It is up to the rest of us to respect ourselves and others in a way that deconstructs the feedback loop of rewarding the objectification of women that, at least for now, still works.
Being single can be challenging, even difficult for men. Some lack confidence. Some look for lovers only to find “friends”. All wish they could be the sort of man that women find irresistible.
So what’s a guy to do? How does he acquire the skills and confidence he needs to make his sexual dreams come true?
A common approach might be to look for role models to emulate. Men who are successful in life and living the dream. Men who are constantly surrounded by beautiful women.
So along comes this billionaire (“Big D”). A public figure of extraordinary proportions. A man with proven abilities in business and entertainment who has mingled with, dated and married some of the most beautiful women in the world.
Now there’s a guy to emulate. A man we can all learn from. Right?
And when the public is in the best possible position to learn from this icon of success, we get his message loud and clear: Treat women like business – where opportunity is taken not granted. If what you have to offer is not good enough, then simply reach out and take what you want.
Or in Big D’s own words:
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything”.
We all witnessed the repercussions of this locker room strategy when more than a dozen women came forward to give their personal accounts as victims of such behavior. But as sincere and honest as those women are, their stories were immediately politicized, undermining any potential value as a consequence. Their stories of being bullied, scared or insulted were lost to the ears that needed to hear them the most.
My first instinct was to jump on the bandwagon of public condemnation and expound on the many reasons treating women in this manner is wrong. I was sure that appealing to common decency or explaining how catcalling, uninvited touching and other aggressive behaviors are demeaning to women would suffice. But as the writing progressed, I became frustrated by the process since that would only be telling half the story – a half truth. Because for every woman we could find that is outraged by Big D’s methods, we could point to examples of women who condone them.
Consider Big D in all his glory: zillions of dollars, hotels, towers, casinos and lots and lots of women. It’s a powerful image. One that is played out time and again. He is the consummate sugar daddy, an archetype as well known and common as the sugar babies who are willing to contend with his contemptuous behavior in exchange for the trappings of a super-rich lifestyle.
The operative point here is objectification – the men who treat women as a commodity to be bought and sold, and the women who offer themselves to the highest bidder. Just how rich does a man have to be in order to overcome the determents of narcissism and misogyny?
More importantly, where do we look for answers in teaching men like Big D and his proteges that being respectful is the “right” thing to do? Not only for the obvious benefits women will receive from not having to constantly fend off unwanted and uninvited attention – but for the simple fact that for everyone but the most wealthy and powerful men, the Big D method does not work.
What we already know is that Big D and men like him are devoid of empathy, and any attempt to reach them with logic or reasoning would be a fool’s errand. Attempting to appeal to crude, rude and clueless men with a ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’ or similar argument would be nothing short of chasing windmills. A mission doomed to failure regardless of the amount of good intentions and effort invested.
At the same time, there are untold numbers of women who indirectly encourage Big D types by using their beauty and sex appeal as remuneration to get what they want. It’s the second side of a double-edged sword, adding to a pattern of divisiveness that lowers the standards and expectations for all of us.
Yes, the problem is systemic, running deeply through the ages of our patriarchal world. Women are taught from birth that beauty is a coveted prize that virtually guarantees success in life. So why wouldn’t or shouldn’t women use their “charms” to manipulate the men who rule the world?
Because to do so hurts all women in the same way Big D types are detrimental to the interests of all men.
There are no easy answers, and I offer no solution. My point is simply to bring awareness to a problem that has plenty of blame to spread around – to the men who disrespect women and the women who disrespect themselves.
It is up to all the rest of us to respect ourselves and all others in a way that deconstructs the feedback loop of rewarding the objectification of women that, at least for now, still works.