If Male Actors Were Described the Way Female Actors Are
July 8, 2015 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Tucking his shapely legs underneath his curvaceous body in the dimly lit booth, Chris Hemsworth looks longingly at the bread basket the waiter places on the table in front of us. “Screw it — I could die tomorrow, right?” He smiles charmingly at me as he grabs a crisp roll and wraps his mouth around it, not even caring who’s watching. He closes his eyes and moans, savoring the carb-loaded moment like it could be his last. “If I die, bury me in a bread casket,” he says, displaying the kind of outrageous humor that doesn’t quite match his angelic looks.
posted by Kitteh (127 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
If male actors or female actors were described this way I would toss the article away.
posted by Postroad at 9:18 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


The unstated goal of these is obviously to make us aware of how vapid and trite journalists can be is when it comes to profiling female actors but I think that backfired because I would very much like to read like fifty more of these.
posted by griphus at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2015 [57 favorites]


Works for certain 'demo's.
posted by sammyo at 9:25 AM on July 8, 2015


“I’m starving!” Chris Evans exclaims excitedly — he does everything excitedly, like life is one giant, stimulating gift

Though if you have ever seen an interview with him, that's pretty much true.

and he shoves a menu my way. “I am really into their shape,” he says, speaking of the corn chips, and his eyes widen innocently, as though he’s an 8-year-old child.


Someone reads tumblr
posted by Windigo at 9:26 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I find versions of this all the time, even in major 'serious' media like the New Yorker and the NYT. Every time I read that a woman - especially one being described in a professional context where some quality other than her appearance is the subject - is described as "attractive" or "pretty" I want to write a scathing letter. A: Why is this relevant? B: "Attractive" to whom? By what standard? The word "attractive" is highly problematic to me, in ascribing to its ostensible subject a characteristic that actually belongs to the speaker.

It's sexist, unimaginative, and bad writing.
posted by Miko at 9:30 AM on July 8, 2015 [51 favorites]


Several Buzzfeed commenters are insisting that this is just how women write! For women in the audience!

So I dug up an old GQ article/interview (written by a male reporter) with Jennifer Aniston:
Listening to Jen tear into the tabloid circus is entertaining stuff, and for a moment I marvel at just how lucky I am to be inside the iron gate, eating a delicious, Asian-influenced chicken-and-fried-cheese dish with one of the world's most sought-after women, a woman who has barely talked to the press in two years…Jen looks at least as young, if not younger, than she did during her Friends days, this despite her looming fortieth birthday. She looks better, too—fit and sun kissed as always, but somehow in greater possession of herself and seemingly at ease with her age. "I still can't wrap my head around how old I'm going to be," she says. "I feel more comfortable today than I ever did in my twenties or early thirties. I'm healthier. I'm more at peace in my mind and with my body."

That body—well, as you can see, it defies both time and nature. I ask Jen how she felt about this cover shoot. "There is a moment when you walk in and see the wardrobe—it's basically a tie—and you think, Where's the underwear?" she replies with a laugh. "But it felt really good to be that comfortable with myself—and to lie on men as furniture."

Today, Jen has a bit more to her wardrobe: jeans, sandals, and a gray tank top so form-fitting that, when she's photographed wearing it a few weeks later, its snugness to her flat stomach is taken as evidence that she is not, in fact, the future mother of Li'l Johnny Mayer. A few weeks after our interview, she'll make a cameo on 30 Rock, and all anyone will talk about is the French-maid outfit she wore and how perfect her legs looked draped across Tina Fey's desk.
I remember this issue because they put her naked on the cover, and the editor gave interviews about how they gave her lots of alcohol to encourage her to pose naked and she was so COMFORTABLE with it.

Anyway, if anyone here doesn't recognize the style being recreated in the Buzzfeed article, there you go.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2015 [54 favorites]


"Asked about his upcoming role as Dame Judi Dench's love interest in the Bond spin-off 'M is for Mrowr!' Hemsworth - who beat out Nicholas Hoult and Tye Sheridan - is bubbly. 'It's such an honor to play opposite someone so accomplished and talented. I feel like this is a really new direction for me.'"
posted by googly at 9:34 AM on July 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


The thing is, are the real interviews with male actors so very much better? I haven't read too many but they're pretty vapid and superficial; the difference is more a matter of degree than contrast.

Now if you did an interview with the Fed chairman or a climate scientist this way...
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:34 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interviews should be written like Lovecraft stories.

And, yes, I am aware that Lovecraft didn't include much dialogue in his writings. Neither do most magazine interviews.
posted by I-baLL at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


G_S, I take it you don't remember the rocket scientist's NYT obituary that opened with: "She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:40 AM on July 8, 2015 [52 favorites]


Cosmo UK flip sexist questions on The Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo -- 'Mark, what are you wearing on the red carpet this evening?' 'Scarlett, did you do your own stunts?'
posted by filthy light thief at 9:52 AM on July 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


B: "Attractive" to whom? By what standard? The word "attractive" is highly problematic to me, in ascribing to its ostensible subject a characteristic that actually belongs to the speaker.

Are any terms praising a person's appearance problematic? I think male actors are described as "handsome" all the time, and surely that characteristic belongs to the subject, not the speaker. If someone is described as "handsome," it is usually understood to mean they are "conventionally handsome," which seems pretty uncontroversial ... and "attractive," I think, usually means "conventionally attractive."
posted by jayder at 9:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


From an early GQ profile on Jon Hamm:
Leaning up against the front door is a cardboard FedEx box addressed to [Hamm's partner Jennifer] Westfeldt and containing a dress for the actress to wear, a few days later, at the Emmys, where Mad Men will win basic cable's firstever Best Drama award. "I've been trying on dresses all week," Westfeldt apologizes, upon opening the door. Blond, slim, and flustered, she drags the box inside with one hand while holding off Cora, an energetic pit bull–shepherd mix, with the other. She cocks her head upstairs, mockaggrieved. "Meanwhile, he just throws on a tux and looks great, you know"

Well, actually, yes, we'd noticed. If you know one thing about Hamm, it's likely that, as Mad Men's Don Draper, he occupies a suit with the physical genius of Michael Phelps sliding into water.

Today, though, he descends the stairs wearing plaid shorts, a white linen shirt, and soccer sneakers. Hamm unsuited is kind of a frat guy, every inch the rabid sports fan and former high school football star. He says things like "Dude" and "Sweet" and "Dude, sweet!" On his head is a St. Louis Browns cap (facing frontward, thank the Lord). He looks like the kind of guy who is physically compelled to put on shorts the moment the temperature tops fiftyfive degrees, a diagnosis he cheerfully confirms. Credit the totemic power of a suit, but he looks a full ten years younger than Don Draper, with about half the weight on his shoulders. How it is that the actor manages to make his '60s adman so much more than just another perfect design element on Mad Men's gorgeously curated set is not yet clear.
Emphasis mine, to point out that even in a profile about a dude, it's important to point out the bodies of the women in his life. No real description of Hamm's body in the piece, except to talk about how he's always looked like someone's dad and how that cost him jobs during the heyday of the WB teen dramas.
posted by palomar at 9:59 AM on July 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


(oh, wait, that's a different Hamm profile that talks about the WB teen dramas and how he looks like a dad. so that profile really doesn't objectify his body at all.)
posted by palomar at 10:01 AM on July 8, 2015


I take it you don't remember the rocket scientist's NYT obituary that opened with

Do you remember if it mentioned her name? Because it's going to be hard to search for without it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2015


can we get a blurb from an article about a male actor written by the same guy as the jennifer aniston one? that would be a good comparison.

