Bob Ellis and believing you own someone’s body

The thing that disturbs me the most about what Bob Ellis wrote yesterday is his underlying belief that he has a right to look at a woman’s body, naked, without her consent. He defended his “right” to perve – sorry, he used the less creepy “peek” – at women in the shower and to watch them having sex.

He’s not the only one who believes he has the right to leer at and/or touch women’s bodies. Yesterday, a 30-something-year-old man sat and watched me hang out the washing. Watched me hang out my underwear. While looking me up and down. For a good part of it he just stared at my breasts. I felt completely creeped out and adjusted my behaviour, rather awkwardly shielding myself with clothes as I pegged them. I changed what I was doing yet he was the one with the shitty behaviour. Now is a good time to add that I wasn’t at the communal washing line, but inside my home. Hanging clothes on the airer because it looked like rain. He leered at me through the window, inside my home. There are no blinds yet so I couldn’t block him out. I glared at him, but big fucking woop.

A few days ago, a very old man grabbed my arse in the supermarket. My internal response was “well, he’s quite old, that’s probably the only jollies he gets these days”. I should have said something to him, but what would be the point? He would dismiss everything I said as me just being a humourless bitch and he’d continue to grope women without their permission in public spaces. I am not a spring chicken. I’ve been groped and mauled by men in public spaces for decades, and when I say something very loudly about it, the response is always the same: I am over-reacting. Bob Ellis is very clearly not the only person who thinks he has the right to touch and watch. And the rage, it builds and builds.

The belief that women’s bodies are public property is all around us. News websites and tabloid mags are filled with body policing – “evidence” of a baby bump, boob jobs, nose jobs, a hint of cellulite helpfully circled and ridiculed, weight gains, weight losses, muffin tops, what a “real” woman should look like, skin and muscles in motion decried as freakish, etc etc. (My personal belief is that if you’re going to enlarge a photo of a thigh in motion and hysterically scream “See! Cellulite! Here! Here! This woman’s body is disgusting!” then you need to include exactly the same photo of your own thighs. Fair’s fair. Sure, there are people who make a living from their bodies looking a certain way, but we all know the magazines insist the photos are digitally altered so frankly, they can fuck right off with their body policing.)

This culture believes it’s perfectly ok to grab my arse in the supermarket, but if I turn around and punch you in the cock, then I’m the one who has over-reacted and assaulted you. This culture believes it’s perfectly ok to stand behind women at their desks at work and “harmlessly” look down their tops (ooh, how I wish I could name that pathetic douchebag), but if we report it to HR then we’re the ones making a big deal out of nothing and being bitches who are trying to hurt his career. Sure, we have rules against this stuff, but we all know what actually happens in the real world.

And so people like Bob Ellis and Andrew Bolt (who also believes that being watched in the shower is a prerequisite for a combat role and that the female cadet “should have known better” so it’s her own fault that he broadcast the sex to his mates) and probably Miranda Devine (sorry, can’t bring myself to find out), get to bang on and on about political correctness gone mad because some women are saying “no, you don’t have the right to act like you own my body”. And no doubt millions of Australians agree with them because they are either too intellectually lazy to consider what it means to act as though they own other human beings, or they’re just complete arseholes who believe they have the right to violate other people’s bodies. And that bothers me a whole lot more than what some 69-year-old man writes in The Drum as he desperately tries to remain culturally relevant.

24 responses to “Bob Ellis and believing you own someone’s body

  1. Amen to that. every. single. word.

  2. I can’t believe The Drum published that drivel. As for the ‘harmless’ leer down the top at work, I once complained to my female boss about a certain academic who use to play peek-a-boo boobies to “Jen-Jen” *insert grating Canadian accent*. And she told me to stand up to him and confront him about it. I was a 20 year old casual admin girl, he a senior academic and head of dept. Very even distribution of power.

    • Power is a huge part of it, because the boob-starers would never do that to their female boss. And while I usually do confront them over it, I would never assume that every other female is like me and should respond in the way I do. The very simple fact is that because you asked for help it means you’re not comfortable dealing with it yourself. And you know what? You shouldn’t have to deal with something like that, all by yourself, at work.

  3. FuckYeah to this.

    Meanwhile in France the right of men to view a womans body isn’t only cultural, it is now legislated.

    • WTF? For reals? I can’t imagine why any one would joke about it but please tell me you’re joking….just…flabbergasted.

      • I believe Kristian is referring to the law change banning niqabs and burqas. Apalling.

