Buzzfeed, Boys, and Double-Standards
Many people have a bone to pick with Buzzfeed and its “listicles,” articles that take the form of lists accompanied by pictures and gifsets. They argue that such a style is pointless. Buzzfeed’s Nicole Kidman interview article, for instance, needlessly summarizes the video with pictures before posting the link to watch. Regardless of this criticism, Buzzfeed continues to grow in popularity and reach audiences worldwide.
Buzzfeed often uses its influential powers for good. It has adopted a LGBT tag and often draws positive attention to issues regarding sexism and feminism. When you search “sexist” on Buzzfeed, stories of little girls trumping sexism appear alongside articles highlighting issues with sexism in media and advertising. A search for “feminist” is promising as well. If Buzzfeed truly wishes to uphold feminism, there is one problem it must tackle – the objectification of males.
Do a quick search and look up “sexy” or “hot” in Buzzfeed. The humorous results will include a good many listicles about hot guys, on display for your pleasure. These articles are lighthearted, with some cheesy, if not funny comments.
Imagine how you would react if these articles were about women. Does it feel creepy yet?
Would the feminist in you recoil from the shameless objectification of bodies and faces?
(Buzzfeed article about Dan Carter. Caption: “we can appreciate Dan Carter’s talent from anywhere.”)
This article about Dan Carter, a rugby player, is a perfect example. Its premise as news is that Carter announced he would be leaving his team, the New Zealand All Blacks. Buzzfeed’s headline? Hot NZ Rugby Player Is Leaving NZ Rugby But Remains Really Hot. Buzzfeed knows they’re being shameless. The author’s comments, in between pictures of Carter in his underwear, sarcastically declare that his team change “basically gives us an excuse to look at photos of him. In his underwear. Because it’s relevant.” Buzzfeed does the same to soccer player Virat Kohli, without a single comment about his actual athletic ability.
These articles are tongue-in-cheek and acknowledge their own silliness, but they make me uncomfortable. Can you imagine this being done to Lolo Jones or Lindsey Vonn? While they take evocative pictures as well, you don’t see articles on a fairly-user-friendly website like Buzzfeed making snide comments about the photo shoots. Sports websites rank the “hottest female athletes,” but they don’t have the same reputation as Buzzfeed for sticking up for feminism. Commenters, myself included, would be up in arms over an article like this, wishing that the author would focus on the woman’s athletic ability.
(Buzzfeed Article Behold: The Most Bootyful Butts at the World Cup)
One frequent response to those complaining about male objectification is that it’s “refreshing to have the tables turned, for once.” To women tired of seeing other women in lingerie, these Buzzfeed articles could be a form of revenge. Fortunately, feminism isn’t about revenge.
The best way to achieve equality between the sexes is to elevate men and women to the same level.
Making men “get a taste of their own medicine” will foster further resentment; what we need is open, honest dialogue.
Buzzfeed seems to be aware of what they’re doing. 15 Times Buzzfeed Objectified Men During the World Cup is an example absolutely unapologetic self-commentary. Buzzfeed “ranked what needed to be ranked.” Their response? A gif of a #KanyeShrug and links to all the times it ranked men’s butts, with more gifs of “sorry not sorry.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with men and women taking seductive pictures or wanting to look good. More often than not they want to be admired and are proud of their bodies.
The trick is to find where this appreciation turns into objectification, and Buzzfeed has crossed that line.
If Buzzfeed wishes to continue its growing reputation as a safe space for feminism, then it has a duty to uphold equality and be less shameless in its objectification. And for goodness sake, please leave Ryan Gosling alone.