There’s talk on the men’s rights blogosphere about the disparity between men and women graduating from college, some estimates show 10% more women than men complete undergraduate degrees (though female enrollment is just 7% higher). Somehow, it’s being sold as the fault of feminism, that somehow feminism is to blame for these numbers. In reality, sexism is the reason why men aren’t completing college at the rate women are, not because “feminism has gone too far” or is somehow hurting boys and men. (Of course, unequal rates of college graduation is not new: Since 1950, more women than men who began college actually finished it. More women than men graduate with honors. Perhaps this correlates with two national 2006 studies in which “college men reported that they studied less and socialized more than their female classmates.” Boys will be boys?)
It seems that boys do just wanna have fun, but women are more compelled by family, peers, and the media because our sexist society finds men more valuable just as they are than women: The general public feels that a college education is more important for women than for men “to get ahead in life.” With women still earning approximately 77% of what men do for the same work, it makes sense that the public believe women require more education to get a leg up. Conversely, men are not encouraged to complete college in the way women are.
In addition, gender expectations prevent many men from pursuing careers they have a genuine interest in because they are traditionally “female” (such as teaching, nursing, and the liberal arts). What’s left for men: options deemed more socially acceptable for men, including entering the military and pursuing a life of crime.
Many of these men settle for mere jobs instead of careers, and it’s clear why. College costs have skyrocketed. More women than men with college degrees see the value and personal benefits of their college education. According to a Pew study released in 2011: “College-educated women are more likely than their male counterparts to say college was ‘very useful’ in increasing their knowledge and helping them grow intellectually (81% vs. 67%), as well as helping them grow and mature as a person (73% vs. 64%).” Perhaps this lack of respect for college education, a “What’s the point?” attitude, is the reason why fewer men start or finish college.
In addition, sexism on behalf of parents might be a contributing factor, too. Parents are more likely to pay for their daughters’ education than their sons’. (Whether this is because parents continue to see their college-aged daughters as their “little girls,” because parents realize that their daughters will be deemed more worthwhile with a degree, that they feel their investment is more wisely used on their daughters’ educations than on their sons’, or some other reason(s) is not entirely certain.)
Boys and men in our current social climate are still as encumbered as women by old-timey gender expectations–but in their case, an expectation is to make money. To provide. To be important. To be the man of the house. Why work hard at a specialized degree and possibly grad school (and take on that massive debt) when there’s no societal prioritization for previously respected professionals? There is a disdain in the United States for education and smart people (Santorum calling Obama a snob, for example) and a celebration of ignorance (eight years of George W. Bush) but our country’s despicable war on science is mostly to blame for dissuading many boys from entering and finishing college.
War on science example #1: Engineering
The number of engineering graduates (male and female) is in decline in the United States, and is especially disturbing in comparison to India and China. According to Dr. Charles M. Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering (speaking in October, 2011):
Across Asia more that 21 percent of the students are graduating in engineering fields. Across Europe, just under 12 percent of recent graduates are engineers. In the U.S.? 4.5 percent.
Why go into civil engineering when infrastructure isn’t prioritized in this country? Bridges are allowed to collapse. Ambitious projects aren’t undertaken. The last major economic downfall in this country resulted in the Hoover Dam, an awe-inspiring engineering feat. But recently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act repaved roads and was met with nothing but criticism from the Right.
Why go into electrical or mechanical engineering when the electric grid is a half-century old and the Right adamantly detests electric cars and alternative energy? Shoot, many people don’t even want better fuel efficiency requirements on regular gasoline-powered cars– Romney has criticized the President for introducing new gas mileage rules even though the auto industry is in full support of updated standards. And contrary to the Republicans’ negative nancy attitude, this challenge can and will be met by American (or, maybe, Indian) engineers.
Why go into aerospace engineering when NASA’s funding is a mockery of what it once was? When I was young, kids (not me so much but my peers) were captivated by space exploration. We imagined walking on the moon. We imagined aliens, discovering more planets. We watched televised shuttle takeoffs from Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center on vacation. We even saw the Challenger explode on TV, which freaked us out but made us want to see advancements in space exploration even more. No one can say it better than the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:
Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival. Not only does that get people interested in sciences and all the related fields, [but] it transforms the culture into one that values science and technology, and that’s the culture that innovates. And in the 21st century, innovations in science and technology are the foundations of tomorrow’s economy.
Neil deGrasse Tyson to NPR’s David Greene in February, 2012
Or, summed up more plainly on The Daily Show in January, 2011:
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Einstein via Neil deGrasse Tyson
War on science example #2: Climate change
Mitt Romney recently said, “I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet,” during an interview on Meet the Press. He continued, “I’m in this race to help the American people.” Romney used to believe that anthropogenic climate change was real, but now he doesn’t. (That was back when he was for healthcare reform and reproductive choice). Now, however, he does not see how protecting the home of the American people will help them. Instead, he is using the concept of climate change as a means to mock the President and as justification to eliminate environmental regulations and the EPA to make the far-right Republican base happy.
The problem is that every reputable climatologist has determined that human activity is causing climate change. NASA scientists have concluded the same. The U.S. is the only country still debating this, even amidst extreme weather, droughts, and melting glaciers. Why is this conversation still going on? Because greed is respected more than science by some vocal nitwits in this country?
War on science example #3: A healthcare system that prioritizes drugs over cures and demonizes physicians
French researchers have functionally cured patients with HIV–by starting antiviral drugs early after infection, these patients don’t require lifelong treatment. But in most of the Western world, drug companies are not interested in curing illness, they are interested in maintenance. Why would they want to research cures when, in doing so, they’d be cutting into potential future profits, perhaps even putting themselves out of business?
