Monday, November 25, 2013

Standing Up For Selfies and Sluthood

I’m Buttering Selfie Toast today. This is going to start off pretty tame, but if I know myself (and I like to think I do) it’s probably going to heat up around the middle of page two. Let’s get some words on the table right up front so they won’t seem shocking when they insert themselves in the conversation: sex, slut, shame. Oh, and fuck. And maybe tits. (Also, may contain references to TV shows from the 60s, 70s and/or 80s, which you will find notated with an asterisk *. The asterisk doesn’t mean I’m going to explain the reference. If you’re younger than 30, you can use your google machine to look it up.) Okay, go…

If you’ve missed the recent dialogue regarding whether selfies are empowering or degrading for women, here are the key points of the argument:

Position A cites that selfies reflect and promote a feeling of pride in a woman, that posting a snapshot of herself is a reflection of her sense of well-being and acceptance of herself, thereby promoting a feminist agenda. “Hello out there!” cries the triumphant selfie, “I am feeling great about myself! Look out world! I’m Mary fucking Tyler Moore* crossing a busy street in downtown Minneapolis!”

Position B argues that selfies reduce a woman’s self-worth to the composition of her physical self, and that selfies put beauty ahead of personhood and are damaging the feminist agenda. “Hello out there?” pleads the pathetic selfie,”Could someone please validate me? Tell me that I am pretty? I’m not feeling very good about myself. I don’t have the emotional strength to cross the street, let alone throw my hat in the air.”*

If I were so bold as to counter these two perfectly valid positions with a C, I would assert that selfies are just that… as individual as snowflakes, and to label them as good or bad for a group as large as 50% of the human population is petty and short-sighted. The real question for women, I think, is not “are selfies good or bad” but “why did you post it?” and “will you regret it?”

If the honest answer is that you were feeling cute or silly or proud of yourself for the awesome braid you just engineered in your hair, that’s great. If the honest answer is that you need validation to move you from one moment of your life to the next, I won’t even tell you that’s a bad thing. So what? We’ve all had those moments of feeling alone and wanting someone to say that they love us.

Here’s where the line starts to blur. Enter the half-naked selfie in the bathroom mirror. We’ve all seen this poor girl standing next to a cluttered counter top, wearing small clothes, arching her back, duck-faced in full insert-your-dick-here pucker. The come-fuck-me selfie. This one says, not: Am I Pretty? but: Am I Fuckable? Okay, sister, back it up. If you're trying to get the attention of a boy, you don't really need to work this hard. Look a few days, weeks, months down the road and ask yourself if this is really something you want to share. And be aware that in doing so, you demonstrate to the world that you buy into the male delusion of sex… hook, line and sinker.

I’m fortunate enough to be married to a man who’s filled me in on the whole conspiracy. He has betrayed his clan and bestowed upon me the secrets of man’s age-old plot to get woman to show him her tits. Here’s how it works: men say Show Us Your Tits and we hear He Will Reward Me With His Undivided Attention and Affection.

That’s it.

I guess it’s not really all that big of a conspiracy. It’s probably not even all that old. My guess is that it only goes back about as far as that Heather Thomas poster* from The Fall Guy* era. Every boy in the world had that thing on his wall, and there was a worldwide pact among boys aged 13-15 to promise girls whatever they had to in order to see what was under that blue bikini top.

You're welcome, husband.

Now here’s an interesting question:

A (male) TV producer/casting agent decides that a woman is beautiful enough to be photographed in a bikini for all the world to enjoy, and the public agrees and buys the posters en masse. Only the most uptight, conservative, Puritan voices dissent or resent her show of skin. But if a woman decides this on her own and snaps a photo of herself in the bathroom mirror next to her toothpaste and box of tissues, she is called a slut by everyone, including herself?

While I’m on the subject of sluts, I recently read a post by someone named Tuthmosis (wha?), presumably a boy in his early twenties, who listed the 24 most prominent qualities of a slut. Among these are (#1) visible tattoos, (#2) piercings other than the ear, and (#24) blue hair. To the author of the aforementioned article (oh, puppy, I’m really being kind when I call you an author. Hemingway was an author. You are merely a horny and malicious turd with internet access), as it happens, I myself have visible tattoos, a nose piercing and blue hair. I also have four kids, two jobs and just enough time to be a slut for one husband. Probably not the kind of slut you were thinking about when you composed this work of genius. I’d like to invite you over for pot roast and a nice, long talk about how a woman’s appearance has absolutely nothing to do with you. However, you’ve done a nice service to women in compiling this list of slutty qualities, like having a tan (#23) or divorced parents (#21). Half the battle is knowing how we’re perceived. The other half is kicking the balls off the machine.

We will not require Tuthmosis' assistance for part two.

It occurs to me that the only way to end this rampant slut shaming… yes, I said rampant… is to take the shame out of being a slut. In the wake of recent advances in our legislative culture that acknowledge that personhood exists outside sexual identity, it is time that we add sluts to the list of protected classes. If we agree that what we do behind closed doors and with whom has no bearing on how well we perform our respective jobs and responsibilities, or what liberties we should be afforded, then what is wrong with being a slut? And if we take the shame out of that word, if we recognize that a woman who demonstrates all the qualities of being a slut (tattoos, blue hair, midriff shirt in the snow, gives random handies in the bathroom, whatever) is no less a person that one who doesn’t, I see a future in which sluts are so unprovocative that:

-Girls no longer make duck faces into their phones alone in the bathroom, because being a slut doesn’t get you any more attention than not being one.

-Guys no longer post photos of their ex-girlfriends’ tits on the internet in an effort to get them to kill themselves, because no one would kill themselves for being called a slut any faster than they would kill themselves for being called vegetarian.

-Pop stars sell a product based on the merits of the product itself, because twerking with a giant bear isn’t enough to get you talked about.

-Tuthmosis has to write an article titled 24 Signs She’s Good At Math, because girls who are good at math are more interesting to read about than girls who are sluts.

You see, my Position C states that both Position A and B are correct in some instances, but that there is no universal enemy to feminism that is undoing feminism as quickly as feminism itself. The divergence occurs when one woman filters another’s actions through her own experience and decides that there must surely be some defect in the other woman’s motive. You there, judging the selfies as an aggregate instead of seeing individuals in triumph or pain… Stop that. Stop it right now. You’re undoing us all, and you’re shifting the power back onto 13-15 year old boys masturbating to a Farah Fawcett* poster. They don’t  know what to do with that power. They’re going to end up like Tuthmosis, compiling lists like 16 Signs She Gives Good Head (there probably aren’t more than 11 such indicators). And you there, in your halter top in the bathroom mirror… go ahead. But first ask yourself Why? and Is There a Chance I Will Regret This? Because who you are and what you do… they matter.

Fuck the Machine. Duckfaced in Solidarity, Sisters

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