating to rape and violence against women, and then tell me that (a) sexism does not exist; (b) that we don’t have more sexist men out there than enlightened men.

  17. Odette Odette 11 April 2008

    @ Lordfoom

    Then your assumption is erroneous. I think the female form is exceptionally beautiful and I have no qualms about anyone celebrating that beauty. However, what I do protest is the wholesale objectification of women in the mainstream media and women’s worth being measured by their bra cup size.

    I don’t advocate that the media be censored. However I do advocate that women (and men for that matter) be free to voice their opinions and speak up if they feel that reasonable boundaries have been over-stepped. Business needs to realise that their consumers include women as well as men. Sexual imagery can be utilised effectively and without causing undue offense but doing so would mean actually thinking beyond the current narrow confines. For example, car ads that show barely-clothed young women draped over cars – do the manufacturers even consider that women buy those cars too? That they might feel disenchanted or alienated by the advertising gimmick? A recent television ad for a woman’s deoderant shows a young woman whimsically asking her boyfriend/husband what part of her body is his favourite part. Every woman I know cringed at that ad. None of them liked it. And they were the target audience! Speaking for myself, I usually buy a product in spite of its advertising, not because of it, and only if the product has proven itself.

  18. John Bond John Bond 11 April 2008

    WOW! This blog has become the War of the Sexes!!!

    I think I’ll just leave quietly. I’m scared that some of the Amazons may spot me and beat me up…

  19. Scarface Scarface 11 April 2008

    Two things to the feminists. The world of fashion is a good example of exploitation of women. Now, everyone has to be thin, big boobs and nice cleavage. The message is then mainly spread through the fashion magazines.

    Now, who runs the fashion industry and who buys woman’s magazines. Yet, men are blamed for women being obsessed with their figures.

    Those who have it, flaunt it. Those who don’t blame men!

  20. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @Claire

    Yeah, I’ve read the works of Ayn Rand, for my sins. Can’t say I find her particularly enjoyable or enlightening; I’d also like to point out that The Fountainhead as Roarke raping a woman (can’t remember her name) and this being seen as a good thing, by both him and her. I’ve also read the works of Janet Radcliffe Richards and Germaine Greer, and read many an interview with the likes of Dworkin, et al. Hell, I even consider Virginia Woolf, one of the great feminists of her age, to be on of the greatest novelists of any age – and one who succeeded in making some extremely valid points about feminism.

    I even agree that feminism is a radical movement, in the original latin sense of ‘root’, in that the evils of sexism need be uprooted, eradicated to the smallest piece.

    Where we disagree on is that this is one of these tumours that need addressing. I tend to agree with my wife when she says she considers Cleavage Day a celebration of something uniquely female; a celebration of womanhood in a sense.

    So, if Cleavage Day was an example, I feel it’s an unfitting example, certainly not one of the little things that “add up”. Admitting that women have breasts, that men find those breasts attractive and that (some) women (in the right place and time) enjoy the attention, is not sexism.

    “t is dangerous to write off seemingly small things as trivial. It is the apparent triviality of these sorts of things that is their most damaging quality; their ability to pass by unremarked because they are seen as being of little consequence.”

    Yes, but this IS actually of no consequence. It’s not masquerading as something irrelevant; it’s the real irrelevant deal.

    “Please don’t undermine the efforts of others simply because you don’t see their cause or their opinions as being important enough.”

    I joined this discussion because not because I thought it was unimportant, Ithought it was worse than unimportant: I see it as injurious to the process of Female Liberation and Sexual Reconciliation.

    “There were plenty who supported the argument and they didn’t come across as feeling threatened at all. If the cap fits….”

    Well, I’m not one of them, the cap doesn’t fit, and if you feel depicting me as a nasty male chauvinist is justified, well, you break my heart.

  21. Odette Odette 11 April 2008

    Dear fellow female TL commentators

    I received a rather petulant comment from LordFoom in response to a post in my blog. I felt I needed to share this with you. It seems I’m an angry woman who has bruised his delicate ego. I am confident you’ll all unite in condemnation of my cold-heartedness.

    http://ctscribbler.blog247.co.za/2008/04/11/the-fragile-nature-of-men/

  22. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @Odette

    ““Mostly what I do is stand up for women when some guy says, never when there’s a woman around, that, eg, women make worse businesspeople. What I mostly do is insist, loudly and clearly, that men and women are equal and egalitarian. What I won’t do is waste my time on trivialities and “write emails” to uncaring corporations over non issues. I address my concerns to the men acting badly around me, where I CAN make a difference.”

    Why do you assume I don’t do the same? ”

    I made no assumptions. I merely answered your question. I have no doubt that you are a vocal critic of sexism wherever you may or may not find it.

