Nothing seems to draw more outrage these days than people being whoever they are and showing others their least-positive side. Donald Trump’s “blood feud” with Megyn Kelly, Jared Fogle’s proclivity for children and Josh Duggar’s general hypocrisy when it comes to “family values.” All of these guys are scummy assholes who deserve whatever is coming to them. For Duggar and Fogle, it’s likely going to be an unpleasant prison experience.
For Trump, it’s probably going to be a runaway sprint to the Republican nomination for president.
Trump has always been a sexist blowhard. He’s the physical embodiment of the sexist line about dating women: “When they hit 40, you trade them in for 2 20s.” John Oliver’s line about him was spot on when he said that it’s weird to have a beauty pageant overseen by one of the ugliest souls out there.
Beauty, sexism and Trump converged elsewhere this week, thanks to a sorority in Alabama. The Internet caught fire after a columnist at AL.com called a sorority’s recruitment video “worse for women than Donald Trump.” The University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi sorority produced a 5-minute video that showcased the general whiteness, blondeness and fluffiness that their members personified. The video included young women in white dresses and bikinis bouncing around the campus like the pre-nude parts of a Cinemax “After Dark” series. A lot of soft light, blowing glitter and generally vapid crap took place over soft music and promises of “sisterhood.”
Columnist A.L. Bailey called the video “unempowering” and argued that the video “lacks substance but boasts bodies.”
The Alpha Phi house, grandiose and imposing, claims to sleep 72 young women. That’s 72 women who surely must be worth more than their appearances and who can ask themselves if the messages they’re sending are the best and most accurate depictions of who they are.
That’s 72 women who will potentially launch careers on the merit of their education and work among men who were once the frat brothers watching their video.
And that’s 72 women who will want to be taken seriously rather than be called bimbos by those male coworkers.
That’s 72 women who could be a united front for empowerment, not poster children for detrimental stereotypes and clichés.
During filming, did any of them stop to think about what they’d be selling? Did they think they were selling a respectable set of sorority chapter ideals? Did they think they were selling the kind of sisterhood that looks out for all women? Or were they focused on having the hottest video in the popularity contest that is sorority recruitment? Were they satisfied with being perceived as selling a gorgeous party-girl, cookie-cutter commodity? Were they satisfied with being the commodity?
Most importantly, did they realize they are a group of young women blessed with potential who are selling themselves, and each other, short?
The biggest thing that troubles me with this approach (other than the overuse of rhetorical questions), is that the author essentially paints these women as the vapid Buffy chicks they are told not to typify. The author argues that the women who made this thing (which by the way has a production quality that rivals Lucasfilms), never stopped to think “properly” about how they would look and what other people might say about them. They are at the same time accused of undermining feminism and being “stupid girls” about their recruitment approach.
The same philosophy that says women should be who they want, dress how they want and act in whichever way they see fit is being used here to admonish these women for being, dressing and acting in the way they wanted to. The line about how they will “work among men who were once the frat brothers watching their video” is eerily reminiscent of the “don’t dress so provocatively” admonition to women fearing sexual assault.
Just like free speech is about opening up all the lanes and letting people drive as they see fit, rights advocates shouldn’t push for one myopic view of a group to be replaced by their own myopic view. Just because it isn’t what you want, it doesn’t follow that it shouldn’t be out there. I’d tell you to watch the video and see for yourself, but the sorority pulled the video after the uproar.
And it killed its Twitter feed.
And its Tumblr page. And its Facebook page.
So even though the opponents of this group’s video didn’t want the image out there of these women as sex toys and bikini bodies, they apparently had no problem slut shaming them into silence.