Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thinking Man FAIL

Good lord. The Thinking Man's Top Ten Sex Symbols is, well, a travesty.

I applaud the concept. I really do. But they fail, clearly, at being thinking men. Or, at least, at being non-heteronormative (all women on this list, of course, no homo here), for starters. (If you want to make an all-girl list, cool, but say the thinking straight man's sex symbols and then you get to avoid implying that no gay men are thinking! Bonus!) For the sexism, just see this introductory language:
A man has two minds. The lower mind is a brainless whore excited by any woman with breasts, curves, and a thong. The upper mind, which works with actual grey matter, is more persnickety. The upper mind, when employed, is moved by intelligence, success, power, self-confidence, a smart sense of humor, and, of course, not having a castrating nature.

And that’s the challenge. Can a woman be independent, creative, sharp, witty, strong, and self-empowering without making me feel like she wants to be a man?

Men as brainless animals enslaved by their hormones? Check. Men, even when being totes sensible, needing to be protected (the poor dears) from those scary castrating women? Supercheck. I mean, damn. You're not sexy if you threaten my sense of power (which comes from where? Oh, right, the fact that I'm a dude) AT ALL, girls! I hope you're taking notes!

To wrap up, here's our friendly reminder that anyone who is independent, creative, sharp, strong, and self-empowering clearly is a man or a wannabe man. Because only men are like that, duh! Oh, you chicks are so silly sometimes.

And then you get the comments on each sex symbol. The one that jumped out at me the most was what they had to say about M.I.A.:

"M.I.A. is one of my favorite musicians right now. It would be so fun to travel the world with her, viewing life as one big art project."

For one thing, that's all they had to say. They waxed poetic about any number of other women, but that is the entirety of what they have to say about M.I.A., who to me is far more interesting (and sexy) than Katie Couric. Hell, they talk about Meredith Vieira's SHOES about as much.

For another, I think this gets it entirely wrong. M.I.A. makes art about very real-life issues. Her dad was sort of in the Tamil Tigers. "Paper Planes," as far as I can tell, is entirely about illegal migration and the forms of gangsterdom and black marketeering that pop up in poor and oppressed places and groups. She has sat on buses and watched people shoot each other. She's not just some quaint arty type who "travels the world" (because she's exotic, don't you know) and quirkily sees things as art. She makes interesting art about life. This is the difference between a trust-funded performance artist who sees the significance in EVERYTHING ("It's just so...spontaneous, you know? You never know when art will happen. When I was watching the Orange Revolution from my safe vantage point in the Ritz while smoking Gauloises, I was wishing I could be out there with them just experiencing--for my next piece, of course") and a serious person blessed with talent that allows them to translate complicated and difficult experience into consumable art. It's, you know, an important difference. It is arguably a big part of what makes M.I.A. sexy, but screw that, Thinking Men--she's so ARTY! She can tell you the crazy shit she sees while you stare at her tits!

Finally, for a hint of general all-around crappiness, note their explicit congratulation of Sarah Silverman for figuring out a way to say horribly racist and otherwise problematic shit while passing it off as a joke. They literally call it "having her cake and eating it too." Because clearly her motivation is to get to say horrible things without consequence, not to create biting and effective satire that forces people to examine their prejudices--and that's so awesome! Hipster racism and so on at its finest. ("It's not racist, it's ironic.")

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