    ” “How is your experience any more valid than theirs? Personal anecdote is not an argument.”

    Yet you view your personal experience as an argument.”

    If that’s how it came across, I expressed myself poorly. I could have said that I’d spoken to a group of Catholic Nuns and they agreed with me. The intention was to indicate how easy it is to support any point of view with personal anecdotes.

    “So what you’re saying is, “shut up and don’t make trouble”? ”

    That is hardly what I’m telling you, but if you feel putting words in my mouth makes you a better feminist, please continue. What I am ACTUALLY trying to urge you to do is speak LOUDLY about where it’s appropriate.

    “If anything, voicing an opinion loudly and clearly remains true to the principles of feminism.”

    Agreed. It remains true to the principles of humanism. You’re allowed to loudly state something incorrect. I’m allowed to loudly contradict you. Listener’s are allowed to quietly make up their own minds.

    “But please don’t tell me what to do.”

    I’d appreciate the same courtesy.

    “However I do advocate that women (and men for that matter) be free to voice their opinions and speak up if they feel that reasonable boundaries have been over-stepped.”

    It is my opinion that this is exactly what I’m doing: I feel a boundary is being overstepped because of overzealousness.

    “Business needs to realise that their consumers include women as well as men.”

    I guess this is why there aren’t any male underwear models…oh…wait…

    “For example, car ads that show barely-clothed young women draped over cars – do the manufacturers even consider that women buy those cars too?”

    My personal experience, nice and untestable, is that, in fact, they look at their target markets very carefully, with polls and surveys and credit card statements to see exactly who buys their product and for what reason. And, yes, they may tap into the less savoury aspects of still-current male culture to do so. The fact that they use boobs and behind to sell certain high end motorcars speaks more about the appalling differences in income between men and women than it does about the sexism at motor car manufacturer in question.

    My personal opinion is that the way to change advertising is to change the consumer. If women have equal buying power, ie earned the same for the same work, and had the same opportunities for career advancement as men, then advertising would naturally change to follow this.

    “Every woman I know cringed at that ad.”

    And so do I. So punish the company by not buying their product and convincing those men you know not to do the same. That’s your consumer “vote”.

    “Speaking for myself, I usually buy a product in spite of its advertising, not because of it, and only if the product has proven itself.”

    Then why get in a palaver about an ad campaign?

  23. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @SWP

    “Do you realise how difficult it is to have a meeting and be conscious that the man opposite you cannot take his eyes off your breasts or legs?”

    I realize that it’s important to tell them it’s not acceptable to reduce someone to biology that exists only for the pleasure of yourself.

    “I do not think that men should so readily feel threatened by this type of complaint but should rather examine it a little more closely, take the emotion out of it and examine what it is that is being said here. It is obviously a concern to women in general, not militant raging feminists, but ordinary women, mothers, wives and sisters, the type of people responding here.”

    I agree, to a degree, but I will say that it’s the ordinary women who feel the strongest about this who will make comments here. Women like my wife, who see cleavage day as a celebration of womanhood, haven’t taken the trouble to do so, I would think.

    And what it does reveal to me is a great anger among women, which would indicate that a great deal of discrimination is still taking place, and I don’t deny it and I don’t deny that we must continuously work towards egalite.

    My objection is that by choosing Cleavage Day as the battle ground is essentially framing the argument for male chauvanists. Its choosing the enemy’s battleground and giving him ammunition.

    And I am sorry that so many women are made to feel like pieces of meat, and I promise that I will continue to do my best to ensure that women get a fair shake from me and from society. Complaining about Cleavage Day, however, is not the way to do so.

  24. LordFoom LordFoom 11 April 2008

    @SWP
    “t is these men who are encouraged to believe that a woman is merely a sexual object through campaigns like this, please just look at the stats relating to rape and violence against women, and then tell me that (a) sexism does not exist; (b) that we don’t have more sexist men out there than enlightened men.”

    One last thing before I go home to my wife: You are right, sexism does exist, I agree fully, and in this country, particularly in the less well-oof parts, I’m fairly confidant in agreeing with you that there are more male sexists and not. This does not relate to national cleavage day, however, and saying that there IS a link between the two is logically fallacious. The most I can say about this is that it’s a contentious issue, with some studies indicating that countries with generally available hardcore porn have LESS sexual crime than other countries, for example, and other studies saying that general availability of hardcore porn is linked to less sexual satisfaction on the part of consumers. And that’s hardcore porn, not something as innoffensive and transient as Cleavage Day.

    FINALLY FINALLY: Power to all you women out there.

  25. SWP SWP 11 April 2008

    Dave, check out Scarface’s comment, this is exactly why it is important for you to support women in this regard, because so many men actually do think like this.