Comparison? To what? I'm responding to some claims (made elsewhere, not on MF) that this style of writing is by women and for female audiences.

Also, this particular doesn't appear to interview men for GQ. He writes about sports and interviews starlets. All of his starlet interviews feature cleavage and skeevy titles.

http://www.gq.com/contributor/mark-kirby
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping for the day when we describe every man who chooses not to wear makeup in public as "brave".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2015 [48 favorites]


Cosmo UK flip sexist questions on The Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo -- 'Mark, what are you wearing on the red carpet this evening?' 'Scarlett, did you do your own stunts?'

I'm pleasantly baffled by Cosmo, of all things, flipping the sexist tables.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


On on hand, this hilarious and totally on point. On the other, going to Taco Bell with Idris Elba is the fantasy I never knew I had!
posted by thivaia at 10:07 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Do you remember if it mentioned her name? Because it's going to be hard to search for without it.

You'd think, but it turns out all you need is "rocket scientist best mom" and hey presto.
posted by padraigin at 10:07 AM on July 8, 2015 [22 favorites]


Do you remember if it mentioned her name? Because it's going to be hard to search for without it.

not hard at all. and then i came back to search mefi for yvonne brill because it did sound familiar.
posted by twist my arm at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Her name was Yvonne Brill.

Here's a flipside Buzzfeed compilation of male actors getting pissed at Hollywood sexism:

26 Times Celebrity Men Stood Up For Feminism

I especially like the one where Aaron Taylor-Wood gets annoyed a the notion that a woman who works as a nurse is not a hero.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


I ask this honestly and without an agenda:

What the goal here? Moving towards a society where sexual attractiveness isn't mentioned? Moving towards a society where we don't notice any difference between the sexes at all? Where slathering over a "hot" celebrity is verboten? What's the end result we're looking for?
posted by tunewell at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The weird paradox with this, and the similar Men Who Rock is it's "Let's make a feminist point by writing about men!"

I guess just writing more respectful articles about women wouldn't get as much attention?
posted by RobotHero at 10:15 AM on July 8, 2015


On the other, going to Taco Bell with Idris Elba is the fantasy I never knew I had!

I like to think Taco Bell was Stringer's dimwitted brother.

You broke my heart, Taco. You're nothing to me now. (Kiss) Also, too much cilantro.
posted by condour75 at 10:15 AM on July 8, 2015 [23 favorites]


What's the end result we're looking for?

I can't speak for anyone else, but my personal goal when reading, sharing, and enjoying these sorts of parody articles, extends not a whit further than "oh geez, I know, right?? ha ha ha"
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [19 favorites]


What the goal here?

i'd say maybe the first goal, step zero, would be to stop having people genuinely honestly without an agenda asking the very same questions you're asking every time this topic comes up.

yes. banning all mention of sexual attractiveness In Society. that's what you think this is?
posted by twist my arm at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2015 [33 favorites]


tunewell, what do you think the goal of these articles is? Beyond the flip "to get clicks and earn bucks," of course. When someone writes an article like the one linked here, what sentiment do you think motivates them, what sympathies do you think the author hopes to arouse in the audience?
posted by KathrynT at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Another example of sexism: just about every single HuffPo article (don't judge me, I know it's crap!) about a female celebrity contains the word 'flaunt' -- x flaunts a teeny bikini, y is flaunting her curves at the beach, z flaunts a revealing outfit.....at this point, I've made it into a game: I get to stop reading when I hit the Magic Word. Fortunately that's usually in the headline.
posted by easily confused at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm fairly certain the intent is to get celebrity profiles of women to spend as little time cataloging their body as profiles of celebrity men do.
posted by Monochrome at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


I ask this honestly and without an agenda:

What the goal here? Moving towards a society where sexual attractiveness isn't mentioned? Moving towards a society where we don't notice any difference between the sexes at all? Where slathering over a "hot" celebrity is verboten? What's the end result we're looking for?


Assuming that you are actually asking this honestly and without an agenda and that you are happy to listen to an answer instead of just framing it that was as an excuse to make a point (and I really hope this is true! Clearly I believe it is possible because I am responding to it so don't take what I just said as an accusation!) my personal answer would be something like:

It's not necessarily about not noticing any difference between the sexes (although plenty of people would say this would be a good thing), it's about making sure that when we write about women we write about them as real people and focus on aspects of them besides their bodies and relationships to their bodies as demonstrated by stuff like food. It also involves not making them seem childish or infantilizing them. It's about writing about women with a tone of something other than wide-eyed wonder that they might have something interesting or funny to say and describing them as real people with real agency. It's about not focusing on how amazing it is that they look so good, or how fortunate you are just to be near them, or how baffling it is that they might actually have a personality and just allowing women who are interviewed, even if their profession is acting or modelling, to be described as real people and not impish, charming, caricatures who all fit into the same mold designed to be pleasing to men.

Other people might have different opinions, but that's more or less what I would hope.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2015 [80 favorites]


I absolutely love the biting satire and long for the day when women are written about and praised for their accomplishments the same as men.

But dammit, I'm still gonna be in my bunk for now.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


From the George Clooney bit: "Despite having no children, he is clearly somehow satisfied with his life."

YESSSSSSSSS

What the goal here? Moving towards a society where sexual attractiveness isn't mentioned? Moving towards a society where we don't notice any difference between the sexes at all? Where slathering over a "hot" celebrity is verboten? What's the end result we're looking for?

On a light-hearted note, women like... no, need to be able to have a chuckle sometimes because otherwise we'd lose our minds. A lot of pieces like this serve no Real Important Worldly Purpose aside from giving women the opportunity and space to laugh among ourselves and not giving 1/10,000th of a shit whether men agree that whatever we're laughing at is funny.

On a serious note, my ultimate dream is that someday, not every damn article written about a woman will make a point of focusing exquisitely detailed attention on her physical attributes (and/or whether she's a good cook, a good wife, or a good mom, or -- gasp! -- personally fulfilled even if she doesn't have a husband or children). Articles about men, even the men who are widely considered incredibly attractive, just don't do this. Like I know the default is that "man" = "person" and "woman" = "woman," but hey, we're actually just people, too.

On a serious-er note, reductio ad absurdum is one of the oldest derail tactics in the book, and I wish people wouldn't do it.
posted by divined by radio at 10:27 AM on July 8, 2015 [46 favorites]


And if anybody's got any spare Montgomery Clift fanfic lying around, just send it to theunderpantsmonster at prurientinterests dot shame
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:28 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


20 years ago Rolling Stone did a piece on Alicia Silverstone. I stumbled across it the other day and my jaw hit the floor...

The first sentence: "Alicia Silverstone is a kittenish 18-year-old movie star whom lots of men want to sleep with."

Or this: "Silverstone has straight blond hair that falls around her shoulders, wide eyes and a mouth that people describe in ways that she finds inappropriate."
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 10:30 AM on July 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


Are these actual snippets from interviews with the names and pronouns switched? Or is this a fanciful satire?

It'd be funnier and more biting if it were actual pieces. Like, this is an actual one.

