Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Chiseling Through The Writer's Block: On Mini-Skirts in Finland

Some time ago I read a Finnish web newspaper post on Slutwalks in Finland. The title of the piece was about a mini-skirt not meaning yes, and the piece itself was a good summary of the initial goals of the Slutwalk-movement.

I read through the comments because the site actually has moderated comments and I thought I might get away with not having to use steel wool and bleach in the shower afterwards. To scrub off all that misogyny.

And indeed, someone had most likely removed the references to female genital organs and the utter stupidity of women in general. The general conclusion of the overwhelmingly male commentariat was that of course nobody should be raped just because of wearing a mini-skirt, of course. But at the same time, women should understand that wearing a mini-skirt will raise the risk of being raped.

Here's where things got interesting, for me. Another opinion piece posted roughly at the same time in the same newspaper urged all Finnish women to look more feminine. The young man who wrote it argued that women should wear high-heeled shoes and mini-skirts, jewelry and make-up. Women should enjoy their femininity and refuse to become androgynous just because of feminist propaganda! Their sisters in St. Petersburgh and Vienna look so much more delectable!

Because of the timing of the two pieces, I expected the second one to have comments about the risks of walking around in a mini-skirt, given the Slutwalks piece. But astonishingly enough, only one female commenter made that reference.

Others argued that Finnish women are too fat to ever look good, that feminism had created ugly and fat women and so on. One man gave his long and considered opinion on how much better-looking and slimmer women are elsewhere. And so on.

Now, I understand that the two posts were not linked in any other sense except by timing. But they also shared something else, a certain kind of male gaze when it comes to women, and I found that fact fascinating.

To see what I mean, consider the Finnish fatty women argument of the second post. Very little work Googling told me that Finnish women have the fifth highest BMI of all European women. BUT Finnish men have the second highest BMI among European men. Only the Greek score higher.

Ignoring the greater fatness indicators of Finnish men while criticizing Finnish women would seem odd to my friendly alien from outer space, unless he/she/it/they realized that the men who made those comments feel entitled to criticizing the looks of women, whatever their own looks might be.

Going back from that piece to the Slutwalk piece made me see the women-are-fat argument linked to the mini-skirts-raise-your-risk argument. They both have the flavor of someone in the audience criticizing the play performed on some stage.

I wasn't going to write about these random observations here, because the two posts are not by the same person or intended as a duet, and because I'm pretty sure that the post on how women should look sexier was not very widely read. But the web newspaper refuses to let me become a commenter there and this particular topic is in my brain pipes, clogging up everything.