NOT SO ‘MAGIC MIKE': ARE WOMEN BECOMING THE MEN WE DESPISE?

by Katina Hubbard

Last night, I accidentally saw ‘Magic Mike.’ I don’t know how I missed the trailer for this little film that has sent American women into some sort of sexual frenzy, but I thought I was seeing a romantic comedy where someone has amnesia. If you’re like me and you had no idea this movie existed, you probably do now, since it was front page of the New York Times’ Art Section and at the top of the box office charts this weekend.

Are images of male models as harmful for men’s self-esteem as images of women are for us?

It’s the classic tale of the poor girl with nowhere to turn except to shake her naked ass for money. She enjoys it, and so does the audience, but in the end gets saved from a life of meaningless sex and drug overdoses by a normal Joe-turned Prince Charming. Except in ‘Magic Mike,’ the poor girl who needs saving isn’t a girl, it’s America’s male heartthrob, Channing Tatum. I’ll let Manohla Dargis, normally one of my favorite NYT movie reviewers, explain further: 

 

In ‘Magic Mike,’ men exist to be looked at, and women do the looking, a reverse of the old cinematic divide between the sexes that finds so-called passive women who are looked at by so-called active men. In one school of thought Hollywood movies are always organized for the visual pleasure of the male spectator, which pretty much leaves the female spectator sidelined. There’s no leaving her out any longer — or the gay or confident heterosexual male spectator, either. From the way Mr. Soderbergh shoots the raunchy, often hilarious vamping dance scenes (Village People Plus), his camera lingering on the undulating bodies — the other strippers are played by Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash — it’s clear the director is out to maximize everyone’s pleasure.”

 

So after recovering from my shock of expecting Rachel McAdams and instead seeing scene after scene of naked, undulating male butts, I looked around at the audience of 100% women, smiling, laughing, and enjoying every moment of this movie made explicitly for them. And I realized – ohkay. I see what’s happening.

This is what the movies are for – two hours of escapism in whatever way the audience most wants it. The objectification, celebration of “casual” sexual encounters, and other male “fantasies” that have been normalized and then flooded throughout my psyche by the media since I was born, has been reversed in ‘Magic Mike.’ Every day of our lives, we are bombarded by images of skinny/tan/rich/blonde/whatever-“perfect”-is women, and this is two hours of the opposite. So shouldn’t I be thrilled to enjoy it, while men have to deal with the objectification, for a change?

But instead of settling in for two hours of salivating over Channing Tatum’s hip thrusts, I started thinking about how this would make the man I love the most feel. And don’t get me wrong, he has the most beautiful everything, he’s absolutely perfect to me in every way—he’s my Channing Tatum only better. But as I sat watching tan, hairless men with six-packs fulfilling the female fantasies of, (as the fabulous in this one Mathew McConaughey says,) “the husband they never had, that dreamboat guy that never came along…” I couldn’t quite relax. I don’t want any man in my life thinking that what I want is a 22 year-old muscled and hairless male dancer. I don’t want him to look down at his body and his “moves” and think, “If she likes that, how could I ever be good enough?”

My boyfriend is a huge Channing Tatum fan, so among other reasons, he says he’s unaffected by my watching ‘Magic Mike’ and the ‘like.’ However, the YouTube commentators on the ‘Magic Mike’ trailer were more revealing. It’s about 25% men calling the movie, the actors, male strippers, and anyone who likes male strippers, “gay.” The other 75% of commentators have unanimously said that all those men are insecure (which I’d have to agree because I don’t know how to judge anyone’s sexual orientation from a trailer. And if they’re using “gay” to mean “bad,” then that’s just ‘gay’).

Though it’s nice to see the paradigm switched these days, the movie doesn’t deal with any of the more interesting and real issues at play here – namely the very real addictions portrayed (sex, drugs), STDs, and the psychic and emotional repercussions for those in the “entertainment” and sex-selling business. Not to mention the nationwide sexual confusion that leads us to fulfill our sexual desires everywhere besides our committed relationships.

AS ‘EXTRAORDINARY’ AS ORDINARY

Why would we need to go there? Channing Tatum, who publicly confessed to spending two years as a male stripper, is doing just fine despite his time spent stripping on stage. Who cares about the 92% of strippers who are women, mostly talented dancers who couldn’t find jobs elsewhere, supporting themselves through college and putting food on the table? How about sex workers’ right to fair wages, clean working environments, health care, and a way out of their line of work, if they wanted it? No, as Manohla Dargis continues, “‘Magic Mike’ is very much about the beauty of bodies in motion and the deep cinematic joys of watching good-looking people perform extraordinary physical feats,” as if she’s writing about apple pie and the other things that make us ‘Americans.’

