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Those Edgy Nude Calendars

Rebecca Watson has a post at Skepchick about the wisdom and usefulness of all those nude calendars. She notes that Skepchick used to do the same thing but stopped a few years ago and she explains the reason why. The post is prompted by the new calendar for Secular Woman, in which several of my friends are slated to appear, but these things seem to be popping up like mushrooms after the rain lately.

She argues that even if the people involved in the calendars have entirely noble motives to empower women and support feminist causes, they still end up “add[ing] 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.” There may be a big difference here between the goals of those who make them and the perceptions of many people who see them. And to that point, she notes:

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). If Phil Plait ever complains about a woman grabbing his crotch at a conference, I’m confident that no one will forward him his entry in the 2007 “Skepdude” Calendar and tell him to stop being such a whore if he doesn’t want that kind of attention.

This is a very good point. She also notes that almost no one actually uses calendars anymore, which is also true. And here’s the other thing: There’s nothing remotely edgy about them anymore.

Here’s the most important one for all the organizations currently considering making a calendar: calendars, and particularly nude calendars, are in no way edgy, interesting, or clever. Everyone has done it, including ambulance drivers, humane societies, rowing clubs, the staff of Marks & Spencer, Mormons, and two different coffin-makers. And as my list near the top of this post indicates, it’s not even special in our niche. There is now an abundance of skeptic, atheist, geek, and scientist calendars.

Lots of my friends, including at least two of the bloggers on this network, have participated in them. And sometimes, I really do get the point, like the nude revolutionary calendar that Maryam Namazie put together to support Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, an Egyptian woman who took a nude photo of herself to strike back at the misogyny of much Islamic culture. I do get it. But I tend to agree with Rebecca that the idea is just played out and it has unfortunate side effects that really do counteract the good intentions. I think there are reasonable arguments on both sides, but I still think it’s probably time to find something new to do.

Memo to asshole trolls: I have no patience whatsoever for those who suffer from Rebecca Watson Derangement Syndrome. It is entirely appropriate to make a reasoned argument for why you think she is wrong (and as I said, I think there are decent arguments on both sides here), but experience has shown that the mere mention of her name almost always attracts assholes spewing the most vile insults at her. If you do that here, your comment will be deleted as soon as I see it and you will be banned. You have every right to be a dick, but you won’t be doing it here.

Comments

  1. says

    I’d like to see a non-nude calendar of women doing science-y and skeptic-y things like digging up mummies, looking in a microscope, dissecting frogs, singing songs at conferences, and beating up Iranian clerics :-)

    But then again, I don’t need a calendar for pics like that.

  2. eric says

    The only calendar I look at any more is a page-a-day one from a comic strip. I’d go in for a page-a-day one that had interesting information about various skeptics and their hobbies, but not pics of their wobbly bits. I’m much more curious about what Neil De Grasse Tyson reads in his spare time than I am about seeing the De Grasse or the Tysons.

  3. says

    I agree with Brett #1. The only place I use a calendar is at work, and an erotic calendar would not be appropriate (aside from the fact that I’m gayer than a tree full of chickadees, and my co-workers would gossip if I put up a girlie calendar.)

    I would love to see a role model style calendar featuring women doing role modelling (Role modelly? Role modal?) things.

  4. Chiroptera says

    Wow. I must be behind the times.

    I try to have several paper calendars hanging where I can easily see them when I am sitting in my usual spots, and I use a physical day planner to chart out my week.

    I don’t have any comment on the nude calendars, though. Even at home, I prefer pictures of late 19th century impressionist art or scenery at natural parks or such.

  5. says

    I think Rebecca is absolutely right on the difference of perception of male vs. female nude calendars (I will never forget the person who acknowledged that he had masturbated to the image of Greta Christina in the “revolutionaries” calendar, but claimed that it still made her a whore and whores cannot be taken seriously). However I think this kind of reaction actually proves that the calendars are still “edgy.” If they weren’t, people would not care about them one way or another. And people obviously care enough to be complete dickwads about them.

    But if the positive response to the calendars is tepid and the negative one is huge, that’s still an argument against making them, right? I suppose so…although her post still came off as slamming the people who choose to make and participate in these calendars. Those people are getting slammed enough by being called whores; they don’t need be told that what they’re doing is tired and pointless as well.

