Hot Chicks, Cold Sexists and Occupy Wall Street

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, students of magic battle a boggart, a creature that manifests itself as your worst nightmare. With a flick of their wand and the word “Riddikulus,” students disarm the boggart by turning it into a joke, thus rendering it powerless and nonthreatening. This is exactly what Steven Greenstreet, creator of the Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street tumblr is doing: By turning activist women into non-threatening “hot chicks,” he not only makes a mockery of their political struggle but also attempts to strip them of power.

In the same way that “ethnic” women are exoticized and fetishized, politically active “alternative” women are apparently the new hot thing. On Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street, you will find high-quality images of women with tattoos, nose studs, headscarves, asymmetrical haircuts and racial diversity. I asked Greenstreet if these women gave their consent to be photographed or for their images to be put online via Twitter, but received no response.

Many women have expressed their anger to Greenstreet over Twitter (he’s @MiddleofMayhem); he responds by asking if they want to talk about it over coffee. No, really.



Kudos to @mefunk for her response:


According to Jill Filipovic of Feministe, Greenstreet responded to her criticism by Google image-searching her and tweeting pictures of her in a dress she wore for a friend’s feminist eco-friendly fashion show with commentary like, “Oh I see, dressing in a short skirt and showing off your body to leering men is totally cool only when you do it” and “Love how these guys stare as you show off your curves.” Filipovic also discovered a rape joke Greenstreet made on his Facebook wall. It’s becoming more and more clear why Greenstreet’s “contribution” to #OccupyWallStreet took the form it did.

The simplest way to turn a powerful, activist woman into a nonthreatening woman is to sexualize her. When Greenstreet ventured to #OccupyWallStreet and found hundreds of assertive women demanding for economic equality, he ignored their message and neutralized their threat by essentially responding, “Oh yeah, talk protest to me baby.” This has the same effect as infantilization, another common way to diminish a woman: “Oh look, she’s protesting. Isn’t that cute?”

Greenstreet and his partner, Brandon Bloch, made this Hot Chicks of Wall Street video that, while admittedly beautiful and racially diverse, shows that he’s just as concerned with finding the “hottest” chicks as those with the most articulate views.

Even if we honor Greenstreet’s best intentions in this video—to showcase the women who inspired his interest and participation in the #Occupy movement—he’s making an implicit argument that these women’s messages only matter because they’re beautiful. What about the women who Greenstreet doesn’t find attractive? Do their words matter? #OccupyWallStreet is not, and should not be, a beauty contest, and “honoring” protesters for their beauty trivializes their struggle, their outrage and their contribution to the movement.

Greenstreet addressed criticism on his website:

Apparently a lot of controversy has erupted online from people passionately opining (among many things) that this is sexist, offensive, and dangerously objectifies women. It was not my intent to do that and I think the spirit of the video, and the voices within, are honorable and inspiring. However, if you disagree with me, I encourage you to use that as an excuse to create constructive discussions about the issues you have. Because, to be honest, any excuse is a good excuse to bring up the topic of women’s rights.

At least we agree on something. Last week, Angi Becker Stevens wrote that we needed to create a feminist space within #OccupyWallStreet. This is a place to start.

Photo of hands “twinkling” at Occupy Wall Street in Washington Square Park from flickr user getdarwin under Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. MiddleClass4Liz says:

    And here’s a sickening 1% self definition with $100 bill, trickle down, and reference to a stripper: http://twitpic.com/735qr9

    After his father made a significant donation, a dorm at a top 20 University was named after him.

  2. I guess this about sums up what our media culture is made of. Left, right and center, in the end it’s all about the ‘babe’.

  3. It’s also a way to reduce the power of the movement, overall – by sexually objectifying women without their consent, he’s insinuating that a good chunk of the other protesters (men) are only there because there are hot ‘alt’ women at OWS. A protest that’s actually about getting laid and hot chicks isn’t a real movement about changing society; this is an easy tactic to disparage the movement and try to make it trivial like an American Pie movie.

  4. noironyhere says:

    Is objectification a way to delegitimize power? Yep. On the other hand, you also immediately and drastically reduce the impact of this post by opening with an infantile metaphor from a children’s movie.

