Who remembers the Diet Coke advert with a bunch of female office workers ogling a shirtless site worker? <pssst… it’s 11.30> At the time, it was a pretty funny ad, subverting the idea that women’s bodies are visual currency for men. It made its point, and was a wildly popular ad, but it was 20 years ago, and the world has moved on since then – or has it?
Some of the women I work with speak about men in the same way; like they are objects on display for our entertainment. It’s worse when its about colleagues of ours – it makes me cringe. I work around the corner from The Birdcage – which I would like to visit, but not for this – which regularly has male strip shows with “Full Monty Guaranteed!”. Call me a prude (ha, ironically maybe), but I think it’s rather distasteful. Not to mention that the hairless, chiselled male bodies that we’re supposed to find attractive, look like children to my sex brain. Ew.
When men speak of women in this way, they are rightly criticised. But in 2016, it’s apparently OK for women to treat the other half of the human race like pieces of meat. Sure, it seemed empowering 20 years ago, but it’s just embarrassing now. There’s hypocrisy in that the same people who salivate over male bodies would get angry at men doing the same to women. But there’s a worse hypocrisy; that I’m scared to call people on it because this is a socially accepted behaviour – and I’d be the weirdo for complaining. I don’t feel that it damages men as a whole, sexism still has a disproportionately worse impact on women, but it does affect the way individuals see the world, and how they behave in relationships. It’s toxic for the ogler, and for the ogl-ee.
Here’s a cheerful article on the rise of eating disorders among men. It’s far more common than we had allowed ourselves to think. I’d love it for gender equality to not be a race to the bottom where everyone is marginalised to an equivalent degree – we can do so much better than this.