Do women’s bodies exist for the benefit of men or children?

woman's head replaced by a black balloon

It’s hardly news to point out that advertising often involves women’s bodies. According to sociologist Stephanie Baran:

…[M]ost advertisers rely on the old adage, ‘sex sells.’

Nothing “sells” quite like a woman’s body, particularly her breasts.

…[I]n patriarchal culture women are meat and are to be consumed in a variety of ways. Therefore, advertising is, in a sense, visualized patriarchy—the actual visualization of patriarchal ideas and social norms.

Baran approvingly offers this quote from a colleague:

Women’s bodies exist to be consumed by others, either as sexualized for the pleasure of men or as “designed” for the nurture of children.

“…[D]ominant gender ideologies, as exemplified by the media, consistently paint women as sexual objects, highlighting their bodies as being mainly for the pleasure of men instead of as multidimensional (i.e., including both reproductive and sexual functions).”

It seems to me that Baran got it only half right. Here’s what I would say:

Women’s bodies exist to be consumed by others, either as sexualized for the pleasure of men or as “designed” for the nurture of children. Women have no right to make choices about their own bodies since their bodies exist for others’ enjoyment.

This is the up to the minute iteration of the madonna-whore dichotomy.

The women’s movement has made us more sensitive to the deliberate sexualization of women for the enjoyment of others. We are currently experiencing a watershed moment in our recogniztion of such sexualization and the damage that it does to women.

The recent revelations that powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer thought that women’s bodies were there for the taking has dominated the media despite the fact that there is nothing new about this behavior; indeed the behavior of many of these men has been an open secret for decades. What’s new is that women’s claims are finally being taken seriously; they are no longer being gaslighted (told it didn’t happen), no longer being counseled to simply accept it as the price of having a job, no longer having their concerns dismissed as the “normal” behavior of men.

Are we finally willing to accept that women’s bodies belong to themselves, for the enjoyment of themselves and for them to protect from being used by others? Hardly.

The dominant paradigm for mothering today, natural or “attachment” mothering, rests on the foundational belief that women’s bodies exist for the enjoyment and nurture of children.

Women are pressured to endure the excruciating pain of childbirth for the “benefit” of the baby. Women are pressured to breastfeed for a year or more for the “benefit” of the baby. Women are encouraged to forgo employment because they must stay in close physical proximity to their babies 24/7/365 for the “benefit” of those babies. When they express unhappiness they are gaslighted, counseled to simply accept it as the price of having children, or told that nature “designed” them for this task.

What about the benefits of the mother? Surely you are joking. Any woman who dares imagine that she has a right to avoid pain, a right to control her own breasts, a right to consider her own needs is pathologized as weak, lazy and selfish, the epitome of the bad mother.

The belief that a woman’s body belongs her children and not herself is rationalizaed by an appeal to nature. This is supposedly what women are “designed” to do. It’s further rationalized by ideology dressed up as science; but natural mothering is a subversion of science, cherry picking scientific findings to justify the pre-existing ideology that women’s bodies belong to others.

Breasts offer the archetypical examples for the way in which women’s bodies are supposed to exist for the benefit of men and children, but not for women themselves. Indeed, the issue of public breastfeeding is represented as a conflict between the needs of men and the needs of children.

Lactivists howl that breasts aren’t sexual; they don’t exist for the benefit of men (who supposedly sexualized them) but for the benefit of children. Disapproving busybodies insist that breasts exist for the titillation and enjoyment of men and therefore they should be hidden in polite society.

The idea that women might not want their breasts to be viewed the property of men to be ogled at will and to be groped by harassers is never considered. The idea that women might not want their breasts to be used as milk dispensers by babies is never considered. For most people the assumption that women’s breasts exist for the benefit of others is never even questioned. The only issue is who is entitled to benefit more, men or children. In other words, the only thing we need to know about a woman is whether she is a madonna or a whore.

But the madonna-whore dichotomy is a false dichotomy, not simply because there is no need to choose between the two, but because neither is accurate. A women is a PERSON and she is the ONLY one entitled to determine how her body is used. Women have the right to use their bodies for themselves and we must stop shaming women for simply treating their bodies as their own.

  • HailieJade

    This sums up perfectly my frustration with the public breast-feeding debate! The woman’s wants or needs never even enter into the discussion. It is always about either men or babies. The fact that bottle-feeding mothers get shamed just as much, if not more, in public proves beyond a shadow of doubt that the discussion was never about feminism vs patriarchy, but rather prudes vs lactivists. One of the many reasons I will never have children: You cease to be a person in the eyes of society the second you become pregnant. The grief I get now for refusing to perform my womanly “duty” by supplying my partner with children is nothing compared to what I’d be dealing with if I actually did.

  • I am somewhat uneasy about the current hysteria, for several reasons. Men are being “tried by media”, and, in more than a few cases, “sentenced” by losing jobs, etc. BEFORE any charges are formally filed, let alone come to court.
    Secondly, as was shown by several high-profile cases in the past couple of years here in Israel, women made allegations to the press first, and men’s lives and careers were damaged, only for it to emerge later that the women had exaggerated or even lied about the “sexual harassment” after behaving in dubious ways in order to get job promotions, etc. and only reported the men’s behavior when they didn’t get what they wanted. In other ways, it was a form of blackmail and/or extortion.

    There is undoubtedly sexual harassment, but there is also reason to be cautious when literally years go by and then large numbers of women jump out of the woodwork in what can only be called “she said/he said” allegations, since any proof of deliberate male wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior has long vanished.

    • mabelcruet

      Yes, I can see where you’re coming from. Mariella Frostrup in the Guardian dealt with a readers question recently along these lines-the woman concerned had had a male colleague put his hand on her knee, and then at a later date started a consensual relationship with him after her marriage ended. She later left the company but got a good reference from him which is still on her LinkedIn profile, and now is thinking of complaining about harassment (about the hand on her knee initially). The readers comments were a very broad spectrum of views.

    • Who?

      I share your concern.

      There are clearly some cases where ‘everyone knew’ about certain behaviour, and it was tolerated because the man involved was a good earner for the business or very high profile or whatever other commercial reason, and the women (or men) on the receiving end were expendable and easy to replace. Ultimately it is about money and power, and whether the behaviour is frank bullying, or whether it has a sexual aspect, the issue is the same. If that behaviour is to stop, businesses must fear the repercussions of keeping on badly behaved staff more than they fear the loss of money/influence or whatever if that person goes.

      Also, the sexual stuff didn’t really have a name back in the day. The first time I experienced what clearly was in retrospect ‘sexual harrassment’-handsy interactions and sexually charged remarks-was from a union rep in a casual job when I was about 20, back in the early 80s. Did I like it? No, so I asked him, loudly, to not touch me. A lot of other workers there were women, and not happy that I called him out. As far as I know, nothing happened to me or anyone else other than he stopped interacting with me. Perhaps the permanent staff couldn’t complain for fear of losing their jobs? It never occurred to me at the time that I could have lost mine, or that if it had been escalated I would have been out the door, though in retrospect that was probably a risk I ran.

      As it is, the people doing the complaining now are taking some power they didn’t have previously. Let’s hope it pays forward to better behaviour in future.

    • ForeverMe

      I only want to point out that when a man loses his job over allegations of sexual misconduct, his employer has surely looked into it and are privy to details that we are not.

      • You might be surprised at how seldom this is often the case. In my world, at least, who’s more replaceable? A well known surgeon, or a nurse? She just quietly is assigned elsewhere.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          I knew a very successful surgeon; I also knew some of the women he’d harassed. He wasn’t the one who had to move on.

        • Daleth

          I agree that it seldom happens, but I think ForeverMe’s point was that when it DOES happen, you can rest assured the employer knows a lot more than you will ever see in the papers.

    • Sheven

      I understand your concerns, but your reasoning has some major problems. First of all, when you speak of “charges,” you are talking about a criminal charge. Most of these are not criminal matters. They are civil matters. Most of the time, a person isn’t sued for sexual harassment–an employer is sued for creating a work environment which tolerates harassment. Employers try to avoid this by implementing guidelines about workplace conduct and dismissing employees who have been accused by several people of sexual harassment. Usually an employer does an internal investigation before firing someone, but there rarely is physical proof of harassment. What would that even entail? You can’t prove someone put a hand on your ass, unless you get your ass fingerprinted. The “proof” is multiple people coming forward, giving similar accounts, and demonstrating a clear pattern of sexual harassment. That’s what’s happening in the papers.

      In other words, in the real world, employers routinely dismiss employees after several of their coworkers make complaints–public or private–of sexual harassment. This is not a matter in which a court model applies. Trying to make it apply is not fair to the victims.

      • Who?

        So true. My friend is a (very) senior manager with a major company, who felt a hand on her butt after a work event. She turned around to find the hand belonged to another senior manager. She had a word with him, the hand was removed, and everyone moved along.

        A middle manager approached her and asked if she was planning to make a complaint about harrassment-no, she said, that would involve days in the company of HR, and life is too short. The middle manager shared that he had a number of junior female staff members copping the same treatment, and worse, who were too scared to complain, despite his encouragement to do so.

