The MTV Movie Awards included an event that has had the web buzzing ever since it exploded onto our screens. Winner of the MTV Best Shirtless Performance award, Zach Efron had promised that if he won it, he would remove his shirt. As he began to do so, Rita Ora ran up behind him and tore his shirt wide open. The audience thought it was hilarious, and so, apparently, did Zach.
There seems little doubt that the entire event was staged. There is too much money at stake, too much buzz to be generated, and it all translates into viewers the following year which translates to greater ad revenue, etc. Where there is a market for something, there will be a good or service created to meet the demand, and in this case, the service was entertainment via a stunt that drew its value from the unexpectedly fast disrobement of a man by a woman.
Despite the obviously-staged nature of this stunt, the reader may want to consider this: Had Rita been the one undressing and Zach the one to run up behind her and tear her shirt off, what would have been the popular reaction to it? Would there be so much glee, or would there be general condemnation from people who do - and do not - consider themselves feminists? Far lesser events have elicited protests outside a studio's headquarters.
In the past, showing skin was not considered acceptable for entertainers of either sex. But public standards of decency changed in the 1960s and '70s, and a lot more flesh started appearing in many kinds of media. At the same time, feminists began denouncing this trend in popular culture as an example of female body objectification, especially where certain new magazines were concerned. Fair enough. But feminists failed to notice that with new magazine covers showing scantily-clad women, there were others showing shirtless, pumped-up men. These "muscle mags" in fact had predated the new magazines but attracted no similar condemnation.
Allowing oneself to be objectified, if not actually seeking it out, has been a common approach for centuries taken by women trying to make money off their looks, and when they can, some men do so as well. (Think most successful male actors.) That more people of both sexes are ready to pay greater attention to scantily-dressed women than scantily-dressed men just happens to be the way things are.
But if feminists are going to decry the objectification of women's bodies, shouldn't they be taking a stand against body objectification in all its forms, including when it involves men's bodies? If that is not what the viewers of MTV's Movie Awards saw just a few nights ago, then what was it?
We've not yet even touched on how men's bodies are objectified to the point of disposability in dangerous occupations such as construction, emergency services work, and military service, nor even how the recent uptick in anabolic steroid use among teenaged and pre-teen boys that signals an unhealthy early preoccupation with their physiques. Since the vast majority of ordinary workplace, EMS, and military injuries and fatalities are suffered by men, should not society's efforts to make males aware of their "non-object" status be considerably more pronounced?
Perhaps however, if men begin to value themselves less for what they do and how much of themselves they can sacrifice for others, there will be too many others "inconvenienced". It's the 800-pound gorilla in the corner of the room no one wants to wake up – once they realise it is there.
Feminists state that girls and women should be encouraged to think their value does not come from what they look like and how best they can please a man, but is more a matter to be decided for oneself. I am pretty sure this belief is held in general by most people in the western world, including the typical men's rights activist.
I simply add that a similar statement applies to men and boys: Our value does not come from our appearance (and particularly also, our "utility"), nor our ability to please a woman. It is up to each of us to decide it.
Matt Campbell writes for Men's Activism, a web site which tracks news and information about men's issues from around the world, and promotes activism in support of men's rights and equality.
For more information on Men's Activism, go to the website by clicking on the following link.