Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Womanly Wednesday: The girls are lost, again

Isn't it sad the way women manage to keep losing, at least according to their self-proclaimed advocates. Check this out:
The potentially harmful effect of ultra-thin models and air-brushed female celebrities on the body image and self-esteem of women is well-documented. Could the increasing participation of women in professional sport prompt the media to portray female role models in a different, more beneficial light? Anecdotal evidence suggests not.
First of all, note just how dishonest that first sentence is with the weasel word "potentially" is. You couldn't simply say the "The harmful effect of ultra-thin models and air-brushed female celebrities on the body image and self-esteem of women is well-documented," for the simple reason that it isn't well documented. What then does it mean to say the "potentially harmful" effect has then?

It means nothing at all.

So let's move on to female athletes. Why isn't it "helpful" to have girls see female athletes?
A new study of 258 US school girls and 171 female undergrads by Elizabeth Daniels has investigated how women and girls feel when they see sexualised images of female athletes. 
Oh good, I feel so much better that a study has been done.

But notice the interesting give away just in the wording here. The "potential problem" is not with what the photos do or do not represent but with what women and girls feel when they see them. That is one of the most obnoxiously sexist things you're going to see today. These poor girls, they can't even be trusted to "feel" the right thing when presented with a hot looking athlete.(And note also that they are asked what they "felt" and not what they "thought".)
After looking at the first and last of their five allocated photographs (this was Lauren Jackson and Anna Kournikova in the sexualised athletes condition and Anne Strother and Mia Hamm in the sporty athletes condition), the participants were asked to write a paragraph "describing the woman in the photograph and discussing how this photograph makes you feel".
The key finding is that the girls and undergrads who viewed the sexualised athlete images tended to say they admired or were jealous of the athletes' bodies, they commented on the athletes' sexiness, and they evaluated their own bodies negatively.
What are we going to do, have only carefully de-sexualized images of women out there? And what about actual women? If seeing a picture of some super hot athlete is enough to hurt girls, then what happens to her when an athletic woman right there in the room with her sexualizes herself? Suppose the college basketball player with the hot body puts on a short skirt, high heels and deep-plunge neckline revealing epic breasts, and struts across campus? Who is going to protect all those poor, helpless college girls from that sexualized image? Cause girls do that you know.

And when they do it they are fully aware of the effect they will have on both boys and other girls!

Okay, let's have a bit of a reality check. There is a word for a woman who looks at pictures of Lauren Jackson in a bikini and then concludes that her own body isn't as good and the word here is normal. For the simple reason that it is a an incontestable fact that Jackson's body is better than 99 percent of the women who have ever lived.

In fact, another way of putting the findings might be to say, that the girls and undergrads who viewed the sexualized athlete images were able to make honest, accurate and healthy evaluations of their own bodies in comparison.

And is it negative for a woman to "feel", "that her body isn't as good as Lauren Jackson's? I'd suggest that it's no more than it is negative for me to feel that Bubba Watson is a better golfer than me.

Those are not equivalent examples, of course, because golf isn't a part of a man's identity the way sexuality is part of a woman's identity. That in a sense, is the problem for people who design studies like this: they don't want girls to define themselves sexually and those pesky girls keep thwarting them and continue to do so. The people who do studies then turn around and blame someone else, usually men, rather than acknowledge that girls really, really want it this way. Which is why it's so foolish to lie to girls and women about this. It's a simple fact: you're sexuality is part of who you are and for your entire life it will be part of how people evaluate you, not just men but other women. In fact, other women will often be much harsher about it than men. It's good for you to know this because you are going to have to deal with it.

Here is as hypothetical situation for your consideration. There is a women's tennis tournament in your town with fifty women entered when the rounds begin on Monday. By Saturday morning, as the final weekend play starts, the field has been narrowed down to four and one of the final players to be eliminated is a tall, feminine and sexy girl who ends up on page one of the sports section. The tournament is ultimately won by a masculine, beefy women with a bad haircut. A polling company surveys local high school girls and asks, "If you could be like either of these women, which would you choose?"

I won't insult your intelligence by pretending that there is any doubt which of the two most girl's would pick. The question is this: Are they wrong to make that choice? The hotter looker girl is actually a very good athlete and has worked harder and is in far better shape than the vast majority of the local high school girls. They could do much worse in picking a role model. It's just that when choosing between different kinds of status, most young women will rate sexiness above the ability to win at tennis. Is it possible that, contrary to what people who do studies think, they are right to do so?

No comments:

Post a Comment