        So my friend duly complained, did the time with HR, and after an internal investigation, the senior manager was ‘let go’ a couple of weeks later.

        The victims kept their jobs, and a menace found himself without one. A good couple of days’ work for all concerned.

        • Sheven

          One of the major takeaways from this whole incident is, “If it happened to me, it has happened to five other women. As soon as my complaint hits the papers, others will validate it.”

          • Who?

            Indeed. My friend was the ideal complainant-very high personal credibility, no fear of losing her job, the abuser had no power over her, and she had a witness. The younger women came out of the woodwork when they knew a complaint had been made and was being taken seriously.

      • The point I was trying to make is not that male-on-female sexual harassment doesn’t happen, because of course it does. But when a woman flirts or even makes it clear she will sleep with a man, ostensibly because she finds him attractive, and then asks him to promote her, or a similar scenario, and, when he doesn’t, she runs to the press and blames him for sexual assault, that man’s life and career are damaged, nevertheless. And I’ve seen it happen. Happens a lot in the world of hospitals, btw.

        Just look what is happening now to a highly respected major music conductor. The man is in his late 70s, nearly crippled from chronic severe back problems, and he’s being accused of sexual impropriety that occurred DECADES ago.

        It’s out of all proportion, and both men and women need to step back a bit. Men need to be more careful in their interactions with women — and women need [all to often] to stop sending subliminal messages that it’s all right, indeed frequently encourage such “friendly” gestures.

        • Who?

          Relationships, and what is currency in relationships, is complicated. The grasping younger woman is just as much of a cliche as the lecherous older man, and each is at the end of a spectrum.

          Rather than being more careful in their interactions generally, men would do better to wonder why an attractive young woman might be pursuing a much older bloke, often married. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

          The fact that someone is old and sick now doesn’t mean his past
          behaviour is beyond reproach. We have a Catholic archbishop here in
          Australia who is claiming he is too ill with Alzheimers to face court in relation to
          his part in hiding child sexual abuse issues decades ago, but not so ill
          that he has to step down from being archbishop. That’s not going down
          terribly well, though I doubt the church will ultimately bat an eyelid.

          • Roadstergal

            Exchanging sex for promotion is a bribe.

            Even if this happened more frequently than men using their power to assault women – and I strongly doubt that – it’s kinda the role of a manager to resist bribes. Men are capable of proffering them, too.

        • Anj Fabian

          Women need to stop sending subliminal messages?

          Everyone should be held to the same standards of professional and ethical conduction. Why is it women specifically who need to stop sending subliminal messages?

          • Perhaps because, since women have been traditionally regarded as “powerless”, they have been taught that underhanded tactics are more likely to succeed.

            IMO, both genders need to stop playing games.

          • Claire

            Internalized misogyny is an ugly thing to witness.

          • Sheven

            Oh good. I thought I was the only one seeing it. I mean, I get it. Women are human beings, and are therefore capable of the full spectrum of evil including deceit and manipulation of public perception. But “subliminal messages”? “Underhanded”?

            You see headline after headline about harassers who jerk off in front of victims (who are often men), grab them on the ass during photo ops, use secret buttons to lock their offices, and your answer is “both genders need to stop playing games”?

          • StephanieJR

            And victim blaming.

          • Sheven

            You realize that a lot of the people in the papers are being called out by men, right? This isn’t even about two different genders, really.

          • The allegations currently being made against James Levine are by men and took place 50 years ago [1968]. I think it’s absurd to allow so much time to pass; there should be a statute of limitations. At this point, it is just being vindictive, IMO.

            In 1964, I was at an NYU frat party, had a bit too much to drink, and had to extricate myself from what might have been a “compromising” situation. In 2017 I should get the names of the boys who behaved inappropriately and run to a newspaper and denounce them? Let’s keep a sense of proportion about this, please.

            My father spanked me when I was 7. The parallel situation is that, if he were still alive, I ought to denounce him for assault and battery. C’mon.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            It’s really depressing to read this, Antigonos.

            What if you hadn’t been able to extricate yourself? What if the frat boy had raped you? What if the police had refused to believe you?

            It seems very ugly to make light of a situation just because you never personally experienced it. That was not a matter of skill on your part; it was nothing more than luck

          • I went to that party of my own free will, and if I had a few too many beers, I should have been more careful about my drinking. In other words, I should have taken more responsibility about my own actions. That doesn’t mean the boys shouldn’t have behaved better [indeed, it was one of the frat boys, less drunk than the others, who took me home]

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            What about women who get attacked when they are not drunk, for example when they are working?

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            It doesn’t matter it they are drunk. It doesn’t matter if they are passed out. No one has any right to touch you if you either don’t want them to or can’t consent. I have been drunk off my ass and the people I was with gave me aspirin and a glass of water and a couch to sleep on, alone. They were drunk too.

          • KQ Not Signed In

            Unconscious people don’t want tea.

          • Sheven

            What the hell idea of life do you have if one of the actions that make you partially responsible for an attempted rape is going to a party of your own free will? Or having a few beers at a frat party? People have been talking and writing about going to parties and getting drunk since the beginning of time. It’s in the goddamn Bible. It’s in ancient Egyptian texts. It’s one of integral experiences of life–go to a party, get a little drunk. Nearly every culture in the world has it. And in your opinion, it’s one of the things that make women partially responsible for being attacked?

          • Roadstergal

            I mean – is there a limit to the crimes that are excused by the victim being drunk? Is theft covered? Non-sexual assault? Murder? Treason? Barratry?

          • Sheven

            Had to look up barratry–thanks for the new word! I would also wonder what Antigonos would make of the situation if, instead of assaulting her, two of the frat guys had pinned a third frat guy down and raped him. Should he have expected it for freely coming to a party and drinking? What if she’d found a guy who was drunkenly passed out at the party and repeatedly penetrated him with something. Would it be partially her fault for doing it but also partially his fault for being drunk and coming there in the first place?

          • KQ Not Signed In

            What a load of victim blaming bullshit! I have lost SO MUCH respect for you in this thread, Antigonos. It would be sad if it wasn’t so infuriating.

          • No. No and no and no again. You should be able to go to a party and have a few beers and have a good time without having to worry about being raped. The frat boys are 100% responsible for their actions, both good and bad (attempted rape and intervention in the attempted rape). The only thing that causes rape is rapists. Not booze, not drugs, not even other people having sex in the same room.

            You did nothing wrong. You went to a party. You had some drinks. The boy(s) who assaulted you did all the wrong, and none of it was your fault in any way, shape, or form. Take that internalized misogyny and tell it to shut up, because that is a wrong lesson and one that is extremely toxic.

          • Roadstergal

            The actions that the boys have to take responsibility for – putting their penis inside of someone’s body without that person’s consent.

            The actions that the woman has to take responsibility for – owning a vagina and not having it on _active vocal_ lockdown 24/7.

            The idea that there is any comparison between the two makes me feel ill.

          • I agree. If–God forbid–my daughter goes to a party when she grows up, has a few drinks, and is raped, I will want the heads of those rapists on a platter so I can pee in their eye sockets.

            But when my daughter grows up, I will tell her to be careful about when and how she drinks, when and how she walks alone at night, and other situations. I don’t want her to be raped.

            I’ll also counsel my sons on being careful when they grow up. Not careful as in, will they accidentally rape a woman–they’ll bloody well know how to treat their fellow human beings with basic decency–but careful as in avoiding fights, avoiding situations where they, too, could be hurt (including being raped). So they need to be careful when and how they drink, too.

            As the world stands, however, my daughter will be more vulnerable than my sons. She should know that. I don’t think it’s helpful to conflate advice as to being cautious with victim-blaming.

          • Who?

            Be savvy, is the advice.

            Show some respect for yourself, for your friends, and for the people you encounter. Even-especially-when for whatever reason they aren’t showing much respect for themselves.

            Stick with your buddy; have an exit strategy and stick to it.

            Be aware that sometimes good people do messed up things, and don’t feel you have to do anything you don’t want to to ‘fit in’.

            And when someone says ‘no’, respect that.

          • Agreed, on advise vs. victim-blaming. But Antigonos is victim-blaming; she is saying that she should take personal responsibility for drinking too much. And that is just … no.

          • I’ve done stupid things too–walked home a mile from the Metro at night along unfrequented roads while drunk (brother’s birthday party). Nothing happened, thankfully. I will tell my children that this was STUPID and they SHOULD NOT DO THIS, period. But if someone had attacked me, the fact that I had made a stupid decision would in no way mitigate their guilt.

          • FallsAngel

            Frankly, speaking from experience, I wouldn’t tell the kids that if I were you. Every time you talk to them about being careful, they’ll say “But mom, you did (XYZ) and you’re OK”.

          • FallsAngel

            Everyone should be more careful about their drinking. “She was drunk” is not an excuse to commit rape.