Children might have grandiose ideas of becoming researchers, chemical/biomedical engineers, or physicians with hopes of curing cancer, but when they realize that what they’d actually be doing is maybe coming up with the next chemo drug (at best) or the newest antidepressant, the romance is lost.
And in a political climate that spreads misinformation about medicine and people willingly believe wacky conspiracy theories and the supernatural over tested and proven medical discoveries, how appealing is donating your life to research, maybe creating the next vaccine? When parents would rather have pox parties than vaccinate their children against chicken pox, when previously eradicated or uncommon illnesses resurface in the industrialized world, when parents believe vaccines cause autism despite numerous studies that debunk the claim, when Rep. Michele Bachmann recklessly claims vaccines cause mental retardation, and additional conservatives argue that the HPV vaccine promotes promiscuously, is it any wonder that fewer men pursue science degrees? In the religions vs. science war, perhaps religion is winning this battle.
Which leads to . . . hostility toward stem cell research, which is the most controversial and misunderstood–but also most promising–medical research technology on the horizon. (The following information is paraphrased from a publication by the Guttmacher Institute). An appreciation of the possibilities in stem cell research is not new. In1954, the Nobel Prize for Medicine went to scientists whose work on cultures of human fetal kidney cells led to the development of the polio vaccine. Next, the focus shifted to in-utero techniques, such as amniocentesis and understanding birth defects. In the 1980s, research began in the United States using embryonic stem cells to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries . . . and then President Reagan halted federal funding. Five years later, Clinton issued an executive order and testing resumed. Then followed drama with Congress and NIH review panels. Then George W. Bush took office, and in 2001, he “prohibited the use of federal funds for research on stem cell lines created after that point. In an attempt to be seen as not impeding science, Bush announced that funds could be used, however, for work on the 64 cell lines estimated by the administration to be in existence as of that point” (Guttmacher Institute).
The Obama administration expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research but the issue has been brewing in courts.
Imagine treatments for spinal cord injuries, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases [such as arthritis, lupus, Crohn's, MS, & Addison's Disease], diabetes, osteoporosis, various cancers, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Without all of these unnecessary stops and starts, we can only imagine which illnesses would be eradicated by now, which diseases would be no longer fatal, which injuries could be treated successfully.
Regarding the money wars surrounding healthcare in this country, physicians and politicians (Damn President Obama for trying to prevent insurance companies from dumping us when we get sick!) are treated as the enemy. Physicians are greedy, we’re told. They play golf and travel to sexy beaches and sleep with even sexier nurses.
New general practice physicians make less than $80,000 per year; the median salary for GPs was $191,000 in 2009. Also in 2009, medical students finished school an average of $200,000 in debt. (With that much debt, no wonder why many medical students are going into specialties in which they can earn much more). Still, if someone really wanted to rake in the big bucks, there must be easier ways than learning all that chemistry and anatomy, cutting into those cadavers, and subsisting on no sleep, such as working on Wall Street (perhaps for an insurance company) or becoming a lobbyist. Or a lawyer. I have to believe there’s a genuine calling for most physicians that goes beyond having a fat paycheck and a fast car.
I suppose some physicians and surgeons are drawn to medicine for the money, but our ridiculously expensive heath care system is much more complicated than greedy doctors–and needs to be overhauled. The ACA is a good start. Why not consider sharing some blame with insurance companies (most of which are for profit) or pharmaceutical companies or specialized, elective services like in vitro fertilization & plastic surgery or imaging centers or unsanitary facilities or a litigious societal mindset and overzealous lawsuit payouts?
Or what about those greedy administrators:
The August issue of the journal Health Affairs found that per-physician administrative costs in the United States averaged $82,975 annually, while Ontario-based physicians averaged $22,205.
When doctors are spoken of with almost the same level of disdain as lawyers and used car salesmen, why would little boys want to become doctors?
War on science example #5: Abstinence-only education
In my middle school health and life science classes, I was taught about the systems of the body: I learned about the digestive system and why good nutrition is important. I learned about the reproductive system and how babies are made (which I already knew the basics of, in part thanks to the changing bodies video I’d seen the year before in Catholic school) but in 7th grade health class, I saw pictures of genitals infected with various STDs. Scared the snot outta me. I learned about the respiratory system and why smoking is bad. I learned about the circulatory system, too. I remember that unit in particular because my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Thompson, tested all of our blood types by pricking our fingers and putting droplets of our blood on special cards. He was so excited because I was his first AB in four years!
Did I know I had schooling that would be considered progressive by today’s standards? Of course not. (But I’m grateful for it). Now, there is a push for abstinence-only education (popular in states with high pregnancy rates) which leaves out all talk of the reproductive system. So, there are ten (when you’re in middle school) systems of the body, but schools are supposed to pretend there are nine?
And the justification is that the other, unmentionable system is religious, not scientific, so only parents and clergy can teach about it. When basic science and anatomy are made taboo, it’s another win for religion in the religion vs.science war.
War on science example #6: Evolution and “intelligent design”
When this is even up for debate, when it’s even an option to teach or even mention “intelligent design” in schools, science has lost. When parents have to become activists to prevent their children from being taught religious doctrine in public schools, science is belittled. When taxpayer dollars purchase text books that claim people lived side-by-side with dinosaurs and that Nessie is real, American schools are teaching that science is a joke. When there are right-wing groups collecting money, hiring lobbyists, and introducing bills in order to undermine public “confidence in science,” well, science is pretty much screwed.
