Monday, February 7, 2011

What's the big deal? I'll tell you!

First of all, for those of who you are thinking, what's the big deal? It's just a shirt, and there is far worse out there.

The t-shirts reduce women down to a collection of body parts, or even just one body part, e.g. o naked lower body from the back only (see here), exposed breasts only (see here) etc. Or here or here. Often the women pictured does not have a head, or her head is deliberately covered up. This is completely objectifying women. The pictures are not women anymore, they are just bare breasts, a naked bottom, bare legs. When women become merely objects for men to use to satisfy their lusts, they become dehumanised. They are viewed as less than human, a piece of meat, having less rights, being just a thing.

Certain pictures depict women being silenced. The one with a woman's exposed breasts actually has a head attached (progress!) but it is completely covered by a scarf. Another, with a topless woman covering her breast with her hand, reads "Angel of silence". Silencing women and displaying their body parts as entertainment is very disturbing to me. Even more so to see these images represented as fashion, and seeing it on a man's t-shirt.

I am not saying that all men who buy a t-shirt like this view women as objects and will go on to rape and assault them. But I do believe that when women are depicted as sexual playthings for men, on music videos, magazines, advertisements etc that is becomes more normal and more acceptable to view them as such. Particularly as they are typically portrayed as available for sex and eager to be used, some men feel a sense of entitlement to them. There is certainly enough evidence to suggest that similar attitudes towards women are problematic, as increasingly more often we read in the newspaper about the latest AFL scandal, or a gang rape scenario, likely with high school aged students, and possibly filmed and uploaded online. Our culture is one that can be dangerous for women, and each of the media I listed before, including these t-shirts, contributes to this culture.

A common argument is "If you don't like it, don't look" or something close to it. Let's ignore the fact that many times, if you leave your house, you can no longer not look. As a woman, regardless of whether I buy or wear one of these shirts, I am affected. As more young people grow up surrounded by a buttload of advertising and degrading material to women (yes, a buttload), feeling that this is completely normal, the more acceptable this will be.

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