          • Roadstergal

            My then-boyfriend raped me almost 20 years ago. Things were going badly in the relationship, it was clearly on the outs; he started to have sex with me, I said no, clearly and audibly, he went ahead anyway. I could have gone to the police. What would have happened? It was the ’90s, he was my boyfriend, it was my word against his. I would have gone through humiliation and mental pain for no outcome.

            If a woman comes forward today to say he raped her, I’m going to come forward to support her story with mine. At that point, do you say I’m lying? Or do you just say it was my fault for being alone in a room with him?

            I was molested by a relative when I was 8; he put his penis on my genitals and came on me, multiple times over the course of a few months. Was I sending out subliminal signals to make him come on to me? Should I have been more careful about being alone with relatives?

            I was slipped a Z-drug and assaulted when I was having a drink on my own at a hotel hot tub and reading a book.

            Oh, but that was clearly my fault. I shouldn’t have been at a hot tub having a drink, and I certainly should have packed up my stuff and gone back to my room when I saw there was a man around. Even the first guy who came to soak for a bit and was just a nice conversationalist and a possible networking opportunity.

          • FallsAngel

            OMG! There are no words! Congratulations on being a survivor!

          • Sheven

            So telling the world that someone groomed you is vindictive? What’s the adjective for fucking a fifteen year old boy? Is that worse or better than “vindictive”?

            If you want to tell the papers what the boys did, you certainly can. It sounds like you don’t, but if you did why shouldn’t you? As for your father, spanking is legal. But again, you can chose to talk or not talk about it to whomever you please.

            Who do you think is owed silence? Why do you think one person in these encounters has *more* of a right to decide who gets told what when than the other? If someone comes up and hits me in the face, I can talk about it now. I can talk about it forty years from now. I can talk about it to my closest friend. I can talk about it to a reporter for the New York Times. When you have an experience it belongs to you, and you can talk about it whenever to whomever you wish.

          • StephanieJR

            Not to mention, coming forward fifty years ago is far different than coming forward now. It was wrong then, it’s wrong now, and people should be held accountable for harassment, molestation and rape, no matter when.

            It’s not being vindictive; it’s getting justice.

            Many sexual predators, male or female, have multiple victims, and all it takes is one person coming forward, sometimes to the press, to start a flood of accusations; I guess it must be easier, when you know you weren’t the only one.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I want to know what’s wrong with being “vindictive” against someone who done you wrong?

          • MaineJen

            You know, I’ve heard people trying to defend pedophile priests using this same argument: “It was so long ago! Why bring it up now?”

          • Heidi

            I don’t know what you mean by “spank,” but YES, if your father was abusive, you can decide at any time you weren’t okay with that and do as you please about it. I say this as someone who didn’t realize I underwent mental and physical abuse as a child until I was in my late 20s. As a child, I thought I deserved the abuse and believed this was an acceptable way to treat children. I remember saying things like, “I was hit and turned out fine!” Except it wasn’t fine at all. I am still not at a place that I can confront my parents about this and I’m 33. I still don’t know what I want to do. Some days I never want to see them again, but others I’d rather just tolerate them for brief periods so I don’t have to hash out extremely painful times in my life. If I decide at 50 the right thing to do is cut them out of my life, I can do that!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            My experience was with the BigFatNun(TM) in 2nd grade.

            I wasn’t thinking at the time how dealing with the abuse was affecting me. I didn’t even think about it in terms of “dealing with the abuse.” I wasn’t thinking, “This is some serious physical and mental abuse.” I was just trying to deal with the situation and the fear.

            Now, more than 40 years later, I think about how the trauma stands out for me. I don’t remember much of first grade nor third grade, but for some reason, I can’t forget how I felt in 2nd grade.

            And yes, I stew over it.

            Would I be vindictive? Just give me the opportunity. I suspect BFN(TM) is dead, but over the years, I think about how I would respond if I found out she was alive. If I knew she was, and where she was staying, I wouldn’t hesitate to send her a nasty letter, and let her know what harm she did to me and to others.

            I don’t care if she is old on her deathbed. I hope she died regretting it all with tremendous pain. She fucking deserved it.

            Should we let it go after 40 years? It still haunts me. I hope it haunted her for her whole life.

          • Roadstergal

            If she’s changed, she’ll take it as a welcome opportunity to apologize and try to make amends.

            If she hasn’t, she deserves a little vindictiveness.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            If she’s alive, she’s probably 90 years old.

            And if she’s actually changed, then she knows what she did was wrong, and she shouldn’t blame me for how I feel about her.

            I don’t care for her apology. It means nothing to me. I hope it tears her to pieces.

            Her apology won’t take away the hurt she caused.

            Why would I want to make amends?

          • MaineJen

            You sound like you have 100% bought into the madonna/whore trope. Not a good look.

          • I don’t think it’s one or the other. But, like divorce stories, there are two sides. If a woman thinks she’s being sexually harassed, she should file a police complaint, not run to the papers or the nightly news.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            Sexual harassment is NOT normally something that is handled by the police. Many harassers start with something subtle and you don’t think much of it at the time until it becomes a pattern or escalates, and at work harassment is often downplayed by the harassers managers (that’s just the way he is! he doesn’t mean anything by it! you are making a mountain out of nothing!)

            Also if you are in a male dominated career and you make an official report that someone is harassing you, you may then be seen as not being able to do your job(aww the little lady can’t take it) and it affects the trajectory of your career.

            https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/11/26/female-sports-reporters-sexual-harassment-media-circus

            “When a female sports reporter who works for a major East Coast outlet was new to the business, an MLB team employee asked for her phone number, which he said was for another media outlet that wanted to have her on one of their shows. Turned out, it was for a starter on the team. She didn’t know this until the player started calling and texting her, asking her to send photos and to talk to him before games. She tried to explain the boundaries, but he kept contacting her regularly, despite her pleas to him and to the team employee who had passed on her number. “

          • MaineJen

            Yeah um…the problem with the “two sides” argument is that it BREAKS DOWN when one of the sides is a full grown man who has money and power and can cause you to be fired and never work in your field again on a whim…and the other “side” is a much younger woman (or girl. or boy.) with NO power, who knows that if they speak up, there will be dozens of people like YOU who come forward and say “Well, you must have been asking him for it. You’re just trying to sleep your way to the top. You were using your eyes to send subliminal messages! There were two people involved here, after all.”

            Really. This makes me so mad, I could scream.

          • Sheven

            Yeah, that was crazy. We’re sending subliminal messages that mean it’s all okay? Subliminal meaning “below the level of consciousness”? What does that even mean, other than someway, somehow, women are always to blame. And what about all the harassers who are being called out by men?

        • Sheven

          It seems like what you’re trying to do is throw everything and hope some of it will stick.
          Attempt One: This stuff needs to be proven in court!
          Answer One: No, it doesn’t. Although we need to verify claims, a court model doesn’t work.

          Attempt Two: “But when a woman flirts or even makes it clear she will sleep with a man, ostensibly because she finds him attractive, and then asks him to promote her, or a similar scenario, and, when he doesn’t, she runs to the press and blames him for sexual assault”

          Answer Two: That was in no way what we were talking about. It seems like an empty accusation, which supposedly you are against. If, however, you can find as many articles about that happening as there are current articles about harassers, that might be a separate topic.

          Attempt Three: “Just look what is happening now to a highly respected major music conductor. The man is in his late 70s, nearly crippled from chronic severe back problems, and he’s being accused of sexual impropriety that occurred DECADES ago.”

          Answer Three: What are you even talking about? First, he’s accused by men, not women–so why do you keep framing this issue as women versus men? Second, so what if it’s DECADES ago? So if you were harassed decades ago, keep silent? If you get away with something for forty years, it’s just fine? If it’s true, he should have been fired then. He got forty years of a prestigious career for “free,” as it were. He should be grateful. If it’s not, the Met is currently investigating, so they can keep him on staff. No one wants to fire him. They’d dance a jig if they found out the accusers were lying.

          Final Remark: “Men need to be more careful in their interactions with women — and women need [all to often] to stop sending subliminal messages that it’s all right, indeed frequently encourage such “friendly” gestures.”

          Final Answer: If this is your reaction, you have some hatred of women that you need to work through. I’m serious. See someone. Did you notice that I framed my first answer as “employees, employers, harassers, victims, accused, accusers” and you only talk about women versus men, even when the alleged victims themselves are men? Why are you doing this?

          Secondly, most of the harassers in the paper weren’t “not being careful”. They were masturbating in front of people, grabbing their asses, walking in on them naked. Please tell me the “subliminal” signal that makes that okay. And tell me, what “subliminal” signals–subliminal being something that is below the threshold of consciousness–are we sending? How are we doing it? Can you be specific? Or does it begin to sound like a desperate attempt to blame women (and only women) for the behavior of harassers?

