I’ve been a proud Tubian since Yousef Erakat (aka “the Fouseytube guy”) first stepped on to the Youtube scene a couple years back with his Middle Eastern Family mini-series that hilariously highlights the quirks of what it’s like to grow up in an Arab-American household.
Since then, his popularity has reached new heights as his fan base expanded to an international level. Over the years, Fouseytube has taken his Tubians on a truly remarkable and inspiring journey and has sought to gain more than just a laugh from his audience.
Recently, Fouseytube has recorded many social experiments – some funny and some serious – in which an overarching theme of critical consciousness prevails. Whether he fake bullies his friend right here on campus and records many students’ indifference as they walk away from the scene without intervening, or records himself pretending to kidnap a child (the child actor was in on it) to see who would stop a kidnapping from taking place, he has been able to raise awareness regarding some very serious issues.
As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, I noticed he posted a new video. It wasn’t titled as an experiment the way his kidnapping or bullying videos were labeled. Instead, it was labeled as a prank; namely the “Yoga Pants Prank.”
At first glance, this video was hilarious. Yousef puts on a pair of tight, figure hugging leggings and bends over pretending to be reaching for something in the trunk of his car. Meanwhile, he has his camera man record male passerbys who take a look at Yousef’s butt. Yousef straightens himself up and then turns around and calls the men out on gawking. The humorous part was supposed to be the reaction of all the men who are surprised to find that they were actually staring at a guy’s butt, not a girl’s (surprise!). Yousef playfully taunts them for it and all the men’s embarrassed reactions are sure to draw a couple giggles.
But when I stopped to really think about the video and analyze it –I can’t help but put my feminist glasses on every time I consume any sort of media that comes my way–I realized that Yousef may have highlighted a serious feminist issue with or without intending to: the constant sexual objectification of women’s bodies.
The reactions of the male gawkers are a testament to the everyday struggle that women face. There is the prevalent idea that wearing a certain article of clothing is an invitation for men to stare, comment on, or even touch a woman. The reactions not only highlighted a very uncomfortable sense of misogyny, but there were definitely some homophobic overtones present as well.
Yousef starts out the video talking about a female friend of his who told him that he had no idea what it’s like to be a woman wearing leggings and have men stare at her butt. In a commendable attempt to understand what it’s like to live in a body of a woman, though no man could fully grasp what it’s like to live in the body of a woman on a daily basis, Yousef puts on a pair of leggings and begins his prank-experiment.
The first man that walks by takes a look at Yousef’s butt and when Yousef calls him out on it, he immediately denies doing so, though he was very clearly caught on tape not just looking once, but doing a double take. His immediate reaction was “Are you trying to call me gay or something?” as if the mere implication of possibly being perceived as homosexual is the worst thing someone could be called.
With the next man that walks by, Yousef tells him he might as well take a picture if he’s going to be staring. The man politely rejects the invitation to take a picture of Yousef’s butt not because he realizes that his gawking was inappropriate, but because he realizes Yousef is not a female. He even says “I’m sorry, I thought you were a girl.”
So what if Yousef was a girl? What if the experiment had been conducted with a female actress? Would that man still be sorry? Does the gender of the person wearing the pants justify the blatant sexual objectification taking place?
To the confusion regarding his gender, Yousef retorts, “You’re like a vulture wanting to bite it.”
And that’s exactly what it feels like to be the victim of unwanted sexualized attention. It feels as though your body is being preyed on by a vulture when it is viewed as a piece of meat that can consistently and uncomfortably be stared at. We live in a society where that type of behavior, which often goes further with cat calls, vulgar comments, groping, etc, is normalized and sometimes encouraged or praised.
Women are even taught that they should be happy and flattered by the attention.
When the next man shamelessly admits to gawking Yousef says, “You were clearly staring at my butt,” to which the man responds, “Yeah! You have a nice ass!”
The next man is even vocal about his admiration for Yousef’s butt when he takes a look and says “That mug is fat!” and when Yousef says “You think my butt is fat?” the man embarrassingly tries to justify his comment by also saying “I thought you were a girl.” Again, as if the gender of the person wearing the pants changes whether it’s okay or not to comment on their body.
The most troubling subject of this prank is the man who says “Aw man. But why the f*** do you got on leggings though?” as he criticizes Yousef’s choice of clothing. Yousef responds to the question by asking, “But why were you staring at my butt?!” The man, like most of the other men in this prank, replies with “I thought you were a girl.” This man almost gets physical and tells Yousef to get out of here and calls him crazy. His actions come from a combination of frustration and embarrassment at the fact that he accidentally found a man’s butt alluring rather than a woman’s, because God forbid that ever happens.
With all these subjects, the main point is missed. The point isn’t “Oops, I accidentally sexually objectified a man that I thought was a woman. Har har har.” It’s “Oops, I sexually objectified.” Period.