  26. Dave Dave 13 April 2008

    Wry smile. If Claire had said ‘gee this is dumb’ and laughed at it, I’d nodded, smiled and moved on. There are idiots who’d support anything. The point is by giving it serious attention while ignoring real issues it trivialises feminism

  27. Dave Dave 13 April 2008

    Claire -a jackal is a predator that only that only picks on very small, near dead or the kills of larger predators. That seems quite an accurate description of your picking on trivia and avoiding real issues. I probably do need therapy – for PTS rather than whatever else. However you have missed the point of what I was saying too. Trends in SA are between 20-30 years behind the first world. The brouhaha you’re making now was very typical in the US and Europe in the ’80’s – the end result -where men are demonised, demoralised and the system is now skewed against them has been not particularly desirable for society. I am an odd fellow in that I am beating the game, over there. I’m outnumbered by women, 5:1 and oddly a few of them have been trying to help me along – because I am a male in their bastion, and they don’t see this situation as any more healthy than I see males dominating on the basis of sex. I don’t think I need it. I reckon I’ll prove myself, thank you. Not because of my sex! And yes, women are ascendent – particularly in professional writing. They’re not there by ability (some are) but because the pre-1910 is being created in reverse. Do you think that desirable? Now, by all means go and wear a mini-skirt and uncovered head and face in Riiyad and drive a car and meet strangers. That freedom should be any humans. That’s a task worth of feminism’s attention. Unfortunately that’s not one feminists are prepared to confront. Bizarrely that one seems left to conservative males.

  28. Dave Dave 13 April 2008

    Odette -I work in the US with a feminist who is a cult figure with with about 50 000 americans. She was the one who chewed me out as a sexist for holding a door for her. We get on very well in general. I agree that shouldn’t be an issue in feminism (and really, it is) but this sort of hypersensitivity and readiness to percieve sexual bias in anything is a problem. I’ve sat quietly while picking up my kids – and listened to several young women letching about rugby players. They weren’t valuing them for their minds. I was amused, not offended. It was normal hetrosexual lechery. Now invert that scene. They’d have been Chauvinist sexist pigs, right? There is a danger of objectivising the other sex, agreed. However, when the two are in close balance there is a danger too of hypersensitivity, and assuming everything is sexist, eventually – as has happened in the US – skewing the balance. That’s not a good thing either. Of course I can’t and won’t tell you what to get your knickers in a twist about. But feminists having a loud pile-on here (and deafening silence elsewhere)- does make it look like picking on soft targets is more attractive.
    The Ayn Rand part (forget who it was now) left me in helpless laughter. Thank you. What an example to choose!

  29. Enough Enough 14 April 2008

    I don’t usually critise people in a topical forum such as this, but Lord Foom, Dave, you have gone too far.

    Notwithstanding the fact that this cleavage day thing was used merely as an illustrative example, and not the actual thing being criticised (which was sexism in general)the two of you were far too eager to pounce on the supposed triviality of the post. For supposed self-profests “feminists” you seem awfully keen to undermine the cause.

    You two aside, there are many women here who felt a degree of discomfort with, if not the day itself, at least the concept it promoted. Perhaps the fact that this particular post got a lot of attention had less to do with cleavage day and more to do with the fact that the issue of sexism is so seldom raised in this forum.

    So how dare you – men – come in here and tell these women that their experiences are unimportant and that their concerns are trivial! How dare you dictate what YOU believe feminism should be about, not once, but repeatedly?
    How DARE you?!
    Where do you get off undervaluing an experience that you have never personally encountered and can at very best sympathise with?

    I’ll take James Tobias up there over you two anyday. At least we know what we’re getting with him and don’t have to worry about being ambushed by wolf in sheeps’ clothing.

    Quite frankly you can take your high-handed, condescending, I-know-what’s-best-for-you, “feminism” and bugger off.

  30. Odette Odette 14 April 2008

    @ Dave

    Your feminist friend needs a few pointers about manners. :-)

    I believe that feminism is not a concept cast in stone. It is open to interpretation. If I can use your opening doors situation as an example. Not only do I appreciate when someone (man or woman) holds a door open for me, I do the same for others (men and women). As far as I am concerned it is about good manners and has nothing to do with being a man or a woman. Other feminists will disagree, as is their right.

    As for your example about the women leching on rugby players. I have listened to men go on about beautiful women and it doesn’t bother me. Just as it doesn’t bother me that women do that about men. The issue under discussion is not about either sex admiring the other’s physical attributes. Rather, it is about defining women purely on their physical attributes and objectifying them in a disrespectful manner.

    NCD is used merely as an example and has sparked lively and interesting debate.

    The women who commented here are not strident humourless creatures who don’t want to see any man admire a beautiful woman. What we want is some moderation, reasonableness and respect, all commodities which are sadly in short supply these days.