          At first, I thought you were simply worried about standards of proof. The fact that as soon as we dealt with that you dove into conspiracy theories about women lulling men into sexual relationships with “subliminal” signals and then running to the press and blaming him for sexual assault (not sexual harassment, sexual assault) shows that you’re not. I don’t know what problem is bothering you, but you need to deal with it.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          Well in the case of James Levine the person he apparently groomed and sexual harassed was a teen aged boy(14 when they met and 15 we the alleged behavior started), not a women. James Levine would have been in his 40’s at the time the alleded abuse took place. Apparently the boy was very disturbed by some of the things that happened and told a relative. Two other people have come forward to state that the same thing happened to them at the hands of the same person when they were teenagers.

          http://abc7ny.com/entertainment/conductor-suspended-over-sexual-misconduct-allegations/2733169/

          And why should I care that the person they say abused them happens to be old now or that they are a “revered conductor”.

          It is general BECAUSE people are famous, revered, and considered a “giant” in their field that they get away with this behavior for so long.

          It’s also why many people don’t come forward at the time.

        • Roadstergal

          We have a good solution for that at my work. My manager, her manager, the director of the group, and the VP over them are all women. So the issue of poor hapless men being targeted by promotion-hungry women throwing out subliminal messages is neatly circumvented.

          If the lesson is ‘men can’t be trusted to maintain a professional relationship or make good employment decisions when it comes to women,’ then they have no business in management and/or leadership positions.

          Or, you know – the men who are hiding behind that argument need to grow up.

          • maidmarian555

            It’s that kind of thinking (men can’t be trusted to maintain a professional relationship with women) that holds women back at work. If you can’t join your colleagues for an after-work beer, if you can’t have a meeting over a coffee, if you can’t be alone in your boss’s office with him then you’re missing key opportunities to build relationships and progress your career. My last job involved managing about 15/20 partners and a LOT of 1-2-1 meetings with men. It was made slightly easier in that I was the project manager (so held the power) but if I couldn’t have trusted that partners would be respectful and not try and grab my knee at meetings I wouldn’t have been able to do my job. If my boss had felt that would have been a problem, I’d never have been given that job in the first place. I’ve had run-in with creeps during my working life, I think all women have. The vast majority of men I worked with never attempted to grab my arse or make inappropriate comments. Which suggests I wasn’t accidentally giving ‘subliminal messages’ to the handful that didn’t know how to behave at work. They were just fucking creeps.

          • Who?

            A lot of wives are very uncomfortable with their husbands working with younger/attractive/intelligent women, in case the women ‘steal them away’. Yes, I know women who really think their husband is such a prize that the scheming hussy down the corridor is bound to make a move on him.

            The corollary of that is of course that husband straying wasn’t really his fault, with said scheming hussy in the picture. And that said scheming hussy is the problem.

            It’s almost like he isn’t the one who made the wedding vows. I truly don’t understand that line of thinking.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Yeah. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if women come on to me. I’m married. I made a vow to my wife.

            If a woman can’t trust her husband around women at work, the problem is not the women at work, it’s that she can’t trust her husband.

            And you can quote me on that.

          • Well, this is it, isn’t it? No one has thrown you over their shoulder and taken you off and raped you. You are as capable as the other party in saying “No”.

            When I’m assisting in a Caesarean Section I don’t expect the surgeon to say to me “You really have the most beautiful eyes” as we’re closing the peritoneum, and I’m not going to comment on some aspect of his appearance in a flirtatious way.

          • maidmarian555

            And who wins in this situation? If a wife can’t trust her husband to work late with a female intern? Oh yes, that’s right, men win. And women are prevented from getting a foot on a ladder that might mean that one day they’re the one deciding which intern to hire. Women like the wife in that scenario perpetuate patriarchy.

            FWIW I’m now a SAHM (not really by choice but that’s how things are atm). I have NEVER worried about my OH joining his colleagues after hours. Scheming hussies are a thing, they do exist but the reality is they are very few and far between and frankly, he’s the one that’s made a commitment to me and our children. If he were to choose to break those promises well that’s on him. I also don’t understand that line of thinking- the idea that men are such children they can’t be trusted to control any sexual urges they might have but must also be the ones who are in charge of everything important just doesn’t make sense. Either they can cope with the responsibility of power and all that entails or they can’t.

          • Who?

            I know, it is so wrong and I just don’t know how to move it forward. I’ve been hearing about it for thirty years, and I don’t think we’ve moved forward at all on that point during this time. I’m the same, happy for my husband to catch up with colleagues when he wants to or can, I wouldn’t dream of thinking he’s up to no good, or is susceptible to them if they are.

            I never got involved with any married men back when I was single, though I have been hit on by a few in the workplace and outside it over the years, both before and since I was married.

            Curiously though, as I think about it, my friends (that I am aware of) who did have affairs with married men ultimately ended up marrying men who in their turn, cheated on them. So maybe there is something to Antigonos’ point about signals, though the married men who’ve hit on me have never been at all subtle about it, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t sending out ‘take me now’ vibes.

          • maidmarian555

            The most recent guy who ever made me feel super uncomfortable at work was married. I really don’t think (and actually find it offensive that someone would think) I was giving off ‘subliminal messages’ though. He was just vile and had an enormous sense of his own entitlement. If it was my doing I would have thought I would have had a problem with way more men than just him (I did have bother when I was younger but I’m quite tough and used to go straight to my manager, which I know many women don’t feel able to do).

            I do feel like we take one step forward and twenty steps back as women in the workplace. I’m not even sure that even a fraction of these women that “sleep their way to the top” do so because they feel like they have any other choice. Men need to sort their shit out. Seriously. If you only promote people that you like with your penis, then your should NOT be in charge of anything. Ever. And women need to stop bashing other women that try and make patriarchy work for them in whatever twisted way they have to. The whole system is rigged against us right now. It needs to change. And that won’t happen if we’re just fighting each other instead of the boot on our necks.

          • Who?

            That guy sounds like a flat out creep.

            I know a number of women who had a lot of sex with quite a few people (or with one person in particular) on their way to the top. Did it help or hinder them? I can’t honestly say. Every single one of those women is also scarily smart and capable and monumentally hard working, which should be enough on its own to get to the top. There will always be those who can’t help sharing the opinion that they ‘slept their way’ to where they are. They can’t prove it, the women-despite their evident suitability for the roles-can’t disprove it, and the rumour mill grinds on.

            Nepotism seems to have fallen by the wayside as the reason for other staff’s failure to progress. It’s hard these days to parachute an unqualified family member into a business, unless it’s big enough to absorb the strain of an underperforming employee.

            Perhaps the ‘sleep your way to the top’ attitude is just the next iteration of nepotism-it explains the rise of someone the speaker finds incompetent, or more likely, less deserving than them. And says way more about the speaker than either of the people referred to.

          • Amazed

            It depends. In your field, it might be so; in mine, I’m considering my readiness to stop working with a client because finally, I got stuck with someone along the chain who I think slept her way to the top. In fact, not quite – she jumped straight to the owner’s bed. Why do I think she did? Because she’s incompentent, she doesn’t have the education that is needed, she doesn’t have the things that are a must in our field, because I’ve seen what she does when I got unlucky enough to have her in the second stage after me. She doesn’t improve my work. She makes it worse by not only not improving where improvement is needed but actually changing things by the sole reason that she hasn’t heard that they exist. Big words and so.

            I don’t actually find her less deserving than me because I don’t want her job -I adore being a freelancer. I will only win in one way if she gets down her dais – I might actually get someone competent to follow after me. Or not. I can’t do the job she’s supposed to be doing. The problem is, she can’t either.

            Perhaps the “sleep your way to the top” attitude is sometimes because someone actually sleeps their way to the top and the speaker (or the thinker since I don’t really discuss it with people) is rightfully pissed because someone is trying to take advantage of them, use the quality of their work for their own gain and try to squeeze them for ideas that they could present as their own?

          • Cat

            I find it interesting that it’s always perceived as “women sleep their way to the top” when, in my personal experience, it’s as much a case of “powerful men who want to fool around in the workplace usually target much younger, more junior women who have too much to lose to rock the boat”. Sure, there are probably plenty of such relationships that work to the advantage of both parties, but I’ve also come across a lot of senior men who very obviously view young female trainees desperate to get a job on qualification as their personal hunting ground, and it ends badly for the woman as often as not. In one case, the young woman would have ended up unemployed if an even more senior female colleague hadn’t gone in to bat for her. Despite always having had excellent appraisals, she’s now widely regarded as having “fucked her way into a job” – and you’re right, female colleagues played as big a part as male in destroying her reputation – whilst the guy, who is married and has “form” for that kind of behaviour, came out of the incident just fine. I don’t even think most of these guys are bad people, really – it’s just a case of too much power and money, too much booze and the corporate environment creating a toxic culture of entitlement.

          • Amazed

            I kid you not, I received the explanation that he needed to get laid when he wouldn’t get it from me. Period we’re talking about: two or three months. Reason: I was in the clutches of hormonal disorder that left me with a very painful and copious period two times a month and my libido was down the drain, together with my good cheers, honestly. I got accusations that I was invading on his private space. Was I? Yes, of course! I had all reasons in the world to believe that he was crowning me with a pair of splendid horns. You lose your right of private space and be believed automatically when you start lying to me very obviously.

