There was no rape, the woman was indecent »« Preserving masculinity in a society pimped by feminism

Enough with the naked calendars already

Rebecca’s gone off the whole naked calendars idea. I’m glad about that, because I was never on it, but didn’t say so, because you know, I’m a million years old, I come from that boring generation that did second wave feminism and didn’t get it about pole dancing as empowerment.

“Why don’t you make the Skepchick Calendars anymore?” Ever since I stopped producing not-quite-nudie calendars back in 2007, I’ve heard that question a lot. The problem is that I never have the 30 minutes I’d need to list half the reasons why I no longer do it. But now, I will list a few of those reasons in the desperate hope that organizations that need money or publicity or whatever will read this and make the decision to not produce calendars.

You see, in the past few days I’ve heard of two different calendar projects from within my circles: ScienceGrrl is a calendar of female scientists, and proceeds will apparently go to encouraging girls to pursue STEM degrees. New organization Secular Woman has also announced a calendar, which will feature nude atheists and benefit a cancer charity and the org’s own travel grants to send women to conferences.

I know. Really. Please stop.

Rebecca gives some background. It was partly a jokey thing at first.

And then I stopped. Why? For some of the same reasons that I’m turned off by the current crop of calendars:

1. Regardless of the intent behind the calendars, regardless of how much fun we had making them, regardless of how empowering we found them, regardless of the racial and age diversity we showcased, and regardless of the fact that they were run by a woman and benefited women, pin-up calendars added to an existing environment in which women were seen first as sexual objects and maybe if they’re lucky they’d later be seen as human beings with thoughts and desires of their own. Back in 2005, I thought skeptics weren’t affected by the patriarchy and that misogyny was something left to the religious. In a community like that, a pin-up calendar of women would be absolutely fine. I learned that a community like that does not exist and it was naive of me to assume otherwise.

Yes. That was why I was never on it, in a nutshell, but for all I knew the fans of the idea knew better than I did.

2. Adding a calendar of men did not balance out the calendar of women. In a perfect non-patriarchal world, it would, but what I realized was that the women in the calendars were not being seen in the same way as the men in the calendars. The women were objectified on a level unmatched by those viewing and commenting on the men. This was something difficult for me to objectively evaluate at the time and was just a hunch based on my casual observations, but that hunch was confirmed last year when I had shitlord after shitlord emailing me to tell me that I have no right to complain about being groped or propositioned at conferences because I posed in a calendar for skeptics (see my filthy slut photo as the featured image on this post).

Sigh.

Comments

  1. says

    Perhaps it depends on context, and how the calendar (and the nudity) are being used?

    With the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar, it was about showing support for a woman who took her clothes off as a demonstration against veiling/enforced modesty laws/violence against ‘improperly dressed’ women. So I totally get why a nude calendar of female activists would be made in support of her. That speaks to me of solidarity, and self-ownership, and human rights.

    If and when it becomes a standard/faddish thing, and new organising groups get together and say ‘Let’s do a nude calendar! Everyone else has’, and the nudity is no longer viewed as meaningful in and of itself, then I see why you’d have problems.

  2. phil zombi says

    @ alexgabriel While intention is not magic, I think that there is a huge difference between the NPRC and other nude/semi-nude calendar offerings. In the former the nudity is the message: these are our bodies and you don’t have the right to cover them up. Whereas I am unsure of the purpose of the nudity in these other calendars. I get the feeling that sex sells and some groups would like to end the discussion at that.

    p.s. In case it is unclear I fully support the NPRC and I am ambivalent about general use of nude pics as fundraising fodder.

  3. julian says

    Just cross posting what I had to say at the A+ forum.

    I disagree with her first point.

    ______

    I don’t see how the calenders added to the existing misogyny and sex-negative views of the community. Some atheists are exploiting it, some are using it to dismiss any claims of sexual harassment as illegitimate but these were things that were already in place. These people were already among us and this only brought them out. They would have been no less misogynistic or sex-negative had Watson’s calenders never been made.

    But even assuming that it did, that these sorts of pictures actually contributed to the misogyny and sex-negativity among atheists, would this be a reason for those who want to be in or who find them liberating to abstain? If the women (and men) who find these calenders help them break free of religious thinking, society’s condemnation of sexuality or even simple hangups about their bodies shouldn’t they go through with something like this? Making people more comfortable with their sexuality isn’t something that should be shied away from. It’s something we want to encourage, isn’t it?

    Like the Greta Christina quote in the Revolutionary Calender. “I own my body. No- strike that. I *am* my body.” There’s power in that statement. Power some gain (or at least begin to approach) through things like the Skepchick Calenders. That alone makes them alright in my book.

