“Who let Bettina Arndt out again?” complained someone on Twitter. Yes, someone at Fairfax editorial has enabled this abuser of women, again, to peddle her hatred of “liberated women” in the opinion section.
And just as an aside, haven’t the merry punsters of the subediting profession had a field day with this one. It’s largely (snerk! snerk!) about breasts, you see. So the AGE had “Booby Trap” for the title of Arnd’s outpourings, the SMH had “Busted”: the politics of cleavage”, WA Today had “Tit for Tat”… Hilarious and so original!
Arndt pretty much takes Sheikh Hilaly’s Uncovered Meat and reheats it with a serve of pseudoscience sauce. The issue: women wearing clothing that shows skin, particularly where breast cleavage is involved.
“Increasingly, women feel they are entitled to dress however they like,” she begins. The cheek! It’s time they were slapped down, and Arndt is the woman to do the slapping.
Women “dress provocatively but bristle if the wrong man shows he enjoys the display.” They have their “goodies on display”. (Commodification 101, yes?). They’re “half naked and pandering to the male gaze”, and “proudly proclaiming their right to dress as they wish” (Again! this must be stopped!). They “dress sluttishly just to make themselves feel good”, but they are just “flaunting women’s sexual power” and “making “an “UP YOURS” gesture of the most provocative kind”. They’re “advertising (their) wares to the world” (there’s that commodification problem again, Bettina.) Their way of dressing is “sexual arrogance”, like “like schoolchildren who bring something tasty to class that they are not prepared to share”, but at the same time “an act of aggression in which they use the power of their sex as a weapon”, subjecting men to “constant just-out-of-reach titillation”. Yet they have the temerity to “hate men’s ogling” and “protest (their) caveman shenanigans”.
But what about the men, because you know in the Arndt world of today it’s always What About the Men!
Men are “biologically programmed to scan for life-giving breasts for (their) future offspring” (she’s keen on tabloid-level EvPsych Mars-Venus factoids). But they’re in a “total state of confusion”, due to the womens’ terrible weaponized bazonkas. The “Alpha males” are fine, but For the “Beta Males”, “the whole thing is a tease. They know it and resent it,” They’re “angry”, and most likely to “behave badly”. Serve those teasing women right for making people angry with their agressive breasts, right? Then the “sensitive males” are “wary, not knowing where to look. Afraid of causing offence.” (I don’t know where they stand in Bettina’s alphabet soup. Perhaps being “sensitive” makes you too unmanly to even rate a letter.) They describe cleavage as “a form of biological sexual harassment” and an “assault against men”. Behaviour such as catcalling is only “a defence mechanism used by low-status men against women flaunting themselves publicly”. They find “the constant just-out-of-reach titillation men now face confusing, irritating and even insulting.” Another dude thinks that low-cut garments in the workplace are a deliberate ploy to throw their concentration.
And we know this is all true, because she quotes at least three reliable witnesses, including…Peter Griffin, The Dad in Family Guy.
Oh give us a break.
And if you detect a whiff of threat and rape apology in the above, you’re not alone, although Arndt tries to evade it with the classicly formed “Of course, there’s never an excuse for sexual violence…But…”
I must inhabit a different universe, because in my world, women often wear singlet tops and the like purely for reasons of comfort. And every warm day, we encounter topless males, from loungers at the beach or sporting facilities to builders’ labourers. Out walking the dog in my aggressively harassing tank top and sports bra, I’ll see old guys watering the lawn in their shorts and thongs and nothing else. I envy their freedom to experience the soft breeze on their skin. The closest we get to it is a singlet top, but apparently that’s too weapony. Heaven forbid we ever do something that’s just for us.
And where the motivation is pride in your physique, well, I haven’t notice the more toned topless males and buffed singlet-wearers hold back with their flaunting. Maybe we should make them cover up, too? Ha, ha, joking – women don’t have the uncontrollable, animal libido that makes being visibly female such a risk!
It’s surprising and sad, as a fifty-plus woman, to think back to the 1970s where Arndt was a self-described “sexologist”, which sounded slightly ridiculous then, and still does, and writing alongside libertarians like Greer and Humprhries in Forum magazine, encouraging women and men alike to embrace their sexuality and throw off the old shackles. Now she reads more like a member of Family First. It’s hard to see any merit in this article, but of course, we know what it is: linkbait. And I’ve fallen for it.
More fool me. But there’s more I want to say about this steaming pile, er, article, so there will be a part two of this post.