Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My response to The Evolution of the Swim Suit

[Jessica Rey's annoying video]

I thought I'd share my thoughts on this Evolution of the Swim Suit mess. I tried to just ignore this video at first because a girl can only take so much modesty drama (ahem, glittergate). But I'm glad I gave in and subjected myself to this nine and a half minutes of benevolent sexism wrapped in an empowering facade. 

First of all, I love that Ms. Rey is preaching modesty while not bothering to cover her shoulders. She fails at the Mormon (and Duggar family) definition of modesty right off the bat, and in doing so personifies the fact that "modesty" is a cultural construct. I'd like to see the Princeton study replicated in a fundamentalist Muslim country/culture. They'd probably get the same results for women not wearing a burqua. Perhaps they could use images of Rey from this very video!

But the truly frustrating thing is that she perpetuates the notion that men's problematic behavior (tendencies to objectifying women) is something that women (not men, and not society) need to fix. What is more, in the study Ms. Rey references, the swim suit pictures the Princeton boys saw were headless. Faces have a huge impact on the brain. Specific brain regions turn on and off when you look at a face. And more importantly, cutting off a model's head in an ad, IS OBJECTIFYING THE MODEL. The fact that they presented bikini-clad women without a freaking head (and without including a head-having control group) is kind of problematic to me (from a methodological standpoint).

The take home message of the study should be: hey guys, this sometimes happens in your brain. Make sure that it doesn't translate into any douchey behavior, okay? Instead, Ms. Rey's take home message was: hey ladies, cover up! Which, ugh. To me, that is just absurd. That is like saying the take home message of the Stanford Prison Experiment is: hey guys assigned to prisoner status, now that you know what powerlessness and abuse in a prison-like situation feels like, I hope you'll think twice about committing a prison-worthy crime! I mean, seriously? It never crossed your mind that maybe the prison guards were the primary concern? That maybe good people are capable of not-so-good behaviors, and awareness about who is vulnerable and why is the first step towards overcoming that capacity for doing harm? And NEVERMIND the fact that the best way to keep people out of prison has a whole lot of NOTHING to do with some good, old-fashioned, online moralizing lectures. That would totally discount the sociological data of prison and their implications for things like, oh, I don't know, the rampant racism in our criminal justice system/society? Same way Rey's moralizing of modesty overlooks the underpinning of clothing choices (culture/peer influence, self esteem, socioeconomic status: e.g., if you can't afford to have separate clothes for school, play, and church, you will buy your clothes with different priorities in mind. Not to mention what is flattering, useful, and comfortable for each person).

Personally, I don't care what you (whether you are a man or a woman) wear to the beach. At all. I trust you to make your own decisions about you body. And while I personally appreciate cute one piece swimwear, I find her swimsuit-shaming tactics repulsive to the point that I'd boycott her stupid swim line. (also, I just checked it out, there are way better/cuter one-piece swimsuits out there, you guys.)

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8 comments:

  1. So I turned this video off midway and apparently missed the main point. A friend posted it in a FB group after we had a big discussion on modesty (I was pretty much totally alone on the "screw modesty" side).

    I got to the part where she said men didn't perceive bikini-clad women as people and I was like, "duh! They have been taught to objectify women their whole life. Who is shocked here?" and to me this was just evidence of patriarchy and a staunch need for feminism. No one responded after me. I assume it was because my response was so brilliant, I gave them a ton to think about. But really I'm sure they thought I was off my rocker and bikinis are evil.

    As a mom of a little boy, this gives me a lot to think about. It doesn't matter what his sexual orientation turns out to be, he needs to not objectify at all.

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    1. YES! Exactly. This is why you are such an awesome person. And why your son will be too.

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  2. Wow. The woman is the problem - not the men. She is being so condescending to women. Her suits could be cool if she was going for retro. And she could still go with the slogan - who says it has to be itsy bitsy - but she doesn't need to insult women everywhere in order to do it.

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    1. RIGHT?! Thank you. but this article is getting such fan girl treatment from twitter (I mean, not among people I follow because they are smarter than that, but just randos). I don't get it. I mean, I do. But YUCK.

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  3. I had to stop about halfway through too, I couldn't listen to it anymore. Come on. There are plenty of places in Europe where the beaches are topless, etc., or where the women wear far less, yet they do not live in a 'rape culture.' If we teach our boys to respect women, then we can defeat the rape culture mentality. UGH. So done with people blaming the victim.

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  4. I get the message she is trying to send, but I agree with more of what you said than anything. It's absurd to blame women for men's actions/thoughts. I feel modesty is important, but modesty is a very personal thing and you should never be trying to be modest for any other reason than because you respect yourself. If a guy is going to look at your body and think inappropriate thoughts, he will do it regardless of what you are wearing.

    This has been all over the place on my facebook lately and I didn't even want to watch it. It aggravates me to no end that in the study she references the faces aren't used. To me, that totally discounts the entire study. Of course showing faceless body parts will stop a person from thinking of the person in the image as a human being. They should do the same study with women's brains and show the women those Hollister or Abercrombie ads.

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    1. yes! this: you should never be trying to be modest for any other reason than because you respect yourself

      It is like, trying to be modest for other people is like trying to eat a certain way so you can be skinny. it is setting yourself up for failure. I always wonder how to handle the issue of modesty with my girls when they get older. and maybe it isn't even something you need to address directly (not like you should avoid/ignore modesty issues as they arise, obviously) but if you focus on self respect, modesty would just be a natural consequence.

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