        • Comprehension dawns….*face palm* …
          Well, us women can’t be trusted to make our own decisions about anything. Even what we wear. We need the menfolk to tell us cause we’re either wearing too much or we’re not
          wearing enough…
          Slutwalk Toronto

          • The logic of the argument doesn’t work. People who want to ban the burqa and niqab say it’s because women are forced to wear them, so their solution is to FORCE WOMEN NOT TO WEAR THEM. Idiots. Idiots with power.

            • And I’m pretty sure there’s a SlutWalk Brisbane being organised.

            • I love the more desperate arguments. “I can’t wear a bike helmet in a bank, I can’t wear a stocking over my head in a service station…”

              Cause safety gear and underwear worn inappropriately are exactly the same thing as respecting someones right to dress according to their beliefs.
              The whole panic and fear surrounding Muslims is just mystifying. I keep hearing it’s a matter of security. Okay, just say there is some validity to that. Requesting that she remove her Burqua for her drivers license picture, or to give evidence in court or whatever, is much different and vastly more respectful than legislating that she cannot wear it at all.

              Not all muslims are terrorists and I am not yet convinced that ALL terrorists are muslims…

    • Rhiannon Saxon

      SERIOUSLY wonder why the ‘But it’s for the women’s own GOOD! It’s for FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY!” people don’t have a good hard logical look at themselves and think….’Hey! I am CONDONING and SUPPORTING the ‘right’ of governments to legislate what a woman should or shouldn’t wear!”

      And they are very often the same ones that whinge and moan about ‘leftist nanny state!’ whenever someone wants to…you know, legislate against hate-speech, or vilification, or maybe incitement to violence.

      Not that I am saying that hardcore right-wingers are illogical or nuthin’.

  4. That article by Ellis was absolutely horrendous. Does he hate women that much? Look at him in the photo, joyless frumpy old fart. Maybe he’s jealous no one is checking him out in the shower? – eww shudder. Jokes aside though the pervading attitude of his article alarms me. I surely hope it is not a view held by most heterosexual males. Can’t help but notice a distinct lack of male commentators though … what a disappointing lot we are.

  5. Rhiannon Saxon

    Also – I can’t believe how terrible it is that you have been groped in public (or indeed at all against your consent!) and stared at through your own house windows – that is just plain gross and creepy.
    I cannot believe that anyone would just sexually assault a total stranger in such a bizarrely casual way. Well, ok, I can BELIEVE it, I am just shocked and disgusted!
    My yukkiest experience of a similar kind was going to a second hand bookshop in..Epping? Pennant Hills? Somewhere around there – which happens to be in an Old Church (Not that I am naming and shaming or anything) and I walked in to the shop, the owner greeted me, said, ‘remember to watch out for all the steps and so on – you wouldn’t want to trip and fall flat on your face..’ and looked really leeringly at my breasts and continued, ‘Not that that would be likely to be a problem in YOUR case.”
    Ugh. Just UGH.

    • What a creep! That’s awful.

      I’m sure I’ve told this story here before, but when I worked in a cafe there was a middle-aged man who used to order to my boobs all the time. Never ever looked above my chest. I knew he had daughters my age which somehow made it worse. Anyway, one day when he told my boobs what coffee he wanted, I replied with, “Do you want breast milk with that?” He went bright red and ran out and never came back. My (male) boss cheered and clapped.

  6. When a man openly ogles or grabs a woman, the message to her is that she is vulnerable to violence. Some men are unaware of this, but to others it’s a playful reminder: “your safety is a matter of my whim.” They either delude themselves that women have no desire for autonomy and respect, or don’t care. When such a man grabs or ogles a woman, she is supposed to be pleased with his attentions, or so frightened she submits. When a woman asserts her autonomy and points out the lack of respect she is being shown, he either responds with confusion and embarrassment at the failure of his power play, or escalates to verbal violence to achieve his goal of intimidation.
    I think we should be allowed to hit such men with government allocated two-by-fours. Let’s see how smartly they get with the feminist revolution, then.
    I think Bob’s underlying belief is not so much his personal right to invade a woman’s privacy: but that of all men’s right to do so, if they happen to be so inclined. I’m betting Bob thinks women exist to serve men, and they should like it that way. If it gives men a thrill, it should be on. Why Bob thinks women should like this, is as yet a mystery to me.

    • This is it exactly: I think Bob’s underlying belief is not so much his personal right to invade a woman’s privacy: but that of all men’s right to do so, if they happen to be so inclined.

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  10. I’m a tad late responding to this post but I AM a newbie. Ohh the rage, yes it builds and builds – I hear ya! Even if you are made out to be the hysterical one, a thwack to the cock when no-one is looking is really the only (satisfying) answer.I wrote about my rage too.

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