This country is seeing a devastating animosity against science, and science careers have historically been the male realm. Is it any wonder that fewer boys contemplate a long, expensive college career to go into fields that are respected less and less in America? For girls, on the other hand, going to college makes sense, and pursuing science is a logical next step on the progression. They’re already used to battling against unreasonable expectations. They’re already used to fighting against gender stereotypes. They’re already used to standing up for themselves, so why not stand up for science?
–Denise Du Vernay, M.A., Florida State University
Summa cum laude
B.A. University of South Dakota
Major: English, Minor: Earth Science
Is taking his book (the one that inspired our road trip last year) on tour. To research his book, Dave and I drove from New York City to Tallahassee and back (visiting Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, Chapel Hill, Asheville, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Savannah along the route). The goal of the trip was to meet as many misbehaving or unruly women as possible to inspire stories about Xenia, the world’s first-ever trickster goddess. Intrigued? I thought so!
Check out his Kickstarter account for more information on the book and the tour, and support him if you can!
Some pics I took of Dave on the road trip last year:
I wrote an opinion piece for Patch.com about the proposed cellphone ban on all drivers. How do I feel about it? You’ll have to check it out.
Over the weekend, I also wrote an article about everyday feminism and how we can do small things each day to keep the movement going.
Happy new year!
I personally have many concerns about Michele Bachmann. I don’t like the way that she relies on catchphrases during GOP debates, and seems as though she has no knowledge behind such slogans to back them up. I don’t like the way that she lies about many things, such as specifics in which she calls “Obamacare.” I’m disturbed that her religious philosophy requires her to be subservient to her husband (Marcus, then, should be running, not her). I’m concerned that she has no idea how Social Security works or is funded, nor does she seem to have any understanding of foreign policy and the military. I’m concerned by her disinterest in the unusually high teen suicide rate in her district (many of the victims are gay teens). I’m horrified by her dire need to politic that causes her to say reckless, dangerous things, like when she claimed that the HPV vaccine causes retardation. I’m flummoxed by her insistence that “freedom” and “less government” are important when it means lowering or removing EPA standards from businesses who pollute, but doesn’t support basic freedoms of individuals to marry who they’d like.
One thing that hadn’t concerned me is her French manicure. In an article in the Washington Post, entitled “Michele Bachmann’s manicure: Tasteful? Tacky? Totally off-limits” author Maura Judkis discusses the media’s and blogosphere’s interest in her nails and if a French manicure is “timeless” or “tacky” and if she should have them filed round instead of square. I thank a page I belong to on Facebook, Female Equality Matters, for bringing this to my attention.
Yes, Bachmann’s fingernails are a big issue on the campaign trail.
I do not want to see Bachmann elected President, but this type of sexist idiocy against her is appalling. Doing a quick Google search pulls up as many articles remarking on her looks as on her ideas.
Pushing the issues aside and focusing on her appearance, nails, and “hotness” is a means of marginalizing her as a candidate by focusing on her sex and gender instead of her qualifications and her plans (or lack thereof). I don’t want her to win, but I want it to be because the American public realizes that she’s not a good candidate, not because her French manicure is too tacky for a President to sport.
In the years I’ve written this blog, I’ve had some haters, sure. There were people who commented on my blog, called me names, said rude things. I found them boneheaded, occasionally offensive, often funny, but I wasn’t nervous about it.
I was never bothered until recently when the “men’s rights” Reddit discovered my blog. The comments I receive daily are filled with name-calling and some disturbing points of view, but the emails saying things like ”you need some good fucking from a real man to understand your place” are, well, upsetting. Emails telling me to shut up. Emails calling me names, from “cunt” to “bitch” to “femtard.” (Yes, there are people who use “femtard” without irony, as stupid as that word is. I suppose I should be upset and offended by it, but it’s just too hard to be, seeing as how it sounds like it was invented by a fourth grader). My photo was used (without my consent, obviously) in a post that implied that feminists think all men are rapists, which led commenters to discuss if they’d rape me or not. (Luckily, my name was not attached to the photo and it seemed the photo was found and used randomly, but trust me when I say that being a fly on the wall while men discuss your rapeability is not pleasant.)
My situation is small potatoes compared to what other women face. I just read this post from a feminist blogger who has had threats made on her (murder and/or rape), threats on her pets, and even threats on her family.
Let me just say this: the misogynists, the “men’s rights” crowd, and the garden variety sexists want me, and all women, to shut up. They use belittling language and threats of violence in attempts to shut us up. We won’t. We won’t shut up until the orders to shut up end.
What I find incredibly silly about this is that the “men’s rights” mouthpieces argue that there is no need for feminism because women have equality. That sexism is a myth. If that were true, there would be no fear of the work that feminist bloggers, politicians, and activists are trying to achieve because it would be a non-issue. Remember the episode of The Office when Michael Scott had the fun run for rabies? Feminism would be like that: a silly waste of time. The fact that these groups don’t see what we’re doing as a waste of time but get angry with us, spend hours arguing with us on our blogs, showing that our messages are a true threat to their ideology. What we are doing is necessary and worthwhile. The fact that the dittoheads call us “feminazis” and others call us “lesbos” shows that we are feared. We’re feared for what–for our potential power, for the worry that we don’t need men, worry that we might upset the balance of the status quo? It doesn’t matter why, really; what matters is that it’s there.