Jeremy Renner is hungry. It's 9:00 A.M., he's been up for an hour, and he hasn't eaten a thing. "I'm freakish about breakfast," he says, by which, thank God, he doesn't mean he wants an extra diet cookie. "You're not gonna order, like, fruit or something, are you?" he asks, with real concern. "Because I'm gonna eat." He orders the eggs Benedict without looking at the menu.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


And if anybody's got any spare Montgomery Clift fanfic lying around, just send it to theunderpantsmonster at prurientinterests dot shame

I just checked to see if .shame is one of the new TLDs like .horse and .sucks and now I'm sad because I can't actually own that site.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:33 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


And if anybody's got any spare Montgomery Clift fanfic lying around, just send it to theunderpantsmonster at prurientinterests dot shame

I've got a couple William Holdens you can have at half-price.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Are any terms praising a person's appearance problematic?

"Praising?" I'd say yes. It's subjective and reinforces a subjective standard as an objective ideal.

I think male actors are described as "handsome" all the time

I would prefer not to see that, either. Again, it tells me absolutely nothing, not even about their appearance.

"attractive," I think, usually means "conventionally attractive."

Whose convention? Again, it reinforces a dominant standard that limits the way we think about and enjoy people's physicality.

I'm not against describing people, just doing it in a more specific, vivid, even-handed, non-reductive way that acknowledges them in all dimensions, not just how closely they hew to a particular narrow standard on an imagined linear spectrum.
posted by Miko at 10:38 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ya know, reading this thread I had the nagging feeling that this asserted disparity in coverage between male versus female heartthrobs doesn't comport with my experience. They seem, well, about equally focused on looks and really vapid, superficial concerns. I was thinking about a Vanity Fair article I read about Channing Tatum, but also about other profiles I have read.

So I googled "First Vanity Fair article about Brad Pitt," and this article, "Brad Attitude," came up. It may not be the first, but it is from 1995 and is one of the first hits for that Google search.

Does this article seem like it is ANY LESS focused on Pitt's handsomeness and sex appeal than your typical article about a comparable big-time actress? Look at this passage, which is pretty representative of the tone of the whole article:

Under the druggie diction, beneath the bale of bleached-blond hair, Pitt is murderously handsome. As tall and lean as a deer rifle, he has a way of looking at you out of the corner of his Popsicle-blue eyes, a way of touching his chest while he formulates his nonanswers, a way of suddenly grinning through his cigarette smoke. It’s an effortlessness, a glorious nonchalance. It’s ridiculously appealing.

It's kind of amazing how that passage seems to approach the Platonic ideal of the standard-issue celebrity profile writing style.
posted by jayder at 10:39 AM on July 8, 2015


How many female celebrities are being described as being "as tall and lean as a deer rifle," do you think?
posted by KathrynT at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


I wasn't sure what these were when I started reading the pull quote but I found myself confused yet delighted.

It's funny/stupid that the defensive male reaction here is all about "hey, what are we supposed to do, NOT FIND WOMEN ATTRACTIVE??" when probably 80% of the jokes in this article are about food. The degree to which women are supposed to police their eating habits while simultaneously pretending they pig out on nachos and Corona every night. At least when men prepare for a role where they need to be hot, they can talk about the chicken breast and veg they had to eat for months. (Congratulations on forever ignoring the point in order to talk about how important it is to objectify women, dudes.)

Yes, jayder, that is more descriptive. I actually have a vision of someone in my mind after reading that... it's a catalog of his looks with some corny comparisons (e.g. Popsicle-blue) but also gestures and behavior. It's not gonna win the Pulitzer, but I wouldn't be offended to read those words about myself. It remains silly to write about how attractive Brad Pitt's swagger is, but infinitely better than the infantalizing garbage that gets written about grown-ass women and their wide-eyed wonder and sexy baby mouths.
posted by easter queen at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [25 favorites]


What the goal here? Moving towards a society where sexual attractiveness isn't mentioned? Moving towards a society where we don't notice any difference between the sexes at all? Where slathering over a "hot" celebrity is verboten? What's the end result we're looking for?

As I wait for Gender Neutral Celebrity Alpha-622 I marvel at the featurelessness of the gray walls of their domicile-cube. While #6E6E6E is in vogue with most celebs, GNCA, as they prefer to be called, has chosen #999999, which is of no greater or lesser value than the other shade, just different. GNCA's features -- a face with two eyes, a mouth for such hobbies as talking and eating, a nose -- strike me as charming in their nondescriptness. Their formless gray jumpsuit is neither flattering nor unflattering, but identical to the ones issued to all Global Citizens. "All my life I wished to become a Celeb," they tell me "which is good because I was born into the Celeb Caste as my parents and their parents before them." GNCA regales me with stories of their dynastic upbringing, which fail to have any emotional effect on me whatsoever - a testament to their mastery of the craft.
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [59 favorites]


How many female celebrities are being described as being "as tall and lean as a deer rifle," do you think?

I'm sorry, I don't understand you. Why are you asking whether that exact phrase is used to describe female celebrities?
posted by jayder at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2015


Since we're having some "I just don't see the difference," going on here, I want to clarify:

-a huge number of these interviews with women lavish detail on the things they are eating, their lack of apologies for what they are eating (or their "let's be bad just this once" mea culpas for what they are eating)
-scenes of eating are almost universally paired with descriptions of these women's tight, toned bodies

The genre being parodied here is not "silly Hollywood puff pieces about beautiful people". It is very specifically about articles where women's relationship to food is paired with fawning descriptions of their bodies.

A man being called handsome is not the thing. Women being textually slavered over while they eat carefully described food and the scene of eating turning into "and look at that body!!!" is the thing.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [45 favorites]


Does this article seem like it is ANY LESS focused on Pitt's handsomeness and sex appeal than your typical article about a comparable big-time actress?

No, but come on, there's this:

" 'What Brad does that you can’t learn—James Dean did it really well, and Nicholson—is that he knows how to do nothing when he’s not talking,' says Jim Harrison, who wrote the novella upon which Pitt’s next film, Legends of the Fall, is based. 'He never gives the appearance of trying to think of what to say next. So your attention is completely focused on him.' "

What actress would be profiled that way?

"Pitt’s parents were strict Baptists. Though he appreciates the way he grew up, 'because it kept my mind on bigger things,' he also admits he would sit in church wishing he could let out a whoop or a fart, 'stand up and yell, "It was me! Right here!" The preacher would pick someone to read the final prayer, and I would go into a sweat, afraid he would pick me. I would sit there and say, "Please, God, not me." That was my final prayer.' "

Find me any interview with Scarlett Johannson that talks about how she farted in church when she was a kid, and I'll agree with you.
posted by blucevalo at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


20 years ago Rolling Stone did a piece on Alicia Silverstone.

Oh my god, the pictures that accompanied that article. Jesus.
posted by Windigo at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


" No real description of Hamm's body in the piece, except to talk about how he's always looked like someone's dad and how that cost him jobs during the heyday of the WB teen dramas."

Wait, hold on, cause the piece you quoted says:

"If you know one thing about Hamm, it's likely that, as Mad Men's Don Draper, he occupies a suit with the physical genius of Michael Phelps sliding into water."

"Credit the totemic power of a suit, but he looks a full ten years younger than Don Draper, with about half the weight on his shoulders."

