What do you do when a normally cool close family member sends you an obnoxious meme?
My Dad and I send each other gross and funny stuff off the internet all the time. We’re close, and share a similar wicked sense of humor and appreciation for outlandish pranks. Despite my parents’ divorce when I was very little, he has always been an involved and supportive presence in my life. I’m getting to witness his parenting all over again, as my little sisters – thank you modern family dynamics – are roughly the same age as my daughter. Given my respect for him, and his influence over young girls whose well being I am deeply invested in, I just can’t let the occasional offense go.
He recently sent me a meme with a message that I couldn’t ignore. Yes, it’s on a subject that is old news in internet years.* But there are days where I feel compelled to deconstruct rather than leave it with an eye roll and a sigh.
The meme in question:
Now, I’m all for pointing out hypocrisy, even if it’s on my side of a debate. Especially if it’s on my side of a debate, because I want to examine my own stance, and root out arguments that do not actually support my cause or belief. But there’s no hypocrisy here.
Buuut, the message in both cases is “don’t objectify women,” so there’s no contrast here. He wasn’t objectified. This meme creator should try again.
I thought this simple response would get my Dad to think about he message he was sending. He’s a rational thinker, and not one to automatically jump to the feminists-be-crazy assumptions. However, Dad continued to argue that Matt Taylor was being objectified for his clothes, because people made assumptions about him for what he wore. According to this logic, feminists are hypocritical for making assumptions about Taylor when they also protest for the right to wear what they want.
It’s a simplistic view that is not hard to take down. Let’s dive in.
In the first picture, women are protesting the fact that asking a sexual assault victim, “what were you wearing,” is still considered a valid line of questioning. Being scantily clad does not, even a minuscule, microscopic bit, lessen the heinousness of rape. A woman should not be treated like an object based on what she is wearing, end of story.
In the second picture, we have a man who made a very unfortunate wardrobe choice for a public announcement. Wearing a shirt that depicts scantily clad and sexily posed women in the workplace is generally considered inappropriate. Unless, perhaps, you work in a tattoo parlor. But he himself was not objectified by the response to his shirt. Feminists that objected to the shirt might have assumed he is sexist, but attributing an opinion to someone isn’t treating them as an object. It’s actually the exact opposite, since it assumes the person has their own motivations.
As I was responding, though, I realized something crucial. If we compare both images at face value – well, face value according to the meme – and say they are both examples of being judged based on what you wear, we have one case where a male scientist’s major announcement is greeted with just as much attention to what he is wearing as to what that message was.
This crap happens to women all the time. One guy faces, rather justified, fury over his sartorial choices, and suddenly feminists are big hypocrites for saying anything about the constant judgement and harassment women receive over what they are or are not wearing?
Then it hit me. Sometimes it’s easier to fight a meme with a meme.
I’d like to think the message got through this time.
*I’m still working on the exact formula. Gut feel is something like for every week that has passed since a given news event, it ages at least a year in the collective minds of the internet.