Some of y’all have asked what I thought of Seth Macfarlane’s song “We Saw Your Boobs” during the Oscars the other night. I didn’t watch the Oscars, so I knew nothing of Macfarlane’s little ditty until several astute readers brought it up. I checked it out on youtube and while I’m not surprised at the drivel that Macfarlane creates, I am surprised — and disappointed and angry and upset — that the powers that be behind the biggest awards show found it appropriate to include in the show. Here we go again, with women’s breasts being not just a topic of conversation but an excuse for titillation (pun intended), objectification, and reducing women — not to a sum of our parts, but to a particular body part.
My first thought was whether the predominantly white, mostly male, older guys who make up the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences would welcome a similar song about that one particular male body part. My guess is no. While there has been some full-frontal male nudity in the movies, it’s never depicted as callously nor as gratuitously as a woman baring her breasts on film. Wouldn’t you know, someone has created a parody of Macfarlane’s song, called “We Saw Your Junk.” While I am a fan of tit for tat (again, pun intended), I sure hate that this is the road we’re going down as a society. Why, why, why do we have to go there? Whether about boobs or junk, surely we have more interesting things to talk about than this. As a woman who lost her breasts to cancer, I’m especially vexed by displays of breast-related ignorance or insensitivity or ass-hattery such as that perpetrated by Macfarlane on Sunday night. As I recently vented, “We go from cherishing [breasts] as a food source for our infants to exalting them as the ultimate symbol of femininity and sexiness. We vacillate between highlighting them in all manner of ways to reassuring pink-ribbon-club members that their lack of breasts doesn’t define them.” And now some jackass awards show host is belittling women because they showed their breasts in the context of wrenching, emotionally-charged cinematic performances.
The feminist in me is delighting in the backlash aimed at Macfarlane over this. From online magazines to blogs to twitter to print sources, people are speaking out against this tasteless display. For example, from The New Yorker: “The Academy is supposedly a trade group, and yet it devoted its opening number to degrading a good part of its membership.”
From Salon.com: “On a night meant to honor and reward the best performances of the year, MacFarlane let the female Oscar nominees in on a secret: We don’t see the work you’re doing. We’re too busy staring at your tits. Giggle, giggle. Boobies. It wouldn’t be funny if he sang, “We saw your dick” because men aren’t expected to strip down in order to sell a movie, and it would be super gay. Want to peek at Bradley Cooper’s grade A beef dart? Dream on. Long to ogle Samuel L. Jackson’s heat-seeking-moisture-missile? As if. Get a load of Hugh Jackman’s wee little Jackman? Not in this lifetime.”
From twitter: “It wasn’t even funny for juvenile humor… offensive or not. I thought it was just dumb and then tasteless/tacky and pretty creepy.” And another tweet: “So since I don’t own a television, I hadn’t actually seen ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ until now. Now I have. I’m speechless with misery and rage.” And another: “In a year where the Academy awards nothing to women unless it has to, the male host opens with song called ‘We Saw Your Boobs.'”
From The Guardian: “The opening number We Saw Your Boobs, in which MacFarlane announced: ‘Meryl Streep, we saw your boobs in Silkwood/ Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive/Angelina Jolie we saw your boobs in Gia/ They made us feel excited and alive,’ was supposed to work as a commentary on how men view women in film. ‘Look at us guys,”‘MacFarlane was saying. ‘Isn’t it funny that we only watch movies to stare at women’s breasts, nudge, nudge, snigger, snigger.'”
No, it’s definitely not funny. It’s degrading to women as a whole, and insulting to those women in the movies who work hard to portray things like strife and struggle and passion and compassion and fear and poverty and gender inequality and misogyny.
It’s also downright disgusting that four of the movies Macfarlane named depict topless women during or following a sexual assault. If that passes for comedy, we’re all in real trouble. Jodie Foster in “The Accused.” Hillary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Jessica Chastain in “Lawless.” Charlize Theron in “Monster.” All four women named by Macfarlane, and all four bared their breasts while portraying rape victims. Another article on Salon.com sums it all up: “So it came as little surprise, then, when base misogyny and racism dominated MacFarlane’s performance on Sunday. And while the musical opener “We Saw Your Boobs” has been called immature (true) and sexist (also true) — it wasn’t just a harmless roundup of spicy movie scenes. Four of the films MacFarlane crooned about featured nudity during or immediately following violent depictions of rape and sexual assault, stripped of their context and played for laughs.”
It must be noted that of the four actresses named above, three of the four — Jodie Foster, Hillary Swank, and Charlize Theron — won the Oscar for Best Actress. So even after having reached the pinnacle of success in their industry, these women are still held up for objectification and ridicule by a smarmy host. Disgusting. Seriously disgusting.
Add in Scarlett Johansson, who Macfarlane also mentioned in his song. She made the list not for portraying a woman who had been sexually assaulted, but because nude photos of her were stolen from her then husband’s phone and sold for profit. Christopher Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of identity theft and wiretapping, and Johansson was left “truly humiliated and embarrassed.”
I’m not the only one disgusted by this. Two California lawmakers, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, have asked the Academy to condemn Macfarlane’s performance. In a letter to Academy president Hawk Koch, Lowenthal and Jackson wrote, “There was a disturbing theme about violence against women being acceptable and funny. From topical jabs about domestic violence to singing about ‘boobs’ during a film’s rape scene, Seth MacFarlane crossed the line from humor to misogyny.”
The duo went on to point out that “On Oscar night, when Hollywood seeks to honor its best, Seth MacFarlane’s monologue reduced our finest female actresses to caricatures and stereotypes, degrading women as a whole and the filmmaking industry itself.”
Bravo, ladies. May the Oscar for Biggest Jackass go to Macfarlane, and the award for Best Ass-Kickers go to Lowenthal and Jackson.