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And the 2013 Academy Award for sexual violence goes to …

Posted in Aging, Relationships, and Women's issues

Smirking Host - should have heeded the sign behind him
Smirking Host – should have heeded the sign behind him

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.

Liev Schreiber reacts to MacFarlane's "orgy a jack Nicholson's" quip
Liev Schreiber reacts to MacFarlane’s “orgy back at Jack Nicholson’s” quip

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).

Protesting - bare headed and silent - In SA
Protesting: bare-headed and silent.

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?

A staunchly Catholic Mark Whalberg reacts to MacFarlane's anti-semetic Ted. Marky Mark - you shouldda known better
A staunchly Catholic Mark Whalberg reacts in bewilderment to MacFarlane’s anti-semitic Ted.

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Four cheers for you!

    I didn’t know it was Seth McFarland presenting (because I’m not interested in such things) but once I did know it all fell into place.

    At the constant urging of my wife we watched Ted a month or so ago – and she was as repelled as I was. The most damning thing I could say about it was that it wasn’t funny. If he’s going to do shit jokes? Get out of the closet and let rip (aka Baron Cohen) and let people judge you on who you really are.
    In Glasgow we call people like him ‘an oxygen thief’

    But the real problem is – every single male I know is a clone of him. Get them together, add alcohol and stand back in amazement. Do they kiss their children with those mouths? Do they really like women?

    I despair that every generation of men needs to be educated only to have a new generation appear with the same attitudes, all over again, and again.

    I really do despair.

    March 2, 2013
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    • Well – there are guys like you around. So all is not lost! Thanks for your comment – it is great to hear a man’s point of view.

      March 2, 2013
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  2. Silungile Mtambo
    Silungile Mtambo

    Gender Based Violence makes me angry when can this stop!!! I’m angry as men are using their penis as weapons to put scars in a galchild and womens life. Its worse in rural areas. GBV is really alarming now as McFarlane has taken it to the public eyes,we need to take him to where he belongs!

    February 28, 2013
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    • Great to hear from you Silungile … if we speak up every time we see an injustice – we start a process to ending them. Thank’s for adding your voice to ours.

      March 2, 2013
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  3. silvia
    silvia

    I am a feminist and I want to thank you for giving words to our thoughts, because I’m sure you spoke up for many of us.
    It is unbelievable that the academy could accept such a chauvinist performance.
    As a woman I feel I was deeply offended. Shame to the audience who did nothing and passively remained silent.
    And what else can we accept?

    February 28, 2013
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  4. I didn’t watch the awards for various reasons but it sounds like this year was particularly brutal. What scares me more is was his material scripted? Was it vetted? Was this guy given the go-ahead on the lowest form of humour at the expense, as you aptly pointed out, of 50% of the audience?

    February 28, 2013
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    • Not only scripted, and approved, but rehearsed continuously over a month. The reactions of the women in the audience to the booby song were also pre-filmed – so they were in on it. He is apparently shocked by the reactions he has received and has said he “won’t be doing it again”.
      Bad judgement on the part of the Show’s producers.

      February 28, 2013
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  5. I wasn’t impressed with McFarland although he seemed very impressed with himself. He needs to be taken down a notch or two. I watched a PBS program last night that showcased the feminist movement. They seemed to be saying that the younger generation has dropped the ball and doesn’t seem interested in moving forward. Various women leaders seemed convinced that so much has changed for the better for women. After having worked in an office for 37 years, I wish I could share their enthusiasm. All I can about men in general is, I’m surprised their knuckles aren’t bloody from dragging them on the ground. I took that quote from Peg Bundy, sitcom wife of Al Bundy of the Married with Children show. Chauvinism is alive and well and far too few women are benefiting from the women’s movement.

    February 27, 2013
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    • Peg Bundy would be an interesting one to dissect. Very much a feminist – very much one who expected Al to bring home and buy. I think younger women had less to fight for – we had done the ground work. But the new threat to them – of violence in their life times – might persuade them to pick up the baton and get going again. I hope so for my nieces’ sakes.

      February 28, 2013
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