  

Let me set this straight, Manohla – there are no “extraordinary physical feats” in this movie. A short trip to the streets of New York City or better yet to the African continent will quickly show you male dancers who blow Mr. ‘Extraordinary’ Tatum out of the water and can move their pelvises as if they’ve been doing it for millennium – which they have (although there, sexuality is culturally integrated as ‘normal,’ whereas we exploit it in the name of novelty and consumerism.) Manohla’s review is on autopilot, mostly leaving gender-bending aside and complacently giving a “thumbs-up” without divulging anything below the surface of this otherwise cookie cutter film.

New York Times reviewer Dargis calls Tatum’s dance moves “extraordinary,” but they only remind me of middle school

 

She seems resigned to the status quo reaction to this movie which is women saying, “Finally! I get the chance to objectify men’s bodies they way they’ve been doing ours for millenium!” Somehow, when both genders are objectifying someone, it becomes okay. I often hear my female friends talk about women’s bodies with their boyfriends, somehow empowered by the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” cop-out.

Similarly, YouTube user BrunellaNoriega confides publicly that she’s been pretending not to be bothered by the dozens of movies that make her feel like crap for years: 

Whether it’s this image of real-life Channing Tatum as a stripper or women making $2000 a night in Las Vegas, exploiting sexual activities for money can be damaging.

TEAM OBJECTIFICATION

Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel good or natural for me to objectify other people’s bodies. Somehow it’s just not my thing. Maybe it’s because I’m in a relationship – one where I’ve committed my love, my body, and my thoughts, to only him (and expect the same in return), and so it’s hard to just relax into something that is, essentially, sharing my sexuality with someone else. I just can’t get on the objectification bandwagon, and I think I’m pretty much standing alone on the side of the road on this.

However, I oftentimes find that men also aren’t that comfortable objectifying women, or at least us knowing about it. When I’m sitting next to a man and there’s a woman getting naked on screen or something sexual happening, it’s sometimes uncomfortable for both of us, not just me. And why do men hide their porn? Not only because they know how actually shocking and potentially harmful the images could be to people they love, but I think because deep down somewhere, they feel some shame at their inability to control their sexuality in a way that doesn’t include strangers having sex with each other on a screen. (More on porn addiction here).

American men have a lot of growing up to do, but obviously so do women, if we’re going to be using the same type of visual sexual materials that have plagued our relationships for so long.

Objectification isn’t a female problem anymore. Our culture is slowly allowing men to be themselves – to show emotion, express feelings, be unique, feel fear, and show insecurity. So the gap between women’s rights and men’s rights is closing, at least emotionally, as in we’re getting closer to saying, “when you do this, it hurts,” and men being able to say, with empathy, “I know. I’m sorry.” And in turn, they’re going to start saying back to us, “when you do this, it hurts.” And we will instantly swallow the 30% less of every dollar we make for the same job, generations of inequality, and a lifetime of similar experiences to sincerely say, “I know. I’m sorry too.”

Being treated as if your body is more important than your brain, heart, and soul hurts everyone. Perpetuating gender stereotypes without allowing for the uniqueness of our partners’ can prevent the growth of mutual trust and respect healthy relationships depend on. Keeping our sexuality hidden, repressed, and shared with strangers because we lack honest sexual intimacy with someone we love, fosters deep sadness and longing, which affects everyone.

Just because women are getting their turn to be the voyeurs in the situation, doesn’t mean that will get them any closer to happier, more loving relationships with themselves or others.

BrunellaNoriega, and everyone else: You deserve to live in a world where nothing makes you feel bad about yourself, and if you feel violated by your boyfriend’s movie watching you deserve to say something!

One of my favorite authors, Rob Bell, often talks about how all women are “worth dying for.” Hear him out, as he talks to us women: 

“When you live in your true identity, when you find your worth and value in your creator, in who you really are, you force him to rethink what it means to be a man.  Perhaps this is why historical marriage ideals* talk about the man dying for the woman. This can be terrifying for a man. Committing to a woman for life is going to demand a courage, fidelity, and strength he may not know he has. That is why some men take such pride in their sexual conquests. They’re desperately running from their fear that they don’t have what it takes to lay down their lives for a woman. Sleeping with lots of women gives them the feeling of being a man without actually having to be one.” (Rob Bell in Sex God )

Yeah, I’m going to say it. “Real men” don’t objectify women. Not with their actions, their words, or their thoughts. They honor the beauty and strength of their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, without needing to put themselves on a pedestal to feel strong. Needless to say, “real women” don’t do it either.

