Feminist Friday: We Saw How Seth MacFarlane’s an Ass

This Week in Ladybits

A bill allowing employers to opt out of contraception coverage is heading to the Oklahoma Senate.

The Arkansas legislature has approved an abortion ban at 12 weeks. That’s the shortest clock in the nation. (For now.) It comes down to whether Governor Mike Beebe signs the bill into law. Beebe has already vetoed — as in just this week already vetoed — a 20-week ban as being unconstitutional, so this should be an interesting fight.

The Indiana Senate approved a bill that would force a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound on women who want early-term chemical abortions. This is just the one medically unnecessary invasive ultrasound, instead of the two that were originally proposed. Isn’t that swell of them? The bill now moves to the House.

And the much-touted idea that emergency contraception causes an abortion is officially bullpuckey.

This Week in Giant Awards Shows and Their Problematic Hosts

Oy. I love the Oscars and have watched them since I was a kid. And I think that many of their problems are part of their charm. But wow, was I not charmed by Seth MacFarlane’s sexist (and vaguely racist, and, let’s face it, sadly unoriginal) “comedy” bits.

I’ll focus on his opening number because he managed to be sexist, hack, and cowardly all at once, but there was plenty to dislike about the rest of his hosting. Plenty.

What bothered me about “We Saw Your Boobs,” in which he snickeringly named which actresses he’d seen topless in movies, was that it worked entirely from the premise that sex equals women giving something up and men taking it away. (Yes, definitely just men and women. MacFarlane performed with the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus, but made sure to make a quick “no homo” remark to make sure no one would doubt his straightness.)

The underlying idea of the song is that, ha, ha, no matter how distinguished these actresses are, MacFarlane (and any man — the “We” in the song just meant “straight men”) have something over them, because they have seen their breasts, and sex for women means being degraded and losing something. A “we saw your balls” song sung to the male actors in the audience who had done nude scenes wouldn’t have worked, because in MacFarlane’s world, being naked or being depicted having sex doesn’t take a man down a notch.

And, as others have pointed out, several of the references were to scenes involving sexual assault. Context means nothing to MacFarlane, nor does the fact that an actress is doing difficult and compelling work. Just BOOBS! and whether MacFarlane suddenly has some sort of imagined sniggering power over her.

The most appalling reference in the song was to Scarlett Johansson, who was exposed to the world when private photos were circulated without her consent. Her privacy was violated — illegally — on a worldwide scale. Which MacFarlane found hilarious. And hey, what does the way it happened matter as long as he got to see some boob?

And what is “hosting,” if not making half your audience feel like second-class citizens from the get-go? Oh, you’re here because you’ve reached the apex of your career? Terrific. Tits or GTFO. It was childish, creepy, and sexist.

And then he didn’t even have the nards to just go ahead and let the terrible number stand on its own. It was carefully wrapped in a “Wouldn’t it be awful if I did this?” framing device, so that he could duck behind a defense of “Well, the joke was really about how terrible it would be if I really meant that!”

Well, no. There are many jokes to be made about Hollywood sexism and the way it treats women (Can we talk about the venom-bloated assclowns who start tearing women up solely based on their looks and outfits before they’ve even made it all the way along the red carpet?), but there are much, much, better ways to do that bit and make that point.

Given some thought and non-hack writing, MacFarlane could have reeled off, started, and been dissuaded from a half-dozen fake, funny, deliberately terrible musical numbers in the same time, and without specifically naming actresses to make them feel like they were being body scanned. But MacFarlane didn’t have the noble impulse that The Advocate incorrectly gives him credit for. He just wanted to gloat about how it doesn’t matter if you have an amazing career, he got to see your boobs, so he wins. And that’s what he did. It was unfunny, lazy, cowardly comedy. And it’s worth being accused of being a “humorless feminist,” the other defense MacFarlane had tucked up his sleeve, for saying so.

MacFarlane (and his writers) used a similar technique of trying to hide his culpability for a joke in taking a nasty shot at Adele. He said that “Rex Reed will be out here to review Adele’s performance,” making a reference to the massive backlash Reed received for calling Melissa McCarthy a “hippo” in a review. Ostensibly, the joke looks like a shot at Reed… Except that it isn’t. There’s no joke there except for the one of backhandedly letting Adele know that she doesn’t live up to MacFarlane’s physical standards. MacFarlane is pretending to “satirize” Reed (Shouldn’t satire have a point?) when really he’s just getting away with the same kind of cruel and childish dismissal of a talented woman that Reed attempted.

