Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dear Mayara Tavares

You opened my eyes yesterday. And not in the way everyone, including myself, who got suckered into O-Bum-a-Gate would imply.

I don't know. I just empathize with your position. And want to apologize for being part of the knee-jerk media monolith (an eensy-weensy small part that sells Snotsicles in the back of the mailroom) reaction.

Because when the picture came out that seemingly captured our President Barack Obama taking a peek at your tush (perhaps elevating you to "ass that changed america" status), some clowns made jokes, some crazies exclaimed how this meant our president was a pedophile, some skeptics skepticized it as a plant by conservatives. Still others wondered why anyone cared either way because guys look at girls behinds all the time.

But no one really wondered about Miss Tavares. No one, so far as i saw, was like: Hello??? Everyone?? Please everybody just shut the f up and think about this young socially conscious and proactive teenager getting to go on what is likely a once in a lifetime trip of her dreams to meet the president -- the new and improved *special* president who represents the face of a new world order -- and how everything is absolutely ruined when your ass ends up circulated around the planet as, uh, the butt of headlines, and now people are slow-frame analyzing your walk, and feeling free to comment on the power rankings of your booty, and every possible reaction you could have except for the one that empathizes with the little girl who just wanted to look nice when she met the president.

so, i don't know... for what it's worth (very little), i was guilty too, but sorry about that.

(uh, and you too, #1 megan fox fan.)




  1. "But no one really wondered about Miss Tavares. No one, so far as i saw, was like: Hello??? Everyone?? Please everybody just shut the f up and think about this young socially conscious and proactive teenager..."

    I know you're probably referring to voices in the "mainstream media" here, but I can assure you there were plenty of people, I'm sure mostly women, who were thinking exactly that when they first heard this story and watched it spread by people with absolutely no consideration for how humiliating and degrading it would be for this young woman, reduced to her ass for all the world to see and laugh at.

  2. Anonymous7/12/2009

    Too late, friend. Damn if this didn't fuck up her mtg the prez.

  3. Anonymous7/12/2009

    Why the change of heart, oh man of men? Just currrus...

  4. Anonymous7/13/2009

    As a woman, I gotta say that personally, who this woman was or how she might be feeling never even began to cross my mind. I'm ashamed. Thanks, TAN!

  5. Ok. Apology accepted. Now can you post another with videos of boobies? Thanks.

  6. TAN, this post is downright human. Hopefully this debacle didnt' taint her dreams of changing the world or make her self-conscious/ashamed/etc. of her beautiful self. *smile*

  7. Oh, and second what maggie said about plenty of women-folk identifying and empathizing with Ms. Tavares. Most of us have had people "feeling free to comment on the power rankings of" our booties/bodies, and experience some level of that on the daily. (Just for a day,I'd love to see a world in which women/advertising/TV/youtube/CNN, etc. constantly comment on the size/girth of the male part...of every an overwhelming extent. Just so y'all know what that shit feels like :) )

  8. Anonymous7/13/2009

    When I first saw the picture, I didn't know she was a teenager. Which I'd say makes her fair game. The sun rises, men look at women, the sun sets.

    But no upstanding citizen wants to ogle underage girls, so I guess age is the critical factor here. All told, I doubt she's that shaken up over all this.

  9. @Anon#4...Gee, maybe she even liked it. I guess we really don't know her reaction.

    That being said, I know I would be shaken up if my 17 year old ass (or 28 year old ass) was made the object of the (worldwide?) collective male gaze, recorded and cemented into history for now and on into oblivion. At the very least, she's (re)learned that her body will make her an object of male sexual desire, regardless of HER desire (the sun rises…do women get to look at anything?), intention, or what upstanding endeavor she is undertaking. Let’s hope that’s not too much of a downer for her.

    Not to mention what every other teen girl has just learned about her body and its availability to the hetero male gaze, no matter how fully dressed, her intention, HER desire, etc….

  10. It's sad her feelings are an afterthought yes, but it's human nature and women play the game too they're just smarter at not getting caught and rationalizing it so that it's no big deal. If women can not see the humor in this incident or understand how even if he did look it's not that serious, then they are lying plain and simple. If it's Michelle glancing at a pool boy cue up the Cyndi Lopper because then it's a "Girl's just wanna have fun" moment. Matter of fact, when People or whateva magazine published photos of Obama on the beach in his swim suit during his campaign, I didn't hear one peep from one woman questioning why Obama was being "objectified". I feel bad that this girl's privacy is being shred by an involuntary media assault. But the incident itself was not that serious, having only made headlines because it involved Obama. Yea it sucks for her but really is this anything new??? The case can be made for any man or woman involved in any big media melodrama and it's been that way forever and will continue to be so because as we all know it gets us to our favorite blogs, papers and radio shows and keeps us talking.