            I know and believe that the scheming hussy was a reality in our case. She was a fellow student of ours who flirted with him right in front of me. Did it matter? Not one bit. HE was the one who was in relationship with me. I was the one who, in a few years, might have found herself with problems in a pregnancy and he would have felt justified to seek sex elsewhere, instead of being there for me. It did not suit me, so this was the end.

            A year later, I had a visiting professor stop me after class and ask me to model for him. He saw me as Psyche. Or Virgin Mary. I didn’t think twice. I agreed. I now think I never thought twice because the fact that he was about my grandfather’s age (well, almost) automatically prevented him from having any thoughts in THIS regard. How wrong I was! It was the most awkward one hour in my years at the university and although nothing happened “technically”, I would actually count it as a harrasment now. For the rest of the year, I lived in fear that this might affect my grades since I didn’t know how his were counted in the general amount of grades and he was friends with our regular professor. Not cool. I didn’t react adequately but it was not cool. This elderly man turned out to be the next creep who was attracted to the contrast between a young girl’s head (purity) planted on a woman’s body (lust). I find such desires very disturbing, yet I got them all the way before my face finally lost some “innocence”. I refuse to think *I* was sending conflicting vibes. The rest of them professors, elderly and not, managed to hear the vibes of my core and not looks just fine.

          • maidmarian555

            I am firmly of the belief that these ‘subliminal messages’ and ‘conflicting vibes’ are merely shorthand for ‘being the owner of a vagina’ in most of these cases. Sorry you went through that, so many of us women have these sort of unpleasant experiences lurking in our pasts.

            I remember reading this crazy feminist piece a few years ago (the MRA lot like to dig it up from the bowels of the Internet as proof that feminists are all evil every once in a while) where the writer speaks about her vision of a future where women run everything and we keep men on farms to do the donkey work and use for breeding purposes when they’re required. At the time I laughed at it and thought it was nuts. Having read so many of these awful #metoo storied this past month, I’m not so sure she wasn’t on to something.

          • Amazed

            I think it’s worse. I think there are people who have their instincts tuned to vulnerability. I believe that in the professor’s case, I was sending a subliminal message, of the I’m young and timid, it’s really important for me to get good grades and your reputation is safe with me kind.

            Given the fact that a friend of mine was harrassed sexually by a female professor of hers, I am not sure it’s just men who should do the donkey work. I think it’s these who prey on people in a weaker position. Honestly, the worst bullies of professors I’ve had trying to run me down at the university were women but since they were women, I now think I must have felt safe from them in sexual aspect which in turn let me show that I wouldn’t be intimidated since I knew my stuff. One of them literally pored over my work in front of me, determined to find mistakes (not typos) to show me that my confidence in my own abilities was way overblown and it wasn’t possible for me not to make mistakes (in case you’re wondering, I mean my native language). I can totally see them harassing male students. I am sure they considered me a pompous, self-presuming bitch but after a few attempts to catch me unprepared and not knowledgeable, they stopped.

          • In the ultra-Orthodox world, NO man and woman not married to each other will be together in a room with the door closed.
            My rabbi’s wife, who is a psychiatric social worker who works for a haredi counseling service, took rabbinical advice on what to do, as she was involved in counseling which was often intensely private. The door to her office remained open, but the antechamber door carried a sign “Session in progress — do not disturb” with the door open a crack, to preserve the proprieties.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            You think there is no rape in the Haredi community?

          • I agree with that.

        • MaineJen

          This is really troubling to read, Antigonos. You honestly believe that the allegations being leveled against all these men are….what? Unfounded? Somehow the women’s fault for sending ‘subliminal messages?’ (whatever that means) Have you read some of the accounts? The “highly respected major conductor” had affairs with underage boys. The high profile men who have lost their jobs have been accused by multiple women/men of multiple instances of harrassment or outright rape, or both.

          In all cases, a man in power forced himself on someone without power. That’s not okay.

          • No, I don’t. But neither do I think that every man is a sexual predator and every woman is as pure as the driven snow.
            You are assuming that “in all cases a man in power forced himself” — don’t you see that that is a rush to judgment without due process as well? Some of these allegations are undoubtedly true; but I wouldn’t claim that all of them are simply because someone says so.

          • FallsAngel

            Years, probably decades ago, when the pedophile priest issues were getting a lot of publicity, my church did some research into the problem of clergy sexual misconduct. They concluded that the pastor was always in the wrong, regardless of the situation, because s/he (usually “he” according to the research) was the person with more power.

            In the case of the music conductor, who was more powerful, the conductor, or the teen boys?

          • Daleth

            Some of these allegations are undoubtedly true; but I wouldn’t claim that all of them are simply because someone says so.

            What makes you think it is “simply because [the victim] says so”? Most of these accusations are absolutely not along the lines of “woman or boy says they were assaulted, and the accused man denies it.” If you were paying attention to the responses of the men accused, you would know that.

            Let’s start with Harvey Weinstein. The ONLY thing he denies is rape. Every other skeevy violation he perpetrated, he hasn’t denied. I also note that he hasn’t sued his former company for wrongful termination, and that he has checked himself into some expensive sex-addiction treatment center.

            Louis CK? He’s admitted it all.

            Kevin Spacey? When Rapp said Spacey tried to have sex with him when he was 14, Spacey said he didn’t remember the “encounter” but added, “I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” Do you think, if someone you DID NOT sexually assault publicly accused you of sexually assaulting them, that your response would be “I don’t remember assaulting you, but I owe you the sincerest apology”? Spacey was basically saying, “Yeah, I might actually have done that, but I must have been really drunk, and I’m sorry.” Of all the accusations, the only one I’ve heard Spacey actually deny is the one from Richard Dreyfuss’s son: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2017/11/07/kevin-spacey-scandal-complete-list-13-accusers/835739001/

            I could go on and on. How are you aware of the media coverage and yet somehow not aware that for the most part the men accused are not denying it, or only partly denying it?

        • fiftyfifty1

          “But when a woman flirts or even makes it clear she will sleep with a man, ostensibly because she finds him attractive, and then asks him to promote her, or a similar scenario, and, when he doesn’t, she runs to the press and blames him for sexual assault, that man’s life and career are damaged, nevertheless. And I’ve seen it happen. Happens a lot in the world of hospitals, btw.”

          Happens a lot in the world of hospitals? As a physician, I call total bullshit. I’ve seen some affairs between coworkers. But women tricking men into having sex with them, asking for a promotion and then running to the press? Hell no. LOL.

        • Chi

          I want to address this subliminal message bullshit.

          It is a sad truth that from a very young age, most women learn that they need to be wary of men. Much the way you’d be wary of dogs after being attacked by one.

          They learn that seemingly ‘nice’ guys can turn into abusive, terrifying assholes at the slightest hint of rejection. That (like dealing with a growling dog) unless they move slowly, speak calmly and put on a ‘friendly’ face, they risk being attacked and hell might just get attacked anyway if they try to slip on by.

          Don’t believe me? Check out this tumblr thread:

          http://whenwomenrefuse.tumblr.com/

          So, we learn from experience and through the experience of our peers to be careful around men. And we have to be DOUBLY careful in the workplace. Why? Because the guy who grabs your ass every time you turn to leave the room could have you fired and you just got your foot in the door of your chosen career. Or they can assign you to the worst duties/projects if you give them lip.

          In other words, it’s entirely likely that women are being ‘friendly’ out of self-preservation. They’re NOT flirting, they’re not sending subliminal messages that they’ll sleep with the guy (although once they get away with lewd comments/groping they usually escalate).

          If a man CANNOT tell the difference between friendliness and flirting, the problem is NOT with the woman, it’s with him. End of story.

  • Kerlyssa

    JEsus christ, this. My breasts are not FOr aNYONE. This is an extension of getting out of harassment by bringing up your husband or boyfriend; no, I have rights, to be free of harassment. Me. Not my owner and their property.

  • Gangle

    All of this! I breastfed my daughter and now my son. But my breasts don’t belong to them ( or my husband). They belong to me. I CHOOSE to breastfeed and I choose when I’m ready to stop. If another mum chooses not to breastfeed for any reason whatsoever then good for her.

  • mabelcruet

    I’d also add the attitude towards women who don’t have children. I’ve experienced this when in conversation-the usual response to finding out I don’t have children is ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ I’m not sorry-it was my choice and my life, but the default position is that my worth as a woman is intrinsically linked to my reproductive capacity.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Exactly. Women without children are seen as lives waiting to happen. The quality of their lives is disregarded. Their accomplishments are disregarded. If they are childless they must be unfulfilled, they must not understand “real love”, they must be selfish, they must be stuck in a perpetual immaturity. The stereotypes go on and on. This hurts childless women. And it hurts women with children too. Even if we continue to work, a “good mother” is expected to proclaim that her child’s smallest accomplishments are far more important to her that her own. No matter what, women are supposed to agree that motherhood is “the most important job in the world.”

