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Zoe Williams Wins Gold for her Retro-Feminist Metro-Denial!

August 7, 2012
Inspired by redpesto’s excellent analysis of the Graun’s championing Team Woman at London 2012, I have fallen off my blog wagon. I am afraid I can’t help but comment on the latest tripe to come, staggering out of the Guardian stable, seemingly heading for the knackers yard. This time it is Magnanimous Mama Hen Zoe Williams, giving us all permission to ogle the gorgeous athletes!
Zoe writes, with the graciousness of a school ma’am…
‘For these weeks only, watching these near-deities for whom every muscle has a purpose and every tweak of a body hair is a bid for greatness, we are allowed to make remarks we would never normally make. We’re allowed to gawp at perfection, marvel at beauty, openly wish we could prod chests and have a go on triceps – it’s the Olympic Gaze, an objectification amnesty. You want to compare the swimming to a gay porn film? Be our guest. You want to rank the athletes in order of do-ability? You are welcome (the author of the Hotlympics Hunks of London site captions frankly: “Vavrinec Hradilek, Canoe Slalom, Czech Republic, 25. Until today I didn’t even know canoeist was a word”). There’s been a massive sense-of-humour boost and even feminists such as myself will not complain when you say Lizzie Armitstead looks like an incredibly strong flower fairy in a helmet. So long as it’s not only the beach volleyball players – if we’re going to stare at everyone as if they’ve just dropped down from heaven, then who can complain?’
I of course beat Zoe to the post with my series on the Metrosexual Olympics, including my celebration of the hotness and the bling of Team GB.
But I concede she deserves a gold medal, for noticing, albeit years after the rest of us that – gasp – men and women sports stars like to be noticed not just for their prowess on track and field but also for their sexy physiques that come with the job. Tom Daley has done photo shoots for Gay Times, Serena Williams has posed naked on the front of magazines, Ussain Bolt LOVES the camera. Zoe also gets gold for the way she lists other worthy feminists and tells us how they all allow us to drool over muscle and flesh, as if we’d all been holding back waiting for Team Feminism to say the word! But also she wins for her sheer ability to see what has been staring us all in the face, that big fat pink metrosexual elephant in the room, and then to simultaneously acknowledge its presence and deny its existence. MetroAuntie is impressed.
And actually Zoe’s technique is quite clever. Basically she finds specific reasons why it is ok to enjoy the spornotastic Olympics, but it’s NOT ok to ‘objectify’ sexy men and women on a normal day of the week. Her reasons are:
1) The gender balance of Olympic Athletes
‘Why isn’t it offensive, the slavering? Because of the almost pitch-perfect balance of men and women.’
2) Our respect for sportsmen and women as people
‘The normal business of objectification always downplays the fact that the body is attached to a person – it always amazes me how often the model in a flesh-fest is looking away or downwards. In porn, they take this to an almost comical level, cropping the head clean off, the better to enjoy whatever fantasies you want to attach to the rest of the body. It ends up debasing everyone: the object, the subject, the newsagent, passersby. Contrawise, you do not debase when you go on about an athlete’s thighs; her body is indivisible from her life’s work, it can clear 100 metres’ worth of hurdles in 12.54 seconds; it is her pride and joy. To say she’s perfect is like telling someone they have cute children.’

3) The ‘diversity’ of body types on display at the Olympics

‘In mainstream images of physical perfection, you would never see a woman with big shoulders; you would only see a man who had waxed his chest in a special interest publication; you would never see a woman with quads that meant anything; you would rarely see a guy as wiry as Bradley Wiggins.’