Also, GQ is a fashion magazine. Though they do seem to promote wearing suits whose blazers look too small on their models which always weirded me out. They always look like a button's about to pop.
posted by I-baLL at 10:53 AM on July 8, 2015


I'm sorry, I don't understand you. Why are you asking whether that exact phrase is used to describe female celebrities?

How many women would be compared to an implement of death as a compliment?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:55 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mod note: Comment removed; the "but to never ever notice people physically?" thing is getting deep into arguing with a position not actually present, please cool it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh for christ's sake. I was about to engage about this but I refuse to get drawn into a tit-for-tat rules-lawyering argument with a bunch of people who always deny sexism anyway.

Just because you can find a few examples of men's bodies being described does not disprove the point of the article in the least. The point is that damn near EVERY article about women in entertainment is written this way, not just the ultra-crazy-hot people equivalent to Brad Pitt. A few cherry-picked examples don't change that. Call me when you find the same article about Steve Buscemi or something.
posted by dialetheia at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [32 favorites]


I'm sorry, I don't understand you. Why are you asking whether that exact phrase is used to describe female celebrities?

Maybe because you're being deliberately obtuse?? Is that why??

I think the point is that being called lean as a deer rifle or whatever is a phrase that's meant to connote a fit body and a body prepared for action. It's not particuarly objectifying or ogling because the point of the metaphor is that he's lean but tough, sharp, focused. If it were a woman, you know it would be some dumb shit like LEAN AS A LOLLIPOP, READY TO BE LOVINGLY LICKED

I also hope you realize that you are wasting women's time by asking them to describe to you the difference-- the difference is right there, waiting to be understood by anyone who gives it a moment's thought. Asking leading questions and playing coy is, again, wasting women's time. I would prefer to discuss the actual joke of the article (which was perfectly encapsulated by a fiendish thingy above) and will probably resume doing that now, instead of explaining why 2+2=4.
posted by easter queen at 10:59 AM on July 8, 2015 [40 favorites]


Fine, take it away from 'sex symbol' movie stars. Look at half a dozen articles about Obama, and half a dozen about H. Clinton. How many of the former reference his physique, his hair, his clothing, his parenting?

My bet: zero or close to. That is the problem: women, no matter their achievements, get reduced to their looks, their eating habits, and their capacity to procreate.

My personal favourite headline flip of this nature was "Hotshot international lawyer marries Hollywood boytoy George Clooney."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:01 AM on July 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


My personal favourite headline flip of this nature was "Hotshot international lawyer marries Hollywood boytoy George Clooney."

“George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin this year,” Tina said straight faced. “Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria and was selected for a three person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So, tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:03 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


I actually find, that when a woman holds a door open for a man, it is more insulting than the other way around.
posted by easter queen at 11:08 AM on July 8, 2015


Mod note: A couple comments removed. jayder, cut it out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:08 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is somewhat tangential, but can we toss the practice of late night talk show hosts opening every interview with an actress with "you look beautiful" into the dustbin of history?

Yes, we all know that physical beauty is a variable that goes into whether people care about a given celebrity, but you don't have to underscore that point while also highlighting the ridiculous gender imbalance among late night hosts by using that same tired icebreaker to open every interview with a female. And no, the half-hearted "you look great!"s that are occasionally thrown out to good looking dudes don't actually balance things out.

Carson and Letterman at least had the excuse of being from a time when nobody knew any better, but this younger generation of hosts has no such excuse. I could be wrong, but I feel like Stephen Colbert didn't do this nearly as much as the network guys, and hopefully he abandons it entirely when he takes over the Late Show.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


"This is somewhat tangential, but can we toss the practice of late night talk show hosts opening every interview with an actress with "you look beautiful" into the dustbin of history?"

Yeah, it feels like there's some sort of rulebook for interviewing celebrities and most hosts are following it. Then you get somebody like Craig Ferguson who doesn't follow the same rulebook and ends up being a much better interviewer than anybody else that I've seen onscreen.
posted by I-baLL at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2015


Hm, Ferguson's an interesting case. I'll give you that he did things differently, but to me it often seemed like he was even worse in terms of drooling over female guests. I admit I was just a casual viewer though, so maybe I just caught him at some bad moments, but I don't think he's the template I'm looking for to make late night talk shows less overtly sexist.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Acknowledging that stupid sexism extends all the way to the most serious careers and must end, this article is a bit of a fail, mainly because it documents Hollywood's general emphasis on accepted sexiness. I am almost equally chagrined to read articles about male actors whose implied violence factor is through the roof. And the actors and people in the biz are partly to blame for this emphasis. Their behavior is just as "rough & tumble" or "wide-eyed ingenue" as they are described to be.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:24 AM on July 8, 2015


Interviews should be written like Lovecraft stories.

Bonus points for getting the phrase "wonder-loving grandmothers" into a Chris Hemsworth puff piece.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:26 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


this article is a bit of a fail, mainly because it documents Hollywood's general emphasis on accepted sexiness

Wait, how is it a fail?
posted by easter queen at 11:26 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do we really have to have the "why it's not parallel" discussion again? Here's one article about it (this is about comics, but applies to live-action as well); there are a bunch of others: She Has No Head! – No, It’s Not Equal.
posted by Lexica at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sorry to bust your bubble, guys, but every time I'm profiled in the newspaper they can barely get past the first paragraph without bringing up my third nipple.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: don't read the comments

(seriously this shit is tiresomeee)
posted by likeatoaster at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


Wait, how is it a fail?
Because it puts the blame on journalism, when it actually doesn't lie on journalism anymore than other factors. The whole business is rotten. I agree that journalism is partly to blame, but it is only part of the problem.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:38 AM on July 8, 2015


An interesting adjunct to this discussion is Edith Zimmerman's piece on Chris Evans, which (in spite of being written for GQ) feels like it comes from some parallel universe where celebrity profiles are written to appeal to women's fantasies.
posted by kagredon at 11:41 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Actually it's about more than ethics in celebrity journalism.

i'm so, so sorry
posted by griphus at 11:42 AM on July 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


For some reason I'm reminded a bit of this (Buzzfeed asks Kevin Spacey the sort of questions women usually get from mindless celebrity-news journalists on the red carpet; hilarity ensues)

Also fucksake. This "but look, here's someone interviewing Brad Pitt! And they totally talk about how good looking he is!" shit is tiresome. It's like the dude who pops into any discussion of sexual objectification of women in popular culture to say "but look, here's David Beckham in his underwear on a Calvin Klein billboard! MEN ARE OBJECTIFIED TOO!" Which manages to be all kinds of grossly, offensively ignorant, honestly.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 11:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


But is anybody actually saying that? I thought the point is that it happens a lot more regularly in interviews with women.
posted by I-baLL at 12:10 PM on July 8, 2015


I love that Kevin Spacey interview ESPECIALLY because he didn't go into it knowing what it was about. LMAO!
posted by jillithd at 12:18 PM on July 8, 2015


I really missed the food component of this. Yeah, that's really interesting.
posted by Miko at 12:35 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, hold on, cause the piece you quoted says:

"If you know one thing about Hamm, it's likely that, as Mad Men's Don Draper, he occupies a suit with the physical genius of Michael Phelps sliding into water."

"Credit the totemic power of a suit, but he looks a full ten years younger than Don Draper, with about half the weight on his shoulders."