  31. James Tobias James Tobias 14 April 2008

    I have old fashioned views on woman.

    They should be offorded the utmost respect from every male, including the standing up when they enter a room, opening doors etc etc.
    Those values shouldnt disappear just because they want to compete on at least an equal footing with men

    We can still respect and adore them as our equals.

  32. Caryl Caryl 14 April 2008

    These arguments and counter-arguments have been both instructive and amusing. However, let’s not lose sight of the important issues:
    a) sexism is viewed as less of a social crime than racism;
    b) personalities calling someone a k***** (ooops!)received more outraged talk-time and colummn inches and analysis than the taxi rape
    c) South Africa is an extremely dangerous place to be female because of prevailing attitudes (from both men and women) that women are undeserving of being protected and cherished.

    We still are the weaker sex, no matter that we have the vote and some measure of economic power. We are the ones afraid to walk alone anywhere, anytime, wearing what we choose because in the back of our minds is the insidious thought that we are vulnerable to attack simply because we are more fragile.

    One gun, one knife, one broken bottle, one finger wielded by someone determined to put us in our place has the power to take away all our hard-won personal gains. We are reduced to being objects to gratify someone else’s desires. We are non-human in the eyes of others if all they see is an opprtunity for gratification, or a threat to the perceived order of things (ie men on top).

    Nowadays, it is not so much “I am woman; hear me roar” as it is “I am woman; and I will hide away so as not to be violated.”

    It’s a sad, shameful state to be in. Without full protection and acknowledgement by all society of women’s fundamental rights to be who we want to be and wear what we want to wear, we cannot be said to be free – no matter what our Constitution may say about it.

  33. Kai Kai 2 June 2008

    I in a way resent the comment: “In fact, I don’t believe that anyone can be a woman and not be a feminist.”

    Feminism is a an explosive reaction to sexism. It goes from one extreme to the other – and I don’t care who you are that’s ALWAYS bad. It doesn’t help anything and in fact adds to the problem. It’s something I’ve learned from extensively studying graphology, extremes are never a good thing, and so it goes in life. I don’t want to be crude, but I think it makes my point, being a bitch won’t change a guy from being a dick, and in fact will likely encourage his behavior.

    If you don’t like National Cleavage Day, a tit for tat Package Packaged Day isn’t going to change anything. Just say, I don’t agree with it, make a persuasive argument, and rally other women to support you. If you get enough women who aren’t showing off their cleavage on that day then it will fade away. Those that do are more than likely doing it in a jovial fashion or they can only find value in the lustful glances of men so just pity them.

    Or change the day. Say instead of “objectifying” myself, we’ll do “Women Strength Day” or something to that effect, highlight women of power or merit, but don’t do it in a way that’s seen as, “this is only to get back at you” because it loses its effect. Women who invoke not only femininity (which by no means is the same as feminism) but possess leadership qualities and can be truly held as icons.

    I want to tell you some of the reactions though so you won’t be surprised by it, those guys who are going to make fun of you for being feminists are still going to make fun of you for having said icons. That’s their nature and nothing really that you’re going to say is going to change that. Getting pissed off at their behavior in a sense validates what they’re doing in the first place – they do it to get a rise out of you, so when they don’t get the reaction they want, they have to learn to be more creative. In my experience, many of them get bored and just give up. You’re a woman, you’re grace, you’re intelligent, you’re half of what makes humanity great, and don’t let anybody’s comments take that away from you. Don’t give them that power.

    Live strength, don’t just complain about it, and your example will speak far louder than your words.

    Case in point: I had a male coworker – in a teasing sense, he wasn’t serious – tell me that women can’t play the same games as men because we’re not as good at it. Had I gotten upset and got into a battle of wills in a tit for tat he would have known that in order to get me upset, that’s all he would have to do, and bring it up again. Instead I just shrugged and didn’t say anything. He pressed a bit harder for a little bit and kept at it for a couple of days, but he finally stopped because it wasn’t getting him what he wanted and he hasn’t mentioned a word about it since.

    Being a man and a woman isn’t about equality, it’s about balance. We compliment each other. There are ways around those jerks in our lives, but don’t exacerbate the issue by being a part of the problem.

    *And I’m off my soap box, you all have a great day, and remember strength and beauty go hand in hand.

  34. Joy-Mari Cloete Joy-Mari Cloete 5 April 2009

    You offer too many caveats. Just say what you want to say. South Africa needs a big wake up. Too many of us see things as ‘fun’, and fail to see how misogynist they are. And too few of us take women seriously. But if a man were to write about sexism, he would probably get more kudos, and his opinion would count more than yours or mine. Let’s get angry about it and let’s do something.

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