My Boobs and I are Outraged

oscarby Jessica Critcher

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go a whole day without feeling angry about misogyny. That day is not today.

Of all the ridiculous things said at the Oscars, I find myself most upset at Seth MacFarlane’s “Boobs” song. It’s like a splinter in my heel: it hurts and I can’t stop picking at it. The fact that I’ve already been told, in the nicest way possible, to calm down about it ties the whole thing up in a nice, sexist bow.

Where do I even start?

MacFarlane sang about having seen several actresses’ breasts in films. That was the entire joke: “We saw your boobs. In that movie that we saw, we saw your boobs.” He then lists specific films in which actresses, most of them present, appeared topless, except for Jennifer Lawrence, of whom he says, “We haven’t seen Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs at all.”

Apparently those are the only two relevant categories for women at the academy awards: those whose breasts we have seen and enjoyed and those whose breasts we haven’t. Maybe that has something to do with why only one woman has ever won Best Director.

The cheeky, adolescent, boys-will-be-boys tone of the song is played off as if it’s supposed to be a compliment. Angelina Jolie’s breasts, MacFarlane says, “made us feel excited and alive.” But whether it’s a famous man with a microphone on television or a stranger yelling at us from a street corner, women are constantly reminded that our bodies are public property – not our own, but belonging to and existing for men.

Even grammatically, the phrase “We saw your boobs” is problematic. It makes viewers the subject of the sentence and ignores the fact that these women have any sort of agency, phrasing it instead as if viewers were peeping without these women’s consent.

But exposing one’s breasts on film isn’t unequivocally good, either. The double standard would never allow that. It is apparently possible to do this in too many films, as he reminded Kate Winslet, listing off several films in which she appears topless, adding “and whatever you’re shooting right now.”

There was also a cheap dig at Scarlett Johansson, saying we saw her boobs not on the big screen, but on our mobile phones. I couldn’t help but make the connection to women being blackmailed with naked photos on the internet, or the recent trend of revenge porn. He has seen their breasts, he can see them anytime he wants, and he doesn’t let us forget.

Another disturbing thing about this song is that the films listed are serious dramas for which many of the actresses were critically praised. Several of the breasts MacFarlane delights in having seen were exposed in the context of rape or assault in the films. Boys Don’t Cry in particular is about a trans man who is beaten, raped and murdered. I fail to find anything hilarious about that, whether or not we saw Hilary Swank topless.

Do breasts in that context make MacFarlane feel equally “excited and alive”? The subject matter of the films and the acting those women did was deemed totally irrelevant because they have breasts. Even a serious actress like Meryl Streep is not above pervy ridicule, because Seth MacFarlane saw her breasts in Silkwood, twenty years ago.

The first time I saw the song, I was horrified at the reactions the women seemed to have at being mentioned by name. Hollywood demands that these women show their breasts, and then ridicules them when they do.

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A few people from the Uphold Patriarchy committee chimed in to point out that the performance (and the reactions) were pre-recorded, and it wasn’t “real” sexism, but all in good fun. (Seriously, why can’t you feminists ever have any fun?) The fact that this skit was pre-recorded doesn’t make any of my previous concerns less relevant. That actually makes things worse.

Seth MacFarlane, jackass that he may be, is not the problem here, but a gross symptom. He didn’t crash the otherwise respectful Oscars and steal the mic to make jokes about eating disorders and domestic violence. He was hired in advance and advertized as a reason to watch this program.

This skit was pre-recorded. Music was scored, rehearsals were held, a dance was choreographed. At some point during the planning for this elaborate opening number, someone could have decided that this wasn’t a good idea. But no one did.

In an ideal world this song would never have been suggested. In an ideal world, a 9-year-old girl would never have been called a cunt on Twitter during this awards show. In an ideal world I wouldn’t be so angry about all of this all the time. That ideal world is never going to exist if we keep tolerating this day after week after year. This has to change.

Join me in my outrage. Sign Bitch Media’s petition and add your own ideas for how The Oscars can be improved. And if you won’t be outraged along with me, at least stop telling me to calm down.

 

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism, Pop Culture 8 Comments

About the author

Jessica Critcher

Jessica has a B.A. in English from the University of Hawaiʻi and currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has been published in Bitch Magazine and Katherine Press, and she is working on (the third draft of) a novel. She is also a co-organizer at Socializing for Justice. Her hobbies include playing RPG's like Mass Effect, strumming the ukulele, and dancing poorly to live music. Follow her on Twitter @JessCritcher.