I will be happy when women and girls are welcome to speak and not bullied into silence, whether it be in the classroom, the workplace, the dinner table, or even right here on our own blogs. I will feel that feminism has “happened” and has done its work when women and girls are no longer told to be quiet.
For every sexist who comments on my blog or emails me, I get just as many comments from friends and people I don’t even know, telling me I’m great, thanking me for my posts, and encouraging me to keep going. So I keep going.
We won’t shut up until the demands for us to shut up end.
Let me preface this post by saying that yes, there are indeed women who dislike men. They call may themselves “feminists” (or possibly “womyn”) and say things like “mansplain” without any irony whatsoever. I’ve argued on blogs with women who claim that men should not speak to the experiences of women because they could not possibly know what it is to be a woman. Actually, men do have the ability to be empathetic. (Of course, not all men choose to employ that ability).
While parts of that radical feminist position may be valid, much of it is unfair and certainly not held by most feminists. In fact, many men identify as feminists because they’ve watched the women and girls in their lives suffer discrimination or institutionalized sexism. I wrote a post about a man who was asked misogynistic questions during an NFL drafting interview (including if his mother was a prostitute). This line of questioning was meant to disenfranchise and belittle him (even if some say it was a co-called test of character, designed to see how he’d react when poked). So men can actually be affected first hand by sexism and misogyny, as it turns out.
Radical feminists–those who feel women are superior to men and/or deserve privileges above men–are a vocal minority and should not be considered mainstream. They also shouldn’t be considered logical.
I recently discovered a misogynistic community on Reddit that I knew nothing about until a friend told me my picture had been used (swiped from this blog and of course, without my permission) as a discussion starter in part about the hypocrisy of women who think rape is a heinous crime but yet defend their right to be “slutty.” Exploring this “men’s rights” online world a little more made me sad and a bit sick. I wrote a fun little blog post in response to what I saw there which somehow made it to the “men’s rights” page on Reddit. My post got over 2000 hits in three days with many comments, some calling me rude things like “stupid,” “ugly,” and “femtard.” (I only allowed comments that didn’t name call, so you won’t see those on the post. Plus, I may be a stupid femtard, but ugly? Not hardly).
There is so much hate combined with misinformation about feminists and feminism (even a good portion on Reddit from female posters), creating straw men (such as: all feminists are misandrists, feminists want men to suffer, feminists want women to earn more than men), thus using that false position as an excuse to hate on women.
As Susan Douglas explores in her book The Rise of Enlightened Sexism, the media certainly has their part in all this. Reality shows that paint women and girls as gold-diggers, catty, and competitive, plus scripted shows that show women and girls as shallow and vapid do nothing to help young women and boys create healthy attitudes towards women and relationships. Reality TV has created a culture in which we want them to “vote that bitch off.” Women are an enemy people love to hate.
But I digress.
Perhaps feminism needs a new name, since the “men’s rights” communities have bogarted this one to mean something it’s not. I am a materialist feminist, which I guess could be called “Humanism” but people would confuse that with “humanism” and even more confusion will arise. Or something along the lines of “egalitarian” without the communist overtones. How about “Equalitarian”?
So, humor me if you will, while I attempt to debunk some of the misinformation about my ilk so we can all play a little nicer.
Feminists want to defend their right to be “slutty” or “have sex like a man” but still be treated “like a lady.”
This is a tricky one to argue with because the person who says that feminists want to be slutty or have sex “like a man” is blind to the basic sexism in their statement. It’s tough to argue against it when the sexism in the statement is head-shakingly blatant. Why does the word “slut” exist? Because we live in a sexist society. What is “having sex like a man”? Is it using people for sex, picking people up at bars, never calling them again? Is it having multiple sex partners? (Any way that gets broken down is sexist against men.) The mere fact that the same behavior is considered different depending on who is doing it is an example of the unquestioned sexual double standard that still exists regarding sexuality. We’ve all heard the expression, “He’s a stud; she’s a slut” but the logic of it hasn’t sunk in. Until this sexual double standard in sexual behavior disintegrates, there is a need for feminism. Feminism’s work here is not done.
As far as women’s sexuality and feminism goes, it’s about personal choices and not being defined by outdated, often religion-based traditional ideas of women’s sexuality. With feminism, women get to own their sexuality; a woman’s sexuality doesn’t belong to her husband, boyfriend, or father. (I can’t handle that disturbing virginity pledge stuff where the daughter wears a ring from her dad until she gets married because her dad “owns” her virginity. That is really freaking gross).
If owning her own sexuality means that she throws it in whenever she feels like it, fine. If it means serial monogamy, fine. If it means not having sex until he or she puts a ring on it, fine. If it means absolutely no one else seeing her naked ever, fine. The fact is that it’s none of our business.
As far as being “treated like a lady”— the word “lady” has always made me uncomfortable, maybe because I’m not southern. If we’re talking opening doors and paying for stuff, that too is none of my business–don’t ask me what works for you. My mom always taught me that the person who does the asking does the paying, which has historically worked for me. (I have never been afraid to ask people out, by the way). If I’ve got an armful of packages and I’m trying to get into the post office, I hope you open the door for me, regardless of your sex. (I’ll do the same for you).
Feminists are misandrists.