 

EXERCISE

Unfortunately, it’s a painful, messed up world we live in, and most people I know are somewhere in the process of learning the truth about what it takes to be the person they want to be the hard way.  They are learning on their own, without guidance from religion, positive role-models, or rule books.

But one thing we can do is talk openly about the media and our feelings, and make decisions to support art and entertainment that honors us and the people we love. Or at least, that doesn’t put us down.

This can be difficult. I won’t say I regret throwing down $20 for Magic Mike (it pulled me out of my month long blog-writing doldrum!). And just a few months ago I was shocked to find myself considering attending convicted-rapist Roman Polanski’s film with a friend.

 But at the end of the day, all I control is what I believe in and how I feel and if I’m not a fan of the new “dick” flavor of “chick flicks,” I don’t have to go see them. If “Magic Mike” makes you feel good about yourself and your body, then by all means see it again and again. Because you deserve to feel great, everyone does (and compared to the options out there, seeing an R rated Channing Tatum movie is chamomile tea).

The media we watch affects our minds, our thoughts, and eventually our lives. You’re better than that, take control of what you let in, and you’ll be happier with what comes out!

Give it a try:

When you’re watching TV, test yourself to see what emotions certain images trigger. You can try it when you first sit down, or if you’ve been watching for a while, try flipping channels and waiting till you feel a “ping” inside of you — emotions triggered. When it happens, try and take a moment to unravel the layers of what you feel, without accepting the first thing you think. For instance, if you see a celebrity you don’t like, take a moment to think about why you don’t like them. Then pick apart why you don’t like the things you don’t like. Hopefully you’ll find the side of you that wants to be empowered and loved just the way you are! And start to speak up!

 


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13 thoughts on “NOT SO ‘MAGIC MIKE': ARE WOMEN BECOMING THE MEN WE DESPISE?

  1. Anji McBride says:

    to the writer of this article, you are completly missing the point. No one is saying that the sex industry is a good thing, no one is saying that I don’t pity anyone male or female who ends up there as a way to support themselves, not that they are bad people, they’re not, they’re just trying to survive and they’re entitled to do so, the point this movie I thought was brining into sharp relief was that it’s not that women are becomeing the bad men, it’s that men are getting weaker and weaker with each successive generation. Did you know that 40% of women in the workforce are the major bread winners for their families and yet they are still getting paid less then their male counterparts? Did you also know that it is now very common place for the man to be the dependant who stays at home while he lives off of his girlfriend? And he yet he still won’t clean anything! We did not put them there, we have not left them no other option than to live off of someone elses money, we did not regulate their lives so they can’t earn their own money they have to marry it, we did nothing to them, they themselves are becoming less and less mature with each successive generation all by themselves. The Kid in the movie, he gave up two paying respectable jobs that he could have had, one because he would of had to wear a tie, and the other because “the guy thought I stole something, so I quit.” I’m sorry you didn’t take the job in the worst economy since the last great depression because you had to wear a tie? Because someone accused you of stealing somthing? A woman wouldn’t leave her job for such idiotic reasons, not in this economy. Are you kidding? we’ll wear stilettos if we have to, but we work. They are more and more acting like this character Kid. I was the sole bread winner in my last relationship and I was houseing us, feeding us, I kept him clothed when he needed new clothes, if he wanted a new pair of shoes and it was in the budget we went and got shoes, when I lost my job and he got one, we lost our apartment because he blew all the rent money, we had to move in with his mom, I had to beg him for enough money to eat with, I had to beg him to pay rent to his mom so she wouldn’t kick us out. Then I left, when I was the bread winner, it was our money, when he became the bread winner it was his money, he straight up said “Why should I have to pay your grocery bill? And when I brought up how much I had done for him, that when I had the money I took care of him, he said “I didn’t ask you to.” yes but that didn’t stop you from taking advantage of it did it? That didn’t stop you from accepting it, and yes actually you asked me for things all the time and if I could afford it, I would get it for you. This type of male is becoming more and more common place and do not allow centuries of chauvenism to make you think that we did that to them, no, they have done this to themselves.

