The problem with those viral ‘hot guy’ marathon selfies

Twenty-four-year-old Kelly Roberts thought of a novel way to make it through last weekend’s New York Half-Marathon. Instead of listening to music, or envisioning the finish line, or doing whatever else it is runners do during these things, Roberts took a series of selfies and posted them to Instagram — with a series of strange, “hot” men in the background.

“Ladies and gents I present to you, hott guys of the nyc half,” she wrote, in a caption to go with this gem:

Roberts, to her credit, seems to have a real sense of humor. She’s posted more than 1,400 Instagrams, many of them funny, open-mouthed selfies. Her hottie captions are light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek — figuratively, if not literally. And her viewers, whether on Instagram or The Huffington Post or The New York Daily News, generally greet her like some kind of conquering lady-hero: “Everything about your pictures I love!” “This is absolutely hilarious!!!” “Love this idea!!!”

… really?

I get it: Objectification is everywhere, and it’s empowering to see a lady doing the objectifying for once. On top of that, said lady is making funny faces. And running a half-marathon! That girl is a race-running, selfie-snapping monument to the modern woman, basically.

And yet! She’s still taking surreptitious pictures of strangers, which is creepy, and rating their attractiveness, which is gross. Join me in a simple thought exercise: If Kelly Roberts were Ken Roberts, snapping pictures of spandex-clad girls, would we find this exercise half so amusing?

Roberts’s photos are funny, though, because we can’t take them seriously. There is nothing threatening about a lady pointing out an attractive dude; on the contrary, women’s opinions on men, and on sexuality in general, are generally pretty easy to dismiss.

That’s not “absolutely hilarious” — it’s actually kind of sad. And it’s certainly not empowering for people of any gender, regardless of what Roberts’s Instagram fans say.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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