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.

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