I’m gratified to see the outpouring of support (from men and women) for UAE Major Miriam al Mansouri whose heroism and aviation skill Eric Bolling reduced to “boobs on the ground.” Watching him say it, I wondered how long he had been saving that clever little tidbit, he looked so pleased with himself. And my heart sank.
Before you start hashtagging #notallmen, let me start by saying of course not all men. But there are still plenty of men who consistently see women primarily as potential sex partners and evaluate them accordingly.
This means that women who are young enough, thin enough, attractive enough and willing enough have value, communicated by an approving look or an inappropriate comment. Of course, anyone this man doesn’t want to have sex with—older women and overweight women, especially—and anyone who won’t make herself available to him—educated women and feminists, especially—doesn’t have value. Just look around at our culture or read the comment section on any popular blog and tell me I’m wrong.
These men fly below the radar because they can be very affirming of women and can successfully act as professional mentors for women as long as those women are younger, attractive and appropriately deferential. And they will be perfect gentlemen as well, not expecting sexual favors. They are often married and well-respected.
But you will never see them championing a woman they wouldn’t want to sleep with, because why would they? Instead, they will ignore her, rendering her invisible. Or they will make comments about her appearance, her clothing, her aggressiveness or her sexuality and then they will say that they were just kidding. If she or other women protest further, then they are blamed for being humorless or strident.
As Bolling said himself, his words were “not intended to be disparaging of her but that is how it was taken.” The fault was not his for reducing a heroic woman to her physical form; the fault was ours for taking him wrong.
When a US senator has to routinely field comments about her weight and her appearance from her colleagues, when a secretary of state is routinely disparaged for wearing unflattering pantsuits as she brokers international peace, when military women are in more danger of being assaulted by their colleagues than they are by the enemy or the general public, when the top television news anchors are wearing sleeveless, short shift dresses tugging at their hems while their male colleagues are wearing the full coverage of business suits . . . well, suddenly Eric Bolling makes a little more sense.