  4. Soren says

    About men in calendars, have you seen Rion Sabeans Men-Ups?
    http://www.rionsabean.com/men-ups

    A Pin up calendar featuring men in traditional pin up poses, its fun to look at, but it is also a reminder of just how weird the whole concept is.

    The men look ridiculous, bur why is it the same poses are suddenly alluring when it is women in the pictures?

  5. bad Jim says

    This cartoon came up in comments at Why Evolution is True, and if you ever wanted to visualize Napoleon, Goethe, Darwin, Emerson, Robert Ingersoll, P T Barnum, Robert Burns, Franklin, Brigham Young, Tom Paine and Voltaire prancing naked together, here you go.

  6. barrypearson says

    … pin-up calendars added to an existing environment in which women were seen first as sexual objects …

    There are a number of different issues mixed together in this post. Taking the pictures, publishing/selling them, displaying them, etc. Here is a comment on displaying them.

    I worked for a while as a consultant in a large office with mostly (professional) women. After a night out, (which they called a “girls night out”), they displayed posters of the Chippendales around the office.

    Ouch!

    Part of my disquiet was probably that as a skinny man I didn’t like the comparison! But there was something more – it somehow upset the environment needed for interactive work. (Perhaps this was all in my mind?) I think I can empathize with a woman faced with a pin-up calender while trying to conduct business or simply get through the day. There is a subliminal message about (perhaps unconscious) attitudes. Displays in communal or public spaces can leave a bad taste.

    But posing for / taking the photos have a different status. This really is similar to “consenting adults in private”, although the results may be a bit more accessible than that. I suppose one characteristic of displays in communal spaces is that some of the people are not consenting.

  7. says

    Heads I win, tails you lose.
    It’s the only way to express the dilemma.
    I mostly agree with the arguments why nude calendars are not that good an idea at the moment, but it still means that somebody else dictates our sexuality.
    It means that somehow those assholes who say that they can’t take Rebecca or Great seriously and nobody else should because they posed nude once win.
    I’m not particularly interested in posing nude (or dressed up seghsee), but it’s fucked up that I can’t and still be taken as a human being.

  8. Ysanne says

    @Soren’s point: Good link. I also found it interesting to compare erotic photos of naked men taken by women and men. I found the photos by men surprisingly similar to the typical “hot woman” photos in terms of facial expression (slightly helpless/surprised), pose (actively presenting “assets”) and gestures (pulling down underwear a little with the thumb, fingertips caressing near erogenous zone). Women’s photos seemed had less of these body-language invitations to sex, and revolved more around trying to depict classic beauty and strength.
    No idea if this is just my bias as a viewer, coincidence in photo selection or a reflection of the conventions of what women/men are supposed to concentrate on, but it was quite noticeable.

    Otherwise I agree with julian and Giliell: There is a good point in Rebecca’s arguments and I can very much understand that she prefers to not do any more naked calendars. But I think that extending this to a general call to “Please stop making calendars” and implying that everyone who still does contributes to misogyny is an unfortunate overgeneralisation — it’s basically just another instance of someone telling women what they should do with their bodies.

  9. says

    I’ll say honestly at the outset this is one of those things where I’m always kind of uncomfortable even expressing an opinion. It’s the usual ‘I’m male; it’s not generally about my body, here; is it even any of my business?’ things.

    (Well, that and the usual anxiety that the moment you open your mouth, people are going to wonder if your interest is simply prurient. What can you do? I have many neurons working at any given time, many of them decidedly unruly, and many of them do worry.)

    That said: Maryam’s ‘Nude Revolutionary’ thing really did impress upon me that there’s a lot of subtleties about how this is done, and there are ways to do it that I think have some value.

    As, prior to seeing that work, I had no particularly formed opinion on the things, but I think I did tend to view them a bit negatively. I might confess I’d say, generally, the idea struck me as a bit… frivolous, a bit silly. Like, honestly, whatever you do, the message people will get is going to be so confused.

    The images in that calendar, though, generally, struck me as oddly powerful. There was something that came through very clearly as ‘Deal with it (and deal with me)’ about a lot of them. Like the attitude was yeah, I’m a woman, and clothed or not, whatever anyone else’s reaction to my body, my nudity, I have my self-respect, I have my pride, I have my opinions. You want to tell me to cover up? Whatever. Not my problem. Look, just shut up already. My business, not yours.

    Which I really think had some power, as a statement.

    And then I look at the BS from people saying ‘Oh, you’re a slut anyway; why should I care what you think, you posed naked’, and I can well understand why someone would turn around and say this isn’t a line they want to set up.

