Nikita Ramkissoon
Nikita Ramkissoon

Can we please talk about the sexism on Matt Taylor’s shirt?

So there’s this scientist, right? And he and his team do something amazing. They land a satellite on a comet. How cool is that?! Possibly the coolest thing since Felix Baumgartner decided that skydiving is too mainstream.

But that shirt. Eish, that shirt. The scientist, Matt Taylor, wore a shirt plastered with drawings of semi-naked women in his post-landing interview on live television.

People have been up in arms on both sides — one side outraged over it and the other defending it.

Taylor1

The people defending Taylor’s actions are saying things like: “If Kim Kardashian can bare her booty on the cover of a magazine, Taylor can wear that shirt” or “Women are always moaning about wearing what the hell they want, so why aren’t men allowed to?” or even taking the joke too far by photoshopping a picture of him with a poster reading “This is what I was wearing. Tell me I asked for it”.

What these so-called “menists” are doing is undermining the feminist movement by equating a case of public backlash to rape, persecution and prejudice by claiming that he has a right to wear whatever he wants in the same way that the feminist movement claims the right to wear whatever we want.

Yes, actually, that shirt was in bad taste. But it’s more than that. Regardless of whether the shirt was plastered with drawings of women or pictures of real women, it showed that he and his defenders disrespect women. They disrespect us to the level of wanting to own women’s sexuality as their source of pleasure or fun, and expect the world to take it as a joke.

Claiming ownership over other people is an age-old issue and it affects not only women, but any marginalised group. People want to own others’ rights to marry, other people’s bodies and other people’s thoughts. In this case, it’s about men wanting to own women’s bodies for their own pleasure.

It’s not a joke. Undermining women is not a joke. Reducing women to images on a shirt is not a joke. And neither is reducing the “nobody asks my rapist what he was wearing” movement into a farce.

Taylor does not own those women on his shirt, unlike Kim K, who owns her own body and can decide what the hell to do with it. You cannot equate the two. Women who walk around in mini-skirts (which don’t objectify anyone) on a body (which they own) cannot be equated to a man wearing a shirt covered in images of sexualised women (who he does not own). What you are saying by equating the two is that because women are allowed to do what they will with themselves and their bodies, men are allowed to do what they want to women.

This issue has become so sensationalised that men are claiming that women are oppressing their freedom of expression. Huh? Excuse me? Are those thoughts actually spilling from your brain? Do you expect women to be sorry that we inconvenienced your freedom in order to protect ourselves? Do you expect us to apologise tearfully for taking our own bodies and sexuality into our own hands? Do you expect us to grovel before an inconsiderate man just because he landed a satellite on a comet?

Do we really have to take you by the hand and lovingly show you how everything about patriarchy is wrong and then watch you tap dance all over our progresses? I don’t think so.

Some have asked whether a female scientist would have been trashed for wearing a shirt that “objectified” men. Sorry? Objectifying men implies that women have power over them. It implies that there is equality. It implies that, societally and politically, women can actually objectify men. No, we can’t. Because a “hot” man on a T-shirt ALWAYS implies reverence of masculinity, the strong and the powerful. “Hot” women on a shirt ALWAYS implies sexual pleasure and ownership.

It’s something that men — and even feminist men — don’t seem to understand. We cannot lay back and make feminism comfortable for you. We refuse to work within your paradigm, because it’s your paradigm that is doing the oppressing.

You cannot claim to understand what it feels like to be “raped” by another’s gaze due to what you’re wearing. You’re never judged in that way. Even male rape victims are never asked what they were wearing.

Taylor was not objectified by what he was wearing. Not even by the backlash. He objectified women by what he was wearing. And that is an undeniable truth.

And landing a satellite on a comet is cool, but it doesn’t excuse Taylor from being accountable for his actions. And just because there are worse things out there, it doesn’t make what he did right.

Taylor has since apologised
for wearing it, and I wholeheartedly accept his apology. People do stupid things all the time, and it was big of him to apologise. He just should have never done it in the first place. It’s just unfortunate that his grand achievement, however badass, was overshadowed by that shirt.

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