(hat tip to 2ndnin)
A week ago, Shakesville had a very interesting post about the invisibility of certain women in sexual harassment:
It is a conversation I’ve had before with trans women, with fat cis women, women with noticeable physical disabilities, and with a women who has severe craniofacial deformities—the “I don’t want to be treated like a piece of meat or an object or a possession, but because Visible Women are treated like pieces of meat and objects and possessions, the fact that I’m not makes me feel like I’m not even a woman” conversation…
Because being harassed is a routine part of the Visible Woman’s experience. And as long as women’s value is determined by objectification, to not be objectified is to feel unvalued, even if to not be objectified is what you want.
This, of course, is not a commentary on women—objectified or not, feminist or not. This is a commentary on the Patriarchy, and how unfathomably fucked-up it is that a failure to be treated poorly—not in exchange for being treated well, but as an alternative to not being acknowledged at all—has the capacity to make women feel worthless.
And then I started thinking about one other group that rarely gets sexually harassed: men.
Melissa McEwan’s analysis (and I say this as someone with the greatest respect and admiration for Liss) is missing something. It’s not about Visible vs. Invisible Womanhood. It’s about Beauty vs. Not Beauty.
Our culture has exactly one archetype of beauty: cisgendered, able-bodied, slender– and female. Unless you’re George Clooney or Brad Pitt (neither of which I find particularly attractive anyway), the idea of a man being physically desired is sometimes laughable, sometimes terrifying, and mostly impossible. Straight men’s ideas of what straight women find attractive range from the desexualizing (making her laugh?) to the depressing (money? jerks?) and almost never include forearms, even though forearms are clearly the sexiest thing ever.
And that makes me think of this comic:
The funny part is that it’s easy to imagine this comic with any of the people Liss mentioned in it, assuming that it was a particularly assholish member of that gender, of course. All of the people– fat women and trans women, disabled women and men– are the Invisible People.
In essence, our culture gives people two shitty lots.
You can be a sex object. People will harass you, quite a lot, which is sometimes annoying and often scary; if you get raped, especially if it’s a date rape, your chance of being taken seriously decreases. Even more often, people will hit on you, which is one of those things that sounds like a great deal until the sixth or seventh time someone takes your polite “thank you” to their “you’re beautiful” as an invitation to spend the entire time you’re waiting for the bus trying to get into your pants.
Or you can be invisible, with sexual desire for you a subject of humor, because clearly it is so absurd that anyone would ever want to fuck a trans person or a fat woman or a man. Your body image lowers; you lose a sense of self-esteem. You start wishing to be sexually harassed, because at least it means you’re desirable at all.
And the worst part is that you don’t get to pick which group you’re in. A shy twelve-year-old with D cup breasts will get hit on by men three times her age and called a slut behind her back. An outgoing, sexual fat woman who is fully capable of politely rejecting people who hit on her will get relegated to the “eww! fatty fucker! gross!” side of the aisle.
This sucks. Culture, stop doing that.