    I dunno. In a perfect world, we’d roll our eyes at the anyone who says stuff like that, get on with our lives. No… Wait, in a perfect world, there’d be no people saying stuff like that. But given that there are, and apparently a lot of them, pft. What to do?

    That said: I do consider it now demonstrated to me at least that you can send positive messages with these things. Notwithstanding that not everyone’s going to hear them.

  10. says

    Its nice to see people come around over time. I was saying this stuff years ago and got nothing but crap for it (from some skepchicks as well as dudebros). Its like a nifty signal that things are actually changing, especially with the amount of support her post has gotten already.

  11. says

    The men look ridiculous, bur why is it the same poses are suddenly alluring when it is women in the pictures?

    the “its debasing and terrible, but you’re supposed to like it because you’re a girl” dynamic is fucking everywhere. It makes for a lot of lazy ass humor (its a dude! in a dress! LOLZ!), that’s for sure.

  12. Lyanna says

    Yeah, I have a lot of sympathy for what’s called “sex-positive” feminism, and I agree with a lot of its precepts, but….

    …often it slips into being “positive” not merely about “sex,” which is a fairly broad term, but about sexual objectification of women. Because sadly, in our culture, a lot of sex (or sexual media) is centered around the female-as-sex-object paradigm.

    IMO, this is totally different from the Nude Photo Revolutionary thing–Rebecca doesn’t live in a context where women are explicitly penalized for showing our faces. She lives in a context where women are allowed to show our faces, provided that we’re also content with showing our breasts (or at least having them commented on).

  13. says

    A couple of things. Yes, Maryam’s calendar is a different matter. Rebecca said that, so I didn’t bother saying it again.

    This “sex-positive” trope – I’ve never liked it because I have never seen second wave feminism as “sex-negative” and I resent the implication, and also the big helping of self-flattery. “They are sex-negative but I am sex-positive.” Yeahno.

    “I am my body.” Well literally, yes, but what then? What follows from that?

    It depends, doesn’t it. For athletes and dancers, for instance, the body really is central. For writers? Not so much. Yes, literally, I am my body, but that doesn’t mean I want to talk about it a lot or display it a lot or display it naked ever. It doesn’t even mean it interests me very much.

    Of course some athletes are also writers; some writers are also athletes; fine. But not everyone does everything, so just saying we are our bodies isn’t particularly a reason to be in a naked calendar.

  14. Aratina Cage says

    I understand all the points she makes but I don’t agree that people should stop making nude calendars just because of the hostile climate in which we find ourselves. What I heard from the slimepitters and other MRAs and their supporters relating to this (and to the Wild West Bordello themed party) was that she was being a hypocrite now by having in the past encouraged the sexualization of women and sexually objectified herself. In short, I heard this:

    I had shitlord after shitlord emailing me to tell me that I have no right to complain about being groped or propositioned at conferences because I posed in a calendar for skeptics

    So I went back and looked. And what I found was people, many already friends, having a good time. People playing. People making art. I saw this:

    Despite all the work, it was a lot of fun – dressing up and taking artsy black and white pin-up photos with your friends? Fun. Definitely. (Source: The same article on Skepchicks)

    I don’t think anyone should have to give that up. Real damage has been done here by the MRAs and the like with their slut-shaming and their objectification of women.

  15. melody says

    I hold the same unpopular opinions as you do, Ophelia. I keep my mouth shut, because I’ve been called sex-negative too many times. I am pro-sex, sex-positive, but anti-objectification. Identifying sexual objectification is where most younger feminist and I disagree.

  16. says

    Aratina – yes but. I think the thing is…it’s the old intent isn’t magic problem. Rebecca’s explanation of how the calendar started was new to me. The whole thing makes sense now – it was ironic, a joke among friends, a joke about the whole idea of hotties on calendars. I didn’t know that without being told. (Mind you, I haven’t seen the actual calendars; maybe they make it obvious.)

    It’s the kind of thing where irony is very tricky, and that actually may be a reason not to do it. I mean…the fun was fun mostly because of the joke, no? Without the joke surely it would just be a chore. So if the joke isn’t working except for people who are in on the joke, the fun is gone anyway.

  17. godlessheathen says

    Many people have said this already, but I have to chime in with my agreement: It’s time for (most) nude-women calendars in Western contacts to go.

    As Lyanna says, I think sexual objectification often gets confused with being sex-positive. In an environment where women are expected to be covered from head to toe, posing naked is, indeed, revolutionary and political. And it was kind of revolutionary back in the day in the US when women were supposed to be more covered up than they are now. It could be somewhat revolutionary in certain subcultures in Western societies (e.g. Amish), but for the most part it’s not.