Are you really trying to equate those very scant mentions of Jon Hamm's physicality with the kind of fawning, leering, Humbert Humbert-level creepy ways that women's bodies are talked about in celeb puff pieces? Really?
posted by palomar at 12:40 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


The food thing is basically the "Webster's dictionary defines [topic of paper] as..." of openings, when it comes to lady celebrity profiles. Lazy, boring, and weirdly universal. Food segueing into "AND SHE'S HOT TOO" is almost a given, for some reason. Maybe it is the root of laughing with salad? I dunno.

Same author of the Jen Aniston article, writing about three other women for GQ:
Kate Upton: Being a bombshell means constantly eyeing the line between good, innocent fun and too-hot-to-handle—and then occasionally crossing it. (Who, me?) A Carl’s Jr. ad in which Kate experiences carnal levels of pleasure while eating a sandwich caused an outcry; an early cut of a Zoo York commercial featuring her running in a sports bra was too much even for MTV.

January Jones: january wants to go to the Chili’s near the H Gates. She loves the queso there. Loves it even though it doesn’t always come in one of those little cast-iron skillets like at regular Chili’s and they don’t have a “red beer” (beer and tomato juice) here like she’s seen at the franchise’s other midwestern outlets. It doesn’t matter that the place is noisy and crowded and the only TV is tucked way up behind the bar and she probably won’t be able to catch the last preseason Bears game. The queso’s that good. . . . We order our queso and beers, and she proceeds to do exactly that. Jones still has her Oprah makeup on and is wearing dark jeans, boots, and a skintight black top. . . . She’s so small—give her another beer or two and she’ll be asleep.

Amanda Seyfried: “Did it excite you?” That’s 23-year-old Amanda Seyfried, taking a break from lunch—tonno salad served at a café in Italy, where she’s on location filming with Vanessa Redgrave—to talk about a less highbrow project: her new teenage-vampire movie, Jennifer’s Body. Specifically, she wants to know what I thought of the moment when she and her co-star, Megan Fox, kiss.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:42 PM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Between this thread and the live-tweeted terrible first date thread I've just about reached the conclusion that these conversations aren't worth having with most men. Thanks, dudes of Metafilter who get it and aren't here to play the derailing game, but the asshats of the world are once again making it not worth the effort.
posted by palomar at 12:44 PM on July 8, 2015 [39 favorites]


She’s so small—give her another beer or two and she’ll be asleep.

ickkk
posted by easter queen at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I am seeing the derails clearly in many threads I am in today and now I am actively wondering how much longer I want to be here.
posted by Kitteh at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


Pseudonymous Cognomen: this might be the wrong time and place, but I have a question about this: "'but look, here's David Beckham in his underwear on a Calvin Klein billboard! MEN ARE OBJECTIFIED TOO!' Which manages to be all kinds of grossly, offensively ignorant, honestly."

Why is this gross and offensive? Because I know that it is, I can feel that it is, but I have a hard time verbalizing why it is. Please put it into words for me. This is 100% honest-to-goodness not facetious.
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 12:55 PM on July 8, 2015


The derails are obnoxious, but the mods did a lot of proactive de-derailing in both threads that I was really happy to see. Yay.
posted by easter queen at 12:55 PM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


She’s so small—give her another beer or two and she’ll be asleep.

Incidentally, this part is related to a very similar discussion happening in the blackout thread-- this comment is made when Jones challenges the male author to keep up with her in drinking, and he assumes she's a lightweight, but she totally throws down like a bro, proving how cool and competitive and down to earth she is! He thinks she'll pass out from drinking, but she sure shows him!

Still ick.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:56 PM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Why is this gross and offensive?

For the same reason the "there are big beefy male video game characters so men are just as objectified as women hurf durf" arguments are gross and offensive -- because it doesn't address the imbalance of power. Is David Beckham powerless when he appears in his underwear? Is he reduced to a penis with legs by appearing in his underwear? He is not. He is still recognized as a member of a powerful class of people, he is idolized, worshipped, used as a role model by millions of men. He is a male power fantasy first and foremost.
posted by palomar at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


palomar: Nice, thanks.
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 1:03 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mango: because the history of women being objectified is far more gross than the history of men being objectified. Because the history of women being objectified is tied into the idea that women exist solely to serve the whims of men. Because the history of women being objectified is entirely about removing their agency and their accomplishments in favour of talking about what they wear (to decorate themselves for the male gaze), what they eat (to remain acceptably pretty for the male gaze), and how much they obviously need to be perfect mothers (in order to perpetuate men's names and egos).

More or less, it's because the history of objectifying women is about reducing them to walking playthings and baby factories. There is simply no comparison. And this is something that actual women have said right here in this thread so I'm not really sure why it's difficult to understand.

The default for women is to be objectified. The default for men is not.

(Am I mansplaining again? I hope not.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:03 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


(on postview, shut up fffm and let palomar do the talking)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:07 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


In general I've found that when an offensive or outrageous thing that seems shocking to you is met with a resounding “again?” from the people affected by it, it's worth thinking long and hard about why they're so weary of this thing happening and how that changes the state of play before making any analogies.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:11 PM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


-Also fucksake. This "but look, here's someone interviewing Brad Pitt! And they totally talk about how good looking he is!" shit is tiresome. It's like the dude who pops into any discussion of sexual objectification of women in popular culture to say "but look, here's David Beckham in his underwear on a Calvin Klein billboard! MEN ARE OBJECTIFIED TOO!" Which manages to be all kinds of grossly, offensively ignorant, honestly.

--But is anybody actually saying that?


Yes. Yes, they are. Multiple quotes from upthread:
  • The thing is, are the real interviews with male actors so very much better?
  • I think male actors are described as "handsome" all the time
  • What the goal here? Moving towards a society where sexual attractiveness isn't mentioned? Moving towards a society where we don't notice any difference between the sexes at all?
  • Ya know, reading this thread I had the nagging feeling that this asserted disparity in coverage between male versus female heartthrobs doesn't comport with my experience. They seem, well, about equally focused on looks and really vapid, superficial concerns.
  • Wait, hold on, cause the piece you quoted says: "If you know one thing about Hamm, it's likely that, as Mad Men's Don Draper, he occupies a suit with the physical genius of Michael Phelps sliding into water." "Credit the totemic power of a suit, but he looks a full ten years younger than Don Draper, with about half the weight on his shoulders."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2015 [19 favorites]


(Am I mansplaining again? I hope not.)

I don't think you're mansplaining, and furthermore I appreciate it when guys step in to do the laborious explaining of fundamentals thing that women usually get burnt out doing.
posted by easter queen at 1:42 PM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh, god, yes, the food thing. I find it the most oppressive part of these types of articles. "This woman is hot in a societally-approved way that somehow does not require any actual work on her part (no makeup! no diet!), indicating that she won't be a nag about men's food choices or a high-maintenance bitch who spends forever getting ready. Women, you should be this effortlessly low-maintenance-ly hot [or at least hide any and all evidence of your effort and your needs because guys don't like it when you're needy and, like, can't eat nachos with them because you have to go to the gym or some shit]."
posted by jaguar at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2015 [29 favorites]


Despite having no children, he is clearly somehow satisfied with his life.

