Monday, 17 December 2012

So, wearing underwear is mandatory now?

This week, I have a new hero. Anne Hathaway is my new go-to girl for how to handle awkward situations with perfect poise and diplomacy.

It all started when she was photographed getting out of a car at the Les Misérables premiere. She was wearing a tight dress which obviously needed to be a VPL-free zone. Unfortunately, it also had a large slit, which meant that she exposed more than she meant to. A photograph then circulated and was added to the gleeful gallery of accidentally exposed "lady bits" as the magazines insist on calling them.

The first interview after the incident was with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. He kicked off the interview with "Seen a lot of you lately!" This seemed an unnecessarily jaunty way to open the conversation, when she was clearly feeling pretty violated by the event. (It makes me wonder how someone like Matt Lauer would greet a rape victim. "So, I heard you've been getting around a bit lately....!?") But because Anne Hathaway is such a lady, she actually said "Sorry about that". 

SHE said sorry. She apologised for the fact that someone had taken a picture up her skirt.

He blithely carried on, "What's the lesson learned from something like that...? Other than you keep smiling, which you always do."

What's the lesson for Anne Hathaway to learn? Because it was obviously her fault, right?

Her answer deserves to be printed in the celebrity survival handbook (if such a thing exists....):

"It was obviously an unfortunate incident," she said. "It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and rather than delete it, and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to 'Les Mis,' that's what my character is, she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there's no social safety net."

Well played! Shifting the blame back to the perpetrator and bringing the conversation back to the film, in one breath. Bravo!

However, this incident is one more very telling moment in the "War against women". (Which, like, totally doesn't exist. It's a complete myth, right? 

I don't recall anyone calling Kanye a slut who should have been wearing trousers which fit him properly.

Well, let's take a look at the media reaction. Entertainmentwise used the headline "Where is your underwear?" and said "Do you think Anne's vag flash was accidental or intentional? Take a look at the graphic photo in the gallery below." (I PROMISE you this is the exact wording.)

Gawker's headline: "Anne Hathaway shows her vagina to distract from her hideous outfit." Wow, slut shaming, misinformed biology and fashion advice, all in one go! (As many commenters pointed out, nobody could see Hathaway's vagina without a speculum and a torch. It's VULVA, people! I may seem overly pedantic, but using the wrong word is like constantly referring to your ankles as your "knees". )

The words "wardrobe malfunction" and "flashing" were used frequently. No mention of "Anne Hathaway violated by perv with a camera" or "Woman's clothing choices used to justify sexual violation. Again." 

The general consensus seems to be that it's all Anne Hathaway's fault, because she "should" have been wearing underwear.  I do realise that if you don't want pictures of your undercarriage to be widely circulated, going out knickerless and then exiting a car may not be the best way to go about it.  But even if the photo had clearly showed her wearing panties, it would still no doubt have created a stir.) And while she has been called upon to explain herself like a naughty girl caught flashing the boys in the next classroom, the guy who made money from selling the picture has never even been named. 

Naturally, when someone works in an industry which occasionally requires them to be naked and / or simulate sex, and this earns them millions of dollars, all bets are off. They're "asking for it." And money makes up for every possible infringement on your privacy, yes?  

There is also the small point that celebrities in general, but women in particular, are considered public property. As challengers to this view, my other heroes are Will Smith and  Jada Pinkett Smith parents of Willow. (No, I don't like her music.) Jada recently used her Facebook page to answer critics who objected to her "letting" Willow getting a buzz cut. 

"The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day."

Back in May, Will Smith also spoke up on the concerns of raising a daughter, telling Parade: "When you have a little girl, it's like, how can you teach her that you're in control of her body? If I teach her that I'm in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she's going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives."

I love this couple. (Even if that goes against every instinct I have about the kind of people who name all of their children after themselves.)

Jada also wrote brilliantly about how the "War on Women" is also detrimental to men:

"How is man to recognize his full self, his full power through the eye's of an incomplete woman? The woman who has been stripped of Goddess recognition and diminished to a big ass and full breast for physical comfort only. The woman who has been silenced so she may forget her spiritual essence because her words stir too much thought outside of the pleasure space. The woman who has been diminished to covering all that rots inside of her with weaves and red bottom shoes.

I am sure the men, who restructured our societies from cultures that honored woman, had no idea of the outcome. They had no idea that eventually, even men would render themselves empty and longing for meaning, depth and connection. There is a deep sadness when I witness a man that can't recognize the emptiness he feels when he objectifies himself as a bank and truly believes he can buy love with things and status. It is painful to witness the betrayal when a woman takes him up on that offer. He doesn't recognize that the create of a half woman has contributed to his repressed anger and frustration of feeling he is not enough. He then may love no woman or keep many half women as his prize. He doesn't recognize that it's his submersion in the imbalanced warrior culture, where violence is the means of getting respect and power, as the reason he can break the face of the woman who bore him four children.

When woman is lost, so is man. The truth is, woman is the window to a man's heart and a man's heart is the gateway to his soul.

Power and control will NEVER outweigh love."

Wise woman. AND she gives me hope that I too can look better when I'm 40 than I did at 20! Hooray for Jada!  

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