    The other reason I don’t think nude calendars are particularly subversive (in the US, at least) is that you can’t divorce the act of selling it from the reactions of the viewers. Your intent might be to empower women, but you’re doing it in an extremely traditional way that caters to the straight man’s point of view.

    Women are still objectified in a way men aren’t, they’re still expected to be ready for sex, they’re expected to look sexy and not have thoughts or opinions of their own. Calendars reinforce the idea that women’s primary function is to be looked at, especially in a sexual way, rather than being full human beings with many aspects to their personality.

    Also, @skeptifem-I’ve been saying this for years, too.

    And @Ophelia, I’m slightly younger than Rebecca, so definitely not from the second-wave of feminism. I’ve never liked these. So, some of us young’uns agree with you. :-)

  18. Lyanna says

    I’m definitely Fourth Wave age, so, yeah. Not just the veterans who have issues with this.

    The “I am my body” argument strikes me as leaning against what is called “sex-positive” ideology (and Ophelia is right about the self-flattering aspect of it, which makes it seem like women who have qualms about porn just hate pleasure on principle). If you are your body, then how can it be good for your body to be leered at, pawed, fetishized, etc.?

  19. Aratina Cage says

    So I’ve got Melody and godlessheathen agreeing, so it’s not pure fogeyism. Excellent!

    Heehee. Just so you know, I never thought it was. :)

    I think the thing is…it’s the old intent isn’t magic problem.

    Ah, that makes sense. I guess what I was thinking is unrealistic in this climate. I would like for women who want to pose nude to not let the haters get them down, but that is not really possible and this kind of thing, posing nude in a calendar, just fuels the fire, doesn’t it? I don’t know. I just feel like we are getting into the area where the women are being told to take precautions and be mindful and all that while the real problem is not them but these assholes who ridicule them for being nude slutty-slut-sluts and hold the women as having given lifetime consent to being leered at no matter when or where or who or how. There is also the hidden point in the hypocrisy accusation (besides “You did it so why can’t they?”) that people don’t really change so this is all a lie, but they do and it isn’t!

    (Mind you, I haven’t seen the actual calendars; maybe they make it obvious.)

    I saw some of the online version. It was intelligent, and yes it was somewhat humorous like the one of Phil Plait or Watson, and artistic and seemed to be distancing itself well from the line where it might be said to be pornography.

  20. nichrome says

    How about this:
    You want to make a naked calendar?
    Good for you!

    You don’t want to make a naked calendar?
    Don’t do it!

    You want to pose for a naked calendar?
    Go for it!

    You don’t want to pose for a naked calendar?
    Keep your clothes on!

    You want to buy a naked calendar?
    Get your credit card out!

    You don’t want to buy a naked calendar?
    You just saved some money!

    What I want to know is what’s up with Kitten Calendars? For goodness sake there are kittens all over the Internet… for FREE! Plus, I don’t like kittens so please STOP making kitten calendars!

  21. Nepenthe says

    The other reason I don’t think nude calendars are particularly subversive (in the US, at least) is that you can’t divorce the act of selling it from the reactions of the viewers. Your intent might be to empower women, but you’re doing it in an extremely traditional way that caters to the straight man’s point of view.

    Indeed. Doing precisely what you’re supposed to do is not revolutionary. I fail to see how it’s empowering, unless one’s contention is that women gain power from being sexual in the standard, patriarchy-approved way.

  22. Nepenthe says

    Plus, I don’t like kittens so please STOP making kitten calendars!

    And here we have the standard strawman of “sex-negative” feminism. As if the reason that a group of feminists–a significant portion of whom are/were lesbian or otherwise female-oriented–are critical of sexualization and pictures of naked ladies merely because they don’t like naked ladies. Does not compute.

  23. julian says

    I fail to see how it’s empowering, unless one’s contention is that women gain power from being sexual in the standard, patriarchy-approved way.

    “Patriarchy approved way” is very nebulous. What’s approved of varies greatly (speaking of the US) from state to state and from background to background. You have the more mainstreamish (likely just more visible) Cosmo style which demands high makeup, thin frames, skirts and low cut tops. You could have the Quiverfull style which demands remaining covered, chaste and silent. Or you could have a third in between those two.

    The ways people “empower” themselves, the ways they shake off all the programming whatever sexist culture they grew up in, vary in as many ways as oppression does.

    If you are your body, then how can it be good for your body to be leered at, pawed, fetishized, etc.?

    Some enjoy being leered at. Some enjoy getting hit during sex. Some like driving another to agony before release.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that when all parties have enthusiastically consented, is there?

