Twitter cleavage posts, the personal, and the political

An article up today on Feministing critiques #kuboobs’ claim that women who post decapitated cleavage shots on twitter in support of their sports team are engaging in a feminist act.

Leaving aside the often-unproductive question of whether this is or is not “feminist,” I want to talk about an interesting assumption we see in a lot of commentary like this: That women should choose to objectify themselves less for the good of all women.

Two questions:

(1) How can less self-objectification actually help accomplish any of the goals of feminism to redistribute resources, reorganize society, end discrimination, end violence, etc.? Thought experiment: If all women decided to stop showing cleavage tomorrow, what exactly would change, and how?

(2) What does it even mean to choose to self-objectify less? This is such a culture- and context-specific thing that defining it seems impossible. Wearing lipstick and showing one’s ankles used to be seen as whorish self-objectification. So, we are left with this: Is a self-objectifier just someone who dresses “sexier than I do?”

The Feministing article ends with this question:

Whether women have a responsibility to forgo personal pleasures for the movement’s good is a question I’m still struggling to figure out (though, I’ll admit, I’m leaning toward “yes”).

What I am thinking about (obviously, in relation to the commentary I read about sexting) is why feminists are always trying to make ourselves (and other women, sometimes coercively) “better” in hopes that this will lead to social change. If the problems we face are structural and institutional, maybe those places (and not people posting their cleavage on twitter) is where we should focus our attention.

“The End of Courtship?” at NYT

Why does an article about the supposedly changing sexual mores of young people need to appear in the NYT every 4 months or so? And why is it always changing for the worse? The story is the same as always: a culture of casual sex is preventing young people from finding the romance they truly desire. How could such a culture develop if people were not happy with it? This article blames the “mancession” (yes, the writer seems to still believe that myth), and texting, but underneath all that is the real problem that evolving gender norms are just so confusing.

It’s hard to read a woman exactly right these days … You don’t know whether, say, choosing the wine without asking her opinion will meet her yearnings for old-fashioned romance or strike her as boorish and macho.

Ok, this might sound ridiculous, but how about asking? Simpler still: If you want to be “an old-fashioned boor” and she’d prefer to be treated as an equal, then  maybe you’re just not meant to be together?

While the article imagines a better, simpler past when dating rules were clear and gender roles were rigidly defined, some of the comments tell a different story:

Good riddance to the old dating culture. How many healthy, long-term, and happy relationships have resulted from it? This article talks with nostalgia about “the rules” to dating but those “rules” exemplify everything that’s wrong about the concept of dating.

Whatever the reports say about hookup culture, people are notoriously bad at accurately reporting on their own sexual behaviors. Change over time is hard to pin down as well–when we ask people to self-report, are we measuring actual behaviors or are we measuring how willing people are to talk about them?

If things are indeed changing I really wish the next NYT article about the mating habits of the American young person could consider, even for one paragraph, how some of these changes could be good.