11 November, 2010

Femininity and Male Entitlement

People ask me a lot why I'm a feminist and/or what sort of issues I'm concerned with. I always find it tough to answer, because there are so many things that raise my feminist hackles, and they're often things that people not sympathetic towards feminism just can't wrap their heads around. So I thought I'd try and demonstrate through examples, from time to time.

Now, I never expected Emma Watson's hair to turn into a feminist issue, believe me. I've been looking at the articles about her haircut (lot of slow news days recently, I'm guessing. When I was a reporter and there wasn't much going on I had to ring the local fire brigade to ask if they'd rescued any kittens/children/grannies/other newsworthy characters recently, but each to their own), out of my own masochistic curiosity; since I have very short hair myself I have a morbid disposition towards reading comments about how she'll now never get a man, because only girls with long hair get laid - if anything, it's nice to finally be given a reason.

Anyway, I'm well-accustomed enough to these sorts of remarks now to have developed a kind of immunity, but this one was different:

"Why are there just pictures of a 10 year old boy in this article?

Im really sorry but she was like the hottest girl on the internet, in the world to be honest, i can promise that MILLIONS AND MILLIONS on guys are just crying and weaping because she decided to do this to her hair...

she is not Hermione anymore, if i was going out with her i would dump her, i really would, she went from crazy hot girl, to 10 year old boy overnight..

i am distraught, she looks awful, just awful ( if you disagree you are likely to have short hair yourself or think its ok but you are wrong because hair like this is reserved for cancer patients and 10 year old boys)"

- James D, Cambridge, 13/9/2010 1:41

I could point out that he has clearly been judging this woman solely on her appearance, and evaluating her worth as human being based on how "hot" he judges her to be, but that's feminism 101, you guys are smarter than to need that explained, right? (I could write a separate article on the Fail's strange obsession with this young woman, but it's not that tough to work out - it's partially owing to her good looks, partially owing to the fact that they prefer their lust-objects to be barely legal - less likely to back-chat, one would imagine - and largely owing to the fact that she's very middle class and moneyed, dontchaknow.)

No, it's the utter sense of entitlement that gets to the feminist in me. He's managed to make *her* haircut all about *him* (in specific, and men in general). The whole tone suggests he thinks she should have been made to run this idea by the male population first. Skipping gleefully past the part where he bemoans that she's "not Hermione anymore" before one of you bright sparks points out that Hermione is a fictional character from a book and TV series, and as such she has never actually *been* her, we get to the part which has been more and more of a regular feature on Fail article comments these days - the classic "well, I'm sorry, but I just don't fancy her!". Like she's actually going to care that some wanker (both literally and figuratively) from Cambridge doesn't want to fuck her; but the intention of the statement is to say "male opinion is more important than your autonomy over your own body, I must be heard and you WILL listen". I don't doubt he also intends his little fantasy dumping of Watson as a warning to other women that they can expect similar treatment from Mr D should they think of trying the same (I'll be crying into the pile of money I get paid to have a short haircut over the loss).

Finally, the most clear example of the expression of male entitlement over female sexuality (because let's face it, that is what this boils down to, sex), his dismissal of the opinion of anyone who "thinks having short hair is ok" - ie, "having short hair is not ok, women do not have autonomy over their own bodies, and must look sexually available (by adhering to male standards of female beauty) at all times".

And all this is further to the nastiness of just leaving the comment in the first place. People don't write nasty comments about men's appearance just for the sake of it, but women are served up by the press on a platter as objects to look at and either praise or destroy as appropriate. Both options being just as creepy and reprehensible as the other.

I sometimes wonder why some men have such a problem with short hair. I think that's a post for another day. With Ms Watson, I can't work out what is pissing the Fail readers off more, the fact that she has defied societal norms and as such has made herself supposedly sexually unattractive and unavailable, or that their favourite fuck-piece has disappointed them all by proving to have a mind of her own. Whichever it is, I do hope she keeps up the good work.


  1. At least he didn't call her a lesbian? Oh noes, woman decides own hair cut! She must be shunned! Shun!

    Fuck's sake. I know it's petty and silly, but it's so bloody pervasive - this attitude of appearance and lack of autonomy.

  2. 1. Her haircut is sexy
    2. I agree with everything you wrote in this post
    3. I've always wanted to shave my head but never have almost entirely because of worrying about the consequence of social norms.
    4. My hair is normally between chin length and shoulder length and the few times I've had it longer than that I've felt sexier and I don't know why. I wish I didn't, but I do.

  3. I have short hair and I am fascinated and annoyed at the reactions I get. The most common reaction from women is, "oooh, I love it. I wish I could cut mine, but I'm not that brave."

    I remember the Daily Bigot wrote an article about the meaning behind short hair which really peed me off as it assumes that there must always be a psychological reason for choosing it. I have short hair simple because it suits my face shape and hair type.


  4. Pennywhistler - I read that article when it first came out, and it will haunt me for the rest of my days. I would love all the morons who contributed to that piece to meet the stylists I know at Vidal Sassoon - fists would fly.


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