Slate’s XX blog published a post by Amanda Marcotte on Friday – Jake Davidson Asking Out Kate Upton Isn’t Cute. It’s Creepy. – the crux of which goes something like this:
The lesson learned: You may be a rich and famous model, but any random man can, just by making a video, force you to do a little song and dance about how delightful his attentions are. Instead of applauding Davidson for this, adults should be appalled. All that’s been taught here to young men is that they are entitled to women’s attention simply because they ask for it.
This entitlement we teach men crops up all the time for women, and it’s rarely as cute as a silly comedy video: When a man demands that you stop on the street to entertain his proposal of going back to his place and then follows you for blocks because you pretended not to hear him. When a rape victim is told that if she didn’t want to have sex, she shouldn’t have gone to the rapist’s hotel room. When a woman files for a restraining order because she’s afraid her abusive husband means it when he says that if he can’t have her, no one can.
Taking XX’s allegations at face value for a moment, it doesn’t sound like Marcotte thinks Davidson’s video is creepy — it sounds like she thinks it, and everything it represents about male entitlement, is downright dangerous.
I can’t say I found Davidson’s video all that delightful or wonderful or charming, but I also think this reaction is a little bit of an over-reaction. And not just because the idea that Kate had to respond is a bit of a stretch, or that the fact she did has any broader societal significance. After all, there’s no shortage of marriage proposals (that’s five) to T-Swift on Youtube and elsewhere, and to my knowledge, she hasn’t felt compelled to respond to a single one of them (though I suppose there might be a song lyric out there just waiting to be decoded).
Obviously, street harassment, rape, and abusive husbands are not something we should be encouraging.* But I don’t see how this incident – or at least, Davidson making his video in the first place — is going to do anything to encourage those things. Creepy, maybe. Dangerous, probably not.
*The fact that I had to write that sentence might be a good indication this is probably not a topic I should be writing about.
And I don’t think Slate truly believes it is either. I searched the website’s archive and confirmed that XX had nothing to say about that time Justin Timberlake famously got asked out, also via Youtube. Sure, the Marine Corps Ball is hardly Jake Davidson’s high school prom – or as Slate put it, “one of the most awkward and embarrassing nights of your life, where you have to socialize with teenagers while being paraded around like a show pony” – but I don’t imagine Slate would take the position that street harassment and rape are OK as long as they’re perpetrated by Justin Timberlake or Jon Hamm and not pimply teenaged Jake Davidson.
Indeed, speaking of Jon Hamm, XX published another interesting piece on Thursday – the day before the Kate Upton piece – with a title that speaks somewhat less for itself, Jon Hamm Is Being Treated Like an Actress. He Hates It. As usual, I have extracted for you the crux:
Just as actresses have been plagued by paparazzi shots up their skirts and with flashes that can, at times, expose their nipples, Hamm’s become perturbed by the proliferation of photos of and gossip about his penis, whether he’s caught at an unflattering angle on the street or asked to wear underwear on the Mad Men set so he’s not exposed by tighter-fitting suits.
“They’re called privates for a reason. I’m wearing pants, for fuck’s sake,” he grumbled to Rolling Stone. “When people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my cock, I feel like that wasn’t part of the deal.”
To XX’s credit, it agrees that this sort of scrutiny — “endless appearance-based prying and insane body standards” – is a bad thing, even as it seems to be more interested in making a point than it is in protecting poor Jon Hamm’s johnson. Which makes sense, because the blog is called XX.
But I think XX has the story a little backwards. The scrutiny is bad for society — and the people in it who feel they should look like Anne Hathaway or Britney Spears or Jon Hamm — but not so much for the celebrities themselves. That XX is writing about Hamm at all can give us a little perspective on the whole Kate Upton incident. Here’s the quote from the NY Daily News article that kicked off the furor:
An AMC insider tells Confidenti@l that during filming of the sixth season of the hit show — when the ’60s-style clothing was a tight fit — Hamm was politely instructed by a staffer at the network to please wear underwear while shooting his scenes.
Wow, I cannot believe this story got leaked. Especially now, only a week and a half before the premiere of Mad Men Season Six – and not back whenever Mad Men was actually filming and these events actually occurred. I’m sure this is absolutely unintentional and in no way calculated to drum up publicity for the show and drive up ratings and subscriptions and force cable providers to include AMC in their offerings.
Note that the story comes from “an AMC insider.” No doubt he has no agenda. Just like Kate Upton.
[This sort of publicity campaign is particularly helpful when you refuse to release any actual details of the upcoming season.]
As we’ve already seen from Taylor Swift, Kate could have easily ignored the video proposal. Instead, this:
And it’s pretty easy to understand why. That tweet has so far been re-tweeted and favorited well over 5,000 times combined. And Kate’s earned herself a fair number of headlines (like this one) thanks to all the publicity Davidson’s generated. Sure, the reigning SI swimsuit issue cover girl probably didn’t need the publicity, and maybe Davidson’s request was a little awkward and creepy, but it’s not like Davidson ever followed “Katie” down the street — all she had to do to make this go away was ignore it. Instead, she made sure everybody saw it – and in turn, turned everybody’s attention to her.
And it’s useful idiots — like me — who write about it and make that happen. You’re welcome, Katie. Go to prom with me.