    Or maybe they do. I just don’t want to tell them that. So thanks for doing it, Rebecca….I guess.

  6. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Rebecca Watson Derangement Syndrome

    Gawd, I hope it stops being a thing by the time DSM-VI comes out.

  7. says

    I use a calendar, btw. I have an Extraordinary Chickens calendar up at work, which occasionally gets comments along the lines of “What the heck is that?” I’d probably get similar comments if I hung up a calendar of nude skeptics, but wouldn’t expect to have a job long afterward.

  8. says

    almost no one actually uses calendars anymore, which is also true.

    I still use them! I always get these ones in the mail from environmental organizations I donate too that have pictures of animals and such.

  9. imrryr says

    I’d prefer a calendar of Cassini’s radar slowly peeling back the thick nitrogen atmosphere of Titan. Oh yeah, work those radio waves…

  10. Abby Normal says

    I view the nude calendars as similar to antibiotics. They are useful for knocking out some strains of misogynistic organisms. But other strains are resistant and may even thrive. A different option is needed to treat these calendar resistant super-misogynists.

  11. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    I’d like to see a non-nude calendar of women doing science-y and skeptic-y things like digging up mummies, looking in a microscope, dissecting frogs, singing songs at conferences

    I concur with the sentiment, but I’d rather see a calender depicting scientists who happen to be women doing things like working out the trajectory of some anonymous celestial object, interpreting the results of an NMR spectroscopy test or sequencing genomes.

    Beneath the pictures of women sitting at their desks doing laborious scientific legwork in an unglamorous way would be a caption, something like; “You can’t even read this equation, yet you want to tell ME what I can and can’t do with my own body?”, or something similarly pithy.

    and beating up Iranian clerics :-)

    That wouldn’t fit the theme, but it’d be a nice picture nonetheless.

  12. says

    I agree that a women-doing-science or women-doing-important-things calendar would be preferable but only if the images were real photos of real science/important women in real life. Not like that awful “ Science: It’s a girl thing!” campaign.

    Yes, of course, *real* scientists!

  13. kaboobie says

    Gretchen: Awesome! We get the Extraordinary Chickens calendar every year too. It’s hanging in our living room. I also hang a pug calendar in my computer room.

    Granted, I never write on either one of them, but I like to look at the photos, and it’s sometimes easier to check a date quickly by flipping a page than firing up the iPhone.

  14. says

    I view the nude calendars as similar to antibiotics. They are useful for knocking out some strains of misogynistic organisms. But other strains are resistant and may even thrive. A different option is needed to treat these calendar resistant super-misogynists.

    After hearing about the Kate Middleton thing on the news I indulged in a brief fantasy of some kind of online database that contains nude pictures of everyone on the planet, updated yearly. That way we could just get it over with. People could still be as superficial as they want, but the reality of what they and everybody looks like with no clothing would be there for all to see. This database would be accessible to people of all ages.

    Maybe, just maybe, that would have the following effects:

    1. Peoples’ ideas of how the human form is “supposed” to look would become a little more realistic.

    2. Other photos of naked people would still be valued, but simply because they’re attractive and not because of anything supposedly scandalous about them.

    3. People could appear in these photos without being called whores, because they’re not revealing anything that isn’t already out there for all to see.

    4. Kids could learn that the human body isn’t mysterious. Everybody’s got the same parts, more or less, they just come in different shapes and sizes. And it’s really cool and exciting, but not in a shameful way.

    5. The FCC could just go away.

    Yeah, these things probably wouldn’t happen. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it?

  15. says

    There certainly is a striking difference in the way female and male bodies are portrayed in popular media–such that you can make people laugh (a little uneasily) by reversing the usual roles. There was an SNL fake commercial once in which two gay guys open a beer and thus summon up a chorus of Chippendale-class young men dressed in Speedos. The camera would focused on their genital regions (hilarious, right?)–just like those endlessly repeated breast shots in EVERY TV show, movie, commercial, what not.

  16. says

    Oh yeah. And there would be about a billion photos of naked starving people which just might focus some more attention on more important things.

