Avast! Feminist Conspiracy!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Paedophilia and 'male whining'

It's something that's rarely focussed on, but men, in general, really are whiners about anything which even slightly impinges upon them in a society which is still, on the whole, biased towards them, not against them. We still have a long way to go to reach gender equality, yet the way many men talk, you would think that the whole of society was matriarchal, pro-woman and man-hating, that the police were ready to arrest men for rape and paedophilia for so much as looking at a woman or child and condemn them to 50 years in a slimy solitary confinement cell.

There are many parallels between their whining and scare-mongering about the liklihood of being falsely accused of rape, or of just generally being a pervert towards women, and paranoid whining about being potentially accused of paedophilia, but I want to concentrate on paedophilia in this post because that's where the whining is most confusing and complex. Because society is not nominally so ambivelent about child pornography or paedophilia as it is about women's rights.

The internet is full of men who talk as if they are held in a state of siege, as if they were going to be hung drawn and quartered as a paedophile for the slighest thing relating to children. They protest every tiny 'over-the-top' arrest or persecution of somebody for something like taking photographs of children on the beach as if the whole of men's human rights rested upon it.

For example, on the digital photography forums I visit, there are lots of threads where men moan in unison out how we are hurtling towards a society where men are snatched from the streets and jailed for merely pointing their camera in the direction of a child.

Actual convictions are decried as examples of societal anti-paedophilia mania and painted in such a way as to suggest the perpetrator did nothing wrong or suspicious. For example, a recent case many digital photography forum folks were flailing their collective arms in horror about was painted on the forum as being about a man who was arrested for taking professional portraits of children in swimwear. "Oh, the horror", they screamed, "what is next??!". "We will be lined up and shot for daring to photograph a child we were paid to photograph in the clothes their parents wanted! What has this world come to ?!".

This was for one of those creepy 'child modelling' sites, which were defended by many as in 'poor taste' but not immoral, despite their overtly sexualised poses and skimpy clothing. I note that their initial knee-jerk reaction in defence of the man prevented them from at all condemning images which they might have easily been critical of in another context.

But the worrying thing was that the people defending this man mostly didn't even look at the modelling site or look at articles reporting on the case, which made it clear that the man had not only been taking pictures of 'child models' in bikinis, but that he had also been taking naked pictures of them. Yet they cited articles which just conveniently overlooked this fact and ignored it when somebody actually posted an article talking about it in more detail.

There is knee-jerk resentment, in many men, of anti-paedophile measures, and a great and disturbing eagerness to portray themselves as potential victims of hysterical false accusation.

The media makes it easier, as the tabloids often paint the crime in such ludicrously over-the-top and pseudo-emotive terms (monster, beast, rot in hell Moira Hindley, etc), that it actually almost makes a mockery of the seriousness of the crime and makes it harder for people to take seriously. I do think some of the anti-paedophilia measures people enforce are misplaced and easy to portray as 'over-the-top'. But the misplacement is put out of all proportion, men whine and yelp about how some man, somewhere, wasn't allowed to photograph somebody's child at a football match, or about how a father wasn't allowed to host toddler's gatherings in his house on account of his being a man, instead of highlighting all these times where things went the other way.. where men were given positions of responsibility over children and abused them, where they were allowed to work with children despite having been accused of rape before, where they used the guise of photography to take photographs for their own gratification. In almost evey way our society fails to protect children from paedophiles.. it doesn't over-coddle them and over-protect them. If anything, it underestimates the liklihood of abuse.

Of course some people who engage in paranoid rhetoric of the type I'm talking about do sometimes say things like "they should be out there catching the real paedophiles, not picking on innocents!", which is, I think, a bit of a naïve sentiment, as if innocence and guilt could be determined easily in advance. I agree someone with a camera at a child's football match should be less of a target of suspicion than somebody who looks up a child pornography website, but that shouldn't mean that the whole movement towards an awareness of the risk of paedophilia should be dismissed as a mere excuse to harass men.

What is so annoying about these discussions is that frequently the real crimes and the real (mostly male!) culprits of them - the abuses that the suspicions of the police and the public are based on - seem to disappear from view entirely, and paedophila becomes like some kind of mythical bad thing which only 'innocent' men are accused of by an unfair, 'hysterical' society. As if there wasn't real cause for concern - as if there aren't men out there taking photos of children for less-than-moral purposes, as if children and people have nothing to fear about the motives of men at all! As if false accusations rose towering above the actual crimes commited, and as if men were ever jailed or even arrested as paedophiles for next to nothing!

Men make a thousand times the collective fuss about relatively infrequent targeting and mistargeting of their sex (for crimes that are almost always actually prepetrated by men), and about relatively small impingements on their freedom (it's difficult to get work with children! They get promoted to headteacher fast at a primary school instead of being a primary teacher for long! Somebody thinks they're up to no good pointing their camera at a child on a beach), than women do about the many, many inequalities they suffer every day. They also make a lot of fuss about the potential for their being hypothetically accused of things (sexual harassment, rape, child abuse) despite the fact that the liklihood of even the most obvious perpetrator being punished severely for even the most obvious, clear-cut 'real crime' is apallingly small. It's sickening that they whine so much about the very thought of men being accused of some wrong, when men get away with sex offences so lightly and are seldom convicted for them.

