Where's The Feminist Outrage Over John Mayer?
In his recent incendiary Playboy interview, John Mayer had the following to say about former flame Jennifer Aniston: "I love Jen so much that I’m now thinking about how bad I would feel if she read this and was like, ‘Why are you putting me in an article where you’re talking about someone else? I don’t want to be in your lineage of kiss-and-tells’." Sadly, Mayer failed to use the same restraint when talking about another former girlfriend, Jessica Simpson. At this point, a lot of ink has been spilled on the singer/songwriter’s now-infamous statements; Mayer has attracted a lot of attention for his use of racial slurs and other forms of derogatory language, and so far the public’s reaction has been a mixture of disbelief, disappointment and disgust. But so far, not much has been said about his attitude toward women.
While I count myself among those who were outraged by Mayer’s flippant remarks about race and homosexuality, I find myself thinking more and more about what he had to say about Simpson, and what his words–and society’s reaction to them–mean about the way women are viewed today, both inside and outside the media. I admit, I’ve had a soft spot for Jessica Simpson ever since the premiere of MTV’s Nick and Jessica: Newlyweds, but I assure you, my concern here reaches far beyond my television viewing preferences. More than anything, this whole thing has me wondering: where are the women’s rights groups of yesteryear? Where is our feminist outrage, ladies? Why are we giving this guy a pass when we should be holding him accountable for his own special douche bag brand of quasi-misogyny?
In talking about his relationship with Simpson, Mayer compares her to "sexual napalm," claiming he was addicted to sex with her and would have given everything up had she been an actual drug: "Have you ever been with a girl who made you want to quit the rest of your life? Did you ever say, ‘I want to quit my life and just … snort you? If you charged me $10,000 to [sleep with] you, I would start selling all my [stuff].’ " I’m sure some will read this (or have already read it) and think, "What’s the big deal? That’s a pretty powerful complement!" Some are even going so far as to argue that Mayer’s interview will boost Simpson’s image; however, in revealing this sort of detail, Mayer is forgetting that, like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson may resent being in his "lineage of kiss-and-tells." Ultimately, these comments fall into line with the other thoughtless statements Mayer made while speaking to Playboy and should, in my opinion, add fuel to the anti-Mayer fire. Yet although he has apologized for the racial comments he made, Mayer still hasn’t publicly addressed the comments he made about Simpson.
Is this okay? Mayer first apologized for using racist language, and then, at the urging of GLAAD, apologized for the use of a slur when talking about an encounter with Perez Hilton; however, there has been no action on the part of women’s rights groups. Why hasn’t NOW demanded an apology? It seems, instead, that Mayer’s comments about Simpson are passing largely under the radar. Maybe this isn’t surprising for someone who has, to a certain extent, marketed herself rather successfully as a sex symbol. Maybe I’m naive to expect people to be more critical of these comments when Jessica’s father has been quoted in the press talking about her breasts, thereby making her body (or at least the fantasy of it) available for public consumption. Honestly, though, I don’t think these things preclude her being treated like she’s deserving of a reasonable degree of privacy, something that Mayer definitely fails to give her. What Mayer said is both intrusive and reductive when looked at under the best light, and not something that needs to be shared with the public even if he does think it makes for good interview material.
Amidst the reigning silence, Simpson has unsurprisingly kept mum, choosing for the most part to address the issue tangentially if at all. Last Wednesday, she tweeted somewhat indirectly about the scandal, stating that she was glad she would be "boxing 2-a-days this week." In the March issue of Allure, Simpson speaks about her role as a sex symbol and the blurry line between private and public interest in her sexuality, stating that she would sacrifice a potentially Oscar-winning movie role if it required her to do any nudity. In her words, "I will never do nudity . . . I don’t care if I frickin’ could get an Oscar for it, I’m not going to do it. Those accolades mean nothing to me. I don’t think people deserve to see what’s under my clothing. That’s only for my next husband–ha-ha-ha."
Does Simpson have a responsibility to publicly speak out against Mayer’s remarks, or is she better off only speaking around the subject? Does her silence complement or clash with the modesty she reveals in Allure? Would she even be taken seriously if she were to express anger or betrayal? It seems to me that someone needs to break the silence here and I wonder if the fact that now and/or other women’s groups have been quiet about this whole thing doesn’t speak volumes about where women stand in society today.
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