Hah! Perfect.
posted by teleri025 at 1:49 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes. Yes, they are. Multiple quotes from upthread:

OK, part of me is super-pumped and grateful that you just delivered the sick burn of showcasing the self-evident ridiculousness of the question that prompted your comment, and the rest is totally pissed off that men are able to continue to extract time and energy from women by doing nothing more than delivering doe-eyed variations on "Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?"

Dear dudes who are always chiming in with these helpful questions, I know you don't want to believe it, but sexism exists. It really, really does. It exists even when you think it doesn't, even when you don't see it, even when you are personally incontrovertibly certain that it does not. Actually, especially then. I'm sorry, I know how much sucks to find out that you're wrong, but you are. So the next time you're moved to insist that women are exaggerating or making shit up if/when we observe that a particular type of behavior has a sexist bent to it, please contemplate the notion that being a man has allowed you to develop a warm, inviting blind spot, chock full of blissful ignorance, the likes of which the rest of us can never even hope to acquire. Sure, we're all kinda jealous that you get to ignore all of this bullshit by virtue of the meat-suit you were born into, but that doesn't make it less obnoxious when you express sincere disbelief over things that actually happen to us in our daily lives.

Women, you should be this effortlessly low-maintenance-ly hot [or at least hide any and all evidence of your effort and your needs because guys don't like it when you're needy and, like, can't eat nachos with them because you have to go to the gym or some shit].

Reminds me of Girl, You Don't Need Makeup. Relax a little, you don't need to put so much effort into maintaining the perfect physique! Don't be so uptight, you're beautiful just the way you are! OK, OK, I mean, you should definitely put some effort into it, make it look like you care at least a little, you don't want to let yourself go completely! Little more effort would be good, though. Yeah, more. Still more than that. More. Whoa, nelly! A little high-maintenance there, are we?!

♬ think of a clown and then work your way back... ♬♬
posted by divined by radio at 1:57 PM on July 8, 2015 [50 favorites]


Women, you should be this effortlessly low-maintenance-ly hot [or at least hide any and all evidence of your effort and your needs because guys don't like it when you're needy and, like, can't eat nachos with them because you have to go to the gym or some shit].

Reminds me of this Anne Helen Peterson article about the Cool Girl.

"The Cool Girl never nags, or “just wants one” of your chili fries, because she orders a giant order for herself. She’s an ideal that matches the times — a mix of feminism and passivity, of confidence and femininity. She knows what she wants, and what she wants is to hang out with the guys.

Cool Girls don’t have the hang-ups of normal girls: They don’t get bogged down by the patriarchy, or worrying about their weight. They’re basically dudes masquerading in beautiful women’s bodies, reaping the privileges of both. But let’s be clear: It’s a performance. It might not be a conscious one, but it’s the way our society implicitly instructs young women on how to be awesome: Be chill and don’t be a downer, act like a dude but look like a supermodel."
posted by Mavri at 2:34 PM on July 8, 2015 [20 favorites]


Oof. Yeah, a solid show, perhaps even more so than usual, from the THERE IS NO SEXISM HERE WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT crew. The article was a joy and more or less made it worth it, though.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


NO ONE likes chili dogs that much...
posted by Naamah at 3:00 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Are you really trying to equate those very scant mentions of Jon Hamm's physicality with the kind of fawning, leering, Humbert Humbert-level creepy ways that women's bodies are talked about in celeb puff pieces? Really?"

Huh? All I was saying is that you quoted a few lines from an article and then said that there's no mention of Hamm's body in the quoted text even though the quoted text clearly referred to it. So I pointed that out. Now you're saying that I'm equating things and putting words in my mouth. Why?
posted by I-baLL at 3:30 PM on July 8, 2015


I can't speak for palomar, but I think there's a pretty big difference between talking about how a man wears a suit--which is a lot more to do with carriage, demeanor, and what is sometimes awkwardly termed "physical intelligence", a comfort and understanding of one's body and how it moves in space (and, in fact, the Michael Phelps comparison you quoted uses exactly that kind of language)--and the more leering phrases employed in, for example, the quotes a fiendish thingy excerpts. The other thing is that saying "ooh, but you forgot about this passage" after you've already made a comment indicating you hadn't read or parsed a large chunk of the conversation going on in here kind of makes it look like you're pulling a gotcha.
posted by kagredon at 3:42 PM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Take it away from sex objects again. Pick up any random articles about, say, Roseanne and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Care to take bets on how mentions of their physical appearance differ?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:45 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please insert the word 'mainstream' between 'sex' and 'object' there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


You know, I think for the first time I appreciate how powerful objectification can make you feel. On a weird level, I like the idea of hot men existing for me to enjoy - there's something appealing there, that it's not just that they are there and attractive but that they WANT to be there and are enjoying being objectified.

And I think about the double bind women get put into - to not only behave in the manner those with more influence want, but to make it seem effortless and like something we enjoy. And I think about the knots we tie ourselves in as we internalize that we should gain pleasure from the enjoyment others find in us, not our own pleasure.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:51 PM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.
-- John Berger, cited in FAQ: What is the "male gaze"?
posted by jaguar at 4:04 PM on July 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


I was sitting at my desk not two days ago when I overheard my boss describe how difficult it was to find a "proper" nanny for his kid. Rather than talk about their professional abilities, he detailed their physical appearance like he was talking someone through a menu. Nevermind the candidate who could teach the kid a second language and had a BA in education! She was "way too fuckin' hot for us to hire her." He finally "settled" on a "nice middle-aged woman, definitely overweight," who "seemed like she'd be perfect for the job."

And that shit right there is what it's like, EVERY TIME, for people who present as women in professional contexts, especially in the media. And female actors get the (not at all) pleasure of reading their parts described like dinner items every time they're obliged to do an interview.
posted by Ashen at 4:07 PM on July 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think people are reading too much into my comment regarding what palomar posted. palomar said in his comment "No real description of Hamm's body in the piece," and I pointed out that his body is mentioned in the part that he quoted. I wasn't making any point just pointing out that that part was incorrect.
posted by I-baLL at 4:21 PM on July 8, 2015


Two things:

1) Have the courtesy to look at someone's profile before misgendering them, yeah?

2) Getting hung up on tiny little academic thought-experiment details like that is at least one square on the 'this isn't sexism' derail bingo card.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:23 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


The thing about the makeup and food thing that is so fucking hypocritical is that women are expected to maintain a perfect appearance at all times and also to NEVER show men that they are DEMANDING this of us by doing any maintenance obviously and/or in front of them. Eat a salad and you're just one of those damn conformist women who can't EAT (EAT is always bolded or in all caps). Wear "too much makeup" or take out and reapply your lipstick after eating or whatever and you're tacky or gauche or "high-maintenance", fail to be effortlessly perfect and it's all "oh gee you look tired", so you have to secretly put on "natural" makeup.

The thing about the shooting range as opposed to the mani/pedi struck me, too. It's another part of that delicate balance of devalued but still expected femininity that is actually impossible. You go to the shooting range instead of the mani/pedi, but God help you if the finger pulling that trigger doesn't have a perfectly painted nail on it.
posted by NoraReed at 4:25 PM on July 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


Yeah, and the food aspect it even has its own meme, deployed on those women who accidentally lose their balance on the "too skinny" side of the tight rope according to that particular commenter: "eat a damn sammich, woman". Naturally though, if she falls off the other side of the tight rope it gets even worse.
posted by gilrain at 4:31 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


i was totally the "eat a sandwich" person once, here, when i was young and stupid, and i still feel like an asshole about the whole thing. that was back when i was like "OH JEWEL STAITE HAD TO GAIN WEIGHT FOR HER ROLE ON FIREFLY?? SO PROGRESSIVE" even when she was like "yes it felt awful"
posted by NoraReed at 4:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


"1) Have the courtesy to look at someone's profile before misgendering them, yeah?
"

Wow, yeah, I fucked up there. Sorry about that, palomar. I normally use the gender-neutral "their" to prevent this from happening but I was typing in a rush since I wass kinda busy and screwed up.

