From Booth Babes to LinkedIn Lovelies

Enjoy the view, ladies. This is probably the only time you’ll find me posting a business-inappropriate photo on LinkedIn. You enjoy it too, boys!

(I could have selected a photo waaaaay way worse than this one, you know. A photo so hypermasculine it would have made a Marine sergeant blush. But I didn’t. You’re welcome. Or, sorry!)

From what I’ve read, men actually objectify men as much as they objectify women. This explains rather a lot about ’80s action films, in which mostly dudes went to see movies featuring sweaty, oily, muscular, badass brutes like Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Van Damme, with barely a female in sight – barely or otherwise. Bromance, indeed. Brorgy, anyone?

And on LinkedIn, more men than women seem to appreciate the photos people keep posting of beautiful, often scantily-clad women, although I’ve noticed a fair amount of men complaining about it as well.

What I notice more recently is that women are posting sexy female photos too – sometimes of themselves.

There’s no quicker way to start a flame war on LinkedIn than with a photo of a good-looking gal, if she shows enough skin. Except maybe to say anything, however neutral or non-partisan, about Tr–p or Cl—-n.

“This doesn’t belong on LinkedIn!” the battle cry goes. “It objectifies women!” “No, it’s empowering!” “Women have to fight hard enough to be taken seriously!” “I’m a woman and I approve of beautiful women.”

I wrote about this earlier in Keep Your Clothes On, LinkedIn! I was against posting provocative pictures. Now I confess that I’m beginning to question my position as LinkedIn grows and I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with not only focusing so much on how people look, but why we can’t all learn to just get along and try not to stare too much if a lady’s cleavage is showing (or your colleague’s bulging pecs) without feeding the lawyers or at least driving the HR manager into an early retirement.

It’s interesting, at least, that women seem to be posting these salacious snapshots as well. Et tu, Brenda?

Or maybe should we begin recognizing that sometimes a lack of clothes is business-related?

Why do women’s bodies provoke so many strong feelings? Why do we go as ballistic over a burkha as we do over a bikini?

Would men appreciate it if they had to log on to LinkedIn every morning and be confronted with a muscular man’s impressive package (the kind you can’t get from FedEx)? Who would complain more, women or men?

Part of me agrees that LinkedIn isn’t Facebook and there are a lot of posts I’d like to see go away – political and stupid non-business-related memes, especially badly spelled – but even there it gets fuzzy. Politics and elections affect business, but I also see a lot of non-business-related posts I love – my LinkedIn friend Mansour Rad has posted some lovely photos of Iran and Persian artwork that I often save to my hard drive because they’re so beautiful.

In the olden days, before the rise of the Internet, technology trade shows often featured ‘booth babes’ – scantily-clad hotties – to compete for the attention of the largely male attendees and draw them to the booths.

Photo courtesy of Sergey Galyonkin on Flickr

In the mid-’90s no one complained too much, but as of a few years ago I heard gripes about the few remaining booth babes. Today, we’ve got the LinkedIn Lovelies to raise a firestorm (and they will fan the flaming fuel for years, long after the next contentious President is elected).

The remnants of my old-school feminist wants to scream, “This doesn’t belong on LinkedIn!” while my French bloodline cries, “Vive la difference!”

The businesswoman in me whispers, “Nearly-naked breasts are inappropriate in a business setting,” but then she adds, “And who will be posting bikini blow-ups if she ever finds herself working for a swimsuit company?”

I do understand the confusion sown when the lines are blurred with sexy selfies and gorgeous graphics, but I also wonder if, as we move deeper into the 21st century, we can learn to look beyond the externalities, however clad, to the human beings within. Because don’t, in the end, we all objectify everyone? The person who cut you off (a jerk!), the attractive woman who draws the male gaze (wanton wench!), the manager who snapped at you (he’s an a-hole), the woman who bumped you on the street and brusquely told you to “Watch where you’re going!” (b—h!) Are these not people with problems like we all have, with insecurities we all have, who are trying to put food on the table as we all do, who live lives you don’t even think about because they’re not people to you, just annoying objects?

Remember the old ’90s movie Starship Troopers, set in the future where men and women were truly equals in the military, and even showered together with all the professionalism of a board meeting?

Do you think that can ever happen some day?

I am genuinely confused.

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Nicole Chardenet is a freelance writer who doesn’t intend to set the women’s movement back fifty years, but does think we should all maybe calm down a bit. She’s never been a booth babe but she does appreciate beauty in all its forms. You can reach her at nchardenet@gmail.com.


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