      • Steph858

        Reminds me of a moment which I found hilarious. My son was given some kind of ‘Super Star for Best Behaviour from the most Amazingest Kid Award’ by his preschool. I showed this to a friend, and she did the usual cooing. Then I said, “Y’know, I think they give those certificates out not so much on the basis of who was the best-behaved or achieved the most or whatever, but mostly based on ‘Which kid’s turn it is’.”

        The look on her face was priceless. A mixture of ‘What kind of heartless mother would say such a thing’ horror and ‘But I know it’s the truth, so how to I argue she’s wrong’.

        • Dinolindor

          I like how my kids’ preschool doesn’t make any pretenses about it – the previous week’s “star” draws a name from a bucket. Totally random, and it’s more about a chance for a bit more elaborate show and tell.

    • Chi

      And on the flip side of that is the pro-birth anti-abortion brigade. To them, as soon as a woman becomes pregnant, she loses all right to her body and becomes nothing more than a walking incubator.

      Didn’t want to become pregnant? Too bad, you shouldn’t be having sex you filthy slut. Oh you were fulfilling your duty to your husband? Well then it’s just god’s will that you fulfill your biological purpose.

      You were raped? That’s too bad, but you shouldn’t punish the kid for the sins of the father.

      Etc, etc, etc.

      Because even today there’s still this attitude of how dare women actually enjoy their lives and sex? And very much an attitude of, well if you get pregnant it’s YOUR problem, when it takes 2 to make a baby. Why is the onus always on the woman to not get pregnant? And what happens if she’s having consensual sex with a man, he slips off the condom mid-coitus and she doesn’t know and she gets pregnant? How is that her fault?

      It’s awful how, even today, we are STILL reducing women’s worth down to the functionality of their body parts.

    • Steph858

      To give those people the benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re confused as to the difference between ‘childless’ and ‘childfree’. Especially if you just said, ‘I don’t have children’, I can see how they could make the wrong assumption as to which category you’re in.

      • StephanieJR

        True; when I hear ‘childless’, I think of ‘loss’, that you want a child but are unable to, for whatever reason, have one, and I am sorry for that, and hope that you can gain a child, one way or the other (IVF, surrogacy, adoption, etc). When I hear ‘childfree’, I think of people like me, whom have made the choice, for whatever reason, to be ‘free’ from children, and are perfectly happy with their choice.

    • Caylynn Donne

      I am childfree / childless, however you want to phrase it. I never wanted children, but honestly, given the severity of my endometriosis, it’s doubtful I would have been able to conceive even had I wanted children. Many people who have children often comment with contradictory statements, saying first that I’m selfish (not quite sure how that works, but I guess because I’m not willing to sacrifice my time, money, etc. to have children makes me selfish) while at the same time telling me that I’ll regret not having children when I’m old and in assisted living or long term care since I won’t have anyone to come visit me. Umm, wouldn’t it be more selfish to have children, just so I could have someone come visit me if I should live long enough?

      Not to mention, I know plenty of elderly individuals who have children but are seldom, if ever, visited by said children. Having children is no guarantee that they’ll want to visit you or look after you when you are elderly, even if you are not a poor parent / psychopath / narcissist.

  • StephanieJR

    Welp, as a childfree asexual woman, I must be their worst nightmare. Does this mean I have superpowers?

    • They’d just write you off as a freak of nature.

      • Russell Jones

        If they try that bullshit, StephanieJR will destroy them all with her superpowers.

        • StephanieJR

          I have the magical ability to not give a fuck.

          • Who?

            I am working on that superpower.

      • fiftyfifty1

        I wish people would just write childfree and asexual people off as freaks of nature and leave it at that. But instead they ascribe to them all sorts of negative personality traits.

    • mabelcruet

      You’re an android (probably)

      • StephanieJR

        That would certainly explain a lot. I worry about the mad scientist that made me, though. Must be in a mental hospital by now.

    • Spamamander (no mall bans)

      If you find out what those superpowers are, let me know. I have an asexual panromantuc daughter who has no desire for kids and if we can reap some awesome powers out of this…

      • StephanieJR

        I have since discovered that I can fly and turn invisible. Goodbye, friends, I am now off to fight crime.

    • Steph858

      Asexual? Nah, don’t think you’ve got any superpowers, I’m afraid. Homosexuals, however, have the power to control the weather and tectonic plates.

      (tinyurl.com/ya6uwlcx for anyone who doesn’t get the joke).

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    “Lactivists howl that breasts aren’t sexual; they don’t exist for the benefit of men (who supposedly sexualized them) but for the benefit of children. Disapproving busybodies insist that breasts exist for the titillation and enjoyment of men and therefore they should be hidden in polite society.”

    You’ve articulated what has always bothered me about the “free the nipple” movement and the idea that breasts should be desexualized, but I couldn’t put my finger on. The concept that breasts could be sexual, for the breast owner, never enters into the equation.

    • Liz Leyden

      Some women simply don’t want to expose their breasts in public. My area has a significant Muslim population. The same people who want to “free the nipple,” and scream that nursing covers are oppressive, practically fall over themselves to defend the rights of women who choose not to expose their hair in public.

      • Zornorph

        I’ve never understood the liberal rush to defend a religion which is about as far from ‘progressive’ as you can get.

        • Jim Desjardins

          Christianity?

          • Zornorph

            Seriously? You’re following me over to the Skeptical OB?

          • Jim Desjardins

            Seriously? You’re posting anti-Muslim crap publicly and whining about someone responding?

            Grow up.

          • Zornorph

            Delete your account.

          • Jim Desjardins

            GFY.

          • Charybdis

            What are you babbling about?

      • Jim Desjardins

        Defending the right of women to make a decision themselves about how much of their own body they are comfortable showing to others… what a concept!

      • Who?

        Those people could choose to mind their own business on both subjects. Which would be a vast improvement.

      • Oh FFS, there’s an easy answer. Women who want to nurse in public can. Women who want to use a nursing cover can. Women who want to wear hijab can. Done!

        • Who?

          And let’s do the women in both cases the courtesy of assuming, until they tell us otherwise, that what they are doing is their will, and at their own volition.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I loved an ad campaign in, IIRC, Quebec a year or two ago. There had been a big pushback against women being allowed to wear the hijab in certain workplaces, including hospitals. Quoth at least one Quebec hospital, in trying to recruit nurses: “We care about what’s in your head, not what’s on your head.” (Basically, “if you want to wear a hijab, cool. If not, cool. We want good nurses. Period.”)

        • Merrie

          Yes… I have no interest in exposing my breasts in public beyond what is required to breastfeed. I don’t like wearing skimpy tops even. I don’t really understand why other women would want to expose themselves in this fashion. But if they want to, I feel that should be up to them.

      • LaMont

        Well, *forced* coverups are oppressive. Free the nipple all you like – it’s absurd that a man’s chest is ok in public but a woman’s isn’t. Men should control themselves no matter what parts of her body a woman chooses to display or not.

        • Who?

          I was told off for breastfeeding in a cafe in front of a pile of newspapers, on page 3 of which were photos of topless women.

          The irony escaped the person telling me off.

          • Steph858

            Given that the newspaper to which you are referring often runs ‘Pedo Hunt’ stories on page 2, directly opposite a Page 3 photo of some scantily-clad actress underneath an ‘X Days till she turns 16!’ headline, I’m not surprised that many people fail to see the irony and hypocrisy present in such attitudes.

    • Cat

      The same for the idea that a woman might want an elective c-section because she’s scared of potentially sustaining birth injuries that might damage her own ability to feel sexual pleasure, rather than because she wants to stay “perfect” down there for a man’s benefit. One of the most vicious comments I ever read online from a natural birth advocate was along the lines that “women who have c-sections only do it because they want to maintain their porn star vaginas for their husbands who spend all their time jerking off to porn and want a fuck dolly rather than a wife”. That’s news to me: I’d probably describe myself as asexual in that I’ve never had or wanted a sexual partner, but my body is sexual for me, and I’d be very sorry if that ceased to be the case (sorry if TMI!).

      • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

        Totally agree, it was one factor in my decision for MRCS. Apparently I’m supposed to feel very, very bad for wanting to preserve the sexual function of my body, because that couldn’t possibly be for MY benefit and enjoyment!

        • StephanieJR

          Don’t you know, women aren’t allowed to enjoy sex! /s

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I’ve also encountered the notion that it’s simultaneously okay, if a bit misguided, to want to preserve the state of one’s vagina for one’s husband’s benefit, while totally unacceptable to do so for one’s own benefit.
          Sigh…

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    there is nothing new about this behavior; indeed the behavior of many of these men has been an open secret for decades. What’s new is that women’s claims are finally being taken seriously; they are no longer being gaslighted (told it didn’t happen), no longer being counseled to simply accept it as the price of having a job, no longer having their concerns dismissed as the “normal” behavior of men.

    I don’t know if heard about Randi Zuckerburg’s incident on an Alaska Airlines flight, where she had to endure a flight with a creep sitting next to her, doing things that creeps do. Actually, she complained about his behavior and comments before the flight even took off, and was told to deal with it. This was actually a frequent flyer and apparently he behaves like that all the time.