    • Ray says:

      Wow just wow, so because *some* men are useless idiots that means all men are. So Magic Mike isn’t about exploting men as to show how usless they are. Yes it’s not fair that women who work as hard as men get paid less. However, women are also becoming more abusive to their male counterparts is that okay as well? I’ve seen videos of Police woman hiding behind their male counterparts in times of crisis. Men are still expected to put their lives on the line, but women aren’t?.

  2. […] One blogger even claimed that this movie is a case of women becoming the men they despise. If the female author meant “we actually appreciate someone of the opposite gender gyrating on screen,” fine. But if she means “happy to consume works that treat the opposite sex as cardboard cutouts,” she can’t convict us with Magic Mike. […]

  3. Mike says:

    Totally respected my wife and kids. Loved my family. Found out she snuck out to see this movie. Absolutely ashamed of the current culture of women now. Would have never known had my wife not gone to this. A very happy marriage is ending. She can go be a cougar for the rest of her life if that’s what she wants. American men have (overall) been so good to women in the last 30 years, sticking up for their causes. There is only 2 place this will lead. Either the popular culture will begin making severe womanizer movies again, this time with a halfway decent plot, to pull the men into the theaters who have lost trust with their companions… Or some men will revolt against women…. I’m sorry that I will lose my once best friend over this and will see my children probably much less. I hope she thinks it was worth it… And who knows, maybe she can get a date with Channing since he’s such a great guy apparently, or at least, the screenwriter is.

  4. GAW says:

    This is a good article and I agree with its premise.

    It is my opinion that women, in some ways, have long since “become the men they despise”.

    Western society is very hypocritical and the very same behaviours, which are called “sleazy / disrespectful” when exhibited by men, are called “fun / empowering” when exhibited by women.

    For her bachelorette party, one of my girlfriends friends went to a male stripper show. I asked my girlfriend to miss that part of the evening and just attend the earlier meal / drinks. This was because I know exactly what women do with male strippers for “fun” – mutual groping / fondling, dry humping, simulated sex, rubbing substances into – or licking them off – naked bodies, playing with naked men’s genitals etc. Many women will post pictures of their “fun” online, while lieing through their teeth about what went on in reality.

    For this, her friends decried me as “controlling” and suggested our relationship was unhealthy, which I thought was just ridiculous. Happily my girlfriend agreed to miss the evening, though I did regret the “loss of face” it caused her with her friends. However, her friends later claimed there was “no physical touching” at the event, which was rather patronising, given the picture gallery online (from one of the women who did attend) of the bride-to-be with handfuls of naked penis.

    There is a real sense of female entitlement among young women – thanks to decades of aggressive feminism etc. They feel entitled to behave in a very sleazy fashion and they feel entitled to lie about it. I think this is justified to themselves via thinking “ah well, this is what the men get up to anyway, so its ok for us to”. Contact between men and female strippers is actually prohibited by law (as its too close to “prostitution”).

    Things are made worse, in the context of strippers / bachelorette type parties etc, due to the absence of social rules for women. Men’s behaviour towards women is governed by strict social rules. Whereas a bacherloette party can enter a bar and aggressively demand money / kisses / underwear / whatever from the men present, men cannot behave like that towards women. They would be thrown out the bar or even arrested.

    There are no social rules to moderate women’s behaviour like this, which has created a problem, ever since women have decided they can behave like they imagine men do. And from various bachelorette parties I have seen around, it is obvious that women are unable to moderate their own behaviour.

    It should be noted that my objection to my partner at strippers is not based on “objectification” or feelings of inadequacy. Rather, its because I regard much of the “fun” as grossly unacceptable conduct for someone in a relationship and I don’t like my partner behaving like in such a cheap fashion. If I don’t respect her – and I do not respect the women who go to such events – I obviously cannot love her. Equally, If I do not feel respected by her, then I cannot feel loved by her.

    Finally, I especially resented being called “controlling” and presented as unreasonable by my partners friends, because I know fine well that, had it been her complaining about men attending some kind of sleazy adult entertainment, they would have been fully supportive and unquestioning of her positive. It is very clear to me that women will naturally operate the most outrageous double standards, if they allowed to.

    • GAW says:

      her complaining about men attending some kind of sleazy adult entertainment, they would have been fully supportive and unquestioning of her positive
      ——————–

      Sorry that should read:

      “her complaining about me attending some kind of sleazy adult entertainment, they would have been fully supportive and unquestioning of her position”

      Doh!