  17. jhendrix says

    I disagree with Rebecca’s position.

    The problem isn’t “added to” by the calendars in question, it’s a symptom of a bigger issue of women not being given equality.

    If the women in the calendars/movies/whatever are happy to do the work, and don’t feel victimized or pressured into doing it, I don’t see anything wrong with the calendar.

    I think the goal eventually is to have a society where women are as unaffected by semi/nude/whatever calendars of women as men are currently unaffected by similar calendars of other men.

    I do not see how stopping or demonizing said calendars is going to achieve this goal.

  18. kraut says

    I never understood why women in the skeptical community would by into pin up calendars.

    Can see no difference in principle between a hustler pin up calendar and a sceptchick one.

  19. says

    I never understood why women in the skeptical community would by into pin up calendars.

    Can see no difference in principle between a hustler pin up calendar and a sceptchick one.

    If you placed the two side by side, you’d notice some differences. The nude revolutionary calendar, for example, isn’t so much about titillation as a big “fuck you” to cultures that try to control women’s bodies. The body types are not what you’d see in a Hustler calendar, and neither are the poses, because the calendar is about making a point rather than turning you on (although if you’re turned on, that’s okay too).

    That latter part is important though– why should a skeptic, male or female, be inherently opposed to people being turned on by looking at other people? Why should a skeptic be inherently opposed to posing naked, to make a point or turn people on?

    The problem is with people who think that if you turn them on, you’re no longer a person. That what you say and want no longer matters. The problem is with them, not the calendar itself or the people in it.

  20. kraut says

    The problem I have: being male and having worked in environments from laboratories to repair shops, I have seen too many calendars with female nudes to appreciate one more depicting nude women, no matter what the intent.

  21. jhendrix says

    The problem is with people who think that if you turn them on, you’re no longer a person. That what you say and want no longer matters. The problem is with them, not the calendar itself or the people in it.

    This, a thousand times this.

  22. baal says

    Gretchen expressed the views I hold extremely well. There are way too many people with unrealistic views on bodies and the steady media diet of barbie dolls and other 0.1% bodies (almost always also then airbrushed or shopped) combined with abysmal food choices for most makes reaching those (already impossible) goals impossible. The solution is to make it normal for folks to be dressed or not very dressed and have it be unremarkable. So far as the nude calendars work to that end, they are a good thing.

  23. mattyarbrough says

    I use calendars constantly, a busy family with kids we rely on a big wall calendar to stay organized. It is however an organizational calendar. Large boxes, no pictures. It’s a 2’x3′ two month view whiteboard with the boxes grid in sharpie while we change the month and dates as necessary with dry erase markers.

  24. mythbri says

    While I think Gretchen is making some good points, I’d just like to point out that just because one woman finds posing nude (for a calendar or whatever else) empowering and fun does not make it empowering and fun for everyone.

    I don’t think that Rebecca’s post came off as slamming groups of people who would like to make nude calendars. I think that she took the wind out of their sails by pointing out that it’s old hat. It would be difficult for there to be anything “edgy” or subversive in something that has already been done many times over.

    She made what I think was an excellent analogy in the comments of her post:

    But ultimately, I don’t think Western women posing nude actually makes a coherent statement about the inability of women in other parts of the world to have control over their own bodies. For instance, I could go drive a car around New York, but I don’t think it will drive home the point that women in other countries can’t legally drive a car at all.

    She also posted an excerpt typical of the comments she had to block to keep them from appearing in the thread, about how she’s only suddenly against these calendars because she’s trying to hide the fact that she’s a whore.

  25. says

    I’ve lived alone or with male roommates for most of the last 45 years. I’ve seen plenty of naked women in the flesh and in videos and movies. I’ve never, EVER, felt the need to have a calendar with nudes in any sort of pose hanging on my wall. I have thought of sending calendars with tastefully posed nude photos of myself–at the beach, sitting on a split rail fence, holding a “40” of Budweiser or a whoppin’ huge Johnson bar*–with a winsome smile on my fiz, but only to those prudish assholes that irritate me with their moralizing.

    Having said all of that, a calendar with photos of women who are accomplished, talented and confident would be just the thing for a number of people I know to have on their walls–as encouragement or admonishment.

