Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It is not “body shaming” to admire someone’s butt

Last April, Michael Buble created a brief firestorm of internet criticism for posting the following picture on Instagram:

The picture was accompanied by this caption: “There was something about this photo lu took ,that seemed worthy of instagram. #myhumps #babygotback #hungryshorts #onlyinmiami #picoftheday #beautifulbum.”

Apparently, a lot of feminists considered this “body shaming.” I can’t for the life of me understand why. Maybe it’s shallow. Maybe it’s objectifying. But shaming? Buble was clearly being complementary to this woman! I would be too. Guy here, can confirm: her ass is beautiful.

Also, you will not convince me she put on those shorts for pure practicality at the gym. The woman clearly selected an outfit designed to show off her buns, in the hopes people would notice just how beautiful they are. There’s nothing wrong with that! Women are free to woo men with skimpy clothing. But the flip side of that coin is that there’s also nothing wrong with people noticing or commenting on it. Right?

I decided to read up on the criticism to see what the fuss was about.
This article argues:

Snapping a clandestine photo of a woman you don’t know in a public place and sharing it with the million people tuned into your Instagram account — even if you are being complimentary — is messed up. It boils a person down to their most diminished and least important form: what they look like. It’s sexist and creepy. And, women of the world, including the ones with ample bottoms in bike shorts, deserve better than that.”

Better than what? The exact attention they clearly sought?

How is it sexist to confess attraction to an attractive person?

If David Beckham or Christiano Ronaldo or Justin Bieber walked into a Chipotle, and some woman took a picture with a fangirl caption about how hot they were, would that be sexist? Had a female celebrity posted a picture of a topless man running on the beach with the caption “ow owwww!!”, would accusations of sexism and “body shaming” be hurled at her? I doubt it, even if the picture was a frontal and the man’s face/identity were readily identifiable (which wasn’t so in this case).

Not every reference to someone’s body amounts to objectification. Were this a workplace environment, and a female co-worker were trying to earn the respect of her peers, remarks on her sexual attractiveness would be out of line. In that case, they would inhibit her ability to be seen as an equal and a professional. But remarks about an anonymous stranger on the street do not demean or discredit that person’s efforts in the same way, especially when the person wears attire that seems to invite attention.

Nor does commenting on a peculiar attribute of a person “reduce” them to that attribute. Had Michael Buble shared a photo of a man with green spiked hair, or a man who was 8 feet tall, or a woman wearing a glittery pink Tu-Tu, nobody would have cared. Nobody would have accused him of boiling this person “down to their most diminished and least important form: what they look like.” Nobody would have seen fit to remind Mr. Buble that the subjects of these photos are unique and valuable people with hopes, fears, dreams, feelings and ambitions just like the rest of us, and in fact that would have been tacitly understood by all who viewed those photos. It also would not have mattered, because in that moment, the particular attribute of theirs which would arouse public notice and curiosity was a peculiar element of their physical appearance. Why are plump, appealing, half-naked butts any different?

Maybe there is something unprofessional about it. It’s not the sort of Instagram post I would ever make (if I were to one day decide to get an Instagram, that is). I confess it made me roll my eyes a bit when I first saw it. Like, dude, there are lots of hot butts in the world, and nobody on the internet is more than a few clicks from seeing them if they want to. Grow up.

But with that said, as a man human being with eyes, I do reserve the right to LOOK at anything that happens to be in the public view. I also reserve the right to comment on anything I happen to see there, and to do so by any medium of communication available to me. I will try my best to be considerate of other people’s feelings as I do so, and if I offend somebody accidentally, I’ll apologize for it. But this woman never claimed any offense. She was never identified. She probably never even saw the picture! If she did, she was probably flattered that a famous celebrity found her assets tantalizing.

Walking in public with your behind hanging out of your shorts indicates a degree of comfort with the possibility that people might look at your ass. Even lots of people. The same goes for women wearing shirts highlighting their cleavage, or their midriff, or anything else – or for men wearing muscle shirts or running shirtless. Nobody is entitled to a protective bubble wherein everyone around them must avert their eyes and cameras. Walking in public counts as consent to be gazed upon.

Also, I can’t help but add that there’s an amazing irony in the media criticizing celebrities for posting revealing, sexualized photos of unsuspecting people. Hasn’t the media been doing the same thing TO those celebrities for as long as there have been cameras? How many “Michael Buble shows off his smokin’ beach bod in Miami!” captions have been plastered across People or Glamour or Cosmopolitan since his career began? That’s understood as a price of fame: everything you wear in public will be scrutinized, because the public is publicly accessible.

Exhibit B was a few months later, which literally highlighted Buble’s shame at his own body: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1363541/Something-hide-Moobl-e-Michael-Bubl--keeps-things-covered-beach-trip-fiance.html

The second link not only features actual, explicit body shaming, but it also involves a far more revealing picture of his wife’s behind, assuredly without her consent either. When the media does this, it’s seen as low-brow, and people roll their eyes. It doesn’t spark internet outrage, in feminist circles or elsewhere.

We have bigger fish to fry, people. Move along.

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