This week I felt dismay in response to online behaviors observed. They surfaced this nagging question I have:
Do men really and truly want to see us women as humans?
Photographer/Artist Abigail Ekue recently shared some thoughts on Twitter. Now, Ekue is a professional photographer whose work includes nude photography. For instance, you might know of her book Bare Men. It fascinates and excites me to have a woman’s perspective on male nudity. I think women see treasure in men that they often don’t (choose to) see in each other, for some reason. Time and again I hear men refer to themselves as solely utilitarian, nothing beautiful or artistic. How men make such remarks about the male body given the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre eludes me. But, I digress. These same men tout women as purely artistic. (How are pumping blood, walking and pooping not utilitarian? We do those things, too.) Really, all bodies are art and utility.
Anyway, Ekue is a true professional photographer. Heck, I hope to work with her some day. Yet, the way some men choose to respond to her is degrading at best. You can review the Twitter thread where she illustrated the issue here:
— Abigail Ekue (@abigailwrites) March 22, 2017
This mess dismayed me greatly. Here is a professional photographer, published and interviewed by numerous outlets, including The Huffington Post and New York Post. But rather than respect her work and investment, these men just see her as an opportunity for sexual endeavors. Now, photography is a true skill one must cultivate diligently. It affects all of our lives, from school books to marketing and advertising to family memories. Yet, all those men saw was an opportunity to get down to freaky town. And no matter how often she draws the line, they insist, over and over. I wanted to scream.
idea vs. reality
One of the reasons this triggered me, is that I lose hope regarding relationships between men and women. Honestly, I wonder, whether men ever really see and appreciate us as human beings. An excerpt from New Girl Seasons 2 Episode 6 “Halloween” illustrates this:
Nick: “I fell in love the first time I saw you. That’s crazy. I didn’t even know you. It was just this idea of you. And then, it just wasn’t what I thought.”
Amelia: “Hey, I’m not an idea of a person. I’m an actual person.”
So much of what I observe is that most men just want to see women as ideas. In fact, some paint or sculpt us in ways that are completely impossible just to fulfill their fantasies. Artist Hiba Schabaz speaks to this in a Huffington Post article by Priscilla Frank:
Schabaz told HuffPost she sprained her neck trying to master the pose. “Her position is completely impossible,” she said. The detail only illuminated the larger takeaway that, as Schabaz put it, “all the masterpieces were basically all painted by dudes, just painting women exactly how they wanted to.”
Just think about that for a second. It is not our true humanity they consider a masterpiece. Rather, their fantasies are what people celebrate as masterpieces.
There is this distance such men create when they only want to see us as ideas. In fact, it completely shuts down any possibility for authentic connection. And when some come close, they react to our humanity by calling us angry bitches or overly emotional. The truth, though, is that all humans are those things, men and other genders, too. Humanity is messy. We just don’t always choose to see people as, well, people. Instead, we hold onto ideas that make us feel good. And I worry that this happens between men and women every day. That most men use us as escape opportunities rather than human beings. This is a root to many problems in societies.
Perhaps the most dismaying part is that I don’t know whether healing is possible. Except for a few individual males, even most naturists/nudists behave like the rest of society. The commentary on women often speaks to the way a woman looks while they respond to men’s thoughts or activities.
Truthfully, I don’t know that (enough) men in the world actually want to see us women as human beings. To me, it often feels like many men use us as an escape from themselves. Sometimes I wonder if those men need that fantasy to keep from falling apart. I really don’t know.
But my heart remains heavy, because I don’t know whether this will ever change. A few men appear “woke” to the issue and actually engage women as humans. They appreciate, respect, love and embrace our humanity. But, so many, it seems, don’t want to wake up from a dream. No matter how much we women speak or write, some just don’t hear us. Like a person sleeping peacefully through a hurricane warning.
There is a storm outside, but the dream is just too good.