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“Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street”: All This Offense is Offensive

October 20th, 2011 by Jeff Simmermon

My friend Brandon Bloch is a videographer here in Brooklyn. We kinda know each other two different ways. In one way, we know each other because he made a really awesome video promoting D.Billy’s artwork a while back. And we also know each other because as it turns out, his wife is a good friend of mine and a consultant that I work with very closely at my day job. Small world.

Brandon and his wife and me and my girlfriend hang out together and do couple stuff together. One of these days, we’re going to get D.Billy and his lady involved and have the biggest, brunchiest, triple-couple bouge-a-thon that Brooklyn has ever seen.

I was having lunch with Brandon and his wife the other day, and he told me what he’d been working on. “It’s pretty fun, man,” he said. “It’s a video piece that we’re going to call ‘Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.’”

I was a little surprised. He didn’t really strike me as that kind of a dude, to be honest. “Just watch it,” he said. I did, and now I totally get it.

Now, I present to you: “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street,” by Steven Greenstreet and Brandon Bloch:

Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street from Steven Greenstreet on Vimeo.

Not exactly what it sounded like when you read the title, was it? That’s kind of the point. As Brandon told me, “We noticed that all the coverage coming out of the Occupy Wall Street movement was either of freaks or young, unusually good-looking people. So we decided to both be honest about our motivations and make fun of media’s tendency to seek out pretty people, and we ended up with an inspiring, moving story. We just kept the title because we knew it would get some attention and hey, look — the kind of person that searches for and watches a video called ‘Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street’ is probably the kind of person that actually needs to hear this message pretty badly.”

He’s right. If they’d called it “A Sober and Respectful Look at the Underrepresented Womyn’s Voices at Occupy Wall Street”, would anyone have watched it?

Unsurprisingly, the Internet had decided to lose its collective mind over this. The response is both shocking, and not surprising at all. There is a particular type of person that is happiest when they are riled up and offended about something. This sort of person is found both on the right and the left of the political spectrum, and they just LOVE to write a blog post about their manufactured outrage.

From Feministe:

It’s the dipshit fratboy vibe of “Ohhh yeah, let’s go to this protest thing because there are hot chicks there, and then we can make a video where we sound kind of, like, deep, you know? Because we can like talk about community and stuff and how even though these hot chicks got us there, we realized that there’s something, like, important happening, you know dude? I’ll wear my favorite Livestrong bracelet.” It’s the idea that women are at OWS to be oggled by dudes, or to inspire some polo-shirted nitwit to Care About Something More [than titties] (TM). It’s that he’s taking pictures of women without their permission or knowledge and posting them on the internet as masturbatory fodder. The one upside is that the Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street tumblr is like Steven Greenstreet’s very own I’m A Creep bat-signal (he may also be a 9/11 truther? Lots of warning signs here). May he never get laid again.

And Salon:

This video is sexist. It’s an example of women participating in public life — political, professional, social — and having their participation reduced to sexual objectification. That’s what happened here, nothing more, nothing less.

All this outrage is just wonderfully stupid. If you ever catch yourself saying or writing the phrase “I, for one, am OFFENDED” unironically, it’s probably time to just think about the things in life that you consider fun. It probably won’t take long.

On the one hand, the fuss is a good thing. It’s getting people to watch the video, to see the actual stories that come out of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Maybe people will start to understand why it’s happening in the first place.

On the other hand, this is sad and embarrassing for the left. All this humorless infighting is distracting and it’s why we can’t get organized. Steven Greenstreet and Brandon set out to tweak people’s biases with an eye-catching title, and it’s working. They’re getting tons of views, and they’re playing on people’s preconceptions.

It’s just sad to see self-avowed feminists playing themselves in the process. Without that title, the video would be a little on the voyeuristic side, but otherwise safe for broadcast television and not exceptionally remarkable. With the title, all of a sudden the sky is falling.

One of the only publications that really got what the video is and isn’t about summed it up this way:

I would actually argue that Greenstreet has consciously courted controversy, albeit subtly, by not making a leering video that amplifies his subjects’ sexuality, but which uses a title that makes is seem as if he did. Clever boy, and even more clever in that the word “hot,” though I ran it through the sexist wringer earlier, could be reasonably construed to define a woman who is so intellectually engaging that she becomes a hopeless object of desire.

Would there be anything wrong with that?

I would further argue that whatever outrage people are feeling about this video is as faked as the supposed exploitation of the women in it. If it is real, then the outrage springs from a deep-seated immaturity about both life and sex! Appreciating someone’s sexual appeal does not automatically dismiss their other fine qualities, but denying their attractiveness literally does. It may be inappropriate to express that appreciation in certain settings, but the idea here seems to be that even recognizing the fact that there are Hot Chicks that Occupy Wall Street is a denigration of them as activists fighting for a cause.

This excerpt comes from a piece on the AVN’s website. AVN is, of course, the largest trade publication that serves the adult film industry. Their site, and the preceding link, are never, ever safe for work. Unless you work in the porn industry.

For what it’s worth, Brandon’s wife is smart, qualified to appear in that video, and has an abundantly healthy self-esteem. She and I both think that maybe it’s a little more important to focus on the issues the protests raise rather than something quite this distracting. Half of our parents’ generation met at protests, and it wasn’t a shared love of bongo drums that got them there in the first place. Nobody that matters cares what gets you down there, as long as you have an open mind.

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