Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sexism in the age of social media

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Social media has made a huge impact on all of our lives. It is more than just a way to entertain ourselves; for many, it is a representation of who we are. Social media is one of the most popular ways that people communicate with each other.

In the last few years, accounts, such as Barstool Smokeshows, have created a platform for posting photos of societally beautiful women in various states of undress. In this basic definition, the account seems innocent, but I argue that it is not. These types of accounts are type of entertainment created by men, for men. In such a sexualized society, this does not seem like such a big deal, but we must look in between the lines.

Let’s look at the Barstool Smokeshows Instagram account. They source their photos from the Instagram accounts of women who voluntarily made the decision to post the photos. Many times, they ask women for permission to post and the women typically do say yes. So far, there has not been much of a problem. The picture gets posted and the current 732,000 followers see it pop up on their feed.

But I ask, why are these accounts featuring women and only women? Why do men still objectify women for their own entertainment? We should be above this as a society in 2017. Accounts like Barstool Smokeshows are illustrating how sexism still exists in our society. Each time a photo is posted and a man comments something disgusting, women’s status as equals becomes further and further from reality. We would be lying if we said that many of these women are not aware of and choose not to be a part this objectifying platform. I am arguing that we should not give in to it. We should not need attention from men to justify our validity.

It is no question that women are far more sexualized than men; it is ingrained in our society. However, when it comes to modern feminism, the debate between being objectified or being empowered is very prevalent. In other words, when people read this article, they may argue that posting these photos is an empowerment for women. This is not wrong. A big difference is that when the women post the pictures, it is through their own agency. When the photo is taken by the accounts, the women lose control over their humanity; now it is almost solely in the hands of men.

It is pathetic that this is still an issue in society. Many of these women are posting photos of themselves and Barstool Smokeshows is objectifying them – now a woman may not be taken seriously. She is now just two seconds of a man’s life as he scrolls through his feed.

I challenge you to think about why a woman cannot simultaneously show her body and be taken seriously. In some ways, it is because nudity is traditionally unprofessional. Seeing that many of these women are college students, they should be focused on becoming successful and powerful in whatever path they choose. On the other hand, it is sad to think that women cannot be beautiful and be taken seriously by men.

I ask you to think about these men sitting around looking at the pictures to find which ones to post on the page. Think about how they tear these women apart. Think about how sexist these conversations are. The owner of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy, is infamous for being misogynistic. It is clear that this platform is not innocent and that it is made to sexualize women. You may ask, what is wrong with being sexual? Nothing, as long as it does not demean a woman in the process.

A key difference between an account like Barstool Smokeshows and other Instagram accounts is the intention of the account. Men go to the account to look at pictures of naked women. If you compare Barstool Smokeshows to other accounts dedicated to women, you can clearly see this difference. For example, an Instagram account made to display women in a sorority is similar to Barstool Smokeshows in many ways. However, many more of the followers are women; there are no sexist comments. It is solely empowering. Take the time and read some of the comments on each account. If you are not disgusted after reading Barstool Smokeshows, I would be surprised.

In 2017, men should no longer be objectifying, sexualizing and – in effect – dehumanizing women. Accounts like Barstool should not exist if they are entirely dedicated to objectifying women. Women should not need sexual attention from men to be empowered. We should be raising our sons and daughters to treat others as equals. Very often, men are being raised to see women as vulnerable or as objects instead of strong, intelligent, multi-faceted individuals. We would be lying to ourselves if we said otherwise. Challenge yourself to be above it.

Cassie McGrath is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]


8 Responses to “Sexism in the age of social media”

  1. Bob on December 6th, 2017 12:31 pm

    Very powerful. Should be required reading at UMASS (for starters)

  2. UMass2015 on December 6th, 2017 1:41 pm

    This is a poorly written and poorly argued column and the Collegian should hold itself to higher publishing standards than this. Barstool asks for permission from all Smokeshows and the pictures that are used are all taken from social media. The argument that the account is used to sexualize women when these photos were first taken and shared by the women themselves renders the whole point moot. The women posting photos in “various states of undress” want the attention on social media, and the fact that they let an account with hundreds of thousands of followers share these photos further displays that point. Objectification is not inherently bad, nor is it necessarily dehumanizing–it’s a part of life for both men and women.

    This column seems like a half-hearted attempt to capitalize on the current fight against sexual assault in Hollywood. Unfortunately, there is a vast difference between that type of dehumanizations and a harmless Instagram account that women choose to be featured on.

  3. Jack on December 8th, 2017 1:07 am

    Go to Instagram search and you will be able to find plenty of accounts that are dedicated to the objectification of men they just aren’t nearly as popular as the ones dedicated to women.

    Also, you seem to acknowledge that women are submitting these photos of themselves, but then remove that from the objectification act. Do you not think that these women should be allowed to share their photos when the intent is for them to be sexualized? Do you not think the photo submitters know what the idea of the page is?

  4. Kimberly Dillon on December 8th, 2017 10:31 am

    Addessing the above comment:
    Although the women themselves may have posted the pictures, it just shows the need driven by a society where beauty and sexuality are top priorities for both men and women today. We are raised looking at pictures and magazines of beautiful woman and men and standards are subliminally set for how we should be.

  5. Kimberly Dillon on December 8th, 2017 10:34 am

    Addessing the above comment:
    Although the women themselves may have posted the pictures, it just shows the need driven by a society where beauty and sexuality are top priorities for both men and women today. We are raised looking at pictures and magazines of beautiful woman and men and standards are subliminally set for how we should be. Like it ir not, you cannot dispute that. Wr, as a society, have cultivated that and now, in light of all going on in todays world, we should be questioning why we let ourselves get to this point and to continue to try to change it.

  6. NITZAKHON on December 11th, 2017 8:20 pm


    Men and women are attracted to fit, attractive, healthy people because such people are, on average, better fit for reproduction – whether better for carrying children on the female side, or fathering and protecting/providing on the male side.

  7. NITZAKHON on December 11th, 2017 8:20 pm

    @Kimberly 2:

    It’s pure science and biology; I assume you’re not an evolution denier?

  8. Ashley on December 28th, 2017 12:09 am

    “We should not need attention from men to justify our validity.”

    Amen, thank you for writing this. I dream of a day when women (or is it “girls?”) won’t base their worth on male attention and validation.

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