"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

First Steps in Yoga Pants

There are a lot of things that Nathan Graziano gets wrong in his recent article about his own struggles with lusting over women in yoga pants, but there are also some things that he is beginning, at least, to get right. What he gets wrong is covered pretty thoroughly in the twittersphere, but one of the things that strikes me most directly are his naive assumption that women wear yoga pants, in some sense, for him.  He just can't quite believe that they wear them for comfort: 
 And when I ask women about yoga pants—hoping they’ll tell me the trend will pass—most women tell me that it isn’t that yoga pants are fashionable, per se, but they are comfortable to wear. As a claustrophobic guy, I couldn’t imagine being comfortable in anything that tight, but I’m going to suspend my disbelief and assume they are, indeed, comfortable.
But baggy sweatpants are also comfortable, so I can only assume there’s more to it. There is an implicit game here—the age-old tease where women flaunt and men look.

Where to start?  Lots of folks don't find sweatpants comfortable at all--people who do yoga, for instance, find that sweatpants don't work so well--it helps to have something that is flexible, but also close to your skin; and, hey! some women like how that feels while out shopping, too. Just imagine. 

The above assumption isn't just a naive assumption, though--it is tied to a lot of the other assumptions that Graziano makes throughout his piece; assuming that women are doing something for men is directly related to the fact that he feels kinda douchey when he finds himself having trouble not staring.  It's directly related to his gender essentialist thinking ("men are pigs").  It's directly related to an over-simplistic nod to "biological components".  

All of this stuff makes folks who have done quite a bit of thinking about gender, and about feminism, cringe (ok, at least it makes me cringe, and lots of people object on twitter).  And all sorts of criticisms are justified. Hopefully he'll listen to some of the criticism and grow a bit (men who are feminists are needing to do this, pretty constantly, I've found).  

That said, I think there are some places where he's on the right path, if only a few steps down that road.  I recognize this could be "give me a cookie" territory (there is a tendency to give any man who has even the slightest feminist leanings more credit than needed), but I also think it's important for men to encourage other men to think these things through. So, here's my encouragement.

I was grateful for this passage:
Let me start by saying that women have every right to wear whatever they want, where they want, without having to be leered at and objectified. Intellectually and philosophically, I know this. And the ex-Catholic in me tries his best to recognize the lechery and look away as the minutes and miles tick off on the treadmill’s dashboard in front of me.
I know that acknowledging that women have every right to wear what they want is a low bar, but I like that he explicitly pointed out that he's discussing his issue, his problem (even though he goes off the rails and calls women "complicit" later on). 

I also appreciate how he ended the article:
And there I am, running like a gerbil on the treadmill. At 37 years old, I’m trying to ward off any impending middle-aged flab, trying to remain strong and youthful.
About ten yards in front of me, an attractive blonde with a high ponytail is doing step-aerobics in black yoga pants.

I stare and fear she knows, so I glance down at the dashboard on the treadmill. It reads, 29 minutes, 3.1 miles. Yet, somehow, I’m still going nowhere.
 To me, this acknowledges a reality that a lot of men feel--men who are trying to not be misogynist assholes, and yet still manage to be:   

Valenti makes it clear that she respects folks who want to educate this guy, but wants it known it's not her job--and I (of course!) agree completely. I think it's the job of other men, most of the time, actually. So here I am. I understand and support folks like Valenti who want to call this guy an asshole; I also think that almost all men who were raised in patriarchal society start out as "assholes" of this type (or worse!), and I want to acknowledge here when men are also working on it. Maybe not fast enough. Maybe not hard enough. But there he is, noting that he feels like he's "going nowhere", while trying to get to a place where he feels less douchey. I'm going to put that in the "plus" column for men trying to undo their own training. 

(That said, I also think this is the kind of watered-down feminist-ish bs that the Good Men Project is sort of famous for putting out, right?)

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