Hmm, like I said above, there are probably women who hate men simply because they are men. I don’t know any personally, but I’ve seen them online and heard urban legends. But it is not fair to assume that a woman who calls herself a feminist hates men, blames them for the evils of the world, or thinks she’s better than men. It’s also not fair to assume that a feminist thinks that girls should get special privileges like better scholarships. Any of that would be like assuming that all people who call themselves Christians protest at U.S. soldiers’ funerals. (Hey, Reverend Phelps does, and he calls himself a Christian. The jury is out on whether or not he actually is a Christian).
With almost half the population male, it would be a really exhausting life to go around with that much hate. I don’t like being disliked simply for being female (or for driving a Honda, or for having my nose pierced); why would I pick an arbitrary characteristic as an excuse to hate someone else? Feminists historically have been frustrated by assumptions placed on women based on their sex and it would be hypocritical to turn around and do that to men.
Feminists want men to suffer.
Again, most people (feminists included) are reasonable. They understand that the crimes of some need not be paid for by all. Also, we understand that the sexism we encounter every day has been cultivated for generations and is deeply rooted in the subconscious. We want men who don’t realize this to wake up to it and stop perpetuating and acting on it, but to suffer just for being born male? No. What’s the point in that?
Feminists have no sense of humor.
It’s true that it’s a Very Bad Idea to remark on a feminist blog that everyone needs to “lighten up.” Ask my friend Dave who did that when some radical feminists were taking the Boobquake thing way too seriously. But does anyone like to be told to “lighten up” when they’re doing work that they take very seriously?
Specific examples aside, feminists, many of whom are women, are funny. My best friend Karma, a materialist feminist like me, is a stand-up comic, as is one of her good lesbian (gasp!) friends. In fact, I can name some other really funny lesbians and feminists and lesbian feminists, and I bet you can too. While women haven’t exactly taken over Hollywood (In films, women hold important behind-the-scenes positions less than 25% of the time in areas from director [7% in 2010] to cinematographer [2% in 2010]–hey, when we get to 50%, that will be another sign that feminism is “over” and has reached its goals), there are many hilarious female writers, directors, and actors who I suspect identify as feminist.
I personally try to have a sense of humor, not just about feminist issues but in most aspects of my daily life. The teenage boy I know who called a girl “the town bicycle because everyone gets a ride” got a little “that isn’t cool” speech, sure. But I did it with humor. And you know what? Sometimes when I’m sorting laundry I like to hum Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.”
Feminists want women to earn more money than men.
Say it with me, people: Equality. Feminists want employers to see employees in their offices, being interviewed or getting their reviews, not male employees or female employees.
I know women who have been asked how they plan to juggle the demands of a job and their family (recently!) I have a friend whose coworker left and was not replaced so she did both jobs for a year instead of refusing because she wanted to be seen as capable and not a whiner. I know women who feel they must dress better, work later, and keep their emotions in better check than their male counterparts because they are judged more harshly than the men they work with. I know women who are afraid to ask how to do something or to delegate tasks because they know they’re being watched more closely than the men they work with. I know women who have argued for raises (and may or may not have gotten them) that have been given to men simply because they asked or because it was review time.
I know men who have showed emotion at work and been asked if they were having their period (or other similar degrading comments. And when I say “degrading,” I mean against the individual man and women who weren’t there and had nothing to do with the situation). I know men who’ve been given crap for having to leave work to care for a sick child. I don’t think I know any men who have gotten family leave when their child was born or adopted, but I might just not have been in the loop.
Institutional sexual double standards exist. People who deny that are simply not paying attention. Feminists don’t want a woman to get a promotion over a man; feminists want women (and minorities, and gay men, and unattractive men, and disabled people, the list goes on) to have the same opportunities to be promoted, to be seen for their skills and experience, not their biology. If that means that the white man who is better qualified gets the position over the black woman, fine. (But maybe we need to examine the possible social inequalities that afforded better opportunities for that white man).
Feminists want men to have rights to take family leaves and such because women aren’t the only ones who care for children or want to care for children.
It’s about equality. We don’t think the naughty bits should have any bearing on salary and treatment in the workplace.
Feminists reject any criticism of women.
I see this voiced a lot on the “men’s rights” Reddit: “Feminists cannot stand when someone says this, but . . .” [insert criticism of women or a specific woman]. One specifically was about the issue of slut-shaming: “Why do people assume men are the primary slut-shamers“? Sure, women do a lot of slut-shaming. Let’s talk about it. It’s a problem. I’m not going to put my fingers in my ears and say “lalalala” or, better yet, make an excuse and say that IF a woman happens to slut-shame, it’s only because she learned it from men.
Some men seem to think that the way to determine if a woman is a feminist or not is if she allows criticism of women in her presence.
Some women do stupid things. Some women are not nice people.
I might be a tough riddle to decode if that’s how to figure out if a woman is a feminist. If you criticize Hillary Clinton for a specific action in her role of Secretary of State, then sure, I will allow that criticism if it’s grounded in fact and logic. If you criticize Hillary Clinton by calling her a “dyke” or saying she has “cankles” then no, I won’t let that slide. For as many issues I have with Sarah Palin, I’ve called people out for blanket criticisms of her, too.
When Margaret Atwood wrote The Robber Bride, some critics got on her for creating such a deplorable character as Xenia. Some even said she did a disservice to the “sisterhood.” Ridiculous. If all female characters should be delightful and kind, never dishonest or devious, not only does that make for some really boring literature, but it’s dishonest as well. Human beings are complicated and should be drawn and considered as such.
Equality means people are judged on their actions and character. Any legitimate criticism of a person’s actions that is not sex-based is fair. Any criticism of a person that relies on sexual stereotypes is not cool.