    * http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/1295

  26. Abby Normal says

    Gretchen, I love that database idea, logistical and consent issues notwithstanding. It brings to mind a prediction the Scott Adams, AFC, once made.

    In the future, new technology will allow police to solve 100% of all crimes.
    The bad news is that we’ll realize 100% of the population are criminals, including the police.

  27. Alverant says

    Count me as one of those who still have and use calendars. I have three, a Boris Fantasy Art next to my computer, a Bad Cat next to the front door, and one in the bedroom that is “risque” if I can find one but a sci-fi themed one if I can’t. I have no interest in a revolutionary calander. I one one with pictures I like looking at for a month be it an attractive woman or the Enterprise.

  28. lofgren says

    After hearing about the Kate Middleton thing on the news I indulged in a brief fantasy of some kind of online database that contains nude pictures of everyone on the planet, updated yearly.

    I’ve been saying this for years, ever since I found a picture of an ex-girlfriend’s sister on 4chan and couldn’t figure out if I should tell her or not. Everybody should just post a naked picture of themselves when they are 18 and then nobody will care anymore. And no sexy glamour shots. You go down to the police station without makeup and they snap one picture of you without warning, just like your driver’s license. You’re 18 so you’re probably already looking the best you will in your entire life.

    The funny thing is that even women who have appeared nude in movies end up having candid photos posted to the internet or have men practically climbing up their legs to get a shot of their panties. For a non-negligible portion of the populace, it’s not about titillation, it’s about a lack of consent.

    I posted my opinion in the comments at Rebecca’s page, but this was my conclusion:

    It’s good to occasionally live your life as if you lived in a perfect world, and to remind people that they can do that once in a while too. It’s probably not so good to do it over and over again, willfully denying the obvious fact that we don’t live in a perfect world.

  29. Michael Heath says

    A wise objective is to humanize freethinkers, I don’t see how objectifying some of them helps much, at least strategically.

    One of my favorite science books is Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish. First of course is what I learned about evolution in his book, which was written at a level any fairly bright high schooler that likes to read can comprehend, enjoy, and for some – consider being a scientist. In spite of, and perhaps because of the enormous sacrifice Dr. Shubin and his family went through to do the great science he’s done. But what distinguishes his book from nearly all other science books I’ve read was how he personalized the working part of his life. His commitment, performance, and his integrity to his work and the benefit it gained humanity would make it difficult for all but the most committed authoritarians or social dominators to vilify this guy rather than recognize the enormous contributions he and other scientists make to all of humanity.

    Now I’m not arguing authoring a book is the only media we should use, but I do think pointing out our humanness helps in all media. Just like it helps when gay couples are out in public along with them and their families, or freethinkers fight to protect the speech rights of Christians.

  30. Abby Normal says

    Speaking of the objectification of women’s bodies, a friend just referred me to this Jezebel article about what happened when a picture of a Sikh woman with abundant facial hair was posted to Reddit. If you look past the mystical mumbo jumbo, the underlying ideas are great and the final outcome was just perfect. Some faith in humanity has been restored.

  31. satanaugustine says

    She also notes that almost no one actually uses calendars anymore, which is also true.

    Is this assertion based on anything other than anecdote? I kinda doubt it. Therefore I dismiss this claim and instead assert that most people still use calendars! If someone has a link to a Gallup poll showing that most people do not use calendars anymore, I’ll change my mind.

    I use a calendar (last year’s Skepticon calendar, which features some semi-nude photos, in fact) and my wife uses one. I know others who do as well. I’d be lost without one.

  32. satanaugustine says

    Dear people who still use calendars,

    Nobody cares.

    Thanks,

    lofgren

    But I use a calendar. Now do you care about people who use calendars? That’s right, I use a calendar. So does my wife (uses a calendar, that is). We care that we use calendars. Why you no care if we use calendars and other calendar-using people use calendars? We calendar-users are hurt and offended (so offended that we may burn down an embassy…using calendars of course) by your callous calendar-free disregard for the fact that we use calendars for our calendar usage purposes! Did I mention we use calendars?

    Calendars. We use ‘em.

