Actually … no. Just no.
So I went and saw Magic Mike on Friday. A friend invited me to go as part of a ladies’ night. I hadn’t been to a movie in ages, I hadn’t seen this friend in longer, we were having cocktails first, and I was admittedly curious. Plus I have a big ladyboner for Joe Manganiello. The movie wasn’t as terrible as I expected it to be. The plot was pretty predictable, there were some genuine giggle-worthy moments, it got kind of drug-dark, and there was plenty of hot stripping action. Channing Tatum can dance like a god, there were lots of good looking butts and gyrating, etc etc. Yes, I ‘woo’ed a bit and cat-called the screen along with the other billion ladies in the theater, and felt kind of like I was at a bachelorette party. It was fun.
Now for how I feel about it as a feminist, which was the part I was unsure on going in: It sure as hell didn’t make me feel sexist. Here’s why.
* I have no problem with sex work being performed by any gender. I believe sex workers of any level deserve way more respect and protection under the law. It’s a perfectly valid choice of occupation, it fulfills a demand/need in the general populace, I don’t see it as filthy or degrading at all if it’s entered into willingly and fully-informed. I fully believe in bodily autonomy. It’s yours, do with it what you want.
* The female gaze exists, world. Women like sex too. Some of us like it with men. (Speaking in generalities, of course, not intending to erase asexuals, trans* folks, etc.) Part of liking sex is being attracted to your partner’s body. The guys in Magic Mike are hot. (Though they would’ve done well to add more POCs to their lineup.) Yes, they are hot in a very stereotypical “I spend ten hours a day in the gym” sort of way. That is not the only body type I’m attracted to by far, but I can appreciate it. A lot of people can. Watching hot dudes dance and gyrate around in thongs makes me think about how well they move during sex, and it’s arousing, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Media would be a hell of a lot more balanced if female sexuality was more accepted, understood, and catered to. Or hell, ANY sexuality that isn’t male-centered heteronormative. But no, we are largely told that women don’t have real sexual desires, or they use sex just to get what they want, or they HAVE to be ~in love~ to have good sex, or they can’t have it with as many partners as they want without being branded a slut and their value as human beings questioned.
* Supposedly this film objectifies men. Like any stripping movie, of course it does to a degree, but there’s plenty of off-stage stuff in the movie that shows more to the two main male characters than just their bodies. They laugh and struggle and have dreams (Channing Tatum’s character does, anyway), and don’t seem to feel degraded at all about what they do.
I’m definitely not saying that objectifying men is a good thing. However, men are not constantly and thoroughly objectified by society, advertising, and all entertainment media ever, the way that women are. There were even at least three sets of bare tits in this movie. Only one of which was attached to a woman who had a significant speaking role. A movie revolving around MALE strippers.
Men are not told that their worth lies in their appearance. It is not ingrained into men to think that they have an expiration date, that no one will love them when they get old and wrinkly. Or if they get fat. Or if they have strong opinions. Or if they choose not to wear makeup. Men are not systematically oppressed or short-changed or have their bodies and reproductive rights controlled. It is a terrible thing to happen to anyone, but sexual violence against women happens far more often than against men. Nearly every message we get indicates that men have talent and personality and intelligence to offer, where a woman’s primary value lies in her body. This applies to ALL WOMEN, not just the socially-attractive ones.
So maybe it’s nice to see the fucking tables turned for once, and to see a big group of women embracing their sexuality and ‘woo’ing at a group of good-looking guys who have willingly chosen to strut their stuff.
If you think that’s sexist? You don’t know what sexism means.