I don’t think MacFarlane knows he’s being a dicksack. I’m sure he thinks he’s just so hip that anything that falls out of his brain must be by definition super awesome and edgy and anyone who doesn’t like it is just uptight. Does not even understanding the fact that you’re a sexist dicksack excuse the fact that you are one? I’m going to go with no. And if you’re going to be a sexist dicksack, at least put your back into it enough to be smart, funny, and interesting while you do it.

The other joke that stirred up anger that evening was The Onion’s tweet about the indisputably adorable and terrific Quvenzhané Wallis. The tweet was deleted and an unconditional apology was issued within a couple of hours.

I think the writer was trying to make a point about how Hollywood (and the gossip magazines, and their voracious consumers) starts to rip women apart the minute they achieve something, and in the process forgot that Wallis is a real little girl with a real mom who could actually see and read that tweet.

Maryann Johanson gave a feminist defense of the tweet, and T. F. Charlton at Bitch begged to differ. (Hat tip to Feministing for the second link.)

This Week in Thinky

The Daily Beast wondered if bi is the last taboo.

The New Republic gave us the scoop on what it’s really like to be a female reporter in Washington, D.C.

And young Japanese women have the chance to sell advertising space on their upper thighs. This one makes my brain fail to turn over, like I forgot to change the oil in it for years on end. Are these women cannily making money off the creeps who would be staring at them anyway, or is this just horrible? Or does it mean nothing at all? I very much want to hear your opinions about this (and everything) in the comments.

This Week in Ugh

A rape survivor at UNC is being punished for “intimidating” her rapist. Wouldn’t want his feelings to get hurt.

And Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer says she’s not a feminist, presumably because she doesn’t want to be paid as much as male CEOs and doesn’t mind being harassed in the workplace. Women who accept Rush Limbaugh’s definition of feminism without actually looking into it themselves deserve to sit next to Mr. Limbaugh on a cross-country bus tour. With no headphones.

This Week in Standing Rear Naked Choke Holds

I went to see the UFC championship between Ronda Rousey and out MMA fighter Liz Carmouche this weekend. I hadn’t been to a live MMA fight before, and I’m still not sure that watching human beings punch each other in the head is my thing. But I was impressed at how genuinely stoked the crowd was for the title fight. Rousey and Carmouche were the only women on the whole program, but (other than some questionable music choices) their fight was in no way treated as a “girl fight.” In fact, the crowd went crazy for them, and rightly so: Rousey and Carmouche definitely delivered — it was one of the most exciting matchups of the evening.

Carmouche lost, but earned major props – she lasted far longer than any of Rousey’s previous opponents, and at one point she jumped up on Rousey’s back and damn near won the fight with a choke hold. Carmouche got a huge round of applause from the crowd for being such a fierce opponent, and not once did I hear one of the insults one might expect to hear when there’s only one out fighter in the whole arena. Much respect to the crowd for giving so much respect themselves.

Also I learned an exciting finishing move for the next AfterEllen coffee klatch. Nobody spoil the surprise, OK?

This Week in Progress

Rosa Parks got a statue in the Capitol.

Melissa Harris-Perry went makeup-free to help little girls be a little less worried about their images.


…And here’s the photo she sent out.

Image via the Melissa Harris-Perry blog

The Obama administration does not care for DOMA or Prop 8. Good.

And credit where credit is due: more than 80 Republicans also think it’s time to recognize gay marriage.

South Korea has its first female president.

Feministing featured “One Woman,” a musical collaboration to fight for global equality.


And the Violence Against Women Act finally passed the House — the robust Senate version, in which LGBT people, Native American people, and undocumented people actually get treated like people, instead of the House version, which had none of those things. Thanks for holding it up so long, creeps.

This Week in Awesome

The Rumpus featured the compelling photography of Angela Jimenez.

Image via Angela Jimenez Photography

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor smacked down presenting racist assumptions as evidence.

The Brothers of Phi Alpha Tau at Emerson College are raising money for a trans pledge’s top surgery.

The Frisky mocked up a tabloid that gives male bodies the same scrutiny that women routinely get.

Image via The Frisky

And The Mary Sue found some cool light boxes featuring some of your favorite female characters. I can’t decide between Wonder Woman and Alice.

Images via The Mary Sue

Have a great weekend. Get out there and let your own light shine.