woman dismayed

woman dismayed

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 MenIt 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:

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.

looking out

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.

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6 thoughts on “woman dismayed

  1. I started writing comments about 4 different times . . . i couldn’t really get any thoughts together to respond, but really, you don’t need a response; you’ve very plainly said everything that needs to be said.

    You’re right, too many men see women as anything BUT actual people. Behind every depiction of a woman likely lies a real life woman, with a story, i know its that way with any of my art, and i always remember that, that there’s a reason we are doing what we’re doing, that its not JUST to turn this into an idea, but to tell some sort of story, even if that story is “i felt like being different and creative”.

    So, i’m not going to be all “not all men”, because we all have a responsibility to check ourselves and our thoughts and actions, and hold others accountable too so that one day you and other women won’t have to feel this way anymore.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matt. And I really appreciate that about your approach to your work. In a way, this is an effort for all humans. For this piece, I focused on a particular part of the issue, because that’s what I wanted to highlight for that day. But I also wanted to hint at a bigger human question, so dropped the part “Humanity is messy. We just don’t always choose to see people as, well, people.” Because it’s not just the question of whether men see women as human beings. There’s also a broader discussion about whether people see people as human beings.

      The idea of a black man vs. an actual specific person who happens to be black and male, for instance. That’s another good example, right? The idea of a scary, violent, criminal, dirty, beastly sexual, lazy black man, which society seems to love. Versus [insert name of specific person here] who gets up at 5am, works out, walks his dogs, goes to main job, drives for Uber a couple hours in the evening for extra cash, calls his family and then cooks dinner and goes to bed. Or the idea of a president vs. what a specific person serving in the role actually does. It’s a bigger question of which we are all part.

      1. That’s a really interesting point; i think that there are times, whether we admit to them or not, that we tend to project the ideas of people on others without actually seeing them for who they ACTUALLY are… Yeah, that question is a deep one . . . Mind kinda blown on that one.

  2. Appreciation of human beauty is one of the ways we are attracted to each other. However way too many men feel they have the right to comment and grade women on their appearance. The distance that being online provides just encourages their behavior. Nudism hopefully would be an antidote to this behavior. Body acceptance is human acceptance of ourselves and others. At least it should be. Cloth-ism is a denial of our physical selves, our body/mind being which is one unit, ourselves. Body acceptance is way deeper than my body’s okay, your body’s okay. It’s radical because we see each other and ourselves as we really as we really exist and are. We are physical. We are here now.

  3. While I don’t disagree with parts of what you’re saying, I feel to equate men (in whole or majority) with this troll that commented on her feed is unnecessary and somewhat offensive. I do understand that as men we are more visually driven and therefor tend to see women from an aesthetic point of view. However, this isn’t to say that men only see women as an object or idea of sexual desire.

    The majority of men I’ve known may amongst their other male friends make what are commonly known as demeaning jokes and such ( I am in no way saying it is appropriate behavior) but they are only ever respectful to the women they date or work with. Me personally, I feel that personality and mental maturity trump looks. The only reason that I don’t exclude what I consider to be appealing physical characteristics is because if I were to marry the woman I was attracted to mentally I also want to be physically attracted to them as well.

    I am a man. I am visually stimulated and driven. These are scientific facts just the same as gravity and the laws of thermodynamics. This doesn’t mean that I have a hall pass to ogle women and see them as objects to be used for my personal fantasies.

    To conclude this, I again say that I agree with some of your points. However, I simply can’t get past, since I am male, feeling as though I’ve been unjustly placed into this category of sexual deviants due to the fact I have the physical traits of a male and identify as such.

    If I may: if the majority of men you’re around fall into the same category as this internet troll that commented on her tweet I would highly recommend making a change of friendships and social circles. I know this doesn’t solve the problem of those men having no self control but it does solve your problem. Or you could also try and be part of the solution by researching and writing on this subject and creating a solution that helps these men see women as a whole and not just a single facet. But remember that a lot of this type of behavior is due in part to how they were raised and the construct of the social structure they grew up in and live in. If no one says “Hey, I’m glad you find me sexually appealing, but you should get to know me and be attracted to me mentally as well” then they only hear complaining and see no reason why they should stop.

    But this is just my $0.02 worth.

    1. Ryan,
      Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts. I need to address some things.

      I respect the notes you’ve made that not all men are like the individual referenced in the tweet. Actually, the article doesn’t at all say that all or most men are like that individual. When it says “these men” it’s referring to the “them” in her tweet that she has to deal with in her area of work. The article also explains that seeing that tweet is what got me thinking about a broader issue. The bigger topic treated by this piece from beginning to end is whether men see women as ideas/fantasies (and note that not all fantasies are sexual) or as human beings. It is for that reason that I made several other references throughout the piece.

      If you go back, you will note that I went on to share about the artist Hiba Schabaz and the Huffington Post article, because it speaks in depth about the male perspective fantasy in an artistic sense, not a sexual one. And the quote from the show also is not a sexual context. It’s about relationship. So, the article is actually not at all about visual stimulation, attraction or any of that. I understand that, often times, when people raise this topic, that’s where conversations tend to go. But I want to be specific about my piece here. I didn’t talk about that. My point was about whether men see women as fantasies/ideas or as human beings.

      Regarding your suggestion to change social circles – This issue is everyday life for women. It’s not in some circles and not others. Again, if you consider the actual topic of the article, it’s not about a couple of horny inappropriate men. It’s about a tendency for men to see and engage women as fantasies (not just sexual ones) rather than human beings. It arises where we work, it’s any time we walk down the street and men tell us to smile (because that is to satisfy their fantasy of women always being pleasant). We experience this all of the time where most men interact with us like we’re fantasies. Most expect us to always be smiley, pleasant, good. Or, on the flip side, most expect us to be angry, evil. It’s not often that we just get to be seen as human. And as I mentioned in the article, when we do speak up, men do not hear us for some reason, whether written or spoken. And women, like me, have been talking about this for quite some time. We are doing our part. The question is whether men are also doing their part.

      Regarding research – this piece is not me bellyaching about one thing I saw online. This is part of an ongoing discussion happening in society. And the research I do includes talking with women, reading what other women write for reputable outlets, and also paying attention to what’s happening in everyday life. An example of that is the piece I referenced from Huffington Post in this very article. If you read that piece, you’d see it provides a very, very rich discussion. That would be why I referenced it and included an excerpt from it. So, I do research, I reference research. And I’ve been doing so for several years. Other pieces I’ve written for this site include it as well.

      So, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, but I really have to underline what the piece is actually about as well as its contents. This piece is not about whether men sexualize women. And it’s not about visual stimulation or attraction. And it doesn’t call or most men sexual deviants. What the piece asks and talks about is whether men see women as human beings or as fantasies/ideas.

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clothes free life

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