Catching up

I’ve been laid low by flu for the past week; no teaching, no writing. To catch up:

My column in Jezebel last week: Five Tips for Ending Slut-Shaming Fatigue. Excerpt:

When harassers are confronted on their behavior, they often offer the same classic defense: “she wouldn’t dress that way if she didn’t want attention.” Of course young people want attention — often sexual attention. Very few (if any) want that attention indiscriminately from every post-pubescent male with a pulse. “We always behave as if it’s a really selfish, dangerous and ultimately naïve way for girls to dress revealingly,” Clementine Ford wrote in an email. “A young woman isn’t allowed to dictate what attention she wants, because that’s her making a judgment on the kind of men she deems good enough for her.”

The virgin/slut dichotomy has long meant that a young woman is given two choices: have sex with no one, or give it up to everyone. One key way to fight slut-shaming is to reiterate that girls have the right to want to turn on whom they want to turn on – and still be treated with respect and care by those whom they don’t. That’s only an unreasonable expectation in a culture that expects very little from men.

My little brother Philip has been much in demand with the news of the discovery of the remains of Richard III. He was interviewed by the Independent here. My brother’s next book, on Shakespeare and Richard III’s body, comes out in September from Oxford University Press.

And though sick, I did an interview last week for this Stephanie Goldberg story on CNN: Cougars in Training: Young Women Dating Even Younger Men.

2 thoughts on “Catching up

  1. The flip side of this is the 35± year old woman, the overweight woman, or the woman that’s not conventionally attractive that’s considered gross or sad or comical for expressing her sexuality, or for foolishly believing that she has any sexuality to express.

    Many of my guy friends reacted with disgust to Madonna’s Super Bowl performance. When Angelina Jolie wore a gorgeous black gown with a thigh high slit to the Oscars last year, bloggers dismissed her “middle aged and desperate.” A guy friend sneered that she was “getting a little old for parts like that” when we first saw the trailer for “Salt.”

    In college, the ultimate insult to throw was “Go fuck a fat chick.”

    And I had a boss that complained openly about the women he considered to be unattractive in our office. “I shouldn’t have to look at that all day!”

    Maybe “a young woman isn’t allowed to dictate what attention she wants,” but at least she’s wanted. Men can be equally cruel in withholding attention from women they consider undesirable. Call it “crone shaming.”

  2. Good points, Ellen. Though I think there’s a strong difference between “withholding attention” which everyone is entitled to do regardless of looks (theirs or others) and being deliberately mean.

    It’s not only possible but standard politeness to not comment on another’s physical appearance if it isn’t complimentary in some way.

    Your old boss sounds very much like the college boys trying to sort out who they’re attracted to by comparing notes with their bros.
    Hugo’s wrote a telling article, I think, on that last year. About how men are more interested in getting the approval of other men than pursuing their own attractions. I don’t recall the title or where he published it, but maybe he’ll throw a link in here.

    I agree with what you’re saying though. It plays into the standard tropes of age, beauty, etc.

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