The Sexist

Feminism For Bitches

In response to my break-down of all the ways that Playboy tried to get a look at Olivia Munn's areola, Zelda Lily's Sarah Arboleda submits, instead, that Munn is perhaps just a lying, bitchy idiot with a bad publicist who regularly "flaunts" her "female sexuality" and thus deserves only our mockery. Arboleda:

Let’s say Playboy called you up and asked you to be their cover model. Would you be shocked and disgusted to learn that they expect you to be naked in the pages of a magazine that has specialized in nude photos for over fifty years? Really? I’m a vegetarian. It’s like if I walk into a restaurant called “Joe’s House of Meat” and demand to know why Joe doesn’t have tofu stir-fry on the menu. I don’t walk into places called “Joe’s House of Meat.” If Olivia Munn wants to keep all of her clothes on, she probably shouldn’t agree to pose for Playboy.

. . . let me get this straight: an enormous contract was drawn up where every detail of your exposed flesh was pre-approved up to and including the crack of your ass, and your agent or manager was not on-set to make sure that this lengthy and thorough contract was honored? Really? If that’s the case, why bother with the contract at all? Either Miss Munn is lying, or she really needs new people.

. . . why does the model/fake news correspondent capitalize so heavily on her female sexuality? Take, for instance, the cover of Suck It, Wonder Woman. More to the point, which of Munn’s career moves have not somehow capitalized on her sexuality? . . . The easy answer is that Munn wants it both ways. She wants to be able to flaunt her junk for money and fame, but is outraged when people claim that she’s only famous and rich because she flaunts her junk.

Some context: Previously, Arboleda had called Munn out for making rape jokes, fat jokes, and jealous-bitches jokes. Fair enough. In the same post, Arboleda also dismissed Munn as a "bikini-clad" "Maxim model with bad comedic timing" whose career is "such blatant pandering for money and male attention that it borders on distasteful, even sexist." Hmm. And then there was this: "what I dislike about Munn is that her guy’s girl routine is so clearly an act. If it were genuine, it would be fine."

I get it. We live in a world where flaunting your junk, bashing other women, and acting the guy's-girl is a pretty effective strategy for getting ahead for a very small group of women, and that is sexism at work. But the solution is not to take the women who manage to squeeze some personal benefits out of that sexism and to tear them down in the most sexist ways possible. Believe it or not, even women who make careers out of "pandering" to this system are themselves constantly battling misogyny—they're cut down for wearing bikinis, ridiculed for having personal limits as to how their bodies are used, and called "bitches" for not being sufficiently grateful for their role. And until we start turning our attention to all those men who get "famous and rich" by "flaunting" their "male sexuality" in order to "pander" for "female attention," we've got a major social problem here—not an Olivia Munn problem.

Feminism has to be for all women. Even women you think are stupid, naive, or "tragically unfamiliar with the content of Playboy." Even women who walk into the wrong room. Even women with bad publicists. Even women with no publicists. Even women who expect professional photographers and stylists to honor professional contracts without question. Even women who have lied. Even women who have bashed other women. Even women who you think have capitalized on their "female sexuality." Even women who "flaunt [their] junk for money and fame." Even women with cleavage on the cover of books. Even women who sometimes wear bikinis. Even women who don't perform all of these feats of "female sexuality" naturally, even women from whom it's all "an act." Even women you think are bitches. Even women who talk about it.

Sure, most women don't rise to the top of this system like Munn has. But we all participate in it in some way—we've all denigrated other women, or "flaunted" our "female sexuality," or put on some sort of feminine "act" in order to get by. And if that means that we all deserve anything that's coming to us, then that's it for feminism. So let's keep our focus on the institutions that really benefit from this—the ones that are so reliably misogynist, coercive, and plain skeevy that our knee-jerk reaction is to blame women for even discussing how misogynist, coercive, and skeevy they are. Because Munn has provided us the Hot Girl's view from the top, and it looks like a lot of stuffing phallic objects in your mouth and fighting off men who want your nipples, until you get too old and are replaced.