  5. “you also immediately and drastically reduce the impact of this post by opening with an infantile metaphor from a children’s movie.”

    Well, for one thing, it’s a whole series of books (not just a movie) that has had an enormous influence on popular culture over the last decade. To dismiss it in such a way is to dismiss an entire generation’s mythological and literary influences.

    Just as The Iliad and the Odyssey influenced the values and metaphorical representation of an entire culture for thousands of years, and LOTR has done so for several decades, so will the Harry Potter books continue to exert their influence on pop culture and values.

    The concept of of boggarts– and especially the ability to get rid of them by laughing at them– is a wonderful metaphor to help address some of our deepest fears.

    It can also, however, as this writer points out, a way to discredit serious issues.

    Then there’s the possibility of it being the early stages of:

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

  6. I would simply like to pose the questions:

    1. Would this be treated with such ire if a woman had posted the same video?

    2. If a similar video of beautiful men at the protest were posted, would the corollary arguments be made by men?

  7. Perhaps he’s trying to be the Joe Francis of #OWS

  8. Robert, let me answer your questions with another.

    Why is it when women say their objectified, men, such as yourself, must post questions saying “But what if it happened to MEN?” Here’s the thing. If it happened to a man, then you have every right to speak up. And if it happened to you, how would you feel if a person of the opposite gender came up and asked YOU “Oh, well, if a man had taped you because of your looks and not about what you had to say on a important issue, would that make you upset?” Yes. It would. These women are being ignored because they are ‘beautiful women’ and a man is recording it, silencing their words with crappy pick up lines and sextist comments.

    Another point. If, as you say “If a similar video of beautiful men at the protest were posted, would the corollary arguments be made by men?” Depends on the men. And if they protest it and felt offended, then I would be on their side. It doesn’t make it right to portray a person as nothing more than a sex object if they don’t want to be, regardless of gender. Your questions are a way of dismissing the writer as nothing more than a complainer by stating that if it happened to men or if a woman did it, it wouldn’t be an issue. It is still an issue.

    However, with all that, this is not about men. It’s not about you or what if. It’s about how the women feel about female protesters being silenced by a guy who’s basically shooting ‘hot protesters gone wild’ It’s not about you. It’s not about men being victims. It’s about these women, because there were NO MEN being filmed in this way, being treated as objects. If you still do not grasp this concept, do some research.

  9. And I suppose that because a breast made an appearance in a picture, the French Revolution was devoid of any meaning or significance.

    http://endtimepilgrim.org/liberty.jpg

    • silent standoff says:

      The woman bearing her breast represents the idea of strength even during a time of weakess (nudity is a conscious weak point for many). She may bear her breast but her fellow revolutionaries aren’t for that. They were fighting for the rightful equality and freedom as a nation.

  10. Dee, I have done research.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/60364683@N08/

    Men are not objects to be married! I feel violated that women look at us this way. With their sick fantasies they have about marrying us AND buy them Uggz and a Coach purse!

    Oh gawd! I can feel my gender being stripped from me!

    False. I don’t care.

    Actually I’m kinda jelly I can’t grow facial hair like that one guy.

  11. Thanks for the article. I’ve been keeping up with OCS through The Nation and Democracy Now and neither of them have said anything about misogyny in the movement (and outside of the movement). The Nation did have a good article a few days ago about feminists in OCS and it acted like, all things considered, things are going pretty well for women in the movement.

    But it’s obvious that OCS needs stronger watchdogs and fortunately, the Ms Magazine blog is ready, willing and able to do that.

    Thanks for holding OCS’s feet to the fire.

  12. Thank you, Leah Berkenwald, for articulating the problems with that ostensibly “inspiring” video.

    Women don’t show up at protests to inspire men. They show up to protest.

    When I see a video like that, all I can think is, “Why would I ever want to take part in Occupy Wall Street? So that people can judge me by my looks and decide if I’m one of the ‘hot chicks?’ So that, if I’m deemed hot enough, I can have my image broadcast to thousands more people, for them to decide if I’m hot?”

    No thank you.

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