I went to a Christmas fair at Manchester Donkey Sanctuary last week, and a lovely time was had by all. The covered paddock was full of stalls selling lots of handmade goodies, there was cake, there was a raffle and in the midst of about 300 women visitors and three donkeys, there were two slightly shaky naked butlers.
I have to admit I was a bit surpised to be greeted at the door with bucks fizz by one of the said butlers when I had really come to see animals of a much hairer and to be honest, cuter variety, but the two chaps did their best to get into the spirit of the event and by the end of the night were having a great time posing for photos and basically showing off. Their egos had most definately been boosted.
It's not my kind of thing, I find it a bit tacky and unless it's done with much tongue in cheek and humour I'm not really into naked men in public. One of a handful of males who also attended was not impressed with the butlers and commented, 'if that were two women doing that job in a room full of men you'd never hear the end of it, why's this any different?'
I didn't agree, but his idea really got me wondering why.
I agree that in principal his kind of feminist thinking can work in many situations by highlighting the vast inequalities between the sexes that happen in society (see the brilliant video, If Women Catcalled Men for example), but in this instance it just doesn't work.
The first thing that springs to mind is the lack of threat from a room full of women towards a naked man. OK, of course we've all heard about or witnessed big groups of women getting lairy and over excited at male strip shows but that in itself shows a vast difference straight away. How many men cheer scream and above all laugh when they see a naked woman?
The two naked bulters at the Christmas fair had more threat from the cold than they did from the mostly middle aged ladies who surrounded them. Indeed, most of them were more interested in getting their nails done at one of the stalls than copping a feel. No threat. No intimidation.
I'm not sure this would have been the case had it been two naked women in a room full of men. I'm not putting men down. I'm not inferring men are letches. But it is true that women look at men very differently to the way men look at women. I remember reading in the marvellous, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, which describes our thought processes in making sense of what we see;
“A man's presence suggests what he is capable of doing to you or for you. By contrast, a woman's presence . . . defines what can and cannot be done to her.”
Even in our ever progressive society this staement still has a ring of truth. Just apply it next time you watch any TV show or flick through a newspaper. I think what I'm trying to say here is that men and women are still programmed differently and for that reason we will never do things exactly the same or react to similar situations in the same way.
Feminism to me, means equal opportunity with a respect and celebration of our differences. This means taking time to consider our strengths and weaknesses before painting us all with the same black and white ideology.
There was an informative and fun article in this year's July issue of Glamour Magazine titled; 'What happens when a normal guy does THIS?' The idea being that the average guy journalist Luke Chilton, was challenged to perform with The Dreamboys, Britains answer to The Chippendales.
He faced all the typical trials; auditions, spray tans, rehearsals and then finally, D-Day, performing in front of 200 women in his fetching Union Jack pants. His words on how it felt sum things up rather perfectly:
'Am I embarrassed? Yes, Did I feel demeand? Not really. For a few minutes I felt like a rock star. But as a man, I'm unencumbered by centuries of gender imbalance. And there's another difference. When a man watches a female stripper, he's mesmerised, slack jawed with (often) sleazy desire. But last night, the girls were screaming with delight. It's bawdy, it's fun [ ] no one gets hurt and everybody has a good time'.
Incidentally, I highly reccommend a visit to the donkey sanctuary and you don't even need to take your clothes off.