By Claire Gillespie
What’s with all the grabbing? Stop grabbing bits of me, it’s weird.
In wake of the release of an audio recording in which Trump recommended grabbing women by their genitalia as a method of having sexual intercourse with them, actor Gregg Sulkin posted a photo on Instagram wearing a hat calling to ‘Grab Her By The Brain’. I am loath to refer to any group of people as homogenous, but I have to say, it felt as if everyone on Twitter almost unanimously hated it.
Founder of ‘Grab Her By The Brain’, Elizabeth Ariosto, made a statement in response, a very legitimate statement, about the need to treat women with more respect in our society. She does good work, and that deserves recognition, but I can’t help but feel that she slightly missed the mark with this hat (the reaction would certainly suggest so).
The problem wasn’t the use of the word ‘pussy’ per se (you can call it whatever you want, if you have one), it was the grabbing. More precisely, it was the entitlement behind the description of how you can take whatever you want from women.
Taking what you want from women and choosing what it is that amounts our worth is not empowering. This makes me uncomfortable for reasons I can’t quite explain but have a lot to do with someone ‘deserving’ respect. I am not worthy of respect because I am intelligent. Not any more than I am worthy of praise because I am beautiful. I am worthy of a decent existence because I am a person, and I should not have to perform either of those attributes to get it.
If you just take and use the bits that you consider to be important about me, and leave the rest, you are not empowering me; rather, you are employing me. You still get to decide that I have something worthwhile to contribute and so, are still deciding how I’m treated. Women have been at the mercy of this decision for centuries. If you, Gregg Sulkin, really wanted to promote empowerment the hat would say ‘Stop Talking Over Her’ or ‘Pay Her Equally’ or my personal favourite, ‘Just Leave Her Alone’. If you really, really, wanted to promote it you wouldn’t be trying to flog hats and you’d have spent the time you spent pouting for that photo telling men to stop demeaning the women around them anyway.
The statement on the website for ‘Grab Her By The Brain’ makes things no clearer:
“Value her for who she is because her contribution to society is unique and immeasurable.”
Who decides what I’m contributing? What if my contribution is considered marginal, at best? Why do I have to be defined by contribution at all? I don’t want us to have to be considered ‘unique and immeasurable’ to warrant respect.
“It is a movement – an initiative – that is dedicated to empowering females of all ages.”
Do not call us females, ew.
“Our mission is to confront gender inequality with an unparalleled positivity and enthusiasm.”
I also think it might be a bit of a reach to suggest that there is nothing that parallels this ‘positivity’ and ‘enthusiasm’. Have you never listened to Destiny’s Child?
In the theme of things being empowering, this week I’ve been thinking about the Pussycat Dolls. Obviously.
Stay with me, and let’s take a quick walk through some of their most popular releases. ‘I Don’t Need a Man’ is not about trashing men; it’s literally about being able to get on and be satisfied with your life, and with your body, without male approval. ‘Beep’ is about how the girls are sick of being objectified and are going to carry on ‘doing their thing’ regardless of the male gaze.
‘Don’t Cha’ is, granted, about saying you are better than someone’s girlfriend. But actually it breaks down to Nicole et al., telling that dude that he should focus on what he’s got at home instead of barking up their metaphorical tree. ‘When I Grow Up’ is a cautionary tale to young girls who aspire to being famous, littered with the difficulties of being a woman in the public eye.
Feminist and also a Scottish clan.
I already mentioned Destiny’s Child but I can’t help but feel they occupy a hallowed space in pop culture which allows them to be considered an empowering feminist force. At least in retrospect, and probably also thanks in part, no doubt, to the never-ending heights of Beyonce’s success and declarations of sisterhood since then.
Despite the dominance of Destiny’s Child in girl-band history, I am struggling to think of a female-led pop group that didn’t go heavy on the girl power. TLC, The Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, Sugababes to name but a few, and all of them have a female solidarity anthem in their back catalogue. I can’t help but feel the Pussycat Dolls aren’t an obvious choice for this list because they weren’t obvious enough about it. Despite the fact they are literally the size of an actual gang, the fact they were a dance group first always overshadowed their girl gang credentials.
This week sees the birthday of Kim Kardashian, who was given possibly the nicest gift in the history of time by husband Kanye West: a compilation of unreleased home videos from her childhood. Love them or hate them, this is pretty adorable.
In the wake of her robbery, we hope Kim had a very good birthday indeed. Not least because of the backlash she received afterwards – if you’re going to dislike Kim for her views or ideals or products then fine, but please stop blaming her for a crime she was the victim of. Personally I think it’s weird that a woman who has done nothing but try and be financially and socially successful (and she admits it openly) could inspire that much vitriol. Just unfollow her on Instagram and get on with your lives guys.