The “We Saw Your Boobs” song at this week’s Oscars was the final nail in the coffin of decency for me. Seth MacFarlane and his smirking delivery of a litany of breast exposure in movies, by actresses who were in the audience (and one assumes in the know) had me flabbergasted. I actually couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was like watching a nine-year old boy say ‘titty.. titty.. titty…’ over and over to get attention.
It wasn’t clever and it wasn’t funny.
Then Seth accosted Sally Field back stage. Dressed as the Flying Nun, he persuaded her to run off with him for sex. Which she did. What the hell Sally? Is this what you think you are worth?
When McFarlane got to his pathetic little joke about Quvenzhané Wallis (the nine-year old Best Actress nominee for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and George Clooney sleeping together in 16 years time … I had to shut the show down. But not before I saw the fleeting look of disgust on Clooney’s face. He may be a commitment phobe – but he is a gentleman.
What was The Academy thinking? They were denigrating their own stars. The audience was made up equally of men and women – and here was this oily, smug, almost 40-year old-teenager making joke after joke at 50% of the room’s expense.
Not to mention the 30-million odd people around the world watching this rich, successful, chosen, entitled man, in Hollywood that place where dreams are made – disrespect women. And gays and Jews …. this used to be a show of glamour and art and talent – on Sunday it was insult and smut.
We’ve had endless examples of gender-based violence in SA in the last few weeks: 19-year-old Anene Booysen was raped and disembowelled as part of a gang initiation, a 17-year-old was raped and left for dead in a drawer by her stepfather, a 91-year-old Gogo (our affectionate term for a grandmother) was raped and knifed by an intruder. A 25-year-old man beat-up and raped his wife because she went to the movies with her girlfriends. We have an epidemic on our hands.. Interpol compiled statistics in my country predict that 1 in 2 South African women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
But it’s not just here – Africa is rife with violence committed against women in the name of war. India (as we have seen recently in the rape and deaths of two young girls) has massive problems – including those where a girl is murdered because she has broken some archaic law regarding who she can and can’t marry. There is the Taliban executing a girl whose only crime is she wanted an education. Religion doesn’t spare us either: no woman priests in the Catholic Church, no female Bishops in the Anglican Church, no female imams (except, interestingly enough – in China).
A study by US Aid has shown that globally – one out of three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of abuse reaching 70% in some countries. Our right to a safe and secure life where we are afforded all the respect due through our shared humanity is being eroded daily.
I am a feminist in that I believe in absolute equality and parity between men and women. I believe in the same for all colours, races, religions and sexual orientations. I am a realist in that I am aware that men run this world. And that the men who run this world are straight, white conservative men. But I am a fairist in that I know not all men behave like assholes.
If exposed bosoms are necessary to help portray some artistic conceit … then ok. I have never needed naked breasts to help me understand a storyline. But I accept that others might. The reality is that boobies bring in big money. And naked balls don’t. Which begs the question – are women selling themselves short by accepting the direction?
Not one person got up and left the Dolby Theater in protest at Seth’s ugly little ditty. Not one registered their disapproval afterwards. Not one risked the wrath of the Academy by speaking up. There were decent men there – many of them powerful, many of them sitting beside their wives, daughters or girlfriends: Clooney, Freeman, Affleck, Hoffman, Washington, Jackman, Douglas, Burton, Neeson, Whalberg, Spielberg, Pinault, Day Lewis. All of them sat on their hands. Can you imaging the effect if they had simply stood up and started slow-clapping? Or turned their backs on the stage.
But then – tellingly: none of the women did anything either.
Meryl, Jennifer, Charlize, Anne, Naomi, Octavia, Barbara, Halle, Katherine, Adele, Jane … all stayed put and schtum because they’re keeping an eye on their careers. They allowed what The New Yorker called “Seth MacFarlane’s Hostile, Ugly, Sexist Night”; to continue unchallenged. A tacit acceptance of what was happening.
Hugh Jackman – that Miserables man – even lauded MacFarlane for “doing a great job”.
It feels like we are on the shore watching as the water draws back. Aware that a tsunami is coming – but choosing to stay exposed because it is easier than heading for the hills and claiming the higher ground. What they hell happened to us, girls? Have we forgotten how to stand up for ourselves? If it is ok in Hollywood – it’s going to be ok everywhere, soon.
Look out for this horror movie – it’s coming to a daughter, sister, wife, mother or grandmother near you.