Photo via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • kza

    Does the asshole who wrote that piece not understand the concept of a contract? I don't think it's to hard to grasp.

  • PD

    *golf clap*

  • Kim Chi Ha

    Didn't Khloe Kardashian have this same issue w/ Playboy on an episode of keeping up with the kardashians? i think so.

  • Rell

    I do not agree. Feminism is not for idiot women who scream sexism when it suits them, but use their feminine wiles to get ahead at every opportunity they get. Why? Because it makes the rest of us look bad. That's why.

    How the hell can we tear down any oppressive, sexist barriers if we have dim-witted women- who are supposedly on "our side" as feminists- exploiting those very barriers to their advantage? It makes no sense.

    I'm supposed to build up this non-talented woman because she is a woman? "Yes, Olivia Munn, I will write in to Playboy and speak out against this outrageous sexism! And next time you're making a fool of yourself in a bikini, I will cover my face in shame."

    She's untalented, mildly attractive, and wildly unfunny. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but as an "entertainer" of some sort, she falls short. I'm not applauding her OR the idiots who put her on TV. I'll fight them on both ends.

  • kza

    Is there really any reason for Playboy to still be in print?

  • PD

    You don't have to applaud Olivia Munn or build her up, Rell, but feminism is about speaking out against sexism and misogyny, even when it happens to women we disagree with or don't like. Otherwise we're just cutting off our own noses to spite our faces.

  • Elise

    I think the real question here is, why should her appearance matter? Why do her critics (both feminist critics and non-feminist critics) focus so much on her appearance? Why in the world would whether or not she wears a bikini or poses nude for Playboy have anything to do with her intelligence or feminist status?

    Saying she's not feminist for wearing a bikini or dressing in a way you, personally, consider inappropriate is still appearance-focused, just like those men who like to "rate" women in attractiveness and dismiss (or pay attention to) them based on that number. If I want to wear a bikini around, then I have that right, and no one should be able to say I'm not feminist because I choose to show cleavage or leg - because my appearance has zilch to do with my intelligence.

  • Emmy

    Rell- See, but Munn herself never "cried sexism." She sort of played the story for laughs, and the only thing she accused Playboy of being was unprofessional, which it was. Playboy is a business, even though the product is naked ladies, and there's no excuse for them to have acted in such a way. And Munn posed for them to further her career, even though her career is professional hot girl. If you disagree with that business, and I think a lot of us do, the thing to do is to to work to change the attitudes in our cluture that make it possible, not to take down the individual women who participate in it by slut-shaming them.

  • Katy

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ARTICLE. Slut-bashing needs to stop.

  • Em

    @ PD: Amen. We can't just kick women out of the club--we have to accept that all women can have similar experiences with gender discrimination.

    If you want to talk bad about Munn, go ahead, do it. I myself have no problem with that. But don't talk bad about her for being a "bad woman" (i.e. posing for playboy, flaunting her bikini body, etc.) because then you're doing the exact same thing that MRAs and rape apologists do. You're saying a woman should be treated on the same level as men unless...what? Unless she acts more sexual than you, and thus you can judge her? Unless she's kind of ignorant about gender politics and trying to fit in to the boy's club that is comedy in the US? Really, those kind of double standards aren't going to help any of us. It just puts all of these qualifiers on gender equality.

    I dislike Sarah Palin because she's a disingenuous, money-grubbing corrupt politician. NOT because she tries to benefit from being a woman. I don't dislike Olivia Munn, particularly, but if I did I'm sure it would be because I didn't find her particularly funny, not because she uses her body or whatever else. Amanda's point was spot on: if some women manage to benefit from sexism, they're not where our anger should be vented. I think the feminist blogs, where Munn is concerned, are starting to hark back to high school and hating on the hot girl. How about hating on the society that reduces her to just "a hot girl"? It may be time to refocus.

