Yet it's actually the treatment of Upton that interests me most. It's certainly possible that she reacted in something like the way Marcotte imagines: that she was alerted to the YouTube video, felt as if she was in a no-win situation, pretended to be flattered, and felt resentful at having to choose between feigning niceness and taking a public relations hit. Under this scenario, she would've suffered in part due to the cultural voices that pressured her to actually attend the prom. Had Marcotte confined her criticism to those voices, I'd have agreed with her commentary. I tend to think celebrities owe less to the public than most Americans seem to believe. And I think Stoeffel is right that public invitations like this can verge on emotional blackmail.
What makes me uncomfortable is the way that Marcotte presumes her plausible explanation for how Upton felt is in fact how she felt--as if it's okay to begin from general observations about objectionable gender dynamics in society and to extrapolate from them as if they tell us how a specific woman would of course react to a specific situation. Isn't that unfair to Kate Upton? Surely an appreciation that women are diverse, autonomous individuals requires us to be open to the possibility that Upton's inner thoughts and feelings are different than any of us might expect, especially since Upton's public statements are directly at odds with Marcotte's theory. Marcotte doesn't leave open the possibility that she was mildly flattered, or ambivalent, or found the video hilarious, or managed the whole thing through a PR adviser and never even thought of it outside those moments.
I don't actually think there is any one way Upton "ought to" feel. Nor do I know anything about her philosophy, her experiences, her personality, her sensitivities, her strengths, her insecurities, her disposition. How could I even make an informed guess? I would suggest that feminism shouldn't aim to shame high-schoolers who ask supermodels out on YouTube so that the objects of their affection don't feel humiliated pretending to be nice; rather, feminism should aim for a world where no supermodel would ever experience humiliation at being asked out by a high schooler, in large part because no one would even imagine that a teenager possesses the power to humiliate a grown woman at the top of her profession with no more than a respectfully phrased invitation. That is how things ought to be. It seems possible that we are almost there, too.
If not, perhaps part of the problem is that Marcotte and those who agree with her assume the opposite. They proceed as if it's not just possible but obvious that Upton would conceive of her experience as they did: as a victimized member of a disempowered group who has of course been humiliated. But surely at least some women would regard themselves, in Upton's situation, as powerful, autonomous superstars who managed some good press, made a random kid happy, and haven't been through anything so unpleasant that they can be said to have "endured" it.
Wouldn't that be a good thing? Isn't presuming maximal trauma and discomfort itself victimizing to some people? And finally, aren't asking someone to pay attention to you with an appeal to their politeness or niceness and demanding they pay attention to you with the implicit threat of physical coercion actually different in kind, not degree? If you're reading, Davidson, I think the answer is yes.