Recently, a blog post titled “My Husband Doesn’t Need To See Your Boobs” has been making its way around various social media platforms. I had given pause to reading it because, frankly, I knew exactly what I would be getting myself into: some misplaced self-esteem issues, some shaming, propped up by some self-righteous religious justification. I generally avoid stuff like that because I find it to be severely limited in its thought process and, should one become actually convinced of what it says, actually damaging to a person.
Well, I summed up the courage the other day and dove in, and oh boy. There’s a lot happening in it. The writer, Lauren Pinkston, is calling for women, young women specifically, to stop putting pictures of themselves in bathing suits on Facebook and Instagram because, you guessed it, “I don’t need my husband to see your boobs.” She doesn’t want her husband looking at other women. Okay, that’s understandable.
But here’s the turn: “I don’t blame you for being confident enough to let the world see how good you look,” Pinkston writes, “…But I want to tell you that it’s a stumbling block in our marriage.” Essentially, she’s blaming whatever insecurities she has about her relationship with her husband (or, going even deeper, about herself) on young women on Facebook and, specifically, their bodies. Her problems are symptoms of a larger issue gaining steam today regarding to how we treat young women. It is an issue that revolves around women and their bodies. And it manifests itself in us blaming women for the thoughts we have about them, rather than reexamining, retooling, and fixing how WE think about them.
Pinkston’s argument is simple, totally messed up, but simple. Young women, she says, are the ones at fault for posting pictures in a bathing suit, and not the potential perv husband (we never hear from her husband. It’s not even stated whether he actually seeks out these pictures or if they just exist in the same internet space as him, but that’s another argument entirely) for sexualizing these women and turning them into objects. The man who is objectifying young women is getting off the hook entirely. In Pinkston’s mind, the responsibility does not rest with her husband but on the “sluts” who are taking these “provocative” photos.
It is an issue that we see in the workplace and in schools almost daily. We hear the administrations of these institutions establish dress codes that limit women’s self expression through clothing as to not “distract the boys”. It is not the responsibility of women and girls to dress in a way that does not distract men and boys. It is the responsibility of the men and boys to turn off the “horny idiot” switch in their brain and not objectify and sexualize their fellow students or coworkers. In schools across the country, people are so quick to call the girl in yoga pants a “slut” (for dressing in, what i can only assume, are the most comfortable pants ever) rather than tell the kid in the back of class to stop staring at her figure and start reading a goddamn book!
Many places have written before about the “slut-shaming” or “body-shaming” trends. It happens to girls and women alike, with girls being removed from prom because of their outfit causing “impure thoughts” in adult men and women being fired for their physical appearance.Pinkston is perpetuating the concept that a woman should be ashamed of her body, that it is something to keep covered up. And if you don’t, you are asking for it from all the boys. She’s just projecting it from the stance of a married woman with perceived relationship issues.
Her argument may seem harmless, but it is the basis of a larger culture of victim blaming and rape culture. This is not an attack on Pinkston, but really an attack on the culture that she is fueling, even if she is ignorant of it. It’s a culture that allows violence against women to continue, a culture that blames victims of sexual assault, discrimination and not the men who commit these crimes.
It is a culture that is fueled by many smaller flames, like Pinkston, but it is a torch carried onward mostly by men looking to offload the blame of their misdeeds onto those they make victims of. Like Jackson Katz says in his TED talk, “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue,” men have the ability to have their voices heard on this issue for all the women that are discounted or shouted over. It’s men that should take up the fight against slut- and body-shaming and bring about a healthy and supportive cultural shift.
Once we begin to really take a look at what we’re blaming women for, once we really dissect where our issues lie (and, trust me, they don’t lie with young women showing you the fun they’re having at the beach), and once men speak up and add our voices to the chorus of the women we support, we can begin to put these movements of shame to rest for good.
*This was a column that begun as a smaller critique by The Beard. After spending time with it, The Bald came in to add his voice and ultimately helped shape it into the piece it is now. You may read this as a collaborative effort between the two.