Feminists just call themselves “feminists” so they can use the victim card.
I’ll admit, when I was laid off from my job after a company buy-out, I wondered if my sex had anything to do with it. The two people laid off in my department were female (the buying company already had a tech writing department in Boston) and there didn’t seem to be much other rhyme or reason to letting me go. I’d gotten great reviews from my manager and certainly wasn’t too expensive to keep. But across the board, there didn’t seem to be much logic in who they laid off in other departments. I just had to accept that these people who’d never met any of us made rather arbitrary decisions. While I do occasionally wonder, I can’t say that I was laid off because of sexism.
Most of the feminists I know are intelligent, well-educated, pretty successful men and women. Being feminist is often part of being liberal, and liberals are generally better educated than non-liberals. Simply put: most of the feminists I know are not victims, but rather are intelligent, observant people who have watched and analyzed the media and the world around them and see sexism and discrimination abound. We pull out our hair when people vote against their best interests. Many choose to do something about the injustices we see. Whether they run for office, write books and blogs (like me, Karma Waltonen, Jennifer Pozner) or march to protest unfairness (which I have also done), usually the actions are not immediately self-serving; the work is done for others and for the community as a whole.
Feminists are anti-sex.
No, we’re not.
Some famous radical feminists of the 1970s were known for their anti-porn stance and I guess some feminists are asexual (as is perhaps 1% of the population, so it would only make mathematical sense). We have complicated feelings about pornography and prostitution that I wouldn’t begin to try to sum up here. But no, feminists, as most human beings, like sex and think it’s an important part of life. Lots and lots of us even like sex with men. It’s a good thing we don’t hate them! Wouldn’t that make sex awkward.
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That’s enough for now. Tell me, dear readers, what misinformation or generalizations about feminism have you heard and would like to debunk?
Thursday night I was watching Futurama on Comedy Central in real time and therefore actually watched commercials (for a change). I saw one for a convenience store called am pm in which a short dork is creating his own burger and it’s so cool and manly that he feels compelled to tell the two jockish type men with him, “thanks for playing, ladies.” I immediately tweeted my distaste. (Interestingly, they responded with an apology regarding a different commercial that I am not familiar with. Makes you wonder how many sexist commercials they run).
By now, we all know that calling someone or something “gay” or “retarded” is an insult and is disparaging to human beings. Some people still do it (either out of continued disrespect or with a sense of irony) but I think most people understand the power in language and the negativity perpetuated by words. This isn’t about political correctness; it’s about showing respect and common decency to other human beings.
So why is it still okay to use being female as an insult?
The worst thing a guy can be called is a woman. Have you noticed this? Want to piss off a guy? Easy! Just call him a pussy.
This am pm commercial (scroll down– it’s called “Towering Inferno”) is an example of how being referred to as female is an insult. How is that supposed to make actual females feel?
Guys frequently call each other “bitch,” “lady,” “girl,” “sweetheart,” “princess,” or girls names to insult each other. Perhaps only “faggot” is worse, and why is it bad? Well, because faggots have sex with men, and who else frequently has sex with men? — That’s right, women! And, clearly, being a woman or womanly is downright gross and stupid.
Even one of my all-time favorite shows, Scrubs, had a running joke with Dr. Cox calling J.D. various girls names (I like this clip in particular because Cox uses “Denise” twice). It was funny in its execution (like when he used the names of pop stars, also in the above clip) but still really, really sexist. In many sitcoms, it’s not uncommon to hear one character chide the other about his beauty products, his period, his panties that are in a twist, or his vagina.
Sometimes the dialogue is even spoken by female characters, which is more confusing than anything. Is it more damaging when spoken by a woman because we’ve accepted our inferiority to the point where we can joke about it, or is it supposed to take the power away from the sexism, similar to gays co-opting the word “queer”? I just can’t tell.
I may be guilty of sexist language myself. I have been known to refer to a certain HBO show as “Doucherage.” One time, I MIGHT have joked to my boyfriend that I’d be happy to take him bra shopping (he is very affectionate and says “I love you” a lot. Such a girl!) Was I being ironic? Yes. Would I do it in front of his 15-year-old son? Oh, hell no!
He’s flooded with enough conflicting messages from the media and his environment (the kid lives in Indiana, for the love of crumbcake! No sex ed but strip clubs off every freeway exit); I don’t need to contribute to his confusion by making him navigate his way through my sarcasm. Plus, I already feel challenged enough in being a strong female role model for him because I cook (but see, I like to cook), I nag about leaving wet towels on the floor (although I now delegate the nagging), and I’m not the major breadwinner even though I have a master’s and his father has a bachelor’s. I certainly don’t need my language to add to what the facts have already shown him: even with more education, I’m not worth as much as the man in my household.
Whenever being female or having female characteristics is used as an insult or a punchline, a message is sent to girls and women that, yes, indeed, we continue to be inferior. We continue to be weak, emotional, pathetic, and a walking, bleeding, bra-wearing joke. With our hysteria and our PMS, we can’t be expected to be strong or make sense.
And each time girls are used as a punchline, the message to guys is, “Hey, it’s okay to keep being sexist because it’s true! Women are hilarious weaklings! We’re pointless and lame, so it’s okay to not take us seriously when we apply for jobs, play music, or write books. And, yes, by all means, pick on us for all that time we spend putting on makeup and sweating on the treadmill so you’ll think we’re good-looking!”
(Because what’s worse than being female? Being an ugly one. English even has its own words for ugly/fat chicks: dog, heifer, hag, butterface, etc.)