"2) Getting hung up on tiny little academic thought-experiment details like that is at least one square on the 'this isn't sexism' derail bingo card."

Uh, what? When did I say that "this isn't sexism"? I was pointing that Hamm's body was mentioned in the quoted part. That's literally the only point I was making because I noticed the mention in the quote.
posted by I-baLL at 4:53 PM on July 8, 2015


So, your only objection was typo-correction-level nitpicking. Not super helpful in a thread like this.
posted by gilrain at 4:58 PM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


You know, I think for the first time I appreciate how powerful objectification can make you feel.

I think one of the things that fascinates me about the aforementioned GQ Chris Evans profile is that it's blatant objectification (I remember reading it and thinking "oh god why do I love this so much? Should I love this so much?"), but it's divested of the usual male gazey/body policing aspects that are usually associated with celebrity objectification. You see it also in some of the Toast's stuff about celebrities, such as If Gillian Anderson Were Your Girlfriend.

I have mixed feelings about that--I think the fascination with/projection of wishes and dreams onto/reflection of societal norms through celebrities is sort of a normal human thing, but there are problems with how to do that in a way that's healthy/ethical/respectful. But I think separating that kind of objectification from crappy kyriarchical policing or using it to comment on the crappy kyriarchical policing is a good start.
posted by kagredon at 5:06 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I-Ball, you're getting hung up on literalism. It is the way in which bodies are described, and the amount, and the predictability and inevitability that are the problem. Poking away at some tiny piece of pedantry reads like a gotcha, and if I'm a guy who's sick to death of seeing guys do that kind of nibbling at the edges in order to invalidate the real argument, maybe it would be worthwhile for you to take a moment and think about how women feel about that happening every single time these subjects come up?

I mean, seriously. There's a whole thread of women right here who are talking about these problems, and you're not listening to them. Why is that? Why is it that it's so much more important to score some kind of little gotcha point about how Jon Hamm's body actually was mentioned omg, rather than take in the larger point? Maybe you'll listen to a guy, I dunno, but here goes: the larger point (as said, repeatedly, by women in this thread right here) is that when female celebrities are talked about, it's always in service of the male gaze. It's always about reducing them to walking baby factories who have to look exactly right, act exactly right (that is to say, background themselves when the menfolk are talking), eat exactly right--and even when they do everything 'right' according to patriarchal society's fucked up rules, they still get criticized. NoraReed went into far greater detail above about walking that tightrope, and how it's impossible to actually do.

Maybe it would be a really, really good idea for you to start at the top of this thread again. Read each and every comment. Look at the profiles of the people who are writing the comments. Realize how many of them are women. Realize how many of them are sick and damn tired of having to explain these same basic concepts to men over and over and over and over again, only to get nitpicky "but you said they didn't mention his body and they did!" horseshit thrown at them. Realize that when women are telling you about how something is sexist and why, nitpicking tiny little details--as though this were some kind of thought experiment and not, you know, the actual toxic stew that women have to swim in from dawn to dusk every day--is not only not helping, it's actively perpetuating the problem. We cannot gain a real grasp on eliminating sexist and patriarchal attitudes when men insist, every single time, on forcing the argument to start from the most basic of first principles, and insist, every single time, on teeny tiny little details being ordered to their precise satisfaction before they will grant that maybe, just maybe, we might possibly live in a horrifically patriarchal culture that literally tells half the human race it is only there to serve the other half.

Okay? Women right here are telling you about their experiences. Listen to them. I'm not saying anything they haven't already said. Maybe this time it'll get through, and next time we can skip the intervening step of having a guy have to tell you this, and you can go right to listening to women. Please.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2015 [23 favorites]


"ou commented on it four times, actually"

No, I haven't. People keep bringing it up. I keep trying to explain that it was just a quick comment and then it gets brought up again and again. I'm not going to respond to this anymore.
posted by I-baLL at 5:17 PM on July 8, 2015


i was totally the "eat a sandwich" person once

I think this is one of those cases where encouraging discussion among women let us get to something that was a lot more complicated than the initial reactivity a lot of us felt about being body-policed. I spent a long time being really angry about being judged - and judging myself - for being fat, and my experiences were so intense that it was really difficult for me to award any weight (hee hee) to women talking about how it felt to be judged for being too thin; it seems like humble-bragging, not "legitimate" pain.

I'm not sure when the shoe dropped that policing women's bodies for being "too" thin was a harmful as policing us for being "too" fat. At some point I was able to see through my own pain that their pain was differently shaped but equally legitimate - that all women were my allies against body policing, not just other fat women - and that our habits of competing with each other based on appearances was part of the problem, not a road to a solution. I think tabloids played into it, and my own dedication to social justice in the face of ableism (which has ties to health and every size), but pegging the moment has me flummoxed. I just know I changed.

And now, I think for a lot of women and feminists it's legitimately become a focus not on what women "should" look like, but that women are more than what we look like, and judging based on appearance is kind of shitty no matter what. I see more of a sense of solidarity being expressed and - more importantly - acted upon.

I'm curious, though - if any of the men in the thread feel comfortable sharing: what was it like to read about male celebrities being described in such blatantly sensual, objectifying ways? Does it make you body-aware? Feel uncomfortable, comfortable, aspirational, disgusted...? I'd really like to know.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:17 PM on July 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


You're demonstrating it by this dogged persistence about one comment by palomar. Please, stop digging yourself into this hole.

And yes you did comment about it four times. ctrl-f I-ball is easy to do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:19 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


But you are pretty hung up on the literalism. I don't really see how you can take those two little comments in the GQ article on Jon Hamm as very descriptive comments about his body. "He occupies a suit with the physical genius of Michael Phelps sliding into water" -- where does it actually DESCRIBE his body there? Where does it get down into the nitty gritty of the shape of his body, how it catches the light, how his clothes hug and caress his body in just the right ways? Because that's what all the profiles do when they're about female celebs.

"Credit the totemic power of a suit, but he looks a full ten years younger than Don Draper, with about half the weight on his shoulders." Again, where in there is the actual description of his body? Where is the talk about the broadness of his shoulders, the leanness of his thighs, the coquettish way he gently puts a french fry between his thin yet powerful lips? Hell, they don't even mention his apparently massive penis and his habit of not wearing underwear, something he's gotten a fair amount of attention over from the tabloid rags and gossip columns. I mean, sure, that sentence has the word shoulders in it, but are you really trying to pretend that talking about the metaphorical weight on a person's shoulders is actually about their physical body? That's really disingenuous.
posted by palomar at 5:19 PM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Mod note: i-ball, you've made your point. Please leave it, and everyone else, please drop it as well.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:20 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to respond to this anymore.

