This is a big question: who owns my body? The obvious answer, you’d think, is me. And in an ordinary conversation, nobody would argue with me. But the moment I step outside my house, I’m faced with a multitude of arguments – and none of them take my wishes into account at all.
If I go to a football match (doesn’t matter which code), I’ll inevitably see women represented there in the shape of shapely cheerleaders in their amazingly skimpy outfits. Amazing that they stay on while they leap and gyrate in front of the crowd, each routine a dance filled with hip thrusts and butt wiggles suggestive of only one thing. Culturally, cheerleading has migrated from the US and isn’t an Australian tradition – but you don’t hear anybody complaining about this Americanism. And, also culturally, we look down upon these girls as air-heads, too stupid to do anything else for a living.
It’s not the dancing that bothers me. It’s the relationship between the male players playing their important football match, and these decorative creatures on the sideline, perhaps there to provide enough contrast to enhance the masculinity of the players? Either way, the men are there doing while the women thrust out their boobs and gushingly cheer them on. It’s sickening.
But football isn’t alone. Take a look at motor racing. Again, code is irrelevant. If you walk around the Australian Formula One compound during racing week, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally wandered into a strip club with the amount of carefully oiled flesh on display across numerous team stages. Knee-high white boots, bikini tops and shorts that provide only the suggestion of modesty are what the world looks for in racing. That and a bunch of men driving powerful cars around and around a track. Again, men do the important work, and the girls – always incredibly beautiful – are all over them. On the podium, the winner is surrounded by these women, hanging off him as though they are proud members of his hareem.
In the interests of fairness, I need to mention that in the last two years, the Formula One organizers have thrown in a couple of semi-naked guys just to show they aren’t sexist.
Thanks for that.
And it’s not just sport where we see this. Hip-hop music, admittedly not known for its open and egalitarian approach to women, is perhaps the greatest exponent of ownership display you can see today. There’s hardly a male artist out there who doesn’t appear in every video clip surrounded by half-naked women, grinding themselves against him from every side. Oh, how will he choose which… oh, wait, he doesn’t need to choose. He can have them all.
Of course, it’s likely that none of these girls is being forced to perform on these stages. And sure, the law of averages insists that some of them may not be all that bright. But what about the rest of them? Why do it? Are they blind to the messages they send out?
But the question I really want answered is – why are they employed in the first place? In this supposedly enlightened era, when we claim we don’t treat women as sex objects, that we respect women and treat them equally, why do we instead display them as objects to decorate the actions of men? In this context, women are used to enhance the virility of men, to suggest, perhaps subconsciously, that these great heroes are servicing a whole brood of women – beautiful women that other men covet.
I wonder if any of them have thought about how the women in the audience feel when they see these objects displayed in front of them. I’ll bet questions about how their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters might feel probably don’t register often.
If they did, these men might realise that this display of ownership, of staking a claim, of trumpeting virility and crowing about it only makes women embarassed and humiliated. Oh, we smile and say we don’t mind, that it’s just a bit of harmless fun. But it isn’t.
Women aren’t objects. We don’t belong to men to be displayed like trophies. We own our own bodies. If these men are so great and wonderful at what they do, they shouldn’t need anybody to prop them up. Women certainly don’t.