Flipping the Blind Spot
Being the father of a wonderful young daughter has changed me in many ways.
There’s one way that continually surprises me though. I’m not as equal about gender as I always thought I was.
I always thought I was a fully modern male, past all these crazy notions about gender disparity and objectification. Accepting and open.
I’ve never had an issue working for and with women (actually preferring it over a majority-male workplace), I’ve always had strong women in high places in my life, from my mother and sister through all of my friendships and connections. I have never once thought that someone could not do something because they were a woman.
(I’m not looking for a cookie here, folks.)
But I have Andrea in my life now. And as she’s approaching her early teenage years, with puberty and dating on the horizon, my perspective is changing. I am becoming aware (slowly, gradually) of what men’s perception of her will be as she becomes an adult. Of how men will look at her and not see her.
I see attractive women, my male-animal mind does its thing, then I start to think that men will one day have similar thoughts about my daughter. And I feel ashamed.
(Then my brain switches from “she looks hot” to “put some damn clothes on!”)
I hear the statistics about how many women are sexually harassed by people who don’t seem to think it’s a big deal, and wonder if it’s going to happen to her. Know something will happen.
I see women in ads and on TV shows, and I put my little girl in their place.
It makes my heart ache.
The prompt for this post is this amazing article on the gender-flipping meme by Caitlin Welsh over at Junkee. It talks about role-reversal – portraying men in the ludicrous ways the media normally portray women – and how this helps spotlight the disparity. Not just in the poses of models in advertisements and re-drawing comic book pages with Hawkeye being contorted into the ridiculous poses female characters are subjected to, but even how the covers of books written by women differ significantly from those written by men.
A few months back, I started watching all the James Bond movies from the beginning and found it hard to do. It’s all well and good to talk about how the movies highlight how much culture has changed since then, but when I saw Bond dismiss his bathing-suit-clad masseuse with the phrase “Man talk” and smack her one the ass I cringed.
Every day, I’m more aware of the cultural blind spot I have. It took someone pointing it out to me to notice how badly the new Star Trek movies misuse their female leads. I just saw Alice Eve in her underwear and was all, “woo hoo!” I find myself looking at my comics with dismay, thinking it’s a strange world where every woman is a triple-jointed contortionist.
I second guess myself a lot now, not even trusting my own perceptions. I watched It’s Not About the Nail on YouTube, laughed, paused, then called Kristy in the room to ask her if it’s okay that I find this funny. It is only with her permission that I could feel better.
I know the questioning is good. I know the awareness will help me evolve. I know that supporting media that portrays woman accurately and appropriately will help.
I’m not there yet. On my way home from work yesterday I caught myself watching some girls walking downtown wearing not a lot of clothing, and then turned to see a line of other men doing the same, some trying to hide their gaze, some staring in extremely skeevy fashion.
And I was ashamed.
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