  11. I would love to see a pic of Michelle glancing at a pool boy...please clue me in to where I can find them, and I'll do some looking myself.

    It's not really a big deal (to me – though it may be to this young woman, we still don’t know), i.e. this individual case of Obama focusing or not focusing on this young woman’s arse. I’m a fan of a nice pair myself.

    However, the bigger picture is that in our media/society/patriarchy, women are painted as objects, and men as subjects - as a trend. That's the bigger issue. You see this in advertising, videos, film, porn…it’s the overwhelming representation of sexuality in our society. I’m sure Michelle peeps many a poolboys’ pecks but you won’t see that in the mags, b/c that’s not what fits into the status quo’s agenda. What’s the result of this? The trends of 1) the erasure by and large of feminine desire, unless of course it conveniently replicates male desire. 2) The general feeling perpetuated among women that our bodies are not truly our own, but are public property to be commented on, freely critiqued by whomever, groped, touched, raped, etc. 3) The inability of women and girls to love our bodies unless they are in fact desired by the male gaze, b/c of course, that’s what we’re made to believe they’re for, 4) normalization of such trends, so that males feel comfortable telling females “it’s not that serious,” and so on.

    Re: Obama pic: Objectification of males in our culture as a manifestation of gender oppression is IMPOSSIBLE (save queer men), as the hetero male gaze is ultimately always subject, and not object. Kinda like how white folks don’t experience systemic racial oppression, even if in certain contexts they experience prejudice or discrimination from POCs.

  12. The problem here is not the act(or assumption)of checking the girl out, but more so in the media coverage of this "story".
    You mean to tell me with all that's going on in the world THIS is news? This girl's ass (though be it shapely)is not what we really should be concerned with.

    You are dead on about the role of the media in all of this ,but the thing that should be made clear though is that objectification is objectification and eye candy is eye candy.

    Men look at Women as sexual objects and Women look at Men as sexual objects. These are basic concepts that allow the continuance of the human race as a population.

    Women are not robots. Women are flesh and blood. Women are human beings and as such Women are going to and are entitled to ogle the same way men do. Do you do so as often and blatant as your counterparts? Maybe, maybe not. Does it get the same media attention? No. But it's still the same thing no matter which way you cut it.

    I do agree that the objectification of males in our culture as a manifestation of gender oppression is impossible due to a long history of Women not being given the respect owed and a proper place in society. But the scales can be tipped as more Women are no longer satisfied with a "traditional" role and are making and spending more money and becoming more prominent.
    The media only cares about power and money. As more and more Women gain access to both, the bigger the change that will be seen in the media.

    Obama on the cover of a mag shirtless was not there to impress any dudes but instead placed there to cater to the female audience in a sexual manner.
    The fact that there aren't more pics of Obama shirtless or Michelle drooling over pool boys doesn't make it any less significant or wrong, it just means that the percentage of people who want to see those things should be spending more money so the media will acknowledge them.

    Personally I don't see the problem with looking and not touching.
    And what's good for the goose is good for the gander as long as no one is hurt and or humiliated, it should be no prob.
    There may not be a Desperate Housewives or Sex in the City for every Maxim magazine or Man Show,but it doesn't mean any of the entities mentioned should be held more accountable or less accountable than the other for the material being produced.

    Men are no better than Women and vice versa, we shouldn't have to apologize for being human at all because at the end of the day all of us are human.

  13. “Women are not robots. Women are flesh and blood. Women are human beings and as such Women are going to and are entitled to ogle the same way men do”:

    Very true. But you wouldn’t know it from the way mainstream media portrays relationships between men and women, i.e. men as subjects, women as objects. This portrayal is not innocuous, as it conditions all of us to understand relationships between men and women in a certain way. Our understanding is reflected in the beliefs we collectively adopt, laws, policy, etc. that affect our lives. For example

    1) there is a trend in our society of blaming victims of sexual assault, b/c it is assumed that men are entitled to women’s bodies (found buried deep in the assumption that men cannot help acting on their sexual impulses) and that women have to just deal with this (how was she dressed? Did she want/like it? Did no mean yes? etc.). This is why the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults go unreported.
    2) Another example would be the prevalence of the commercial sex industry and its use of minors to sell sex. Hundreds of thousands of girls are pimped commercially – in prostitution, porn, VIP/strip joints, trafficking, etc. - in this country every year (frightening side note: the average age of entry is 12.) This is fact. There is a reason that females (along with children and queer folks) are bought and sold in commercial sexual exploitation, as opposed to straight men. Patriarchy dictates that (straight) men should have access to these bodies for consumption.

