Time to Draw the Line on Tucker MaxSeptember 28, 2009
With his movie premiere over the weekend, it’s been difficult to escape hearing or reading about Tucker Max, the blogger and author turned movie creator, who has generated a storm of controversy for his jokes about sexual violence. According to news reports, Women and Allies Rising in Resistance said that his writing promoted a culture of rape. In New York’s Little Italy, one of his movie posters was defaced, and the Chicago Transit Authority pulled his rape-suggestive movie ads, in part because of the activism of SAFER, which received an AAUW community action grant in 2008-09.
Here are just some of the headlines that staff came across:
After reading about Max in a Washington Post article (“He Trashes the Ladies, They Love Him for It”), I was prompted to write a letter to the editor, which was published on Sept. 26. I am told that his fan base is reportedly 50 percent female. If true, I find this disturbing on a variety of levels, as did the article’s author. Without specifically asking each fan, it’s hard to understand Max’s popularity, especially among women.
However, the American Psychological Association (APA) released in 2007 the Report of the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, which can help explain why young women may support materials or engage in actions that are sexually degrading. Here is an excerpt from the executive summary:
In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized. These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate.
It can be argued that some of the women participating in misogynist events at Max’s film screenings or book signings have been raised in a culture in which they feel the need to be liked by men and to be “cool” or “sexy” by any means necessary, even if that means condoning their own degradation.
Sexual harassment on college campuses is more likely to be the result of misguided comedians than spurned suitors. “It was funny at first, but then they kept doing it,” said one college student in the survey AAUW conducted for the 2006 research report Drawing the Line: Sexual Assault on Campus (PDF). Max’s film and book signing events are attempts at humor, but for many of us, he has become irritating or worse. His actions and words are offensive, but so is our collective unwillingness to draw the line on his so-called humor and acceptance of such behavior.
Then there is another, less scientific explanation: These young women could be engaging in a common social experience of cultural rubbernecking, in which people feel the need to look at a spectacle. Fans of Max are curious to see how they will be shocked next. In a culture in which a dichotomy of abstinence-only education and everything from pornographic displays to the sexualization of young girls has become the norm, it takes someone like Tucker Max to cut through all the noise and keep people’s attention. Let’s just hope that we’re not talking about him this time next year. He’s hardly entertaining.
This blog is cross-posted on Blogher.