Is it just a priveleged groups fear and distaste and outrage at actually being the ones targeted on the basis of their privileged traits? Just resentment of being targeted when 99% of the rest of the time they're regarded as the privileged ones? Even though it is mostly men who commit these crimes? The same kind of fear and resentment that motivates them to rant about how widening the definition of 'rape' will apparently cause women everywhere to go on a false-accusation rampage and go pointing the finger at anyone who goes near them and get men put in jail for 'rape', just for fun, or because they didn't like their hairdo?

In the case of paedophila, it seems possible that the outrage is partly motivated by resentment at being viewed as a potential paedophile. They want to dissociate 'real' men in general and themselves in particular from paedophiles who, more so than rapists, are often portrayed as rather disgusting, "inhuman" "beasts" not similar to real humans or real men at all. Society in general wants to disconnect paedophiles from 'normal society', and deny any evidence that societal attitudes are at all to blame for paedophilia or at all associated with it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

15 Minutes Stretched to 15 Years

In 1992 Anna Nicole Smith's Faux Marilyn Monroe Replaced Claudia Schiffer's Faux Bridgette Bardot in Ads for Guess

. . . Faux Celebrity?

. . . Guess

One of the strangest things about the media's coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's sudden death is how many commentators cannot pinpoint her celebrity-making moment. What's more, most don't even mention her breakout appearance in Guess's gimmicky (but extraordinarily popular) early 1990s black-and-white ad campaign evoking sexpots of eras past -- a campaign that in the process turned the Faux Faces into Celebrity Names in their own right. Recall that time period, if you lived through it: Guess had come on strong in the mid-1980s as the jeans to have branded on your rear end if you were in high school or college. Buying Guess jeans cost at least double the price of any other brand, and the silhouette was unflattering on most figures (too tight in the wrong places, too short on most legs) but if you were a typical teen you had to have them.

By the early 1990s the Guess juggernaut shifted into high gear with the introduction of its black-and-white sultry-sexpots-of-past-eras campaigns featuring Claudia Schiffer and Anna Nicole Smith. These ads appealed to a young GenerationX that didn't yet have its own Face but longed for the fun and the glamour of such personas, even if they were fakes. (How much more did that prime us and our culture for the entrance of true original Kate Moss less than one year later, over at Calvin Klein in 1993? Moss's waif look became the look that embodied the moment; the term Supermodel, if already coined, entered common usage.)

It could be argued Anna Nicole Smith appearing in that classic Guess ad campaign shouldn't have amounted to even 15 minutes of fame, but it *was* a bonafide celebrity-turning breakout moment (as our society defines celebrity, anyway). Claudia Schiffer's celebrity-turning breakout moment came in that campaign, too, and last I checked Claudia Schiffer is still a Celebrity Name to this day. So is Kate Moss, for that matter. Do any of them deserve it? Have any of them done anything other than run away with their breakout moments and stayed in the headlines with their questionable antics? (Isn't that really all that's needed to attain and sustain celebrity these days?)

Probably the least controversial is Claudia Schiffer -- but then everything is relative when it comes to the cult of celebrity, I'm not saying the woman isn't nutty, she was engaged to a magician (David Copperfield) for more than half a decade. But anyway. Tabloid junkie that I am I never could muster much interest in Anna Nicole Smith. I probably do know more about Claudia Schiffer -- and exponentially more about Kate Moss -- than I know even now, after the barrage of coverage upon her death, about Anna Nicole Smith. Kate Moss once upset a young female fan by denying her an autograph, prompting the girl to say, "Claudia Schiffer is much nicer than you," to which Moss reportedly snapped: "But I'm miles prettier." NOW THAT'S TABLOID YUM-YUM TRASH. What an ugly Supermodel (and we as a culture no doubt deserve someone as nasty as that epitomizing us). But Anna Nicole Smith? Nah. Not interested. Never was. From the get-go she was a Faux, never an original, we all understood that. (The hardcore cable news channels now are desperately trying to force-feed to the public Anna Nicole Smith as the second coming of Marilyn Monroe upon her death, attempting to engage in Myth Making, round two. But will anyone buy it? The point is that NOBODY EVER DID.) But obviously the woman did interest somebody. Correct?

Maybe not. Maybe the media just runs with the hokey and the train wrecks year after year long after everyone's lost interest and the media should have let the celebrity go off to meet her own fate in her own private reality show some 14 minutes earlier. Maybe we're all really THAT passive when it comes to celebrity and frankly don't really care, but if it's on we'll watch it, if the tabloids are poking fun we'll read it. I know I certainly don't hold any celebrity in high regard (hate to break it to celebrities who mistakenly believe fans adore them when in fact they revel in the jilted, the miserable, the every wrong embarrassing turn and bad photo. Yes, it's all sick. And no I don't know where I'm going with this, I admit.) Still, was it not bizarre to have so many commentators in the media say frankly they "don't get" Anna Nicole's Smith's celebrity -- especially during a week when Newsweek splashed Paris Hilton (who, appropriately enough, is the current "celebrity" model in Guess's latest advertising campaign) on its cover? And they said this even as they ran with the Anna Nicole Smith death story nonstop through the news hour! Disingenuous much? Finally, couldn't it be argued that this whole aspect of "not getting" why so-and-so is a celebrity is, in fact, now a defining characteristic of celebrity today?