Let us ignore for a moment the fact that men in ‘mainstream’ culture are actually objectified as much as women, not least by themselves. Let us forget briefly that Guardian feminists such as Suzanne Moore are continually ramming women’s ‘victim’ status down our throats, regardless of any ‘gender balance’ in the facts. Let us lightly skate over how only a couple of weeks ago Zoe’s fellow feminist colleague Sarah Ditum wrote how ‘slavering’ over women athletes is never ok. And let us totally pretend we don’t know that in mainstream media such as reality TV and Men’s Health Magazine and the fashion industry, men have been waxing their chests for years. And the ‘wiry’ look in men and women models is er… the norm.
In other words if we re-invent reality we can see where Ms Williams is coming from, and we can all delight in the guilt free, ethical, gender equal perving during the Olympics that is so frowned upon by the Guardian and feminism at all other times of the year.
This article fits in with the Guardian tradition of concern porn, especially as it exploits a ‘trashy’ or ‘common’ phenomenon and tries to put a moralising superior spin on it, to make it acceptable for middle class sensitive Guardian readers.
Some people may be surprised the Graun gets away with this kind of obtuse and inaccurate reporting on gender. I am not. This is for a number of reasons. One is that when it comes to masculinity, feminism dominates the competition. So called ‘experts’ on masculinity such as Mark Mccormack also studiously ignore or at least underplay the importance of metrosexuality. And Mccormack had my article pointing that out taken down off a . Other sociology website. Other masculinity theorists seem more interested in gazing at their own navel than providing a real, convincing challenge to retro-metro-denying feminism. And they ‘get into bed’ with feminists when it suits!
So that is why Williams wins gold. Not because she is right. I don’t think she could be more wrong. She wins because feminism will always win in the gender stakes unless we take it and its lies on.
I am doing just that. Try stopping me! And maybe 2016 will be my year…
9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2012 7:41 am

    XX Until today I didn’t even know canoeist was a word XX

    From her writting, there are MANY words she does not know exist.

    But then, what should one expect from such an obvious dyke? (Her wee scribbles above, rather prove the point.)

    • August 8, 2012 10:18 am

      I very much doubt Zoe is a “dyke” you so beautifully call it. But she does share a lot in common with middle-aged embittered ex-hetero psuedo-“dykes” who adopt the love that dare not speak its name as an attempt to re-empower themselves when they’ve got older but haven’t the balls to consider younger or atypical men as potential partners, thus narrowing the potential field somewhat. But yes, it is a moment of rare honesty from Williams.

      • August 9, 2012 3:47 pm

        that obviously is not a description of susie orbach is it? 😀

      • August 16, 2012 8:34 pm

        Zoe’s not a dyke, but I bet she has moments of inner awkwardness bordering on depression that leave her confused.

        She’s caught in a trap. Feminism is childish nonsense. And I suspect there’s a part of her trying to grow out of it. But her career is routed in feminism: she can’t grow out of it.

        I’ve seen some of her television appearances. She always seems to have something sad lurking on at the back of her head.

        She’s got an issue to confront: choose life or a supposed 40-somethiing career-orientated glamour in the years immediately ahead.

        Life, the better choice, would mean breaking her ego. In her case, she won’t achieve that without ditching feminism.

  2. redpesto permalink
    August 8, 2012 10:53 am

    It could be worse – try this piece from Chloe George from Vagenda: ‘Olympic body-ogling – why it’s different for women’. A bad (and dated) argument, a hyperactive writing style, and a gratuitous use of ‘cunt’ that the Guardian wouldn’t allow in any other context. No wonder the below the line comments tear it to shreds.

  3. redpesto permalink
    August 8, 2012 11:02 am

    To be honest, I think Williams is a lot more open about her conflicting feelings, as in this piece about women’s boxing (and the Guardian seem to be more obsessed with articles about this event – it’s the ‘Team Woman’ thing again – than doing any reporting on the actual fights). Sample quote:

    It had been rather a longer job, gaining acceptance into the sport in the first place; Sweden was the first country to have national championships for women’s boxing, and that was 18 years ago. Olympically speaking, women take part in judo, taekwondo and wrestling, and yet the nut of boxing has proven peculiarly difficult to crack. Of course, I instantly think, “go team female”. Yet the sight of a woman being beaten up, even by another woman, makes me feel nauseous. It seems like a little bit of a shame to have to watch something so horrible in the name of the sisterhood. But it’s horrible watching men beat each other up, also.

    Someone give her a copy of Joyce Carol Oates On Boxing to go with an e-book of Metrosexy?

    • August 9, 2012 3:46 pm

      haha ‘it’s horrible watching men beat each other up too’ – poor feminists, they’re so delicate!

      • August 16, 2012 8:19 pm

        Zoe has no awareness of how transparent her pretentiousness is.

  4. redpesto permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:14 pm

    It gets better – Jade Jones won gold for literally trying to kick her opponent’s head in (taekwondo).

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