Fine, but you really should go back to the beginning of the thread and read what women are saying. That was some excellent advice.
posted by caryatid at 5:26 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


> if any of the men in the thread feel comfortable sharing: what was it like to read about male celebrities being described in such blatantly sensual, objectifying ways?

I'll be honest at the risk of being depressing. I felt nothing more than amusement at the clever satire, and, of course, empathy for the situation it highlights that women face. In the back of my mind, where discomfort might form, I know that I will remain privileged and immune from real objectification for the foreseeable future. I don't like that, or like that it's there in my brain, but I think that's why the piece doesn't disturb me.

I think the men this sort of criticism intimidates actually fear, perhaps subconsciously, that they'll be treated as bad as we all treat women in this stew of patriarchy. I know that even if we make far more progress tearing down patriarchy in my lifetime than I expect, the result will not be that men take up the mantle of systematically objectified... it will be that women set the mantle down.
posted by gilrain at 5:33 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Deoridhe, I'm gay and cis, so objectification of men is nothing new in much of my world--nor is my feeling of "well, crap, I am never ever going to look like that unless I stop eating the things I love to eat, drinking the things I love to drink, and start spending four hours a day in the gym" and the resultant self-esteem issues.

Which leaves me, kinda, at a "what's good for the goose" sort of place. Maybe, just maybe, if enough men start internalizing that feeling, and get it hammered into them that this is how most women feel all day every day, it might be what gets through? I don't know.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm curious, though - if any of the men in the thread feel comfortable sharing: what was it like to read about male celebrities being described in such blatantly sensual, objectifying ways? Does it make you body-aware? Feel uncomfortable, comfortable, aspirational, disgusted...? I'd really like to know.

Well, you're in on the joke from the beginning, so it doesn't really have that effect (for me, anyway). The nearest equivalent that I can think of are those articles that pop up when an actor gets in ridiculous shape for a role, like Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael B. Jordan for their upcoming boxing movies, or back when Chris Pratt got in shape. But even those aren't really the same because they often explicitly mention the punishing exercise and diet regimes necessary for those actors.

Incidentally I think there's more to these puff pieces than the food and casual objectification stuff. The women also seem to get cast into certain personality molds: coquettish, or down-to-earth, or serene, etc. Whereas men can, say, have a "commanding presence", or be roguish, or witty, or philosophical, etc.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 5:40 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks, guys; I appreciate it.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:20 PM on July 8, 2015


Men get cast in roles of power, and women get cast in roles of subservience.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:23 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


A newspaper did a article about an embattled artspace that I was part of and the female news reporter did something like this. I was "a tall man with Nordic eyes" and some other people got similar amusing treatments.

The fun was making up descriptions for other people in the group that weren't in the article.
"Jim ,a hulking sasquatch of a man that swung his hairy arms as he scrabbled about" ect.
posted by boilermonster at 9:13 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about how they're described in screenplays, not articles. In any case the entertainment industry is a complete shit-show if you're a woman.

And now I'm going to take this as an excuse to illustrate with a vaguely related anecdote!

Years ago some indie filmmakers asked me to do location scouting and management for their low-budget film.

I read the script, and noticed that all the male characters were described when they were introduced pretty matter-of-factly, and subsequent stage directions only referred to necessary things about the scene. The women characters by contrast were all, without exception, described in terms of how their breasts moved (pendulously usually), how the light came through their clothing and what it illuminated therein, and how the expressions on their faces all revealed something about their sexual appetites.

I met with the producer. He asked if I was interested in helping them out. I told him I had read the script and that I noticed the stark difference in how the women and men were described. He was surprised, as though it had never occurred to him. When he objected I provided examples. He sputtered and said something half-assed about having the writer look at it.

The thing is, there was some good writing in the script. It absolutely did not need to include the masturbatory gaze of the writer. It would have been a stronger read without it.

Reader, I chose not to work on that film.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:04 PM on July 8, 2015 [32 favorites]


if any of the men in the thread feel comfortable sharing: what was it like to read about male celebrities being described in such blatantly sensual, objectifying ways?

So as noted above, you're in on the joke from the start - however, there's definitely a certain oddness to reading, something that feels a bit off, even a tiny bit queasy? It's not that I haven't e read interviews or articles talking about the bodies of male actors before, so this could be explained by vocab more often used to describe women, or could be down to the men-as-male-power-fantasy discussed already here. Interesting.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:12 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


if any of the men in the thread feel comfortable sharing: what was it like to read about male celebrities being described in such blatantly sensual, objectifying ways?

Unsurprising I guess. Like if I read an article written about a man in that way in a real publication it wouldn't have registered as odd or unexpected to me. I don't think I would have noticed it as unusual if it hadn't been pointed out.

But I'm not the target demo for that kind of material. I expect it to be universally vapid and objectifying, not only with regard to female subjects. I feel like I would have noticed the phenomenon if it were in some form of writing I actually read or wanted to read (and have, btw).
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:44 PM on July 8, 2015


Reader, I chose not to work on that film.

With the caveat that I'm just one woman and we aren't a monolith, in my eyes, that was a small (in terms of the problem) but meaningful act of resistance against the patriarchy, involving a sacrifice on your part. That is very good allying and I thank you for it.

With the same caveat - thanks also to fffm for being a helpful ally in this thread, and for advanced-level checking in to be sure he was doing it right.
posted by gingerest at 12:34 AM on July 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. If you want to talk about how a thread went, please take that to MetaTalk. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:34 PM on July 9, 2015


I'm curious, though - if any of the men in the thread feel comfortable sharing: what was it like to read about male celebrities being described in such blatantly sensual, objectifying ways? Does it make you body-aware? Feel uncomfortable, comfortable, aspirational, disgusted...? I'd really like to know.

Not body-aware or self-conscious or aspirational, no. I don't think this is something I've ever really felt regarding descriptions or images of another man's body, celebrity or not. Although how much of that is my cis-het-male sociocultural background vs. my personal inclination to sometimes dig in my heels when presented with examples of "Everybody should be like [X]!" would be difficult to untangle. (Said mule-headedness, though, is undoubtedly at least partially a reaction to growing up an introverted pudgy bespectacled bookworm, which meant that a lot of the common behavioral signifiers of masculinity for young boys & adolescents - sports, athletics, physical competition, fighting and aggressiveness - were difficult and uncomfortable for me, which in turn led to a certain level of "fuck it - if I can't do it then I won't consider it valuable" attitude.)


blatantly sensual, objectifying ways

Yeah, one thing that struck me from seeing these bits all clumped together - a cumulative effect that I bet is pretty easy to miss if you were to read these kind of pieces just every so often, here and there as they pop up - is just how blatantly sensual they are, like most of them read like the beginning of a porn (or erotica, I suppose, depending) story, like in a couple of paragraphs everyone's gonna be naked and licking each other.

And not only are a lot of these centered around food, but it seems to me there's a strong subtext of intimacy (edging into sexual intimacy) to how the actors relate to food; that they would ordinarily never eat this particular thing, at least not in public, but just this once, just for this special, private occasion, they're gonna go ahead and go for it. Ordinary people would never know that they eat Taco Bell, but you . . . . you special wonderful interviewer/reader, you get to see them in an "unguarded" sensual moment. Basically *Mousy Librarian Takes Off Glasses, Lets Hair Down, Becomes Stunningly Attractive Sexual Dynamo* expressed as a celebrity's relationship to a sandwich.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:35 PM on July 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


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