    Both of these examples may seem extreme. But they absolutely stem from and relate to the patriarchal belief that female (and other marginalized bodies) are for consumption (by payout, force, or voyeurism) by men.

    Yes, of course, females (including Ms. Tavares) have desire. But the question is do we see that desire? And if we do not see it, is it because we don’t believe it exists or is important? Is there an agenda behind this erasure? Is seeing that desire important for the liberation of female sexuality in general? Is it important for women to be portrayed as sexual subjects? How does this relate to rape laws? Laws on prostitution or abortion? Advertising and beauty culture?

    I agree with you that the media portrayal is the problem, and not Obama’s individual actions (necessarily.) I don’t agree that “it's still the same thing no matter which way you cut it”: Please refer back to my previous post and my statement about whites and racial oppression.

    “The media only cares about power and money”: In my mind, this excuses nothing. It is an excuse to be complacent.

    “As more and more Women gain access to both, the bigger the change that will be seen in the media”: Let’s hope this is true. Though Blacks having more access to power and money has not necessarily significantly changed the representations of Blackness present in mainstream media either.

    “And what's good for the goose is good for the gander AS LONG AS NO ONE IS HURT AND OR HUMILIATED”:

    Please see all of what I’ve written above.


  14. You have very valid points and your examples indeed show the worst side of gender oppression. Victims and the people who fight for them sadly look at the extreme every day and the reality of it is depressing and abhorrent.

    The media is guilty of shaping the casual attitudes of female objectification.

    And you are right to the point that no matter what the motive it is wrong.

    While the media is screwed up and the landscape it paints of sexual imagery is lopsided I find it hard to believe it can be used as a crutch to justify rape or prostitution.

    And I take into account blaxploitation, where mistreatment of women is mistakenly looked at as "cool".
    Media does shape perception but it is primarily a reactive entity. It reacts to culture, It reacts to trends. It makes suggestions that an individual then reflects on and judges for themselves. Therefore, if a victim feels as if they were supposed to be assaulted and that makes it okay, it's more to do with that person's individual personality than the media. After all victim's that report sexual assault are in fact exposed to the same media as the victim's who don't.
    As for prostitution, before media...before pen, paper, blogs and network television...prostitution thrived and included women and children.It was common place, not talked about and not given a second thought before media was even a word.

    "media portrays relationships between men and women, i.e. men as subjects, women as objects. This portrayal is not innocuous, as it conditions all of us to understand relationships between men and women in a certain way."

    This statement pinpoints where our viewpoints differ.

    It is my opinion that our own actual relationships help us to understand relationships between men and women and the media only offers us the reflection of that understanding in it's own distorted way.

    The fact that over the years female sexuality has been more out in the open proves that point, mirroring the strides Women have accomplished for themselves in the home and workplace. Is it enough? No, I'm sure it's not. But to chastise a man or even the principle of a man admiring another Woman's behind is to discredit the notion that female sexuality should be on equal footing as male sexuality because if it's chastised it becomes wrong and if it's wrong for one it's wrong for all.

    You can have a zillion pics of Sarkozy eying any girl's assets and argue all day about the wrongness of it. The next day, when ONE pic of Madonna is photo'd staring at the crotch of a 18 year old cabana boy and the same fervor isn't made it's looked at as hypocrisy and double standard, rightfully so.

    This is akin to one murderer killing six people and another killing one. If the argument then becomes that murder is wrong, the ratio of content does not matter if it's wrong it's wrong.

    There is nothing wrong at all with Women wanting to and looking to push more content that is sexually expressive specific to them. More of it should be done. But it does not mean a man should be criticized or judged for looking at a lady's behind.

    A man ...should not have to apologize for taking pleasure in what he finds to be sexually attractive. Nor should a Woman for that matter. Is what a Woman deems attractive supported through the media as it should be? Not at all, and you can't just do nothing about it, but rallying against the abundance of male sexual expression is not going to help the cause.

    Till next time.


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