  • Melissa

    Take a look at Olivia Munn's website and you will see that her entire website (that she controls) is devoted to pictures of herself in bikinis and skimpy outfits. She posts pictures of herself in bikinis from vacations. She stages sexy photoshoots for her fans (just to be used for her website). She wants the attention. This is who she is.

  • kza

    I agree. She has photos of herself in a bikini so clearly she wants to to be naked in Playboy .

  • Abe

    Melissa: Wanting attention does not mean you've revoked your right to be a woman. I simply don't understand the idea that a woman had to pass a test of modesty and niceness in order to be regarded as a human being. So what if she has pictures of herself in bikinis? Why on Earth does that matter?

    No. Really. You give me a reason why that matters, because saying "look at those *pictures,* God, she's just *asking for it*" is just about the most moronic argument I've ever heard. A grandmother deserves protection against sexism and sexual exploitation; so does a porn star. So does Anne Coulter. So does Monica Lewinsky. So does any actress or model or HUMAN BEING who's taken off articles of clothing in order to gain acceptance or approval. You don't get to decide that only the people you approve of deserve that protection.

  • Adrienne

    Munn fits the current mainstream beauty standards in the US and profits from that privilege. We can claim that if we looked like her we wouldn't make the same choices, wouldn't expose our bodies to the public or use our "feminine sexuality" or "feminine wiles" (whatever that means) for profit, but if you don't have that privilege you really don't know what you'd do in the same situation. I don't blame her for using what she has to get ahead, even if I personally might not (but who knows?) pose for publications that perpetuate sexist stereotypes.

    As for posting pictures of herself in bikinis and undies on her website, so what? If a conventionally "unattractive" woman did this, would it be a problem? Are all women supposed to keep themselves covered according to some arbitrary standard of modesty or is it only the pretty thin ones?

    Some of Munn's comments do seem to encourage fat hatred and animosity among women. That's worth criticizing, not how much skin she shows or her motivations for doing so.

  • Adam

    Why is this even about "feminism".

    I remember having to sign this "job review" at my former employer. Basically that I agreed with my evaluation. I felt intimidated into signing it and I felt stupid later for signing it. I'm a guy and that's happened before where I wonder why I didn't stand up for myself.

    Isn't Munn just a person who was "pressured" into doing something. It was awkward and it made her feel stupid. If we start to say only women are "victims" of this, then the subtext is that women are weaker willed.

    My wife is an attorney and there is PLENTY of real sexism with older male partners involved with younger associates or paralegals.

    I just don't get all the talk about how this is what "feminism" is about. The Playboy reps seem like creeps but both men and women are pressured into doing things against their will.

  • Emily H.

    "Let’s say Playboy called you up and asked you to be their cover model. Would you be shocked and disgusted to learn that they expect you to be naked in the pages of a magazine that has specialized in nude photos for over fifty years?" Well, if they were willing to SIGN A CONTRACT explicitly stating that I was not expected to be naked, then yes, I would be very surprised. If "specializ[ing] in nude photos" is such an essential part of Playboy's brand identity, they shouldn't make offers to women who aren't willing to agree to that. & the whole point of signing a contract is that both sides have an incentive to honor it -- you shouldn't HAVE to bring a bunch of intimidating-seeming employees with you to ensure your requirements get met. That article is so whatthefuckular, it's hard to know where to begin.

    I saw Munn on her Daily Show segment about the Russian spies, she seemed amusing & not without talent. Even if she's not a comedy genius, she certainly doesn't deserve hate & judgment for "capitalizing on her sexuality." The entertainment business is insanely competitive, and any would-be actor or comedian is going to "capitalize" on any feature they think might be marketable. Ruling one's own good looks out of bounds because it might cheapen you to show them off would be self-sacrificing to the point of masochism. (& even if women actresses/comedians dress and act modestly, people still notice & comment on their looks constantly -- so what's the point?) Bottom line, she deserves to be judged on her actual talent, or lack thereof.

