Sometimes, being a male feminist poses certain . . . challenges, I guess we'll call them. Let me say up front, though, that I'm not complaining about these challenges. This is me just trying to work through some of it, thinking out loud, as it were. It's also me taking a friend's suggestion, who suggested that I write about this. What is this? Well, my friend (a woman, if it matters) called it my "inner male conflict," in which I want to avoid objectifying women, but my "primal nature" is hard to fight. You can guess what this is about, can't you?
It's about ogling women. It's a very tempting thing to do--at the mall, at parties, on tv, wherever. It's also an objectifying thing to do, as it reduces the woman being ogled to a mere object for sexual appreciation. Which is where the conflict comes in. Women deserve my respect, not my objectification.
Now, let me head off some MRA and/or Christian fundamentalist bullshit right away: this problem isn't on the women's side. No matter how skimpy the outfit they're wearing, no matter how tight the yoga pants, or no matter whether they're naked (as happens at some parties I occasionally get to go to), it's not a woman's responsibility to avoid my ogling. Despite what some would have you think, women are not responsible for the thoughts or emotions that looking at them generates, anymore than I'm responsible for the thoughts or emotions that looking at me generates. It's the responsibility of the one doing the looking to exercise some self-control and restraint. Nothing I say here should be taken as an endorsement of anything else.
But wow, can that be hard. The curve of a buttock, a well shaped calf, a hint of cleavage, the nape of a neck, lips . . . all these things and more draw the eye, and I want to look. I want to stare. I want to let my eyes feast on the view as if they've never seen a woman before. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of mood I'm in--good, bad, depressed, excited, horny, not horny, etc-- it's almost reflexive to look.
However, I also happen to respect women as actual people, and actual people are not mere objects for me to sexually admire. People have hopes and fears, good days and bad days, thoughts and opinions. People have favorite colors, foods, music, movies, and books. People run the gamut from asexual to hyper-sexual. People also run a gamut as to how much they mind being ogled. Myself, I have no idea what it's like to be ogled, as I've never caught anyone ogling me, so I have to go by what I'm told.
And what I'm told most often, via blogs, comments, video, etc, is that women generally don't like being ogled. They don't want to be stared at as they're grocery shopping, going to lunch, walking down the street, checking out books at the library, and so on and so forth. They don't want to be looked at as less than people, as objects. I want to respect that in action as well as word.
So, how do I handle this? Well, by doing my best to catch myself when I'm looking, and remind myself not to. I look away at those points. And I've also taken to, as soon as I catch myself, making a point to wonder what sort of person she is. What's she up to today? Is she optimistic, pessimistic, or would she call herself a realist? Are there indications in how she walks, dresses, or the things she's doing that give a suggestion of what sort of person she is? And so on.
In other words, I'm deliberately trying to see the woman as a person, and not just her looks. It's getting easier. Those questions are popping up faster, with less deliberate reminders on my part. And this is good.
But those "primal" instincts are still strong.