How would people be reacting if it had been a man – any man – who had posted this picture, instead of Ellen?
I posed this question on Facebook the other day, forgetting momentarily that Facebook in 2017 is a website that sucks in just about every way imaginable besides vacation photos and instant messages.
This was the first of two responses:
Of course, that really doesn't answer the question, does it?
1) Obviously, these are a series of photos that make it seem like Daniel Radcliffe had glanced at Emma Watson's breasts on various occasions. Is it really that hard, in 2017, to acknowledge that photos taken from just the wrong angle at the wrong moment can make a glance or a gesture seem more awkward or less innocent than it actually is? It happens literally all the time.
2) I wasn't actually criticizing Ellen for looking at Katy Perry's breasts, as the overwhelming majority of breasts in the world are quite lovely and worth looking at. I was commenting on how Ellen could get away with creating a post like this, whereas almost any straight man would be mercilessly ripped to shreds by feminists for objectification and harassment.
3) Radcliffe himself did not create, caption, or even post this image. What would have happened if someone had taken a photo of Radcliffe staring directly and unambiguously at Emma Watson's breasts, and he posted it with a caption like "HERMIONE HAS SUCH LOVELY BAZONGAS!"? Does anyone really think that a site like Jezebel or Everyday Feminism would just let it slide as harmless fun, as we do with Ellen? Or would we be seeing the words "creepy" and "gross" ad nauseum?
This was the second response:
I mean, there's nothing particularly revelatory here. Most people already know that men are reserved when it comes to positivity toward other men, whereas women are allowed to be more exuberant toward each other. But that hints at the more pertinent issue: that there is a wide range of behavior that is deemed acceptable, harmless, or funny when women do it, but unacceptable, perverted, or disgusting when men do it – and this often extends to things as small as simple appreciation of the female (or male) form:
This is one example among countless thousands. So if the motivating factor for all of the outrage we're seeing is a simple desire for gender equality, then maybe we should also look at why Ellen DeGenerous can stare directly at Katy Perry's "balloons" and nobody bats an eye, but an astrophysicist can't wear a T-shirt with anime characters in bikinis – a shirt given to him by his girlfriend, no less – without being so shamed and bullied by feminists and SJWs that he's not only forced to apologize for wearing it, but also breaks down in tears when doing so.
As I would inevitably be defending myself alone (per usual, on radioactively controversial issues like this), there would be no real way to fight back, regardless of how carefully I made my points. So I just deleted the post altogether instead. It just wasn't worth the loss in social capital, which I am already frequently bereft of.
The next day, while reading an article in The Atlantic, I came across this quote:
Oof. Talk about hitting close to home.
The reason I posed the question in the first place is that with the avalanche of disturbing sexual assault accusations that we've seen over the past few weeks, I find myself also increasingly disturbed by the corresponding think-pieces in liberal publications that are all too happy to use the accusations as an opportunity to use men's libidos as a cudgel to beat us into submission and self-loathing, and tell us that we are all worthless, violent trash regardless of whether or not we've committed any actual wrongdoing. (I would say "then the cycle repeats", except it's less of a "cycle" and more like two waveforms with opposing peaks.)
I've actually been trying very hard to envision what the ideal "end-state" in all of this would look like, regarding gender. "DUHHHH, IT'S THAT MEN STOP TREATING WOMEN SO BADLY, YOU IDIOT!" screams the entire SJW left. Except that this answer still has far too many missing pieces to form a complete and useful picture of where we should be trying to go from here.
The fundamental problem is that both genders are guilty of treating the other gender badly. More often than not, I am sympathetic to the argument that, if one insists on playing the "Oppression Olympics", women have it worse than men overall. Men are both more likely to be in positions of power and wealth (positions that many women still find extremely attractive, despite how frequently they lead to the abuse of that power) – as well as more biologically inclined toward aggression, regardless of status.
But this is why I very frequently borrow a John Oliver metaphor to explain it: A couple years ago, Oliver did a show about the pay gap between men and women. He first cited the frequently-disputed statistic that women make 30% less than men, and then played a dissenting clip from Fox News saying that the gap was really in the single digits. Oliver's point was that the size of the gap doesn't matter: "If there's a pile of shit on your desk, it doesn't matter how big the pile is – the problem is that THERE IS SHIT ON YOUR DESK." Which is a perfectly valid point for men to make, as well: Even if we concede that the "pile of shit" on women's "desks" is larger than the pile of shit on men's desks, [there is still] [a giant pile] [of shit] [on our desks] [too].
So maybe while we're taking a good hard look at what does and doesn't qualify as sexual assault, we should also be looking at some of the double-standards that society holds us to, as well as the mixed messages we so often get.
Because after all, there's a word for people who think that everyone of one gender should just shut up and be silent while the other gender writes all the rules.