    It gets worse. Instead of “dealing with it” they offered to move her back into the coach section of the plane to get away from him.

    She wrote a letter to the airline, and described this. She says she almost considered doing it, but then realized:

    “[W]hy should I have to move? I am the one that is being harassed!”

    This, to me, was the most important message in her letter, and one that needs to sink in.

    IT’S NOT THE VICTIM’S RESPONSIBILITY TO AVOID PEOPLE BEHAVING IMPROPERLY!

    You hear the same thing in employment sexual harassment cases. “Why didn’t she quit if it was so bad?” The more important question is, “Why should she HAVE to quit her job? The other person is the one who is doing things wrong, why shouldn’t THEY be the ones who have to quit instead?

    Harassment is not acceptable. People who harass others are wrong, and need to stop. Saying, “deal with it” is not addressing the problem.

    What if, instead of offering to move HER back to a middle seat in coach, they threaten to move HIM to a middle seat in coach. In front of a screaming child that is kicking the seat.

    Of course, if you try that all that’s going to happen is that he is going to get pissy and bother even more people.

    The correct answer is to boot his ass off the plane. Apparently, they have done that now as a result of her complaint, but it should have been done long ago.

    Good for Randi Zuckerburg for standing up to it, but she shouldn’t need to. Women shouldn’t have to “stand up to it” in order to avoid being harassed.

    • Charybdis

      I have wondered about this for quite some time and it came charging to the forefront about a year ago.

      At this time last year, I discovered that my son (and a couple of other kids) were being relentlessly cyber-bullied by their classmates as well as being mentally and emotionally bullied in person at school. There was a core group of kids who thought it sporting to tease, harass, make fun of and generally make other kids’ lives miserable. Posting that certain kids “should be afraid to come to school”, “drink bleach”, were “freckled albino freaks” along with some delightful racial slurs, drug references and sexual pictures, etc in their group chat/messaging on Instagram was the final straw.

      We had been having issues for several years with DS being bullied (mentally and emotionally) by this group of kids, but were not having much success with getting the problem dealt with. We counselled DS to ignore the teasing, not rise to the bait, etc, all the stuff you are supposed to do. DS’s grades were starting to suffer because he was so twitched up about what the next onslaught would be. It was the kid version of a hostile work environment. One day, he got pushed too far and called a girl (one of the ringleaders of the bullies) a bitchy slut. This landed DS in hot water, but not the other girl or any of the ones who would gang up on him. Over the years, DS had been well taught/trained by these kids that HE would not be believed when something happened because they would band together and deny, deny, deny that XXX had happened at all. DS’s version of the incident would be the story that didn’t match what the 3-5 other people’s stories were, so OBVIOUSLY he was the one lying. He stopped trying to defend himself because he was never believed.

      I combed through DS”s phone (which he had only had for 2 months when this occurred) and found all the cyberbullying in their group chat. I took screen shots of the worst of them (110+ posts), had DS identify the screen names and took all the evidence I found with us when we had our meeting with the principal about DS’s behavior. I let loose on the principal in a cold fury. I read some of the worst posts out loud to him, showed him the racial slurs, drug references and threats to DS by this core group of kids. I asked him how that was okay, but DS was being punished for finally having enough one day and calling one of the antagonists a bitchy slut. (which he should not have done, but it is understandable, given the level of hostility/negativity/toxic environment. There were consequences for him, via us, so he wasn’t getting off scot free).

      The principal looked as if he had been hit by a wrecking ball. I was showing him concrete proof that he had a gang of bullies operating in his school, that they ganged up on certain kids, made threats, etc, but it was one of the victims who was getting in trouble for finally reacting. Why is it the victims who are punished/receive consequences? Why do the victims have to be the ones to give in, submit, retreat, give ground, back off until they just can’t do it anymore and snap? Why are the victims always made out to be in the wrong?

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        It’s gotta change. The one causing the problem has to be the one to change.

        Interestingly, I can credit our Title IX/Sexual Harassment training for opening my eyes about this. She asked that same question, “Why should the victim have to change jobs to avoid harassment? Harassment is wrong. Punish the person who behaves in appropriately.”

      • Isilzha

        And???? What happened??? I need to know there was some resolution to this!

        • Charybdis

          We pulled DS out of that school (it was a private, Catholic school, so the “sexual overtones” of calling her a bitchy slut seemed WAY more concerning than the bullying) that night. We were getting ready to move, so DS got a longer Christmas break than usual. We enrolled him in the public middle school less than a mile from our new house. It’s one of the top 10 schools in our state, so the academics were more than adequate. He became a different kid. He was (and still is) happy to go to school, has made friends easily, is part of the cool/popular group, is on the varsity wrestling team and is nearly a straight A student (high B in math). No trouble, no calls, no emails, etc.

          I sent the principal my file with all the bullying, threats, racial slurs, sexual content, etc, along with a list of the kids involved and their screen names. I had a meeting with the parish priest and shared all the same information with him. I also forwarded all of it to the Superintendent and requested that they do something before a child ended up injured or dead by suicide. They assured me that it would be seriously addressed, because of Safe Environment, code of conduct and a so-called “zero tolerance” bullying/cyberbullying policy.

          I’m never going to know what, if anything, was done, or if any of it was taken seriously. The “problem” (DS) was gone, so I don’t have any confidence that any of the tormentors would receive consequences. My evil, vindictive side wants to see the tormentors holding poster board signs stating “I was unkind on social media” and listing some of their choicest comments underneath. Have them stationed in the vestibule for the weekly all-school mass, so everyone could read what they said and have them in the same place with the same signs for the Sunday morning mass. I want them to feel the same helplessness, anger and anxiety that they caused my child.

          I content myself with the fact that DS is now happy and thriving and that his scars from the years of harassment/bullying/cyberbullying are not too bad, as far as I can tell. Me, on the other hand, I wish them I’ll. Very, very ill.

          • Isilzha

            Thanks, it’s good to hear that your kid is doing well now. I’m sad that bullying still isn’t treated as seriously as it should be and victim blaming is as popular now as it was when I was in 4th grade. To be honest, I still kinda wish ill on the bullies I had back then, lol. Too bad karma isn’t real. :/

          • Sally

            Your son was absolutely right to call the girl what he did ( I mean, aren’t those good synonyms for her behavior?). As a teacher it frustrates me to no end that schools punish the bullied when they stand up for themselves. More than once I have privately assured parents that their son/daughter did the right thing when defending themselves. We teachers see these lunatic bullies every day..I know I can really only speak for myself, but we hate them too.

          • Bitch, yes. Slut, no. Nothing suggests that the girl was sexually active, and even if she was, there’s no reason to call that a bad thing.

          • Sally

            You’re definitely right about the slut part. However we only make it worse when we treat bullies with kid gloves. They’re not concerned about everyone else’s feelings, why should we be concerned about treading lightly to spare their feelings?

          • The problem is not that the bullied child stood up for himself. That’s great, actually. The problem is that he had clearly internalized really negative messages about sex and sexuality from that school and was regurgitating them in the form of insults. I think that’s one of the reasons he was moved to public school, actually- they teach healthier ways to approach sexuality there.

            It’s not about the bully’s feelings. It’s about what the choice of insult says about the environment in which the boy was marinating.

          • Charybdis

            We’ve always been pretty blunt with DS in the matters of sex, sex education, etc. If he asked a question, we answered it in an age appropriate truthful manner. We live in a conservative state where the “abstinence is the only form of birth control/sex education kids need” mindset is strong/prevalent. As is the “getting my child the HPV vaccine is giving them permission to have indiscriminate sex” mindset. Add to that the “purity culture” that has become disturbingly in vogue, purity rings, “true love waits”, all that business that has become popular in the last few years, anything that has the slightest inkling of sexual overtones is immediately perceived as bad.

            DS was looking to vent his spleen in a manner that affected this particular bully in the same way her harassment affected him. So, he went for the most “loaded” words he could think of (Yay for a large vocabulary!) to strike back at her. ( He’s told me this in this last year). What better way to insult/infuriate/get back at a “good Catholic schoolgirl” than to call her a bitchy slut? I don’t think he has overly internalized the SEX IS BAD OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE mindset, nor does he seem to have bought into the entire “a female’s worth hinges on the presence/absence of a hymen” and “you are dirty/sullied/ruined/undesirable/unworthy if you are not a virgin” mindsets so prevalent in these parts.

      • Who?

        Hope your boy is doing well and the school sorted itself out.

        My experience of schools is that it is very difficult to get them to move on anything. You did well having all the information there-it must have been embarrassing for the principal. It’s his job to know that stuff, which made him, in that room with you, either craven or incompetent.

        Kids who are bullies tend to have learnt their skills at their parents’ knees.

  • Daleth

    This is just astonishingly wrong: the supposedly feminist sociologist criticizes the media for presenting women’s “bodies as being mainly for the pleasure of men instead of as multidimensional (i.e., including both reproductive and sexual functions).”