Last weekend, I saw Captain America: The First Avenger. I could take issue with Peggy Carter’s appearance (played by Hayley Atwell) if I wanted. Her perfectly applied red lipstick throughout the whole film– even during action sequences while she’s blowing the enemy away with what I think is a bazooka– became downright silly at times. But I won’t go there because, hey, it was a period piece and, you know, fiction. But there was a scene early on where a subordinate is disrespectful to her because she’s a female officer, so she punches him in the face and no one messes with her after that. Woohoo! But any good that scene did in establishing a woman’s authority and strength was diminished just moments later when she is leading the new recruits in exercises and calls them girls. Why did they write that in? I mean, she’s female and she just clobbered one of them, and she kicks ass throughout the whole movie, so why is “girl” an insult?
I realize, of course, that in instances such as that it’s about breaking men down and playing to their insecurities (and what do men have to be more insecure about than their masculinity, right?) but using language this way has serious, perhaps unintended, consequences.
When a father tells his son to stop acting like a girl, it’s not just about what message it sends to his son (being a girl = bad, so don’t be girly), but also what it says to his daughter. It says that boys and masculinity are more desirable. That being a girl is simply not as good as being a boy. That no matter how much she tries to fit in and be cherished and admired by her dad, she will never be able to compete with her brother. Even if she does her damndest to not cry, to not be afraid of spiders, to learn how to shoot and fish, she will always have a strike against her through no choice of her own. And she (and her brother) also pick up on the fact that their mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother are inferior to their father and other men. They don’t have to listen to their mother or respect her. At least, not until she pulls out the big “just wait till your father gets home” guns. And they certainly don’t have to respect female teachers who aren’t even related to them.
(Maybe the daughter will accept and even embrace the idea of being “daddy’s little princess,” which then might lead her to join the disturbing phenomenon of a chastity balls and virginity pledges in which the father claims ownership over his daughter’s sexuality . . . a disturbing and super grody trend perfect for a future blog post).
I remember being jealous of my brothers when I was a child. Not because of my parents specifically; they never made me feel that I was less wanted than my brothers, but I understood the general tone of what was expected of girls and boys and what we could expect from our world. I knew that even if I did get good at ice skating, I wouldn’t be able to play hockey like my brother. When my cousin threw a June bug in my face to freak me out, I knew that girls and their skittishness were there for his amusement. (If I remember correctly, I punched him. If I didn’t, I wish I had).
When I was laid off from my job in 2009, I wondered if there was any rhyme or reason to who was let go from my department (we were named “Denise” and “Jennifer,” and the people making the decision hadn’t even spoken to us). Every time I get an email telling me a position I’ve applied for has been filled, I wonder who got it. I think maybe my “little sister” is on to something when she says if she has kids, they will have gender- and race-neutral names so they can’t be so easily judged on paper.
I don’t want future generations of men and women to wonder if their sex is the reason they got or didn’t get something. I don’t know any men who would feel good about getting a job, a raise, a book deal, or even a better table at a restaurant simply because they have a dick, do you?
Plus, girls and women are less likely to demand more from themselves if they feel that they can’t or shouldn’t try something. (Math, anyone?) See Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender for more on this topic. The studies she cites about how girls habitually underestimate their math and science abilities is heartbreaking.
And as long as we tolerate sexist language, sexism has more grips to maintain its tenacious hold.
People: Stop using being female or feminine as an insult or a punchline. Being female isn’t a bad thing. And don’t allow such talk from others.
I know that rants like this aren’t exactly conducive to diminishing the whole “humorless feminist” stereotype. I assure you, though, I do have humor! (I laughed out loud while watching those Scrubs clips). I’m also not a manhater. It’s just that I hate that girls and boys continually hear that being a girl is a bad thing which, in turn, makes it a bad thing.
There are ways to call people out with humor. For example, when I’ve heard one guy chide another about being girly, I’ve said, “Hey, I’m right here!” Once, I got a quizzical look, so I continued, “Would you say someone is ‘as crazy as Tom Cruise’ right in front of Tom Cruise? Of course you wouldn’t! How is that different from using ME as an insult, right in front of ME?” (Sorry, Tom Cruise. People were still talking about the Oprah couch thing, and well, you know. I’m sure you’re a perfectly lovely person).
Once, a former student and Facebook friend of mine complained that all the guys he worked with were “whiny girls.” So I made some comment about how, if whining was a characteristic of all the guys he worked with, it seemed to me it should be considered a boy quality and he should leave girls out of it. Shoot, there weren’t any girls there–how did they even get dragged in? (This one actually got a nice little thread going about sexism in language and I’d like to think I got a guy or two at least thinking about it).
All I ask is that we think before we speak. At all times, we should imagine there’s a 6-year-old girl in the room with still plenty of growing to do and ideas to formulate. (If it helps, imagine she is your 6-year-old daughter). How her culture feels about her has an effect on how she feels about herself. Will she decide that she is an ornament, meant for guys’ pleasure and amusement? Or will she decide that she’s got a brain that’s equally awesome as the boy brains around her?
She won’t if she’s repeatedly reminded that she’s inferior. So, am pm, would you please pull that gross, stupid, sexist piece of shit ad?
For years, I’ve had to explain my pro-choice position to people: family members, parents of exes and friends, classmates, Republican Facebook friends. No, I say, I don’t hate babies. For the record, I also don’t hate Jesus and yes, of course I am grateful my mother didn’t abort or miscarry me. I do not identify as Catholic anymore, but when I was Catholic, I was pro-choice (lots of Catholics are, by the way, they just keep their mouths shut with other Catholics. And the ones who don’t have a dozen kids probably use birth control or had sterilization surgery).
