Thus Spake Zuska

Selling Your Blog With Cheesecake

I don’t think this is what Dave Munger had in mind when he recommended using graphics in your blog posts, at the NC Science Blogging Conference.

For the last two weeks, this post has been one of the top 3 posts on Scienceblogs – the number one post last week.

This is the kind of post I would expect to find on an adolescent male’s science blog. But hey, why not use objectification of women to boost your science blog? Apparently it works.

Afarensis, I puke upon your pseudonymous shoes.

For whose benefit, we might ask, has Afarensis posted this bit of cheesecake? Why, for the benefit of the male gaze, most assuredly.

The defining characteristic of the male gaze is that the audience is forced to regard the action and characters of a text through the perspective of a heterosexual man; the camera lingers on the curves of the female body, and events which occur to women are presented largely in the context of a man’s reaction to these events. The male gaze denies women agency, relegating them to the status of objects. The female reader or viewer must experience the narrative secondarily, by identification with the male.

I’m sure there are a number of you eager to start typing in the comments about how I’m anti-sex and I take things too seriously and hey, it’s just human nature that men like to ogle women. Talk to Mr. Zuska about the anti-sex thing; he’ll be surprised. I do take seriously incidents of gratuitous sexism because while each is just one tiny thing in and of itself, over time they add up to the mountain that is our sexist society. And men ogling women? I have no problem with men being attracted to women. I just have a problem with objectification and gratuitous use of the female body as a product for consumption. Afarensis’s post is no better than the chowderheads I had to deal with in grad school who thought soft porn calendars in the lab were just A-OK. It’s already difficult enough to be taken seriously as a woman scientist without your colleagues plastering the walls (and the science blogosphere) with cheesecake.

That blog post sends a message – whether Afarensis intended it or not – that it’s still a boys club, where women exist for the pleasure of men, not as equal colleagues in science. Crap like this doesn’t surprise me, but it sure does disappoint me.

Comments

  1. #1 PhysioProf
    March 6, 2008

    I didn’t see that until you linked to it. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on it.

  2. #2 Joel Bass
    March 6, 2008

    Well said, Zuska. As a regular fan of ScienceBlogs, I saw that post the other day and had to wonder what Afarensis was thinking. I think of ScienceBlogs as being a bit classier, both more thoughtful and more welcoming than so much of the web, but suddenly it was like walking into a room where Afarensis had just farted. Thanks for speaking up.

  3. #3 carn
    March 6, 2008

    Is it just me or are you criticizing a post from 2006? Not that I disagree with you, but the reaction seems a bit slow.

  4. #4 PunditusMaximus
    March 6, 2008

    The issue is that that’s not just an attractive woman — it’s a woman in a particularly sexualized pose. If he’d posted a screencap from the movie with Kate flying through a window and shooting things or something it would have had a completely different effect.

    Time and place, man. Time and place.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    March 6, 2008

    For the last two weeks, this post has been one of the top 3 posts on Scienceblogs – the number one post last week.

    Said post dates from 2006, and seems to have had the same picture all along. And it’s on the topic of movies, a very ephemeral subject.

    Why is it getting all this attention (positive & negative) now?

  6. #6 Becca
    March 6, 2008

    I agree it’s out of place, and that the gratuitious nature of the picture is inappropriate (i.e., it seems like it’s just saying “look at me” and the “p.s.” doesn’t help either). That said, if it were a thoughtful post on a scientific study of what people find attractive, I wouldn’t have been bothered by it (though I would have *agressively* encouraged a similar picture of a guy).
    I think she’s pretty- it’s a very arresting photo.
    Must women who think other women are sexy ‘experience the narrative secondarily, by identifying with the male’? Isn’t that a little hetero-centric? Or is only ok to like pretty girls if you yourself are butch *and* ‘identifying with the male’???
    I’m confused.

  7. #7 PhysioProf
    March 6, 2008

    It’s still there, and people are still visiting it a lot. You guys sound like fucking Scalia.

  8. #8 Farne
    March 6, 2008

    I rather expect better of ScienceBlogs, regardless of how long ago it was posted. Very few lesbians – butch, femme or androgynous – of my acquaintance are comfortable with male-gaze-centred images(yes, I am a lesbian, and, for the record, femme). Male-gaze images tend to dehumanise the woman – she is a commodity available for exploitation, and her ideas, her mind, her personality are not of any interest in the transaction. I think you end up percieving these images from a hetero-centric perspective because they are explicitly produced/created to satisfy the male-gaze. There is another character in the transaction that women can identify with – the subject. That is not much better: you either get to objectify another woman secondarily, or view yourself as an object valued for looking sexually available.

  9. #9 Peggy
    March 6, 2008

    Images like that are so pervasive that I just usually roll my eyes and move on. That won’t change anything, though, so I’m glad you pointed it out.

  10. #10 Cherish
    March 6, 2008

    Doh! Do they have to do that “hanging up gratituous sexy shots of women” here, too? I thought I was done with that when I got out of my undergrad dorm.

  11. #11 bioephemera
    March 6, 2008

    I didn’t see any mention of cheesecake in the contract when I moved here, so I’m pretending no one would do such a thing on Scienceblogs. At least, not now, in 2008. Because surely science has moved beyond gratuitous sexism.

    Cough, hack, choke.

  12. #12 Jenn
    March 7, 2008

    “that it’s still a boys club, where women exist for the pleasure of men, not as equal colleagues in science. Crap like this doesn’t surprise me, but it sure does disappoint me.”

    Ugh. How true. I went to a dinner with famous male scientist who came to visit our institute last year and had to listen to stories of how he always had to hire young pretty girl technicians to keep his PhDs and postdocs happy. Much shoe puking to that one…

  13. #13 grieve
    March 14, 2008

    That was a great picture. Thanks for sharing it. ;)

  14. #14 Zuska
    March 14, 2008

    Grieve: thanks for sharing your adolescent assholery.

  15. #15 Kate
    October 2, 2008

    Very Good. Btw, I typed the words ‘soft porn’ into a search engine and this was one of the results which I found hilarious: http://codymichaels.pictiger.com/images/16925732/