  5. Check out this excellent article from Joanna Schroeder on the Good Men Project, where she brings up many additional issues related to ‘Magic Mike.’ Her thesis:

    “What they don’t tell you, however, is that in buying what ‘Magic Mike’ has to sell, we’re endorsing antiquated, and ultimately harmful, notions of both femininity and masculinity, not to mention truly toxic models of male-female relationships.”

    Awesome.

    http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/good-feed-blog-magic-mike-something-much-worse-than-the-objectification-of-men/

  6. Darren says:

    See, believing in feminist propaganda such as that men automatically get paid 30% more, drives women to believe that men deserve some level of ‘revenge’ enacted against them. This movie is making a lot of profit, particularly compared to how much it cost, so expect more of these types of movies to be pumped out of Hollywood. The whole media is man-bashing. You can’t watch a trailer even for a ‘childrens’ film these days without the obligatory ‘comedy’ scene of a boy being kicked or hit in the balls. And, for me, the most telling moment in the last year about how women in America view men was when the female presenters and audience on ‘the view’ were laughing their heads off about a man whose girlfriend drugged him, bound him up and hacked off his penis. Oh so hilarious.

    Well, you might think you enjoy the ‘paradigm change’ as you put it, but trust me, this trend is not leading anywhere pretty.

    • Many male colleagues express similar wariness at the feeling that they have to suffer “revenge” from women angry at mistreatment from other men or perhaps centuries past. But I think a therapist would say that ‘Magic Mike’ and other forms of media which subtly and not-so subtly (https://vimeo.com/44040151) flip the paradigm to allow women to be in the position of power are healthy for women struggling to process and grow. Expressing fear, anger, embarrassment, and blame can help make women feel more in control, unearthing perhaps decade-old feelings from unresolved incidents.

      However, these expressions of female dominance take a toll on men doing the best they can to defy gender stereotypes and be good men. We as a society are embedded in a pretty big mess of inequality confusion, with both many men and women struggling to balance making the situation better while healing themselves.

      If we care about gender equality and creating a society where our children have the freedom to be unique individuals, free from gender stereotypes, we can not be passive. Open dialogues with the people we love the most about our feelings, taking a calm stand for what we believe in when we see or hear someone perpetuate gender bashing, and cultivating forgiveness for ourselves and others is no longer an option.

      I encourage men and women in my life to look at both the subtle and overt ways they may be perpetuating male hierarchies, and use their intuition to decide what’s the right thing to do.

      If 13-year-old girls can talk in a balanced, candid way about intense gender stereotypes, why can’t the rest of us? http://www.upworthy.com/lots-of-people-think-this-girl-is-too-young-to-be-talking-about-sex-so-why-is-sh?c=bm1

      [Curious about the “propaganda” you speak of? Discrimination in the workplace has been personally true for me, and I’ve seen it confirmed many places i.e. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0435.pdf%5D

      • Darren says:

        The point is that feminist organisations and feminist media are continually whipping up hatred and suspicion against men. I’m utterly astonished at what you just wrote. So much so that I had to read it twice to make sure I’d read it clearly. So, how am I supposed to feel about my young son in school or my elderly father in hospital being taught or treated by female teachers or doctors who feel the need to use boys or men as targets for revenge, and therapeutic punch-bags?! Truly sick.

      • Hi Darren- There’s no excuse for anyone anywhere to mistreat someone, especially as displacement for their own anger or pain. I’m sorry for your experiences and hope that you’ve been able to extricate you and your loved ones from situations where they were being physically and/or emotionally abused. I’m fighting for a world where no one has to consciously or unconsciously inflict pain or suffering on others due to their own misunderstandings. Sounds like you are too.

      • Darren says:

        You don’t understand what I’m saying: by supporting a one-sided philosophy that is whipping up resentment, hatred and suspicion against boys and men you are complicit in the inevitable fact that this will lead women to treat boys and men poorly.

  7. Joshunda says:

    I love this. It expresses a lot of how I felt about Magic Mike. But I also liked that the movie offered a more complex rendering of masculinity than we usually see. So it wasn’t all about Channing Tatum’s dancing – he was aspiring to be a responsible person. I did find the part where he gets a little browner before he dances to Ginuwine a little uncomfortable. But I was uncomfortable with my gaze as a woman on male bodies, too. Objectification always sucks. But I also wonder how much of that is about us being women who are used to being objectified knowing the emotional/psychic/spiritual costs of objectification. I feel like I don’t want to subject other beings to that reductive feeling.

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