Just when I thought this #JugCam meme had fizzled away into the background, I read Robert Miller’s post titled “What does NO mean in SA“. Reading some of the #JugCam criticism it struck me that critics have implicitly portrayed women attending cricket matches as fragile little ladies who are being oppressed and victimized by forceful and utterly offensive men and should be protected from such things as #JugCam for their own good. Miller’s post just reinforces gender stereotypes which underly many of the societal ills he raises concerns about.
In the first place Miller portrays #JugCam as a men versus women issue with men oafishly in favour of this degrading practice and women united in their opposition. In fact, both men and women opposed, were neutral about and favoured #JugCam. Both men and women expressed their views about #JugCam, some fairly strenuously, on Twitter and elsewhere on the Web. Reading Miller’s post you would be excused for thinking those same poor “girls” who, united in their opposition to #JugCam and who spoke out against the meme, were shouted down and belittled by those men. You’d be excused for thinking that if you weren’t actually following the debate. The truth is a little different. Both sides had equal opportunity to express their views and did so. Critics and proponents tweeted their thoughts, retweeted each other and took shots at the other side. Two commentators made similar points in response to my blog post and I wrote the following in reply:
That said, it is disingenuous to play the victim here and now claim that opponents are being denied their right to freedom of expression because they have enjoyed the same opportunity to voice their opposition as those who are neutral on or even approve the meme.
Just because you express a view, doesn’t mean other people should agree with it. What has come out pretty clearly from the tweets and comments is that some people oppose #JugCam and think it is a serious rights violation, others may not approve and think the opposition is over the top and others think it is fun (men and women, by the way).
#JugCam has opposition and I think that is important from the perspective of free expression and the freedom to have your own ideas. The same applies to people who favour it. People like @fleabeke should be free to voice their opposition to practices that offend them and to have that opposition respected even if many disagree.
Miller’s black and white perspective perpetuates the fallacy that women can’t stand up for themselves effectively and are still subject to male dominance. While his post is an (insulting) attempt to set the guys favouring #JugCam straight on how to treat women, it seems to be based on the premise that guys are just generally insensitive. He doesn’t mention the men who spoke out against #JugCam or the women who either thought the criticism was overblown or even favoured the whole thing as some fun. Instead, by typecasting men as the bad guys and women as the hapless victims of this degradation, he disrespected the people whose views didn’t match their gender stereotypes. In fact, its worse than that. By sticking with these two stereotypes of men and women, Miller undermines the men and women who are empowering themselves and making different choices: the men who oppose #JugCam as degrading and the women who play along, secure in their sexuality and sense of self. He probably does more harm to women’s self-empowerment with these stereotypes than #JugCam ever could.
Another aspect of Miller’s post which I find alarming is that little two letter word NO. At no point in the debate was there a suggestion that any women photographed or approached said “no”. Of course, most of those women weren’t given the opportunity to refuse permission and that is a valid criticism. That said, there is merit in the argument that these women’s consent isn’t required and that they don’t have an expectation of privacy in this context. Leaving aside the legalities, asking for permission is always a more respectful approach but that doesn’t justify this little tirade:
Seriously guys, yes this article is going to piss many of you off but at the end of the day you have to go back and think about one word, NO.
It seems from this last week that we as South Africans have a huge problem with the word NO. SA girls for the most part are ignored when they use it and a lot of SA guys see it not as something that must be listed to, but rather as an opportunity to show their dominance and to just bully the girls into submission. There is a word for that and it’s not dominant, it’s called abusive!
I have little doubt that if a woman said “no”, her wishes would be respected. Miller is being sensationalist and is implicitly associating the act of taking a photograph of a woman in a bikini with sexual assault in which context the common slogan is “No means no”. This belittles sexual assault and the harm women suffer when they are victims of sexual assault by linking it to the relatively harmless act of taking a photograph of a woman in a bikini in a public space and publishing it on Twitter where its shelf life is about 10 minutes. There are far worse and offensive practices on the Web, let alone in the real world.
If I were a feminist or anyone who took a stand on #JugCam and didn’t fit neatly into Miller’s Bad Guys vs Victimised Girls stereotype, I would be insulted by Miller’s post and the perspectives it represents and perpetuates.