I have been pro-choice ever since I can remember first thinking about the issue at length. When I was young and still believed what I was taught, that God knew what we were going to do before we did it, I always wondered why He would allow someone to get pregnant if He knew that she would miscarry or abort. And then I decided that I couldn’t ever know the answer to that, but in His wisdom, He wouldn’t assign a soul to a baby until it was born alive. Otherwise, I figured, He was a jerk who didn’t deserve my adoration.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have never personally faced an unplanned pregnancy. I have never been pregnant, actually, and I do not know what I would have done in my younger years had I become pregnant. Something tells me I wouldn’t have had an abortion, but I can’t know for sure. But I do know that I have middle school health class, an older sister, and Planned Parenthood (among other cheap clinics, such as the campus health center) to thank for the fact that I did not face an unplanned pregnancy.
Not everyone has access to the resources I did– health education classes explained how pregnancy happens and introduced different forms of birth control. A sister who made me an aunt at age 10 showed me that yes, teenagers can get pregnant. College tuition fees covered the health clinic, which enabled me to get birth control pills for $5 a month, when I was an undergrad. A car transported me to Planned Parenthood for annual exams when I was uninsured. For some time in my late 20s and early 30s, I had health insurance but it didn’t cover pregnancy OR birth control (figure that one out), so I paid full price at the pharmacy for birth control (that stings, by the way, but it’s cheaper than having a baby).
I’m sharing all of this because I just posted this comment on an article about a bill in the state of Indiana to pull all funding for Planned Parenthood.
Of course, anyone (pro choice or not) would say that abortion is not ideal and we need to get those numbers down, but the only effective, proven way to reduce abortions is by educating about and providing birth control. People who identify as ‘pro life’ but who advocate against birth control availability are adding to abortion numbers, and that is a real shame.
It occurred to me that a lot of pro-lifers don’t get that many of us who identify as pro-choice would not have an abortion, but we wouldn’t want to take the option of a safe, medical abortion away from others. It’s true: I don’t like abortion; the thought of abortion is sad and hard for me. I even tried to talk a friend (unsuccessfully) out of getting an abortion in college. I begged her to call her mom, who I didn’t know but assumed would want to help. She did not call her. She went ahead with the abortion and I had to support her decision. I ended up driving her to Planned Parenthood (twice, they made her wait in between appointments to think about it), shielding her from the protesters, and sitting with her afterward. It was tough on me and worse for her. It was not a lightly-made decision.
I certainly would not have an abortion if I became pregnant right now, even though I am not married or financially capable of raising a child. (If my doctor told me my life was in danger, that might change things, yes). We are pro-choice because we understand that pregnancy is dangerous, especially for young women and girls. We understand that victims of rape and incest should not have to further suffer by enduring a long pregnancy, an emotional and painful childbirth, and the life-changing event of either caring for a child or giving a child up. We understand that scared or desperate women and girls will go to extreme measures to end a pregnancy, whether they throw themselves down a flight of stairs or use a coat hanger to induce miscarriage. Some even end their own lives.
The fact is, abortions will happen, so they need to be offered in a safe, medical environment. If not, the pregnant woman is much more likely to die, too, and that’s two lives lost in the name of “life.”
As a pro-choice, pro-child woman, I feel that educating about birth control (and making it available without judgment or stigma) is the only way to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and therefore, prevent abortion. Abstinence-only programs that teach that condoms, etc. don’t work are only serving to increase abortion rates, not to mention sexually transmitted infections, because it is a lie. Even the Pope has acknowledged that condoms work!
I understand the desire to prevent children and teenagers from becoming sexually active. Making sex (or anything) taboo* by railing against it just makes it more and more interesting, though. If anything, we should be encouraging pubescent girls to masturbate so they don’t think they can only learn about sex and their bodies from sexual activity with another person. It breaks my heart to think about middle schoolers having sex and giving blow jobs. They’re kids! They don’t need to complicate their lives with adult drama and bullshit! (I tend to agree with Chef: “Seventeen. You’re ready.”).
But the truth is, because we are mammals, people have sex for non procreation purposes. Abstinence is a cromulent individual choice, but to try to advocate it across the board (and have it be policy to reduce teenage pregnancy) is just plain silly. Religion puts emphasis on a topic and then tells kids that they’re bad for thinking about it. I have known more than one scared, pregnant teenager from a religious home who got an abortion simply because she couldn’t stand her parents finding out she’d had sex. Would you rather have the kid who gets a secret abortion or the kid who comes to you for advice when he or she is thinking about becoming sexually active?
I understand how abortion has become such a passionate topic. There is sadness and power the images that pro-lifers share (although, I am convinced, many of them are photoshopped) and in thinking about aborted children. I would like unplanned pregnancies and abortions to be very uncommon. But the fact is that having safe, medical abortion services available ultimately saves lives.
*Religion adds to the taboo. I was raised Catholic, as I mentioned, and I doubt I would have been so curious about sex as young as I was if the Virgin Mary hadn’t been part of my upbringing. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know what intercourse was because I always knew that the Virgin Mary hadn’t had intercourse. I have come to the conclusion that little kids shouldn’t know what a virgin is– it just complicates fragile, young minds that should be thinking about Lite-Brites and fractions instead of intercourse.