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Tag: misogyny

Always the Object

There’s an intriguing subreddit called /r/trashyboners. (Today you should assume that every link is NSFW.) The tagline is “Maybe a true hot mess?” and the featured content is basically what you’d expect it to be: photos and videos of attractive women who are considered trashy. Think of the stereotypes evoked by the terms “trailer trash” and “white trash” (although women of color do show up occasionally) with a splash of “party girl.”

The sub is classist by default — “trashy” connotes undignified poverty — and often exploitative. You see girls who are passed-out drunk or out of their minds on drugs. You might see a police officer displaying a woman’s genitals under unclear circumstances. (The only reportage on that incident comes from the untrustworthy Daily Mail.) Power imbalances abound.

Interestingly, some readers will defend the women they ogle. In early May there was a topic titled “nasty whores drinking beer off each other.” The commenters complained about this derogatory phrasing. One person wrote, “We know nothing of their background, can’t we just enjoy without the shit talk?”

Not long ago I posted an Instagram snapshot of Bella Hadid and the readers downvoted me for saying that her outfit was trashy. They disapproved because I was perceived as puritanical. Overall, more comments than you might expect are about whether the woman in a given photo actually is trashy. (Here’s an example from a recent post.) It’s an inherently subjective judgment, of course.

By contrast, here’s another thread where the woman in the photo faces constant derision, this time with no protest from the readers. I’m not sure what determines which reaction will dominate. It may be that young, conventionally attractive women are more likely to be championed, but I’m not positive about that being a meaningful trend. There is also a “walking the fine line” element that’s very difficult to articulate. When is skimpy clothing just skimpy, and when is it trashy? It’s the kind of nuance that you can only intuit, not teach.

Either way, /r/trashyboners is a good companion to the Slate Star Codex essay about how class is just as cultural as it is financial. Consider:

[S]uppose a lady comes in with really over-permed dyed curly hair wearing several rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Her name is Sherri and she calls you “darling”; she’s also carrying her lunch, which is KFC plus a Big Gulp. Without knowing anything else about her, you can peg her as working class. Maybe she won the lottery ten years ago and is now the richest person in your state. It doesn’t matter. She’s still working class.

Or suppose a thin 25-year-old man comes in wearing glasses, a small close-cropped beard, and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. His name is Alex and he apologizes for being three minutes late. This guy is probably middle-to-upper-middle-class and college educated, maybe not a great college but still college-educated. And maybe he’s fallen on hard times and doesn’t have a dollar to his name. It still doesn’t matter. He’s still middle-to-upper-middle class.

/r/trashyboners is dedicated to both shaming and celebrating the slutty versions of Sherri.

I’m some flavor of feminist, so you might expect me to be opposed to this subreddit. I have mixed feelings about it. The content is aesthetically fascinating — it’s an inversion of crazy girl chic. And I find the community puzzling, as you may have gathered. I’m not above participating. My opinion isn’t settled yet, I suppose. What do you think?

Header photo by MarkScottAustinTX.

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Step Into My Office

“Alright. Get on with answering.”

“Give me a minute to think. I didn’t expect to be asked about this at a job interview.” Gwen rubbed her ankle against the leg of her chair. The metal felt cold through her thin stockings.

Michael sat behind the big desk, arms crossed. His shirtsleeves were crumpled and pushed up to his elbows. “It’s a very simple question, and you only need ‘a minute to think’ because you want to conceal information from me.”

“I was prepared to discuss my organizational skills, not bare my soul.” She frowned at him quizzically. “This is a secretary job, right? To be honest, I don’t want to work someplace where I get the third degree for no reason.”

After reviewing her resume and asking a few questions about her past positions, Michael had demanded, “What are your secrets?” At first she thought he was joking, but he hadn’t been satisfied with a flippant answer. Michael had pressed her: “No, your personal secrets.” So now Gwen was gambling. She needed the work — well, she needed the salary — but she was reluctant to make up any deep, dark disclosures. Telling the truth certainly wasn’t possible! Hopefully being abrasively straightforward would appease him.

Michael sighed, pushing his chair back from his desk, and stood up. “Here’s how this works. Before I can hire someone, I need to know that I have leverage. I need to know that I can break you if I need to.” He looked down at her, brown eyes fixed on her face.

Gwen stood to match him. “Okay. I don’t think I’m the right candidate for your situation, and I’m going to leave now.”

Contempt came into his gaze. “You think being refurbished makes you a real woman? You think I can’t tell?”

Gwen’s breath seized up, and she felt her fight-or-flight program kick in. She started backing toward the door, hands help up instinctively in the “calm down” stance.

“Bitch, I know you were manufactured. I’m not a moron.” He took a step toward her, and snorted derisively when Gwen flinched. “I thought so. They spruce up your reactions but I can always tell a synthetic.”

“I’m sorry,” Gwen said, fumbling for the doorknob. She pulled it open and stepped into the hall, still watching him. Then she ran.

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