  • Lynet

    Thank you so much for this, Amanda. Whilst I'll happily call out the sexism in some of the pieces Munn has appeared in, I'm disturbed by the way people are so quick to use the fact that she deliberately conforms to ideas of "sexiness" as a way to discount her. When people call Munn "stupid", with no reason besides "look, she poses in bikinis, regularly, of her own free will", they're just reinforcing the idea that women who are consciously sexy are automatically stupid.

    Call Munn out on the fat-shaming, by all means, but don't perpetuate stereotypes about "sexy" women while you're at it. Some of us happen to have both conventional looks and a comparatively open sexuality, and would like it if these were not obstacles to becoming a math professor, kthxbi.

  • Bryce

    I'm with you that bashing Olivia Munn doesn't get us anywhere -- go after the institutions that make flaunting sexuality the easiest way to get ahead. But I don't agree that "Feminism has to be for all women." Being a woman doesn't make you a feminist. Being a feminist makes you a feminist -- ascribing to and fighting for the equality of women everywhere. I don't have anything to say about Olivia Munn's feminism (I don't know enough about her), but your logic serves to further Sarah Palin's claims that she's a feminist. I think there is a line between woman and feminist woman, and it's okay to have that qualification.

  • Diz

    Don't hate Munn because she's beautiful on the outside, hate her because she continually proves to be ugly on the inside.

  • PD

    Bryce-- no one here is saying Munn or Palin or anyone else is a feminist by virtue of being discriminated against or being women. But you said yourself identifying as a feminist means you champion the cause of equality for women everywhere (including ones who do not behave as good feminists). If a certain woman experiences sexism, and she has not behaved as a good feminist, does that mean she deserves it? Does she deserve injustice because she's acted in ways we disagree with? Because the "if she's going to do x, she should expect to get y" line sounds like a slippery slope towards victim blaming to me.

  • ginmar

    Gee, thanks, Adam, that's "I'll give you something to cry about," plus, "Don't you have more important things to worry about?" and a topping of "But some of my best friends are black!" Oh, and let's not forget: "But what about the men?"

    Yeah, no.

    Olivia Munn is a woman and is entitled to certain rights as are we all. They don't depend on whether or not she's attractive or nice or whatever. She's human; she gets them. Period. End of subject.

    That so many people seem to think that a woman's right to refuse, to withdraw consent, to have any rights at all, are conditional and not absolute should give one pause the next time some dip$hit talks about female privilege.

  • Adrienne

    Adam, I see what you're saying and I agree with you up to a point. One could talk about this incident as an example of a person being pressured by those in a position of power to do something that person doesn't want to do. This situation does indeed happen to men. The same exact incident could happen to a man, and probably has.

    In addition to that conversation, I think Munn's account of this incident and the resulting coverage in the blogosphere are worthy of examination with a feminist lens. She was in special circumstances because, unlike you when you signed off on that evaluation, Munn was almost nude. She agreed to be in a somewhat vulnerable position, participating in her own objectification (I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just is what it is) in exchange for something she wanted (exposure? a career boost? money? attention? empowerment?). The fact that a group of men thought they could violate her contract and coerce her into doing whatever they wanted, and the fact that some see the need to blame her for this, is worth examining from a feminist angle. There is a different power dynamic present when a group of men try to take advantage of a woman.

    That said, I consider any sexual coersion or exploitation a cause for feminist uproar, no matter who the victim is.

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  • http://brycecovert.com Bryce

    PD-- Sorry to just be responding to this, but I'm completely with you on your point. I wanted to make the distinction between woman and feminist. But that doesn't mean I would stop fighting discrimination against Sarah Palin -- whether or not I think she's a feminist. Women deserve equality and to be free from discrimination, feminist or not. I guess it's a pretty nuanced point, so thank you for your clarification.

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