    PS Calendars!!!

  33. dontpanic says

    A different option is needed to treat these calendar resistant super-misogynists.

    Ah, might I suggest: nuking them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
    .
    .
    .
    .

    I know the type in question are a bit thick so I’ll follow up with the statement: that was a joke. If you didn’t recognize it as such please seek help for your rectal cranial inversion syndrome.

    lofgren,

    Nobody cares.

    Do we now have to infinitely regress on the whole not caring about not caring …? At least those statements that you’re not caring about [e.g. using a paper calendar] are relevant to the OP in that they are explicit rejection of a particular point therein. Though, thinking about it, you did care enough to bother to post, so apparently your comment was self-refuting. What was the point of your Nobody cares again?

  34. says

    Secular Woman’s nude calendar is not “erotic”. It features men, women (including trans). A women breastfeeding her daughter will be included and a pregnant woman. Men in various poses as well. We have old and young, all body shapes and sizes and races. We are showing the diversity in the movement. If a man looks at a breastfeeding mother and wants to objectify her, then we need to start asking all women to not breastfeed outside of their homes.

    Also, 50% of the proceeds go to cancer research, so even if you don’t want the calendar, get another perk (an autographed book, for example).

    Here’s a link to the calendar info: http://www.indiegogo.com/atheist-nude-calendar-2013\

    If you’re interested in Secular Woman whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women, then check us out at http://www.secularwoman.org

    We have an all atheist female speaker’s bureau (including trans). We offer travel grants to conferences. We have great articles about secular women. We are in the beginning stages of state-level legislative advocacy, etc.

    Secular Woman is more than just a calendar.

  35. lofgren says

    What was the point of your Nobody cares again?

    I don’t care that you use a paper calendar.

    I do care that everywhere I have seen this reported, 1/4-1/3 of the comments are some variation of “Well I guess I must be an old timer because I use a paper calendar!” Yeah, congratulations. You’re very special. Keep it to yourself so I don’t have to scroll past 20 posts of people declaring that they use a calendar as if they are somehow going to make themselves into a relevant majority. You might as well make a request for skeptically themed rolodex cards while you’re at it.

    Is that the same nobody who doesn’t use calendars?

    Yes.

  36. satanaugustine says

    lofgren,

    You’ve taken your anti-paper-calendar-using-people bigotry to new lows. I feel sorry for you. You have a paper calendar shaped hole in your heart. Have you even tried using a paper calendar? It’s so deeply fulfilling.

    Seriously though, UFOff. Nobody cares what you don’t care about.

  37. martinc says

    Some cut-out-and-keep pre-written notices lofgren might find handy:

    ——

    Dear Television Mogul:

    Recently your television station broadcast a television show that I had no interest in. Please don’t do that again, as it becomes quite tedious having to sit through the whole thing.

    —–

    Dear Newspaper Proprietor:

    Today your newspaper included a Classified Advertising section. Please avoid doing this until further notice, as I am not planning any purchases at the moment.

    —–

    Dear Storekeeper:

    Some of the items in your store are things I have no wish to buy. Please cease stocking them, as their presence forces me to choose carefully what I want instead of just turning up and saying “give me one of everything”.

    ;-)

  38. leodalion says

    I have two thoughts about this.

    Many women I know have negative attitudes towards the naked male body. The fear of Speedos by N. American men and women alike is an example of it. Personally, I get a bit offended when I hear a woman say something to the extent of “Eww, I don’t want to see a man’s junk in his pants”. Why not? What’s wrong with a man’s package? I’m not talking about wearing spandex to work, but some pants fit analogously to cleavage in a woman’s top. Is this attitude because we teach women to be sexy while not thinking of men in a sexual way?

    Refraining from nudity isn’t going to equalize anything, see Victorian dress for women. I think it’s how we approach nudity that matters. I like the post by “bridgetgaudette” because their calendar seems to be about normalizing bodies vs exploiting them. We are sexual beings and it’s counterproductive to pretend we’re not. Let’s celebrate all bodies (big, little, man, woman, trans, etc) and ignore the misogynists and purists who would berate and belittle us because they will always exist.

    But, maybe I’m just a perv trying to justify my tight pants :S

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