Who Cares If We Saw Your Boobs?

During this week’s Oscars ceremony a Buzzfeed post called “6 Sexist Things That Happened at the Oscars” was posted. It was then revised by the ceremony’s end to include another 3 of host Seth MacFarlane’s jibes, the gist of which can best be summed up by watching Sexist Thing No. 1 – a song and dance routine called “We Saw Your Boobs” about women who sometimes don’t wear shirts in movies.

Feminists tapped out their outrage on Twitter, columns were churned out about MacFarlane’s particular brand of misogyny, the Academy issued a statement defending his right to “creative freedom,” and now, four days later, I’m still wondering what the fuss was all about. Singing about boobs at an event where women willingly strut and pose in revealing dresses so that other women can later dissect photos of them is hardly controversial.

In a rare moment of relevance, today’s edition of Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle blog goop had the star lamenting her fashion faux pas. “I should have worn a bra,” she said of the Oscars dress she wore in 2002. Then she dutifully posted a photo of herself wearing the dress and emailed it to millions of people. Paltrow, like her colleagues that MacFarlane sang about, doesn’t give a shit if people saw her boobs, and in all likelihood, probably doesn’t care that MacFarlane thought it’d be funny to sing about it.

MacFarlane’s humour was rote and derivative, but was it really misogynist? Sexist, sure, but misogynist? Personally I was more offended by the fact that he wasn’t funny. I felt sorry for him, the same way I used to feel pity towards the boys on my school bus who used to laugh at my classmates and me if we got caught in the rain in our white blouses. Who are the women who are so offended by MacFarlane’s antics?

The language and the discourse of sexism has changed so that misogyny is used as an unfortunate synonym to describe extreme sexism, but of course, that’s not what it really means. Was MacFarlane demonstrating a pathological hatred of women, or does he just have a schoolboy’s sense of humour? Does he need to see a psychiatrist, or expend a bit more effort crafting his jokes?

We’re all pretty used to Tony Abbott acting obtusely sexist, but unfortunately we’re even more used to him being called a misogynist. When Abbott’s foot makes its daily journey into his mouth, it’s never too long before the misogyny cry is taken up. Misogyny has been used by pundits as the strongest word analogous with sexist behaviour so often that it’s lost its original meaning. So much so that the Macquarie dictionary last year broadened the definition from a 'pathological hatred of women' to include an 'entrenched prejudice against women.’

Ernest Hemingway (who probably was an actual misogynist) described the trap of using dime words when a nickel would do. For those of us paid to trot out our opinions in response to the soft news of the day, the temptation is always there to dig a little deeper into our pockets. But when we spend our dimes so freely that the dictionary starts watering down language on our behalf, how can we expect to get any change? If misogyny is now used to combat something as asinine as MacFarlane tittering about well, our tits, then what remains up our sleeves when something truly outrageous happens?

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.


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