Discussing Womanhood with 5 Dudes in their 20s

Posted by Sara Spector
(@Sara Spector)

Your face is flushed. Your knuckles turn white as you squeeze your hands into fists of frustration. Your hair begins to fall out and your blood starts to boil. No, you’re not having a panic attack. You’re discussing feminism with your guy friends.

This was my general physical form as I engaged in a lively political debate with my friends in our group chat. It started with a discussion about Barstool Sports, a popular pop culture blog. One of my friends works for his University’s branch of Barstool’s instagram. From there, we arrived at the topic of Barstool’s “Smokeshow of the Day” a recurring segment in which the site names one woman the “Smokeshow of the Day,” and posts photos highlighting her physical appearance. No information is given about the girl except her first name and her photographs.

@barstoolsmokeshows

I wasn’t mad that they liked the segment. Obviously, it’s natural for a group of guys in their early 20s to enjoy looking at pictures of beautiful women. I’d be lying if I said the phrase “Chris Pratt shirtless” never appears in my search history. What upset me was the fact that my closest friends in the world seemed to have no idea how “Smokeshow of the Day,” and thousands of posts like it, affect me and young women everywhere.

(This has nothing to do with the article. It’s simply for your viewing pleasure.)

During our conversation, my well-meaning male associates showed a continuous misunderstanding of what it’s like to be a woman in today’s society. So, in order to combat the further spread of this ignorance, I will now address some direct quotes from that fateful discussion and, in doing so, attempt to debunk popular myths about 21st-century womanhood.

“Girls choose to objectify themselves for that segment.”

Let’s be real: freedom of choice is one grand illusion. We make choices based on the society we live in and how to best serve ourselves in that society. If the world values looks over intellect, can you blame women for “choosing” to highlight their outer appearance? I just hope that, one day, we live in a society that values Game of Thrones fanfiction just as highly, so that I can finally share my genius with the world.

“There’s as many girls for Barstool as there are against Barstool.”

The fact that companies like Barstool have female followers does not excuse their actions. In fact, that only makes the problem worse. Students from across the country send in posts to accounts like Barstool everyday in order to get their 15 minutes of fame. For guys, this means sending in videos of them shotgunning a beer in some creative fashion. For girls, this means submitting (usually revealing) photographs of themselves. When companies like Barstool create segments like “Smokeshow of the Day,” they show countless other girls that the only thing Barstool and their 832k followers care about is a girl’s looks. Trust me, I know I look amazing in my neon pink Victoria’s Secret two-piece. I also paint portraits of iconic rappers in my spare time, in case you were wondering.

“If you’re smart enough to understand its [social media’s] negative effects then delete it…I have to say, when I deleted my social media, I’ve felt more confident, independent, and care less about what others think.”

First of all, congratulations on deleting social media. You’re a real martyr, a regular ol’ Jesus Christ. The only thing I care about less than your social media detox is my cousin’s recent conversion to veganism. So please stop talking about it before my eyes roll permanently into the back of my head.

Second of all, this is an overly-simplistic approach to the issue of body confidence. I shouldn’t have to choose between participating in society through social media and feeling secure in my own skin. Even if that weren’t true, deleting social media doesn’t delete your insecurities. Insecurity existed long before Instagram and will continue to exist long after it’s gone. I’m not asking Barstool to cure society of its body dysmorphia; I’m just asking them not to perpetuate it.

“Propose a solution.”

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a god. I know this. It upsets me, but I know this. I know I’m not going to undo centuries of institutionalized misogyny in the confines of a group chat. I know that insecurity will never truly go away, especially not for young women. It’s not about finding a comprehensive solution to all the world’s problems. It’s about being mindful of how the media we create and consume affects the world around us. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and making a conscious effort to understand their world. It’s about saving me the stress of conversations like this, so that I don’t lose any more hair before I turn 21.

To my friends who may be reading this: I know you’re not misogynists. You’re just idiots, but you’re my idiots, and I love you.

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