Feminist analysis: Nothing is ugly, nothing is pretty

Like many of you, I’m very disappointed to be spending the next four years living under our new misogynist-in-chief. This is a national travesty – a living, breathing YouTube comment of a man, occupying the White House. Donald Trump is a disgrace and his election indicts our whole society. The man is a frat boy of the worst kind, a juvenile bully who treats women like objects. Can you imagine Barack Obama conducting himself in this way – constantly, brazenly disrespecting the women around him, rating women’s looks from 1 to 10 like it’s the most natural thing in the world to him, bragging to Howard Stern about walking in on beauty contestants in dressing rooms?

This is possibly the last thing I wanted to spend my time dealing with – it feels like a bad joke. But given the unfortunate fact that we’re going to be living under this nightmare man and his schoolyard nonsense for several years, I think we could all benefit from an understanding of one of the primary ways in which Donald Trump is completely full of shit.

hendricks-amcThe behavior that Trump models for the men and boys of our country is frightening. He represents a part of our culture that ought to be heavily discouraged: men’s obsession with objectifying women. There is a core of dark and repulsive truth to the excuse that his boasts about groping and molesting women are just the way that men talk in private. This horrible kind of man does exist, and there are enough of them that they are responsible for a great deal of the background radiation of sexism that comes with simply existing as a woman. They don’t usually get elected president, but I know their type well. Being a woman means you can’t really avoid it.

This society cultivates in men the idea that their random, noisy, uninvited opinions on the women around them are somehow inherently of worth or deserving of being heard. There is no reason why their opinions are that important, or important at all, but there are plenty of reasons why these men still believe that this is so. This is one of those unfortunate things that trans women get to experience before we come out: we see how men often talk about women when they think there are no women around.

The truth is that a great deal of men are raised to speak the language of misogyny and objectification from boyhood onward. One of my less enjoyable memories of high school is overhearing a crater-faced 14-year-old in a WWE shirt render his considered opinion of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” in the following terms: “If it was a girl, I wouldn’t fuck her.” It stuck in my mind not only because it was utterly disgusting, but because of how clearly it illustrated that objectifying women is a deep and enduring habit of many men from an early age: for this fine young man, even woman-ifying objects was already second nature.

There’s an important aspect to this practice that seems obvious but often goes unacknowledged: This man-in-training gave no thought to his own allure or desirability in the eyes of this hypothetical book-woman, this great work of literature that had committed the crime of frustrating his testosterone-addled brain. The foundational and unquestioned assumption here was that he is the one with agency and will and thought, and women are just passive objects to be evaluated by his innate manly wisdom.

Men will often persist in these opinions for the rest of their life simply because they don’t know better and never learned otherwise. Donald Trump is what happens when that 14-year-old reaches age 70 without our society teaching him to do better. We end up with a man who chiefly seems to acquire sex via rape, a man who resembles a large hog that’s been stuffed in an ill-fitting suit and had its head shoved in a lint trap, a man who isn’t going to let any of that stop him from judging his accusers as too unattractive to be the target of his sexual predation.

This behavior from men disgusted me before and it disgusts me now. This isn’t conjecture, it’s experience. Being a woman, being alive, is enough to focus this behavior onto us: men awkwardly flirting, yelling out of car windows, calling you a bitch for not returning this unwanted attention. Being somewhat publicly visible online only seems to increase the frequency and intensity of this. The downpour of men’s unsolicited opinions is torrential.

Apparently some men need this explained to them: Not only am I never going to touch you or go near you, but nobody asked for your feelings in the first place. If I’m ugly it changes nothing; none of my arguments ever relied on the claim “look at me being sexy, I am a sexy sexy woman”. This is an unwelcome distraction that has nothing to do with my work, so stop leaving your flaming dog shit bags of opinion on my virtual doorstep. This is not the behavior of great men – this is common and low.

Given there’s no indication that our next president will turn over a new leaf and stop acting this way in the eighth decade of his life, I think it’s important for us to cut through the bullshit of this male pretension as often as possible. And there’s a very Big Data aspect to being the unwilling recipient of the thoughts of hundreds of thousands of random internet men over the years. Taken together, this vulgar corpus is packed with bizarre contradictions, annihilating the notion that there’s any meaningful substance, any real content of any coherence at all, to be found in this bubbling void of men’s feelings.

Let’s consider just a handful of remarks I’ve received from some very opinionated guys:

  • “you are gross. repulsively so.”
  • “i’m not sure what you are trying to look like besides a failure.”
  • “ugly inside and out”
  • “You look like a semi-manly Anne Frank with Down Syndrome”
  • “you are so gross”
  • “You are one ugly dumb cunt.”
  • “So so so so so so so so so so gross.”

You could probably guess that none of these men bothered showing their faces. At the same time, I also tend to get comments of a completely different variety:

  • “Hey there. You are really hot.”
  • “beautiful and sexy”
  • “Soooo hawt!”
  • “Wow, perfect body”
  • “Sit on my face”
  • “simultaneously cute and dorky, and hot”
  • “I think you’re very beautiful.”

This doesn’t make any sense, does it? How is it that these men are all looking at the same person and seeing me so differently? Well, the first set of comments was left on videos where I express thoughts and opinions as a real, conscious human being.  The second set of comments was left on pictures of me. When misogynists talk about women’s appearance, they’re often not actually referring to women’s appearance – that’s all noise and no signal. This is the language of judgment, but what they’re judging is our conformance to a very particular model of the ideal woman: an inert object without her own feelings, consciousness, or existence as anything beyond men’s wallpaper.

I’m Zinnia Jones, and a disturbingly large fraction of the population regards me as nothing more than person-shaped meat. Welcome to womanhood.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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