The now infamous picture uploaded by Canadian crooner Michael Bublé on Instagram in which a young woman’s backside is peeking out from under the hem of her short shorts has fuelled a lot of debate on body shaming, gender equality, and respect. Long-time readers of this blog will not be surprised that I am more fascinated by the root cause of the uproar than by its reason.
There are quite a few layers to the story. So many, in fact, that a sweeping opinion of the matter should not be made. That we live in a multicultural world in which there is a large variety of opinions exist further discourages this. However, each layer should be analysed, leading to a more profound understanding of the discussion and shedding light on potential avenues which might provide a solution.
I have seen and heard a sizeable number of people say that the girl in the picture “clearly” wanted attention, else she would not have worn such a “revealing” outfit. This argument makes no sense.
For one, while some people might wear outfits for the sole purpose of getting attention, there are many other reasons why one would choose to wear a certain outfit: comfort, practicality, and laziness are some that come immediately to mind. Furthermore, an outfit that might go by unnoticed in one place will make headlines in another. No doubt a fashionable yet modest outfit by North American standards would attract a lot of attention in other parts of the world. It seems that in an increasingly connected, multi-cultural world, we have to move beyond this sort of thinking. We cannot assume that a simple formula (revealing outfit = want attention) holds true for everyone.
Moreover, this is the kind of thinking that, when taking to the extreme, justifies actions such as rape. Granted, commenting on a woman’s exposed skin is a long way from forcing her into unwanted sex. But the attitude is related. If a woman is “asking for attention”, couldn’t one perhaps deranged person assume that she would be asking for sexual attention? Just like one wouldn’t assume that a homeowner placing a “Welcome” sign on their front door is “asking for” a robbery, one shouldn’t assume that a woman wearing an outfit deemed revealing by the onlooker is “asking for” anything.
Even if we could be certain that the outfit of the woman in the picture was nothing but a mistake and that she is indeed “asking for it”, those who can see the error in this woman’s ways are supposedly at a higher level of maturity and understanding. Just like one wouldn’t punish a child for a choice born out of immaturity, why would these purportedly mature people punish this young lady for what they perceive as an immature, bad choice? Quite the contrary; instead of claiming that she “asked for it”, these individuals should instead contribute to a positive conversation about the meaning of appropriate garbs. To push this thought further, if you believe that this young woman is morally bankrupt, then you, the morally solvent one, are responsible for creating a community in which she is safe.
Bublé’s Comments and Hashtags
The human form is beautiful; appreciating God’s creation isn’t a bad thing, as long as we do not cross the line into sleazy territory. Some online comments argue that Bublé, by commenting on the body of a young lady who is potentially under the legal age, is being lewd.
Let’s say Bublé had commented on a man’s hair; would it have caused this much of an uproar? I would care to guess that it wouldn’t have; why not? Some would argue it’s because the historical demeaning of women makes even the smallest slight an extra burden for the gender to bear. While this is a valid concern, could it also be that we are interpreting all comments on the female form as objectification? When women are put down to the level of objects that have no other purpose but to service humans, they are being objectified. When women are considered as equals and on top of that, their physical assets are appreciated, couldn’t it just be a compliment?
There is also the fact that communications skills are remarkably deficient nowadays; studies have shown that North American vocabulary has been steadily decreasing. If we are only surrounded by an appreciation of women expressed through a sexualised vocabulary the real meaning of which is being increasingly diluted—have you thought about what it actually means to call a car ‘sexy’?—then the best intentions can go terribly wrong for no other reason that ignorance.
I don’t know much about Bublé (other than I love his music), but perhaps it is worth asking: does he have the vocabulary to adequately convey his thoughts on female beauty? Has he displayed a pattern of behaviour objectifying women through his songs, his presence on social media (other than this picture), and his personal life choices? Is this a case of objectification, or something else entirely? Judging others is a wrong exponentially made worse through generalisation and ignorance.
Let’s say that Bublé is completely in the wrong and that those who are judging him are morally more mature. As previously mentioned, shouldn’t the more mature individuals know better than to shame someone? Isn’t this all the more ironic that they are shaming Bublé because he allegedly shamed someone else? How is this pattern of behaviour going to solve the underlying dynamics at the centre of this uproar?
Image credit: Chad Mauger.