    When it’s projected onto all women, when it’s mandated of all of them, there’s a problem. But at the individual level, what’s so problematic about this?

  24. Lyanna says

    julian:

    Some enjoy being leered at. Some enjoy getting hit during sex. Some like driving another to agony before release.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that when all parties have enthusiastically consented, is there?

    When it’s projected onto all women, when it’s mandated of all of them, there’s a problem. But at the individual level, what’s so problematic about this?

    I think you just said it yourself–it is projected onto women generally. Not mandated precisely, but certainly there’s pressure to be available for leering and pawing and whatever else a horny man wants to do to you. Regardless of your desires. Sex in our culture is conceptualized as male-desire-centric, with women as objects of that desire, and without feelings or interests of their own.

    The problem with a calendar is that it’s not purely at the individual level. That is, it’s not just between you and a specific partner (or partners). It’s subject to interpretation by anyone and everyone who wants to read it, and they will likely take a wholly different message from it than you want. And that message is harmful to women.

  25. julian says

    Every personal action we take is subject to interpretation by anyone who learns of it. Something as simple as clothing, wearing low cut blouses or backless dresses, could just as easily send the same message. Should they be abstained from as well?

    Intent isn’t magic and nothing happens in a vacuum. I understand that. What I can’t wrap my head around is denying oneself something you enjoy, are comfortable with or find liberating because some will see it as validation for sexist or misogynistic ideas.

  26. says

    Wait. Something you enjoy, are comfortable with or find liberating is sunbathing naked in the back yard or on a nudism-friendly beach. It’s flirting, or dressing like a hotty and going to a club.

    Doing a naked calendar for sale is a different kind of thing. It’s putting yourself out there in a big way. It’s not just a thing you do; it’s a statement. It’s public.

    Because it’s a statement, it raises the kinds of issues that statements do.

    A statement is not just something one enjoys or is comfortable with or finds liberating. It’s a statement. It’s saying something.

  27. says

    I just feel like we are getting into the area where the women are being told to take precautions and be mindful and all that while the real problem is not them but these assholes who ridicule them for being nude slutty-slut-sluts and hold the women as having given lifetime consent to being leered at no matter when or where or who or how.

    That’s because that’s entirely the case. Changing your behavior to avoid problems that are real isn’t necessarily bad, though.

    I’m not saying do it, or don’t. IF you do it publically, assholes will sexualize you even more. It’s hard for me to see how one could transgress normal boundaries here to actually make the statement that I am a person, free to do as I please. But I’d feel like an asshole telling people not to try. I sure as hell wouldn’t, though.

  28. says

    Ah, my bad for not entirely reading down. Ophelia’s mention on being public is definitely part of my thoughts here. It’s still shit to be policed, though. Ngh.

  29. says

    On a purely personal level, I enjoy seeing people get naked for whatever reason.

    But I understand the message.

    Sigh. I blame the misogynists. THEY are the ones who are really anti-sex. They don’t like sex so much as they like power, and so they make it impossible for women to express sexuality in a way that doesn’t involve capitulating to patriarchal power.

  30. leni says

    @ SallyStrange:

    They don’t like sex so much as they like power, and so they make it impossible for women to express sexuality in a way that doesn’t involve capitulating to patriarchal power.

    Agreed, but we don’t have to let the world revolve around them either ;)

    That’s what I liked about the nude calenders. It was kind of a nice fu to people who, for example, think that calling a woman ugly is the most devastating and novel response to something she’s said.

    I also thought it was brave because holy hell, the shitlords thrive on that kind of thing. That bothered me about the calenders because it seemed like handing the shitlords an excuse, but still I thought it was brave and I can respect that even if it’s not what I would choose to do.

    Anyway, they could have made calenders in burkas and they’d still have gotten the same response from the shitlord brigade, so in some sense it also shows that it doesn’t matter what you do. Shitlords will be shitlords.

  31. leni says

    After a night out, (which they called a “girls night out”), they displayed posters of the Chippendales around the office.

    Ouch!

    Barry, it’s ouch because it’s a gross and rude thing to do.

    I was once warned away from a job I applied for and really, really wanted because a male coworker told me that I could expect to see a lot of porn and photos of naked women posted everywhere. In common areas. On a daily basis. He worked there and was in his 30′s, but most of the staff were older men in their 50s and 60s who just got used to running the show on night shift. It creeped him out even though the pics weren’t personally offensive to him. It’s just gross and rude to inflict that on your coworkers.

    And this was not at some local factory. This was at a very, very well known research facility in the US, the name of which you would probably recognize. I won’t say which because I didn’t check his story, but I know he worked there and had no reason to doubt him.

    That shit is not cool no matter who does it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>