8 Responses to My Boobs and I are Outraged

  1. Jen

    Excellent article. I’d take your point at the end even further, though. It’s not just that the Academy knew what it was getting into at the rehearsal. It’s that they hired MacFarlane based on a movie and a show that’s been on for almost 15 years with this exact humor.

    Question for you, Ms. Crichter: what is your take on Charlize Theron and Naomi Watts playing along with the joke? I’m not sure what to make of it. (This, too, was rehearsed, so it wasn’t as if they played along because they were caught unawares. And yet, they’re both feminists, so…?)

     
    • Jessica Critcher

      I’m with you on not knowing what to make of it. I don’t really blame them for playing along– Even with them in on it, Macfarlane is still the one responsible. If they had raised a fuss, I’m sure they would be subjected to more jokes at their expense. They’d be called Humorless shrews or worse. I’m an average person whose livelihood doesn’t depend on being thought of as likeable. I can understand why some women wouldn’t want to rock the boat about this. Especially on television.

       
      • Jen

        Your response is giving me an epiphany of sorts…

        My first thought was, “Well, that can’t be it. Watts and Theron are major stars and incredibly rich/successful/famous/powerful. What’s stopping them from saying, “I’m not doing this, I don’t think it’s funny”?

        Then I considered my own reaction, which was sadness as I silently critiqued the presentation according to my own feminist views. “Silently,” because I figured no one agreed with me. “Family Guy” has been on for over a decade and its content is vicious toward women but I never hear anyone complaining. In fact, MacFarlane hosted SNL, made a movie, and got this gig.

        So until the internet commentary yesterday morning, I was convinced that I must be, in fact, this humorless feminazi (despite the fact that no one who knows me could convincingly accuse me of being humorless). **And I wonder if Watts and Theron felt the same way.** They’re human after all.

         
        • Salgood Sam

          There is another option. Not that it was all good, glib, fun. But that it was satire. Meant to make us uncomfortable as much as if not more than amused.

          Satire need not even be funny to be satire. it’s mocking. In this case mocking the industry for the fact that to get taken seriously, women are expected to prove their dedication to the craft by getting naked.

          That the gay men’s coir sang backup, Bruce Valance wrote it, and two vocal feminists wen’t along with it, is strong indication not that they were afraid of being seen as humourless but that they were at the meetings where intent and strategy were stated openly.

          They knew first and foremost it was satire.

          No one is a humorless feminazi for not getting the joke, you’re just mistaking the messenger for the message. A jab at Hollywood for it’s BS, not a childish celebration of boobs. By playing the part of Hollywood’s gleeful ID Seth was supposed to make us face-palm over the stupidity of the fact of it all.

          Irony.

          I do think there were some serious issue with the delivery of a lot of what they did that I’ve seen of the Oscars, it was too polished and mistakable for the things they mocked, to easily mistaken for it. By it’s very nature the Oscars are just too complicit in what was being sent up. The same reason Ricky Gervais was both so funny and hard for them to swallow in his stint. To do what they tried to do they needed someone better at winking at the joke, and letting some of the air out. And they pilled on too many of these ironic gags, tried to do the family guy overkill. Made people a bit sick in the guts with it all. But I do think it’s a mistake to see this as sincere. Absurd really to think the boob song was something the oscar establishment would have put up meaning to be taken just on the face of it.

           
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  3. Ms. Rants

    I’m glad I didn’t watch the Oscars, because I’m pretty sure I would have been too angry to sleep that night. But I did see the Boobs song online the next day and I was horrified – this is considered entertainment?!? What are we teaching all of the children watching the show? And for the people who say to lighten up, that it’s just a joke, I have to ask – then why didn’t he mention the movies where men were bare-chested? Why isn’t that just as “funny”? Oh, we’re only supposed to focus on nudity when it’s women? Why is that? Like you said, this just reinforces the idea that women are objects meant for the enjoyment of men. I can’t believe that we’re still at this point in 2013. I look at my nieces, still so young, and I really hope it will be better for their generation!

     
  4. peg

    Please email the organizers of the annual Oscars Awards show and let them know how distasteful and sexist the host was, and that you will not be watching until they have a show where women are not degraded and when they use a host who does not debase half the audience. One can be humorous without being a sexist pig.

    http://www.oscars.org

     
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