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.