    Since when is the definition of a multidimensional person their capacity for “both reproductive and sexual functions”? That reminds me of the line from the Blues Brothers: “We play both kinds of music–country AND western!”

    Excuse me but my body’s purposes are not limited to (a) pleasing men or (b) creating and nourishing children. Women are not mere support staff for the world.

    • Helen

      That’s what SO is trying to say when she criticizes that statement.

    • LaMont

      Look, what’s important here is that women can be reduced to their female genitalia. (implicit here: trans women don’t exist, women who remain childless and single are unnatural, and ultimately, men are in charge – after all you do need sperm to make a baby, and a household needs money that YOU can’t get, you brainless set of uterus/vagina/boobs!)

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    On a tangent, those busybodies are freaking annoying. We had one who passed us twice s shaking his head and muttering about dogs on chains. They have tethers attached to their backpacks; it allows them more freedom than a stroller and more safety than running about loose. Mine are both runners. Nobody asked for his opinion, but like lactivists and prudes, he felt a need to share. I thought of a few colorful metaphors for him.

    • Helen

      I had someone — a college-aged student — who complained to me about my toddlers being on leashes. I had very active toddlers and preferred to keep them safe.

      • BeatriceC

        I’m a group on Facebook that’s dedicated to petty rage. Basically, people post about some petty thing that makes them mad and other people either agree or roast them. Today somebody, who turned out to be a high school student, posted about how toddler leashes made her mad. She got roasted hard by basically everybody who’s ever had a kid. The admin eventually turned off commenting after it came out that the poster was a kid herself, but it got pretty brutal after a while. Leashes are becoming more and more accepted, and that’s a good thing.

    • People who claim leashing children is unnatural should be shown pictures of children in the Victorian era. There are little posts set in the ground and the kids are leashed to them- long enough to let the child crawl/waddle a little ways, short enough that they couldn’t reach the (open) hearthfire and fall in. Sometimes there’s more than one child leashed to the same post. They’re very cute pictures in a way, and also sort of disturbing because you could leash the child and leave them alone for a while, but it was the safest thing people could do for their babies around open fires.

      I mean, a lot of these people adore and romanticize the Victorian era. Child leashing fits right in!

      • Liz Leyden

        During the Industrial Revolution, factory workers would tether their young children to the bedpost before they left for work.

      • MaineJen

        IDK if you guys remember the documentary Babies…but the mom from Mongolia definitely tethered her son to the bed when she had to leave the house for whatever reason. Presumably so he wouldn’t roll off and hurt himself. It’s actually a practical solution, if not an ideal one in terms of safety.

      • BeatriceC

        Going back even farther…

        [img]https://i.imgur.com/hx6iUQo.jpg[/img]

      • They are still quite popular in Europe, from what I’ve seen.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          All mine wore body-harnesses with reins when they were small; they kept them from falling out of highchairs, pushchairs (which didn’t have five-point harnesses in those days), prams (which had no built-in straps at all) and carry frames, and when they became more mobile, stopped them running off.

          Hand-holding is uncomfortable for the adult and the toddler, is too easy for the toddler to escape from, and risks shoulder-wrenching if the toddler trips (for that same reason, I hate wrist-straps). The only harness-and-rein related accident I know of was when my little horror of a baby brother, fed up with waiting for the crossing lights to change, deliberately launched himself off the ground, swung in a half-circle on the reins and hit his head off the railings. Still better than being squashed under a car.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            GirlBard had people awwe-ing over her holding her brother’s strap while I was holding hers. Mind you, she’s the 17 mo and he’s 4.

    • Heidi

      I wish mine would take to the backpack. He seems to understand to stick to the sidewalk, but he doesn’t understand intersections so it’s either stroller or having to pick up a 27 lb. toddler who is kicking, screaming and clawing at my face and walking a quarter of a mile home.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Mine ended up being strollered. Back in 1994/95/96 I could not find anything like my Mom had for my brother (a harness with a lease) and I lived in San Diego. As I had no car I was going everywhere on foot or public transportation(bus and trolley).
        People gave me the hairy eyeball as I kept my kid in stroller until she was 5 (she is actually small for her age). Don’t get me wrong we loved walking to the park, to the playground, to the ice cream parlor. BUT, I am not going to have my preschooler falling under the trolley or getting run over by yet another bicycler that is using the sidewalk, when we are on our way to work at 630 in the morning. Busybodies can F off unless they want to carry a crying exhausted toddler AND a couple bags of groceries.

        • BeatriceC

          I keep hearing that the current public transportation system is a major improvement over a decade or two ago. I’ve seen worse, but it’s not fabulous. I can’t imagine trying to navigate it with a kid who wouldn’t take to a harness before the improvements.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            It would have been impossible. I had to navigate public transport with three under-threes back in the eighties. I carried one on my front in a sling, another on my back in a frame, and the eldest rode in a small folding buggy, but had to get out for the actual bus ride. I used to ask for help from other people getting on or off the bus, holding my runner by his rein and handing bags and buggy to them. Without reins, I wouldn’t have been able to go shopping at all.

    • maidmarian555

      My son fell and chipped his front tooth because his Dad *didn’t* use the reigns/tether when he was not long walking. He’s also a runner and doesn’t look where he’s going either. No major damage done and these things happen but those tethers have a place and are great if you have toddlers who want the freedom of walking but aren’t able to stick close or hold your hand (or if you have more than one to chase after). No doubt the same person would have mumbled about how terrible their behaviour was if you’d strapped them both in the buggy and had them screech their heads off because they wanted to walk. No matter what you do, there’s always some dickhead ready to tell you you’re ‘doing it wrong’.

    • Gæst

      As a single parent of twins, I’m a HUGE fan of child leashes.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        Demodocus takes them both out on walks. Neither responds consistently when called, so he’s a huge fan, too.

    • StephanieJR

      With how stupidly fragile and stupidly suicidal small children are, wearing a leash is probably more responsible than letting them run free.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Quite.
        DH and I have a tradition now that when a kid has a birthday, we pour ourselves a glass of wine and toast to keeping them alive for another year. And while we say it with a certain wry humor, we mean it! (Kids are 3 and 1.)

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          Just you wait. By the time the youngest is a teen, if they’re anything like mine, you’ll be able to negotiate the corridors from the ER / A&E to the X-ray department blindfolded.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            *whimpers quietly*
            DS, age not-quite-18-months, learned this afternoon to climb the couch, the recliner, AND the sides of the (gated) stairs. I found this out by glancing into the ostensibly babyproofed living room and seeing my kid standing on the arm of the recliner and rocking it to its full tilt capability as fast as he could make it go, with a look of total joy on his face.
            At the rate I’m gonna need to cover up greys, I should just go ahead and invest in Clairol.

          • Who?

            My son could climb before he could walk. His first words were ‘get down’. We lived a long time with the dining room chairs on the table, industrial strength stair gating, and a child with a lot of bumps and bruises. He survived it, so did we, I’m sure you and yours will!

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            DD (who is just your DS’s age) learned to climb the same week she learned to crawl. She’s just about mastered our steep as hell stair case and has been successfully climbing onto every chair and bed in the house. Including the one her brother needed a stool to climb 6 months ago. Terrifying child.
            Oh, and she just said her first sentence this week. “I go” while trying to open the outside door.

    • Who?

      I don’t know how it is that people can’t muster the energy to mind their own business.

    • Liz Leyden

      I took my 3-year-old twins to Montreal in July for Canada Day. It was festival season in a city where I don’t speak the language well, and Hubby didn’t come. I bought very cute backpacks with tethers for the trip. The kids loved it, and it made getting around much easier on foot. I overheard some comments about “leashes,” but most were “look at that!” A few people asked where I got them.

      • I wish I could have gotten hold of some leashes when my three [only three and a half years between them] were toddlers. Frankly, there were times when I would have bound and gagged them if I could have.
        My youngest granddaughter is just getting to that stage…a giggle, and then she vanishes like greased lightning…

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          For those having trouble finding them, you could ask a European friend to post some to you. They’re popular in Australia, too.

      • Cat

        I’ve had so many compliments from strangers on my toddler’s backpack and harness combo and only one, possibly misheard, insult about dogs and leashes. A member of the security staff at a local shopping centre actually approached me to say that it was a pleasure to see a child being given the space to explore whilst being kept out of danger. I just think it’s a case of all kids being different and you have to go with what works for your particular child’s personality. I’m certain that some children love the buggy or toddler carrier, but mine hates confinement and was insisting on three walks a day from the moment she got her first pair of shoes (but can be a little blighter about hand-holding). Plus, as my mum says, she puts her dog on a harness nears roads because she loves him and would be devastated if he got hit by a car, so why should I want less for my child?

    • FormerPhysicist

      I love those things. Mine have outgrown them, but I would kind of like to leash the 16-year-old. 😉
      They are so much safer for the child than running free into the street, and also put the force where it belongs on the child’s torso, avoiding dislocated elbows and parental bad backs. (I was sobbing in pain after hunching to hold a child’s hand.)